Friday, March 20, 2009

Gordon Gartrelle Says: Shelby Steele Isn’t a Coon, Tom, or Respectable Negro…He’s a Black Supervillain!

After reading Chauncey’s latest appeal to define Shelby Steele as a Coon, Tom, or Respectable Negro, I’ve determined that none of those categories is right for Steele and his ilk.

Shelby Steele
John McWhorter
Stanley Crouch
Clarence Thomas
Michael Steele
Armstrong Williams
Alan Keyes

What do they have in common?

Yes, they’re all successful black men and they would all define themselves as conservatives (except for Crouch, who is very different from the rest of these characters. I’ve included him here because he shares their M.O.).

But what else? Be honest.

They’re all goofy-looking, goofy-sounding nerds.

It’s clear that they were socially awkward kids. Their childhoods in a nutshell:

They were laughed at and beaten up by black boys.

They were ignored and rejected by black girls.

They were never fully accepted by black people (They attributed this to their intelligence and uniqueness, when really it was due to their social ineptitude).

They were called punks, chumps, simps, and wimps.

They spent many lonely nights crying into their pillows.

They did all they could do: they buried themselves in their studies.

They worked hard, promising themselves that they would get back at the black people who cast them out.

They bided their time, waiting, stewing in their self-hatred and resentment.

They made it into the upper echelons of popular conservative thought.

The once timid nerds are now stentors spewing racial nonsense from their giant platforms.

They have (in their minds) enacted their ultimate revenge on the black people who clowned them.

Behold—the birth of the Black Supervillain!


Anonymous said...

Good call, Gordon. However, out of this bunch, I feel that only Shelby Steele has the brilliance and presence to be defined as a Black Super Villian. He fits right in with Lex Luthor, Dr. Doom and Anakin Skywalker. Steele is our very own Darkseid.

I have read and listened to Steele's opinions. Sometimes I agree with him and sometimes I understand where he is coming from, but then he will make a statement that totally trivializes elements of the black experience/history in general and make me wonder if his experience is based in some alternate reality, or a parallel earth.

In the earlier Steele post, I wanted to define him as a "Sgt. Waters" from "A Soldier's Story". Maybe, just maybe, Steele has us all fooled and is using his 12th-level-intelligence-super-genius-powers for good. Who knows? He just may be prove to be like an Agent Dan Freeman, a "spook who sat near the door".

macon d said...

I'm convinced, but um, Gordon, just how do you know those childhood details so very well?


gordon gartrelle said...

Great comments GRD.

I actually thought about that point. I think I was a little too inclusive/sloppy with my examples.

I probably only should have included S. Steele, McWhorter, Crouch, and Thomas. The first three because they are the only trylu brilliant figures I listed, and Clarence Thomas becasue he has more actual influence and power than all of them combined.


Call it a hunch.

These guys are lames now, so you know they were even bigger lames as kids. All lame kids are clowned regardless of race. To make themselves feel better, a number of lame black kids reason that they are rejected because they aren't "black enough" and because they aspire to be successful and intelligent.

There's just too much resentment in their voices for them not to have been scarred in their formative years by black people rejecting them.

Al From Bay Shore said...

This is foolishness and intolerance. No offense but your characterizations are reminiscent of the "gangsta' rap wannabes" who dismissed house music because of a fascistic homophobia. This same intolerance permeates the black community. Black people who are right of center are depicted as sell outs and miscreants. I suppose that the only way to defend oneself against this, while maintaining conservative views, is to wear a bowtie, sell bean pies, and read the Final Call. You gotta hand it to the NOI, they still maintain a sense of self dignity even after the Jewish lobby delivers the smackdown to the fleeing black liberals.

Anonymous said...

Umm... but samueL(since thats how us folk pronounce his name--"Sam you EL") jackson's character in unbreakable wasnt a supervillian... he was a comic book fan that knew that bruce willis' character has super powers just like his heroes did and just tried showing him the way--this is the second time i've seen that character refered to as a villian; did anyone even WATCH the movie? no hate intended, V

macon d said...

Thanks for the further elaboration, Gordon, which makes great sense to me. I wasn't disputing the post's conjecture about their childhoods. I've know kids like that who grew up into people like that too.

gordon gartrelle said...


We welcome your perspective, but you continue to misrepresent our criticism of these particular black conservatives. Please go back to Chauncey's original Coon, Tom, or Respectable Negro post and reread our comments.

You don't seem to have a problem with us savaging the Sharpton/Jackson school of black opportunism and their white liberal enablers,

but it's intolerant when we point out that white conservatives use mediocre black tokens like Michael Steele in an attempt to shield themselves from accusations of racism?

It's foolish when we highlight the irony of anti-affirmative action black conservatives benefitting from what amounts to affirmative action at the behest of white conservatives?

Vittoria, No hate taken.

I've seen Unbreakable a few times. It's one of the only MKS movies I can stomach. You conveniently omitted how Mr Glass sought to show David "the way." I don't want to spoil the ending for those who haven't seen it, but you know. Moreover, rewatch the gallery scene at the end and listen to what Glass' mother says to David about villains.

No hate intended, but I thought it was fairly obvious.


I didn't see the smiley face in the first comment. Now I get the joke.

Lady Zora, Chauncey DeVega, and Gordon Gartrelle said...

Good convo.

Not yet coming down off my battlestar galactica high, but i will offer this one thought on unbreakable. Mr. Glass says "we are watching you" to Bruce Willis's character, and M. Night Shymlanan (sp?) has repeatedly said that this is the intro to a bigger universe. Who knows if he will get to make the sequels, but I always thought it was implied both there and in Glass's monologue about how he parallels bruce willis' character that Sam Jackson is a supervillain..and one among several/many.

Unbreakable is really a rich movie that deserves rewatching.

Chauncey Devega

RiPPa said...

Well, at least they can't say that they got bitten by a radio-active monkey or anything like that.

Seriously, I loved the breakdown and yes, I do think you nailed it on the head. These guys actually project much of their personal beefs. They've cleverly masterminded and exacted their retribution on "The Gooch" for stealing their lunch money.

BTW: MF DOOM would probably be pissed that you associated him or his image with the likes of the people you've described above.


annum natalem said...

All lame kids are clowned regardless of race. To make themselves feel better, a number of lame black kids reason that they are rejected because they aren't "black enough" and because they aspire to be successful and intelligent.

There's just too much resentment in their voices for them not to have been scarred in their formative years by black people rejecting them.

I see a lot of myself in that. Except some of us grow up, turn the Nerd into Word, and never glom to the conservative politics.

The difference between a Clowned Geek like me and Michael Steele: this Clowned Geek kept her ears and heart open. And still tries to.

Al From Bay Shore said...

Gordon, check this out:

When you use the term "coon" or "Tom", you do not address the problem with Shelby Steele, Michael Steele, or any other right of center black person. "Coon" and "Tom" is an assault on the identity and is used to invalidate the point the person is making without ever having to address the point. Its no different than when Jews use the term "Anti-Semite". In doing this, no one gets past the label, and the point that led to the labeling is never examined. They did this constantly with Farrakhan when he raised questions of the notion that Judaism was used to justify zionist ideas (and I am a staunch supporter of Israel's right to exist).

Right of center black folks need to be attacked for their belief that the purpose of government is to have the least amount of involvement in the lives of people. In short, black folks could have solved the issues pertaining to race by themselves. As an example, legislative acts like Civil Rights acts and Voting Rights acts are pointless since these laws are already protected by the Constitution. They can also be attacked for their insistence on personal responsibility. You are not doing this. When you use those epithets you are not attacking their ideology, you are attacking their racial identity as well as their race allegiance.

There is nothing wrong with using that term BUT if you use it, don't expect the traditional "role of government" and "nature of man" type of debate. And I have to say this: White pundits project the illusion of having discourse that proceeds along "Federalist vs. Anti-Federalist" lines. Black folks, unfortunately, give the illusion that their discourse de-evolves into "who is black enough" versus "who is not black enough and selling us out". This is why I am not impressed with Dyson. Instead of attacking Cosby's ideas, he attacked Cosby the person as well as the black middle class.

If you want to progress beyond that type of argument, you gotta do the legwork and attack and idea at its base while refraining from the use of those epithets.

gordon gartrelle said...


You bring up a good point about "Uncle Tom" and "Coon" being ad hominem attacks. However, your depiction of the opposition to black right of center thinking lacks nuance and has little connection to reality.

Black conservatives aren't the only ones who emphasize personal responsibility or suspicion of government approaches to social/political reform.

But beyond all of that, you might notice that we don't take ourselves that seriously here. We also like to have fun with the events and categories that shape our lives. I used "Tom" and "Coon" as a set up for the joke in this post. We have to laugh at ourselves, Al.

Cobb said...

Everybody loves to clown Urkel. Then when the next Soul Plane movie comes out of Hollywood, everybody asks where is the intelligent, decent, modest black man image?

Interestingly enough, I have it on good authority that as a point of fact, Arsenio Hall used to get the back of his head slapped on the regular.

I think I have a new friend in Al B Shore. Incisive, my man. I take it one step further and consider the very "black man's burden" that begs the question of their career orientation and make us bother to care about who they are and what they do. In that regard, I'm likely to sound more like an Afrocentrist by asking what it is about ourselves that is lacking such that we feel the need to be assisted and affirmed by any such role-monkeys. But I don't want to sound like an Afrocentrist, so I sound like Richard Nixon of benign neglect. The shoe fits.

I have also interviewed with various parties from the Manhattan Institute, my favorite thinktank which employs McWhorter. I have it on some informal authority that he is a gentle individual, one with whom having a barking discussion over beers is a dubious proposition.

Should we get into a black maleness discussion? I mean here you have a self-evident parade of Urkels pushed front and center as representing a pantywaist Right. It should be obvious that none of them are the kind of Delroy Lindo, Denzel Washington, Dennis Haysbert kind of actual black man conservatives like. Are you on to something?

I'd say yes and no. No because you're obviously cherry picking, and because I personally don't believe that black conservatives even bother with role-monkeys.
Yes, because I have an itch that you purposefully avoided JC Watts and I perceive that you're actually wrong about Michael Steele.

Whatever the conclusion, it is obvious that none of the men in question find any use for the 'cool pose' - but then we already know that the 'cool pose' is psychologically dysfunctional.

E.C. 2 said...

Add Herman Cain, Larry Elder, Amy Holmes, Tara Wall, Ward "Con Man" Connerly, Jesse Lee Peterson, and David Webb to this list of black supervillians.