Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Fun With Racial Chauvinism: The 'Black Racist' Makes His Appearance on the TV Show Divorce Court

Am I the only person who marvels at how whites and non-whites often hold similar stereotypes about one another? Racial symmetry is a marvel.

There is no such thing as "black racism". And if I was possessed of a more critical mood this evening, I could highlight how the most recent episode of Divorce Court (one of my favorite junk TV indulgences along with the show My 600lb Life) in which the black husband is "racist" against his white wife is part of a concerted effort in the post civil rights era to legitimate white victimology and mock the justice claims of African-Americans.

I have come to realize, with some effort, that on the ground day-to-day examples of prejudice and bigotry can look pretty damn similar to racism. The three concepts are different. Racism involves power. The other two concepts involve prejudgment and stereotypes. The latter two can overlap with the former. However, they are not the same.

As with other language and concepts, many folks live by the simple definitions offered by the dictionary. They do not understand how "common sense" understandings of a concept are superficial. These understandings can also be incorrect and/or inaccurate. Those folks who hold such misconceptions about the relationship between power and the colorline are likely decent human beings: they are just ignorant. 

Being reflective and introspective, I think that many of us who think about race, social inequality, anti-racism--or politics more generally in a serious way--often fail to communicate effectively and clearly with the general public. And because race is the American obsession, filtered through individual experience and emotion as opposed to rigorous knowledge, historiography, and doing the work to go beyond opinion to the realm of facts and contextualized data, is especially challenging. Moreover, engaging in "real talk" about how racism and white supremacy are many things, and not just one, is among the most difficult speech acts in post civil rights era America.

Mr. Coleman is prejudiced. He is not a racist. Perhaps, he is a racial chauvinist. Either way, the Colemans are a hot mess...and this episode of Divorce Court is a great and funny exhibit in America's post civil rights era human zoo.


tiger said...

I think he was talking mostly about her family.The part about the dog crap in the baby's can't make that up.

Miles_Ellison said...

Daytime court shows are judicial blackface.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

I thought he meant dog poop in the crib as in dog poop in the house.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

"you're trifling" haha!

"I think he is the best man I have ever met." Woman in the first row behind her jaw drops and looks over at the husband.

"I think that many of us who think about race, social inequality, anti-racism--or politics more generally in a serious way--often fail to communicate effectively and clearly with the general public"
I tell people I'm arguing with all the time, racism involves power over others. Perhaps I'm having a difficult time communicating what power looks like and means. (note: many people will offer reasons why black people are holding power over white peoples heads; ACA=reparations, Affirmative Action=racial preference)

How would this have ended if 'black racism' was indeed at play?

The judge would not have corrected him for saying "all white people ....."

The judge would have told the wife things about herself that are not true but are stereotypical responses about what white people/think/say/do and then sided with the husband without telling him how he is a chauvinist and would chastise him for laying down with a white woman.

kokanee said...

This is an important concept that white folks need to understand. (Black folks understand it all too well.)

There's some good stuff on this, surprisingly, from Wikipedia:

chauncey devega said...

One would think that the difference between institutional power and day-to-day bad words, prejudice, etc. would be clear. Guess not. I think so many otherwise smart people have a hard time with the idea because they want to believe that all groups are equally "racist" when in fact color has nothing to do with the claim.

chauncey devega said...

Absolutely. The judge would not have been as sympathetic. No doubt.

chauncey devega said...

Yes and no. There is something very very powerful in terms of race and power going on with those shows. Fingers crossed it would make for a good book chapter or article.

chauncey devega said...

Dog poop in the crib is funnier, but yes, I think he meant the house.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

perhaps because the institutions work in favor of white people invisibly it's impossible for most to discern that power when they refuse to actively think about it.

skilletblonde said...

Let's not forget that the producers of these shows are white. Gail Steinberg is the executive producer of Divorce Court. The production company Monet Lane Productions also produces Judge Alex and Ricki Lake. These images of black life in mass media are derived from white corporate boardrooms. We all know this. However, on the case Chauncey posted, I don't know what offends me more, the profound ignorance of the husband, or the fact that Judge Lynn Toler has had a nose job.

kokanee said...

I'll admit that I didn't have the definition quite down but I like to think I was zeroing in on it.

The problem is that there is no truth in the media anymore. There's Republican (fascist wing nut) propaganda and then there's Democratic (so called liberal and progressive) propaganda. Often it's propaganda by omission rather than propaganda by commission. You just have to look at what Alternet picks up of yours and what they don't.

I'll take WARN over any of the so called progressive websites any day. It speaks truth.

BTW, IMHO, right-wing propaganda is child's play compared to left-wing (Democratic) propaganda. Right-wing is club them over the head...repeatedly. Democratic propaganda is much more subtle and thus effective.

Veri1138 said...

I would tend to disagree that LW propaganda is more effective.

LW and RW propaganda are for specific audiences - their own. The evidence of the ineffectiveness of LW propaganda mediums is in their failures, so far. Small social gains have been made. Legalization of marijuana in a handful of states. LGBT rights. Etc. That is about it.

However, look at the economic system. One thing about economics, when times are good, people are less concerned about the social issues and more can be done to advance these causes.

When times are bad, as they are now, RW propganda is much more effective. People look to blame others for their predicament. The Others become scapegoats.

Ecomomic situation is the most important. How is it that the LW has failed to implement the reforms they desire? Single-payer health care for instance, sabotaged by their own Party and President. Ineffective propaganda in which many Democratic Party Liberals hail as a victory, a Republican health care plan.

Interesting article that touches upon just why Liberals fail. Others are organizational and beset by problems with leadership.

Veri1138 said...

And Chinese institutions work for Chinese people. And African institutions work for whoever is in power. Same story, different theater.

Your remark is divisive, as it is intended to be. Number Three Rule to Ruling: Divide et Impera.

Can't blame everything on white people. Rich white people also hate poor white people which they consider cannon fodder.

Give anyone of color enough money and even their own become the enemy.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

I'm not sure what to do with your comment. If there are oppressed people anywhere, I am on their side any way I can be. This post is about the myth of black racism in America, a majority white country with a long history of racial oppression and prejudice against people of color, black, American Indian, Asian, Muslim, South Asian, Latino, even non-English speaking European.

The basic idea of the inability for people of color to be racist in America is that there are so many levels of power, that for them to hold power over white people in any significant manner would be impossible.

Miles_Ellison said...

On a related note, there was this story on Racialicious about bestselling author Alicia Valdes' meeting with Lifetime executives about adapting her novel for television.
The powerful thing going on with race and power on these shows is racism and the orporate peddling of such. The most offensive thing about that clip is the fact that Lynn Toler has the title Judge in front of her name.

sceezone said...

FINALLY!! That people don't understand this reality of racism, bigotry and prejudice, "The three concepts are different," is mind boggling. Thanks for validating that point!!