Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Conversation with Professor Ann Little About the Newtown Massacre, Adam Lanza, America's Gun Culture, and the Puzzle of White Masculinity

I hope that the New Year was restful and celebratory. Before Christmas, there was a momentary "national conversation" about gun violence in the aftermath of the Newtown Massacre. Curiously, but not surprising, said moment of introspection about how America's gun culture eats it youth has fallen off of the national radar as the pundit classes have moved on to other matters. There will be other mass shootings; we will have said "national conversation" again; nothing will be done given the NRA's murder hold on the American people.

As I explored in a series of posts, the central question regarding the Gun Right is how these mass shootings do not lead to any serious exploration of the intersection(s) of Whiteness, White Masculinity, and mass gun violence. White men commit an overwhelming amount of the mass shootings in the United States. Yet, except for a few outliers, there is no sustained effort to engage the obvious puzzle: if white men are killing people, often by the dozens--in murders where they are the offenders at twice their rate in the general population--why are so many in the news media afraid and hostile to basic questions about "white crime?"

In my effort to explore this question, I reached out to two great scholars of American history and culture. Both kindly agreed to participate in WARN's podcast series.

Our first guest is Professor Ann Little, author of the book Abraham in Arms: War and Gender in Colonial New England, who writes over at the great website Historiann. In our podcast, she does a wonderful job of setting up our conversation by offering a wonderful, rich, and insightful perspective on the Newtown Massacre and the colonial era roots of the United States' (near pathological) love of guns in the present

Dr. Little was so very generous with her time. We covered a great amount of material in this conversation and offered up a necessary, and to this point, very much lacking historical context for the Newtown Massacre, and the fear by many in the pundit classes to even discuss white masculinity and gun violence.

This was a real treat. I was so glad to be able to bring this dialogue to the readers of We Are Respectable Negroes and those who follow our podcast series.

I do hope you enjoy the conversation.



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2:59 As a historian and scholar of America and gun culture, what were your first thoughts about the Newtown Massacre?
6:18 How do we begin to think broadly about masculinity and gun culture in the United States, and how it helps us to understand Adam Lanza's murder spree?
11:22 The gun and white male citizenship in colonial America and the Founding
15:00 Is the magical thinking of Conservatives typified by the gun control debate? What are some of the regional differences in regards to gun culture in the United States? How is this surprising (or not)?
23:55 An open letter to white men. Beginning to think about White masculinity, Whiteness and gun violence
29:25 How do people respond to conversations where whiteness and masculinity are interrogated and challenged?
34:40 Is White Masculinity a story of historical continuity or change? Is White Heterosexual Masculinity static?
48:27 More context for avoiding a critical interrogation of Whiteness and gun violence: White Mediocrity and the subsidization of Whiteness vs. the myth of American Meritocracy
56:14 Historical myopia, the luxury of being white and historical memory, and the allure of believing the "White Lies" of American history
62:14 What is your "blogging story?" How does blogging fit into your academic career?
64:03 The failure of academics to be able to effectively communicate with "regular" folks who are also smart like them
69:20 Academic writing's impact vs the audience and impact of blogging

Monday, December 31, 2012

May You Live in Interesting Times this New Year 2013: Minister Louis Farrakhan Endorses Django Unchained



I wonder if I am Alice in Wonderland or Neo in the Matrix? Did I walk through the looking glass?

A black man is President who was elected twice; the conspiracy theory that my friends and I outlined during late nights in college where a black man is elected president--what we called "Operation Hamhock" at the time--in order to advance neoliberalism's "colorblind" racist agenda came to pass.

We saw three new Star Wars movies and another trilogy is on the way (hopefully better than the last), there are zombie outbreaks, and herrenvolk old white Tea Party GOP nationalists wearing tricorn hats obstructing the General Will and Common Good.

Star Trek was rebooted and is introducing Khan/Garry Mitchell, the Orwellian police state hides in plain sight, and people self-medicate with social media and cell phones in order to avoid reality and police themselves for the panopticon.

And now there is a black fantasy revenge film called Django Unchained where a black man gets to kill white slavers, and other assorted white trash, is the subject of a national conversation. Plus, Minister Farrakhan weighs in on said movie for the new year.

As the old Chinese curse goes, may you live in interesting times. What will 2013 hold? What are your resolutions and thoughts this New Year's Eve? Any resolutions to share?

Be well friends, and I look forward to our conversations in 2013.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Post-Django Unchained: How Many of You Remember "The Legend of Nigger Charley?"


Something fun for the weekend. Django Unchained builds upon many movies. Most obvious, is the original Spaghetti Western Django. Less obvious, for those who do not have a deep understanding of American film, are such movies as Nigger Charley and its various sequels/versions.


"This will do as easy entertainment, I guess, but the novelty of a black cowboy shooting a white bad guy is sure to wear off sooner or later, and then maybe black Westerns will be made with the same care as the traditional item."

My man Ebert was wrong: the novelty of watching a black cowboy shoot a white bad guy never wears off. 

However, there are several far-telling gems of observation in Ebert's words. Primarily, it took forty years, and a white filmmaker, to make a mainstream black revenge film. Second, despite how badly it went off of the rails--and relatively soon following its genesis--blaxploitation suggested some radical possibilities about the relationship between black masculinity and popular film which have largely remained unfulfilled. 

For those of you that lived during that period how did blaxploitation go so wrong, so fast? 

And, for those of you who remember the Black Arts Movement and its explicit/public conversations about the relationship between arts, politics, and the popular for the empowerment of African Americans, are you disgusted, frustrated, numb, embarrassed, or just indifferent to how black cultural work has become fully commodified by the culture industry, and is used (largely) to subvert the political empowerment of black and brown folks in the present?

Here is Robert Ebert's original review. Could these same words have been written about Django Unchained?
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"The Legend of Nigger Charley" is an amiable black Western with sufficient episodes of violence to give it the appearance of heading somewhere. Actually, though, it mostly just drifts, and gets incredible mileage out of some nice guitar and banjo work on the sound track while the heroes ride everlastingly into the sagebrush. When things get especially slow, they throw in a shoot-out with Whitey, which cheers everybody up.

This will do as easy entertainment, I guess, but the novelty of a black cowboy shooting a white bad guy is sure to wear off sooner or later, and then maybe black Westerns will be made with the same care as the traditional item. You seen one piece of white trash blown out of the saddle for calling the hero "boy," you seen them all.

The story involves an escaped slave who heads West to freedom with a couple of friends. He is pursued by a white gang led by a sadistic slaveowner who allows, "I've never lost a nigger yet and I don't mean to start now." This represents one of the maybe six dozen times in the movie when the word "nigger" is employed. The idea seems to be to throw the word around until everybody is thoroughly sick of it, and then kill whoever has used it, setting the record straight.

If that is one of the themes of the movie, the other is that Charley is through being anyone's slave. "I'm a free man, and I'll die a free man," he assures his friends two or three times. That's fine except it's his friends who get killed. The only survivor is his comic-relief sidekick, who is there for the big fade-out at the end. "Where shall we go now, Charley?" he asks. "Don't matter," Charley says. "Wherever we go, there's trouble waiting for us."

Strictly speaking, this is the truth. But Charley has a way of finding trouble where he needn't have looked. After he wins the first shoot-out with the white pursuit squad, he is asked by a local farmer to sign on as a hired gun. It seems that the farmer's wife is half-Indian, and so no one will help when "Preacher" and his gang attack their farm. Preacher is your typical frontier lunatic in a stovepipe hat, who quotes from the Bible while cutting off people's fingers.

Charley says protection isn't his line, but 20 miles down the road he gets to thinking about that cute little half-breed wife. So he takes his men and rides back to the ranch in a clever bit of script-manipulation that succeeds in squeezing in two more gunfights. He also gets to kiss the woman, once, which does not seem like too high a ratio of sex to violence.

"The Legend of Nigger Charley" is frustrating partly because of the high level of acting talent in the cast. When you see fine actors being thrown into exploitative scripts, you begin to get a little angry. If the current group of black-oriented movies has proven anything, it's that there's a large pool of skilled and interesting black actors in Hollywood. Whether it will forever be necessary for them to waste their talents in dumb screenplays is a question that must come to them sometimes late at night.

Fred Williamson, last seen in Otto Preminger's "Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon," plays, Nigger Charley as a suitably heroic lead. There's not a lot of room for the character to stretch out and develop himself, largely because of the pale dialog, but Williamson is a strong leading man able to bring more complexities to a hero's role than, say, Jim Brown.

D'Urville Martin plays his sidekick, Toby, who is a genuinely funny pessimist. Don Pedro Colley is the bald, bearded and unshakable third member on the team, The way they work together in some scenes makes you think of Westerns like "The Magnificent Seven" and "The Professionals" - movies "Nigger Charley" might have resembled more if so much confidence hadn't been placed In the shoot-outs. There is no intrinsic reason why black Westerns have to be bad Westerns, so we can still hope.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

"Black Post Slavery Racism Incited the Ku Klux Klan": Pastor Manning Should Have Been a Character in Django Unchained



I came upon this over the holidays and was saving it for the appropriate moment.

Given that folks have Django Unchained on their mind, Sam Jackson's manservant adviser chief valet character was played as one of the most despicable negroes in the history of cinema. "Stephen" is the Uncle of all Uncle Toms and the Grand Emperor of Steppin Fetchits. He is the metaphorical Nile River from which garbage pail kid black conservatives such as Clarence Thomas, Shelby Steele, and Herman Cain flow as double-corked black face new age political race minstrel tributaries.

Like them, Pastor Manning is also a direct descendant of Stephen in Django Unchained.

In a perfect world, he could have played a role in the film as a black preacher who taught the slaves to be obedient, giving the benediction at Big Daddy's skin parlor, blessing the "Mandingo" fighters, and seconding Calvin Candie's race science theories of black inferiority. If Pastor Manning was to have played such a part in Django, it would have been the most basic and easiest type of acting--he would essentially be portraying himself. Nevertheless, Manning would still be a perfect casting choice by Quentin Tarantino.

Given the latter's love of cameos, what other notorious negroes from the (near) present would have fit in the universe created by Django Unchained?

A bonus. Pastor Manning explaining how Jamie Foxx is an agent of the anti-Christ President Barack Obama:

What if Spike Lee Had Made Django Unchained?



I just watched Django Unchained. I will be offering up a longer response later today. But, I can say with confidence that Quentin Tarantino has made an excellent movie, that aided by amazing performances from Jamie Foxx and Samuel Jackson, should win an award (at the very least) for best screenplay this year at the Academy Awards. Christoph Waltz's role as a lens and critical voice, a chorus of sorts, through which a contemporary post civil rights, Age of Obama audience can be "present" in the film, was also superb.

I had quite a few concerns about Tarantino's use of slavery in the Spaghetti Western counter-factual revenge genre. Most of those concerns were more than satisfied; and as I alluded to here, I am now pretty sure that Tarantino had some historians (and others such as Henry Louis Gates Jr.) consulting on the film.

There are quite a few subtle moments of conversation, as well as meta-level questions about black citizenship, masculinity, and agency colouring the movie (a racial "color timing" of sorts) that someone was likely in Tarantino's ear helping him to flesh out questions of black freedom, and how black free people occupied a type of liminal space in the South during this period.

While watching Django Unchained, I was very curious as to how the audience would respond to the difficult subject matter that was America's centuries-long slave regime. Would black folks be upset? Would we laugh unexpectedly at the dark and tragic events, actions that are a means of negotiating the real history, unfolding before our eyes?  Would the white folks be self-conscious about the reality of white supremacy in the guise of speculative fiction taking place on the screen? Most importantly, would all parties in the theater be "entertained?"

Before losing myself in the film, I kept thinking about Spike Lee's complaints about Django and his worries about Tarantino's ability, as a white filmmaker, to present a still little understood (by average citizens) chapter in American history, and then to package it around the latter's unique genre sensibilities. Lee's concerns are reasonable.

After seeing Django for the first time, and before going to see it many more times in the next few weeks, his criticisms were misplaced. In the spirit of Tarantino's counter-factual speculative history of America's slaveocracy, one that is more truth than fiction, I left the movie wondering about how Spike Lee's movie would have been different from Quentin Tarantino's version of Django Unchained.

Here are some preliminary thoughts. And of course, if you saw Django Unchained what did you think of the movie?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Playing With Race and Sex: A White Male Cuckold Who Let's His Wife Have Sex with Black Men Seeks Advice About His Relationship

We are getting back into the normal routine of things this week and next. I posted this piece a week or so ago. The Newtown Massacre intervened. Thus, fun matters had to take a back seat to more serious concerns. 

As We Are Respectable Negroes moves forward, I am going to be doing more posts on sex and relationships. Why? Because I enjoy talking about such matters. Also, sex is one of the common denominators that ties us all together. And I am hedonistic lascivious ghetto nerd whose motto is "if it feels good, do it." Is any other explanation for our deeds and actions ever necessary?

In another life, I would have  been an advice columnist. I am both self-important and egotistical enough to believe that I have valuable wisdom to offer strangers. I am a good listener. I am nosy.  I have also had enough bizarre experiences in life--and am at peace with them--to be able to have the confidence to advise others. I also like power...unlimited power to quote Star Wars' Emperor Palpatine. I reason that giving advice will be the closest I get to being the hegemon. I am at peace with that. 


There was a belated comment on this post about sex, race, and cuckolding from a few months back. Said comment reads like a badly written sex fantasy on an interracial Mandingo sex party website.  


In the future,  I am going to be adding a link for questions and advice here on We Are Respectable Negroes. I already get quite a few of these queries where good people ask me, "what would you do in x situation?" It could be useful to formalize the process. 


Whatever its origins, this comment is good practice for all of us as we develop our "tree of trust," faux therapist, voice. What advice would you offer our anonymous advice seeker?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Lest You Forget That Before "Django Unchained" There Was "Can't Be Roots--A XXX Parody"


And with that I wish you all a very Merry Christmas...






Cornel West Hits President Obama With a Christmas Stocking Full of Poop: The "Cowardly" President Doesn't Care When Black Kids Get Killed, Only When White Kids Die by the Gun


There is so much hostility and bad blood from Professor West towards Barack Obama that I do not even know how to begin explaining it. The President did not invite Brother West to his private inauguration party in 2008. This has spun into a one way feud where the latter is made even more upset by the former's ignoring of his complaints. Moral of the story? Always send a "thank you" note during the holidays for your gifts, and also be sure to say "thank you" as one never knows how a perceived slight will turn into a blood feud.

It is Christmas Eve. Do treat this as an open holiday thread. Any great stories so far? Random happenings? Fun events planned? Obnoxious relatives you are dreading? What did Black Pete do to you this holiday season? Events in the broader world that we should be keeping our eyes open for?

I am going to be cooking a Christmas eve dinner of langostinos and pasta and drinking some Bell's Winter Ale. I like scavengers full of mercury which I cook with butter and mushrooms: this was a tradition when I was a kid, as whenever my dad would hit the lottery, seafood pasta would be our "eating like rich folks" meal that night. We would then go bowling and see a movie.

As I have gotten older, such memories have taken on more importance. If I am ever blessed with kids and a good woman, she a long suffering wife if said poor woman chose to mate with such an eccentric personality, I will spend a good amount of time making sure that we have our own rituals. Growing up, the kid(s) would hate it; when they are older, I do hope that there would be some appreciation for the "uniqueness" of their upbringing.

For the holiday, I will be hanging out with a friend, watching The Dark Knight Rises blu-ray a few times, cooking up some fried chicken, bacon wrapped filet mignon, salad, garlic bread, homemade fried mozzarella  and rosemary potatoes. Stella is a perfect holiday beer and will accompany the dinner. I am going to cook up some old chicken for the animals outside and leave it strategically placed about. I also have a nice loaf of Parmesan Focaccia bread that went stale that I will give to my bird army. The soldiers need to eat too. 

I will then fall asleep after using the toilet, watching A Christmas Story a few more times, and then finishing off the night with Star Wars.

Will the meal turn out well? Who knows? I will give it my best try in any event.

I got a few video games during the Steam and Gamefly holiday sale event that I will be playing as well. Word of caution--if you are one of the folks like me who has not upgraded from Windows XP Pro do not download the new X-Com game. You will be out 25 bucks because it requires Vista and above to run. Crooks. Liars. Charlatans. Heart breakers. I curse them.

Finally, I would like to formally thank all of the kind people who donated to our first ever fundraiser. Times are hard out there. I appreciate the generosity. I will be getting a proper mic for our podcast series, and getting a ticket to go home after the holidays. Thank you so very much. I mean that, truly I do. 

Best wishes for the holiday. Do be good to each other. What is on your minds this holiday season? For those of you with kids, how are you making these next few days special and memorable?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Pre-Christmas Sunday Sacrilegiousness: Come All and Learn How to Polish the Shaft at First Baptist Church



I hope you are all having a nice weekend and have finished all of your shopping and miscellaneous arrangements for the holidays. Given that there is a "war on Christmas," I wanted to do my part by sharing this story about the "religiously minded" and devout "Christians" doing wrong.

Many churches are shows and spectacles. How else could they pass that donation bowl around if there was not some entertainment value to be had?

Folks are there to see each other, profile, and to gossip. Religious communities are also just another conglomeration of people with all of the good, bad, ugly, and the like thrown in. As the joke goes in the black community, and for certain evangelicals in particular, the preacher (and other religious leaders too) is the same cultural figure as the pimp--both drive nice cars, are flashy, wear lots of jewelry, make their money by exploiting others, and are cults of personality who exploit the weak and vulnerable.

Apparently, that rule is especially true for First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana.

Let me be clear. I would certainly enjoy a sermon about masturbation and polished shafts. I am practical that way:
In July 2010, an hour into the “Polished Shaft” sermon—in a church packed with thousands of teenagers there for a youth conference—Schaap went further. He lifted a stick in his left hand and a silver cloth in his right. He moved the bottom of the stick near his groin and angled it away from himself. Head thrown back, eyes squeezed shut, mouth gaping, he began rubbing the shaft rapidly with the cloth, up and down, up and down…. What he was doing was unmistakable: simulating masturbation, in front of thousands of children, in the middle of a church service. A row of white-coated high-ranking churchmen seated behind Schaap watched in silence.
I would also be a regular church goer if there were sermons like this one within walking distance. The after party and "fellowship" must be particularly joyous:
The true believers of the ultrafundamentalist Independent Baptist movement were accustomed to Schaap’s style. If he wasn’t scolding his flock for not living up to God’s demands (tithing, volunteering, “soul winning”), he was delivering R-rated sermons that, for example, likened the Lord’s Supper to having sex with Jesus Christ. “He would just repeatedly talk about sex and repeatedly talk about women, how they were dressed and body parts . . . in graphic detail,” recalls Tom Brennan, who attended the church for six years and is now an Independent Baptist pastor at Maplewood Bible Baptist Church in Chicago.
I am suspicious of authority figures. I am especially suspicious of those who have power in a community where magical thinking, i.e "faith" are used to legitimate it. Once any person starts channeling "the word of god" my default judgement is that they 1) need counseling and 2) are egomaniacs who are not to be trusted for they can rationalize their own deeds through appeals to a "higher authority." In all, bad people can use the religiously minded and group think as covers for, and a means to, further their own wickedness.

That is not God's fault; it human nature. Even while writing said sentence I must default to the puzzle of theodicy in order to resolve the two statements.

The outcome at the First Baptist church would seem to validate said observation:

Unfortunately, it went well beyond talk. Last September, Schaap, 54, a married father of two, pleaded guilty to taking a 16-year-old girl he was counseling at First Baptist across state lines to have sex. Denied bond, he awaits sentencing in the Porter County Jail; the minimum term is ten years.
But Schaap is not simply one of those rogue evangelists who thunders against the evils of forbidden sex while indulging in it himself. According to dozens of current and former church members, religion experts, and historians interviewed by Chicago—plus a review of thousands of pages of court documents—he is part of what some call a deeply embedded culture of misogyny and sexual and physical abuse at one of the nation’s largest churches. 
Multiple websites tracking the First Baptist Church of Hammond have identified more than a dozen men with ties to the church—many of whom graduated from its college, Hyles-Anderson, or its annual Pastors’ Schools—who fanned out around the country, preaching at their own churches and racking up a string of arrests and civil lawsuits, including physical abuse of minors, sexual molestation, and rape.
The whole piece in Chicago Magazine is well worth reading. It is not at all surprising given how the "moral majority" projects their own insecurities and deviant predilections onto others.

Friday, December 21, 2012

They are the Tyrone Biggums of Interest Groups: On Political Crack, Post-Sandy Hook the NRA's Solution is More Guns Equals Less Crime


I hope you will all be having a restful holiday weekend. I send you well-wishes and good energy for the New Year and I appreciate all of the kind folks who contribute to our conversations here on WARN. I have two great podcasts on the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, race, masculinity, and America's gun culture, that I will be sharing after the holiday. Do look out for them. 

 The NRA has finally chimed in on the Newtown Shooting. The public is exhausted by our "national" conversation about mass shootings and "gun rights." The NRA's timing was great insofar as most folks are distracted by the holidays and will not be watching the news. Fate has a dark sense of humor: the NRA conference devolved into a spectacle; and as timing would have it, there was a shooting in Pennsylvania, leaving four people dead, that coincided with said event. 

 The NRA's solution to the epidemic of gun violence in the United States and the unique scale of its mass shootings (a crime committed overwhelmingly by white men, but where race and gender will never be interrogated as variables) is more guns. The empirical data on gun violence does not support their argument

The common sense regarding the matter does not support their hypothesis either. The United States is a country awash with guns. But more guns will somehow reach a tipping point where our children and others will be made safe from gun violence...I riddle you that one. To eliminate "gun free zones" as a solution to gun violence is simply one more example of the magical thinking common to the Right in contemporary America. 

As I pointed out here, it is extremely difficult for trained personnel to respond to an armed assailant in a situation such as Columbine or Newtown; to suggest that a teacher or rent-a-cop would not make matters worse is right out of a comic book. Superman can fly and punch holes through walls. Joe and Jane Q. Public are not going to be able to effectively respond to an armed shooter who has the tactical initiative and is determined to kill everyone around him or her. A fully armed public--what are really vigilantes--that the NRA wants to create, are not the Punisher. 

The NRA is unwilling to pursue common sense gun solutions because there is no political, economic, or moral consequence for them not doing so. Gun companies are indemnified from lawsuits. As such, there is no consequence when guns are used to kill dozens of people because said weapons worked as designed. And ultimately, too many Americans actually believe that they are Minutemen in waiting, and have the ability to balance the State's monopoly on force. 

 The Gun Right is stuck on a type of path dependence in their thinking about public safety and the violence caused by firearms. Guns, guns, and more guns are the only solution to the problem; their magical fetish object made of plastic and metal is a universal tool that can be used to solve all problems. 

The Gun Right and the NRA are like crackheads where the solution to any problem is another hit from the glass pipe. They are Tyrone Biggums, chasing the next thrill from the guns which they worship at the expense of the public's safety. Tragically, Tyrone Bigguns and folks like him tend to only hurt themselves. By comparison, the Gun Right has the blood of many thousands more on their hands.

When is the NRA going to enter rehab?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

"Django Unchained" Does Not Make One a Historian: Sorry Mr. Tarantino, the War on Drugs is not the Same as the Enslavement of Black Americans

"This whole thing of this 'war on drugs' and the mass incarcerations that have happened pretty much for the last 40 years has just decimated the black male population," the filmmaker said on George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight. "It’s slavery, it is just, it’s just slavery through and through, and it’s just the same fear of the black male that existed back in the 1800s." 
In addition, he says that the flesh-for-cash business of slavery mirrors that of the prison industrial complex. 
"Especially having even directed a movie about slavery," he said, "and you know the scenes that we have in the slave town, the slave auction town, where they’re moving back and forth -- well, that looks like standing in the top tier of a prison system and watching the things go down. And between the private prisons and the public prisons, the way prisoners are traded back and forth."
Quentin Tarantino is an amazing filmmaker. He is one of the great talents of his generation. I will be watching his new slavery revenge flick on Christmas Eve. However, Quentin Tarantino, an autodidact film genius, is not John Hope Franklin. He is also not Michelle Alexander. Nor is Quentin Tarantino an authority on the "black experience" in America.

One of my primary concerns about Django is that a revenge flick about slavery, drawing on a history that few Americans really understand, and presented in the genre of historical fantasy, will simply confuse the public about the horrors of the Middle Passage and the United States' centuries long status as a country ruled by formal white supremacy.

My expectations and claims are precise: I do not expect popular culture to either responsibly teach or to be historically accurate.

The first obligation of popular culture is to pleasure and entertainment. However, the realm of the popular is invested with symbolic power. And in dealing with a topic, where the mass scale barbarisms and horrors have been quite literally white washed away, there is an almost unavoidable risk that Django will flatten history in the service of narrative convention, Tarantino's own predilections, and filmic vision.

In all, Django, despite the complaints and tender sensitivities of white conservatives and others, is a relatively benign depiction of white evil towards black personhood under the system of racial terrorism that was chattel slavery.

[If Tarantino dared to make an "accurate" movie about the Maafa it would be rated XXX or NC-17; Django most certainly would not be nominated for an Academy Award next year.]

Django is not "history written with lightning." One would be surprised by how audiences confuse history as presented by Hollywood with the actual facts of a given event. For many, across the colorline, Django, will not simply be an exercise in a mating of the exploitation and Spaghetti Western film genres. Rather, it will be a convenient and accessible "history" that will upset, anger, and titillate the audience while it makes millions of dollars.

In his effort to speak truth to power, Tarantino makes the error of conflating the injustices and racism of the prison industrial complex and the "War on Drugs" with chattel slavery. His heart was in the right place.

Nevertheless, sentimentality and emotion are not substitutes for empirical rigor or solid historiography.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Let's Take a Post-Sandy Hook Massacre Virtual Tour of the Gun Right's Websites Such as "AR15.com"

Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre, we are in the midst of a "national conversation" about gun violence. As I suggested here, if history is any guide the lobbyists and the Gun Right are too powerful a force, with a hold too strong over the government, and a low-information public with a limited attention span, for reasonable gun control initiatives to be successfully passed by Congress.

Come next week, the now "enraged" public will return its focus be back to Honey Boo Boo, the Voice, and other assorted nonsense. A bunch of people will get killed in a month or two (again). The cycle continues unabated. We feed the gun god our young. He is always hungry for more.

Despite the news media's superficially exhaustive coverage of the Sandy Hook Massacre and gun violence this week, I have not seen the Gun Right and its foot soldier members given a "fair" voice. Of course, the NRA is in duck and cover mode.

Yes, there have been gun fetishists trotted out by Fox and MSNBC to be publicly sacrificed as they try to excuse-make, offer up magical thinking about the cause of the Sandy Hook killing spree by Adam Lanza (more prayer in schools to somehow protect kids from bullets), and also suggest equally foolish solutions such as arming teachers, as well as teaching kids to swarm a shooter.

Finding out what the gun crowd thinks about Sandy Hook and its potential political fallout is not difficult. You can talk to real people. A researcher can do surveys. A person could become a participant observer.


In the world of the Internet, the easiest thing is to just search online for the community you would like to observe in action. This method is hardly representative, as there is no way to confirm the identities of the people you are studying. They can be liars, charlatans, posers, frauds, or the like. But, even in that role, they are channeling some sense of what it means--real or imagined--to be a member of a given social body. Consequently, the ways in which members of that online community respond to them is an insight into its collective identity.

To point. I have been surveying websites which cater to gun owner/fans of the AR-15 assault rifle (basically the same weapon used by Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School). There are several online and they are easy to find. By definition, the folks who go to those websites are outliers--much like anyone who talks about politics or other matters online and on a routine basis. Nevertheless, the comments on the AR15.com site are still examples of what others in the broader gun community may in fact be thinking, but for reasons of time, energy, personality type, or other commitments, are not sharing online in that forum.

In my short survey, which I conducted over the last few days over at AR15.com, I have come upon a few recurring themes.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Did Melissa Harris-Perry Go too Far by Calling Tavis Smiley "the Nurse Who Aided and Abetted the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment?"


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The black family is strong here, with Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry giving the hot tag to her husband to set up Tavis Smiley for a spine buster a la Arn Anderson circa 1985.

I agree with the facts of her critique: Melissa's observation that Tavis Smiley was a middleman for mortgage fraud by the banking industry against black and brown communities is spot on.

Dr. Perry's allusion is also grounded historically--during Jim and Jane Crow it was common for white real estate agents who were engaged in "blockbusting" to send black families door to door in (then) exclusively white neighborhoods. Their presence would scare white people with the prospect of "racial integration." The mark was softened up. The con was turned when the white real estate agent could make an offer to buy the house because "the blacks" were moving in. The same real estate agent would then charge a premium to African-Americans who want to move into the same neighborhood.

But, to call Tavis Smiley the equivalent of the nurse who aided and abetted the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments is a lethal dagger. I have not seen such a damning turn of phrase in many years on national TV; it is the equivalent of some Mark Twain verbal sonning circa the 19th century.

There is lots of bad blood between Melissa, Tavis, and Brother West. One day the full details will come to light. For now, we only have rumors and guesses as to what is really driving the feud. How will West and Smiley respond? And do you think Professor Harris-Perry went too far?

I love a good fracas. The response by West and Smiley is going to be mighty entertaining.

Should Adam Lanza's Mother's Estate be Held Financially Responsible for the Sandy Hook Shooting?

The pledge drive and begging bowl are retracted come Friday. I am so touched and surprised by the generosity of our readers. One of the things I have been mulling over is pushing some boundaries about what we talk about here on WARN. The emails that I have received these last few days are encouraging me to continue in that direction. We all have so much to discuss, learn from each other, and dialogue about in regards to broad matters of public concerns. Going forward, I will be taking all of your advice and pushing outward...and forward.

If you want support these endeavors, and to increase the platform and reach of the conversations we have here on We Are Respectable Negroes, do try to support the site if possible in our first ever donation drive. One of the reasons I want to grow the site, and to move it to new directions  is precisely so that we have a venue and space to talk about these difficult issues of race, politics, culture, and other matters that many folks are afraid to engage with in a forthright and direct manner.
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I am going to take on a delicate and difficult question in this post.

I learn from all of you. There are attorneys and others trained in these questions who routinely read We Are Respectable Negroes. I do hope that they chime in. However, as the moment of discussing the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary quickly passes--trust me, this will be off the radar by next week--we cannot run away from topics that we may otherwise feel a desire to discuss at a later date.

This is the key gambit of the Gun Right--they want the public to wait, wait, wait, and then wait some more. Then we will be numb again. This is why discussions of gun violence, mass murder, and public policy are smeared as unfairly "politicizing" a tragic event by the Right and its gun advocates.

Life is political. The State's responsibility to protect its citizens is at the heart of the social contract. We left the imagined State of Nature in order to pursue that bargain, and to surrender the personal right to administer justice. The Gun Right would like the American people to overlook that basic fact.

By all accounts, Adam Lanza's mother was dealing with an unimaginably difficult situation. Her son had mental health issues. She felt isolated and alone. While she had substantial resources, and they were able to help her deal with the challenges of Adam's mental health issues in ways that poor and working class people could not, Adam Lanza's mother was not able to stop his murderous rampage.

We must ask, and while carefully allowing for the dignity of Adam Lanza's mother, what does justice look like post-Sandy Hook? There can be no punitive justice because Adam Lanza killed himself, here taking the coward's way out. Is the solution redistributive justice, where the surviving parents and relatives are offered some monies that can never bring back their child, partner, or kin? But, where the transfer of resources have some type of symbolic value? Do the plaintiffs sue the gun companies for making a weapon which worked as designed by killing their family members?

Actions have consequences. Part of the challenge of dealing with America's gun culture and the Gun Right is a profound unwillingness to deal with personal responsibility when people using guns kill--this is ironic, but not expected, given conservatives' love of that slogan, and the gross hypocrisy of their leadership and political role-models in applying it in their own lives.

Adam Lanza's mother had multiple guns in her home, all the while knowing that he was mentally ill. Her son also had ready access to those lethal devices. Adam Lanza's mother also went shooting with her son. Likely, and I can only imagine this was her way of trying to be close to a distant child, that such activities would health the gulf between them. This is understandable; I cannot pretend that I would behave otherwise. But, as we try to imagine sensible gun control policies going forward, and in an era when mass shootings are increasingly common in the United States, how should the decisions of Adam Lanza's mother be factored into our conversations about justice?

A Black Father Explains the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre to his Eight Year Old Daughter

A reader emailed me about this recording of a father talking to his young daughter about the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School and I wanted to share it with you.

Unfortunately, we live in an age where parents would be considered negligent if they did not talk to their kids about what to do in the case of gun violence at school.

I am now officially "old." Listening to this audio recording reminds me of the coming of age talks from my parents and other role-models.

I was taught early on how to interact with the police as a young black child --who would live to be an adult if I was/am/were lucky. Be polite, do not make any sudden moves, get the badge number, assume the cop wants to either arrest or kill you if given the chance, and do not say anything until we get there with a lawyer.

My father and godfather, who were World War 2 and Korea Army combat vets, respectively, made sure I had an appreciation for violence, how and win to fight, and also how to cut and run when appropriate. I remember my father who was a drill instructor (and served in North Africa) telling me that if someone is shooting at you to always remember that you will be scared. This is natural. But, you must always try to keep your senses and situational awareness. Run in a zigzag pattern because most people cannot hit a moving target. If you can hear the shooting you are likely safe and can get cover and/or escape if necessary. Quiet bullets will kill you.

The sum total of this advice saved my life on two occasions. I thank my dad and godfather for their wisdom.

Do not fight over silly things. Do not let yourself be bullied as this encourages abuse. Do not abandon your friends, or be a coward if they are good people, as the guilt will follow you forever. Fight dirty and win. Live to fight another day whenever possible. Fighting when not necessary is not a mark of manhood.

Considering the big picture, in listening to this father talk to his little girl about gun violence in school, I am torn about the dualities of American Exceptionalism.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Armed Teachers Be Playing Too Much Call of Duty: Despite the Dreams of the Gun Right a Well-Armed School is Not Necessarily a Safer School





I guess playing all that Call of Duty online ain't going to prepare you to be a badman in real life.

One of the canards and driving fictions of the Gun Right is the more guns equals less crime hypothesis. While there is little to no data supporting this hypothesis, it is one more example of the magical thinking that is conservatism in contemporary America. Plus, these claims are driven by sophisticated "studies" such as Dr. John Lott's--he used math and formal modeling so the argument must be accurate and correct--which was later eviscerated as a classic example of academic fraud.

Governments spend billions of dollars on training its soldiers to be lethal killers. Despite the development of  "killology," there is still no guarantee that a trained warrior will fire for direct effect at another human being. The Gun Right wants all of its members to believe that they can be the thin blue line, the person who stands in the breech, the person who does bad things in the night so that nice people can be safe, he or she who protects White Suburbia from the uncivilized predators lurking at the door and window.

The gun god wants it devotees to believe that a piece of metal and plastic can make them into a hero. As the above video, as well as this piece taking on Jeffrey Goldberg's claims that America needs more guns not less, demonstrate, a bunch of teachers, rent a cops, and other day trader types with guns are more likely to be Private Snafu than Dirty Harry.

As a helpful bonus, here David Grossman works through the psychology of killing and gun use in the BBC documentary The Truth About Killing. It is well worth watching in this post-Sandy Hook moment when the Gun Right wants to spin fictions about how a well armed school is a safe school.


A White Man Talking to All of Us: Post Adam Lanza and Sandy Hook, America Needs to Talk About the Dysfunctions of White Masculinity

A few more days to go.

If you want to see more of this type of unique and direct type of writing, and want to increase the platform and reach of the conversations we have here on We Are Respectable Negroes, do try to support the site if possible in our first ever donation drive. One of the reasons I want to grow the site, and to move it forward, is precisely so that we have a venue and space to talk about these difficult issues of race, politics, culture, and other matters that many folks are afraid to engage with in a forthright and direct manner.
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The relationship between white masculinity and mass shootings is a national crisis, a public health emergency, and a threat to the common good. However, because the conversation is fundamentally about questions of identity, it is critically important that white men give voice and sound off on the issue.

I am very mindful of avoiding the trap where Whiteness, because of its social power, somehow always manages to recenter itself--even in conversations which are critical of Whiteness as a social construct.

Consequently, I want to allow space for white men to speak honestly and candidly about Adam Lanza and the possibility that a crisis in White Masculinity has lead to the many incidents of mass murder via the gun that the United States (and other countries) have been subjected to in recent decades.

Like clockwork, one of our guest essayists, the indispensable Werner Herzog's Bear has a great piece on this very subject that is worth reading. Mr. Bear's website Notes from the Ironbound deserves a much larger audience. He tells it like it is; he does not hold back; and is one of the few folks who are willing to talk plainly about these issues of white masculinity as they relate directly to matters of social justice, citizenship, and the Common Good in the United States.

I think that Werner is really hitting on an important point in his essay "It's Time to Talk About the Dysfunctions of White Masculinity" when he suggests that many white men "are socialized to be the masters of their fate and able to use violence to maintain control over their lives. These same men lack the tools to handle adversity, and are often left to their individual resources, even if they are mentally disturbed." 

His observation sounds like something my grandmother told me, a woman who was a maid in the Jim and Jane Crow South and later on in New Haven, Connecticut. Never discount the wisdom of the elders: despite all of their privileges and how society coddles them, many white folks have piss poor coping skills.

Is Mr. Bear onto something here?

White Men and Mass Murder: Did a Sense of "Aggrieved Entitlement" Lead Adam Lanza to Kill 26 People at Sandy Hook Elementary School?



It is good to see David Sirota and Chris Hayes talking about the relationship between white masculinity and mass shootings in the United States. So many folks are afraid to engage the obvious fact: white men are extremely over-represented among those individuals such as Adam Lanza who kill large numbers of people in one shooting incident. While folks like me can call attention to the public health problem that is white men and mass shootings, this is a conversation where "members of the tribe" such as Sirota and Hayes, are going to have to lead.

In the aftermath of the horrific events in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday, the reaction to my plain on the face observation that white man are grossly over-represented among mass shooting killers like Adam Lanza has been fascinating--albeit not surprising. Whiteness does not like to be confronted. It also hates being exposed to the light of truth.

Masculinity is equally resistant to any type of critical self-examination. The combination of the two, and an intervention which seeks to examine white masculinity in America and its relationship to violence, is destined to create a hostile reaction on the part of many white men.

In all, I am legitimately taken aback by the sincerity of the pain and offense at the idea that white men could be experts at committing singular types of crime in America.

Moreover, in surveying the comments and reactions to my (and other) essays about Adam Lanza, white masculinity, and gun violence, there is a tone of real hurt:

White Masculinity, like Whiteness, imagines itself as normal, innocent, and benign. The very premise that the intersection of those identities could result in socially maladaptive and violent behavior which is evil, and yes I use that term intentionally, is rejected by those deeply invested in a particularly conservative and reactionary type of White Masculinity, as something impossible. To even introduce such an idea is anathema to their universe. The language is verboten. The Other is suspect until proven otherwise; "real Americans" as "good people" are to be judged by precisely the opposite premise.

The hostility to the very obvious fact--that another mass shooting is in keeping with a pattern of white male gun violence in America--has followed a clear and dominant script.

First, to suggest that white men should be racially profiled (a claim I am not making, as "racial profiling" is ineffective police work) is "unAmerican" and not "fair." In this story, people of color complain when they are racially profiled; to suggest that white men should be subject to the same process is "hypocritical" and "reverse racism."

White privilege and the white racial frame are blinding: these same conservatives, and other members of the Gun Right, often advocate for the racial profiling of people of color under the language of "reasonable racism." But, these same conservatives and members of the Gun Right are reflexively against racial profiling when people like them could be subjected to it.

The second White deflection here is one that finds offense in the idea that white men should be critically examined as a cohort who are more likely to commit certain types of crimes.

The suggestion is made that blacks and other minorities are not studied that way. As such, it is not fair to say that the identities of "white" and "male" should be scrutinized. Said objections are 1) profoundly ignorant, and 2) mighty convenient and self-serving.

Black folks, and other minorities are the most scrutinized, examined, pathologized, dissected (quite literally in many cases), studied, theorized, conferenced on, and written about group in the United States. Historically, Black and brown folks are a "problem" in America. By definition, Whiteness, those overly identified with it, as well as its owners, are not accustomed to being challenged in such a way.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Larry Pratt and More Post-Sandy Hook Massacre Magical Thinking From the Gun Right



So many folks--many dozens--have written me in appreciation of our having the courage to speak plainly about the relationship between white masculinity and mass shootings in the United States. I have gotten more than the usual hostile and angry emails and comments as well. The former are insulation from the latter as we process what is a national tragedy.

Gun violence is a critically important issue that we must not shy away from. I do my best to speak truth to power. I am especially obligated to that fact when serious matters such as gun violence in the United States are being discussed. This is a public health issue that elites and opinion makers are terrified of speaking plainly about. I, like you, am not.

If you want to see more of this type of direct writing, and want to increase the platform and reach of the conversations we have here on We Are Respectable Negroes, do try to support the site if possible in our first ever donation drive. One of the reasons I want to grow the site, and to move it forward, is precisely so that we have a venue and space to talk about these difficult issues of race, politics, culture, and other matters that many folks are afraid to engage with in a forthright and direct manner.
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Apparently, if the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary had an M-4 assault rifle the massacre in her school would have been prevented. Today, an Indiana man was caught with 47 guns in his home and was in the midst of preparing for his own murder rampage at a nearby school. An Oklahoma high school student was planning his own murder rampage and was apprehended on the same day as the Newtown massacre.

The gun is a fetish object. It is also a tool that can be used for good or evil. It has freed countries. The gun has killed dictators. The gun has allowed small numbers of people to control many more than their number on the plantation, in the coal mine, in the sweatshop, or the forced labor camp. The gun allowed one man to kill 20 children and 6 adults in Sandy Hook Elementary School. The gun, in the hands of a teacher or a child in that same circumstance, would have offered no guarantee of their survival.

In his dreams of Call of Duty and other cartoonish video game violence, Texas Representative Louie Gohmert imposes his post hoc counter-factual onto the shooting massacre in Sandy Hook. To him, if more folks had the capacity to effortlessly shoot and kill like a character out of either a bad 1980s action movie, or a John Ford western, then Adam Lanza would have been stopped cold in his tracks.

The facts are not kind to Mr. Gohmert. In reality, it is very hard to accurately shoot a weapon under stress. Most soldiers require a great amount of training to overcome the natural instinct against taking another human life. "One shot, one kill" by a high school principal against an armed assailant (who is also determined to kill them as well) is a joke--a fantasy of the Gun Right and its devotees.

For example, the ratio of bullets fired by U.S. troops to one enemy dead in Afghanistan is 250,000 (this includes training, suppression fire, direct fire, etc.). In Vietnam, the number of rounds fired by U.S. soldiers for each enemy "kill" was 50,000. And according to the United States Army's own data--which should be viewed critically as a very self-serving best estimate--a trained soldier will only hit a man sized target 10 percent of the time from 300 meters.

Trained police officers would also have a very difficult time effectively intervening in a mass shooting incident where there are large numbers of innocent people, and in a complex space such as a school, which is what occurred at Columbine or Newtown:
Under the Peoria Police Department's new rapid-response protocol, the first officer on the scene of a Columbine-style shooting waits until three others arrive to form a contact team. Officers in a smaller group or alone would not have 360-degree coverage, Adams says, and Rambo-style freelancing would confuse communications and increase the chances of "blue on blue" casualties: police officers shooting each other. The contact team forms a diamond, with a point, two flanks, and a rear guard handling radio communications. The team enters the building and moves through it as quickly as possible; team members maintain their relative positions so that they can see and hear each other.

In a large building a second team may go in, either to help track down the shooters or to rescue bystanders and the wounded. 
Adams says that gunmen are less likely to fire at innocent bystanders if they are shooting at pursuing police officers. "We train them to move to the sound of gunfire," he says. "Shooting scenes are very chaotic and stressful. You experience sensory overload. Every time you hear a gunshot, assume someone has been wounded. Try to take ground, and isolate the shooter. If the shooter decides to commit suicide by police, we'll oblige. The person making the decision on how it will end is the bad guy. We're just reacting." Adams says, however, that "deadly force imperatives" have not changed for the Peoria police. "We teach that you should shoot what you know, not what you think you know. That man with a gun in his hand who steps out of a doorway may be a plainclothes police officer or a school security guard. Or maybe a teacher who brought a gun to school." 
...Layman stepped over people who were lying on the floor, playing wounded students. They moaned that they were hurt, clutched at his legs, and begged him to stop and help them. One man, playing a terrified but unhurt student, leaped from a doorway and grabbed him. Layman wrestled the man away and pushed him toward his trailing teammates, who in turn pushed the man behind them and told him to run back down the hallway to the exit. Another man leaped from a doorway, but this one fired at Layman's team. Others, with guns blazing, attacked from behind or sniped at the officers from doorways. When the contact team's blue-paint simunitions struck the attackers squarely on their vests or helmets, the gunmen stepped aside. They were out of the exercise.
For reasons of politics or possession by the gun gods, Larry Pratt, executive director of the Gun Owners Association of America seems to be willfully ignorant of the above realities:
"Gun control supporters have the blood of little children on their hands. Federal and state laws combined to insure that no teacher, no administrator, no adult had a gun at the Newtown school where the children were murdered. This tragedy underscores the urgency of getting rid of gun bans in school zones. The only thing accomplished by gun free zones is to insure that mass murderers can slay more before they are finally confronted by someone with a gun."
The irony is priceless here: as Gawker points out, the guns used to kill 26 innocent people were in fact owned by a teacher.

Here, I described guns as a fetish object of "plastic and metal" which has an otherworldly appeal and power over many of its owners. This allure trumps reason--or alternatively becomes a stand-in for channeling some type of spiritual or existential force.

The comments by Larry Pratt and others in the aftermath of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary are further proof of my claim. In thinking through the magical power of guns, I am reminded of the following passage from Colin Wilson's book The Occult:
They believe that this ritual establishes some kind of mysterious contact between the hunter and the hunted; now the animal cannot escape. No matter how fast it runs, or where it hides, the hunter moves towards it inexorably, guided by fate. It is the animal's destiny to become his prey.
The 'scientific' attitude to these activities is that they are primitive superstitions, merely a sign of ignorance of cause and effect. If they happen to be successful, this is only because they create a feeling of success in the hunter; it is self-hypnosis. I would argue that this view may completely miss the point. The hunter's mind becomes totally concentrated on his prey by the ritual, activating the same powers that led Rhine's subjects to such high scores when they first tried influencing the fall of dice.
The following is also powerful and insightful in regards to understanding the gun as a "god" object for folks such as Larry Pratt and the NRA:
The more man expanded his activities, the more gods he needed. When he began to sail the seas, he needed to make sacrifices to the sea god; when he set out on a journey, he needed to feel himself under the protection of the god of travellers, and so on. Every new enterprise needed a new god. Man was out to gain control of his environment. And his chief means of achieving this control was still--magic. 
American society is built upon the cult of the gun. And now that Turner's frontier is closed and no longer exists, there remain millions of people who still imagine themselves as cowboy pioneers, yeomen farmers, and "patriots" who are ready to defend the country's "freedom" by playing soldier in the woods on the weekend, or by owning dozens of guns which have no legitimate use other than as implements of killing on the battlefield. They desperately seek control. When they find it wanting, some of them will lash out as we have seen with the angry white men who commit the overwhelming number of mass shootings in the United States.

Our family members, communities, and children are the collateral damage from America's cultural fixation on firearms. One of the questions that should be answered post Sandy Hook (and which will not be) is how much blood are gun rights advocates willing to see spilled in order to protect an abstract "freedom" to "bear arms" that is in conflict with the basic right to be safe and secure in our communities and public spaces?

The gun god has possessed many people. Will common sense prevail, and will it be able to pierce through the magical glamour put on the thought processes and social vision of the Gun Right?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

White Men Like Adam Lanza Commit 70 Percent of the Mass Shootings in the United States. Why is the Media Afraid to Talk About This Obvious Fact?

America has a major angry-man problem. Reading the Mother Jones article, whose lead author is former Salon reporter Mark Follman, I was actually surprised to learn that there was one female mass shooter in recent American history, a disgruntled postal worker in Goleta, Calif., who shot a neighbor and several co-workers. But the other 61 people who have so tragically acted out their twisted private fantasies on people around them have all been male. While some element of sexual or misogynistic drama was frequently involved – a mother or ex-wife or girlfriend; a rejection or divorce or suggestions of closeted homosexuality – the one thing you can point to in almost every case is perceived humiliation...
Nonetheless I suspect that economic realities play a role. It’s plausible that these grotesque events are by-products of the downward pressure on wages, especially in the working class and lower fringes of the middle class, and reflect what has sometimes been called the “crisis of masculinity,” meaning the perceived emasculation and loss of privilege felt by some men in an age of increasing sexual equality.
 A gentle corrective: America has a major angry white man problem.  

As I wrote about here, and also over at Alternet where my essay on the Sandy Hook shooting was the lede story today, I largely agree with Andew O'Herir about the relationship between masculinity and the mass rampage shootings that have occurred in this country. Something is horribly amiss in American society where a toxic gun culture, social and economic anxiety among men, a culture of privilege and entitlement, and a lack of access to public health services have combined to create conditions ripe for the types of horrific violence committed by Adam Lanza in Newtown, Connecticut. 

While Andrew is spot on in his general concerns about masculinity and gun violence, he has committed a common error: while he alludes to the racial demographics of mass shooters in passing, there is no sustained focus on the obvious fact that the vast majority of these spree murderers are white men.
I’m not suggesting this is good news, but the stereotype that these kinds of shooters are invariably white men is less true than it used to be. In the last decade or so, almost every possible demographic has been represented: There have been two infamous campus shootings by Asian graduate students, one by a Native American teenager living on a Minnesota reservation, and a couple by African-Americans and Latinos. Overall, 43 of the 61 shooters in mass killings since 1982 have been white, which is only a little higher than the proportion of whites in the general population.
Andrew's oversight is a common one in a society (and among the pundit classes) where whiteness is taken to be a condition of both normality and invisibility. Whiteness has social power precisely because it goes unnamed. To be White in American society, with its long history of white racism and other inequalities that are structured around the colorline, is to be considered "normal."

Ultimately, whiteness is the ability to be an unmarked individual whose actions do not reflect on your racial group. Consequently, white men who kill are just individuals who kill; black and brown folks who kill and commit other crimes are exhibiting behaviors which reflect on their "race" and "culture." 

To point. American politics and culture are obsessed with narratives that link race and crime. 

For example, the "law and order narratives" of the 1960s onward are a direct cue and signal to fears of black criminality. Conservatives are especially obsessed with the idea of black (male) crime. George Bush had his infamous Willie Horton moment which he used to win a presidential election. Because conservatism and racism form a bundle of attitudes which are tightly bound together in post civil rights America, when seemingly unrelated conversations about public policy matters such as "affirmative action" are discussed, it is a short detour to Right-wing talking points about black folks, our "bad culture," and "criminal" ways. 

For example, in cases such as the Trayvon Martin shooting or the more recent Jordan Davis case, the default assumption is that whites who murder unarmed African-Americans are innocent because black males (and women)--whatever their age--are especially capable of lethal violence even when innocently walking down the street or listening to music in a car. Black people are existentially violent; thus, any violent force by white people against them has to be assumed to both just and reasonable until matters are proven otherwise. 

Given the cultural scripts that inexorably relate crime to race, one would think that white people, and white men in particular, would be the focus of similar narratives. White men are the majority of domestic terrorists in the United States. White men commit the most serial murders and child rapes. White men comprise the vast majority of those accused of treason. White men destroyed the country's economy and financial sector. 

And white men have committed 70 percent of the mass shooting murders in the United States as sourced from this piece in Mother Jones. By comparison, white men are approximately 30 percent of the population. They comprise more than twice their percentage among mass shooters. Yet, there is no "national conversation" on the matter. The silence is deafening.

However, because Whiteness is the very fact of not being "raced," or made into the "Other," such frameworks or interventions that ask basic question about whiteness, masculinity, crime, and violence, are rarely offered. 

And when they are--see the range of reactions to our discussions of white masculinity and violence here on We Are Respectable Negroes, as well at Alternet--there are howls and screams of denial, as well as accusations of anti-white "racism." Apparently, it is somehow impolitic or callous to talk about the race of white murders who kill innocent children by the dozens. But, it a given that the racial identities of black and brown folks are routinely and reflexively foregrounded in discussions of crime in America, more generally. 

Help me understand. Why is the media afraid to talk about the relationship between white men, guns, and mass violence? What is the white public afraid of? Would it not be in the interest of the Common Good, and the safety of all people, especially white folks who are the disproportionate victims of mass shootings, to figure out why one cohort of the public is repeatedly involved in this type of spectacular violence?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Connecticut School Shooting: If Adam Lanza was Named Tariq Muhammad Would the Media be Calling This an Act of "Terrorism?"

My heart goes out to the families, children, victims, and all others impacted by the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newton, Connecticut.

America's obsession with guns has played out its dark game once more. We are eating our young because so many believe that America is a gunfighter nation. For them, the "right" to bear arms trumps any reasonable legislation about restricting access to certain types of firearms. This most recent mass shooting, which will likely be the worst incident of gun violence in recent American history, is not going to cause a rethinking of the country's love affair with such weapons. Nor will the mass murder of 20 children and 6 adults by Adam Lanza weaken the NRA's hold on our legislators. The NRA and their clan will retreat back to a default position and rhetorical redoubt where "guns don't kill people, only people do."

These same ideologues, who in the 21st century remain some type of throwback premodern tribesman at the early dawn of human history, are utterly devoted to a fetish object of metal and plastic which they worship as a god. For them, the mass shooting of children in Newton, Connecticut will be a funeral pyre whose light they will read as spirits dancing in the shadows, beckoning to them that more guns equals less crime, and that school teachers--and perhaps even children--should be allowed to carry firearms in school. Magical thinking brings public policy solutions that are not grounded in common sense or empirical reality.

As the details of the murderous rampage trickle out, all of the standard talking points by the media will be hit upon. Was Adam Lanza mentally ill? What type of weapons did he us? Were there warning signs? Acts of heroism by the adults and children in the school will be profiled. The first responders will be praised and profiled. People will cry. The pundits will tear up in an effort to show some personal, human connection, to a story that will feed the next news cycle, and will potentially make a career or two for some upstart journalist or TV personality.

Per our national script, there are several questions which will go unanswered...just as they always do. As I wrote about in regards to James Holmes, the Batman movie killer, there will be no soul searching about why white men are committing these violent acts. In the present, mass shootings have been almost the exclusive province of white men.

One would think someone in the mass media (or who studies gun violence and public health) would find that a mighty curious fact and want to delve deeper into the relationship(s) between whiteness, masculinity, and gun violence.

In all, there will not be a national conversation--one of our country's most overused phrases, what is empty language signalling nothing--exploring if there is a crisis in white masculinity, which in turn is driving these types of horrific crimes.

If Adam Lanza was an Arab American with one of those "Muslim sounding" names, then today's script would be quite different. Questions of "terrorism" would loom large: it would be the default frame for reading the Connecticut school shooting. In all, the United States has a post 9/11 hangover where a moment of national trauma made one group of Americans a perpetual Other.

A person of color who happens to be of Arab descent, and who is Muslim by chosen faith or birth, is not allowed to be a deranged individual who made a choice to kill dozens of people. His or her identity and personhood is one that is "politicized" by default in the West. As such, all actions, however random or outliers, are taken as representative of some type of collective identity, one where terrorism is an inexorable part of its character.

Once more the luxury of being white in the United States is the freedom to have your violent deeds be a reflection of a personal failing, as opposed to a cultural or racial one. On a practical level, White privilege is a set of taken for granted and unearned advantages in life. On an abstract level, white privilege also removes certain questions from consideration regarding such matters as social deviancy and crime. As we saw with James Holmes, and now today with Adam Lanza, an unwillingness to ask those hard questions about gun violence, white masculinity, and crime will only continue to hurt all of us across the colorline.

The Mongol Hordes and the Barbary Pirates: More Django Related Complaints From the White Right About the Unique Oppressions Faced by White People

Reviews for Django are trickling out. The consensus is that Django is a long, but loving, smart, provocative, beautifully shot, and challenging film.

I do not know if the hateful reactions by the White Right and the Conservative online media to Quentin Tarantino and Jamie Foxx's slavery revenge fantasy film is because they were suckered in by the latter's baiting them, but I am most definitely going to be seeing Django on Christmas Eve as an act of  "protest."

Call me a sucker, any film that enrages conservative bigots who are overly identified with the Southern Slaveocracy, as well as tales of White Oppression and Victimology, has my ten bucks.

Newsbuster's first post on Djangoand Jamie Foxx's call for a "race war" against white people, received more than 3,000 comments from White Nationalists and their Republican brethren. Newsbuster's follow up post received about 350 or so comments. Among them was an exhalation of white victimhood which is quoted at the end of this post.

I try to work through people's observations about social reality in a fair way. I sincerely want to understand the priors which drive individuals to their conclusions, as well as the cognitive map and related cues which they use to understand empirical reality.

I am at a loss in regards to Dominoe4's understanding of modern history. Help me understand. What are his priors? What texts are he, and those similarly inclined, using as foundations for their understanding of reality? What are the decision rules driving Dominoe4's understanding of white suffering?

I must admit, I do find a reference to the Barbary Pirates as an example of "white oppression" very compelling and darkly comic.

A question. Is the collective conscious which Dominoe4 is channeling via his relationship to the White Right inordinately preoccupied with the Yellow Peril, opium dens, and white slavery circa the 19th century?

I am intrigued, and simultaneously worried about how the moral panics of the 19th and early 20th centuries still loom in the imaginations of the White Right and "polite" conservatives. This cannot end well. Historically, the "race" concept, racism, and rumor, have never played well together. Moreover, the Right-wing echo chamber with its epistemic closure is one hell of a drug. The reactions to Django by the Drudge Report and others is proof of this fact.

Tie these examples together if you would. Is there any way to make any reasonable sense of Dominoe4's understanding of history? What is the metanarrative at work here?
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Dominoe4

Some funny sh*t that's happened to white people;
  • The Irish famine.
  • The bombing of Pearl Harbor.
  • 9/11
  • The muslim invasion of Europe.
  • The black plague (can I say that...is it racist?)
  • Communism
  • The Holocaust
  • The Mongol hordes enter southern Europe.
  • South African farmers massacred
  • The LA Riots.
  • Illegal immigration
  • The Barbary Pirates
  • WW I
  • WW II
  • Millions of individual hate crimes committed by black perps on white Americans.
  • The Depression.
  • The election of a marxist, fraud with minimal intelligence or desire to work, but big on divisiveness and unlimited authority.