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)
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!
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 !
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.
Words I munched on all weekend from Norm Gerras:
Racist incidents are, indeed, not just a matter of what is intended, as I have argued many times on this blog. But neither is the 'perception of other people' an adequate criterion. If it were, anyone could claim any word or gesture to be racist and that would settle the issue of whether it was. You could not have a flimsy or unfounded accusation of racism. There has to be some basis in the history and symbolism of the particular racism being alleged - whether anti-black, anti-Jewish, anti-Romani, anti-Chinese, or whatever - linking the incident or utterance in question with that 'tradition' of racial prejudice and persecution.
Gerras' definition makes me feel uneasy because history and traditions (or rather precisely perceptions and interpretations of them) can be and are often wrong/problematic.
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.
From Duleep Allirajah over at Spiked on the fight against racism in English football:
Racist speech is, in other words, a modern taboo. It is no longer seen as the expression of a political ideology but as something more akin to a sin. Anti-racism, by the same token, is no longer a political project but an inquisition against racial name-calling.
Hum, something is rotten in the State of Denmark...I suspect that it is the fact that modern societies are too eager to abdicate the responsibility that they have in educating their members rather than to criminalize all of their shortcomings whether or not they become criminal acts.
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.
Words to munch this weekend from Duleep Allirajah over at Spiked :
Anti-racism during the 1970s and 80s in Britain was primarily a political struggle aimed at powerful institutions – the police, the government and the immigration authorities. The problems faced by immigrants in Britain – deportations, passport checks, police harassment, employment discrimination - required social and political change. But, over the course of the past three decades, the definitions of racism and anti-racism have been altered beyond all recognition. The first big shift was the rise of multiculturalism in the 1980s. The multiculturalist policies of the ‘municipal socialists’ in local authorities turned a political issue into a cultural problem. Instead of demanding integration, as the US civil-right movement had done in the Sixties, multiculturalists demanded respect for different cultural identities. It was here, in the multiculturalist obsession with language and cultural sensitivity, that today’s tyranny of racial etiquette was born.
The second key shift was the 1999 Macpherson Report on the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence. Macpherson introduced the concept of ‘unwitting racism’, which recast racism as a psychological problem. Racism was now effectively a thought crime. As a consequence, anti-racism today is predominantly about gagging, censoring and punishing. It’s a policing issue, not a demand for equality.
My 'shot from the hip' reaction is that Allirajah is at least partly right, but even that means that there is something wrong with societies that persecute people for what the are thinking. The question that I keep asking myself is whether racism is racism is racism.
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.
This from Elliot Ross disturbs me:
Our governments, our multinational corporations, and even our society collectively have been making identical gestures for a long time. If we can’t rid ourselves of our deeply embedded and carefully structured racism, we can at least convince ourselves that our giving to an undifferentiated entity described in the vaguest terms as “charity” and “Africa” somehow renders our racism absurd, at least to us, and so allows us to construct a defence, however flimsy, against internal suspicions of racism. This is combined with the scrupulous application of a public and legal definition of racism and racist practice that is exclusively concerned with delimiting and criminalising a narrow racist lexicon. This means that only a complete idiot would choose to deploy this vocabulary and thus make themselves vulnerable to accusations of racism. With some ingenuity, we Brits have managed to concoct for ourselves a notion of racism that allows us to feel more virtuous and less racist than ever.
Come on Elliot, mon frère, let it go! We are in 2012 not in 1962 and the times, they are changing, no they have changed. The trouble isn't that the notion of racism has been so narrowed that a checkbook can serve as proof of non-racism, but rather that virtue is as tied to racism as it is to charity.
At some point, societies/people are going to have to come to terms with the reality that there can't be any citizen with clean souls (that for that matter people's souls are private matters) and that thinking the bad and doing the bad are two very distinct things.
Brendan O'Neill's interesting take on Euro 2012 and the popular meme that both Poland and Ukraine are essentially racist countries:
What the great Ukraine racism panic reveals is the extent to which official anti-racism has replaced racism as the means through which the elite asserts its authority over allegedly backward peoples. Where once the ideology of racism was used to depict Slavs as inferior, now the ideology of ‘anti-racism’ is used to do something frighteningly similar. The only difference is that where earlier generations of Western elitists argued that Slavs were racially inferior, today’s elitists claim they are culturally inferior, that there is an endemic cultural problem rather than a hereditary problem. Yet all that this reveals is that, in an era when racial thinking has been well and truly discredited, talk of problematic ‘cultural traits’ has replaced talk of backward ‘racial traits’ as the preferred method of asserting one’s moral authority over strange, uneducated tribes Over There. Today, weirdly, a people like the Ukrainians is branded inferior not because of its racial traits but because of its alleged racialist thinking.(...)One possible end result of this relentless cultural assault on Eastern Europeans, the depiction of them as racist lowlifes and savages, is that they will respond in kind, kicking against their Western haters by causing some trouble for Euro 2012.
I don't disagree with O'Neill for too often or rater usually it assumed that racism and other forms of bigotry have to do solely with ignorance and stupidity when it doesn't and when experience sows that it is possible to be cultured and bigoted and to be an anti-racist/non racist and stupid or ignorant. It is too easy to blame culture or rather inculture and stupidity for racism because it simplifies the issue by making it being one of morality, of good vs. evil when the reality is more complex which explains why prejudices and stereotypes can survive erudition.
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.
Jeremy Harding describes a scene of Sarkozy's last big meeting before Sunday's vote:
‘You’re 200,000!’ Sarkozy announced triumphantly, before he laid into the opposition’s preference for the red flag over the tricolore, quoted from Lamartine and promised a new kind of entrepreneurial capitalism to replace ‘finance capitalism’, but he’s been saying that for a while.
A spat erupted just in front of me and a woman fought her way to the edge of the crowd in tears, her hands pressed either side of her hijab. ‘I’m French after all,’ she shouted. Someone in the crowd had thrown a racist insult. ‘This is why France will never lift itself up,’ she said, shaking with rage. Moments later a poor white family – too poor for this rally in a slick part of town – were being questioned by the police.
I'm afraid that the divisive identity politics, which focuses on the idea that immigration is a threat to 'French identity' is here to stay. Sarkozy has americanized French politics by shifting its focus from deeds, gravitas and grandeur to being and nothingness,
The Economist's Élysée blog asks and answers the question of whether 18% of the French are racist because they voted for the extremist right candidate Marine Le Pen for president:
All this to say that it is too simplistic to see Ms Le Pen’s score as a mere manifestation of French racism. Nor is it simply a protest against the system. People like her, and are not afraid to say so, in a way that few were about her father. Her electoral success reflects, rather, a mix of disappointment with Mr Sarkozy, despair at the level of joblessness, bewilderment in the face of globalisation, frustration at the impotence of Europe, and disillusion with the political class.
I concur, but I wonder if the same point could be easily made about American Tea Partiers. Somehow I doubt it, which is sad because asserting that people are racist solely because of their politics pollutes all conversation and of course infects the political debate.
That said, ignorance isn't a political opinion.
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...
Thought-provoking stuff from John Holbo:
The appeal of banging on and on about anti-white racism (anti-anti-racism), even though it’s obviously silly to suppose it’s a gulag-grade social problem that is in some ways worse than old-fashioned racism ever was, is that it is akin to an expression of white racism. Historically, expressions of white racism have gradually morphed into expressions of anti-anti-racism, as it became less and less socially acceptable to express white racism openly. Republicans stand in steady need of rhetorical forms that are akin to expressions of white racism, but that afford plausible deniability against charges of racism. Thus: anti-anti-racism. But plausible deniability requires that you get in and out in a hurry.
Few thoughts on the fly, meaning that I haven't had the time to munch: first, I wonder if racism is the worst offense in America and elsewhere and if all racist acts/thoughts are equal. Lastly, what does 'white' mean in America and elsewhere?
I'm uncomfortable with what the increasingly fanatical hunt for racism/racists that exists in America and elsewhere and the temptation that it creates to push back by defending stupidity and the rationalization/divinization of inhumanity.
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.
I'm going to be munching on this sugary excerpt from Rob Marchant this week-end:
[...]something lies deep in the psyche of the European left, which still, despite all logical evidence to the contrary, wants to see these jihadists in Iraq, the Arabian peninsula or Palestine in some degree as freedom fighters. Sticking it to the man: the man in question being the West, the Establishment, the US.
It is a dangerous fantasy, and one which ultimately puts in jeopardy everything we believe in, because those outside our narrow political club do not see things the same way. The disturbing thing is that we can’t see that this kind of coincidence, of a bunch of Jewish-related news stories since the start of the year in the national press, in a country where we’re talking about a tiny proportion of the population. It wasn’t happening ten years ago, or even five. We can’t see that anti-Semitism is back on the agenda in a big way, as I wrote in the New Statesman back in October, and the left is ignoring it.
Marchant isn't wrong but I think it is necessary to enlarge the picture to view all the trees.
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.
For all the public statements over the past few days on the need for national unity, France remains a deeply racist country. The threat of Muslim terror has allowed the French to transfer their resentments away from the Jewish population to the Arab one, and to feel the better for it. But the sentiments are exactly the same and made only the worse by rising unemployment and slowing growth.
I disagree with Hamilton because his assertion is as easy as it is stupid. It is always dumb to characterize a country as racist based on the traits of some of its citizens because that would make it possible to argue that Britain is anti-French and that America is an ignorant country. The point is that Hamilton makes critical mistakes because he doesn't know the context and is emboldened to make grand, empty, and mistaken statements by his complex of superiority undoubtedly created by his certainty to be right ad to come from a better/purer country; that might just be called racism for people who are Hamilton is eager to condemn with knowledge and too much self-sastisfying zeal.
This bit from Jack C. Chow arguing that a President Rick Santorum would be good for 'Africa' is as offensive as it is narrow-minded:
Alone among his rivals, Santorum has staked out global health as one of his preferred instruments of asserting American power abroad. He is the only Republican candidate to declare he wants to "keep and expand" Bush's humanitarian aid push in Africa. In contrast, Mitt Romney is "very reluctant to borrow lots more money to be able to do wonderful things" if other countries and groups do not contribute more; Newt Gingrich has called for government-run foreign aid to be replaced with private incentives; and Ron Paul, a physician, has asserted that "all the foreign aid in the world will not transform Africa into a thriving, healthy continent." [...]His record so far is promising. [...]He has couched aid programs as "one of our best international investments" and credited humanitarian aid and fighting AIDS as critical to winning "hearts and minds" in competing against the influence of "China and Islam" in Africa. "We have done more good for America in Africa and in the Third World by the things that we've done," he said at the Nov. 22 debate. "And we have saved money and saved military deployments by wisely spending that money not on our enemies but on folks who can and will be our friends." His reasoning echoes the arguments asserted by the late diplomat Richard Holbrooke about saving Africa from a demographic cataclysm caused by HIV/AIDS.
Chow's argument is offensive for two reasons. The first is that he makes the ignorant presumption that African countries are all the same and therefore that their sole priority is to battle Aids. The second reason is that Chow obviously believes that charity is what African countries need most from America is aid or rather charity.
Thus, arguing that President Rick Santorum would be good for "Africa" is as condescending as it is paternalist because it reduces very different countries to a single aspect Aids while asserting ideologically that they need to be saved by an American president who will believe that it is his religious duty to do so.
Ultimately for many black artists the “politics of respectability” is simply tiring and defeating; Poiter’s retreat from acting in the late 1970s was as much about the lack of quality scripts as it was a rejection of having to always represent the race. It was the same trap faced by Poiter’s once and future heir-apparent Denzel Washington. With seminal black heroic figures such as Steven Biko, Malcolm X, Rubin Carter and high school football coach Herman Boone in his rearview, Washington has sought to play less than respectable characters in his movies. When pressed about those choices and his responsibilities after the release of “American Gangster,” in which he portrayed legendary Harlem drug lord Frank Lucas, he told Men’s Vogue, ”It’s not about the black experience. It’s more specific and selfish than that. It’s what I feel like doing, not what I feel like people need.” Though some have griped about Washington’s late career choices — including Smiley — he is allowed to be seen simply as a black artist, who brings depth to whatever role he plays.
Such courtesies are rarely extended to black actresses, who as an extension of the roles that black women often play in black communities, are expected to carry the “blood-stained banner” for the uplift of the race, even at the expense of their artistry. This was the point that Davis made as she responded to Smiley’s concerns with the assertion that such critiques are “absolutely destroying the black artist. The black artist cannot live in a place – in a revisionist place – the black artist can only tell the truth about humanity and humanity is messy, people are messy.”
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.
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.
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.
I have a problem with Bill Benzon's post on Chinua Achebe and Joseph Conrad at the Valve in which he compares them to Ike Turner and Sam Philips and finishes by suggesting that the solution is to get beyond the boundaries of language. Sugary excerpt:
The point of this exercise, no, this demonstration, is that language and its reasonings and arguments cannot, in principle, encompass everything. That life itself is greater than language goes without saying – or does it? What matters is how we conduct ourselves around and about, in the shadow of, language.
Because I believe as Eluard that les mots ne mentent pas, I have a problem with what Benzon is demonstrating. The attempt should never be to get beyond the boundaries of language, but to acknowledge them and to break them down.
I know I promise to stop bashing constantly Obama (I believe that I'm doing it rationally and analytically), but I believe that his 2008 campaign showed that Benzon is wrong and that America's problem with race isn't about its people not being able to get along, but rather about their need to believe that race is all encompassing and that it is about something grand, when it is about petty stuff and about that itch that Benzon seems to have to want Achebe and Conrad get along. It is far too obvious that Achebe didn't want to get along with Conrad, but needed to punch him in the gut to affirm his own existence and to define in his own terms what it meant or rather didn't mean to be 'african' (my contention is that it doesn't mean anything for Achebe has much more in common with Joseph Conrad than he does with Ferdinand Oyono).
In short, my point to Benzon, to America, and to Americans is get over it already! Race isn't about race and instead of obsessing about getting along or pretending that you want to or that you do get out your own way and stop being so self-involved!
Interesting stuff from Jesse Bering, but I'm just wondering why I have become numb to issues of race or at leas to the unintellectual and stupid way that they are usually presented and discussed :
When it comes to skin color and the societal friction that characterizes race relations, the most plausible evolutionary account is that we consciously or unconsciously exploit this surface cue as a way to rapidly demarcate ingroup and outgroup members. It is abundantly clear that, since time immemorial, human societies have waged wars and been in conflict with other neighboring groups competing for the same limited resources. In the ancestral past, even the slightest physical, behavioral, or linguistic difference between camps would have served as a heuristic to help determine who was “one of us” and who was “one of them.” Again, evolutionarily, people of different skin colors would not have come into contact in the same geographic space (the divergent evolution of melanin-producing cells between human populations meant that, for the vast majority of our ancestral history, our ancestors would have never seen or known of another person with a skin color dramatically different from their own), other signals included accents and dialects, customs, gaits, fashion styles, and so on. In Northern Ireland, racism is subtly exuded by people trying to suss out the Protestant versus Catholic countenance of surnames, neighborhoods, word pronunciations, and facial features. One of the most startling pieces of evidence demonstrating the innateness of ingroup favoritism, reported a few years ago by psychologist Katherine Kinzler of the University of Chicago, is that, regardless of their nationality, ten-month-old infants actually shun adult playmates with foreign accents and prefer to interact with native speakers.
So it’s only in recent centuries, when the human animal found itself rather suddenly face-to-face with those of an entirely different hue, that this especially salient cue triggered our species’ more general pre-existing mechanism for ingroup- and outgroup-member demarcation. Being “color blind” is a beautiful idea, but unfortunately our retinas are sensitive to light of different wavelengths, and our visual systems cannot help but to process the color of people’s skin.
I agree with Roger Ebert on this:
Anyone offended by the use of that word the way it is used in Huckleberry Finn cannot read and possibly cannot think.
The word is spoken by an illiterate 11-year-old runaway on the Mississippi River of the mid-19th Century. He has been schooled by his society to regard the runaway slave Jim as a Nigger and a thief. Jim's crime: Stealing himself from his owner. Huck reasons his way out of ignorant racism and into enlightenment and grace. He makes that journey far in advance of many of his "educated" contemporaries. Part of reading the novel is learning to be alert about how the N-Word is used in that process.
In an outbreak of mealy-minded Political Correctness, an edition of Huckleberry Finn has now been published which meticulously replaces the word nigger with the word slave. The argument is often put forward that a young reader might be traumatized by finding a word in a 19th century novel that he hears a hundred times a day. If I were that young reader, I would be more disturbed by the notion that I was incapable of learning how and why it was used.
One of my favorite Eluard's quotes is, 'les mots ne mentent pas' (words don't lie). Nowadays, people have this childish notion that words are the problem when it is quite obvious that they are not. I'm wondering how did the apparent consensus that cleaning up language was the way to cleansing a society started and why too many believe that cleanliness is the surest way to Godliness as if people had to stop being imperfect. Is accepting that people are bad and can have disgusting thoughts and beliefs about one another really that unacceptable nowadays ? The answer seems to be yes, and it is a further proof of intelligence or rather common sense as Thomas Paine would say has lost a lot of ground .
Why is it that cab drivers–who are sometimes they themselves Black–still refuse to pick up Black people on a Saturday night?
Here are some of the reasons I’ve heard from other people when I’ve posed the question:
1.-the fear that Black people won’t have the money for a cab.
2.-not wanting to go into a “bad” (read: Black) neighborhood.
3.-the overwhelming belief that White people give really huge tips.
Maybe I shouldn’t be so shocked that this kind of thing still happens but I am surprised because I’m not sure where it comes from. It should be so hard for two black girls to find a cab that we’re forced to go the other side of town to find one.
One word on the neighborhood issue: Overwhelmingly, it turns out that a lot of White people are going to the exact same destinations as Black people when it’s time to go home–especially in the advent of gentrification. So that can’t be it.
Or is it?
Insignificant disclosure: I just spent a few days in a land here most people are black and it was difficult to get a cab if you weren't well dressed or didn't look you are supposed to look when you have money. My point isn't that racism doesn't exist, but that it isn't extraordinary for it is about social prejudices and stereotypes.
Sugary excerpt of the day from Anjad Khan:
Essentially, Islamists have been successful in the UK where they have failed elsewhere. They have duped the establishment into thinking that they represent Muslims and Islam, all the while using that as a guise to promote divisive and potentially explosive identity politics. Their job has, of course, been made easier by soft deluded “liberal” multiculturalists who are in fact guilty of the racism of lower expectation and who don’t apply universal norms to the ‘exotic’ others who we can’t expect to behave like us.
Prototypically, we associate a person charging racism with powerlessness. This is what is behind the good-thinking idea that black people can’t be racist by definition – they are only responding to what is dumped on them; they are the subalterns, as a certain terminology has it.
But West’s charge came from a position of, actually, rather awesome power. To call someone a racist today is only a notch or two less potent than calling them a pedophile. Racism may still be “out there,” but it is socially incorrect. It is whispered, hedged, released unintentionally amidst frustration. It is an embarrassment, disavowed even by racists.
Note, for example, that whatever you think of West’s antics, the natural response to his calling Bush a racist is a loaded kind of “Ooooooh,” with a downward intonational contour, signalling, roughly, “It’s on!” That means that we consider a charge like West’s potent, at least at first – it is a deft play. The accused now must defend himself – and probably cannot. “I’m not a racist” works generally about as well as saying some of your best friends are black.
Therefore, West had the power, and Bush being President lent him no complimentary power whatsoever. It’s late summer, 2005. Which person had more moral power in America? You have two choices. A: A white, swivel-tongued Republican fifty-something widely assumed to have been instated illegitimately, who had led the country into a deeply unpopular war going extremely badly. B: A charismatic twenty-something black rapper just recently risen to superstardom, cherished for rapping about serious issues. There is no contest.
The naked power of the racism charge makes something understandable that may have seemed a little off when it was announced – that Bush would call the West episode, of all things, the most disgusting point of his Presidency. Despite all of the stingingly awful revelations we endured during those eight years and all of the hideous things that were said about Bush daily during them, it does not surprise me in the least that the one that would actually hit home the most would be someone calling him a racist – and specifically, someone with the moral authority of a young black rap artist.
John McWhorter begs the essential question for he doesn't tell his readers whether the punishment for the conviction of or even simply the charge of racism in America ought to be a death sentence and therefore something that dooms one for life. I have always wondered where society was supposed to put its suspected and convicted racists. America is a country who believes so religiously in good and evil, in the notion that people are either good or bad cannot change their nature and therefore cannot be rehabilitated. This belief and its spiritual and moralist naturalism are hindering America's ability to become something more than a leviathan nation stuck in its past and whose archaic views on race, human nature and crime and punishment are infecting its society.
I stopped believing that racism was the worst of all its ills when I was forced, through the power of experience, to realize that people aren't the sum of their fears and their shortcomings and are actually able to overcome them. It is for that reason that I always feel unease with the orgasmic delectation that the American public takes in public shaming especially when the person shamed has no possibility for redemption and must her/his crucifixion. In short, I find it fascinating and not too surprising that the puritan nation is one, which enjoys crucifixions and believes in nonredeemable sins.
America is a nation that is waiting for Jesus Godot even though its history and a refined common sense ought to tell it that Godot is never going to come.
Salman Rushdie says the darnest things:
It's very strange being somebody of Indian or south Asian ethnicity in the US, because in some way we are excused American racism, which is mostly whites against African Americans … American racism is not aimed at people from India and Pakistan, you feel almost guilty about it.
I wonder what being 'African American' and 'racism' mean to Rushdie.
The sugary excerpt of the day is from Norman Geras on the attempts to define down anti-Semitism:
(...) there are people who, keen to deny the scope of the problem of anti-Semitism, want to limit it to overtly anti-Jewish hostility of mind. 'Since I don't have the hostility,' they will confidently assure their audience, 'how can anything I say or do be anti-Semitic?' Such people fail to explain why the assumption behind their rhetorical question doesn't apply to other forms of racism; or why they temporarily forget the insight which elsewhere they recognize quite freely - as Howard Jacobson has lately expressed it, that 'language has a mind of its own'.
One of my favorite Paul Eluard's quote is "les mots ne mentent pas (words don't lie)", however I have to say that I have come to wonder whether the trouble isn't so much in defining down anti-Semitism or any form of bigotry than in making the end of any discussion, when it seems that bigotry always requires explanations and cannot be washed away or even just condemned with the idea of good or bad faith or with the idea that it is the end of something when it is its beginning.
Sugary excerpt of the day from Thea Lim:
The idea that interracial relationships are anti-racist, and having a mixed race family will fix racism is not only naive; it may even go hand in hand with racial fetish. A few weeks ago I met a freshman college student – a good-looking black guy with a bright future – who told me that he doesn’t want to date black women because he has a thing for mixed race girls*, specifically ones that look like Alicia Keys. (So of course I emailed him CVT’s article about how mixed race people on the whole may actually *not* be that hot.) When I suggested that his racial dating preference was messed up, he said that the bad balanced out the good, because isn’t dating outside of your race a way to end racism? The more we mix up, he reasoned, the less there will be reason for people to hate.Please! Yuck! No. Date someone because you like them inside and out, not because a) you have a racial preference or b) you think that dating out will end racism when you have little beige babies. That’s just asking for parental trouble when your beige babies have their own consciousness and their own desires, and don’t want to be poster kids for your personal crusade. And anyways, racism is not truly about racial phenotypes; it’s a social campaign to assign power based on ethnocultural group. There will always be ways to demarcate ethnocultural group, even when people are “all mixed up.”
My reaction to this viewpoint is that the trouble with racial fetishism isn't the fetishism part of it, but the racial component of it. Lim can make all the points that she wants about race, but she cannot change the fact that the fetishism of race in the context on personal relationships exists because of its sacralization period. Fetishism always take on its most perverse and disturbing form when its object is perceived as capital, sacred or forbidden. Thus, the trouble here isn't that people involved in mixed relationships have a racial fetish for they would be having it about something other race if it wasn't such an artificially essential concept particularly in American society.
Quote of the afternoon from Norman Geras:
To deny that millions of Jews were done to death in Nazi-occupied Europe is an odious lie harmful to the interests and the well-being of Jews. Racism and other forms of prejudice can often be traced back to prior social or political causes; but that doesn't undo their racist character.
European-Americans, some more than others, and some little if at all, have used African-America as a means of discovering and acting out aspects of their own desires and needs which they cannot deal with directly. Such psychological maneuvering is quite common on an individual level. American culture has made such projection a part of its collective culture.
The assertion of the day from Cathy Young:
The endurance of racial stereotypes in this day and age is disturbing; but Tea Party supporters differ little in this regard from mainstream Americans.
Most of the times, when the charges of racism and of anti-racism are used within the political context, especially the American one, the intent is to shut down the debate by diabolizing the opposition in order to ignore their concerns. The point is that racism is America is no longer about racism, but about identity politics and ideology.
It is both ironic and distressing to compare what Mugabe said before his country's independence (exactly 30 years ago) when he was trying to get the support of the outside world in his fight for independence and what he started doing and saying when he lost grip of powers and realized that he his country's prosperity and its citizens' welfare only mattered if he was the state. To put things simply, racial politics are seldom based on sincerity and conviction, but solely based on greed, ambition , and fears. Thus, racial politics is solely about power and legitimating appalling ways to distribute or redistribute it. Mugabe became both a racialist and a racist politically when he realized that it was the only for him to keep Zimbabwe as his personal possession just as the Congo used to be King Leopold's machin. The point of this comparison is that there isn't much difference between a racialist like Mugabe and the leaders of the former Colonial countries. The tragedy for Zimbabwe and for many African countries is that their political leaders recolonized them by making the state their private thing.
Sugary excerpt of Adam Serwer's post on some 'conservatives's' questionable beliefs about Obama and his family history:
John Podheretz and Peter Wehner argue that whether or not Obama's mother slept with men who weren't white is incidental to the fact that Obama hates America, but Michael Ledeen thinks it's a valid subject for discussion:The character of our president is an important matter. I think both John and David have tried to illuminate it, but I wish John had taken more time with his latest tirade, gotten the facts right, and focused his considerable talent on the serious matters that rightly concern us.
Apparently being attracted to people outside of your own race reflects not just on the character of the parents, but on their children who have no choice in the matter. This kind of racial determinism seems like a lateral movement from the days when conservatives were debating whether or not interracial sex made you love communism. Again, there's a sort of mystical power accorded the phalluses of nonwhite men here that begs some serious psychological analysis from a qualified professional.
Why don't black people vote Republican again?
I'm amazed by Serwer's last question. He implies that it is an abomination for any people with dark skin to vote for republicans because they ought to be single issue voters and solely focus on race to the detriment of economics and any other thing that they believe because race is the only important political issue, the one who defines them and ought to determine their politics. If that isn't racial determinism, I don't know what is. I'm not addressing the views Sewer are excoriating because it isn't just some conservatives who feel that Obama is different because of his background, many liberals and Americans share that perception except that for them it is a positive difference. In my view, it isn't a meaningless different for Obama is as American as George W. Bush. It is thus hypocritical for Serwer to argue that 'conservatives' are the only people who believe that race is all defining and that one is her/his color of skin. In short, Serwer is in fact legitimizing the vision of race that appalls him, racial determinism by making the point implicitly that people shouldn't vote for people who don't share their views of race. As the Church Lady in Dana Carvey's sketch would say, isn't that special !!!!
This video depicts, I'm afraid, a reality that ought to be expected when identity politics become the supreme form of politics and when race becomes supra-essential. How different is South Africa from the United States? Or rather would the United States be South Africa if the majority was impoverished since it too is racialized society
The students -- both African-American women in Cornell’s Africana Studies and Research Center who have asked that their identities not be made public -- got to the event, at the University of Rochester, late. But they still didn’t expect that after their professor, Grant Farred, thanked them for making the unfamiliar two-hour drive, he’d briefly pause and then add, “When you came in, I thought, ‘Who are these black bitches?’ ”
Yet, that was the response they say they got from Farred, a professor of Africana studies and English. And, in the more than two months since the alleged incident on Friday, Feb. 5, the students and others contend, the Africana center and the university more broadly have failed to foster a public dialogue on the incident and to address deeper tensions involving the center and its role on campus.
I thought that universities such as Cornell and the University of Rochester were supposed to be liberal places and that liberals couldn't be racists. To make more than a cheap point, it think the incident show s again that race and racism in American is not longer essentially about color, but about something else, which makes the issue ideological, political and unsavory much like the one of autochtony in African and European countries. Of course, it is important to point out that I'm assuming that the story is true. I'm betting in case that the Professor of Africana studies thought that he was being funny and hip which is more telling.