Oh well, Obama got in so it's all good, no wait Ta-nehisi Coates is still raging so 2014 is 1964 in America! : (hat tip ; Erik Loomis)
Oh well, Obama got in so it's all good, no wait Ta-nehisi Coates is still raging so 2014 is 1964 in America! : (hat tip ; Erik Loomis)
Please, Ta-nehisi stop you are going to make me puke!:
"I am not raising 'nothing niggers,'" my mother used to tell me. "I am not raising niggers to stand on the corner." My mother did not know her father. In my life, I've loved four women. One of them did not know her father and the other two, very often, wished they didn't. It's not very hard to look at that, and seethe. It's not very hard to look at that and see a surrender, while you are out here at war, and seethe. It not hard to look around at your community and feel that you are afflicted by quitters, that your family--in particular--is afflicted by a weakness. And so great is this weakness that the experience of black fatherlessness can connect Barack Obama in Hawaii to young black boys on the South Side, and that fact--whatever the charts, graphs and histories may show--is bracing. When Barack Obama steps into a room and attacks people for presumably using poverty or bigotry as an excuse to not parent, he is channeling a feeling deep in the heart of all black people, a frustration, a rage at ourselves for letting this happened, for allowing our community to descend into the basement of America, and dwell there seemingly forever. (...) There are moments when I hear the president speak and I am awed. No one, from the offices of the White House, could have better explained to America what the George Zimmerman verdict meant. And I think history will remember that, and remember him for it. But I think history will also remember his unquestioning embrace of "twice as good" in a country that has always given, even under his watch, black people half as much.
Ah a deep thought from Ta-nehisi Coates!:
Racism is a kind of fatalism, so seductive, that it enthralls even its victims. But we will not get out of this by being on our best behavior—sometimes it has taken our worse. There's never been a single thing wrong with black people that the total destruction of white supremacy would not fix.
The power of shame is shameful particularly on race men people!
Well, best wishes to all for the new year (ah it's a world cup year yeah!) and here's a sugary excerpt from Fredrick C. Harris:
What started as a philosophy promulgated by black elites to “uplift the race” by correcting the “bad” traits of the black poor has now evolved into one of the hallmarks of black politics in the age of Obama, a governing philosophy that centers on managing the behavior of black people left behind in a society touted as being full of opportunity. In an era marked by rising inequality and declining economic mobility for most Americans—but particularly for black Americans—the twenty-first-century version of the politics of respectability works to accommodate neoliberalism. The virtues of self-care and self-correction are framed as strategies to lift the black poor out of their condition by preparing them for the market economy.
For more than half of the twentieth century, the concept of the “Talented Tenth” commanded black elites to “lift as we climb,” or to prove to white America that blacks were worthy of full citizenship rights by getting the untalented nine-tenths to rid themselves of bad customs and habits. Today’s politics of respectability, however, commands blacks left behind in post–civil rights America to “lift up thyself.” Moreover, the ideology of respectability, like most other strategies for black progress articulated within the spaces where blacks discussed the best courses of action for black freedom, once lurked for the most part beneath the gaze of white America. But now that black elites are part of the mainstream elite in media, entertainment, politics, and the academy, respectability talk operates within the official sphere, shaping the opinions, debates, and policy perspectives on what should—and should not—be done on the behalf of the black poor.
I need to read Amartya Sen's latest book.
From Ta-Nehisi Coates:
White people who actually spend time around black people--not black individuals whom they know from work, but black people with their families, in their communities, with their parents--will quickly notice that using "nigger" actually isn't a barometer of closeness. I'm black and I don't call even some of my best friends nigger. They, unlike me, are offended by it. Black humans, like most humans, are different from each other. But to grasp this, you must have to have relationships with black humans that go beyond your job.
Ta-Nehisi, mon pauvre frère !
(...) Paula Deen polls way better among Georgia Republicans than the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Favorability/unfavorability: Paula Deen 73/11, Martin Luther King Jr. 59/28. And that’s just the people who are willing to say they don’t like MLK on the phone. How many of them do you think hate him more than that?
Hum, well at least Cornel West is consistent. Is that a good thing? I don't know but he is onto something.
Frank Pasquale on the Trayvon Martin George Zimmerman case:
I have to say, after this case, I'm scared to go to Florida. What happens if I'm in a fender bender and the person in the other car misinterprets my reaching for my registration as reaching for a gun? What if I don't like to drive, and walk along a road, and for that very reason am seen as "suspect" and start getting followed by somebody? If I, as a white man, have these concern, I can't even imagine how the usual subjects of discrimination feel. Stand your ground seems to be not merely a law, but the first volley in an attempted cultural revolution in how individuals interact. Dueling looks civilized by comparison with what may happen as SYG becomes entrenched.
However inflected by race the old protocols were, they were at least somewhat stable. We are entering a brave new world, where one may well be ill-advised to go anywhere unfamiliar without a taser, gun, mace, or other weapons. This is how "guard labor" approaches, and will perhaps exceed, 20% of GDP, and how the producers of weapons acquire the means to make society's systems of dispute resolution (or creation) ever more dependent on their tools.
Race.” I really can’t understand it as anything other than something people say. The people who have said that you and I are both “black” and therefore deserve a certain kind of interaction with the world, they make race. I can’t take them seriously. Not beyond the fact that they have the ability to say that you and I are a single race. You know, a piece of cloth that is called “linen” has more validity than calling you and me “black” or “negro.” “Cotton” has more validity as cotton than yours and my being “black.” It is true that our skin is sort of more or less the same shade. But is it true that our skin color makes us a distinctive race? No.
The people who invented race, who grouped us together as “black,” were inventing and categorizing their ability to do something vicious and wrong. I don’t see why I have to give them validity, or why I have to approach that label with any kind of seriousness. We give the people who make this category too much legitimacy by accepting it. We give them too much power. They ought to be left with the tawdriness of it, the stupidity of it. It’s a way of organizing a wrong thing, it’s a way of making a wrong thing easy. It’s too easy to say this or that is “race,” and that has been a vehicle for an incredible amount of wrong in the world. (...)race as a subject only comes about because of what I look like. If I say something truthfully, people say “Oh, she’s so angry.” If I write about a married person who lives in Vermont, it becomes “Oh, she’s autobiographical.” Norman Mailer stabbed his wife, and was not ever described as angry, and nothing he wrote was ever described as autobiographical. And all of these things are, in some sense, ways of diminishing my efforts.
If I describe a person’s physical appearance in my writing, which I often do, especially in fiction, I never say someone is “black” or “white.” I may describe the color of their skin—black eyes, beige skin, blue eyes, dark skin, etc. But I’m not talking about race. I’m talking about a description. What I really want to write about is injustice and justice, and the different ways human beings organize the two.
I agree with Kincaid.
Old, but great stuff fromm Amitava Kumar:
As an Indian, I’m raising my kids in the firm belief that sooner or later, everyone in this country [America] is going to look like Kal Penn.
That would make America the handsomest country in the world and an Abercrombie & Fitch's wet dream!
Sntences of the week from Ta-nehisi Coates:
The years between 2000 and 2010 do not simply constitute a war on marijuana, but a war on black people who use marijuana.A rising wave smashes Negroes first.
From Denis Lacorne:
The most popular French politician is Barack Obama. Nearly 80 percent of the French would vote for him if they were given the opportunity! The traditional, white, Catholic or secular elites are not really representative of the new French reality: an immigrant society, in which traditional religions are fast disappearing; an ethnically and religiously pluralistic society, which finds more affinities with a black U.S. president than with native, white French presidents. But French society is not as race conscious as its American counterpart. Barack Obama sees himself as an "African American," and this is the category he chose in the 2010 Census form that was submitted to him. For the French, who prohibit the use of racial categories in the census, Obama is simply un métis, a mestizo, a multiracial individual, like many young Frenchmen. He is, in other words, "one of us."
I agree with Sandy Livinson on this:
What I want to do now, though, is simply to vent about the patent irresponsibility of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick in appointing his friend Michael Cowan to replace John Kerry as senator, apparently for no other reason than his (Gov. Patrick's) desire to have an African-American Democratic senator for at least four monts or so, and regardless of the fact that there is no reason at all to believe that Sen. Cowan, as I presume he'll become tomorrow or very shortly thereafter, has any real knowledge about national political issues that may in fact come up in the next four months. This is "expressive politics" at its absolute worst, and Gov. Patrick should be ashamed of himself. Frankly, it is the kind of self-indulgent gesture by someone with power that gives "affirmative action" (which I support) a bad name with many Americans. He has, in one instant, disserved his state, his party, and the nation (even if, as I presume, Sen. Cowan is an extremely fine and able person whom all of us would be proud to have as a friend or, if governor of Massachusetts, an aide, as he was.) Nothing in my remarks should be read as casting aspersions on Mr. Cowan's personal character (other, frankly, than that he didn't have the personal self-discipline to exercise what Madison might have described as the "civic virtue" to tell the Governor that he is highly flattered but not really qualified for the job).
All politics nowadays is expressive politics, which is almost always a potent and dangerous form of identity politics.
Deval Patrick is Obama 1.0, he hasn't yet updated his operating software to make his errors of judgment appear to be brilliant avant-gardism and awesomely historic.
Sugary excerpt of the best article I read last weekend from Scott Reynold Nelson on Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained, which I'm planning to see because of what Roger Ebert said about it and because I don't want Spike Lee to be right in this case :
Immediately after the Civil War, African-American men built these powerful, folkloric characters in a world where slavery had ended but attacks against black men and women had intensified. The stories of quiet, unpredictable, and violent men who were fearless and died at the end could be simultaneously cautionary tales about the dangers of challenging white authority and covert stories about the thrill of resistance.
They are fantasies about striking back. Yet they are frank about how dangerous fighting back could be. Bad-man stories passed into rhymed insults called "the dozens," then into blues songs, then into rap, and finally into hip-hop.
They were also emulated and twisted by white interpreters into "coon" songs popular for decades, then by Jim Croce in "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown," and finally wended their way into blaxploitation films. Indeed, the stories have been so distorted that it is difficult to learn about the original songs, the parodies having outshone the originals. The legendary African-American bad man became irresistible to white interpreters simultaneously fascinated and repelled by the image of a quiet, violent, fearless black destroyer. The bad-man story that freed people told about slavery and its aftermath was quickly converted into the story of the sullen black stranger, the zoot-suit Negro with a razor in his pocket, the dangerous ghetto demigod.
This from John Quiggin disturbs me:
It strikes me that the best way to understand the distinctive characteristics of US voting patterns is to to treat “Southern White ” as an ethnicity, like Hispanic. With that classification each of the major parties becomes an coalition between a solid bloc vote from an ethnic minority and around half the votes of the “non-Southern white” ethnic majority, which is more likely to vote on class lines. The question then is which ethnic/class coalition is bigger. As in other countries, voting for the more rightwing party is correlated, though not perfectly with higher incomes and (conditional on income) lower education, and to shift according to broader ideological movements.(...) To the extent that white Southerners vote on ethnic lines, hostile to key Democratic ideas, it makes little sense to try for a class-based message that panders to (for example) Confederate nostalgia. Rather, the best hope is that younger generations will cease identifying with the South and regard themselves just as Americans or even (Utopianism alert) just as human beings.
Is it legitimate to treat Southern Whites as a separate ethnic group? Certainly, plenty of Southerners thought so at the time of the Civil War. Since then, Southern whites have made strong claims to a separate cultural heritage, defined in opposition both to blacks (and also through historic and recent conflicts with Hispanics) and to Northern Whites.
Really does ethnicity make one more likely to be stupid and to vote a certain way? It does in America because ethnicity is treated as a religion. Quiggin's point just illustrates what is wrong with the America's view of ethnicity and race for they are used to legitimate identical illusions and ignorance.
Come on now, whether one is a 'Southern White' or whatever else, in America, the fact remains that it is much easier and even comfortable to justify the unjustifiable by using ethnicity, culture, and identity as excuses for one's biases and irrationality and that is a problem for no matter what their heritage, people chose who/what to be.
From llya Somin:
Obama’s reelection victory cements the idea that having an African-American president is normal.
Ah America and its love of symbols to avoid hard work and harsh/difficult questions!
Sugary excerpt of the day from Lynn Parramore :
Cultural memory and prejudice form strange currents in the Southern mind. The power of the fear and antipathy of the black man has been diluted, but it’s still there, and it's easily stoked by unscrupulous politicians. But it’s easy to just stop there, and you won't have a clear picture if you do.
If you look closer, there’s something else. The Harley Davidson guys and their Southern brethren who put rebel flag stickers on their rides are signaling that they still strongly identify with a war in which their ancestors found themselves on the wrong side of history and fought a losing battle. White men in other regions of the country don’t really get what it feels like to know that your people were defeated in a war by their own countrymen. There’s a feeling that they lost so much for this Union to stay together that they’ll be damned if they are going to admit another defeat by recognizing that America is currently in decline. That is too much for the heart to bear.
Aah, I have to admit this type of analysis just drives me bonkers for it evokes the despairing consensus in America that identity and culture are solely about collective memory and history. I resent that idea because it takes me back to the Fascist dictum that people think with their blood.
Sugary excerpt of the day from Joey Fishkin:
Publicly, we are told that Clarence Thomas, for instance, was chosen simply because he was the best jurist for the job, and without any consideration at all of the optics of replacing Thurgood Marshall with an all-white court. Publicly, we are told that Sarah Palin was simply the most meritorious candidate for the job of Vice President, for reasons that had no connection to any efforts to diversify the Republican ticket. I find these assertions silly—and I say that as someone with tremendous respect for Justice Thomas, who (contrary to ill-informed liberal stereotype) has turned out to be a powerful and important voice on the Court.
And so I appreciate that Governor Romney has come out and said that he practiced affirmative action. Perhaps it is an easier thing for him to say in the case of sex than race, I do not know. But he said it, and that’s important.
It's hard to disagree with Fishkin, I'm tyring to, but his conclusion is on point.
More reasons to love Glenn Loury (the father) and to realize that great people tend to raise decent children!
This from Ta-nehisi Coates depresses me deeply even more than America's collapse in the Ryder Cup yesterday :
It's all well and good to say black people should be more like Martin Luther King Jr. But it should be noted that the country answered King's hypermorality with unremitting violence, culminating in him being shot in the head.
At one point does the past stop to condition the present and to determine who/what people ought to be. I know race is comfortable and sells, but come on at some point it becomes no much irrelevant as a rotten and shackling concept.
To beyond the placid glitz I don't think 'black people' should be lie Martin Luther King, they should just be themselves which means taking the risk to accept that 'blackness' is not an identity.
I agree with Zadie Smith on this:
(...) people of colour do not think of themselves as exotic or other to themselves. We think of ourselves as white people think of yourselves, as central to ourselves, and not some stylisation, political points, added extras: none of those things. We are ourselves.
I hate with a passion the expression 'people of color!' It is as repugnant as 'human beings with a uterus' would be.
The sentence of the day from a post from Annie over at Harry's Place:
Lets praise this black person who, unusually, is able to act contrary to her nature and be objective in considering the legal position.
Sugary excerpt from Amitava Kumar's note on Toni Morrison's latest Home:
Here is a voice that records violence in brief, brutal detail, and then, in a testament to human survival, finds honey in the rock.
Frank Money is Morrison’s protagonist in Home. He has survived, if only barely, the Korean War and come back to his segregated motherland. Each page reveals the shock of living in a society built on the exploitation of blacks. Reading the book at a time when the White House is occupied by a black president further heightens the pain of these discoveries instead of assuaging it. And yet, as steady as the cruel blows, are the comforts of community. The strength of conscience. The tender spark of love.
Piercing sorrow mixed with a sense of hope, or sometimes, only a keen appreciation of life’s bittersweet taste. Isn’t that the sublime truth of the blues?
Sugary excerpt of the day from Junot Díaz:
White supremacy is the great silence of our world, and in it is embedded much of what ails us as a planet. The silence around white supremacy is like the silence around Sauron in The Lord of the Rings, or the Voldemort name which must never be uttered in the Harry Potter novels. And yet here’s the rub: if a critique of white supremacy doesn’t first flow through you, doesn’t first implicate you, then you have missed the mark; you have, in fact, almost guaranteed its survival and reproduction. There’s that old saying: the devil’s greatest trick is that he convinced people that he doesn’t exist. Well, white supremacy’s greatest trick is that it has convinced people that, if it exists at all, it exists always in other people, never in us.
I am going to munch on Díaz words for a bit while wondering what the impact of his argument would have been if he had used the word 'men' instead of using 'white.'
As always great stuff from Glenn Loury and John McWhorter. Happy Independence day!
Ta-Nehisi Coates on the use of the use of the N-word by 'blacks' and 'whites':
We use language to (among many things) clarify and illuminate relationships. My grandmother used to call my father "Billy." I am not my father's mother, and have thus declined such privileges. When black people use the word "nigger" they are invoking an experience that white people aren't really a part of.
Again, this is fairly ordinary with humans. I have no desire to address my white friends as rednecks or poor white trash no matter how many times they use it. Nor do I need to call Barney Frank a queer because someone with an experience wholly different than mine finds claiming the term empowering. My wife and her female friends will throw around the word bitch. I make it a policy to not join in. I have two Jewish friends who once joked that I would "make a good Jew." I have not taken that as license to refer to myself as such. It's their joke—a funny one, no less. But it isn't mine. Nor does it need to be.
I don't disagree with Coates, but I don't feel good about what he has written because he uses too many words, too many arguments to make a point that is/ought to be obvious. Becase I know that Paul Eluard was right when he asserted that les mots ne mentent pas (words don't lie), I think that the word N***r exists and still have a powerful meaning in America because what Coates says doesn't matter for America is a race nation, which essentially believes that color is primordial. Because I'm not a race woman, that bugs me, not to tell truth it inferiates me.
Words to munch on this weekend from Belle Waring slamming the idea hat racism has nothing to do with normalcy :
If someone is “a racist” it is not because he is a like a Nazi with a uniform and everything, and pledges allegiance to the flag of racism, and goes around shouting “I hate Mexican people!” Well, to be fair, he might shout that if he were drunk and had smoked some of the cottonmouth killer, or were on MySpace. And those dudes in Stormfront exist. And racist skinheads too dumb to join Stormfront. Nonetheless, in ordinary speech one only means “hey, he said a thing that was racially prejudiced,” or “she told a racist joke,” or “he threw a crumpled-up beer can at that broke-ass African-American gentleman walking right beside the road (South Carolina doesn’t hold much truck with sidewalks) while shouting ‘f%cK you n1gger!,’” or “she collects these weird racist yam crate-labels from Louisiana in the ‘30s and I am not sure her motives are entirely pure.” (May God help me on this one, a collector sells them in Takoma Park at vintage fairs and sometimes I succumb. They’re so cool! She’s a 65-year-old Black lady, so she’s off the hook. OR IS SHE?!).
I agree with Waring. Nevertheless, I wish she wouldn't stop at the surface and question also the assumption that all racist acts are equal and that all racists are the worst people in the world. For example, Belle Waring asserts that for all of his 'nice' deeds and 'normal' life, George Zimmerman, the shooter of Trayvon Martin, is a racist. I wonder whether if he has to be a racist, to be guilty and also whether it is possible for him to be racist and not be guilty.
In short, is the racism of the shooter in this case the sole determinant of guilt? I don't think that it is.
Sugary excerpt of the month from Shelby Steele's article on Trayvon Martin:
In fact Trayvon's sad fate clearly sent a quiver of perverse happiness all across America's civil rights establishment, and throughout the mainstream media as well. His death was vindication of the "poetic truth" that these establishments live by. Poetic truth is like poetic license where one breaks grammatical rules for effect. Better to break the rule than lose the effect. Poetic truth lies just a little; it bends the actual truth in order to highlight what it believes is a larger and more important truth.
The civil rights community and the liberal media live by the poetic truth that America is still a reflexively racist society, and that this remains the great barrier to black equality. But this "truth" has a lot of lie in it. America has greatly evolved since the 1960s. There are no longer any respectable advocates of racial segregation. And blacks today are nine times more likely to be killed by other blacks than by whites.
If Trayvon Martin was a victim of white racism (hard to conceive since the shooter is apparently Hispanic), his murder would be an anomaly, not a commonplace. It would be a bizarre exception to the way so many young black males are murdered today. If there must be a generalization in all this—a call "to turn the moment into a movement"—it would have to be a movement against blacks who kill other blacks. The absurdity of Messrs. Jackson and Sharpton is that they want to make a movement out of an anomaly. Black teenagers today are afraid of other black teenagers, not whites.
So the idea that Trayvon Martin is today's Emmett Till, as the Rev. Jackson has said, suggests nothing less than a stubborn nostalgia for America's racist past. In that bygone era civil rights leaders and white liberals stood on the highest moral ground. They literally knew themselves—given their genuine longing to see racism overcome—as historically transformative people. If the world resisted them, as it surely did, it only made them larger than life.
I can't disagree with Shelby Steele (I don't even want to because I like him even when I disagree with him, he is often right on 'race' but almost always wrong on international politics issues ). In this case, I don't fully agree with him for I would nuance some of his assertions. That said, he is right on one essential point: the 'we shall overcome' narrative cripples America's present and future by making the past sacred, thus omnipotent and precisely impossible to overcome because it would mean taking responsibility and accepting that justice can't be absolute for freedom to be meaningful.
Interesting excerpt of the conversation between Robert Wright, whom I'm finding hard to resist, and Baratunde Thurston about race, racism and the media. It reminds me of the whole brouhaha about the 'native informer' concept which points to the fact that America, although it was never a colonial power in the normal sense of the word, did and still does have the colonial impulse to understand the barbarians in order to placate them when it listens to its conscience or to civilize them when it follows its Hobbesian instincts.
It isn't a race or racist thing, it is a power and domination struggle.
Toni Morrison on Language, Race and Republicans:
I used to think there was a Republican attitude and language that, although I vehemently disagreed with it because I thought it was fraudulent, it wasn't dumb. It made some sort of sense. If you really and truly think that the United States is free, and capital is free – none of that's true, but if you really believe it – you can develop an argument that's not embarrassing. But they don't do that any more. They use coded words. Did you see that the other day – Rick Santorum said 'the man in the Whitehouse is a government nig – uh?(...)He said he didn't say that! They used to say 'government nigger' when black people got jobs in the post office, stuff like that. And that's what he was saying. And earlier he said, 'I don't want to take your money and give it to bla – people.' He catches himself right at the vowel. Man. I guess it was worse in South Africa before Mandela, but I can't do it any more.(...)At some level, you know, it hurts. It really hurts.
Toni Morrison is never wrong, sometimes, she is just incomplete...
Sugary excerpt of the day from Mychal Denzel Smith about America and its pointless conversations about race:
A national conversation on race is pointless if we have to keep starting over. We won't settle the issue in a two-week span of op-eds, cable-news specials and one-off discussions with our favorite black pundits. Doing so requires constant engagement and active listening on the part of those who have benefited from centuries of racism. This isn't about being able to see the world through the eyes of the oppressed; rather, it's about paying attention when the oppressed tell their own stories and believing them. But privilege means never having to consider that anyone experiences the world differently from you.
It allows Jonah Goldberg to write in the Los Angeles Times that racism currently exists only in "pockets," Ann Coulter to compare calls for justice in Trayvon's death to a lynch mob and Pat Buchanan to refer to this situation as an "exacerbation of and the exploitation of racial conflict." To honestly believe any of these assertions requires cultural blindness and a deep misreading of history, one in which the lives of marginalized people do not exist unless they serve the self-aggrandizing agenda of the controlling group.
When racism exists only in the extreme in the dominant historical narrative and the public imagination, it's not difficult to understand why the conversation becomes stalled. We understand racism as the domain of slaveholders and violent segregationists, cross-burning members of the Ku Klux Klan and ignorant Southerners. Racists possess cold, black hearts and eyes that become engorged with blood and hate at the sight of skin that differs from their own. And they can be defeated only by the good-natured and colorblind folks who believe in one race: human.
Of course, that isn't true in the slightest. Racism doesn't require vicious hatred -- only passive acceptance of an idea of human hierarchy based on mostly arbitrary differences. It is internalized beliefs about the inferiority of one group that in turn grants power and privilege to another. Racism is not a battle of good vs. evil, of individual actors of a heroic or demonic nature determining the worth of people. It is a story of subjugation, exploitation, resistance and the messy complexities that make humanity so intriguing. We would know that if we bothered to study.
As I assert too often on this blog, the issue here is that 'race' in America isn't about 'race' and that America/Americans don't know how to have a conversation. Talking to one another instead at one another would involve listening to all viewpoints and actually accept the possibility of not winning the debate that would follow because of the increasing divide among Americans and their deculturation.
To put it bluntly, the one thing that the Trayvon Martin case and all America's conversations about race show is that America is still a prisoner of its history and that hysteria is necessary to nationalize any issue because of its brittle togetherness.
I would like to say that I agree with Nathalie Rothschild on this but I cannot:
The clamour to identify with Martin, to state publicly that you are on his side and to demand an investigation into the killing, shows just how unacceptable racism is today in America. And so it is curious that so many are still drawing parallels between today and the era of state-sanctioned and socially accepted discrimination and violence against blacks.
No doubt, there are still racists around, as evidenced by offensive posts about Martin online, including on the white supremacist website Stormfront. There is also a great deal of prejudice out there, as shown by attempts by right-wing bloggers to present Martin as a menace. But there is, thankfully, far less state-sanctioned discrimination against black people. Racism is not endemic. To claim, as several anti-racists have, that Zimmerman’s killing of Martin was a modern-day lynching is pure hyperbole. Beyond a few hate-spewing cranks, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who openly defends attacking black people because they are black. Today, the US has a president who can say of a boy like Trayvon Martin that, if he had a son, he would look like him.
I don't agree with Rothschild because in America, race isn't about race and racism and anti-racism are therefore meaningless notions to move the dialogue forward or to provide answer to the complex issue of justice.
Via Mister Fish:
Something is rotten in the state of America and Obama, I have to say it, isn't helping by making himself part of the story believing that he is America. There is a need in America when it comes to tragedies such as the one of Trayvon Martin for more than emotions, powerful assertions, or symbolism. There is for a fearless willingness to transgress the current morbid narrative to avoid justifying the unjustifiable and demanding absolute justice.
Before commenting on the Trayvon Martin case, I have decided to wait, learn more and meditate to avoid just feeling outrage. It isn't constructive and reinforces a narrative of powerlessness, which bugs me.
I agree with Ilya Somin on this:
No one has a special moral obligation to another person merely because they happen to share the same race or ethnicity.
It's rare, but I disagree with Glenn Loury and I have to admit that the way he phrases the issue galls me because it gives his viewpoint the appearance of reasonableness, when it is everything, but reasonable, although it isn't illegitimate.
For so many reasons this sugary excerpt from a Guardian piece on Maya Angelou bugs me:
Reflecting on that presidency, what did she expect? "I was hoping for the best. And I think I have gotten the best from him." What of his detractors? "Those are people who didn't see the morass into which he stepped."
He is America's president. But he also describes himself as America's first black president. That, says Angelou, speaking from her home in North Carolina, has had an extraordinary impact on black America. "His physical self, just being there, his photograph in the newspapers as president of the United States; that has done so much good for the spirit of the African American. We see more and more children wanting to be like President Obama, wanting to go to school."
Oh man am I glad I am not a race woman! I have to admit that the fragmentation of American society scares me almost as much as it irks me.
As always great stuff from Glenn Loury and John McWhorter. Didn't I make the point since the beginning that Herman Cain was a race man?
Ta-nehisi Coates on Conservatives, Herman Cain, and their reaction to his 'small' problem:
(...) conservatives don't really understand racism as a force in history, but as a political attack. Racism isn't something that you, say, discuss the Confederate flag. It's something you use to deflect an attack.
Coates isn't wrong, but he is iased and as always restricting a legitimate point of view to fit his ideology. It isn't just conservatives who use race to deflect a punch or rather to just attack, liberals do it too and very effectively. I cannot forget the fact tat Bill Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro became racists in the primaries of 2008. In short, race in America is mostly/almost solely about politics and ideology.
Sugary excerpt from Pankaj Mishra's critical, but fair piece on Niall Ferguson:
The banner of white supremacism has been more warily raised ever since in post-imperial Europe, and very rarely by mainstream politicians and writers. In the United States, racial anxieties have been couched either in such pseudo-scientific tracts about the inferiority of certain races as The Bell Curve, or in big alarmist theories like Samuel Huntington’s ‘clash of civilisations’. It’s not at all surprising that in his last book Huntington fretted about the destruction by Latino immigration of America’s national identity, which is apparently a construct of ‘Anglo-Protestant culture’. As power ostensibly shifts to the East, a counterpoise to dismay over the West’s loss of authority and influence is sought in a periodic ballyhooing of the ‘trans-Atlantic alliance’, as in Philip Bobbitt’s Terror and Consent (2008), which Niall Ferguson in an enthusiastic review claimed will ‘be read with pleasure by men of a certain age, class and education from Manhattan’s Upper East Side to London’s West End’.
I wish I could read Mishra's writings without reservations, but I cannot even though I like him as a writer. Oh well, it's always good to be aware of one's own prejudices.
Fallows finds Herman Cain likeable. I feel utterly embarrassed by him. It's not his politics -- I've never felt embarrassed by Condi Rice, Colin Powell, or Clarence Thomas. It's more akin to feeling I got when Jesse Jackson got caught claiming he wanted to cut Barack Obama's nuts off. Or watching Marion Barry attack black people for moving out of the city. There's a hucksterism there that transcends.
I agree that with the assessment that Cain is not a serious candidate for POTUS, but Coates's embarrassment makes me cringe because of what it shows about America, Americans, and identity politics.
To the contrary of Coates, I'm not embarrassed by Herman Cain because I do not/cannot identify with him. I don't think he represents me and more importantly, I do not feel that I have to delegitimate his point of view to show that he is wrong and that he is just a race man and wrong on the issues.
In short, I think the unseriousness of Herman Cain's candidacy doesn't mean that he is an embarrassment for he is just wrong. That fact makes very much like Obama for there is a lot to admire about him, but very little that shows that he would make a good POTUS unless you agree/identify with him
Another munchable quote from Ta-Nehisi Coates:
Mad Men, as I've said before, has taught me a lot about race -- even though there are virtually no black people on the show.
My smart-ass response is : may be it is because race is the best political fiction of all!
Words to munch on this weekend from Mitsuko Uchida:
For me, what counts is judging things on their merit. That’s why I am against positive discrimination for African-Americans. [In the US] every board has to bend over backwards to select African-Americans. It’s a fact – they really need to push it. Music schools and orchestras have to be seen to have them. If there are two people applying for a place, they take the African-American, even if the other is a little bit better. That’s reverse racism. I don’t go for colour, race or sex. I don’t give a damn. I’m not a feminist. If there is a heaven – I’m not a Christian – and if I arrive at the gate and they ask me what I am, all I will say is, ‘Musician.’”
I'm going to have to find out why Uchida's words don't offend me [even though they make me uncomfortable].
Cain is now the second African American Republican of late to brand the Democratic Party a plantation. Rep. Allen West (Fla.) said so during a Fox News interview in August. He also likened himself to Harriet Tubman. File that one under “delusions of grandeur.”
There are plenty of things to say about the Democratic Party and how it has let down people of color in general and blacks in particular. But invoking slave imagery is unnecessary. And it is especially galling coming from a member of a party whose policies and politics generally speaking haven’t been exactly welcoming to African Americans.
Is Capehart right? Yes, but Herman Cain isn't disgustingly wrong, he is just wrong and not playing racial politics in the expected way. I'm trying to say that Capeheart is slamming Cain solely for using racial politics to support the 'wrong policies' when he should be slamming him for being as much a race man as Cornel West and Harry Belafonte for they agree that race matters, but just disagree as to how and as to the consequences of what for them is an existential fact. Those three manly men have another thing in common: a huge ego who convinces them that anybody who kind of looks like them ought to think like them.
My problem with Cain is that he loves too much Hermain Cain and can't get out of his own way to see the big picture and to have empathy for those who in spite of their best efforts, not because of race or anything else, can't be Herman Cain. In short, Herman Cain is too Hobbsian for his own good and not really able to get past race because of his ego-centrism. I would love to be able to love Herman Cain for he almost has the right tune when it comes to affirming that individuality matters, but I cannot. He is too comfortable playing racial and identity politics instead of sticking to what matters. Cain takes too much pleasure in fighting perpetually old and passé rumbles in the jungle (it is a sign of a lack of imagination) and desacralizing an undivine and unsavory histoiry.
Another sugary excerpt , this time from Melissa Harris-Perry on Obama as the victim of the racism of people who not only didn't vote for him, but who voted for him, but are not disappointed:
The 2012 election may be a test of another form of electoral racism: the tendency of white liberals to hold African-American leaders to a higher standard than their white counterparts. If old-fashioned electoral racism is the absolute unwillingness to vote for a black candidate, then liberal electoral racism is the willingness to abandon a black candidate when he is just as competent as his white predecessors.
Plus ça change...Wasn't the argument in 2008 that Obama was the best thing since sliced bread and is it really racists to be disappointed and to feel that you voted for Jesus and that all you got is Lot, a decent ma who can neither change nor lead America, but can solely speak, dazzle, fizzle, disappoint, but survive.
Conclusion of John McWhorter's interesting article (I swear that I don't go looking for articles on Obama and race, they are just finding a way to me) advising Obama to become angry for America needs an Angry Black president:
Don't worry about people saying you're an Angry Black Man. For one thing, your supporters think Angry Black Men are prophets anyway. As for the other side, almost none of them will dare haul this out, just for fear of alienating the center with racially unsavory language of too obvious a nature.
And as for those who will -- and they will -- just own it. Again, the sky will not fall. After all, you are angry (I presume), and you're black, too. The country could use an Angry Black Man president just about now.
I have a lot of respect for John McWhorter, but his words make me uncomfortable they are racializing an issue that is already very polarized. Lastly, I have to admit that it's extremely tiresome to have too many Americans make race the essential element of Obamism (which partly confirms its vacuity) and to put on the shoulders of Obama all the frou -frou of an imagined and superficial blackness. What is alarming is that the fact that many Americans are advising Obama to play a role and to become someone else just shows that for them, race skin color trumps/kills/negate/obliterate individuality.
By the way, America doesn't need an angry black president, it just needs, as always, a good president.
Sugary excerpt from a Michael Moore's interview with the Financial Times :
“I was overcome with emotion, voting for [Barack Obama] on that day,” he says, suddenly looking down, jowls bulging under his chin’s pale stubble, arms folded as if hugging himself. “I think he’s a person of good heart and he means well, but ...” There is a long pause. “I thought he’d come in swinging ... come in like Franklin Roosevelt ... What an opportunity to go down as a great president – squandered.” He looks pained.
The Republicans “decided to treat him as the invisible president”, he adds bitterly, making sure I catch the reference to Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel about racial injustice.
What year are we again? Well, it's alarming to realize that Obama doesn't exist for too many people for they never take into account what he does since they are so certain that they know who he is or rather who he cannot be not matter what he does/says.
I wonder if Michael Moore realizes that fo him too Obama is an invisible president.