Friday, November 16, 2012

Occam's Razor: Is the Petreaus "Scandal" Really About Covering Up the Military's Ties to Tampa's Underground Sex Culture?

Some fun and a quick thought for the weekend.

Today's Congressional hearings with David Petraeus, former head of the CIA, were a Rorschach test: conspiratorial minded Republicans heard what they wanted to hear about a non-scandal and non-coverup in Libya; other more reasonable folks heard a story about a chaotic, kinetic, and (then) developing attack on the U.S. Consulate/CIA listening station that was--and is--still being sorted out.

The Petraeus-Paula Broadwell-Jill Kelley scandal is like a bad Lifetime TV movie. There is sex, betrayal, high society living, greed, debt, wannabe celebrities, and powerful people. I believe in Occam's razor where the simplest explanation is usually the most correct one. I am also a fan of a good conspiracy theory. As much as the Tea Party GOP would like it to be, the Petraeus imbroglio is not about Obama, blackmail, or a cover-up regarding Libya.

This whole matter will eventually be exposed as a twisted tale of sex, alpha male indulgence, suburban debauchery, and Tampa's underground swinger and sex party scene.

Some data points:

Tavis Smiley Making Sense and Calling Out Foolishness: "Latinos, Women and Young People--That is the New Governing Coalition"

This is real simple for me. With all due respect to the formidable coalition of Latinos, women, and young voters, Barack Obama would not be sitting in the Oval Office right now had Black folk stayed home in their "house slippers." African Americans are his most loyal constituency and everybody in the Obama reelection campaign and in the Obama White House knows it. The president owes Black folk. BIG time. 
The poet Gwendolyn Brooks had this wonderful refrain, "the last of the loud." Respectfully, somebody has to remind the president day in and day out of the debt he owes Black America. After four years of being sidelined and silenced, it's time to get loud. We have to be willing to engage even if we are "the last of the loud." 
Our Latino brothers and sisters immediately (as in the day after the election) jumped on a national media conference call to make it clear that they saved the president in some key battleground states. I ain't mad at 'em. That's exactly what they should have done. Black folk taught the disenfranchised masses how to make demands in the name of unarmed truth and unconditional love. Ready for the hard truth? At the moment, our Latino brothers and sisters are better examples of the Black prophetic tradition than are Black folk.
Tavis Smiley is the second man in a tag team of provocation and "truth telling" with Cornel West. They have been calling out President Obama and his stable of academics and activists for many months, beginning with the president's first term. West cut another vicious promo against his opposition last week. Smiley, is choosing to take a different tact with this insightful essay on how African-Americans are being (conveniently) written out of Obama's re-election story.

Smiley is highlighting some uncomfortable truths that some in the black-brown coalition which defeated Romney do not want to discuss at this celebratory juncture.

How will the emergence of Hispanics as the country's largest "minority" group impact national politics, generally and black politics, specifically?

I am deeply suspicious of any claims regarding "natural" affinity between African-Americans and other minority groups. Race is not destiny. A shared status as "people of color" says little about how those identities, especially for ethnic groups like Hispanics (who can be of any race), are contingent and evolving.

For example, if Hispanics are inaugurated into "whiteness" what will that mean for shared interests with black Americans? 

Black Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans are competitors both in the labor market, as well as the political arena. There may be areas of overlap and shared concern; there will be, and are, areas of competition, as well as a divergence of interests.

The black/white binary has dominated American social, political, and cultural life for at least 300 years. In the United States, Asians, Hispanics, and other groups have been "triangulating" between these two poles. Here, political and economic power are two additional dimensions in a binary relationship which must be considered. White Americans are preeminently strong on both axes. Black Americans have been able to attain political power at a cost: they are weak in terms of economic power. Asian Americans have economic power. But, they are weak in terms of political power.

Thus, a question.

As Hispanics leverage their role in Obama's re-election and translate it into real political currency--something black people will not be able to do--what will happen as they gain access both in terms of economic and political power? Moreover, what happens to the United States (and to the African-American community) if Hispanics can use their status as an ethnic group to gain more political and economic power than Black Americans?

The shameless gloating about the decline of White Conservative Masculinity, and the demographic winter of white people, is an ironic and trickster-like mask: black folks are approaching their own demographic and political winter given the ascendance of Hispanics as the country's largest "minority" group. Whiteness is repositioning itself for this reality; Blackness needs to reposition itself as well. The "browning" of America may actually make for some interesting--and surprising--bedfellows.

Eric Liu's "After the White Establishment" is a (White) Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: "The Emerging Coalition of Color Needs to Recommit to Americanness Itself"

It’s not just that a president was elected against the express wishes of a majority of white Americans; after all, that happened twice with Bill Clinton. It’s that we chose to keep a black man in the Oval Office. And the “we” who did that included more nonwhites than ever recorded in an American electorate
But the question now is what we do — and who “we” are. Whites in America, like Americans in the world, may still have more power in absolute terms than anyone else. But they have less power than they used to (like Americans in the world). This moment in history, and its accelerating demographic shift, could give us zero-sum politics fueled by white status anxiety.  Or it could give us the opportunity to at last detach Americanness from whiteness... 
At the same time, the emerging coalition of color needs to recommit to Americanness itself. There’s a civic creed at the heart of this country, a culture of democracy and inclusive self-government, that’s worthy of commitment. It’s time for people of every color to reclaim and redeem that universal, unifying creed: to identify first as Americans so that the full diversity of our identities can flourish...
Race is a dance. It is also a set of relationships and norms. Race is also a ritual--one which often follows a predictable script.

In post civil rights America, color blindness is a civic virtue. The politics that were brought into existence with the difficult and forced birth of multicultural democracy at the end of the civil rights movement involved a consensus of sorts: both white people and people of color were equally capable of racism. White supremacy, as well as Jim and Jane Crow, were simply byproducts of poor decision making and a maladaptive "Southern" culture; they were separate and apart from any deep reflections on either the nature of White Government, or of Whiteness itself.

This was a pragmatic decision that was driven by the needs of elites in the context of the Cold War who wanted to put the national embarrassment of formal white supremacy behind them. They found a practical solution that was forced by the bravery and courage of the foot soldiers, men and women, children and adults, black folks and our allies, in the Civil Rights Movement and the long Black Freedom Struggle.

The descendant of this consensus is a multicultural America that is possessed by a lie of false equivalence. Here, public discussions of white racism, and the semi-permanence of the color line, fall into a trap where justice claims by people of color--or simply matter of fact, sharp, and real observations about the nature of white identity politics and racism--are met by a need to defend, protect, and recuperate Whiteness.

[See the hysterical response to Reverend Wright's truth telling and astute reading of American history during Obama's first presidential campaign.]

Racial discourse in the public sphere is dictated by a commandment that white folks as a group must always be allowed the option of being shown in a kind light (even as the dominant culture views white racism as abominable, anachronistic, and shameful).

For example, critiques of the clear and open politics of white racial resentment, dog whistles, and overt racial appeals by Mitt Romney's campaign were met by silly editorials about "black racism" because the latter group made a calculated choice to support Barack Obama as the Republican Party's policies were so nakedly hostile to them.

In popular culture, the stories about black people fighting white racism in such films as Mississippi Burning and Glory revolve around white saviors. Black Americans have their agency removed; our agency and role in taking back freedom is conveniently "white washed." The Help is another horrid example of the white savior narrative where a story about black people's struggles are told through the eyes of a white main character, and white racists--the majority of the population during American Apartheid--are painted as caricatures and outliers.

Spielberg's epic Lincoln commits the same sin wherein black people are depicted as two dimensional characters, mere observers in our own Emancipation struggle. And the soon to be released "42", which is about the life of Jackie Robinson (I was among the first in the country to see it Wednesday night here in Chicago), while a very good movie, also falls prey to the need for Whiteness to recuperate itself through conspicuous characters whose only function is to show how not all white folks are/were racist.

The postmortem of Mitt Romney's defeat by President Obama, and the demographic suicide facing the country's White Political Party (otherwise known as the Tea Party GOP) adheres to the same script. The pundit class has begun a healthy, although ahistorical, discussion of what the "browning" of America will mean for the country's politics. But, in a search for a triumphalist theme, these same observers are, for the most part, ignoring how White identity politics still won Mitt Romney the majority of the White vote.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Dear Angry White Conservatives Mourning Romney's Loss: Chill Out

Alternet and Salon featured this essay yesterday. Help a brother out if you could by sharing this piece with your friends and contacts on Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit. My open letter to aggrieved conservatives is making its rounds online, but I think we can do even better. They are having a collective sad and need our help and support.
Dear Angry White Conservatives Who Are Mourning Mitt Romney’s Loss,

If Fox News is any indication, many of you are dismayed, upset, and befuddled by Mitt Romney’s loss to President Obama. Some of these feelings are normal. Politics is tribal. When your team loses, a bit of sadness is expected.  

However, some white folks are acting out in some very unhealthy ways. Young white conservatives participated in a near riot at the University of Mississippi where they hurled rocks at bystanders, used racial slurs, and burned Obama and Biden campaign signs. Other angry white folks used the Internet to send out racist messages and pictures on Twitter as an act of protest and anger at the country’s re-election of its first black president. I believe that these events are malicious outliers.

Many white people who voted for Mitt Romney are simply scared and angry that a “black socialist Muslim atheist Communist usurper” was reelected President of the United States.

89 percent of Mitt Romney’s voters were white. 59 percent of the white vote went to Mitt Romney. He also won the majority of white voters in every age and gender group. We live in a country that is racially segregated. The United States is also very polarized politically. At present, Americans are not talking to each other across the dividing lines of race, class, and ideology.

Because many white conservatives only interact with like-minded people who come from the same racial background, it seemed obvious to them that Obama was going to lose on election night. With the defeat of Mitt Romney, they are experiencing the universal hurt that comes when reality interjects itself into a dream world and fantasy.  

Many white people are feeling imperiled because President Obama’s win is being framed by the news media as a sign that people of color are gaining political power in the United States. The pundits keep talking about “the browning of America” and how the Republican Party will continue to lose elections if it just relies on white voters to win.  I imagine that many white people, especially conservatives and older voters, may be feeling a bit obsolete as the country changes around them.

I am white people’s best friend. As such, I will tell you things that other people will not; I will tell you the truth even when it makes you upset at me.

The media wants to scare you with all sorts of talk about how, in a few decades, America will be a “majority minority” country. You “want your country back” and people mock you for these sentiments. I am a good listener. Other people find joy in your tears and from the sad images of Mitt Romney’s headquarters, Republican rallies, and voters on election night. I feel your pain. I am your friend.

Guess what? Things are going to be okay.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

He was a Spy Betrayed by Barack Obama: Elmo's Secret Connection to the Petraeus Sex Scandal and the Benghazi Cover-up

The We Are Respectable Negroes News Network (WARNNN) works hard to bring you, our readers, the stories and information that you cannot find anywhere else. In the four years since our founding, we have had the good fortune to bring you candid interviews with such public figures as Herman Cain, Jesse Jackson and Pat Buchanan. Some of our greatest coups have involved exclusive interviews with such personalities as Racism, Whiteness, and Glenn Beck's ill-fated Blackboard. And of course, the one and only Brother X-Squared made his Internet debut on our site.

We always strive to bring you the truth--through any means necessary--here at WARNNN. Bill the Lizard, one of our investigative reporters, has uncovered new information about the Petraeus CIA scandal.

The connections run deep from the White House, to PBS, the CIA, and to the State Department. The Petraeus sex scandal and cover-up are just one part of a many tentacled tale of deceit, corruption, violence, and murder. 

Correlation is causation. News junkies also know that a pattern of events means that they must all be related and connected to each other in some way. To deny these facts is to deny reality.

The liberal media has been conspiring to suppress the truth about the Obama Administration's cover up of the events in Benghazi, Libya where several months ago an American consulate was overrun, and the ambassador, along with several other people, was killed. While Fox News and the brave patriots on the Internet have been the only voices willing to tell the American people the truth about Libya, events have continued to develop and spin out of control. Several days ago, Iran tried to shoot down an American drone which was on a peaceful mission in international waters. Now, the (recently resigned) head of the CIA is embroiled in a scandal which reaches to the top levels of the Pentagon, the FBI, and Congress.

The Obama administration, just as they did with the Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal, the rampant corruption with Obama's energy "czars," and the failed company Solyndra, is desperately manipulating events and suppressing information in order to protect their own public image. Obama was able to hide the truth about the Libya debacle and Iran's attack on a United States' research drone so that he could get re-elected and defeat Mitt Romney.

Obama revealed his true nature during the election when he used voter suppression tactics and a concerted campaign of lies and character assassination against the Republican challenger in order to maintain his illegitimate hold on the White House. Now, Obama is making sure that all of the parties connected to the Libya disaster and his various other foreign policy failures are removed from play.

Apparently, the much beloved Sesame Street character known as Elmo, has for many years, been an off the books contract agent for the CIA. In much the same way that the State Department issues diplomatic credentials as cover for CIA operatives, Elmo was able to use his position with PBS, and as a worldwide ambassador to children, in order to hide in plain sight. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Huh? The Solution to the Failure of Mitt Romney's Use of the Southern Strategy...Double Down on the Southern Strategy Again!

These people are stuck on stupid are stuck in a feedback loop which is the result of rigid path dependency and narrow decision-making.

Laura Ingraham's suggestion that the Republican Party can reposition itself for victory in the future by returning to its core "principles" would be laughable if not for the bizarre understandings of political reality contained in such a prescription.

Ingraham should not be counted as an elite decision maker on the Right; however, the Tea Party GOP is a party where Fox News and its propaganda apparatus are dictating policy. The result has been a fantasy world where its believers, and the Republican leadership, are insulated from reality.

The second consequence of the Right-wing media industrial complex's influence on the Republican Party is that mediocre talents which are "entertaining" for the mouth-breathing base, and who are better suited as cheerleaders, are elevated to the role of quarterback. Such a strategy will not ensure victory in the long run. Moreover, such a strategy encourages political dysfunction and undermines American democracy because ideological purity and extremism are preferred over the pragmatism and horse trading upon with good governance is dependent.

Mitt Romney's race baiting, and efforts to gin up white racial resentment against President Obama backfired. Thus, they helped to contribute to his defeat last Tuesday. While Romney's use of the Southern Strategy 2.0 helped him mobilize support among white voters, this strategy likely pushed away some Independents, and motivated people of color to turn out in record numbers against him.

The pundits on the Right seem unable to grasp how changing demographics, combined with their embrace of a de facto "whites only" set of policy initiatives, have pushed the Republican party towards obsolescence.

The second problem with Ingraham's suggestion that the Right should go back to its "core values" is one of selective memory and delusion caused by their version of the "noble lie."

One Week Post-Romney: How Will White Conservative Masculinity Continue to be a Problem?

Me thinks that Conservative White Masculinity needs an intervention to get its head right...

This will be the first full week of news media coverage following the defeat of Mitt Romney by Barack Obama. The meme of how white identity politics, and an obsolescent type of Whiteness in an America that is increasingly "diverse" doomed the Tea Party GOP, will continue as the talking point of the week.

This narrative is very entertaining. It reminds me of the academic conferences about Whiteness and White Privilege that were popular in the 1990s. The conversations about Whiteness and white privilege in the Age of Obama are touching on some similar themes--but as I will point out this week--lack the same level of historical or theoretical rigor.

This week will also be telling for how embattled white conservative masculinity responds to its interrogation by the news media. Will it become enraged? How will it lash out? Will the Right circle the wagons and further embrace the Culture War narrative? Or will the adults in the room call for moderation, nuance, and critical self-reflection?

Ultimately, one thing is certain: Whiteness does not like to be interrogated. The type of White identity politics that are the brand name of the Republican Party is particularly hostile to any type of rigor, empiricism, or introspection. Moreover, and by definition, Whiteness conceives of itself as "normal."

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Cornel West Unleashed: Obama is a Republican in Black Face; Sharpton, Dyson, and Harris-Perry are Political Mercenaries and Sell Outs

Brother Cornel is at it again. He is dynamic and pragmatic. Before the election, Dr. West was calling out President Obama as one of his fiercest critics. In the weeks before the election, Brother West urged everyone to vote for Obama because the alternative was totally unacceptable. Cornel is now calling out Obama as a blackface Republican.

Moreover, he has expanded the target list to include black academics and activists such as Doctors Melissa Harris-Perry and Michael Dyson, as well as Reverend Al Sharpton--a group he considers guilty of having "sold their souls for a mess of Obama pottage."

What is the bigger game here? Is Brother Cornel just ratcheting up the tension for a national tour that will climax in a pundit battle royal where all of the mentioned parties go at live? Is Brother Cornel sincere (which I think he is)? Or are his complaints and critiques just part of an elaborate type of political theater? What the heck is going on here?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Chauncey DeVega Will be Appearing on Our Common Ground Radio Tonight to Discuss Barack Obama's Re-election Victory and What It Means for the Future

Updated. I have embedded the audio from the interview below.

I will be appearing on Our Common Ground tonight at 10pm EST.

Janice Graham was one of the first folks to invent me to do an interview. Her show has a long history and I am always honored to be included. We will be talking about Obama's re-election, what comes next, and whatever other subjects Janice chooses to bring to the floor. The show is pretty relaxed--and it is an hour--so we should have plenty of time to go back and forth.

Our Common Ground is also live. You can listen at this link. The show does accept phone calls so do chime in if you are so inclined. Should be fun. I hope to hear from you tonight.

Listen to internet radio with OCG on Blog Talk Radio

Friday, November 9, 2012

Postmodern Political Theater: Rush Limbaugh Rants About a Lack of Truth and Honesty in the News Media

I came upon this video of Rush Limbaugh's show and just had to share it. Here, "El Rushbo" is conducting a post graduate level seminar in Orwellian Right-wing new speak.

This is postmodern agitprop political theater: the master liar is bemoaning a lack of truth and honesty in the media while suggesting that conservatives did not engage in a campaign of character assassination against Barack Obama.

In the Exorcist movies, we are cautioned to never talk to the devil because he mixes truths with lies. The same rule applies when listening to Rush Limbaugh and his ilk.

One would think that the magical thinking, Fox News media bubble that undermined Mitt Romney's electoral chances would urge the bloviators on the Right towards some degree of moderation in their pathological lying.

If Limbaugh is a bellwether, the Republican propagandists are going to simply rewrite history and double down on this habit. I used to believe that the Conservative media apparatus was one of the most effective propaganda machines in recent memory. However, as I observe their behavior post-Romney, it would appear that the Right is simply continuing with the same old lies and not updating them for the new season.

Don't the lies have to be internally consistent in order to be compelling and believable for the Right-wing media's audience? Or is Conservative Red State America so out of touch, and its supplicants so disoriented from reality, that to embrace empirical truth is akin to an act of religious heresy?

The carnival barkers and flimflam artists on the Right are like End Times prophets. They predict that the end of the world will come on Friday. Said event does not occur. These seers change the date to next Wednesday. The world does not end (again). Their believers suffer no loss of faith; they simply believe that the schedule was changed and their leader has a special and unique relationship with god.

The Right-wing media's audience and the base of the Tea Party GOP are those very same fools. Is it even possible to have a politics of consensus, in the interest of the Common Good, when the basic facts of reality, and the terms of discussion, can not even be agreed upon?

Victimology Follies: Mitt Romney's Loss and the "Demographic Winter" of White People

Maybe white conservative voters should have mass orgies where no one wears a condom? Would this guarantee victory in the future?

There are many theories about why Mitt Romney lost on Tuesday.

Some smart folks are talking about the importance of the Democrats' superior ability to microtarget voters, how Obama flipped retrospective voters to evaluate the economy in terms favorable to him, and how efforts at shrinking the electorate through voter suppression actually hurt the Tea Party GOP.

Other smart people are engaging in some real talk as they call out the Republican Party's belief in magic and lies. As I suggested here, the Tea Party GOP is a cult where political orthodoxy serves as a religion. Faith--what is a belief in things that cannot be proved through normal means, appeals to science, or empiricism--has damaged the Right's ability to reason about political reality.

The implications of this dynamic are worrisome: Mitt Romney's defeat, and the Tea Party GOP's surprise at that fact, is a symptom of mass psychosis.

The easy money, what is a sexy story that puts butts in the seats, is being devoted to the puzzle of white voters and how demographic changes have doomed the Republican Party to obsolescence. By comparison, I would suggest that all of the energy that is being spent on figuring out the "white problem" in America's electoral politics is very premature, and tinged by a lack of historical context.

The decline of White America thesis, and what changing demographics will mean for the country's politics and future, is an old and tired trope that has been around since (at least) the end of the Civil War. The befuddlement by the Right-wing media and political establishment in response to their thorough thrashing by President Obama and his coalition of women, young people, and people of color, is focused on how to bring more brown people into the Republican Party.

Here, there is no real interest in altering issue positions to appeal to a broader base; no, the Right is ironically deploying a strategy of political black and brown face quota theater (what they accuse liberals and the Left of doing) where people of color will instinctively come over to the Right because of racial kinship and affinity.

Implicit in their complaining and dismay is a deep vein of white victimology. America is not "their country" anymore; this arrangement is unnatural and unfair. From the perspective of "imperiled," "normal," spoiled, and entitled Whiteness, a President who can win without a majority of white (male) voters does not have a real mandate for change.

The herrenvolk politics of conservative white male America are mirrored by the fears and worries of White Nationalists about the extinction of the "white race" and what their propagandists have termed "Demographic Winter."

The Republican Party is the United States' de facto White Political Party. Therefore, the Republican Party has a great deal of overlap with racist white people. All Republicans are not racists. However, racially resentful and bigoted white people are much more likely to be Republican and conservative. In all, if one were to draw a Venn diagram of both the Republican Party and White Nationalists, the overlap would be pretty significant.

I am unsure about how the responsible adults in the Republican Party will reclaim their organization and its proud and respectable history.

It is clear that the United States is mired in extreme political polarization. While there is all sorts of silly talk fan fiction about a "second civil war," (which is not going to happen) the more substantive and important concern is how do we rehabilitate the Republican Party so that it can act responsibly as one of the country's two institutional parties. I am also concerned about how the Tea Party GOP's extremism makes the Republican Party a fertile recruiting ground for White Nationalists.

As the "reality" of demographic change in America remains a talking point in the weeks to come, the narrative of white victimology and imperiled Whiteness will become even more common. This cannot be to the benefit of the Common Good. It will be a blessing for white racist organizations, Fox News, and bloviators like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly.

A national obsession over the obsolescence of White America in the Age of Obama cannot end well. To paraphrase Langston Hughes, what does Whiteness do when its dreams are deferred? Does it shrivel up? Or does it lash out?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Not So Post-Racial: White University of Mississippi Students "Riot" Against Barack Obama's Re-election

What would James Meredith do?

While Barack Obama has been re-elected to a second term as the United States first President who happens to be black, there is still much work to be done if America is to become truly "post-racial":
JACKSON, Miss. — A protest at the University of Mississippi against the re-election of President Barack Obama grew into crowd of about 400 people with shouted racial slurs as rumors of a riot spread on social media. Two people were arrested on minor charges. 
The university said in a statement Wednesday that the gathering at the student union began late Tuesday night with about 30 to 40 students, but grew within 20 minutes as word spread. Some students chanted political slogans while others used derogatory racial statements and profanity, the statement said. 
The incident comes just after the 50th anniversary of violent rioting that greeted the forced integration of Ole Miss with the enrollment of its first black student, James Meredith. 
Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones promised an investigation and said “all of us are ashamed of the few students who have negatively affected the reputations of each of us and of our university.”
The American people learned an important lesson during these last four years. Barack Obama is a transformative figure; however, Obama is not a superman who will heal America's racial wounds through his mere presence in the White House.

There are a number of puzzles and contradictions that still need to be resolved as we work through how the symbolic power of a black president may not translate into an improvement in relations across the color line. According to recent surveys whites and people of color remain very much at odds with one another. Moreover, a majority of Americans now report higher levels of anti-black animus than they did four years ago.

Could it be that Barack Obama was reelected because 1) voters found his issue positions much more preferable than Mitt Romney's, but also 2) that a good number of white voters like Obama as a person but do not necessarily feel much affinity towards their fellow black and brown Americans? The United States is a multicultural democracy which remains highly segregated along lines of race and class. Race relations in the Age of Obama are a confirmation of that fact.

Before the American people take a victory lap of self-congratulatory delight in how changing demographics may force a new multiracial political realignment in the near future, they still need to confront the racist vitriol which has moved from the front stage to the backstage--where it comes out through acts of implicit bias, institutional discrimination, micro-aggressions, and cyber racism.

Racism is a tradition and a habit. It is not just confined to older Americans. The hope that white supremacy and racism will quite literally "die off" is lazy thinking. As demonstrated by this near riot at the University of Mississippi, there are young white people who are more than willing to carry on the racist legacies of their parents and grandparents.

Ultimately, one of the greatest perils caused by the myth of post racial, post civil rights America, is that young people believe that a country which is capable of electing a black man as president has conquered its racial demons. They need to be reminded, often, that post civil rights America is a blip on the radar, what is an experiment, which could be undone.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What Does It Feel Like to be a Problem? How Do (Conservative) White Men Really Feel About Their Role in Mitt Romney's Defeat Last Night?

The post-mortem for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign has begun in earnest. Obama's deft campaign strategy aside, was Romney doomed by an inability to tell the truth, low likeability ratings, Ayn Randian plutocratic comments about the "47 percent," his position on letting the car industry fail, or consistent appeals to the far Right through a use of anti-black and anti-immigrant rhetoric?
There are many causes of political death for Romney. In time, some will be proven to be more important and significant than others.

The leading explanation suggests that Romney and the Tea Party GOP were defeated because of changing demographics, and an electoral base which was overly dependent on white voters. Because the Republican Party is the country's de facto White People's Political Party, Romney put himself in an untenable position: to motivate the base, he would have to embrace policies that would push away and alienate women, people of color, young people, and a part of the white electorate who was turned off by the Right's herrenvolk, "take our county back" appeals to a mythic White American past.

Romney and the Republican Party's America no longer exists. In truth, it was always a chimera and a lie. But, the lie could be sustained because enough white folks took it to be real.

Whiteness is characterized by a set of attributes which include invisibility and a sense of being "normal." White racial identity--and white masculinity in particular--does not like being interrogated.

Ironically, in a version of "racial heliocentrism," whiteness loves being the center of all things.

As such, intense discussions about "white working class male voters" have become a part of America's public discourse in almost every recent national election.

In the Age of Obama, conversations about the meaning of whiteness in this "new" America have become increasingly common as well. To wit: there are a number of articles on a variety of news sites, blogs, and in other media, that are trying to figure out "the white problem" and its relationship to Romney's defeat last night.

Does Whiteness--or at least some of its owners--like being discussed in such a public manner?

I have always felt that macro level discussions of aggregate social identities, like "blackness" and "whiteness" for example, obscure as much as they reveal. Consequently, I am very curious about how white men, as individuals, across divides of party and ideology, feel about last night's election.

Do conservative white men (or white men more generally) really feel imperiled and obsolete in the Age of Obama? Is the world really against them? Do white men who are liberal, Left leaning, progressive, independent, or otherwise aligned feel unfairly lumped in with how whites (men in particular) as a group that are being presented as obsolescent holdovers who doomed Mitt Romney and the Republican Party to defeat?

Alternatively, do white men who left their "natural" home in the Republican Party, and were not lured in by the Right's identity politics, feel good about themselves as outliers that saw a way forward and are embracing a more diverse and inclusive America?

White men are the object and not the subject in these conversations. Of course, white men are able to control the master narrative because they control the country's mass media and are the single more powerful group of people in the United States (if not the world). But, the elite white men who can act as proxies and stand-ins for "how white men feel" on the news, and among the pundit classes, are by definition not a representative group. 

White folks, and white men in particular, please teach me something about these matters.

Barack Obama is President of the United States Again...Thank God for the George Costanza Theory of Political Predictions

I predicted that Obama would lose tonight. I got exactly what I wanted. Obama won. Crom is good. The math heads and stats junkies like Nate Silver were right. Math is also good.

We can exhale together. My Seinfeld theory of predictions was proven correct: go for the opposite in order to get the result you want.

Drinking a Sapporo beer and smiling--I am so happy that President Obama has been elected President of the United States of America (again). "Reelection" sounds so passive to my ear. Obama was subject to a severe referendum where he was held to much higher standards than other presidents before him precisely because of his race. He won the presidency. His second term was not a vote to return to a standing decision rule. Obama's second term is the product of an active consideration by the American people about his fitness for office and legitimacy to rule.

Sometimes we, the American people, get it right despite ourselves. In this case, Obama was a superior candidate, whose policies had more appeal than Romney's, and the people stood up against the challenger's post-truth demagoguery, race baiting tactics. Race still matters. How can it not be given our country's history?

But, America is a young country of change where the children of slaves and immigrants can become full citizens and make history as representatives, senators, the professional and middle class, strivers, upwardly dreaming working class folks, and yes, as President of the United States.  

American Exceptionalism is and ought not to be the bullying politics of imperialism, jingoism, and a belief that this country never apologizes abroad because "god" mandated us above the rest of the world. No, American Exceptionalism, as demonstrated by today's events, is embodied by the People evaluating two candidates, voting in the best one, and soundly rejecting policies that played to the worst of us and not the best of us.

The myth of meritocracy is often just that--a nice, self-serving, lie. Tonight, the myth was proven true by a candidate, a man, and the machine he assembled to motivate his base, craft policy, and win a second groundbreaking election. Romney lost...and he deserved to lose. Romney's back to the future Southern Strategy 2.0 is now firmly in the dustbin of history. Sure, it will motivate a good part of the electorate to vote. Other candidates may try to copy Romney's playbook. They too will likely face a similar outcome. 

In all, the Republican Party is now facing demographic suicide. They must adapt, or become increasingly irrelevant, as their older members die off and the Right competes for an increasingly angry, hostile, and marginalized part of White America.

What follows is a random observation about how we have changed as a nation. At Obama's rally here in Chicago they are playing the Otis Redding song "Try a Little Tenderness," the sample flipped by Kanye West and Jay-Z for their song "Otis." Who would have ever thought such a thing was possible?

A second question. Will the Republican Party mature, reach out, and bring in the old guard centrists who were/are the adult voices in the room so that they can be competitive and work for the Common Good? Or will the Tea Party GOP dig in, become even more extreme, and further obstruct the Common Good in order to advance their increasingly narrow partisan agenda? Does Romney's defeat lead to a more reasonable Republican Party or one that is even more extreme and intransigent? 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

When Greed and Neoliberalism Came to Professional Wrestling: On Election Day, Do You Really Want Mitt "The Million Dollar Man" Romney to be President?

Consider this an open thread on tonight's election.

The polls will be closing in several hours. Who will be the next President of the United States?

Mitt Romney is the prince of the plutocrats. While some self-interested--and very wealth voters--would find logical reasons to support him, there are other members of the public who will vote Romney in order to "get their country back." Little do they realize that Romney is an agent of the very forces which "stole" America from them long ago.

In my professional wrestling as politics series, I have tried to highlight the carnival-like aspects of the 2012 election, the role of racial resentment and polite racism in supporting Romney (and his use of said appeals to win white voters), and offered some advice about how Obama could perhaps win over white "working class" voters.

Ultimately, the low information independent voters who will decide tonight's election do not know much about policy. They are motivated by emotion and a given candidate's skill at storytelling (or professional levels of sociopathic lying as in Romney's case). In an effort to work within their learning styles, as well as cognitive limits, I would like to offer this public an example of what a vote for Mitt Romney translates into in practical terms.

Mitt Romney is the Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase. The latter was a popular "heel" wrestler in the 1980s who flaunted his wealth, and was famous for his belief that everyone had a price. DiBiase was the embodiment of Romney's honest and plain talk in private to his donors about how half of Americans are lazy parasitic bums who live off of rich people like him. There is a significant difference between Romney and DiBiase. The latter was honest about his contempt for regular folks and the working classes.

The Million Dollar Man was a prototype for the politics of greed and Ayn Rand populism that has taken over the Republican Party and put them in a fever dream and mania state. DiBiase's character was also a great foreshadowing of the neoliberal turn: he believed in privatizing all things--including children's swimming pools--because the State and the public should be assets controlled by rich people like him. Because popular culture is a mirror for the sociopolitical, DiBiase was reflecting the trickle down lie that was Reagan-era tax policy by exaggerating its worst aspects.

Ironically, the grotesque caricature that was the Million Dollar Man was surpassed in the present by the recklessness of Wall Street, and robber baron gangster capitalists like Mitt Romney, who almost  destroyed the American economy.

With the power of the 1%, and because America is a corporateocracy run for the benefit of the few, Mitt Romney has taken a professional wrestling gimmick and elevated it to the grand stage provided by a national presidential race. The question then becomes, will independents, low information voters, people mired in white racial resentment, and those who support third party candidates help to elect Mitt Romney?

We will find out soon. Your thoughts? How do you think the night will play out?

For the Ghetto Nerds: Since Some of You Asked for It, a Podcast Discussing the Future, Past, and Present of Star Wars in the (New) Age of Disney

Today is election day. Many of us are stressed out about the outcome. I decided to offer an antidote and what I hope is a fun distraction. I have been asked by folks both via email and in person about doing a podcast. I demurred as it seemed like too much trouble. But after looking into the matter, and doing a bit of research, this seems like a nice feature for We Are Respectable Negroes.

It is only fitting then, that our inaugural podcast focuses on a ghetto nerd related topic. George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, has sold his empire to Disney. This announcement was made last week and has provided much fodder for debate and conversation. According to some, I am an "expert" of sorts on Star Wars. I also have access to another person who knows a great deal about the films. When you begin a new venture you should do something familiar and fun. Star Wars seemed to be a perfect fit.

We will be doing a podcast every so many weeks as events demand. I also have some cool folks lined up for future interviews/conversations. I think you will be surprised by some of the people who have said they would like to chat it up here on We Are Respectable Negroes.

Hopefully, the to and fro between me and Bill the Lizard, and a peek inside a decades long conversation about Star Wars, the prequels, and the franchise's future between two old friends, will be both enlightening and entertaining.

Star Wars nerds will find this the conversation very  familiar--and I hope provocative and comforting. Those who are curious about Star Wars can listen to the various parts and get some insight into matters they may not have considered previously. All others can laugh and marvel at a 60 or so minute conversation that could have gone on for much, much longer.

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Monday, November 5, 2012

What Would the Big Bossman Do? Mitt Romney is Going to Drag "Hope and Change" Away Tomorrow Night Just Like a Car Dragging a Casket Behind It

Probabilities are not predictions. On the eve of the 2012 presidential election, the prediction markets and experts such as Nate Silver have Obama winning with a probability of 86 percent 91.4 percent. But, this has not trickled down to the true believers in Romneyworld who believe that many dozens of national and state level polls are rigged, and that riots are going to break out in the United States--led by the "urban" population--when their candidate wins tomorrow in a landslide.

Progressives and Democrats are also nervous as well. Could Obama, the country's first black president somehow get reelected after a horrible first debate performance, in a slow to recover economy, against the Right-wing propaganda machine, and a significant public who are obsessed with getting the black guy out of office?

I am very nervous about tomorrow's election. I still believe that Romney, despite the mathematical and statistical evidence to the contrary, is going to win. It is true that conservatives and the White Right are engaged in all manner of magical thinking in order to convince themselves that their candidate is actually ahead in the polls, and the evil "liberal" media have conspired against Romney to suppress the truth.

However, a healthy cynicism based on cultural, historical, and racial memory is also a valuable insight into these matters of the political and the social for black Americans, people of color, and white folks who are similarly gifted.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Racial Framing and Superstorm Sandy: A Black Mother Begs for Help While Her Children Drown

Superstorm Sandy has made the divisions of class in the New York City area very clear. The "haves" are able to muster the resources to somehow survive. The "have nots" are left to their own devices.

Superstorm Sandy has also reminded us of how race remains one of the main dividing lines in our society. While naked displays of racism are now outside of the norms of "polite society," racial micro-aggressions, the day-to-day moments of white racial hostility and animus towards people of color, continue onward.

Racial micro-aggressions can impact the lives of black and brown folks in ways that are "just" inconvenient--the store detective that follows you around while shopping; being asked for ID when using a credit card; when your friends or colleagues "complement" you by saying you are one of "the special" or "good" ones.

Alternatively, these racial micro-aggressions can also be deadly in their outcomes.

Superstorm Sandy has yet to provide an iconic example of white racist media framing such as when during Hurricane Katrina, black people were described as "looters," and whites, also trying to survive, were captioned in news photos as "looking for food."

A lack of an iconic moment does not mean that race no longer impacts life outcomes, the safety and health of people of color, or how white society chooses to view (or not) African-Americans as full members of the polity and broader community.

Tragically, the drowning deaths of two black children while their mother, a black woman, begged for help in a white ethnic suburban community in Staten Island--and then was left crying and broken on the porch of a house for 12 hours when its owner refused her aid (and did not call authorities for assistance)--is a reminder of how the color line can kill you.

Two Reader Comments vs. Bernie Sanders and Bill Willingham on the Folly of Voting for a Third Party Candidate and the Perils of Ideological Orthodoxy in 2012

One of the wiser men to enter my life was a humble but impressive itinerant history professor, who taught satellite college courses to soldiers stationed in small bases, scattered throughout Western Germany (back when Germany was still divided). He once gave me very good advice I've tried to live by ever since. "Choose your causes carefully," he said. "If not, if you try to champion every good cause that comes along, you'll wear yourself out, at best, and worse, become a dilettante -- an ineffective dabbler. 
Pick a few that are the most near and dear to you, and give them your all, trusting that others are out there handling the other causes with equal fervor." So let me pass along his wisdom by urging you to choose your causes carefully, and in this case, champion better causes than trying to prove that one unimportant (in the grand scheme of things) entertainment story might owe too much to another. There are worse crisis and better things for which to boldly take up arms.
These are wise words. Bill Willingham, graphic novelist and creator of one of my favorite comics Fables, is spot on in his warning about pie in the sky political orthodoxy, and how single issue concerns can be to the detriment of the Common Good.

[These Internets are amazing. A person can go looking for information on if the TV series Once Upon a Time is a rip off of Fables and come upon a smart and sharp observation about the sociopolitical. Good stuff.]

One of our recurring--and welcome--issues of contention here is centered upon the merits of voting for third party candidates in the upcoming election. I am on the public record as an Obama supporter. Is he perfect? No. Is he a black Superman? No. And I would not want him to be one. Are his center Right policies flawed in some instances? Yes. Is Mitt Romney an acceptable alternative? Absolutely not.

I do not believe in political parties. I respect the wisdom of the Framers on that matter. However, we live in the world as it is; we do not live the world as we wish it to be. Third parties are useful for keeping the two institutional parties on their toes. Third parties can also be a useful check on the ambitions of either the in-party or the challenger depending on one's level of sophistication and style of strategic voting.

In a close election, such as what will come to pass this Tuesday, the calls by the purists and progressive ideologues on the Left to subvert Obama as a "protest" vote, defy all good sense. If these voices are willing to destroy the village in order to liberate it, then their wasted votes on third party candidates such as Jill Stein and others make sense.  I respect Utopian dreaming. But, in this moment of peril and crisis, I must be a pragmatist and utilitarian who makes a choice based upon the greatest good for the greatest many.

Bernie Sanders, Independent Senator from Vermont, would seem to agree.

By contrast, one of our frequent commenters, Nomad, has noted for example how:
"The one dimension left out of the discussion is the only one with a hope of remedy for the present situation; which really is new: this Bush/Obama era. It's only been around since 2001. How quickly we get used to nooses around our necks. What you do in voting for either of these 2 party corporate puppets is validate the new status quo, the one created by George Bush. 
You just move a step closer to fascism. I notice that your advocacy of Obama never includes any thing positive about his policies. Primarily you focus on the fact that he is a victim of discriminatory attack and for the reason of race identity we should rally around him. Well, there's too much at stake for epidermal politics. What difference does it make what color the downpresser is. He is still the downpresser. And if you encourage people to vote for a downpresser then at least tell them that that's what they're voting for. So they want be surprised when he starts downpressing. Matters and stakes are much too high. Know what you're voting for."
Makheru Bradley, another friend of WARN, also observed the following:
"I would not call people who have not broken the monopoly which the corrupt two-party system has on their minds silly and childish. The seductive power of “spiritual wickedness in high places” is strong. On the other hand Dr. Asa Hilliard did say “mental slavery is invisible violence.” It’s crystal clear Nomad, these people have been psychologically traumatized. 
My position is that Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer did not get beaten in the jail in Winona, Mississippi and Mrs. Viola Liuzzo did not get killed by the KKK on Highway 80 in Alabama for me to choose between injustice (Barack Obama) and immorality (Mitt Romney) in a presidential election. However, if people want to vote for a war criminal or someone who is dying to become one, that’s their prerogative. 
Perhaps on November 7 we will know if the contradictions in American society will continue to be nebulous, or if they will become clearer."
Brother Cornel West came around to the logical and sensible choice in supporting Barack Obama over Mitt Romney. Thus I ask, what will it take to bring in those good folks who will cast "principled" votes for a third party candidate--and by doing so help to usher Mitt Romney into office--to a more practical and pragmatic point of view?

Will these third party boosters sleep well knowing that they have helped to defeat Barack Obama? And if he loses, have these Obama detractors surrendered any right to complain and protest given the mess they helped to create?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Chauncey DeVega on Ring of Fire Radio: If Mitt Romney Can Smear Barack Obama This Way, What do Rank and File White Conservatives Think of "Regular" Black People?

Here is the recording of my interview today with Mike Papantonio and Ring of Fire Radio. I liked my tone during the interview and felt that we covered a good amount of territory. I was a bit more personal and direct than is my habit. As I said there, the personal is political for black folks and our relationship with Barack Obama.

Although many of us are unwilling to admit as much in public, the hate campaign by Mitt Romney and the Tea Party GOP against the country's first black President is predicated on the Right's deep disdain for African-Americans and our citizenship. More generally, for the White Right, people of color are not, have never been, and are incapable of being "real Americans."

I was obligated to speak on such matters in a plain and direct voice where I "turned the volume down a bit" in order to help folks hear me better.

Romney's lead among white voters, and white independents in particular, is a clear testimony to this backlash. Perceived as real, when it is a fiction in so many ways, Obama's victory was understood by many to be a "win" for black folks. Romney is gambling that there are enough racially resentful white people to return the country to its status quo ante, where a white man is "naturally" and unequestionably in charge.

In a few days, we will find out if Romney's concerted campaign to gin up white racial resentment and rage against Obama (and by implication, people of color in mass) will have born fruit.

Three Basic Concepts that Will Help You Understand Mitt Romney's Appeal Among White Voters

There is a real, airtight bubble in this election, but it's not Obama's. As a middle-aged white man, in fact, I'm breaching it. White people—white men in particular—are for Mitt Romney. White men are supporting Mitt Romney to the exclusion of logic or common sense, in defiance of normal Americans. Without this narrow, tribal appeal, Romney's candidacy would simply not be viable. Most kinds of Americans see no reason to vote for him... 
Tom Scocca's piece at Slate about Mitt Romney and the white vote is sharp and worth your time to read. However, folks like me, and a few others, have been discussing the relationship between Whiteness and Mitt Romney for some time. The Right, and some on the Left, are quick to deride and mock "identity" politics. That category of fighting over "who gets what, when, how, and why" is apparently abnormal political behavior best left to the gays, women, blacks, brown people, and those others whose citizenship is somehow made contingent when compared to the de facto "Americanness" of white men.

Good white men would never indulge in such things. The irony is clear: the United States is a country built upon maintaining, expanding, and protective the privileges of Whiteness. Mitt Romney has based a whole campaign on white identity politics and white victimology. Few in the mainstream media have had the courage to call attention to his strategy. 

Folks like me are also part of the problem as well. 

I often use "technical" and "academic" language when plain speaking would be more helpful for equipping readers with a vocabulary that can be used in their day-to-day conversations about race and politics. 

I am also open to self-correction when appropriate. As such, Scocca's points about white folks, and my claims about why white men in particular support Mitt Romney--and the Tea Party GOP's, deranged, anachronistic, and retrograde throwback politics--can be summed up in simple terms. 

America is a white supremacist country by design. Racism has (of course) changed and evolved over time. However, Whiteness as a racial identity predicated on privilege and superiority over non-whites remains in many ways very much unchanged. The need to maintain white control over America's political, social, economic, and cultural institutions is manifest in overt and subtle ways.

For example, despite their great advantages in wealth, income, power, social mobility, resources, and all other socioeconomic measures, many white people--especially white male conservatives--are terrified and upset by the symbolic power of a black man who happens to be President of the United States. 

Ultimately, White Masculinity is imperiled by the idea of Barack Obama. White men rule this country; ironically, no group of people, especially on the Right are as insecure. 

Chauncey DeVega Will Be on Ring of Fire Radio This Weekend Discussing Barack Obama and the Challenges of Being a Black President

The election is next week. I was asked to do the "go home" show this pre-election weekend on Ring of Fire Radio. Mike Papantonio and I discussed President Obama's tenure and chances of election, as well as the relationship between white privilege, independent voters, and their support of Mitt Romney.

I also kept it real and personal as I like to do. As such, I talked about how the open racial hostility demonstrated by Mitt Romney towards the country's first black president, and the former's naked efforts to mobilize white racial resentment and old school racism to win the election, is almost quite literally a slap in the collective face of black and brown folks in this country.

I believe the personal is political; I unintentionally dropped the mask for a second and went for a plain truth, and in a tone and style, that most have not heard me use in a long time. At this point, and so close to election day, I wanted to leave it "all out there" as musicians and other performers are fond of saying. No regrets.

Ring of Fire Radio can be heard live on these stations. The show airs on both Saturday and Sunday. Do check it out, tell your friends, tweet, email, and offer your thoughts as always.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

In the Aftermath of Super Storm Sandy the White Right Must be Disappointed That There Are No "Minority Urban Youths" to Hunt and Shoot

The lights remain off in New York City. The poor, as always, find a way to manage. The rich, the wealthy, those with credit cards and steady jobs, can stay in hotels or find a way to remain safely at home.

The suburbanites want to fight and complain about not having gas.

The poor, those who are predominantly black and brown in a city whose class divides were laid bare by Super Storm Sandy, cannot use electronic bank transfer cards (otherwise known as food stamps) to eat. There are no riots. People soldier on and try to help each other.

The dreams of the White Right in which black and brown people, the poor, and those others who have been left behind by a massive transfer of wealth and income upwards to the top 1 percent while the middle class dies on the vine, and the underclass remains forgotten and ignored, remain unfulfilled.

There are no opportunities (yet) for the White Right, Free Republic, Tea Party GOP base of former Reagan Democrats, angry white men, and gun nut extremists, to go on their shooting sprees where they hunt down "Minority Urban Youths" for sport. I guess many of them are either stuck out on Long Island, Jersey, or Queens where they are fighting each other over gasoline.

This has not stopped some of the fantasy hate mongers on the Right from focusing on a few cases of obligatory knucklehead behavior--which can in turn be exaggerated into tales of rampaging mobs of black looters. The political onanism of the White Right is always on display for those willing to stomach their exhibitionist behavior.

This story about 87 year old Margaret Maynard reminds me of the conversations I have accidentally overheard between my mother and her friends:

You have to smile...and be glad that some folks are reaching out to help the most vulnerable among us. But again, the poor are the proverbial miner's canary. In a cashless society, where most people are dependent on electronic debit cards, bank cards, or other devices for monetary exchange, they too are out of the loop when the power goes out. I would imagine only a few have cash monies on hand, hidden at home, in an envelope under the bed, or safely in a can located in the freezer for safe keeping.

Question: who will break first? Those who are already used to doing with less? Or those entitled, comfortable, and well-resourced, living in the exurbs (or in exclusive zip codes in the city) who have little tolerance--or coping skills--for dealing with life's difficulties, however minor?

Washed Away? Rescued? What Happened to New York City's "Mole People" During Super Storm Sandy?

Disasters expose the ugly realities of "normal" society. In those moments, when the great social leveler that is the government is rendered either impotent, moot, or a non-factor in its ability to stop a disaster from occurring, the ties that bind us together are strained. Moreover, here, government's ability to act as a salve and agent that masks social inequalities--or at least sweeps them under the rug in many cases--is removed.

During Katrina for example, the American people saw how the intersections of wealth, income, and racial inequality left whole communities destroyed, abandoned, and people unable to escape the wrath of mother nature because they did not have the resources necessary to buy a car in order to evacuate. Hurricane Katrina, was also an object lesson in how the State decides who was valuable, and which people were expendable.

Super Storm Sandy has revealed how New York is also a city of great divides in wealth and income. She is a multicultural mega city; New York is also a city where the very rich and the very poor exist in an exploitative relationship with one another.

The working class and poor, living on less than a living wage, make the lives of the rich and upper class comfortable and possible. As detailed here, the rich were able to take Super Storm Sandy in relative stride, riding it out in nice hotels, having an adventure of it all, and complaining about a lack of cell phone service and power.

By comparison, their maids, nannies, drives, assistants, and those many unnamed others who work in the service sector had to go to work during this time of peril for fear of losing their jobs, sleeping in cars or in shelters because they could not afford a hotel, or continuing to take care of the spoiled children of the rich while the care givers themselves were unable to offer comfort to their own kids.

It is estimated that there are tens of thousands, if not more, homeless people in New York City. They are families, children, men, women, the elderly, and the working poor. They are largely invisible not because we cannot see them. Rather, one of the survival skills that a person learns in order to successfully live in any city is to ignore the obvious, the pain, and the hurt of others. City life is an existence of social atomization. In order to function, most folks learn to look away both as a practical skill for maintaining sanity, and to avoid the frightening reality that many Americans are a paycheck away from being homeless themselves.

There are other homeless folks who are almost quite literally invisible. They are the "Mole People" who live in the subways of New York. It is estimated that there are thousands of people who live in this subterranean world, where they have established cities that live off of the electricity, scavenge the excess of a city that is decadent in its wastefulness, raise children and tend to pets, live and love, and make a civilization where they are the mayors, citizens, doctors, and police.

Win or Lose on Election Night, President Obama Needs to Study This Interview With Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka

Next week, the American people will select their next President. The odds makers, stats junkies, and folks like Nate Silver are suggesting that Barack Obama has a higher probability of winning the presidency than does Mitt Romney.

However, probabilities are not predictions. Romney still has a significant chance of becoming the President of the United States of America. And as you know, I am putting my money on a combination of historical precedent where the country returns to its norm of having a white president, the power of white racial resentment and animus, and a skillful candidate in Mitt Romney who has run one of the most racist campaigns in modern politics against the country's first black president, combine to unseat Barack Obama.

Whatever the outcome next week, President Obama is going to be limited going forward.

If he loses, the irony is that Obama may be freed as a living legend to pursue the causes he most cares about, and to help people of color, the poor, and the working classes in ways that as President, he could not. If Obama wins, he will be bloodied and wounded. The Tea Party GOP will continue to obstruct his agenda. If Obama wins the electoral college, and loses the popular vote, all bets are off, as this outcome will only embolden the white nationalist secessionist crowd who are the base of the Republican Party.

The Right has already waged a war against Barack Obama's legitimacy. To them, he is not fit to be president because he is black and a Democrat. If Obama wins according to the rules, but not overwhelmingly the people's vote, the White Right, a group who hate Obama more than they love the United States, will be further emboldened in their wickedness and efforts to subvert the Common Good for their own narrow, parochial, self-interested agenda.

Here, Jimmy Snuka had returned to wrestling following a vicious beating by the white racist conservative, and "representative" of Apartheid era South Africa, Colonel De Beers. However, Snuka, like Obama, was not broken. This angle was one of the most overtly racist and honest plays on current events and politics in Cold War, 1980's professional wrestling. Racial slurs were casually used; Colonel De Beers channeled his hatred of non-whites; Audiences comprised of people from all racial backgrounds jeered the villain from South Africa.

Snuka was and is an elite and special wrestler. Obama is a special and unique American. If the latter wins reelection it will be a Pyrrhic victory. Obama will have expended so much energy in his battle with Romney's legions, that he will be unable to advance his agenda even as an incumbent. Snuka wore a neck brace, was beaten, and yet still later defeated Colonel De Beers in a series of great matches. In the end, the "good guy" inevitably won. This was great storytelling.

By contrast, President Obama may defeat Mitt Romney next week. But, President Obama will still lose in the near term.

Consequently, Obama had better watch Jimmy Snuka's interview for some tips about the speech he will give on election night: as either victor or vanquished, the tone will not be that different. Obama will be broken, but perhaps he can still find a way to win in the long-term.

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.