Sunday, November 21, 2010

They Are So Old School: Hiram Maxim, the Echoes of History and the Bigotry of the New Right in the Age of Obama

As I said during the 2008 presidential campaign, I prefer my racism straight with no chaser. For this reason, I have often flirted with writing an Op-Ed simply called, "Why Limbaugh, Beck, Gingrich, Palin and the New Right Should Just Call Barack Obama a Nigger and Get It Over With." And yes, I stung myself by writing that dread word for I banned it from the vocabulary some time ago. Ah, the burdens of trying to speak truth to power.

If the New Right Tea Party G.O.P. were honest in their bigotry it would save us all so much time.

In keeping with my love of the old school, there is much to be said for the lack of obfuscation that typified the racism of years past. Black and Brown folk knew the ground upon which their foes stood. By extension, they/we could be prepared for the overhand right and then hit back with a good body blow. In the contemporary, post civil rights, Age of Obama--a world where there is racism without racists--black and brown folk are fighting metaphorical ghosts. Now, the opposition is winning even while shadow boxing.

Trust, those phantom punches can really hurt.

As I did here, I love to share pithy bits of wisdom when (and from wherever) I may find them. Today, I was reading the great book The Gun by C.J. Chivers. This efficient history of modern firearms as told through the lens of the AK-47's development as an indispensable tool of war has a wonderful chapter on the history of machine guns and their role in the coming of age of European and American Imperial power. Of note therein: the following passage on the racism of legendary gun innovator Hiram Maxim which reads as follows.


His views on race were equally severe. "A black man," he declared, "has no rights that a white man is bound to respect." Late in life, he described belittling blacks in the United States in the service of his early business interests. Before taking a trip to Atlanta in the early 1870s to oversee the installation of one of his automatic gas machines at the grand Kimball House hotel, he bought a photograph of "a New Guinea nigger; it was the niggerest-looking nigger I had ever seen." Maxim thought the picture might charm his Southern hosts. At the time, Pinckney Pinchback, the son of a slave and the slave's master, was serving as governor of Louisiana, to many a white Southerner's dismay. Maxim wrote the words "Governor Pinchback" on the photograph and carried it in his pocket. At moments he deemed convenient, he produced his photograph for his white clients. It was a Maxim calling card, "Whenever we were discussing niggers and politics I used to take out this photograph and hand it to them," he said. What are we coming to, some the men would exclaim. Next we will have a gorilla...


Damn, once more, the echoes of history in the Age of Obama both loom and resonate large.

I remain unmoved by arguments against the self-evident truth that much of the opposition against President Obama is rooted in simple, plain, old fashioned, white racism and white victimology. Frankly, some white folks cannot accept the disruption to their cognitive framework caused by having a Black man in The White House. Moreover, it is sadly ironic that the honest words of old school white supremacists such as Maxim would ring true even into the 21st century.

True, a Black man can be elected President in America--an accomplishment of no small note and a momentous beachhead in the long Black Freedom Struggle. But sadly, President Obama is also in many ways bound by the sad and tired remnants of Jim Crow that exist in the hearts and minds of the "traditional, yearning for Leave it Beaver good old days, take back my America" crowd. These knuckledraggers are likely a minority. Perhaps in some crowds, the New Right, Tea Party bigots are a plurality. Yet, there influence on American politics in the aggregate remains out-sized. And the voices willing to stand against them are increasingly mute.

In the immortal words of Bill Cosby: come on people, can't we do better? Or is the United States forever bound by the particular circumstances of its birth, and the powerful influence of an almost guaranteed and de facto White political, social, and economic superiority on the house that race built?


Shady_Grady said...

Obviously there is a hardcore minority (a very LARGE minority) that don't like the idea of Blacks thinking they can run...anything.

Some of these people aren't as obvious as they would have been just 30 years go, let alone 40 or 50 years ago.

But a lot of white independents or moderate Republicans that voted for Obama in 2008 switched back to Republicans in recent election. Did they all of a sudden become racist again? I think it's more because Obama overpromised and underdelivered on the economy.

Not all his fault of course but he's the one in the Big Chair.
What makes things worse is that the man has a congenital aversion to conflict at a time when the Repubs are out for blood. Not a good time to go all wobbly..

Invisible Man said...

If they did call Obama a Nigger, then Obama would come to their defense to quell America's outrage! Because there no read or blue America. Just one America

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

@Shady. Absolutely right. One of my criticisms of the race discourse around opposition to Obama is the racist/not racist binary. You have lots of racists who likely voted for him because of the economy being so bad and Bush being a disaster. You likely had a mirror among non-racists. Of the self-avowed anti-racists I remain unsure btw.

This time Obama got spanked because the incumbent always loses in the midterm, the economy is in the tank, and he has failed to communicate his successes. The white racism that has always existed has been legitimized and made more polite. But, it is still rooted in the idea that blacks best know their place thus all this "arrogant" and "uppity" talk about the President.

@Spook. You are right there would be a rally around the flag effect for a hot minute. That is the genius of contemporary racism--white folks can throw the crazies out of town while practicing colorblind racism all the while.

Red or Blue? Geez, how hopeful and a bit naive. I hope you are being satirical.


Invisible Man said...

I was being extremely satirical. And frankly to say Obama got spanked because he didn't "communicate his
successes" is democratic spin and frankly a lie. Obama got spanked- and should have gotten spanked -because he spent far more time enriching and pandering to big insurance crops., and big banks than taking care and building his base, which lost ground because his economic team was/is nothing but big bankers. Obama is not completely responsible because WE failed to unite and drag him to the woodshed to hold him accountable, like the Tea Party holds it's politicians accountable.

Xulon said...

I appreciated this blog. Recently, I became frustrated at a discussion board in which a man produced his umpteenth "We are beyond racism. Now how about affirmative action: doesn't Jesus just hate it?" thread. In response, I wrote this blog

Constructive Feedback said...

Mr DeVega:

Can you set up a scenario by which

1) A US President DOES NOT have a loyal opposition for no other reason than his ideological and partisan differences?

2) A BLACK President's opposition IS NOT called RACIST by you? (This Black President being favorable to YOU not withstanding)

The best thing that you can say is that "I have never had a President that I was so attached to AND thus the attacks against him are felt more PERSONALLY by me". The claims of "No other recent president has been attacked as much as Obama has is pure B.S. ". Second only to the Anti-War activities, Obama's term being adjacent to Bush's also provides a point of reference about the DEMAND "respect for the office" has also changed.

I do credit you Mr DeVega. You are far more articulate than many of the other Left-Wing Fundamentalist/ Racism Chasing blogs. Though you both end up in the same position, your narrative course is far more enticing.

Here is what I have learned after careful study of you and others:

You need to keep your enemies on trial as an indictment for the present condition of Black people so that you can avoid the painful truth that a transparent inspection of the PEOPLE AND POLICIES that you have hoisted into power with the auspices of "Helping The Black Community". Despite their growth in POWER over the key institutions of our communities - they avoid your condemnation. Their failures to deliver MUST be due to the White Conservative attempts to up end them. No where in your mind might this be due to failed theories that they possess.

Talk to us about the state of Education for Black people Chauncey - the systems that FAVORABLE PEOPLE to you have been running for about 30 years. What about the economic development in these same communities? The public safety?

Strip away the focus on the "White Right Wing" and you are left naked, having to ponder an inspection of what you have fielded as a solution.

For you "RACISM" is seen in the White voters in AL and MS voting for John McCain to the tune of 89% and 91% respectively. When we look at how the Black voter chose at the rate of 96% to promote the MACHINE that already controls all of our LOCAL civic institutions into the WHITE HOUSE in addition to their control over both houses of Congress - this was not RACISM but "Black people knowing who has our best interests in mind".

It is time for you, Mr DeVega to document WHERE our "Permanent Interests" have been ORGANICALLY developed in the "Progressive Mission Accomplished" areas where they operate in an uncontested manner per your efforts and advocacy.

chaunceydevega said...

@Constructive. I am about to go to bed and make love to my 2 beautiful queens with whom I am in a poly-amorous relationship, but I thought it wise to chime in. I just finished a session of Black Ops and saw you in the background. Thus, my late writing.

I humor your blogging by proxy because I find you oh so much fun. Like a cat with a malnourished senile confused rat I could easily finish you. But, I choose not to.

Please, share more of your misunderstandings of what you believe my agenda to be.

I am Thulsa Doom beckoning you closer. Please jump off the cliff as you come to me my child. Please come closer. I promise it won't hurt.

Plane Ideas said...


Don't be so,lol,lol Save some of that contempt for white folks..

CF is twisted but he has value..One of the truths I have learned about living as a Black man on this soil is that even the most backward and underdeveloped Black man was contaminated by the pathology and cultural dna of white supremacy etc..

I am not making an excuse for CF but I do ..I really do understand his wounds and scars..

CD do you?????

Constructive Feedback said...

[quote] I am about to go to bed and make love to my 2 beautiful queens with whom I am in a poly-amorous relationship,[/quote]

Mr Chauncey - please record this as the FIRST and ONLY time that I have been envious of you. :-)

In the words of your hero Shawn Carter's former MC - "Jaz": "Can you hook a brother up the next time you do a Luau"?

Constructive Feedback said...

[quote]CF is twisted but he has value..One of the truths I have learned about living as a Black man on this soil is that even the most backward and underdeveloped Black man was contaminated by the pathology and cultural dna of white supremacy etc..[/quote]

Thasher - A few months ago I posted on a nondescript blog that had ONE POST that made sense enough to me to garner my support. When you responded and later came to my blog I said to myself:

"DAMN that was Thrasher's blog. Now I have to listen to his B.S. some more". :-)

White Supremacy = WHITE people who have the believe that their genetics and their ways are SUPERIOR to all others for no other reason than their GENETIC prowess

Non-White White Supremacy = BLACK PEOPLE who believe what is documented above by the White Supremacist. All of their policy initiatives for the development of BLACK PEOPLE are focused upon forcing WHITE PEOPLE to change while saying little about what BLACK PEOPLE need to do to change ourselves. The ONE change that they fight strongest against is Black folks discontinuing the efforts to VOTE HARDER as the primary vehicle for such change.

My personal index of those who are Non-White White Supremacists is the person's regard for TIM WISE - the Black Inferiorist. In as much as he has NEVER voiced a word on "What the Black man needs to do to achieve salvation" those who have their salvation centered upon THE WHITE MAN and how HE must change - Tim Wise proves to be a perfect point of reference. (Closely followed by Cornel West and left-wing judicial advocate Michele Alexander).

The biggest fear circulating through the brain of the "Non-White White Supremacist" is that one day his bete noir will DEPART FROM HIS PRESENCE - leaving him IN POWER as he has always wanted BUT ALONE, forced to produce what he has longed for.

Oh Crap said...

I am not making an excuse for CF but I do ..I really do understand his wounds and scars..

All of conservatism is rooted in self-loathing, especially acute among the nonwhite ones.

Poor things, they have the most to prove, especially while in the presence of white conservatives, upon whose warped, misanthropic social norms they depend for their self-definition.

These conservative inverts substitute trashing anything they perceive as competition, e.g. non-conservative Blacks (i.e. normal Black people) -- again, preferably within earshot of white cons -- for self-reflection and criticism. Same old same old, nothing new about this particular one.

Plane Ideas said...


So in others words I was right about you.;-)..BTW keep reading my blog I love the followers like you...It helps me keep hope alive..