Wednesday, June 4, 2008

get used to blackness

[UPDATE: I no longer stand by what this post says. I wrote it in a moment of jubilation over Barack Obama's primary victory over Hillary Clinton. Although I do still think that Obama has had to restrain signifiers of his racial status, I also now think that, as some readers suggested in comments, what I've written here figures "blackness" in some objectionable and trivializing ways. My thanks to these readers, and my apologies to anyone who has found this post offensive. --Macon D]





I want to write about Obama's primary victory (finally!), and in a very specific way. I've written before about Obama's whiteness, but what about his blackness? How black is he? How black does he act, and how black CAN he act, if he hopes to win the biggest prize on earth? Will white America get used to his blackness, or will he always have to restrain markers of it aside from his skin color?

First, please bear with a bit of background explanation.

As I said in yesterday's post, white people don't usually spend significant amounts of time with black people, so they tend to perceive them in terms of stereotypes instead of as individuals. I also think they tend to do so no matter how colorblind they claim to be.

However, when white people are around black people more often, they tend to get used to them, as people who emerge beyond stereotypes to become individuals. At the same time, white people also get used to other common projections of blackness that emanate from many black people. Black people are individuals, of course, and should be treated as such, just as white people treat other white people as individuals. However, black people are also members of a group, and they often absorb modes of thought, belief, attitude, and behavior that are similar to those of other members of the group. These more genuine, group-based commonalities are different from mere, pernicious stereotypes.

And of course, this is true of white people too--just as black people have certain common modes of expression, language, bodily movements, and so on, so do white people. Again, not all whites nor all blacks project these common modes of expression, but many do.

Something else I wrote awhile back was that white people tend to restrain themselves. I meant to describe a specifically white history of bodily, emotional, and vocal restraint, and I didn't mean that other groups don't encourage restraint among themselves in their own ways--collective human life always requires various modes of restraint on the part of any community's members.

For instance, non-white people who interact in largely white settings or appear in public often restrain modes of behavior that would further mark them as different. I don't know what modes of black expression Barack and Michelle Obama are used to using in private, but they certainly must feel a need to check themselves in public.

In this wonderful moment, for instance, which is appearing all over the Internet today, the Obamas find a way to express a celebratory affection for each other that's definitely black. But also, I think, more restrained than what almost happened. It looks to me like Michelle is about to give Barack a high-five, but then he goes for the more restrained fist-bump, or dap, instead:




For white people, self-consciousness while in the spotlight, and subsequent behavioral modification, almost never occur in terms of race (unless, perhaps, a white person is speaking before a a non-white audience). White individuals don't feel in such moments like they're representing white people, but black people usually do feel like they're representing black people. George Bush's continual gaffes and mangled English don't reflect on white people in general, but any by Barack Obama will (imagine what a hindrance it would be to Obama if he spoke as incorrectly as Bush so often does).

Who knows what these two happy people were thinking in this moment, but they knew they were in public, and they probably modified their behavior accordingly. And racial self-consciousness probably had something to do with that. Maybe Barack thought a high-five would register as too black, or too casual, or maybe he just prefers the dap, though that also registers as black, to most American observers. It's interesting that although a high-five could seem undignified, it's become so widespread that the more subdued dap comes across as more black. And thus, potentially, and wrongly, as undignified in another way. My understanding is that both gestures originated in urban African American culture, but the dap hasn't spread as widely into mainstream culture as the high-five has.

One problem that many have pointed out about Obama's candidacy is that if he wins, a lot of white people will see less reason than ever for things like race-based affirmative action. The presence of a black president would make it easier than ever (though also false) to say that racism is a tiny, minor hangover from the past, that "the playing field is level," and that institutional racism is just some intellectual fantasy.

That seems likely, but maybe something of the opposite will happen at the same time. Maybe white people will get more used to blackness, and to markers of it--things like black music, and black gestures, and black words and phrases and names. Today is a day to be especially hopeful, and these are among the things I'm hoping for.

Some white Americans love black culture, or what they think is black culture (especially corporate hip hop). But very few white Americans love to see black culture in their political leaders. Here's hoping that the ascendancy of Barack Obama will expand the confines of the traditional white male model for leadership, and that Hillary Clinton has expanded it in terms of gender as well.

Finally, here's one more especially black moment, performed by Barack Obama. And here's one more hope--that we see more such moments, and that they make white America love him even more, as he helps them get used to blackness.


50 comments:

  1. That seems likely, but maybe something of the opposite will happen at the same time. Maybe white people will get more used to blackness, and to markers of it--things like black music, and black gestures, and black words and phrases and names.

    When Oprah made it big, none of this happened. When typical white people talk about Oprah with respect to race, they use her as an example of a black millionaire to 'prove' that there are no economic obstacles for blacks and that America is not racist.

    You mentioned something similar already in the preceding paragraph, but one black person attaining a position of power does not make white people get used to black people. White people are not used to black people because whites are the most segregated racial group and the majority. At best, Obama will create a new 'positive stereotype' about black people, instead of solving the real problem, which is white people's need to think of black people in terms of stereotypes.

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  2. Gosh, Restructure, you're one mean ol' hope-dasher. ~_^

    In the stark, sober light of morning, though, I can see that although I hope the future proves you wrong, it'll probably prove you right.

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  3. I think it isn't a question of "white people have to get used to Black people". White's have always been exposed to Black people.
    And just another thought: White men have always been exposed to also white women, they have families with each other, relationships, children etc. but that doesn't stop white male superiority. It is not about getting 'used to' a specific group of people but to question one's own connection with humanity.
    It is not "them" (Black people) who are less than human but it is white people's disconnection from their own humanity. A Black president could be a chance for whites as a collective to explore their own response to what they consider up to now as human: Themselves.
    No Black person has to prove anything to whites. But whites have to finally prove that they are perhaps capable to respect the humanity of others. To realize that "Black demands" and "Black anger" are legitimate demands of a people which is globally oppressed by a white culture which considers itself as superior and civilized.
    Getting connected with humanity means to feel the pain of others because it also affects you. It means to feel a human anger and hurt because we are all connected. Fighting for racial justice and equality, not to 'help them' but to be whole. Connected with life and respect and getting connected with ones own soul.

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  4. Not "bap"....DAP!

    And we thought you was a hip whiteboy!

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  5. Hi Macon,

    If I were invested in America's social, economic and political paradigm, I would vote for neither Senators Obama, McCain or any other candidate that is supported, financed, and sanctioned by the 'establishment.' The candidates that gather under this duplicitous umbrella must, and do, pay homage to their Zionists masters in Israel...the CEOs of the RACIST (White Supremacists) system.

    Nowadays no candidate can be elected without promising to serve Israel's interests FIRST and foremost. This guarantees that no meaningful 'change' can or will come as far as ending these illegal wars overseas against manufactured bogeymen; no change will occur in the policies that send America's manufacturing and other jobs offshore; and no change will occur regarding America's domestic tax and fiscal policies. Most importantly, there will be no decrease in government corruption, and the disposal of the evil fiat monetary banking system that enriches the wealthy at the expense of the middle-class and poor won't happen.

    All of the above constitutes what you refer to as the "biggest prize on earth." But in reality it is the biggest booby prize on earth. The way this system works, Macon, is that anyone of honest character that could, or would, effect a real and true shift towards putting America on a course that would not only benefit ALL of her people, but also the entire world, would be marginalized at best, or have an unfortunate accident (or suicide) at worst. So as far as I'm concerned, putting a black face on top of all of this mess does no REAL service to, and for, black people.

    On a personal level, I would prefer having white people maintain (1) their own Oval Office, (2) their current perceptions re people of color, rather than having an Obama, or any other 'compromised' black person (shuckin' and jivin') giving white people an occasional minstrel show doing "daps" and "high-fives" in public that are thought to be race specific in order to "make white America love him even more, as he helps them get used to blackness."

    Any white person who dislikes me purely because of my skin color isn't going to suddenly warm up to me just because Obama becomes the new HNIC.

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  6. Nice post.

    But I do agree with some of the other comments. Blacks have been around whites a LONG time. Many working in white homes and raising their children, many opinions have not changed. Some have.

    I think as Restructure said they would be more likely to use Obama against poor blacks and blame them for not making it, then they would to start to try understand black people. There is no need for them to understand blacks. Even if a black man becomes President it is still all about them and their issues.

    I think there will be a controlled and very calculated way that Obama will use when communicating in public.

    My husband is white (Norwegian) and I am white/black. I saw Flava Flav and was mortified at the show and his behavior and I said off the cuff, "Why does he have to embarrass us so much".

    My hubby was confused about why I felt Flav embarrassed blacks-or made many blacks feel embarrassed. I tried to explain it to him and he just cannot see it.

    It is exhausting to live a double life all the time in public, I envy the Freedom it seems whites have from this.

    Free to be yourself, more than you don't have to be.

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  7. Agreed with Lhunfindel and restructure!

    The success of the few will be used against the many to shame. Then will also be used to fuel the "See, we're NOT a racist country!"

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  8. Yeah, Maria...

    It's funny how the success of "working class" Hillary and other successful Whites never get used to bludgeon their poor White or middle/working class White brother and sisters. Never any of that Bill Gates did it, why can't you?

    Then, too, no one ever suggested Whites are inferior or that the centuries of WHITE ONLY or White first policies have undermined the self-esteem of Whites. That's not even used for current White recipients of affirmative action and other preferences Whites continue to enjoy.

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  9. Not "bap"....DAP!

    Oops--a typo, thanks for pointing that out, anonymous, thanks to you, I corrected it. I did get it right several other times in the post. (So can I keep my hip-white-boy status? Pleeze?)

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  10. Macon, this piece is really a disappointment. Here's why:

    "...black people are also members of a group, and they often absorb modes of thought, belief, attitude, and behavior..."
    __________ vs. __________
    Maybe white people will get more used to blackness, and to markers of it--things like black music, and black gestures, and black words and phrases and names.

    I used to have very hated debates with, I guess, a Reagan Democrat. He, too, was colorblind (colorblind in one eye, I used to say). He was a conservative who talked about how good race relations are because "American" music has, indeed, been influenced and is a mix of what African-Americans have contributed to it and White Americans have accepted it in the forms of Jazz and R&B, e.g.

    That was his standard line. Indeed, it was something he preached to me in an effort to try to convince me that Black culture is accepted in America.

    The problem I had with him and, now, with your expressed thoughts here is how Black culture is reduced and treated in such a superficial manner. For some reason, the things that always seem most remarkable are to our White brothers and sisters (you and the Reagan Democrat/conservative) are things like Black music and mannerisms.

    You spoke about "modes of thought [and] belief." Well, those are the hallmarks of culture. Thought and belief is what inspires the music and art and other EXPRESSIONS (i.e. by-products) of culture.

    You'd have to forgive me because I've been around and around on this issue with my colorblind, conservative net-friend. The last time we clashed over this issue, I asked him a simple question:

    name the African/African-American philosophy or school of thought you feel that has influenced American thought or the African-American ideas/beliefs you have come to adopt.

    My point is this: it's insulting to talk about African-Americans as if the only thing you feel that's meaningful or, in this case, remarkable about them are what I call superficial (in a relative sense) - e.g. "black music, and black gestures, and black words and phrases."

    I know 'White' music, etc. isn't the first thing I think about when I think about European cultural contributions to overall American culture. In fact, I don't think anyone reduces European culture including the European culture cherished and practiced by so-called White Americans to European/White music and art.

    One of the first things that would come up in such a conversation would be the "thoughts and beliefs" about government, the Puritan ethic, individualism, etc.

    I, for one, think African-Americans have made a tremendous contribution to democracy as we know it and have even more contributions to make in terms of democratic ideals, etc.

    What's disturbing to me is how people apparently find it too hard to "get used to" viewing African-Americans as complete and equal in terms of their humanity which includes recognizing "blackness" beyond such superficial thoughts about it.

    Reducing "blackness" down to mere cultural aesthetics, simply, does not acknowledge the full humanity of African-Americans as human beings with important thoughts and beliefs.

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  11. Nquest, your disappointment doesn't surprise me, since it seems that everything on this blog strikes you as a disappointment.

    As I would think any regular reader of this blog could see, a long, long list of African American intellectuals inform my perspective. Of course I hope also that Americans will see in Obama's example a shining example of brilliant (if compromised) intellectual prowess, and I've said so before.

    I know you don't like Obama, but do you as an African American feel anything at all positive about the historic firsts he's achieved so far? If so, how would express that feeling?

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  12. I know you don't like Obama

    No, you don't. It would be hard for me to be characterized as an Obama kool-aid drinker, to say and consider him a "statesman" if I "don't like" him.

    What I've had to say about Obama has nothing to do with "like." I talked about very principled things and have said nothing about his personality and whether I "liked" it or not.

    As far as the historic first thing, don't ask me to see Obama through your eyes. And, I'll be damned if I even mentioned Obama in my responses here. Maybe my "dislike" for Obama is waning. lol

    To the actual issue here, you should get some African-American intellectuals to inform your opinion on relegating Black culture to such superficial notions. For some reason, whatever you've gathered from said intellectuals failed you here. Their influence is not apparent here. Otherwise you would have comments like this being registered here:

    On a personal level, I would prefer having white people maintain (1) their own Oval Office, (2) their current perceptions re people of color, rather than having an Obama, or any other 'compromised' black person (shuckin' and jivin') giving white people an occasional minstrel show doing "daps" and "high-fives" in public that are thought to be race specific in order to "make white America love him even more, as he helps them get used to blackness."

    Just Me must "dislike" Obama too.

    You must have a problem navigating the nuance inherent in DAMN YOU BARACK!!

    Like Min. Farrakhan, "I love that brother." And imagine what I thought the other night when my 6 year old said, "I love Obama."

    Don't get it twisted.

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  13. How would I express my thoughts about the historic first?

    Simply, "It's about time."


    Know that I never have any doubts about what Africans/African-Americans are capable of and need nothing to reassure me that "We Can."

    Personally, the historic first has more meaning to White America, as I see, than it does for me. It's an empty, shallow token unless it is accompanied with something other than symbolic and superficial meaning/significance.

    But then again, I just happen to take African-Americans seriously. Again, see Just Me's comments.

    I don't know where you got the idea that a Black face in the high place would be something to view as some major accomplishment I should speak "positively" about when Obama is neither the president and Obama's presidency hasn't been a positive net gain for African-Americans on a real, concrete material basis.

    Again, MLK said that it's not the abstract rights or symbolism we have ever strived for but real, material improvement in our "way of life."

    It's disappointing that the Black intellectuals you've been exposed to haven't penetrated your consciousness on that very basic point.

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  14. Nquest
    Next time you get into an argument with your friend, mention what Pat Boone did to Little Richard. That certainly was not acceptance nor appreciation.

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  15. Nquest wrote:
    "Just Me must "dislike" Obama too."

    It's not so much that I dislike the C.F.R. Senator. My difficulty lies with the incredulousness of the entire staged managed production (the U.S. presidential election process) and how the American people can't, won't or are unable to see this pretense as the media circus it really is. It's akin to viewing T.V. wrestling with 99% of the audience believing that what they're witnessing inside of the ring is real. One would think that Americans would finally catch on to this hustle, and that they're been bamboozled, hoodwinked & duped...Good grief, the same bridge in Brooklyn gets sold over and over EVERY FOUR YEARS! And nothing ever changes for the better. Are the people under some sort of magical delusion or mass hypnosis? Apparently, YES!

    Obama, if elected, would simply be another marionette for the controllers (say it with me now, altogether, "Racists - White Supremacists") who remain mostly hidden in the background. That is what I dislike.

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  16. Macon D,

    Yeah, I agree with Nquest. I don't really like this post. It seems like the white POV is starting to creep up on this blog.

    I find that some of your statements are essentialist, especially essentializing blackness in a superficial way. For example, you say, "the Obamas find a way to express a celebratory affection for each other that's definitely black" and "here's one more especially black moment".

    You would be alienating black people that don't like hip-hop and prefer punk rock, for example. These people are accused of not being black enough because they don't act stereotypically black. Are they any less black? Of course not.

    I'm not advocating 'colourblindness', but recognizing black people as individuals has to go beyond both thinking of black people in a stereotypical 'black' way and thinking of black people as white. There are cultural trends, but a trend does not mean an essence.

    You added many disclaimers against generalization, but your statements about what is 'definitely black' and 'especially black' appear to contradict this.

    It seems like many white liberals think that they participating in the fight against racism by voting for Obama. They think of racism like a sport with the white team pitted against the black team, and supporting the black team makes the black team win. Obama winning the presidency, to those white liberals, means that the blacks 'win'. But racism is not about blacks versus whites competing for prize, the prize being black-versus-white cultural dominance as president. This winning is only symbolic, and Obama's power as president would not "trickle down" to benefit other black people like some wishful-thinking economic theory.

    I like Obama, but I don't like how racism is viewed like some kind of game. Obama might change things for the better, but not for that reason, not because of some trickling-down reason.

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  17. I find that some of your statements are essentialist, especially essentializing blackness in a superficial way. For example, you say, "the Obamas find a way to express a celebratory affection for each other that's definitely black" and "here's one more especially black moment".

    Restructure, I was referring to the dap as a black thing, not Obama himself. Are you saying the dap emerged from some other cultural tradition? I'm saying it's an African American cultural thing, not some essentialist thing that ALL black people do, just because they have black skin.

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  18. Restructure, I like what you said, that Obama winning the presidency is not synomymous with seeing the black team 'win', so to speak.

    I, too, feel very uncomfortable with the idea that racism involves the white team against the black team.

    Ending racism involves the Justice team versus the injustice team -- with whites on both teams, and with non-whites on both teams, is that a way to see it?

    Bobby Kennedy was on the Justice team, he wasn't on the white team?

    The us versus them team mentality is part of white supremacy/racism and yet also is the part of the essence of my discomfort with the theories of Dr. Frances Welsing, who is laudable for original thought --

    -- but she describes counter-racism as a chess game, the black chess pieces versus the white chess pieces...

    She says that if every racist act by white people is countered by a counter-racist act by non-white people, that will neutralize racism.

    Yes... every racist act should be countered with whatever is counter-racist...

    ... but, to go deeper than the chess board, to see farther and way beyond it, to transcend us-versus-them, black versus white, is what I want.

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  19. Macon D,

    I was referring to the dap as a black thing too, and I wasn't talking about Obama.

    However, I concede now after your explanation. I guess I was confused about what you meant because you used the adjective 'black' to refer to at least two different things. One is 'blackness' as a racial identity (contrasting with whiteness), and another is 'blackness' as cultural origin.

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  20. just me wrote:

    On a personal level, I would prefer having white people maintain (1) their own Oval Office, (2) their current perceptions re people of color, rather than having an Obama, or any other 'compromised' black person (shuckin' and jivin') giving white people an occasional minstrel show doing "daps" and "high-fives" in public that are thought to be race specific in order to "make white America love him even more, as he helps them get used to blackness."

    Their own oval office? What does that mean? Two presidencies?

    Shucking and jiving to make white Americans love him more? That's not what the post says. Is "acting white" and being button-down, tight-assed, "acceptably black" 100% of the time better? I'm hoping for increased white acceptance of things coded as black that genuinely emerge from common black experience, not increased acceptance of Obama because he "shucks and jives" in stereotypical ways that please whites because they're stereotypical. There's a difference.

    Any white person who dislikes me purely because of my skin color isn't going to suddenly warm up to me just because Obama becomes the new HNIC.

    I never said it would be sudden. I said I hope it happens. Then in the second comment above, I said I agree--it probably won't.

    nquest, I hope what you thought when your six-year-old son said he loves Obama was a good thought.

    I don't think that hoping white America learns to cut black leaders some slack for not "acting white" and being "acceptably black" 100% of the time is the same as "relegating Black culture to . . . superficial notions."

    My point is this: it's insulting to talk about African-Americans as if the only thing you feel that's meaningful or, in this case, remarkable about them are what I call superficial (in a relative sense) - e.g. "black music, and black gestures, and black words and phrases."

    I don't talk about them as if that's the only thing that's meaningful or remarkable about them. As you know, I spend a lot of time talking about the difficulties they face in dealing with oblivious white folks, and I also credit a lot of African American observers with acute insight into the ways of white folks. Just because I do one post on Obama's blackness in these other terms shouldn't overshadow all those other posts.

    Again, MLK said that it's not the abstract rights or symbolism we have ever strived for but real, material improvement in our "way of life."

    It's disappointing that the Black intellectuals you've been exposed to haven't penetrated your consciousness on that very basic point.


    Right, I must be an idiot who wasn't able to finish high school, so hard is it for "basic points" to penetrate my thick skull.

    Believe it or not, that very basic point has penetrated my consciousness, and of course I have my doubts too about whether the real powers-that-be would really allow Obama to make significant changes in the lives of black and poor and other sorts of disadvantaged, disenfranchised people. Hell, I have strong doubts they're going to allow him to even become president.

    Obama's been my third choice in the race--the two others had to drop out, and I preferred them because they spoke more directly about the kind of change that you're talking about. Which is a big reason they didn't get as far as Obama has. But he's done work in his past and has said things that suggest that if he gets in office, he just might do a better job than anyone has for decades to improve "our way of life." We shall see, we shall see. As you've been noting so well on your blog, we have a lot of reasons to be skeptical.

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  21. Macon: I must be an idiot who wasn't able to finish high school

    Duly noted.


    Believe it or not, that very basic point has penetrated my consciousness

    Apparently not. If you did, the last thing you would post to me would be:

    "the presence of a black president would dispel to some degree the misconceptions and misgivings of many whites about black abilities and capacities"

    Because of the very thing I noted before when you said this something similar to this:

    Obama's been my third choice

    But for some reason, you feel like African-Americans should have some "positive", happy feeling about a "historic first" over and above policy.


    they spoke more directly about the kind of change that you're talking about.

    Oh, no you know what kind of change I'm talking about (and where did I talk about it at??) just like you knew how I did not "like" Obama. No, Macon, while some African-Americans I've discussed the election with have felt that way neither Kucinich or Edwards come close. Dennis played the "poor White" card too and Edwards candidacy was based on it -- i.e. a Jesse Jackson like populist campaign.

    You should go back to the "refuse to listen to black anger" thread. I posted the kind of "change" Obama proposes that I'm all for.


    As you've been noting so well on your blog, we have a lot of reasons to be skeptical.

    This comment and your quip about my 6 year old make me laugh if for no reason than the sure desperation in your remarks. I most certainly have NOT engaged in "skepticism" about what Obama will and won't do while in office on my blog. I have several entries there critical of some of Obama's statements from a standpoint of a battle of ideas which is why I use the phrase "the Fault Lines."



    No need to be dishonest.

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  22. Macon, again your comment in your profile: I'm a white guy, trying to find out what that means. Especially the "white" part.

    You can try to intellectualize it or try to distance yourself with thoughts 'I am not like them" (other whites). This won't work. You will continue to disappoint people with your writings because it is clear that you don't feel the topics you write and that you also don't feel that you are 'not like them'. I am disappointed.

    >As I would think any regular reader of this blog could see, a long, long list of African American intellectuals inform my perspective.

    There is nothing wrong with intellectuals but reading them doesn't automatically qualify you to talk about 'whiteness' and even less about 'Blackness'. Exploring ones own whiteness is a very long way to go and it is, like Thompson says it "a promise and a way of life".
    It is the ordinary people you live your life with, you meet on the streets etc. who will show you and tell you, what white supremacy truly means.
    White people have to explore themselves and why they want to "admit their white privileges". Good intentions aren't enough. Racism is deadly. White supremacy murders people and destroys planet earth. "Anti-racism" isn't a hobby to feel good, it is a commitment, too many whites aren't able to understand this, too many whites exploit white supremacy in the name of "anti-racism" or whatever just to feel good.
    The way you frame topics display the way how 'white' you think. It is not "the other white people".

    Black people aren't the entertainers for us white people. Whites had so much chances "to get used to" "Black gestures", music etc, that they already have imitated it - or should I say stolen?

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  24. You're right, jw, I "don't feel that [I am] 'not like them'." I've said many times on this blog that I too still enact egregious common white tendencies, having been trained into them like other white people.

    I don't think of anti-racism as a hobby to make me feel good. This blog has been a lot of hard work, and it's just one form of anti-racist work I do. Obama's nomination did make me feel good, though, and that feeling was one impetus for the post.

    or should I say stolen?

    I think you should say stolen, and I think it's only one kind of stealing we do.

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  25. May I ask a stupid question:

    Why is it wrong to feel good?

    Feeling good is pretty unavoidable when doing good.

    Even if wanting to feel good about oneself is the motivation to do good, it's better than the alternative.

    White people who get into the fray of anti-racist work, get used to being suspected of being fake anti-racists, or accused of just doing it to feel good --

    But in the meantime, the white people who don't fight racism/white supremacy, who don't put themselves out there, escape such criticisms and sit in lilly white neutrality.

    Re stealing, Neely Fuller has a passage in his controversial, metaphorically astute, book for victims of racism:

    "In a world socio-material system dominated by White Supremacists, all people are encouraged to steal, or to condone stealing, by some people under some conditions. Those white people who practice White Supremacy have stolen more things from people, and have stolen more people "from themselves", than any other category of people in the known universe...

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  26. macon d wrote:
    "Their own oval office? What does that mean? Two presidencies?"

    It means that there are in essence, two frame sets, two realities, two Americas. One white and the other black, or non-white. I've not seen any evidence that these two realities have morphed into one. The U.S. government clearly isn't a democratic republic that is for, by and of (ALL) the people. It has never been that.

    macon d wrote:
    "Shucking and jiving to make white Americans love him more? That's not what the post says. Is "acting white" and being button-down, tight-assed, "acceptably black" 100% of the time better?"

    Macon, I placed the parts you stated within quotes in my previous commentary.
    Let me ask you this. When African-Americans are employed in corporate America, or elected to the congress, or appointed to the Supreme Court, or Chairman, or appointed Ambassador, or whatever.. Do black people in these vocations practice behaviors that are outside of the business, political and professional cultural decorum? No! And if they did they would be relegated to a lesser position, or simply dismissed in less than a nanosecond.

    (I don't call this "acting white." I refer to it as simply behaving professionally.)

    White folks have been "borrowing" our stuff since.. antiquity.
    If you desire to see white people borrow/accept/use more of the favorable aspects of "black" social/cultural behaviors, i.e. high-fives, daps, or whatever, I'm okay with that...but as other folks here have pointed out, there's so much more meaningful and deeper elements in the black cultural experience than just those mundane and superficial things.

    Nevertheless, there is NOT, in the president's job description, a written or implied code, or need, requiring a black person to exhibit any stereotypical types of outward behaviors for the purpose of getting white folks to love him, or to "get used to blackness."

    There are more than enough, literally millions of black social-cultural trend setters in the world for white people to observe. And, if any white person sincerely desires to "get used to blackness," or "love" black people, I would then seriously suggest that they begin to spend a copious amount of time with black people. We aren't that hard to find...especially on Sunday mornings!

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  27. This is so dead on!

    At a company I worked for there was a young black woman that I bonded with quite quickly. She presented herself casually as more culturally black, totally unreserved, and when juxtaposed with the white office we worked in, she made things more interesting. I felt like she was one of the few who didn't feel the need to reserve herself at the workplace, she was confidant and happy with who she was.

    Then one day she was a guest speaker on a conference call we were having with reps across the country and all of a sudden turned into this reserved woman, hiding her blackness, hiding who she is because she was on stage, front and center.

    I remember IM'ing her while she was on the phone asking her why she wasn't being herself, and she played it off.

    It made me wonder if she was unreserved with me because she was comfortable with me, trusted me, but in "normal" "professional" situations, she tightened up, reserving who she was, using larger words inappropriately, but with a presentation that she grew to understand as more acceptable.

    It's kind of funny, because this touches on a previous post of yours with regards to how someone speaks versus paying attention to what someone says. In an effort to come off as more "professional" all I could manage to do was pay attention to the way she said it, rather than what she said. It was kind of a let-down, but I can understand her reasoning behind feeling like she had to present herself this way...

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  28. > You're right, jw, I "don't feel that [I am] 'not like them'."

    And this I believe is the problem with many whites.

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  29. macon d wrote:
    "For white people, self-consciousness while in the spotlight, and subsequent behavioral modification, almost never occur in terms of race (unless, perhaps, a white person is speaking before a a non-white audience). White individuals don't feel in such moments like they're representing white people, but black people usually do feel like they're representing black people. George Bush's continual gaffes and mangled English don't reflect on white people in general ..."


    Speaking of public behaviors and hand gestures:
    George Bush, his wife and his daughters have been seen and photographed flashing a very curious and peculiar hand sign in public places. (Google "Bush's hand signs" .. You can then click on Google's images to see what I'm referring to.)

    Macon, is this some sort of European ethnic behavior that is indigenous to wealthy - elitist - white people? Or is it exclusive to the Bush family? Could this unique hand sign be a symptom of some sort of hidden or secret genetic malady?

    It's interesting to note the mainstream news media's fascination with Obama's fist dap, but journalists seem virtually silent on the Bush family's curious hand signs. Why?

    One more thing: Since you brought up George Bush and his mangled English and such.. I find it very compelling that he became the POTUS, not only once but twice. This occurrence cements in the minds of many non-white observers, myself included, that the myth of meritocracy - is exactly that, a myth.

    In your opinion Macon, does a nation with a white leader deserve the leadership it gets? In other words, is America worthy of Mr. Bush?

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  30. @Karen
    >Even if wanting to feel good about oneself is the motivation to do good, it's better than the alternative.


    No, it's not necessarily better than the alternative (of doing nothing). I think paternalism is a driving force for many whites doing "social work". Paternalism is destructive in it's very nature and is ignoring the real needs of those who get "help". Christian missionaries sure had good intentions in their white euro minds when they wanted to "help" the "savages" to become "civilized". It is this mindset of being superior, to know it best, to know "how, when and why". All from a white/euro perspective. And I also say that feeling good about the fact of being "anti-racist" is a very white privilege, because I don't think that it feels good for non-whites to be anti-racist, for non-whites it's a necessity of survival.

    And people do not have to know each other and also don't have to "get used" to each other - it is about respecting basic human rights. And nothing else.
    It is not about diversity or multi-culturalism and integration with whiteness and European culture still at the center.

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  31. jw, I agree that "diversity or multi-culturalism and integration with whiteness and European culture still at the center" is a huge and ironic problem.

    What specific suggestions do you have for countering it? What specific work going on out there do you see that does counter it?

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  32. JW,

    I essentially agree with everything you said.

    Your points are taking the idea deeper and to a different slant and nuance on the complexities of feeling good.

    You're right on about paternalism. I certainly didn't mean to endorse paternalistic behavior as an okay way to feel good.

    Whites do have long-as-history, including present-day, maniacal subconscious drive to be paternalistic, it appears, though maybe it's lessening as the colonial era does seem to be struggling to end globally, even Zbignew Brezinski speaking out against the war in Iraq because, he says, the colonial era is over...

    ...and individually there seems to be change and progress, I hope?

    You're right, of course you're right, doing nothing is much better than doing something harmful through paternalistic help. I'm sorry if I implied otherwise.

    You and I defined opposite differently. You defined the opposite as doing nothing, whereas I considered the opposite, as being racist and feeling good about oneself by being destructive/bad.

    But what I'm referring to is the phenomenon whereby, if every time a white person is told he must only be being anti-racist in order to feel good about himself, then that's a cynical no-win, then no one can be anti-racist legitimately in that view.

    I do know people who say that every white person is a racist suspect, that even John Brown to them to this day is a racist suspect. I can understand even that extreme.

    I do wonder, did John Brown feel good about himself? Did Bobby Kennedy feel good about himself? (Those examples are like using Helen Keller as an example of a 'good blind person', too obvious), but if they felt good about themselves as an effect of their actions, is that okay or is that wrong in some paternalistic way?

    To discern one's own motivations... "am I doing this out of genuine help against racism, or out of paternalism?" It's not always easy.

    Am I supporting basic human rights out of supporting basic human rights, period, no feeling good I'm a wonderful white person motivations?

    Am I sending money to SaveDarfur.org because I believe in stopping genocide, or to feel good?

    (In that case, sending the money to feel good IS better than not sending money, because no one is hurt by the motivation, just helped by the money, do you agree?)

    Paternalisism, though, very importantly has to be examined within oneself, with a laser microscopic honesty. It's not always easy to discern.

    Can non-white people also be paternalistic?

    Someone I know for example, is giving me forty computers to give to kids who need them, computers which he asked for from a company for whom he's done work, when the company was deciding what to do with them after replacing with new computers after three years, to kids in a struggling government housing development, kids with whom I'm friends, not social worker, just simply friends, here in D.C.

    Paternalism, on his part or mine? Or just helping? Feels good... so some would say that he and I are being paternalistic based on the evidence that it feels good.

    Feeling good is not an automatic telltale sensor of evidence that one is being paternalistic... ?

    It also feels horrible, that those kids need to be given computers, versus middle class kids.

    Those kids also do things for others, they felt good giving money to a homeless man and want to make it a regular activity.

    Are they wrong to feel good? Are they being paternalistic towards the homeless? You could probably make a case, in a weird way, but they felt the high of helping...

    Not needing to get to know people or not needing to get used to people, I agree that those are not necessary to anti-racism.

    If I have the choice of being anti-racist and having friends and getting to know people of all colors, all 'races', all heritages, versus being anti-racist and not getting to know them, I choose getting to know --

    --not in lieu of being anti-racist, but in addition to. It's easier and facilitates justice, to me, when people know people, to know what is felt, what is thought, by everyone.

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  33. It's interesting to note the mainstream news media's fascination with Obama's fist dap, but journalists seem virtually silent on the Bush family's curious hand signs. Why?

    I think journalists are virtually silent about the Bush family's hand signs because it's just a Texas sports thing. Take a look at the explanatory comments in this thread.

    In your opinion Macon, does a nation with a white leader deserve the leadership it gets? In other words, is America worthy of Mr. Bush?

    I'm not sure what this question is asking, but I think a white leader isn't automatically a bad leader just because he or she is white. I also think that a white supremacist patriarchal capitalist system abuses most white Americans, and that it abuses many other Americans even more. So no, I don't think victims of abuse deserve what they get.

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  34. Macon,

    Is there a way one can edit (or delete) one's own posts here by the way?

    I want to edit my previous post of overlong detail; what I'd rather have written is to encourage such critical feedback here re paternalism and patterns of thought which are racist or informed by whiteness.

    Karen

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  35. Karen, as far as I know, if you sign up for a Blogger account (which doesn't necessarily mean writing a blog), you can post on "Blogger" (or blogspot) blogs like this one, and delete your own posts. Also, I think I can delete a post of yours if you want me to--in that case, you could copy it and post a revised version, and ask me in that post or another one to delete the original (just make sure, please, which one you want me to delete).

    Another nice thing about signing up for a Blogger account (which btw is free) is that you can have follow-up comments on any thread you post on emailed to you (so you don't have to keep going back to the blog itself to check for them). I'm not sure if you can get that feature without signing up.

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  36. Macon, my phrasing of the question was incorrect. It should have been more like this: Does a nation with a white, or black, leader (as the front man for the white supremacists) deserve the leadership it gets?

    What I'm suggesting here is that a nation will ultimately receive the type of government and leadership it deserves. Consider this: Which type of nation is most likely to produce a leader like President Bush? Would it be, in your opinion, for example, a nation that has: a high moral, ethical and spiritual standard, honest & benevolent government, helpful and caring public servants, an educational system that increasingly raises the bar while providing free instruction for all, a low incarceration rate and remains outside of the affairs of sovereign nations? Or inversely, would a Mr. Bush (or Clinton, or McCain, Obama..) be more likely to head a nation that: engages in military invasions & occupations, incarcerates it's people for petty and victimless offenses, has high rates of corporate malfeasance, tortures, dumbs down its children via public (indoctrination centers) schools, suffers family breakdowns, employs increasing numbers of jack booted government enforcers, lies to the people, has a growing homelessness epidemic, mortgage crises, stagnant wages, layoffs and high unemployment, etc ...

    I contend that America has and will receive the leadership she deserves, by virtue of her SEVERE LACK of true and real... virtue.

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  37. Thanks for the clarification, Just Me, and I pretty much agree with it, except something central to it, in terms of anyone "deserving" anything. A nation is a group of people, and some of those people are doing the nasty things you listed to some of the other people. Some of the people are also benefiting from some of the nastiness being done by those in charge to some of the other people. So I don't see a reason to talk about whether a whole nation deserves what some of the people within the nation are doing to some of the others.

    The lack of virtue you describe seems to me to reside more in some of this nation's people than in others. To talk about the nation as a whole in the way you seem to be talking about it strikes me as too distant from more useful discussion of the particular oppressors and victims within that nation.

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  38. I don't see a reason to talk about whether a whole nation deserves what some of the people within the nation are doing to some of the others.

    White supremacy is a international as well as a national problem, isn't it? And this blog is still about discussing tendencies that "some" white people have, right??

    The lack of virtue you describe seems to me to reside more in some of this nation's people than in others.

    True. However, the lack of virtue appears to me to be increasingly systemic. This lack is evident everywhere, permeating every single cultural institution. Institutional foundations are collapsing and failing. As each generation passes, so too goes, exponentially, virtue.

    "To talk about the nation as a whole in the way you seem to be talking about it strikes me as too distant from more useful discussion of the particular oppressors and victims within that nation."

    Widespread outcomes, or effects, may not seem all that distant as social and economic conditions further deteriorate and the people *you* see, know and care about are affected.

    Macon, when a nation (collectively) supports, by default, its crooked leaders and warmongering armed forces ignoring their 'collective' conscious awareness of the evil done in their name, while supporting this evil with tax revenues which enables its war machine to murder, rape and maim innocent people for the sake of theft and hegemony; and/or when a nation stands by and allows the systemic oppression of people targeted for mistreatment in their own land while valuing and holding tightly to their own privileges, the universe will eventually set out to penalize the unrepentant and offending parties. Payment (JUSTICE) will be demanded from the guilty, both individually and collectively. The universe has a way of sorting out these particulars and nuances re where, when and whom gets whatever they have coming (good or bad) to them. In end the nation responsible will disintegrate, never to be seen nor heard from again.

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  39. @Macon
    >jw, I agree that "diversity or multi-culturalism and integration with whiteness and European culture still at the center" is a huge and ironic problem.

    What specific suggestions do you have for countering it? What specific work going on out there do you see that does counter it?


    some examples:
    restriction of political influence of corporations
    limiting the possibilities for managers etc. to accumulate wealth with the work of others
    change of the political system towards a participatory democracy and socialism

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  40. Macon,

    One way to get away from integration with whiteness and European culture still at the center, is to integrate where another culture is at the center.

    This is fraught with being inadvertently white supremacist, going where one may not be wanted.

    One example in my life, there's an amazing black talk XM radio station, channel 169 'The Power'. Maybe everyone is already familiar with it.

    The morning host, Joe Madison the Black Eagle, elucidates more truth, justice, and attracts more intelligent audience call-in than any I've ever heard.

    It's radio-activist, with announcements of protests, write-in campaigns, marches, congressional hearings to attend (he's based in Washington D.C.)

    Joe Madison frequently is on Lou Dobbs and other shows, Paula Zahn, etc., where he may be better known.

    Being a listener, where he welcomes white listeners and callers but does emphasize that his show is for a black voice to be heard, being a listener is to feel a part of something where African American culture and blackness are at the center.

    To listen to something that is not 'white supremacist' culturally, versus the 'white' stations where whiteness is definitely center stage, feels sometimes wonderful, sometimes feels like being 'the other'.

    This is superficial,of course. The deeper solution involves more radical change in the world...

    ... but as one small mindset change, being part of more activities where another culture, race, color, is the center... what do others think? Good idea? Bad idea? Depends? Neutral idea?

    Tech note: Being on blogger now, I can now delete posts. Thanks! I'm not able to delete the pre-blogger post, but no worries... I'm just glad to have the option from now forward.

    karen

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  41. @Karen
    >Not needing to get to know people or not needing to get used to people, I agree that those are not necessary to anti-racism.
    If I have the choice of being anti-racist and having friends and getting to know people of all colors, all 'races', all heritages, versus being anti-racist and not getting to know them, I choose getting to know --
    -------------

    My "And people do not have to know each other and also don't have to "get used" to each other - it is about respecting basic human rights. And nothing else." was in reaction to Macon's curious statement about "white people now can get used to Blackness".

    It is not the point how many individuals you know as an individual, I talk on a political level. There must be a political system which prevents a single group/'race' to be able to gain so much power that they can dominate all other groups. People will never change their 'hearts and minds' (as a collective) just out of goodwill. No single nation changed an abusive system just because of 'insight' of the powerful group, it was always only because of political pressure from within/the bottom and/or because from outside (other countries).

    I also believe that it is much more important for white people to study their own culture and to "get used" to their own reality and not just myths. The myths of America being a democracy or meritocracy for example.

    Also, while it is true that whiteness defines itself vs. Blackness and whites defines themselves as what they think they are not, exploring whiteness or "stuff white people do" goes much deeper than race.

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  42. I also believe that it is much more important for white people to study their own culture and to "get used" to their own reality and not just myths. The myths of America being a democracy or meritocracy for example.

    Also, while it is true that whiteness defines itself vs. Blackness and whites defines themselves as what they think they are not, exploring whiteness or "stuff white people do" goes much deeper than race.


    Yes, definitely! Whiteness Studies is about white people studying whiteness, but there needs to be White People Studies as well, which is about white history and white society. There are Asian Studies and African Studies, but we need White People Studies, which is studying white people as a collective from a non-white POV. White people don't know their history from a non-white POV. They only know their history from a self-aggrandizing, heroic POV written by white people.

    This is similar to the problem of how most Americans don't understand why the rest of the world thinks that the United States is a threat to the world and hypocritical. They think that African countries are bloodthirsty for constantly being at war, while ignoring that America is constantly at war.

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  43. I have a problem with "black culture" being defined as "unrestrained" and "white culture" being defined as "restrained". This is a problematic dichotomy to me - this long-standing racist notion that poc are closer to the earth or closer to the state of nature - it's part of a really creepy white fascination about the "other", especially when it has come to the arts.

    Honestly, there's a pic of Bush doing a bizarre chestbump with some European leader online which is ten times more strange and unfamiliar than the dap gesture. There was also that bit of drama over him trying to massage Angela Merkel's (the leader of Germany) shoulders. So much for white restraint! I mean, really. She is a head of state. I really don't like extreme conclusions based on one incident.

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  44. Bq,

    You might be interested in some of his other, earlier posts of the same theme (in my mind): refuse to listen to black anger and hide their feelings about race behind a calm white mask.

    I want to see your opinion on those posts as well. I agree with you, but don't leave this site in disgust of white allies just yet! I think most of Macon's posts are not messed up like these recent ones, with the white POV creeping up and all.

    'Antiracist' is not a destination. It will always be an ongoing process, so I'm still watching what this blog will become.

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  45. I saw this interesting article linked from Racialicious, A Different State of Race Relations:

    But also recognize, black residents say, the mix of ignorance, presumption and often an almost touching innocence that animate their stories about living in a place [Utah] where most white people appear to be well-intentioned but simply do not know very many black people, and are not sure how to act.

    "My first week here, one of the camera operators who was training me was asking me to teach him how to talk jive," said Tania Paxton, a TV camerawoman who arrived from back East in 1992 and found in the clear mountain air contrasts of a brightness usually seen in cartoons.

    [...]

    "A lot of times people tell me -- like it's a big revelation -- that I'm the only black person they know," she said. "And it's a lot of pressure. I have to be on my best behavior. I don't want their one experience to be a bad one."

    "We all have to come with our 'A' game," said Tamu Smith, who was raised in Southern California as a niece of Black Panthers, joined the Mormon church as a teenager and moved to Provo in 1996. "We don't have room to let things penetrate and offend us. If I'm speaking somewhere, I have to be twice as prepared as the white person."

    [...]

    And popular culture plays a role. The No. 2 radio station in Salt Lake is U92, "where hip-hop lives." Erika George, a law professor at the University of Utah who grew up in Chicago, said white students who talk to her after class sometimes move their arms in the exaggerated sweeps of Ali G, a wannabe-hip-hopper TV character, apparently thinking that's how best to communicate to a black person.


    Let's go back to this post. "Get used to blackness" would refer to Obama's racial identity, while the examples you gave of 'blackness' were cultural gestures of black origin. White people are already used to black people doing daps and Jay-Z's "Dirt Off Your Shoulder", which is why seeing Obama make these gestures is a cultural reference white people can understand. Obama didn't introduce daps and Jay-Z to white people; white people are used to them and are amused when Obama acts stereotypically 'black', i.e., acts like a rapper.

    Let's bring it back to the article I just linked. Does Obama doing black(-origin) gestures help white people in Utah get used to blackness (racial identity)? Or would it exacerbate their ignorance of how to treat black people?

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  46. JW, by 'much deeper than race', do you mean function?

    I've increasingly seen how 'race' is largely function.

    And I agree, power yields nothing without demand, as they say. I agree with you and reread what you wrote several times because it's so true.

    We each need to withdraw our money and support in every possible way in our lives from corporatism, oligarchy, fascism.

    Even the little ways, like my church has a big aggressive sign, near the White House, "Torture is Wrong" on a black sheet. Okay, it's not going to change the occupants of the White House, but it's a voice, to add to working politically to get the Guantanamos, the secret CIA prisons, out of existence.

    And little things add up if we all do them. I refuse to buy anything plastic, because plastic's made from oil, and the oil companies don't deserve our money right now.

    My friend rides his bike everywhere with a placard on his back saying why, and a placard on his front "no blood for oil". He is getting known around town.

    I can't completely give up my car, yet. But boycotting the companies that aren't socially conscious, and buying from those that are, is a step.

    I know those are minor, but money talks, focus talks. The corporate media has to be seen for what it is and blogs like this are a step in getting an authentic voice.

    I'm sorry I sound so didactic. But anyway, meritocracy and democracy, we should list here all the ways to create them in this country. I find myself needing other peoples' ideas, I think a lot of people want to support democracy and meritocracy and fight corporatism and all need others' brains.

    All our brains together.

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  47. "I would vote for neither Senators Obama, McCain or any other candidate that is supported, financed, and sanctioned by the 'establishment.'"

    Obama stopped the DNC from accepting money from lobbyists, and supposedly the only corporate interest he's beholden do finacially from a decade back is the nuclear power industry, which, honestly, we need more of. Modern nuclear plants are insanely clean and safe compared to other methods of power.

    As for dirt off your shoulders, lots of people loved that speech. It was far more about him being young and hip than him being culturally african-american. Though that implication was still there.

    (Also, Macon, Jezebel did a post about that dirt off your shoulder reference a couple months ago.)

    But yeah, the original post does feel like a White POV a little bit. The comments you've made probably clear it up well enough.

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  48. I think you did a great job of explaining your point Macon. I felt you made a valid point of "Mainstream America" needing to learn to accept authentic blackness. -a POC

    ReplyDelete

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