Wednesday, October 31, 2012

On the Cultural and Political Economy of "African-American" Names

Can Names Influence Our Future? from Portland Oregon on Vimeo.

An earlier commenter chimed in about the beauty of "black names." My concern there was that what many consider "black" names are really a function of poverty, social isolation, and marginalization. I understand the meta argument about black naming practices as a function of a particular history of cultural resistance where personhood rites as basic as naming practices were stolen by white supremacy and chattel slavery.

But, does the young sister on the West Side of Chicago or South Central Los Angeles really believe that naming her baby "Uneqqee" or "Deshawn" is an act of cultural resistance? Or is it just an example of trying to be "different" while paradoxically conforming to the norms of their social network?

Freakonomics has some interesting things to say about this matter. My claim is complementary to Dr. Roland Fryer's: cultural norms between communities are diverse and not fixed. In said communities, certain cultural signifiers will be received and understood according to the norms and rules in that locale or subculture. Call me a cultural (and structural) materialist, but social institutions do heavily determine outcomes and culture.

For example, the 1% certainly have their own set of cultural cues that I, as a member of the working class, know nothing about. The ghetto underclass is operating in a similar way. My concern as someone who cares deeply about black folks and our success, is that we have entire communities of people who are equipping their children with names--as well as teaching them certain values and norms--that have no currency outside of a 4 square block area. This type of social capital has a negative rate of return in communities and life worlds outside of the 'hood.

 Many of the urban and black poor are ghettoized both geographically and culturally. Their "creative" naming practices have nothing to do with African-American "culture" or "history." Rather, they are ways of finding meaning and value in lives and communities where both are often in short supply. As such, many "black" names are a result of ghettoized minds and a poverty of material circumstances (and failed schools) that have become internalized as part of one's whole self.

Sorry Chris Matthews, Mitt Romney has had Quite a Few "Sister Souljah" Moments Already

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I am a fan of Chris Matthews. He is one of the few people in the mainstream media who has had the courage to call out Mitt Romney's racist campaign against Barack Obama. While he was a few months late doing so, and yes, I wish Matthews had acknowledged folks like myself and others who have long been speaking truth to power about Romney's racism.

I remain a supporter of his "real talk" approach to political analysis and calling out Romney's post-truth campaign of lies.

However, on Tuesday's edition of Hardball, Matthews simply dropped the ball. It happens to all of us.

While making a direct intervention about Romney's troubled relationship with the truth, Matthews highlighted how the Republican candidate lacked any evidence of character, of a defining moment where the Republican candidate communicated to the public what he really stood for, and the type of man he really is.

Matthews cited examples of true grit by other presidents in order to make this point by comparison.

Problematically, one of those examples included (then candidate) Clinton's "Sister Souljah" moment, when before he became a living legend and supposed friend of black people, the former President called out a mid to low tier black rap artist of middling fame and importance, in order to sure up his bonafides with Reagan Democrats and white independents. Clinton was a "new Democrat." As such, Clinton had to demonstrate how he was not a "liberal." Condemning black people was a convenient means to that end.

Sister Souljah was a stand-in for the mythic welfare queen and "troublesome" complaining black people who had suckled too long on the government tit. Clinton won the presidency, and the support of white voters in 1992, in no small part by mining white racial resentment, and playing on the white racial frame.

In alluding to that example, Chris Matthews made a clear error: appeals to white racial resentment, and "putting the blacks in their place," are not a sign of weakness for white candidate. Rather, they are a way for white candidates to demonstrate character and strength to the white public.

As such, Mitt Romney has had many such "Sister Souljah moments." When the Republican candidate speaks to the NAACP and tells them to their face that they are parasites and he will do nothing for them, or when Romney and his surrogates say that the country's first black president as a lazy welfare king, white people's money stealing, lazy incompetent bum, he has far surpassed Bill Clinton's signifying on Sister Souljah.

The ultimate point of Clinton's mention of Sister Souljah--and what Matthews forgot--was to demonstrate how black people are anti-citizens who need to be disciplined. White people could trust Clinton to do so. Romney's whole campaign is similarly oriented: he will keep the "uppity blacks" like Obama, and those inspired by him in their place; Romney is no friend to the colored or darker races--this is why so many white voters are flocking (against their economic self-interest) to support the Republican candidate.

American society is sick with racism. We all inhale and breathe it in. Consequently, even when they are speaking the truth, and their hearts are in the right place, pundits like Chris Matthews can make an honest mistake and use ill-fitting, improper examples to make a compelling point about Mitt Romney's cowardice.

Matthews' error was not fatal. But, it was a healthy reminder of how the white racial frame operates across both sides of the political divide.

If Joe Biden Could Channel Dusty Rhodes, Then Obama Would be Winning in a Landslide

Greatest. Promo. Of. All. Time.

Mitt Romney has continued to expand his support among white working class (male) voters. In a base election, where mobilizing one's existing supporters and bringing in some new independents is the key to victory, Romney's chances have only improved because of this huge advantage with that cohort.

However, much of the emphasis on the white working class vote is a result of misunderstandings about the American electorate. Class is still largely correlated with vote choice where poor and working class people, across the color line, still overwhelmingly support Democratic candidates.

The white male working class vote that Romney is chasing--and expanding--over Obama is actually comprised of white men who are not college educated, but make a fair sum of money as construction workers, truck drivers, or in the skilled trades. These are the "angry white men" that are the base of the Tea Party GOP and central to Mitt Romney's ascent in the polls. For several decades Democrats have lost this cohort; the country's first black president has no chance of winning them back.

Dusty Rhodes was the working class's professional wrestler champion. He feuded with Ric Flair and the Four Horseman in a series of epic bouts which embodied the best of professional wrestling in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Dusty's character was complex: on one hand he played the "white negro" who was cheered by fans of all colors. Rhodes also flirted with racial stereotypes, where he was a stylistically "black" wrestler (his interview in the Legends round table series on this topic is very honest and sincere. All smart marks owe it to themselves to watch it).

Rhodes further added to the contradictions and complications of his relationship to blackness, when in his later years he worked with an African American valet named "Sapphire." Yes, her name was Sapphire. Then as in now, professional wrestling is, and was, not known for its subtlety.

Dutsty's promo on being a working class man who was hit with hard times by the monied classes is one of the greatest examples of mic work in the history of the business. Every trade or craft has a core set of competencies, examples of masterful craft, a literature of sorts, which forms the basis for what we in that world aspire to be if we reach its heights.

This promo is one such example. If Joe Biden--or maybe Bill Clinton--could reach out to white working class voters just like Dusty did those years ago with this promo, then Obama's electoral fortunes would be much improved. Obama is a ghetto nerd. I have not doubt that he was a mark for Dusty Rhodes back in the day. I just wish that those lessons had stayed with him.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

He Loses Debates But Keeps Gaining Voters: New NPR Poll Demonstrates How White Privilege Buoys Mitt Romney's Support Among White Independent Voters (Again)

I hope all of you who are being directly impacted by Superstorm Sandy are safe, warm, and well. My thoughts are with you. Life and death matters do put politics in perspective; but politics and the election continue onward even though we are humbled by mother nature.

Last week, I pointed out how Mitt Romney has lost two debates but gained support among undecideds and white independents. By contrast, if Obama has done so poorly he would have lost even more support among a fickle white public.

Low information and undecided voters use other cues to make up their minds about a candidate. One of them is racial affinity. This plays out through a default choice for the white candidate, where Romney's whiteness is a cue about the country's return to "normality" for those voters.

Romney's strategists know that white identity politics are the path to the White House. As such, their strategy of naked racial appeals and covert dog whistles has been the go-to-plan--one that is bearing great fruit among white voters.

As this new poll from NPR suggests, once more, white privilege is a hell of a drug. A white candidate can lose two debates against the black guy, but Whiteness is a cognitive map that turns defeat, failure, incompetence, practiced lying and political subterfuge into measures of competence, and makes a Romney victory increasingly likely.

The wages of whiteness remain great:

A new National Public Radio poll, which had President Obama leading Mitt Romney 51 percent to 44 percent four weeks ago, now has Mitt Romney on top, 48 percent to 47 percent, with the Republican benefiting from his debate performances.
The poll found that among likely voters, 34 percent said Romney's debate performances made them more likely to vote for the challenger while 28 percent said they now are more likely to vote for the president. Among critical independent voters, though, Romney won big, with 37 percent saying they are now more likely to chose him compared to 21 percent for Obama.
But Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg and Republican pollster Whit Ayres found that Obama leads by 4 points in the 12 battleground states that appear ready to pick the winner for the rest of the country next Tuesday. And they suggest that Romney's post-debate surge has "stalled."
The duo surveyed 1,000 likely voters nationwide with an over-sampling in 12 battleground states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. The poll was conducted Tuesday through Thursday (October 23-25). The margin of error is 3 percentage points for the national sample, and 4.5 percentage points for the smaller subsample (462 respondents) in the battleground states. The sample was 35 percent Democrat, 31 percent Republican.
Ayers said that Romney is doing particularly well among independent voters. According to NPR, "most of the gains for Romney have come from independents, who went from favoring Romney by a few points before the debates to favoring him 51% to 39% after the debates."
Ayres added, "So were it not for the debates, I think Obama would be cruising to a victory right now. Because of the debates, this is going to be an incredibly close election."
Romney also beat Obama as the candidate best prepared to handle the issues of jobs, the deficit and taxes, but Obama won on more issues: health care, Medicare, foreign policy and national security.
What's more, those polled said that Obama, by a 55 percent to 44 percent margin, has spelled out a clear agenda for the nation.

Monday, October 29, 2012

"You are a Big Monkey With No Brains": Mitt Romney is Ric Flair Without the Fashion Sense, but with More Money

Who has more wives and women? Ric Flair or Mitt Romney? I will leave that one up to you to answer.

Ric Flair is one of the greatest in-ring performers to ever live. Mitt Romney is a master of lies and subterfuge. As Werner Herzog's Bear, a friend of We Are Respectable Negroes smartly suggested, the Tea Party GOP challenger is running a truly postmodern campaign where truth and reality are made subjective. Here, Romney's lies are just reframings of empirical reality that spit in the face of modernist philosophical conventions. I do wonder how Foucault, Baudrillard, Derrida, or Harvey would respond to Mitt Romney's post-truth campaign?

As I have suggested many times, and the mainstream media are finally conceding, Romney is running one of the most racist political campaigns in recent memory. Mitt's use of subtle racial cues, focus group perfected allusions to Obama as a welfare king thief that steals from good white people, who Romney in turn calls "boy" to his face during the first debate, and whose surrogates deploy naked racist appeals to white racial anxiety and old school bigotry, embody a synergy of contemporary racism in the Age of Obama that is both a perfect and "ugly beautiful" thing.

In this clip of Ric Flair during this feud with Butch Reed, the latter being one of the first black professional wrestlers to gain mainstream acceptance in a major territory, says what Romney is 1) either thinking or 2) trying to prime in the minds of his Tea Party GOP base. To them, Obama has no place in the White House because he is African-American, and therefore, not White.

Flair's suggestion in this promo that a black man is "a monkey with no brains" is not at all too different from the subtext of Romney's political speeches and commercials as of late, the racist utterances of his closest advisers on national television, or the seething racial hostility that drives the country's de facto White People's Political Alliance and Political Action Group otherwise known as the Republican Party.

Ric Flair simply said about Butch Reed what Mitt Romney wishes he had the courage and nerve to say about Obama publicly. The meaning and intent remain the same either way. Romney yearns for Flair's sense of style, and the ability to cut such beautifully racist promos against Barack Obama, the President of the United States, and the first black man to hold such a title and position.

Hell in the Cell? Jesse Ventura Explains How Professional Wrestling Prepares You For Politics

This evening's World Wrestling Entertainment pay-per-view Hell in the Cell featured one of the worst matches in recent professional wrestling history. There were a few good matches on the card. One of the highlights of the evening, Big Show's match with Sheamus, was far better than it deserved to be. It was an old school match that offered some great storytelling and worked around the limitations of both competitors.

At this point, Show vs. Sheamus is a match of the year contender.

Question: for those of you who watch professional wrestling did you ever think that you would hear Big Show's name ever used proximate to the phrase "match of the year?"

By comparison, Ryback's match (Grantland has a great piece on the rise of that very improbable main eventer which is worth reading) with Chicago's own CM Punk was akin to the darkest days of WCW or TNA. Yes, the WWE was put in a horrible position when John Cena had to have surgery and bow out of the planned match. But the ending of the match was inexcusable. It was beyond lazy and disrespectful to the audience in attendance, as well as any other folks who paid money to see the event.

Management must have know how horrible Ryback is in the ring: he has a skill set that consists of five moves plus a Bushwackers inspired 1980s march around the ring spot; the powers that be did not want to waste one of Lesnar's limited appearances on a run-in to provide proper closure to the match; And Cena was not going to be soiled by having anything to do with such a horrible match. Even with his great skills, CM Punk could not carry Ryback to a respectable match.

We are ten days out from election day. This week will be filled with obligatory hand-ringing, obsessing about the poll numbers as though they contain a secret truth to be divined by the holy pundit classes who read tea leaves and chicken bones, and doomsday prophecies about what will occur if Mitt Romney wins--and he will--the White House.

In case you hadn't heard, a "Frankenstorm" is also menacing the East Coast.

The news cycle will be high stress and all drama. The horse race the pundits wanted between Romney and Obama has been ushered into being--by the talking head commentariat class. Now, the spin doctors can add a hurricane as a data point about how weather impacts voter turnout. Hint: bad weather hurts the side whose voters are less enthusiastic and motivated. In addition, bad weather helps the party whose voters tend to have more resources. On both counts, the weather would help Romney.

Do pardon the pun, but all of these events together really are a perfect storm for the 24 hour news cycle.

This week, I have a few serious pieces that I will be sharing here and elsewhere. I will also be on Ring of Fire radio this weekend talking about race, Obama, and the election. Doing a show right before election day is a high honor. I appreciate being asked to sit in with the band before the big dance.

As a fun diversion from all of the chaos and hype you will find elsewhere, I am returning to an earlier discussion about how professional wrestling is like politics.

Jesse Ventura's interview is a nice lead in and prompt for that conversation. Each day this week, I will be sharing a few short examples of how professional wrestling is a powerful lens into the realities of American politics. Professional wrestling is scripted. But, it is a far more honest representation of the realities of race and politics in the post-civil rights era, as well as the Age of Obama, than the mainstream news media (what is a cowardly Fourth Estate that long ago abdicated its responsibilities as the guardians of democracy) could ever dare to be.

In all, this week should be a fun and insightful exploration of how popular culture and politics are deeply intertwined in American politics and beyond. Plus, you get to see sweaty men and women in tights yelling at each other, emoting, cutting promos, and in some cases, beating each other up.

A person really can't ask for more.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Face of Black Nihilism Part 2: Chicago Based "Rapper" Lil Reese Caught on Video Viciously Beating a Young Girl

We discussed the problem of black nihilism and the ghetto street culture embodied by Chicago based "hip hop artist" Chief Keef and the murder of his rival "rapper" Lil JoJo a few weeks ago. Other matters intervened and we moved on to other things. It would seem that street urchin troglodyte highwaymen who want to be hip hop stars are a topic of conversation once more--this time by the Chicago Tribune.

Broken communities, broken homes, and broken families make broken people. America is a violent society. As such, I am not surprised by the vicious beating dealt out by Lil Reese upon an unidentified young girl in the above video.

However, I am fascinated by the various norms and values which are given life at the intersection of commercial hip hop and ghetto street subculture.

Friend or Foe? White Allies Who Tell the "Truth" About White Privilege

We are in the home stretch before the election. Consequently, many members of the chattering classes are holding their fire and best shots until the middle and end of next week. In a marathon they say you need to save up some energy and push through the last lap. I am following that rule, and taking the intermission--the lull before the storm--to write about some things which I have been thinking about, but have not the opportunity to share. Election fatigue has set in; let us clear our minds by discussing semi-related matters.

As I like to say, here is something fun for a Friday.

In this piece on Mitt Romney's success in the face of failure, I discussed white privilege.

Said concept is one that many race men and race women have been analyzing for more than one hundred years. The language of "white privilege" has seeped into the public discourse through the work of good folks like Time Wise. And even he would admit that it was people of color like Du Bois, Ellison, and others who had arrived there long before white public intellectuals and activists even uttered the phrase. The reality of white privilege being what it is, the fact remains that many white folks will listen and respond to certain truths from other white people, while simultaneously remaining deaf to the same observations, when they come from a black or a brown person.

I would extend the same model to "straight" people, men, the middle class, and other groups who are defined as "normal" or "ideal" in this society as well.

While watching this interview, one in which a seemingly honest and vulnerable white elder reflects upon white racism, I am made to feel uncomfortable. This interview could do good work with the right audience; on the other hand it feels like a cheap parlor trick where someone conjures up a white person to tell the darker races, the oppressed, and people of color who have had to navigate the color line, exactly what we want to hear.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What is White Privilege? Mitt Romney Losing Two Debates But Gaining Support Among White Voters

Eddie Murphy - White for a day from andreppstos on Vimeo.

White privilege is the bundle of unearned advantages that comes with being categorized as "white" in American society. Those of us who study race and politics often have a hard time convincing white people--and some others overly identified with Whiteness--of how this dynamic impacts our society.

On Tuesday, Mitt Romney was embarrassed by Barack Obama in a debate about foreign policy. There, Romney was a child trying to engage in a fist fight against a grown man, and subsequently had his behind, almost quite literally, handed to him. Obama thrashed Mitt Romney in the prior debate as well. Thus, a puzzle and conundrum: Mitt Romney has gained support among white voters after both horrible performances.

How do we explain this trend?

President Obama has the double burden of being African-American and an incumbent. His record in office is colored by his race--and what the white public's perception of Obama's blackness means for how they assess his performance and accomplishments.

Barack Obama is hamstrung by a double standard where he is held to a far higher bar for success than a white president. For that reason, and some very significant others too, his reelection campaign is now very much imperiled.

Let me be clear: Barack Obama did poorly in the first debate against Mitt Romney. However, Obama's sub par performance was better than either of Romney's performances in the last two contests. But, Romney is gaining in the polls with white voters who somehow see him as "qualified" enough to be President after losing two debates in a row against the president.

The empirical evidence has long suggested that presidential debates are unimportant for voters' decisions on election day. We have also never had a black president running for a second term. I would suggest that this upsets all of our existing models and explanations.

Obama is playing a game that folks who look like him are not supposed to be involved in. Black Americans have been defined for centuries as "anti-citizens," and had to be specifically written back into the Constitution in order to correct what was a gross birth defect at the heart of "the greatest democracy" in the world. Obama's rise to the presidency is an anomaly in the the American political tradition.

Consequently, all rules are now off and need to be rewritten as we try to conceptualize Barack Obama's run for reelection within the long arch of race and politics in American history.

The counter-factual is very telling. Consider the following scenario for a moment.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

With Some Help from Chauncey DeVega, the SPLC Calls Out WorldNetDaily's Support of White Nationalism

My interview on the Thom Hartmann show went well. While I was not able to use my G.I. Joe reference as a way of describing Mitt Romney's childish approach to foreign policy, I was however able to make a reference to kids in the 1950s who thought they were Superman, and in turn tried to jump off of roofs to fly. I will call that a win for the ghetto nerds.

In all, Mitt Romney's positions on foreign policy are worthy of a Darwin Award. Unfortunately, he is poised to be President of the United States.

In addition to the nice invite from Thom Hartmann and Mike Papantonio today, I was also emailed about a new essay by the good people at the Southern Poverty Law Center which explores the Right-wing media's obsession with "black on white" "flash mob" violence. There, they cite two of my essays on the subject, and how I work through the difficult task of properly historicizing moral panics that involve black criminality and youth violence.

You should always stand by what you write. One should always maintain intellectual integrity because words have a life of their own. As such, they can come back many years to either haunt or heap praise upon you. As such, my essays on black mob violence, and the transparent thinking through of the difficulties and challenges of writing about such a subject that occurred there, are two of my favorite moments as a mid-tier member of the online commentariat class.

The SPLC is spot on in describing the cottage industry that gave birth to the black flash mob meme. The polite racists and more overt white nationalists are obsessed with that narrative because it fulfills their dark fantasies of black criminality and hoodlum, street pirate culture. Their racial blinders are incapable of accepting that the vast majority of people of color, and especially those who live near the highwaymen street brigands that prey in mass, on the vulnerable and the innocent, are even more disgusted with the criminal element in the community. We have equal disdain for all criminals across the color line.

As the SPLC points out, for the WorldNetDaily and White Nationalist crowd (to the degree they can now be separated from one another) their obsession only goes one way--from black crime to white victims.

Leah Nelson's piece also calls attention to the role played by the human chaff known as black conservatives, and their enabling of the white nationalist themes present on WorldNetDaily where she observes how:
Of course, as WND publisher Joseph Farah bragged (unverifiably but implausibly) in August, WND “showcases twice as many black columnists than any other news or commentary forum in the world.”

Who are they? Well, there’s black neo-secessionist Walter E. Williams, who in a 2002 column for WND wrote that Abraham Lincoln “acted unconstitutionally and with ruthless contempt for the founding principles” when he refused to let the Confederacy secede peaceably. And Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, a black radio personality who once thanked God for slavery and who in a 2005 column for WND wrote, “It was blacks’ moral poverty – not their material poverty – that cost them dearly in New Orleans” during and after Hurricane Katrina.

There’s Thomas Sowell, an economist at Stanford’s Hoover Institute and sometime contributor to the white nationalist Social Contract magazine, whose praise for White Girl Bleed a Lot is featured prominently on that book’s web site. And Erik Rush, author of Negrophilia: From Slave Block to Pedestal – America’s Racial Obsession, which argues that “the undue and inordinate affinity for blacks (as opposed to antipathy toward them) that has been promoted by activists, politicians and the establishment press for the past 40 years … has fostered an erroneous perception of blacks, particularly in America,” leading to a state of affairs in which “racism on the part of blacks is [considered] acceptable, or even proper.”

Yes, WND has binders full of black writers. And now, in keeping perhaps with publisher Farah’s declaration that his website boasts “the broadest spectrum of political opinion to be found anywhere in the world,” it has a white nationalist propagandist too.
How can you not love such an "inclusive" organization? The joys of multicultural America are many.

Shameless Self-Promotion: Chauncey DeVega to Appear on the Thom Hartmann Radio Show Today at 3pm EST

Just a shameless self-directed plug as always. The good folks over at the Thom Hartmann radio program (which will be guest hosted by our friend Mike Papantonio) have invited me by for a sit down at 3pm Eastern Standard Time. We will be discussing last night's debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

It should be fun. If I can mention G.I. Joe on live radio, in the context of discussing Mitt Romney's amateurish view of foreign policy, I will consider it one more success for the ghetto nerd set.

Hartmann's radio show can be listened to on these stations or streamed directly here.

When it Comes to Foreign Affairs, is Mitt Romney Smarter Than a 5th Grader?

The final debate between Mitt Romney and President Obama was a technocratic affair in which the challenger borrowed the incumbent's positions in order to prevent a knockout defeat.

I cannot imagine an independent or low information voter being able to follow Monday night's debate for any sustained amount of time.

Obama clearly defeated Mitt Romney following a devastating flurry of blows to the head and body--this was the equivalent of an adult beating up an impudent child--alas, it will not matter in terms of the final vote.

Few issues of legitimate disagreement or substance were discussed in Monday's debate. As Chris Matthews smartly pointed out, there was no mention of how multipolar our world had become, or how Europe's economic crisis has impacted America's economy. Those are epic fails on the part of the moderator.

Interestingly, there was no question about either the decline of peak oil or the threat posed by global warming. Much time was instead spent on the chimera issue of the United States' relationship with Israel. The Israel Lobby is not going anywhere, for either candidate, now or in the near future. The public and candidates' energies would be better spent talking about other matters.

While no substantive disagreements about the reality of American Empire took place during the final debate, there were however a few moments which revealed a frightening divergence in expertise and temperament between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Open Thread: It Ain't the Thrilla in Manila; Romney-Obama 3 is Tonight. What are Your Thoughts and Predictions?

The debate is a few hours away. In the public interest, I am trying to preempt the obvious boxing analogies which will come from the media and pundit class in the post-debate analysis.

And as you know, I am a huge fan of Muhammad Ali. I also have come to understand and respect (the late) Joe Frazier.

The Romney-Obama debate on international affairs is not Ali-Frazier 3, the legendary Thrilla in Manila. When someone suggests that it is, when you see said claim online, or if Ali-Frazier is paired with Obama-Romney as the meme of the week, please do chime in with a basic question.

After tonight's debate did either Romney or Obama say that this was the closest to death he had ever been? The answer will reveal how the horse race has become a type of prize fight, one that is better described as either a carnival act or professional wrestling.

Also, can the following be said about Romney and Obama?
"Technically the loser of two of the three fights, [Frazier] seems not to understand that they ennobled him as much as they did Ali," wrote Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Halberstam, "that the only way we know of Ali's greatness is because of Frazier's equivalent greatness, that in the end there was no real difference between the two of them as fighters, and when sports fans and historians think back, they will think of the fights as classics, with no identifiable winner or loser. These are men who, like it or not, have become prisoners of each other and those three nights."
I doubt it.

As others have alluded to, I think there will be lots of AIPAC and Americans United for Israel signals from Romney. Obama will mention Osama bin Laden several times (how things change when we live in a moment where the Democratic Party is now the Party of National Security). Romney will be a broken record on Libya and his myth about the President's apology tour; moreover, they will continue with the line designed to please the low information petit authoritarians on the Right that somehow Obama's "weakness" encourages America's enemies abroad.

Romney's amateurish approach to statecraft is equaled only by the 5th grade G.I. Joe level understanding of international relations offered up by the Tea Party GOP base.

In all, Obama has a record to defend. Romney, has no record (save for gaffes abroad)--this can be spun as a plus for there is no track record to evaluate him against. But, Obama can hammer him on his lack of experience. As I said earlier, the third debate is about style and posturing over substance. The issues are too complicated for the average voter to fully comprehend.

Regardless of what occurs, my prediction is that the pundits will call this third fight a draw. This narrative keeps the horse race meme going, and ramps up the drama for the next two weeks.

Your thoughts on tonight's debate? Any predictions?

Soccer Moms Gone Wild: The Masses Are Asses...But They Decide Elections

Neither does Obama's trumpeting of his work to ensure equal pay necessarily resonate. A couple of months ago, someone called Dee Ralls, a 49-year-old parole and probation worker for the state, at her house to ask about her vote. She said she wasn't planning to vote for Obama, and the next thing she knew, there was a canvasser at her door, giving a big speech about equal pay for women. 
"I said, 'I never had that problem,'" said Ralls, a heavily made-up blonde in a white peasant blouse and peace-sign earrings. "If anything, the reason I was discriminated against was because I was white." 
Before her second husband died of a heart attack, for which Ralls received a malpractice settlement, she got pregnant for the fourth time. With three young kids, the timing wasn't right. She got an abortion, but at the clinic, she was shocked and irritated by all the "slutty people" she saw, who didn't seem to be taking the procedure seriously. 
Ralls doesn't think about politics much -- she doesn't think it affects her. "Oh, but you know, here's something," she said. Her 23-year-old son was just about to age out of her health insurance when Obama's health-care reform extended the time she could keep him covered, she recalled. "That was a good thing," she said. Plus, her boyfriend says Romney's an idiot, "and he's pretty smart." Ralls is pretty sure she'll vote for Obama.
She is what decades of failing public education, and an irresponsible Fourth Estate, have visited upon American democracy.

The final debate is tonight. Like you, I will be watching and wondering how Barack Obama will sell his many successes abroad, while Mitt Romney stands like a professional contrarian and post-truth candidate who is fixated on a version of events--such as the Right's fantasy fictions about a cover-up in Libya and Obama's "apology" tour--that do not exist outside of the Fox News echo chamber.

Guess what? These debates will do little to impact vote choice. Moreover, the final debate on international affairs is on a subject which is too detail oriented, technical, difficult for the general public to understand, and requires contextual knowledge that Joe and Jane Q. Public, the American Idol Honey Boo Boo crowd that they are, do not readily possess. 

As such, this makes the final debate an exercise in style and presentation over substance.  Mitt Romney is going to push it to the limit and do everything he can to put that "black boy" Barack Obama in his "place." While some of the public were put off by Mitt Romney's disrespect towards Barack Obama in the second debate, there is a good part of the mass public who was excited and exhilarated by the former's rank disrespect towards the country's first black president. 

If you doubt this fact, do go and review the comments sections of Fox News, the Free RepublicTown Hall  or any of the other Right-wing propaganda mills.

The archconservative and Right-wing populist base voters, as well as Fox News types, were aroused into a political priapism by Mitt Romney's borderline thuggery against Obama; they remain aroused almost a week later and are swollen with excitement; Romney is going to give them the happy ending in the final debate.

There is a basic fact which followers of political blogs, news websites, those who read the NY Times or other newspapers of record (and folks who watch the evening news, do their own research, and are politically literate) are reluctant to understand and accept. They are not the audience for the debates between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. In keeping with my professional wrestling and politics analogy, we are the "smart marks" who know better. This political horse race and spectacle are for the benefit of low information voters and undecideds. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

At Least Black Conservatives are Unhappy: New Research Suggests That African-Americans Feel "Less Empowered" Under Barack Obama

Hailed by some as the “end of race as we know it” and the beginning of a “post-racial” America, the 2008 election of Barack Obama sparked a measurable bump in feelings of political empowerment among black Americans.

But those sentiments have faded considerably over the last year or so, according to a new analysis of political survey data, with the sharpest declines in perceived political power coming from blacks who identify themselves as conservatives or “born again” Christians.

“The election of a black American to the U.S. presidency did seem to empower African Americans, causing an increase in levels of perceived freedom,” writes James L. Gibson, PhD, the Sidney W. Souers Professor of Government and professor of African and African-American studies at Washington University in St. Louis.

“But that increase seems to have been epiphenomenal, with perceived levels of freedom after 2009 soon reverting to their prior level. The boost in empowerment that earlier research has documented may be of little long-term consequence. Instead, ideology and religiosity are now fairly strongly connected to perceptions of freedom among black Americans.”
Something fun and short for the weekend.

As Pastor Manning says, you blacks are an incorrigible group of people! What can possibly satisfy you? What would make you happy? How do you define political empowerment?

Professor James Gibson at Washington University would seem to agree:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

"Sokath, His Eyes Uncovered!" Cornel West Wants You All to Get in Line Behind President Obama and Defeat Mitt Romney

See, folks far smarter than me are telling you rapscallions to get in line behind Obama because a Romney presidency would simply be unacceptable. Sometimes the strategic and tactically sound choice involves sacrificing some pawns in order to play the deeper game.

Ultimately, a quest for perfect moral clarity, and a "perfect" candidate, will leave us all suffering and far worse off.

The Nader supporters ushered in Bush the Junior in 2000; those who are bailing on Obama are paving the way for Romney-Ryan. We cannot let such a scenario play out (again).

From Cornel West's interview with Vice:

The Real Burdens of a Black President? Double Standards and Polite White Racism

Ta-Nehisi Coates has a great essay on Barack Obama and the burdens of representation and blackness that folks should the time to read. I have argued that boxing analogies are a very poor fit for politics. But, part of Coates' genius is that he can take a bad example, and salvage it so nicely, in order to make a trenchant point. He knows his cultural politics quite well. When I grow up I would like to be able write like him:
In 1936 Joe Louis faced off against Max Schmeling. Louis was young and undefeated. More significantly for our purposes, he was the pride of his people. The shadow of Jack Johnson still loomed -- a man who had lived a sordid life, consorted with white women, and drove the country to riot.  Unlike Johnson, Louis was a "credit to his race." He was clean. He didn't trash talk. He handled his business in the ring and humbly returned to his corner.  He was distinctly aware of his status as a standard-bearer, an ambassador, for his people, and his people loved him for not embarrassing them... 
Like Joe Louis, like Warren Moon, like any black person significant for the fact of being black, I imagine that Barack Obama would love to have only the burden of being great at his craft. All presidential candidates represent something larger than themselves, and in that sense their loss is always broadly shared. But few classes in America have so little to lose as the one Obama represents. 
This is an enormous burden to carry. Obama is hated because he is black. Obama is loved by some because he is black, the President of the United States, and the embodiment of a particular type of black genius. His blackness is a source of strength. It is also a liability. He is in many ways obligated to a community. But, Obama cannot claim that community lest he remind his detractors that he is a member of it. 

Obama was able to win the presidency because he was an "exceptional negro" and a "good one" when viewed through the white gaze. However, such praise existed in a vacuum, was contingent, and could easily default back to a position where being black, American, breathing air, and nearby was good enough to jettison one's support for him. Obama's blackness is like a version of the Rock of Sisyphus: it grounds him and offers some protection. But, it is also a liability. 

Barack Obama is going to lose the election in November. This will create a cottage industry for analysts, political scientists, historians, and others who study American politics. I have always thought that the more interesting question regarding Obama was not if a black person could be elected president. Rather, what we should have been asking was, could a black president be reelected to a second term?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Would a Member of the Black Bourgeoisie Fry Chicken in His Underwear?

What does it mean to be a member of the black bourgeoisie? Is this an aspirational title? Is it measured by profession, trade, or economic resources?

I embrace the idea that we should all engage in acts of critical self-reflection when appropriate. Our conversation about Obama's performance in last night's debate where he mercilessly beat upon Mitt Romney, and the latter provided many options for a far more thorough thrashing than he received, prompted the following observation from one of our frequent commenters (the aptly named) Invisible Man:
Our President is the manifestation of Black Bourgeoisie Politics and you are the messenger. White liberals need/ promote Black Bourgeoisie politics because it attacks (and you are a intellectual pit bull at this) Republicans and the right wing who are a direct threat to them and the small Black Bourgeoisie class.
I appreciate this formulation because 1) it strokes my ego and furthers a fiction that my commentaries are read by the gatekeepers and "powers that be" who have yet to send a brother a check; and 2) it suggests that there is a coincidence/coordination of strategy and tactics by critics in the black counter-public of the Right-wing's nefarious political agenda.

While this model is appealing, we must be very cautious lest the conspiranoid fantasies of conservatives about a black hive mind, and Operation Black Steel, be confirmed in the service of advancing a fiction with does not serve our collective self-interest or the Common Good.

I do wish African-Americans were so organized.

We quite simply ain't.

The reasons are many. These include the systematic targeting and destruction of black indigenous community organizations by the state, for example. An inability to rally behind a common goal--other than that of electing a Black President--is also hobbled by the class divisions within the African American community, the ethnicization of the race, and resource scarcity.

Here is a puzzle. Barack Obama is a president who happens to black. He is the Head of State and Chief Executive of the most powerful country on Earth. However, the political interests of black and brown folks remain marginalized in the public sphere (and mass public too) and our life chances are significantly diminished compared to white Americans regardless of our class backgrounds.

Moreover, there is a broad belief that the politics of black respectability ought to still be leveraged for the purpose of black self-improvement and political empowerment. In short, despite the public protests to the contrary by the black public intellectual set, we all know that Bill Cosby did not say anything about the behavior of the ghetto underclass that is not self-evident to even the most half-opened eye and/or fair observer.

But, the Black Superpublic and the Black Culture Industry make even the most debased and derogatory representations of black humanity--see Chief Keef for example--a fiction that becomes real for the white gaze and those people of color who have internalized it.

And even if we were able to create a synergy of black political mobilization, respectability, and resources, the crises of a failed economy, social institutions, and infrastructure that decades ago deindustrialized black and brown inner city communities are stubbornly resistant to the types of citizen activism that many in the public would like to pursue. How can one fight anti-democratic institutions with democratic means?

I am not, nor have I even been, a member of the black bourgeoisie. I also do not eat fried chicken or watermelon in either "mixed" company or in public. I also fry chicken wearing only my underwear and have many lurid fantasies of beautiful women in my kitchen similarly attired, cooking, topless, grease splattering on their pert nipples as my hands wander all over their bodies from behind, before the angry lingam makes glorious union with a ready, happy, and hungry yoni

Ultimately, I am not a member of the black bourgeoisie for many reasons--first and foremost because I do not think they would have me. Nor, would I want to join any club that would take me as a member.

What says you about all of this black bourgeoisie stuff?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Barack Obama's "Steel Curtain" Brought Mitt Romney's Post-Truth "Wildcat" Offense to its Knees in the Second Debate

President Obama just ethered Mitt Romney.

Barack Obama delivered a clinical beat down of Mitt Romney in the second presidential debate. Obama supporters will still be holding onto their misplaced dream that the President's poor performance in the first debate was some deep game of political chess. They remain incorrect.

Tonight's outcome is far more simply explained: Barack Obama was much more prepared for his second outing against Mitt Romney. While boxing is a poor fit for describing Obama and Romney's first debate, this second contest is akin to the wildcat offense in football. Romney's trick play of obfuscation, factual pivots, and post-truth speech was countered by a well-practiced and prepared defense. At this point, Romney is running a one-dimensional offense and was exposed as such. This allowed President Obama to score on both offense and defense (almost) at will.

Entering the debate I was, and remain concerned, about the stylistic limitations faced by Barack Obama in these presidential debates. Obama lost the first match because he was passive and too gentlemanly. The public and his advisers clamored for the President to show some fortitude, passion, and energy against Mitt Romney, to confront him on what is an obviously disconnected relationship from empirical reality and the facts. In short, Obama had to act "presidential."

However, he is also a president who happens to be black, playing a game that was not designed for a man who looks like him.

Obama is also a black man with all of the stereotypes, projections, and insecurities of the white racial frame transposed onto him. Of course, the Fox News crowd saw an "uppity" and "arrogant" and "threatening" black man on stage. When Barack Obama wakes up in the morning and breathes air the white racial resentment and anti-black animus of the Right is immediately activated. Consequently, their verdict is predictable.

By comparison, like many of you, I too am blessed with what Du Bois described as the second sight that comes with life behind the veil of double-consciousness. This evening, I saw the country's first black president putting in work. The little man came from behind the stove and took Romney out at the knees.

Some thoughts and questions for you all.

1. Am I the only person who wished that there was a thought bubble above Mitt Romney's head? Am I alone in wishing that Romney would have broken script and ushered the racial epitaph that seemed poised to come out of his mouth at any moment?

2. Romney made "special efforts" to ensure that women were represented in his hiring and recruitment pool while Governor of Massachusetts. Funny thing, I did not know that he supported affirmative action (as what Romney did there is what said policy in practice usually involves). If the Right were at all intellectually honest, their heads would be spinning at Romney's policy position on the hiring of women--it stinks of being a "moderate."

3. Was Romney's rude demeanor a function of his entitlement as a rich man? A rich, privileged, straight, white man? His experiences as a CEO, and a particular social experience and identity wherein all people--especially women and people of color--are supposed to be deferent to him?

4. Why didn't Obama take Romney down regarding his lies about supporting Pell grants, a program he and Ryan would cut?

5. Let's call out a willful lie that is caused by conflating capitalism with democracy, and where government is framed as always being a societal evil. Governments do create jobs. They create jobs all of the time. Never mind the New Deal, we can point to many more recent examples of this fact. One does not need to go all wonky and start discussing Keynesian economics to make this basic point.

6. Why are Romney and the Right-wing echo chamber fixated on "Fast and Furious?" This is a conspiracy theory that is of little interest to low information voters and undecideds. When Romney and other talking-point conservatives bring this issue up they are confusing the general public (as most will think of the movie). Their insistence on that ineffective meme is a great example of how epistemic closure has intellectually and politically ghettoized the Right and conservatives in this country.

7. On first glance, am I the only person who thought that the brother who asked Obama a question was a black conservative plant like Herman Cain in 1994? Am I the only person, who realized that said audience member may have simply served up an easy pitch for Obama to knock out of the park with his great promo and stump speech?

8. Was the archetypal Fox News, Rush Limbaugh listener who was "hanging out with his boys" talking about the terrorist attack in Libya a Right-wing plant?

9. Romney had to feed the Culture War gods. Why are conservatives confused about a basic social science finding: people do not miraculously get jobs because they are married. Deindustrialization, and other structural inequalities contribute to the "bad culture" conservatives are so fixated on. Are they incapable of understanding this basic fact? What of all the "bad culture" in Red State America? A curious silence.

10. Apparently, Mitt Romney believes that all people are created equal. But, he belongs to a faith that until 1977 said that black people were second class citizens who go to a segregated heaven. Riddle you that one.

11. He was in the clear; why did Mitt Romney bring up his secret "47% of the American public are losers, bums, and parasites" video? Calculated risk or misstep out of desperation and confusion?

12. Obama mentioned his hometown of Chicago and the violence there. Cue the Fox News talk radio late night conspiracy talking point meme machine! "Obama," "Chicago," and "violence" are a home run for the conspiranoids on the Right.

Help Me Understand Mitt Romney: Racist T-Shirts Are "Reprehensible"; But a Concerted Campaign of Race-Baiting and the Southern Strategy 2.0 is Okay?

I take folks at face value.

In response to the negative media attention which followed the circulation of a photo of a white nationalist wearing a t-shirt that said "Make the White House White Again" at his rally in Ohio on Friday, Mitt Romney's campaign issued a press release calling such bigoted acts "reprehensible."

Mitt Romney apparently does not like white racists who show up at his rallies and provide photo ops which could hurt his chances at winning the White House.

However, I am left with a dilemma and a puzzle of sorts.

Mitt Romney has been running one of the most racist campaigns in recent American history against the country's first black president. While some folks are obsessed with the silliness of "lynched" chairs, racist t-shirts, and other nonsense, Mitt Romney has been offering up a mix of overt racism and covert "dog whistles" against Barack Obama that collectively draw upon some of the deepest and ugliest stereotypes about black humanity.

And for the most part, Romney has been playing in the muck of white racism for the purpose of electoral gains with little if any consequence. This is the magic trick of the Right and the Republican party in the post-civil rights era: they complain about overt racism as a means of distracting the public from the party's deep investment in a strategy of mobilizing white voters through racist appeals against people of color. Ultimately, the Republican Party is a White Party; they will do anything to get their people to vote...including deep and ugly appeals to white racism, white victimology, and identity politics.

In all, white racists at his rallies are a micro-level issue; Mitt Romney has been slinging white racism and white racial resentment in order to rile up white conservative voters and right-leaning independent on a national stage with many millions of viewers.

Thus, I must ask the following: how does Mitt Romney decide what constitutes "reprehensible" behavior? What is his decision-rule?

We have not played a game in some time. And as you all know, I do loves me a fun game.

Let's crowdsource this puzzle and try to figure out Romney's logic. Here, I offer a few examples which we in turn can place in three categories. They are as follows: reprehensible behavior; stuff that sort of isn't cool; things that are okay and why are you complaining?

My examples are far less than exhaustive. Please, do feel free to include your own, as well as an explanation for your logic as explained from Romney's sociopathic point of view.

Reprehensible Behavior:

Racist t-shirts which suggest that we should "Make the White House White Again";

Questions about Romney's tax returns;

Questions about Bane Capital and outsourcing jobs to China;

Questions about Romney's offshore accounts and tax shelters;

Questions about Romney's position on why he, as a 31 year old man, remained a member of a religion that until 1978 was formally racist and white supremacist against black people.

Stuff That Sort of isn't Cool

Romney's spokespeople saying that Obama does not understand the "special Anglo-American relationship";

Asking about how Romney's healthcare plan in Massachusetts is in anyway different from "Obamacare";

Asking for specifics about Romney's tax cuts for the rich, and how they will cost at least 5 trillion dollars.

Things that are Okay and Why are You Complaining?

Romney's jokes about birth certificates and how Obama is not an American citizen;

Romney's statement to his donors in private that 47 percent of the American people are leeches, parasites, bums, and surplus people that he does not care about;

Romney's statement in the same speech that life would be easier if he were born Hispanic--and he would be leading the polls--because white folks have it so hard in America;

Romney's spokespeople, Newt Gingrich and John Sununu, saying that Obama has a special rhythm and is a lazy negro who is not fit to be President because he likes playing basketball, going on TV, sleeping all day, and just being a rapscallion colored uppity fellow as opposed to doing his job as President;

Romney's lies that Obama stole money from Medicare;

Romney's lie that Obama is a welfare king who steals money from white people to give it to the lazy blacks;

Romney calling Barack Obama a "boy" to his face during the first presidential debate.

Monday, October 15, 2012

In Season 3 of "The Walking Dead" T-Dog is Still a Butler and Michonne is a Black Maid with a Sword

Some thoughts on The Walking Dead's newest season. Those of you who want a traditional review should go here. If you would like to remain spoiler free and/or have not read the comic books upon which the show is based, you are forewarned as there are minor spoilers ahead.

The third season of The Walking Dead premiered last night to record ratings. Based on the first episode of the new season, the show seems to be finding its stride after the abrupt departure of Frank Darabont last year. We have the obligatory gore, some cool zombies, and a narrative that is now firmly separate and apart from the source material--Rick Kirkman's great graphic novel series of which I am a long time devotee.

The TV show's effort to create its own universe is also the root of a major problem, one that remains unresolved from last year.

In "Seed," Rick Grimes and his party of survivors have finally reached the prison. This is a key storyline from the comic book which, to my eyes, was the moment where we knew that The Walking Dead was a great series. The comic book was built to last; the events that transpire with the prison and the Mayor simply reinforced that The Walking Dead was/is one of the finest entries in the zombie genre.

The graphic novel reached a crescendo in that moment because of the relationships which had been established between the characters. Now, with Shane having survived (which spun the TV series in a direction separate and apart from the comic book), Dale's death, and now Hershel being "crippled" (he is now a composite character who draws upon what happened to the latter character in the comic book), those relationships have been fundamentally changed. Adding an additional problem, the rich relationships between the people in the comic book are also not present in the TV series because the show has defaulted to tired stereotypes for its two African-American characters.

In the third season's premiere, T-Dog remains a semi-mute black buck butler who finally gets to talk about halfway into the episode. Michonne, a fan favorite, has been made into a black maid and "black best friend protector" for the white character Andrea. Historically, in the gaze of Hollywood Whiteness, black folks are put in stock roles and tropes. They are the best black friend, black servant or confidante, the "strong" black man or woman, the thug, the silent protector, the mammy, buck, or "the magical negro" whose only purpose is to help the white protagonist. Sadly, The Walking Dead TV show seems unable to break with that formula.

Why Were Elite Libertarian Intellectuals Not Interested in Discussing the "Race Problem?"

A blogger from the pro-immigration website Open Borders asked how often libertarians argued against, for example, segregation. 
I think the commenters (myself included) got it right when we said “some, but not much.” In other words, from time to time, libertarian intellectuals did talk about the evils of segregation. Usually, the issue is couched in terms of the use of state power to prohibit blacks from holding property and practicing certain occupations, like the law. Sometimes it was a commentary on what was good and bad in the Black freedom movement. There is the occasional talk of opposing colonialism. But overall, it was not an overwhelming response. 
The relatively weak answer to Black oppression is puzzling. Opposing Jim Crow was a no brainer from the libertarian point of view. Blacks had been slaves, which is the antithesis of personal freedom. Then, after Reconstruction, they had been subjected to humiliating and painful legal regulations in addition to extensive personal violence. While libertarians may disagree with liberals about the remedy for state violence and segregation, you would think that they would have been marching arm and arm with liberals in the 1960s. 
But that didn’t happen. Black repression takes a back burner on the libertarian shopping list. But why? I think it has to do with the sociology of elite libertarians.
We occasionally discuss libertarianism, race, and politics. I am a big fan of Fabio Rojas. He is cool people, really smart, and the author of the great book From Black Power to Black Studies. As such, I came across his post "Race and the Sociology of Elite Libertarian Intellectuals" over at his site and thought I would share it with you all to start the week.

My views on libertarian political thought are pretty straight forward. In a society that is structured by inequalities such as race, class, gender, and sexuality--and accepting the fact that we in the United States live in an imperfect democracy were privilege is reinforced by our social and political institutions--I am unwilling to surrender my earned and natural rights as a black American to the "liberty" or "freedom" of someone else to discriminate against me. Like many schools of political thought including Liberalism, Communitarianism, Socialism, etc. the abstract concepts cannot be separated from the social moment which birthed them, or the realities of the society in which they will be applied.

Here, I proceed from a number of inter-related premises. Racialized citizenship and the Racial State are real; black folks as a type of perpetual Other have been faced with the existential dilemma of "niggerization" in the West, and being marked as anti-citizens in America, specifically; Ultimately, I would suggest that libertarianism is best suited for 1) an idealized society where no real divisions of ascriptive representation exist, or 2) rich privileged white college students (and others) who are playing a political version of fantasy football and/or engaging in some other type of abstract counter-factual that can only reasonably exist after a game of beer pong.

Rojas plays around with this last element quite nicely however, where he speculates about what circumstances could have generated a strain of libertarianism that was both more anti-racist, as well as friendly to the concerns of people of color, a group which has been forced to repeatedly confront degenerate white supremacy in the United States in order to have their basic citizenship rights acknowledged and (somewhat) respected:
Roughly speaking, the people who defined the libertarian agenda in the mid to late 20th century were defined by two social processes. First, nearly all of the major libertarian intellectuals belonged to the Jewish diaspora in America. Some were refugees from East European communism, like Ayn Rand. The Austrian school of economics was lead by central European Jews like Mises and the second generation was led by New Yorker Murray Rothbard. Second generation Jews were also very prominent, like Milton Friedman and Robert Nozick, whose father, according to wiki, was from a Russian shtetl. While these writers did occasionally address Black issues, American civil rights probably did not loom in their minds as much fascism and socialism in Europe.  
Second, many, if not most, of the leading libertarian intellectuals were strongly rooted in American and Western European academia... 
Now, it didn’t have to be that way. Imagine if some group of Black intellectuals had set out to systematically develop an anti-statist political philosophy, much as Third World intellectuals developed indigenous versions of Marxism, like liberation theology. For example, what if DuBois had an evil twin brother who looked at the post-Reconstruction South and developed a theory of the state as an illegitimate racial coalition? Or, imagine, if some people in the Harlem Renaissance had taken a sort of proto-Tyler Cowen position about how capitalism allows black cultural forms to flourish?
I have always appreciate the appeal of libertarianism in the abstract for those of us who suffered under Jim and Jane Crow, chattel slavery, the lynching tree, and (now) colorblind racism. The state failed us. It was tyrannical and engaged in personal, legal, moral, ethical, economic, and existential violence against us. The state also looked away and allowed white racial violence to exist as the de facto law for post-Reconstruction America. Matters are complicated because the state also intervened to tear down the remnants of the Southern Slaveocracy, and in many ways has been a positive force that has intervened against the most obvious, overt forms of white supremacy.

What do you think are some moments when libertarianism could have chosen a "second or third way," pursuing a practical and sincere anti-racist agenda as opposed to being co-opted by the Southern Strategy, the New Right, and the "principled" racists of post-civil rights reactionary conservatism and the Tea Party GOP?

Which black and brown leaders, indigenous to the community as opposed to being imposed on it, could have lead the way in making libertarianism a legitimate part of the broader black political tradition?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

"Put the White Back in the White House": How Will Conservatives Spin This Photo from Mitt Romney's Rally on Friday?

Once more, conservatives show you who they always have been and are. I couldn't care less about one data point swimming about in a sea of information. But given Romney's naked appeals to white racism, how white supremacists have heard his "dog whistles" loud and clear, Romney and Ryan's repeated assertions that Obama, the country's first black President, does not understand "American" values, and the Right's use of some of the worst and most racist stereotypes about black people in the Age of Obama, this photo which was taken at a Mitt Romney rally on Friday should come as no surprise.

Together, white racism and racial resentment are the brand name of the Tea Party GOP. Consequently, Romey's public knows exactly what they are buying coming November 2012 when they vote against Barack Obama.

Conservatives and the Right-wing echo chamber have a great gift for reframing reality. In the post-truth era, if you think a thing is true, and you believe it to be so (and say it enough) said fiction must be therefore be real. The New Right are also conspiranoids who believe in rigged public opinion polls, white victimology, birtherism, phantom buses full of "illegal" minority voters, and that the most recent unemployment numbers have been manipulated in a grand ploy to defeat Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. As such, conservatives are capable of believing whatever the echo chamber births from its mania-state of perpetual epistemic closure, and a befouled womb.

They will excuse away and make excuses for the white nationalist who supports the Tea Party GOP, what is the country's de facto White Political Party. Let's get ahead of the curve and use our imaginations to figure out how conservatives will frame the following photo as its circulates throughout the Internet and other media this weekend.

Here a few suggestions:

1. No Republican or conservative can ever be racist! Only the Democrats and liberals see race because they founded the KKK! This man must be an Obama supporter!

2. Agent provocateur! He must be a member of the SEIU and a supporter of Saul Alinsky and a fascist Marxist. Liberals will do anything to make Mitt Romney and the Tea Party look bad.

3. The Romney logo on his t-shirt is a sticker. Just like the Democrats did when they infiltrated the Tea Party rallies a few years ago, the liberals are making their own t-shirts, sending out fake protesters, and doing whatever they can to make us look bad! If he was a real racist the Romney supporters would have kicked him out!

4. Scratch a liberal and you get a racist. He must be a libtard who supports Obama!

5. Okay, let's just use our imaginations and say the guy showed up uninvited to the Romney rally. Why blame all the good conservatives there? Reverse racists, anti-white bigots on TV, black liberal bigots, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and the Internet, all hate conservatives. We have black conservatives at all of our rallies.

6. If Republicans hated the blacks why they be so prominently featured by us at our  meetings? We are the party of Abe Lincoln. The liberals are race obsessed and sick and they keep the blacks on the liberal plantation. Dems don't believe in what Dr. King said about being color blind.

7. If Obama and his supporters really cared about racism they would put the New Black Panthers in jail, prosecute Fast and Furious, impeach Eric Holder, and stop the cover-up about the embassy attack in Libya!
What would you add to this list? How would you help the Tea Party GOP spin and excuse-make for the white nationalists and other racists in their midst?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Forget Boxing, the 2012 Election is More Like Professional Wrestling

The news media and pundits love to use sports analogies when discussing American politics. When describing the 2012 race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, boxing is their sport of choice.

Obama's supporters have inaccurately described his defeat by Romney in the first debate as a version of a deep game that is modeled on Muhammad Ali's legendary "rope-a-dope" strategy against George Foreman. Romney's backers claimed that he scored a TKO over Barack Obama, leaving the President flat on his back in the ring after the first debate.

In keeping with the boxing metaphor, the second debate in the 2012 presidential campaign features Joe Biden, a wizened, experienced pugilist from the mean streets of Scranton versus a scrappy upstart with much to prove named Paul Ryan.

But what if the analogy is inaccurate?

Boxing is a poor fit for describing the presidential race between these two candidates. Boxing is a sport prefaced on merciless violence. People have been killed in the ring, or left handicapped, brain damaged, and physically broken by a match.

I am not not discounting the substantive differences between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama's approach to governance, public policy, or stewardship of the Common Good. This election represents a clear difference on issues such as reproductive rights, public schools and education, tax policy, and health care reform. I also think that a Romney presidency would border on the disastrous for a country struggling to find its way out of the greatest economic downturn in 80 years.

While the stakes are very high, a choice between Obama and Romney cannot be reduced to a blood sport. Yes, political polarization, the rise of the New Right, and the White populism of the Tea Party do signal an increasing chasm and gulf in our society, that if recent surveys and research are to be believed, has limited our ability to relate to one another and imperiled the ability of the State to respond to issues of common concern.

However, there are great areas of overlap between the Republicans and Democrats which are little discussed. Neither Obama or Romney will engage in a substantive discussion of wealth inequality, the destruction of unions and manufacturing, a flat minimum wage, and the power of economic elites in this country to subvert democracy.

Both will continue a policy of American empire and intervention abroad. Both Romney and Obama have demonstrated a lack of willingness to address the rise of the surveillance state, and the continual erosion of privacy and personal liberty under the guise of "the War on Terror."

And of course, Obama and Romney will not discuss the realities of the color line, the semi-permanence of white racism, and how race and class intersect to limit the life chances of many tens of millions of Americans.

In all, the 2012 election features a centrist Right-leaning Democrat who would have been a Rockefeller Republican in another era running against a flip-flopping, quasi-moderate, near sociopathic Republican who will do anything to win the White House. Regardless of the outcome, the Republic will survive; moreover, a fight over a very narrow area of public policy which does little to challenge Power will continue unabated.

Contemporary American politics is more like professional wrestling than a boxing match.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Face of Black Nihilism: The NY Times Goes Slumming and Discovers Chicago "Rapper" Chief Keef

Around the same time Chief Keef, who has spent much of this year under house arrest because of gun charges, threatened the older Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco, who in a fit of reckoning the previous week expressed grievous concerns about the younger rapper’s nihilistic music. Keef threatened on Twitter to “smack him like da lil bitch he is.” Again, after an outcry, he said his account had been hacked. Finally, also last month, Chief Keef was relieved of his Instagram account after posting, also to Twitter, a photo of himself receiving oral sex from a woman.

By any measure, this is raw, difficult-to-consume stuff. That it’s coming from one of hip-hop’s most promising young stars newly signed to a major label makes it unusually scandalous. But what’s most surprising about the situation is that it highlights the vast gap between Chief Keef and the rest of hip-hop, at least its mainstream, popular incarnation.
Chicago based crap rapper and hyper thug race minstrel  Dadaesque minimalist emcee Chief Keef has climbed from the obscurity of the Internet and now has garnered the attention of the country's newspaper of record. The music press, blogs, social media, and various internet sites have been talking about Chief Keef for some time. While his video "I Don't Like" has received at least 17 million views, Chief Keef has also become even more noteworthy for his gang affiliations, violent feud with local Chicago rappers (one of which resulted in the death of a young man named "Lil JoJo"), and how he has been condemned as embodying everything wrong with commercial hip hop and black youth culture by such notable hip hop artists as Lupe Fiasco and Rhymefest.

Ultimately, Chief Keef reminds me of how I didn't leave hip hop. In many ways, hip hop left me. I still love her.

Let's be honest though: we all age out of youth culture.

At present, the commercial rap which is popular now is a product of a reality TV show Facebook culture where mediocrity is prized and talent eschewed. In the culture of illusion, we can all be famous. Sarah Palin with all of her human mediocrity and white trash populism can be a viable candidate for the highest office in the land. The Tea Party GOP, with its penchant for anti-intellectualism, racism, nativism, and conspiranoid fantasies, are a national force in the country's politics. The popularity of Chief Keef is a product of that same cultural low-water mark. As a member of the hip hop generation (and someone who has also written extensively about hip hop and black popular culture) I find this transition tragic and unfortunate, but not at all surprising.

Is the Republican Party a "Neo-Racist" Organization?

I present, as a test case, the issue of whether the Republican Party should be identified as a “neo-racist” entity...I want to test the theory that there is one truth in political discourse that the media has almost entirely failed to recognize or fears to utter, one at the heart of presidential campaign reporting: The Republican Party is an institutionally, structurally racist entity. It’s the veritable elephant in the room of campaign coverage. 
No, I’m not saying all Republicans are racist. I’m saying that as a party, ever since Goldwater and Nixon concocted the benighted, openly racist “Southern Strategy” in the ’60s, the Republican Party has profited from overt and covert racism.
Once more, and as we are fond of saying, racism is not an opinion.While Ron Rosenbaum is a bit off in his suggestion that "the media" has not been discussing Mitt Romney's racial appeals to aggrieved whites in order to defeat the country's first black president (see my pieces here, here, here, and here). He is also to be commended for finally broaching, on a national website of no small amount of prominence, the fact of Mitt Romney's support of his religion's white supremacist doctrines, and the latter's silence on the issue through a good portion of his adult life.

Moving forward, Ron Rosenbaum's essay "Is the Republican Party Racist?" does some great work synthesizing some new research by Thomas Schaller, Nicholas Valentino, and David Sears that explores white racial resentment and its impact on vote choice and issue positions. In this case, empiricism and rigorous social science inquiry offer no comfort for racism deniers (and those others) who want to excuse-make (or ignore) how racism is a driving element for Southern Republican voters:
Eventually the party became somewhat less overt in its public statements but not in its appeal at the voting booth. 
Which means in practice that the GOP starts out every presidential election with (depending on census changes in electoral vote numbers) some 100 electoral votes, more than a third of the way to the 270 electoral votes needed for victory. 
Is it an accident that these 100 votes come from the core states of the Old Confederacy—Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina? 
Looked at another way, as things stand, there would be no presidential "race" at the moment if it weren't for those ex-confederate states—even if they split their votes. Mitt Romney would have little or no chance of winning and might as well quit the race now. Nor would the GOP have much chance of re-taking the Senate or even winning the House again. They would be dead as a political party if not for the legacy of racism. I think that's a fact. Do you think it's "he said/she said"? 
That doesn’t mean that all Southern whites vote GOP only because of race. But when I checked in with the careful historian of Nixon’s Southern Strategy, Rick Perlstein, author ofbooks on the Goldwater and Nixon phenomena, he suggested that recent research has demonstrated that racial attitudes—as opposed to mere conservatism on other policy issues—determine Republican votes in the South... 
At the very least these patterns make Southern voters susceptible to what some observers have called "dog whistle" appeals to racism, such as Mitt Romney's false claim in campaign ads that Obama had "gutted" welfare reform work requirements, reminding many of Reagan-era attacks on "welfare queens" in Cadillacs.
In all, racism pays a psychic wage to those who are White. It can also be financially enriching to those people of color, such as black conservatives, who are overly identified with White authority.

Whiteness is an identity based upon exclusion, and where support of the Common Good across the color line is washed away by racial chauvinism. The story is also a complicated one: white racial animus also does the work--at least in theory--of securing more resources and power for the in-group, even while such benefits are not accrued equally for all white people: this is the cruel realpolitik calculus underlying the Wages of Whiteness.

The contemporary Republican Party has been able to leverage these dynamics. Under the Southern Strategy, and Mitt Romney's masterful mix of overt white racist appeals and "dog whistles," the Tea Party GOP has been able to maintain a strong base of support as the country's de facto White Political Party.

Ultimately, the Confederacy and the demons of Jim and Jane Crow are the lifeblood of the Republican Party's electoral strategy.