Monday, August 29, 2011

The Nature of the Beast

It started with a stupid decision.

There is no reason to watch the McLaughlin Group on a Friday night.
If you're seeking news, there are far more current and detailed sources of information. If you're seeking enlightened debate superior examples can be found elsewhere as well. And nobody is honestly looking for entertainment from the McLaughlin Group, at least no one with a fully functioning sense of boredom.

 But, there I was watching a half dozen curmudgeons argue about four-day old news that had already been hashed to death by talking heads with far more verve and roughly equal insight.

I've already admitted it was stupid.

As I wondered how the show had managed to survive the media blood-letting of recent years, the hosts skipped from discussing Obama's abruptly ended vacation, to speaking on Dr. Martin Luther King and the deferment of his now well-known dream. As is common, while the discussion pretended to be about America's failure to make good on the dream King died for, it quickly became something else. They trotted out the tired factoids about the wealth gap between blacks and whites, and then cut to the statistics about the differing rates of incarceration.
(By the way, that information was actually interesting mainly because it revealed that 5 percent of the black population is incarcerated compared to 1 percent of the white population. It's not the gap that's interesting, it's the fact that despite the dominant stereotype about rampant black crime, 95 percent of us are not doing time!)

Things were rolling along in a fairly predictable manner when the white-haired and bespectacled host-- McLaughlin I presume-- asked something like "Why are black people failing to succeed?" That is a paraphrase because the ensuing emotions that comment caused made it difficult for me to remember the exact quote, but it's a fairly accurate paraphrase.

After this ridiculous comment, the token black guy on the show, Clarence Page, began to try to explain why black people fail. He talked about society and personal responsibility, and even threw a bone to racism. It wasn't a bad answer, but in a way it was terrible.

See, in my opinion, any time a white person asks a question that is so obviously asinine, it cheapens black folks when we deign to answer it seriously. I'm not saying I haven't done this, I'm just saying that I was cheapening black folks when I did it. The correct answer to that ridiculous question was "Because they are Americans." After all, failure is not a special trait of black folks, and black failure or even pathology shouldn't be treated as some aberration but instead a shining example of our humanity. Human beings fail. That's what we do.

But, the host obviously believes that black people have some sort of monopoly, or at least an affinity with failure. It's drawn to us like flies to rotting meat, and clearly that means there must be something wrong with us. After all, if we haven't managed to start succeeding 40 years after Dr. King died, when exactly were we planning to start succeeding, right?

Of course this is idiotic, but these are the types of conversations way too many white folks have and that they think are insightful. This is what they talk about amongst themselves, this is why they get so huffy when the topic of Affirmative Action comes up, and it's why there is so much thinly veiled resentment towards black folks among white people of all ages. They really and truly believe that the problems of black people are unique to black people and caused by some sort of moral, intellectual or emotional deficiency that accompanies dark skin.

That's what white supremacy looks like. And it's all around you.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Winners and Losers

By most accounts, newly minted NFL quarterback Cam Newton is a winner.

He won a national championship at Auburn, secured an impressive NFL contract as the first pick in the draft, and is competing for a starting spot. I would imagine Charlie Sheen would say he's "Winning."

But, everything that sparkles ain't a diamond..

It appears that Newton's new employer notified him before he got drafted that tattoos, piercings and long hair weren't the way to go. He said this right after he hired a white player who has tattoos, long hair and piercings.


On a certain level, the demands make sense. Many businesses have formal and informal dress codes. Maintaining a job requires adherence to these guidelines. When your job pays you $24 million, it seems like a reasonable demand, correct? Hell most of us follow the dress code for far less than 1 percent of that type of money.

But, why would there be different rules for a black player and a white player. It would be easy to make a simple racial connection here, but that would be wrong. The racial connection is far more complex. Jeremy Shockey, the white tight end with the tats, piercings and hair, isn't allowed to have those things because he's white, he's allowed to have them because he plays tight end.

Cam Newton wasn't just drafted to play football, he was drafted to play the sport's glamour position: quarterback. He was drafted to be the new face of the franchise. As such, his black mug will be marketed all across Carolina to white fans with pockets deep enough to pony up for season tickets and gobs of merchandise. The bottom line is that the quarterback puts more butts in the seats than the tight end on most squads.

The concern over Newton's appearance is related to the fact that his face has to be sold to white folks, and many white folks don't want to get behind certain types of black people. They may tolerate dreads, tats and piercings, but they don't like them. They don't respect them. And if they have their druthers, they would rather support a black athlete who didn't have them. Or, better yet, a white athlete who doesn't have them.

The Panthers owner is aware of these feelings and shares them. He wants to keep those folks happy, so he's more than willing to allow their discrimination and bias to drive his actions. And for the most part, the rest of the sporting world will shake their heads, but agree that it's his right.

Just like folks agree that it is the right of businesses to serve who they want to served, or police to stop who they want to stop, or governments to fly the flags they want to fly. Way too many folks seem quite comfortable with bending their heads and saying "What can I do?" when faced with obvious instances of actions based on racial prejudice.

Seems like certain folks are just born to be losers.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Why Bother?

Black people can’t talk to white people about race anymore. There’s really nothing left to say. There are libraries full of books, interviews, essays, lectures, and symposia. If people want to learn about their own country and its history, it is not incumbent on black people to talk to them about it. It is not our responsibility to educate them about it. Plus whenever white people want to talk about race, they never want to talk about themselves. There needs to be discussion among people who think of themselves as white. They need to unpack that language, that history, that social position and see what it really offers them, and what it takes away from them. As James Baldwin said, “As long as you think that you are white, there is no hope for you.”

I feel like this many days. Even when I make a little progress in opening people's eyes, I'm always left with the thought that they could have just as easily done that themselves with a little effort.

But they aren't interested.

And it's not just white people, it's black people too. In the rush to assimilate, many black folks these days have decided to abandon in-depth examinations of race mainly because they don't see any benefits.. Others are ignorant of basic historical facts and resent people who present them with information that challenges their deeply held worldviews. So, while I'm calling out the white folks, Negroes are not getting a pass here.

But, y'all white folks are the ones holding all the cards. At least with most black folks, even if they aren't interested in race, they admit to some easily accepted facts. With way too many white folks it's like pulling teeth to get y'all to acknowledge truths that should be part of your basic education on America. Then again, "basic" is an interesting concept.

I was talking to a friend the other day and we agreed that one of the benefits of attending majority black schools is the vantage point from which American history is presented. When your teachers are black and your students are mainly black, certain issues become big deals that otherwise might get glossed over. For example, the 3/5ths compromise was a big deal in every history class I've ever had. And Abe Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was widely derided since it only freed those slaves he had no control over.

But, I would wager that for many white folks, those two factoids weren't considered key issues, nor were they something that stuck in their heads over time. While those things may have reminded black folks of the rampant hypocrisy in America's past and present, for white folks they were just answers on a test that were promptly forgotten. Basically, depending on who teaches you, the definition of "basic" changes drastically.

That can make racial discussions perilous. I often discover I'm operating from a totally different set of facts than a lot of white folks. And since we don't agree on the facts, we can't agree on the nuances.

That's the frustrating position many black folks find themselves in these days. We're asked either to allow racial ridiculousness pass unchallenged, or to engage in pointless debates where the burden of proof is ridiculously high, and the level of discourse is ridiculously low because few people have read the source material. It's a terrible, terrible cycle that often can make it simpler to just keep your mouth shut, mark people down on The List, and keep it moving.

Sometimes I just can't be bothered.


Friday, August 19, 2011

It Is What It Is

One of the first things that happens when the words "racist" or "racism" are introduced into a conversation involving white folks is an attempt to mind read.

By that, I mean that if I bring up racism or racists, it's pretty much guaranteed that some white person will speak to me about the dangers of trying to judge another man's heart. It doesn't matter what was just said or done, there is always some white person who bristles instantly at the idea that the situation is about racism. Take, Sen. Tom Coburn's recent comments for example.

Granted, the paraphrase job by the reporter from the Tulsa World wasn't the greatest. The story clearly lacked some context that would have provided more insight into where Coburn's comments came from and his overall mindset. Honestly, after I read the transcript, I no longer suspected that Coburn is a closeted member of the White Citizen's Council.

But I still thought he was a racist.

That would probably surprise the reporter from the Washington Post who wrote the column about Coburn's actual comments. (Actually, maybe it wouldn't since white folks always expect black people to call somebody racist and therefore rarely believe us despite the evidence.) The reporter from the Washington Post bent over backwards to try to provide a non-racist explanation for Coburn's comments, but there isn't one. It doesn't matter if he likes Obama as a person, or thinks that the president is just misguided. His entire worldview is built on the premise that African Americans have benefited from a "culture of dependency".

That's some racist crap.

I'm not sure how white people got confused, but clearly it happened. It seems that they took a wrong turn during Jim Crow, and forgot that the government programs that benefit the poor were first created for white people by white people, and only extended to black people after we paid taxes with no benefit for a long time. Moreover, they seem to have forgotten that the sort of "dependency" programs that President Obama would have benefited from, say Affirmative Action, were created because white people couldn't seem to follow the rules of the very meritocracy they love to tout now. We don't have Affirmative Action because black people couldn't survive without help, we have it because white people refused to even give black people a fair freaking shot.

Moreover, as one of my white colleagues pointed out, if ever there was a person who has proven that Affirmative Action doesn't necessarily lead to unqualified people getting jobs, it's this president. As much as George Bush was an indictment of the legacy system and generational wealth, Obama is the living and breathing proof that if black folks are given a legit shot, we can easily excel. To claim that Obama was raised on the teat of dependency despite all the evidence to the contrary is the act of a racist.



Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Help Wanted

Just saw that A Tribe Called Quest movie this weekend.

It was a cool joint. Decent exploration of the group's formation and demise with some stuff that made you ask questions about the nature of friendship, love and black maleness. I would recommend even if you weren't a big Tribe fan, which I wasn't, because it's cool even to newbies.

As I was leaving the Tribe movie, another joint was letting out. Yep, "The Help" the famously infamous movie that tells the story of the Civil Rights era in Mississippi through the eyes of a young white woman and the black domestic help she knew. The movie, which of course is based on a novel by the same name, has been lauded by some critics and lampooned by others, and it's been steadily raking in the money.

I have no desire to see The Help or read the novel. Some folks would say my unwillingness to consume the work makes any critique I provide invalid. I say they can stop reading now.

See, I don't need to read the book or see the movie to know the story. As soon as I learned that it was the story of black domestics told through the eyes of a young white woman who cared about them, I knew the story. It was Blood Diamonds in Jackson. Or Bagger Vance without the golf clubs. Dangerous Minds without high school. Another tale of how kindness and love shown to white folks, or shown by white folks, makes the world a better place. The coloreds are just the ever changing set pieces.

Some folks may find that cynical and simplistic. After all, I didn't see the movie, what do I know? I know that the director said this in a recent interview:

The scene where Viola Davis sitting on a toilet in a garage in 108 degrees, and then a white woman comes out and tells her to hurry up was visually brutal. To me that's worst than seeing a lynching. It just is."

That came after the director said that this wasn't the story of victims, and that it wasn't supposed to be historical, just a story. That bothers me. First, because black people were victims. Sure, we triumphed and fought, but we were victims. A terrible, terrible wrong was done to black people and we were victims. Many of us are still feeling the effects of being victims. To tell a story where you set out to avoid victims, or where you consider victimhood to be a sign of weakness, is the first sign that something is wrong.

Second, if you're telling a story, it should be rooted in truth. It doesn't have to be a rote retelling of the facts, but it needs to be rooted in accuracy or truth or else you're not telling a story, you're creating propaganda. That's what this movie is, in fact. It's racial propaganda seeking to absolve white people of the squeamish feelings they don't want to have. It helps justify their decisions not to think about plantation tours that don't feature slaves, or Nana and Paw Paw's role in facilitating Jim Crow. These false portrayals of the past are a soothing balm to their barely chafed spirits. And let's not even discuss how these tales distort the historical record since most Americans lack the knowledge base to understand that what they're watching is in no way true.

Lastly, there is no way a personal act of humiliation is worse than a lynching. NO WAY. To even make that comment shows a shocking, SHOCKING lack of understanding of what a lynching was. It wasn't just being strung up and forced to die in a way so brutal you were guaranteed to void your bowels. No, often it meant being tortured, castrated, jeered and mocked. It meant being denied due process in a land that you helped build. Far too often it meant paying the ultimate sacrifice just for daring to be human. There is no way being told to hurry up off the toilet could EVER compare and I doubt the black people of that time would have agreed with that sentiment.

The director, along with the author, both talk in glowing terms about the black women in their lives who helped mold them and shape them. They helped them become adults. But, these white folks refuse to understand that these black maids were not their family. They were their employees. They were in a subordinate position largely because of the racist economic system in place at the time, and they were forced to either find solace and joy in the crumbs of life offered to them, or go mad. These women may have genuinely developed feelings for their white charges, but they always, ALWAYS understood, at least the smart ones did, that they were employees. And when they were pawed at, humiliated and degraded, they continued to work because like all employees they needed the job.

Those are the types of salient facts that make a story real. But, real don't sell movie tickets. Nope, not at all.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Last Moments

Inspired by this story.

What's happening?

Why are they beating me? What do you little bastards want? Yeah, take that white boy!

Get off! Get off!

Where did they come from? What do they want?

Nigger? White Power?

Who are these kids? What the fuck is happening?

It hurts. My God it hurts. Please stop beating me. Please stop...

What did I do? Tell me please! What did I do?

I'm sorry. Just don't hurt me anymore. Just don't hurt me anymore. justdon'thurtmeanymore. hurtanymore. hurthurthurt.


I think they're gone. I heard car doors slam. They were laughing. They're gone. Please God let them be gone.

Must get up. Find help. Need help. Somebody please help.

A car. They will help. Please stop. Need help. Maybe if I wave a little...


Pain. So much pain.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Inspired by a True Picture

 She's smiling at me.

I can't believe she's smiling at me. I told those uneducated idiots who questioned her feelings about black people that she had our best interests at heart, but they scoffed at me. Now, she's smiling at me.

And it's a real smile. Not like those patronizing smirks Democrats use as they enslave my people with the twin shackles of welfare and low expectations.

Who would want to improve their plight if they are given free food, housing and money every month? What's the incentive to get a real job and become captains of industry if all of your most basic needs are met simply by breathing? That's how they trap black people. They trap them with handouts, and false claims of equality. There can be no equality without a chance to find your own bootstraps.

Liberals don't care about righting wrongs. Their white guilt is not a real emotion, just a fill-in. They use their affirmative action and welfare to keep us inferior. It's not about schools or poverty; I was poor. I know what it's like to eat Wish Sandwiches, and walk miles on dirt roads to get to a ramshackle classroom. I know what it's like to be insulted, demeaned and abused for attempting to read a book.

And not by white folks, but by my own people. It wasn't "The Man" who refused my shy attempts at dating because I didn't have the nicest clothes, or a new car. I couldn't afford those things because the money from my job went into a savings account for my college education because I knew that this day would come. I knew that the future held more for me then factory jobs and common law wives. I knew I would not be trapped in a poor excuse for e neighborhood surrounded by black and brown faces sweating and straining five days a week only to get drunk Saturday night and pray to some invisible God on Sunday morning.

I knew better.

That's why she's smiling at me. She seems that sacrifice. She sees those jeers. She recognizes that I'm different, that's I've thrown off the mental shackles that confine so many like me. She knows that I've been educated, that I'm special, that I deserve her acceptance and appreciation. She seems that I'm worth something. I'm not voting bloc. I'm an individual.

Look at how she leans close to me. Notice how wide her smile has become. How could she be a racist when she's so comfortable with me? How could she hate black people when she so obviously loves me?

She will be my president. Those who doubt her worth are wrong. She cares. She cares about me most of all.

And it's not because I'm black.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Where TALA meets reality

I wasn't going to discuss this whole flap about black babies being happier in slavery, but well, I haven't posted something in a while.

As the article states, this isn't just about the fact that conservatives and others have a disturbing misunderstanding about how slavery actually worked. That's actually not surprising since most white folks actively avoid reading any book that deals with this country's past racism against black people, and do their best to scrub the books they're forced to read of any such references. See the recent flap over Huck Finn and the word "nigger" for more proof.

But, as the author notes, it's the more serious attempt to "soften" this country's past that is bothersome. Not just because a failure to accurately relate the past makes it much more difficult to fight against the lingering effects of that injustice, but because it provides handy dandy protection for modern racism.

See, black folks know what's up. At least most of us do. We know when white folks talk about taking their country back, or state's rights, or reverse racism that what they are really saying is that they are tired of all these rules preventing them from keeping niggers in line and they want to be freed of these recent shackles. We know that while the attacks on President Obama may have some policy roots, they are also clearly connected to his race and the fact that many white folks can't stand to have a black man as the president. Period.

But, what white folks know is that if they can provide just enough camoflauge for their racism, if they can muddy the waters even slightly, then their fellow white folks will leap through hoops to protect them from accusations of bigotry. By distorting history, they provide the cover for spreading bigotry and discrimination today. It's devious.

It's also just another symptom of what I like to call TALA, or Taking A Loss Aversion. In the black vernacular, you "take a loss" when you readily accept the negative consequences of your actions because you understand that your actions were wrong, stupid or crass. It's a certain stoicism that is hard for many people to develop, but it is essential, in my opinion, to the development of good character.

Way too many white people develop TALA when it comes to this country's racial history. I just read this article about a white guy who has argued that the genocide against Native Americans was perfectly justified because indigenous people were "morally disqualified" from having this country. When white people took the land from the Indians, their argument was that Native Americans weren't using it right, and they were being selfish because they had more than they needed. Yes, I'm being completely serious.

Hell, most black folks have heard a variety of arguments about slavery and Jim Crow that shift the blame for these horrendous periods in American history away from white folks, and often on to the victims. Who hasn't heard the argument that black folks are better off here than in Africa? (This argument tends to ignore the reality that white folks effed up Africa too.) When white folks were actively enslaving black people a popular argument was that we lacked the ability to function on our own so we forced them to put us in chains.

Sadly, these arguments are all examples of TALA. Instead of just stepping up and admitting they and their ancestors were wrong, and dealing with the consequences, white folks have worked as hard as they can to shift and minimize blame. Their TALA is so severe that they are forced to invent the most ludicrous explanations and rationalizations for the past, to the point that they look like raving idiots.

Normally, this sort of illness would just be cause for pity, but seeing as how white people still control most of the resources in the country, wield most of the political power and are entrenched in those positions for the foreseeable future, it's a serious concern.

Their TALA is messing with my life, and it's probably messing with yours.


Raving Black Lunatic