Friday, October 31, 2008

vote against their own and almost everyone else's interests

Here's an article from yesterday's
Guardian on the uninformed voting habits of white people. The reader comments at the Guardian's site are interesting too--a lot of them accuse the author of being a racist. What do you think of this modest proposal? [h/t to Carmen Van Kerckhove]

Why Whitey Shouldn't Vote

Over-emotional and unready, white people in America have shown that they cannot be trusted with the right to vote

Jonathan Valania, thursday october 30 2008

As a lifelong Caucasian, I am beginning to think the time has finally come to take the right to vote away from white people in America, at least until we come to our senses. Seriously, I just don't think we can be trusted to exercise it responsibly anymore.

I give you Exhibit A: The last eight years.

In 2000, George Bush and Dick Cheney stole the election, got us attacked and then got us into two no-exit wars. Four years later, white people re-elected them. Is not the repetition of the same behaviour over and over again with the expectation of a different outcome the very definition of insanity? (It is, I looked it up.)

Exhibit B is any given Sarah Palin rally.

Exhibit C would be Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell and congressman John Murtha, who in separate moments of on-the-record candour they would come to regret, pointed out that there are plenty of people in Pennsylvania who just cannot bring themselves to pull the lever for a black man--no matter what they tell pollsters.

These people are ruining things for the rest of us white people who are ready to move on. Sure, they have their reasons, chimerical though they may be: He's a Muslim. He's a terrorist. He's a Muslim terrorist. He's going to fire all the white people and give their jobs to blacks.

But those are just the little white lies these people allow themselves to be told, a self-induced cognitive dissonance that lets them avoid saying the un-sayable: "I cannot pull the lever for a black man."

Hey, some people just aren't ready yet, even the governor said so. Just like some people aren't ready yet for computers or setting the clock on the VCR.

Or, to hear Murtha tell it, some people--specifically some people in western Pennsylvania--will never be ready. But the fact is, if you did a state-wide head count of racists, you'd find just as many in eastern Pennsylvania as you would in the western part of the state.

That's why this ban on white people voting has got to be national. And I'm sorry to say, it's going to have to include all white people, even those who would vote for Obama, because you can't just let some white people vote. That would be unfair.

By this point, you either think I am joking or are calling me an elitist. I assure you I am neither. OK, maybe I'm a little of both. But it wasn't always like this. I come from the coal belt, from that Alabamian hinterland between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, as per James Carville's famous formulation.

I am, in fact, just two generations out of the coal mines that blackened the lungs of my grandfather, leaving him disabled, despondent and, finally, dead at the ripe old age of 54.

So, understand that I am saying all this for the good of the country and, in fact, for the good of those hard-working white people that Hillary Clinton used to pander to.

I know those people, I come from them. They are not some shameful abstract demographic to be brushed under the rug of euphemism by Wolf Blitzer and his ilk on CNN.

I have broken kielbasa with those people. I have gone to Sunday Mass with a deer-hunter hangover with those people. I went to school with their children. They are bitter with good reason, and they are armed because they are scared. They mean well, but they are easily spooked.

I fear for what is to become of them after the campaigns leave town for the last time, and Scranton and Allentown and Carlisle go back to being the long dark chicken dance of the national soul they were before the media showed up.

* * * * *

If you didn't go to the original version at the Guardian to check out the reader responses to this article--mostly by British readers, I'd say--here's a sampling:

Your post is a brilliant confirmation of the Republican argument that Dems are elitist - your post positively reeks of patrician has a 'how dare the little people like Palin...the very thought of it gives me the vapors...' tone.

I'm beginning to think white people shouldn't be allowed to write columns for the guardian.

This is a truly shocking article. Really depressing that racist dross like this ever got posted.

I fully endorse this article's proposal. Actually, what would actually be a good idea would be to only let poor people vote - say the bottom 70% of any country. That would even things up a little bit given that all the rest of all forms of every kind of power rests in the hands of the other 30%.

In any case, i think this cause could be the new suffragette movement. No votes for whitey.

If Obama loses and there are full scale riots, white writers and commentators like this will have a lot to answer for. The paranoia and false expectations they are whipping up will be hard to contain.

Hey guys, chill out. He's white. He's entitled to denigrate his own kind. What's the white equivalent of an Uncle Tom?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

suddenly get interested in non-white people whenever halloween comes around

Do any of the following four images strike you as a racist way for a white person to celebrate Halloween?

Each of these images includes white people celebrating Halloween by connecting with other races. Or rather, with ideas of other races. Of course, the photo with the Obama pumpkin would seem entirely non-racist to most Americans (unless, perhaps, they're Republicans). That's because it's the only one where white people aren't dressed up as people of other races.

So among the other three photos above of various white folks in racial drag, is any one of them more racist than the other two (assuming you think that any of them are racist)?

I would bet that for most white Americans, the image of the three blackened white boys seems the most wrong. And for some, the only one that's wrong. That one is pretty widely recognizable as an example of the old-fashioned, denigrated entertainment practice of "blackface." That thing that got Ted Danson in trouble back in the day, during . . . what was it?

Oh right, a roast, for Whoopi Goldberg:

Ted Danson
Friars Club Roast (1993)

If the other two get-ups depicted above--the "Indian Brave" and the "Geisha"--don't seem as racist to a lot of white people as the one depicting blackface "wiggers," why is that? Why is it that blackface is more clearly wrong, while redface or yellowface are okay, or else, not as wrong?

What about Halloween parties that have racial themes? Do you think those are wrong? Like the "ghetto fabulous" or "tacos and tequila" parties that occur on college campuses? And in people's living rooms?

It's been my experience that when white folks are questioned about such Halloween choices, they usually brush off any allegations of racism with the claim that it's all just good, harmless fun. The implication is that they don't intend to be racist, and therefore, they're not. Never mind any actual effects of their actions.

But if those are "all in good fun," then how about a houseful of white folks throwing something called a "lynching party"? Would that be any different, or worse?

Actually, I wonder if that's what these young good ol' boys at Auburn University called this Halloween party:

So what do you think? Where do you draw the line on these things?

If you see anyone dressed up like a stereotype this Halloween, do you plan to say anything to them?

On that last point, how would the following idea work for you?

If you meet a white friend or acquaintance who's dressed up like a member of some other race or ethnic group, you could say this to them: "Wow, what a concept! Where'd you get the idea of dressing up like a racist dipshit?"

Monday, October 27, 2008

white interview : david roediger

David Roediger is the Kendrick C. Babcock Professor of History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is more widely known as the "the leading US historian of racism" (as Joe Feagin puts it), as well as the most productive and influential figure in "critical whiteness studies." Roediger defines this area of analysis this way:

The critical examination of whiteness, academic and not, simply involves the effort to break through the illusion that whiteness is natural, biological, normal, and not crying out for explanation. Instead of accepting what James Baldwin called the "lie of whiteness," many people in lots of different fields and movement activities have tried to productively make it into a problem. When did (some) people come to define themselves as white? In what conditions? How does the lie of whiteness get reproduced? What are its costs politically, morally and culturally?

Roediger's many books and articles include the groundbreaking The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class; Towards the Abolition of Whiteness: Essays on Race, Politics, and Working Class History; Colored White: Transcending the Racial Past; and Working Toward Whiteness: How America's Immigrants Become White.

His most recent book, and the occasion for this interview, was published this month by Verso: How Race Survived US History: From Settlement and Slavery to the Obama Phenomenon.

macon: Your new book seemed very rich in detail and information—I learned a great deal from it—but at 240 pages, it’s also pretty short. Did you sometimes feel as you were writing that you were leaving too much out?

david: I began with the idea of writing a very short introductory book on race in the U.S.—perhaps 125 pages—and an editor who maintained that there was a much bigger audience willing to spend three hours reading such a short book on race than one willing to spend six hours on a longer book. In the end it proved impossible to keep to that very brief length, though the book still tries for an easy accessibility, and it’s without footnotes.

One reason it had to be a “six-hour” book is that I very much wanted it to treat more than the African American/white color line and to include the history of settler colonialism and American Indians, of anti-immigrant racism, of empire and race, and of the deep connections between race and gender in the U.S. past. With so much on the table, it did feel at times that there was also more to say. In particular the book speaks more to the roots of race thinking in unequal social relation—in what white people do, to use your terrific blog’s language—than to the intellectual history of race.

macon: This book takes an approach to race and history that I don’t think I’ve seen before. Like many other recent historians, you do explain how the artificial concept of race gained such salience and power, and then how it’s privileged white people and harmed non-white people in many ways throughout U.S. history. But you’re more focused here on how the concept of race has “survived” a series of apparent threats to its existence. The book also focuses less centrally than much of your previous work has on whiteness in U.S. history. Can you explain what led you to this different approach?

david: Popularly, and the book is meant for a popular audience, I think that a major prop of white supremacy has become the sense that race is over, or almost over. I wanted to look at the evidence of deep inequality suggesting that it isn’t, and also to show how much of U.S. history has featured dynamics—a revolutionary tradition, emancipation of slaves, mass immigration, the need for multiracial labor, civil rights legislation—that seemed to challenge and potentially undermine, race. The ways in which race mutated and persisted therefore command our attention and they suggest that premature obituaries for race have long been written.

macon: Okay, I’d like to ask, In a more or less chronological way, about some of the book’s moments that stood out for me, and then later about how you see race still surviving today, and into the future, especially in light of “the Obama phenomenon.”

You point out that in the 1600s, Christianity played a big part in the establishment of racial difference, and especially of white supremacy. You even write at one point, “The term ‘Christian’ increasingly meant ‘white.’” Could you summarize how that happened, and how Christianity and race were sort of tied together?

david: Taking the labor and land of colonized and enslaved peoples could be justified either by the sense that victims were “heathens” (not Christian) or “savages” (not using land for farming and especially for commercial agriculture). While separate, these rationales overlapped. In the colonial period few attempts were made to converts slaves to Christianity, again making for a symmetry between white and Christian.

macon: I thought your focus on “contagious liberty” was very revealing. Could you explain how freedom, which is still so fundamental to how America thinks of itself, was thought of at the time as “contagious”?

david: Many revolutionaries reported, either with alarm or joy, that the idea of freedom spread into the minds of slaves, women, sailors, and the poor generally as the nation was founded. However those groups were often repressed by powerful forces and kept apart and powerless. Some liberatory contagion did occur, with the Northern states mostly moving at least gradually to abolish slavery for example, but the contagion of expansion onto Indian land, increasingly justified by a sense of revolutionary mission, was the more tragic result.

macon: Many different factors influenced the establishment of what you write of later in the book as the ongoing fact of white supremacy today. Aside from Christianity, two other factors that seem central to your argument about how race took on such significance are gender and labor. How did these elements play a part before America was even a country?

david: Though brutal from the outset, New World slavery, as the great historian C.L. R. James long ago remarked, was not originally based on notions of African inferiority. Slaveowners acknowledged the abilities of African workers—and the skills of specific ethnic groups in Africa—and acted on a desire for African labor, even at great expense. Nor did the white poor in say, 1650, think that they were so different from Africans they labored beside as to preclude socializing, sleeping, marrying, fleeing and rebelling together.

To control rebellious labor of both races, authorities in the key colony of Virginia turned to greater use of African slave labor and greater elaboration in laws of the relative privileges of white labor, creating a new racial divide, before and after Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676. To define the intersections of race and gender was a central part of the process. Interracial relationships were criminalized harshly and the fact that children’s status followed that of their mothers was made clear. African women typically could give birth only to slaves and “white” women would give birth only to free people.

macon: I found your analysis of different drafts of the Declaration of Independence revealing about how race was already helping to frame political thought at the time, especially about the identity of the U.S. itself, about what kind of country its elite makers wanted it to become. What did you find about the significance of race at the time by looking at different drafts of this foundational document?

david: A few textbooks mention that Jefferson’s draft Declaration culminated in antislavery language, albeit displacing blame onto England and away from American slaveholders. But the ease with which even such self-interested language was jettisoned in the interest of placating slaveholders is seldom examined, and the anti-Native American language of the Declaration almost always goes unremarked.

macon: As your book moves on into the industrial revolution, you focus on the connections and parallels between two spheres of sorts that are normally thought of as separate—the agricultural, slave-owning economy of the South, and the industrial, worker-driven economy of the North. In particular, you point out the North’s admiration for slave management practices, and the idea of “management” and race becomes a central focus of this chapter. Why does the management of workers play such a big part here?

david: The chapter on race, capitalism and management argues against the idea that because capital cares mostly about rational matters like efficiency, productivity and profit, it is therefore somehow an enemy to the irrationality of race-thinking and to color bars keeping people of color out of some jobs. From slavery and the fur trade forward, managers thought of the working bodies that they attempted to control as raced, not as abstract units of labor. They often pitted workers of one race or ethnicity against others in managing labor. This pattern increased in later periods of expanding immigration, empire and industry.

macon: The end of slavery would obviously seem like an event that really challenged white America’s ideas about race, as well as changing the fate and circumstances of black people. Yet again, though, race “survived” this historical moment, and in many ways things didn’t get better at all—they just changed. Which of the aspects or events of the Reconstruction era that caused that to happen especially caught your attention?

david: For me the extent and effectiveness of white supremacist terror, particularly targeting political activists and successful figures in the Black community, remains the untold story of Reconstruction. Because the early Republican Party so featured people who were on fire about profit, this terror (and the promise to turn it off) became a way to convince enough Republicans that a stable, governable and profitable South had to involve a return to white supremacy.

macon: I noticed that you didn’t go so far as Douglas Blackmon does in his recent book, Slavery by Another Name, in directly stating and illustrating ways in which slavery didn’t really end with the Emancipation Proclamation. If you’re familiar with Blackmon’s work, do you think he overstates his case? Or do you agree, but maybe just put what happened in different terms?

david: I think the emancipation, even with the tragic backward motion of the 1870s. 80s and 90s, actually mattered greatly. It was the force of freedom—largely won through slaves’ own efforts-- and its long-lasting possibilities that made the turn to new regimes of racial terror, incarceration and segregation necessary to maintain elite white rule. Even the horrors of sharecropping differed much from slavery, in that workers were no longer routinely whipped in the fields, and freed people often elected to withdraw the field labor of women workers.

macon: The subtitle of your chapter that moves into the twentieth century is, “How Race Survived Mass Immigration.” How did the waves of immigration, especially the ones that we in this so-called “nation of immigrants” hear so much about from Europe, threaten the idea of race? And also, how did they instead solidify it?

david: What a great pair of questions! The fact that elites, and sometimes working people themselves, made invidious racial distinctions among Europeans potentially fractured whiteness. All such immigrants, including those especially suspect ones from Ireland and later from eastern and southern Europe, were “white” according to naturalization law, but in accessing jobs, good schooling and neighborhoods, they were often treated as much “less white” than the native-born. Getting firmly on the more favorable side of the color line often became a conscious effort among immigrant communities as they learned the racial hierarchies of the U.S.

macon: You write that the “Irish became white—twice.” How did that happen, and why do you find that significant?

david: Sharply under suspicion of being racially inferior in the eyes of their British colonizers, the Irish coming to the early U.S. were considered, Catholic or Protestant, to be white under naturalization law of their new country. But by the 1840s and 50s, with the mass migration of mostly Catholic Irish, often under dire, desperate conditions, the question of whether the Irish were fully white reemerged in the U.S., only to be solved over a period of decades as the Irish took advantage of voting rights to build alliances and political power in U.S. cities to establish their whiteness a second time. The case of the Irish suggests that being from Europe did not wholly prevent “racial” slights, but that it did confer political privileges vital to leaving such slights behind.

macon: In your overview of the mid-twentieth century, you discuss the connections between “liberalism,” “colorblindness,” and white supremacy. I think those two terms, liberal and especially colorblind, have a much more recent, contemporary feel for a lot of Americans, but you show that they already had a lot of currency back then. Could you explain these earlier uses of these terms, especially colorblindness, and what they said about race back then?

david: In the 1800s “liberal” referred to a supporter of a society based on contracts and self-interest more nakedly than “republicans,” who valued the possibility of a post-Revolution U.S. built on community and sacrifice, did. The modern usages of “liberal” and implications of colorblindness get interesting in the 1930s though. New Deal reformers, in need of the votes of white segregationist Democrats, capitulated to leaving the contours of Southern, and much of Northern, racism intact. What modern racial liberalism offered then was inclusion in some welfare programs, and some industrial unions, but on unequal bases. Indeed when the logic of colorblindness was invoked it did not imply equal treatment but rather a denial of any need or possibility of taking specific matters to more fully include people of color.

macon: Late in your book, you see a lot of historical resonance in John McCain’s defense, all the way up until 2000, of the term “gook.” What can an understanding of history teach us about that term, and more generally perhaps, about recent political deployments of Asian American stereotypes?

david: I wrote a short history of “gook” some years ago in Monthly Review, emphasizing that its long history, probably dating from the U.S. occupation of the Philippines, featured the dehumanizing racial slur following imperial adventures around, sometimes being applied in Central America as well as in Asia. McCain’s long-time insistence on using the term to refer to the people whom he bombed seems never to have hurt his political prospects. Among the many dangers of new anti-Asian attitudes is that they coincide with massive U.S. debt to China and great potential for conflict when that debt is collected.

macon: You’ve written before about Rush Limbaugh’s racist handlings of black politicians, and African Americans more generally. He’s extreme, but I think his methods are pretty typical of right-wing pundits and talk-show hosts—people like Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Michelle Malkin, Michael Savage, and so on (it’s interesting how impossible it is to come up with anything like a similar list of well-known left-wing pundits) . If Obama wins the election, do you think it will cause such people to skulk off in defeat in terms of race, or will they instead change their tactics? Or might they just continue with the same ones?

david: There has been a ratcheting-up of racist and xenophobic appeals during the campaign. Obama, as Pedro Caban argues, is subject not only to anti-Black racism from the right but also to an association with closeness to immigration and to being “not one of us”--the flag pin, Limbaugh’s conflations of his name with Osama, the falsities circulating over his religion. The economic crisis is already now and will be increasingly the focus of scapegoating of people of color, as in the recent attempts to lay the subprime crisis at the doorstep of people of color, characterized as “undeserving” of the loans they got.

macon: An Obama presidency will obviously be a “game-changer” in terms of race in America—another of the kind of potential watershed historical moments that structure your book. Do you think he’s shown promise so far as a leader who can really make a difference in how race survives, and in the ongoing prevalence of white supremacy?

david: This is an election of great symbolic import and the possibilities it shows, for example, in Black-Latino unity defeating the white right-wing will inspire struggles at all levels. The extent that the Republican coalition of investors and the religiously saved, of the money-changers and the born-again, is rapidly unraveling in the face of connected crises of empire and economy will become clear.

On the other hand, Obama has so far shown little ability to separate himself from the politics of corporate bailouts and imperial investments. More specifically, he has apparently felt constrained not to dwell on the tremendous gaps between white wealth and that of people of color in campaigning, and has proposed very little that is concrete in policy terms to close such gaps. Presidential two-party politics may be the absolute worst place to build a movement meaningfully, and one that would specifically address the plight of the African American and immigrant poor. If Obama is to be “forced into glory” of articulating reforms improving the lives of those at the bottom of society, lots of organizing from below will be needed.

macon: Towards the end of your book, you refer at one point to “affirmative action’s ghost.” Do you think this strategy toward equity still has any life in it that could be resuscitated? Or do you think newer or different strategies should be pushed for?

david: Affirmative action seems likely to survive in some corporations and in the armed forces, but it is greatly hamstrung in public institutions, including educational ones, by court decisions and the lack of any vigorous defense of the policy by political leaders. The recent split Supreme Court decisions on affirmative action in higher education defined permissible continuation of the policy not mainly in terms of racial justice, but rather of temporarily providing diverse educational experiences for majority students. Agitation, it seems to me, should increasingly turn to going on the offensive regarding issues like reparations for slavery, Jim Crow, federally engineered housing discrimination, and color bars in employment, than on staying on the defensive regarding affirmative action.

macon: As a historian, you’re obviously used to taking the long view, and I’d like to ask about your long view of the future. In your book’s afterword, you cite some recent prognostications by Orlando Patterson in the New Republic and the New York Times. In the course of pointing out several contradictions in his logic, you summarize the main points of his two articles this way: “Race will vanish—but whiteness will persist.”

How did he end up making such contradictory points? And is this kind of paradoxical thinking about race widespread now? If so, where else do you see it happening?

david: I think Patterson, often an acute writer, sometimes loses track of the fact that whiteness is itself a racial position. He writes, for example, of people of color in some utopian/dystopian future being able to alter their appearances to not be recognizable as nonwhite. To me this signifies a continuation of race, not its disappearance.

The confusions and contradictions regarding race abound. Take, for example, the writing by pundits on the presidential campaign. On the one hand, since Obama’s early triumphs in Iowa, there’s been much talk of his popularity heralding an “end of race.” At the same time, voting behavior by people of color has been reduced to ridiculous, unexamined stereotypes. When polls showed majority Black support for Clinton over Obama early in the campaign, we were told that his mixed race status made him “not Black enough” in African American voters’ eyes. When he did get the huge majority of Black votes, the equally oversimplified story became that Blacks vote on racial lines for other African Americans. In the primaries, Clinton’s edge over Obama was said to reflect an insurmountable Black-Latino divide. Now that Obama seems poised to win the huge majority of Latino votes, we don’t hear so much about that.

macon: Finally, your book’s ending implies that despite the Obama phenomenon, race is going to survive for a long time to come. Is there any hope for at least ameliorating some of its more pernicious effects? If so, do you have hope for any concrete forms of resistance and/or change?

david: As much as the economic crisis—and the huge outlays already made to corporations and banks—promise to create a logic that says little social spending can occur, we must make an alternative case that the austerity absolutely requires bringing troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan, cutting military/imperial spending dramatically, and ending the scandalous expenditures for prison expansion. To link these demands with spending to rebuild urban communities and to provide relief for people of color hit disproportionately hard by the subprime mortgage crisis would bring together social forces promisingly. The wonderful New Orleans slogan MAKE LEVEES NOT WAR, is, in the context of white supremacy’s role in the neglect and the selective rebuilding of that city, something of a model of connecting issues and people simply and practically.

macon: Thank you so much for your time, Professor Roediger.

Online items of interest by David Roediger:

turn books into plays

Dan Wolf wrote in with a reminder about an exciting event, his stage version of Adam Mansbach's novel, Angry Black White Boy (a primary source of inspiration for me that I wrote about awhile back, here). The play runs from tonight until November 16 at The Intersection for the Arts, in San Francisco.

According to the S. F. Theater Examiner, "Wolf is an extraordinary actor, playwright, MC and rapper behind the live hip-hop group Felonious":

In one of those life-altering moments, Wolf heard San Francisco author Adam Mansbach on the radio talking about his 2005 novel “Angry Black White Boy or The Miscegenation of Macon Detornay.”

“It was just the right moment for me because I had all these questions about the future of Felonious and what it meant for a white kid from the suburbs teaching hip-hop to white kids,” Wolf says. “I ran out and bought the book, and it just cracked open all these questions in my mind, and passages just jumped off the page.”

Being a man of the theater, Wolf immediately began thinking about adapting the book in some way, but he quickly learned the book had already been optioned as a movie. In his work with the Jewish Community Center, Wolf actually crossed paths with Mansbach, the two talked about some sort of stage adaptation, and Wolf was off and running. . . .

Part theatrical storytelling, part poetry, rap, beatboxing, ballet and hip-hop dance, “Angry Black White Boy” previews this weekend and opens Monday, Oct. 27 at Intersection and continues through Nov. 16.

A must-see if you're in the area, and here's hoping this show goes on the road.

Break a leg, Dan! (Or should I say, "Bust a move!" No, wait . . . )

If any readers of this blog manage to provoke my extreme jealousy by making it to Dan Wolf's Angry Black White Boy, please tell us what you thought of it in a comment.

Here's a feature article about Dan and the new play from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

white weekend links

  • "Stay of Execution for Troy Davis" (email sent by Amnesty International to its supporters)

    I am delighted to share some good news with you! Troy Davis received a stay of execution based on a new last-minute appeal filed this past Wednesday to the federal appeals court in Atlanta. As a result, he will not be executed on Monday, October 27th, as originally scheduled.

    Your action has succeeded in putting a spotlight on Troy's case worldwide and bringing about this victory. At least 300,000 individuals have written letters in support of Troy. Additionally, prominent leaders such as former President Jimmy Carter, the Pope, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have all called for justice in this case. . . .

    While we pause to celebrate this good news, we cannot forget that Troy still faces the very real possibility of execution—despite the fact that no physical evidence tied him to the 1989 murder of a police officer in Savannah, GA, and that 7 of the 9 eyewitnesses have since recanted their testimony. . . .

    We now await the decision of the federal appeals court, which will determine whether Troy's case warrants a new hearing. We believe their ruling could happen at any time during the next month. . . .

    To stay informed about Troy Davis' case and to find out how to take additional actions, please visit:

  • "White Support for Obama at Historic High" (David Paul Kuhn @ Politico; h/t: Aida Harvey @ Racism Review)

    Barack Obama, the first black major-party nominee, is positioned to win the largest share of white voters of any Democrat in more than three decades, according to an exclusive Politico analysis of recent Gallup and Pew Research Center polling.

    The most recent two weeks of Gallup polling, which includes roughly 13,000 interviews, show 44 percent of non-Hispanic white voters presently support Obama — the highest number for a Democrat since 47 percent of whites backed Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Frank TV
"Whitey McCain"

  • "Frozen River: A Great Movie That's Neither Hip Nor Cool" (Kim Nicolini @ Counterpunch)

    Frozen River is an unflinching brutal portrait of the desperation and struggles of the lower class in America, and Melissa Leo pulls out all the stops to show that brutality for every wrinkle, stain, cigarette, nickel and dime that encompasses it. Unlike the movies of David Gordon Green which attempt to touch upon the American white underclass but always leave everything with a tinge of music video fetishism, Frozen River allows no room for the stamp of MTV prettiness or indie pop culture fetishism of the working class. Nothing about the characters in this movie is hip and cool. Nothing about them will sell blue jeans or pop music. This is a brutally real portrait of the struggles of those who are invisible living under the hammer of capitalism and its economic cannibalism in America, and I suggest you get out there and see it.

Sarah Palin
and black people

  • "Hate Groups Mostly Quiet in U.S. Election" (Jim Rutenberg @ The New York Times)

    “Right now,” said Mr. White, the head of the American National Socialist Workers Party, “we’re facing the potential of a half-black candidate financed by Jewish money going up against a white candidate financed by Jewish money, who are both advocating the same policy. So you’ve got two terrible choices.” . . .

    “What we really haven’t seen is white supremacists really rallying over an Obama presidency,” said Mark Potok, the director of intelligence at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups. “Hate groups are in a more or less stunned position right now; they haven’t been able to figure out how to proceed just yet.” . . .

    “There’s a real problem,” Mr. White said in the interview last month, “in what’s called the ‘white movement.’ One, there’s a lot of people who are just mentally ill, and we deal with those a lot. No. 2, there are people who have serious sexual problems.”

  • "If you're arrested for drugs, you're more likely to get a second chance if you're white" (Bob Paynter @ Cleveland Plains Dealer)

    These cases are among hundreds examined by The Plain Dealer in an effort to gauge whether white defendants get different treatment than black defendants in the criminal justice system. The newspaper focused specifically on drug cases, which not only dominate local court dockets but also are characterized far more than most violent or property crimes by judgment calls and policy decisions at virtually every level of the system.

    The analysis was done against a national backdrop of questions about the racial justice of America's decades-long reliance on law enforcement to stamp out drug abuse.

    Two reform-minded organizations -- The Sentencing Project and Human Rights Watch -- made essentially the same case in separate studies earlier this year.

    Despite data consistently showing that far more white people use crack cocaine, powder cocaine and other illegal drugs than black people, both groups noted, it is black people who overwhelmingly dominate the ranks of those who are arrested, prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned for drugs.

    Cleveland -- where records show a black person is nearly four times more likely to be arrested on felony drug charges than a white person -- is no exception.

    And since 2000, a black person has been 12.7 times more likely than a white person to be sent to a state prison from Cuyahoga County on drug charges.

Colin and Sarah,
black and white,
smart and dumb, etc.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

assume that birds of a darker feather naturally stick together, and that birds of a white feather don't

Regular SWPD reader Phoebe Caulfield recently wrote in a comment, “I've noticed a lot of white ire over Colin Powell's endorsement. Claims that it's ‘obvious’ why he endorsed Obama. I'd love to hear your thoughts on that.”

Thank you Phoebe, I’ve been wondering about that white ire too, and especially about where such thoughts and comments about Powell’s endorsement come from.

Powell made his endorsement four days ago, but with so much else going on these days, including the rising tides of racist swill currently threatening to swamp all other issues in this election, Powell’s endorsement already seems like a historical footnote.

Nevertheless, this blog’s primary mission is to tease out, and then spell out, common white tendencies, and one that’s been appearing again and again lately, especially in “white ire” over Powell’s endorsement, is this one: the common white belief--really more of a suspicion at times--that blacks and other groups of non-whites are “birds of a feather,” who just sort of naturally stick together, and who watch out for each other with a reflexive, impulsive, irrational loyalty. The flip-side is a common white belief, despite a lot of evidence to the contrary, that most white people are free-floating, independent-minded individuals, who are never brought together by their racial whiteness.

It's no surprise to me that when Powell offered his measured, detailed, and convincing endorsement of Barack Obama on Sunday, conservative pundits quickly dismissed it as nothing but a Black Thing--“yet another” case of a black person reflexively, irrationally standing by another black person. Predictable simpletons like Rush Limbaugh, Kathryn Jean Lopez, George Will, Michael Savage, and Pat Buchanan are often quick to resort to that kind of reductive, relatively open racism.

There’s probably another white tendency at work in such reactions as well. That is, I think it’s difficult for some white people to really listen to a black person discuss issues that have, or in the case of Powell's endorsement, seem to have, something to do with race. I’ve been in professional meetings, for instance, where a solitary black person will make a suggestion, the whites will nod their heads and move on, and then a few minutes later a white person makes the same suggestion, and suddenly everyone thinks it’s just a great idea!

But the common white tendency that I want to bring into focus here is the assumption that blacks and other non-whites just naturally, and rather irrationally, stick together. Immediately after Powell's endorsement, Rush Limbaugh fired off a sarcastic email to his dittoheads that said this: "Secretary Powell says his endorsement is not about race. OK, fine. I am now researching his past endorsements to see if I can find all the inexperienced, very liberal, white candidates he has endorsed. I'll let you know what I come up with."

Never mind all of the endorsements by notable conservative white people for white candidates, or for that matter, for Obama--it would never occur to Rush, nor to most other white people, to wonder whether a famous white person's backing of a white candidate has anything at all to do with racial solidarity, nor whether a famous white person endorsing Obama would do so for racial reasons.

The issue here is not so much whether Powell and other black people, or other non-white people, or white people for that matter, do stick together and watch each other’s backs. Instead, the common white tendency I want to spell out here is a double standard commonly deployed from a white perspective—that of supposed non-white (and “irrational”) togetherness, versus supposed white (and “commonsensical”) individualism. This assumption can be summed up as, “birds of a darker feather naturally stick together, but birds of a white feather don’t.”

Soon after Powell's endorsement, white-solidarity enthusiast Pat Buchanan gave truculent voice to this assumption during a panel discussion on "Hardball," where he engaged in "analysis" of Powell's endorsement with Joan Walsh and Chris Matthews:

Buchanan: All right, we gotta ask a question. Look, would Colin Powell be endorsing Barack Obama if he were a white liberal Democrat?

Walsh: Oh, Pat, I'm really sorry you went there.

Buchanan: Look, General Powell started off by saying it would be electrifying if we elected an African American, and it is naive, Joan, to suggest it had nothing at all to do with his decision.

Matthews: What about . . . Just to finish this point, and it is very tricky. He said that if that were his driving motive, he would have done it weeks ago because the guy looked African American weeks and months ago.

Walsh: And Obama's been courting him. He's been courting him for months.

Buchanan: Chris, this explains why--this is why he threw in the whole kitchen sink! A lot of things that are silly and ridiculous. Economics and Supreme courts justices--

Walsh: That's not silly. . .

Buchanan: It's that, we've got all the motives, except for the one everyone is wondering about!

Matthews (who’s been doing a much better job lately) at the end of the segment: You oughta--you and I can agree on one thing, the hardest thing in American life is to figure out someone else's motives. Because it's very hard to figure out your own motives sometimes, let alone somebody else's. Look, I think that's about as profound as I can get on a Sunday night.

Buchanan: [derisive, smirking chuckles]

Notice that aside from assuming that Powell’s endorsement must be a “black thing,” Buchanan dismisses Powell’s extended and detailed reasoning as merely “silly”—it’s like he can hardly even hear the content of Powell’s words.

In terms of race, Buchanan has long been a notorious fear-monger, which is something that I think lurks behind the common white perception of “irrational” non-white solidarity, especially that being flung at us from the low road by the McCain/Palin ticket: white fear that Obama is a Manchurian candidate” who's going to tear off his mask if he wins and “paint the White House black,” by instituting unprecedented levels of support and “handouts” for black people. And white fear as well that masses of embittered black people will rise up and finally seek revenge for what the collective white psyche paradoxically knows is true, which is that white supremacist America has yet to account for centuries of ongoing racial exploitation and abuse.

So the common white tendency here, which makes conservative interpretations of Powell’s endorsement resonate with a lot of white people, is the common belief or suspicion that black people compulsively stick together and watch each other’s backs; that other groups of non-white people, like those Arab Muslims, do that too; and that they're doing it with anti-white intentions.

Like a lot of conservatives before them, the McCain/Palin camp knows how this sort of submerged racism works. Making any sort of negative association between Obama and someone else is much more effective with a lot of white voters if that someone else is not white.

As blogger blackgirlinmaine concisely observes, they can’t use the “n-word” for Obama, so they use the racially coded word “terrorist” instead--“terrorist is the new n-word.” So it's sad indeed for Republicans that sixties-radical-turned-respected-professor Bill Ayers is white!

And in a rather bizarre racial twist, “Muslim” is another new n-word, which again wouldn’t work nearly so well for McCain’s efforts to tar Obama as a Muslim if the Democratic nominee were instead a white person with childhood Islamic connections. (And on this subject, Colin Powell made a great point during his endorsement by basically asking, why in the world it would be a problem if Obama were a Muslim?)

The submerged, racist tendency at play here--the assumption that “darker” people stick with “birds of a feather” for irrational or sinister purposes--is perfectly crystallized in the following image. This is a recent campaign advertisement for a state-level race in Texas, sent through the mail by “Empower Texas,” a group of Republican swiftboaters.

The white guy among the black “crows” is Joel Redmond, the Democratic candidate being attacked in the ad, presumably for sympathizing somehow with black leaders and causes.

As Glenn Smith writes at Open Left, “Anyone with any racial sensitivity gets the meaning of the mailer: Redmond has betrayed whites by befriending people of color. He can't be trusted.” I would add that white recipients are also supposed to sneer at Redmond because he’s a “race traitor,” and that his traitorous crime’s include that of betraying his whitened individuality, by joining a darkly sinister flock of like-minded, irrational (and thus animalistic) . . . sorry, but there’s no other word that fits here—“niggers.”

Those crows are, you know, "black" crows. Pretty much like these, from the 1941 Disney "children's classic," Dumbo:

Oddly enough, and despite a lot of evidence to the contrary, white Americans rarely think that white people naturally flock together and watch each other’s backs. When white folks cluster together into lily-white towns, or into white-bread suburbs like the one I grew up in, or into all-white churches and nearly all-white schools, or into boardrooms and "Fortune 500" lists, and then work in assorted covert ways to keep out people of color, that’s supposedly just a sort of coincidence, and surely not evidence of white racial solidarity.

On the other hand, as Chris Matthews pointed out above, the general issue of racial solidarity is "tricky." For a variety of reasons, various groups of non-white people sometimes do stick together, and they sometimes do watch each other’s backs. But when they do so, there are good reasons, and they usually do so in very different ways from the unacknowledged forms of white solidarity.

“American” culture and society--which are actually “white” or “white-framed,” instead of just “American”--have encouraged a bleaching away of non-white traditions and ways of being that a lot of people would just as soon hang onto. So, non-white people often get together or stay together so they can do just that. At the same time, whitened American society has also pushed non-white people together in many ways, and it continues to oppress and exploit them, making it a good, realistic idea for them to watch each other’s backs.

All of which is not to say, however, that all African Americans, for instance, naturally or irrationally stick together. And it’s especially not to say that if a lot of them support a black politician, they’re doing so thoughtlessly and impulsively, merely because they’re black too.

The main problem I see with this ironically reflexive and irrational white perception of black solidarity is that it ignores and discredits the kind of individual thought and careful consideration displayed so thoroughly in Powell’s endorsement. That kind of informed consideration was also on display early in the Democratic primary, when a majority of black voters supported Hillary Clinton instead of Obama.

Many of those supporters clearly saw in Clinton a candidate whose beliefs and favored policies fit well with their own, and as I understand it, a major turning point came when Clinton and her husband Bill started engaging in some of the same “birds of a feather” race-baiting against Obama that McCain and Palin have been using recently.

So yes, the topic of racial solidarity is a tricky, complicated issue, and it's resulted in a really long blog post. I’ll conclude by referring to a useful characterization of Rush Limbaugh’s most recent racist remarks by David Neiwart, who writes for Crooks and Liars:

Limbaugh is the guy at the sports bar who carefully tabulates the racial composition of every team on the screen and roots accordingly. If a team has a black quarterback, he predicts they're going to lose. Heaven forfend that any black player demonstrate too much enthusiasm over a touchdown or a dunk or a home run, or that any black linebacker should level a white quarterback, because then the "thug" and "jungle" references come out. He hates Tiger Woods with an inexplicable venom (mostly because he's too uppity "full of himself").

We all know that guy. (Some of them are in our families.) And anyone who's even moderately serious about sports, and moderately knowledgeable about them, knows that that guy is completely and hopelessly full of shit.

Neiwart sets up a pretty large target here, and he does proceed to land a bull's-eye, but I think he misses the larger target. That’s the proverbial white elephant in that bar, and in our living rooms, and in America at large.

Digging a little deeper beneath the white skin of Limbaugh/Joe Sports-Bar reveals that his thought processes are not all that different from those of most other white folks. Like Limbaugh and his cawing, conservative white crows, most white folks think that blacks or other non-whites flock together, and that they do so naturally, impulsively, and irrationally.

Many white folks would pat themselves on the back for being different from Limbaugh and those white racists represented by Neiwart’s Sports Bar Guy.

How different are we, though, in those moments when we don’t really listen to what black people have to say? Or when we assume that blacks and other non-white groups just naturally stick together, and even belong together, and that they belong together over there? And how different are we when we also assume that nearly all-white gatherings and settings have nothing at all to do with racial solidarity?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

feel . . . put upon? beseiged? or . . . ?

Like most of you who also run a blog, I sometimes poke through the various types of stats that I can access about my readers. My stats became available with the counter that I installed at the bottom of this page.

Among the many different "behind the scenes" bits of information I can access, the ones that most often fascinate me are those in the section labeled "search phrases." These are the words, phrases, and sentences that people entered into search engines, which then landed them on this blog.

For example, now that I've written a post on jokes about white people, I get a lot of page hits from people looking for "racist jokes," and such variations as "non-racist white people jokes," or "Mexican black white guy jokes." Other words or phrases that brought people here have nothing to do with what's happening on "stuff white people do," such as "things to do on the weekend" (variations of which pop up every Friday), or one that I remember from a couple of months ago: "What is this white stuff that comes out of me?"

Here's a small, fairly random collection of the more thought-provoking, or at least head-scratching, search terms that brought readers here in the last month or so. As you can see, people out there have a LOT to ask of the Mighty Google Oracle Machine.

At the end of this post, there's one search phrase in particular that I'd like to ask you about.

>> why is it harder for white people to go to college?
>> jokes about people who type too hard
>> why do people steal their alive mothers stuff?
>> white teens on the down low
>> what do white people eat?
>> what do blacks really go through in a white world?
>> what do black people want from whites?
>> creep-me-out workplace behavior
>> stock photos of people whispering
>> white guy overalls beard bald hip hop
>> new york: where do they bury their dead?
>> jokes about waffles
>> why do we bury dead people?
>> can a person be burried with out being taking to a funeral home?
>> how to shake a black person's hand
>> how people do make up in America
>> How does growing up as a white person in an almost completely white town affect the way I see the world?
>> filipino box spring hog
>> why do only white people ski?
>> white people often pet black people
>> white men can't jump but they're definitely packing
>> grocery stores that cater to white people
>> A clenched fist is really racist to a lot of people around here. I think people want to see it removed now. They are not happy about it at all.
>> is it offensive to ask if someone is asian?
>> james baldwin said being white means never having to think about it
>> Racial war in America if Obama wins I am Scared about Blacks killing White People
>> give white people their culture back
>> blame the white man
>> why do white people smile so much?
>> children laugh when abused
>> who determines race in bi-racial children?
>> Do people try to have bi-racial babies taken away?
>> why do people say that racism against whites does not exist?
>> why do hispanics not tip well at meals?
>> what is a nice way to ask asians what they are?
>> white people do this black people do that
>> White people can do this, and I'm racist, but black person does this he's not
>> how to get along with white people
>> White people are sad
>> what makes white people mad?
>> to whisper the words i've always wanted to say
>> obama affirmative action baby rudy giuliani
>> Why do white people in the workplace not speak to blacks?
>> how would you describe the family structure of white people?
>> why cant black people shut up in the movie theater?
>> white-people cheese
>> is butter a derogatory term for Light skinned black people?
>> do black babies change color after birth?
>> why do black people have white hands?
>> good things about white people
>> white people go to the beach to escape black people
>> why do white people believe they are superior?
>> why do white people not see racism?
>> why are white people so evil?

I could go on, but surely that's enough food for whatever thoughts this kind of found poetry might inspire for you.

If you're still reading, or if you've skipped down here for the question I promised up above, here it is:

What do you suppose the person who entered this search phrase was thinking?

>> How long will white people take it?

give john mccain's bigotry a pass

I guess today is my "really good Internet video" day, cuz here's another one, featuring Adriel Luis of the ill-literacy collective.

First, a question, or two--imagine if Barack Obama had said anything like the blatantly racist or sexist things that John McCain has. How "unforgivable" would that be, and how many times a day, every day, would we have to hear about it?

What does it say about race in America when on the one hand, white leaders get a pass for actually saying outrageous, bigoted things (and black leaders don't get such a pass), but on the other, the still-unfounded rumor of a "whitey" tape involving not even Obama himself, but instead his wife, has had such staying power?

And in terms of racial bigotry, why are so few people in the white-framed corporate media and elsewhere refusing to simply label John McCain what he clearly is, or at least raise more questions about that?

And why are so many more white people "concerned" instead about what Barack Obama is--that is, our first viable possibility for a "black" president?

And why do so many white folks still like to say, despite evidence to the contrary in such blatant double standards, that America is now "colorblind," and that we're pretty much beyond racism these days?

And if Obama wins, why will so many more white folks find in that win evidence for the end of racism, rather than for the tremendous will and endurance of a man and his family in overcoming the persistent, seemingly deathless fact of racism?

[h/t: The Unapologetic Mexican]

think of race as a black-and-white thing

In "Black, White, Whatever . . . " spoken-word artist Kelly Tsai explains what's wrong with the way that so many Americans treat matters of race--as if, that is, only black and white people matter.

Hat-tip to angry asian man, who describes this video as "a call out to our politicians to dig deeper past the black/white binary when discussing race in America. You know, because there are a lot of us out here who are neither black nor white . . . but we're sure as hell American. The message seems more relevant than ever as we quickly approach one of the most important elections in our lifetime."

Saturday, October 18, 2008

white weekend links

  • "White Women of the Baby Boom a Prized Voting Bloc" (Associated Press)

    White women age 45 to 64 . . . are one of this year's most hotly contested voting blocs, evenly divided between Barack Obama and John McCain, and wide open to being pulled either way, according to a recent Associated Press-GfK Poll.

    There are plenty of them, too, prompting both presidential campaigns to woo them vigorously. About one in six voters in the 2004 presidential election was a white woman in that age range, exit polls showed.

    They're feisty, used to demanding answers and making choices. With a worldwide economy that's lurching toward recession, they're demanding that the presidential candidates show them concrete solutions to the financial crisis and other problems.

  • "Troy Davis: Finality Over Fairness" (Amnesty International USA)

    UPDATE - Death Warrant Issued!Execution date has been set for October 27.

    The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles denied clemency for Troy Anthony Davis shortly before 5 p.m. on Friday, September 12. They did so despite overwhelming doubts of Davis' guilt - and after stating last year that they would "not allow an execution to proceed in this State unless and until its members are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused." On September 23, The U.S. Supreme Court stayed Troy Davis' execution "pending the disposition of [his] petition for a writ of certiorari." On October 14, the Court decided not to accept his petition.


    Global Day of Action for Troy Davis
    October 23, 2008

    Rally in Atlanta! Download the flyer or handbill
    Attend a solidarity event in your hometown!
    View a list of planned events here
    Download a photo of Troy Davis to hold at your rally.
    Download a fact sheet and petition to provide passersby with more information.
  • The Georgia Board has the power to step in at any point, so we encourage you to continue to collect letters and petitions asking them to issue clemency.

    >> TAKE ACTION! Write a letter to the Georgia Board of Pardon and Paroles
    >> To see what activists are doing in Georgia, please visit GFADP.
    >> Write a letter to the editor of your local paper. It's quick and easy using the ACLU's website.
    >> Text "TROY" to 90999
    to help spread the word with your cell phone.
    >> Participate in the weekend of prayer for Troy Davis and justice, Oct. 24-26. Ask you faith community to offer a prayer during services. See the model: Interfaith Prayer for Healing and Justice.
    >> Listen to Troy tell his story
    >> Hear from Troy's sister
    >> Join the discussion on our blog

"Biracial Tiffany" spends the first three minutes of
her 62nd "mulatto diaries" entry
explaining why she's proud to be white

  • "On White Pride and Other Delusions: Reflections on the Rage of the Uninformed" (Tim Wise @ Black Agenda Report)

    Contrary to popular belief, the white race is a quite modern creation, which only emerged as a term and concept to describe Europeans in the late 1600s and after, specifically in the colonies of what would become the United States. Prior to that time, "whites" had been a collection of Europeans with little in common, and often long histories of conflict, bloodshed and conquest of one another's lands and peoples. The English, for example, did not consider themselves to be of the same group as the Irish, Germans, Italians, or French. While most Europeans by that time may have thought of themselves as Christians, there is no evidence that they conceived of themselves as a race of people, with a common heritage or destiny. . . .

    What is most important for white folks to understand is that their interests do not lie with the racial bonding they are being asked to embrace. Indeed, the very concept of the white race was invented by the wealthy so as to trick poor and working class European Americans into accepting an economic system that exploited them, even as it elevated them in relative terms over persons of color. As such, for whites to organize on the basis of whiteness is to codify as legitimate a category the meaning of which was always and forever about domination and privilege relative to those who couldn't qualify for membership in the club.

  • "Southern Sheriff Pulls Over Obama Campaign Bus For Broken Taillight" (The Onion)

    According to those on board the bus—including various journalists, members of the Secret Service, and Obama campaign staffers—several minutes passed before [deputy sheriff] Clutter exited his cruiser. Witness statements all mention hearing the sheriff's jackbooted footsteps along the gravel roadside as he slowly approached the vehicle's passenger side. These reports also assert that, prior to reaching the front of the campaign bus, the sheriff paused momentarily to smash the right rear taillight of the bus before dragging his still-drawn baton along the entire length of the vehicle. . . .

    According to Obama insiders, this is not the first time on the campaign trail that the former president of the Harvard Law Review has had to deal with this type of treatment. While attending a rally in Savannah, GA, Obama was closely followed around the town hall by several armed guards to ensure that he didn't steal anything, and the senator reportedly had trouble canvassing voters in Baton Rouge, LA after everyone he approached crossed to the opposite side of the street.

  • "Stars on the Field but Shared Glory on Film" (Neely Tucker @ The Washington Post)

    The inspiring, based-on-a-true-story black sports film, renewed this month with "The Express," is a movie subgenre that has become an almost annual Hollywood staple over the past decade. It's both a social and cinematic breakthrough, finally recognizing African American lives as the stuff of legend, as well as putting more black faces on the big screen than ever before.

    But hold the post-racial hoopla: The main story line in many of these films is the black athlete's relationship with a white coach or teammate, often exaggerating the importance of the white character to the actual events. Since many of these movies are soft-focus retellings of the civil rights movement, the unspoken message seems to be that blacks need guidance, nurturing and counsel from whites to achieve greatness.

  • "Becoming AWARE" (Clare Robins @ Youth Radio)

    I’m part of an awareness group for white people. We talk about how we can stand up to racist remarks and actions, and how we can unlearn racist attitudes we may have heard growing up white.

    A similar group is forming at Cleveland High School. It's called AWARE. So far about 30 students participate—all white. Most have completed a unique unit on race and racism, and want a space to keep that conversation alive outside the classroom.

    But why for white people only? Twelfth grader Jaryn Saritsky says it’s important to talk about racism with everyone, but sometimes it’s hard to be really honest when there are students of color in the room.

    JARYN (on tape)
    It’s not the responsibility of people of color to help white people. White people need to be able to evolve on their own... Because we have the luxury of just forgetting it all the time.

    We might have that luxury of ignoring racism...but we shouldn’t. People get funny looks on their faces when I talk about the group I’m in. The idea of an all-white group still evokes images of Ku Klux Klan meetings, and it just sounds weird to some people.

  • "The Terrorist Barack Hussein Obama" (Frank Rich @ The New York Times)

    “I’ve got the best protection in the world, so stop worrying,” Obama reassured his supporters. Eventually the country got conditioned to his appearing in large arenas without incident (though I confess that the first loud burst of fireworks at the end of his convention stadium speech gave me a start). In America, nothing does succeed like success. The fear receded.

    Until now. At McCain-Palin rallies, the raucous and insistent cries of “Treason!” and “Terrorist!” and “Kill him!” and “Off with his head!” as well as the uninhibited slinging of racial epithets, are actually something new in a campaign that has seen almost every conceivable twist. They are alarms. Doing nothing is not an option.

    Obama can hardly be held accountable for Ayers’s behavior 40 years ago, but at least McCain and Palin can try to take some responsibility for the behavior of their own supporters in 2008. What’s troubling here is not only the candidates’ loose inflammatory talk but also their refusal to step in promptly and strongly when someone responds to it with bloodthirsty threats in a crowded arena. Joe Biden had it exactly right when he expressed concern last week that “a leading American politician who might be vice president of the United States would not just stop midsentence and turn and condemn that.” To stay silent is to pour gas on the fires.

  • "Brooklyn, The Borough: A One-Man Gentrification Slam" (Nicole Brydson @ New York Observer)

    Chatting with Mr. Hoch, 37, a 20-year Williamsburg resident originally from Queens, is to peer into the souls of every character that's made an impression on his life. It's those characters, composites of which he breathes life into on stage, that are the focus of his new one-man show Taking Over, which begins a run at the Public Theatre on Nov. 7.

    Taking Over tells the story of Williamsburg's gentrification through the voices of eight residents, whom Mr. Hoch transforms into effortlessly. . .

    Citing Adrian Piper, a conceptual artist and philosopher who studied under John Rawls at Harvard, Mr. Hoch pointed to the concept of “white people fatigue.”

    "What she's talking about is that there's a whole lot of white folks on the left – liberals, Democrats if you will – that have this fatigue about not wanting to do the work necessary to figure out their own place, and their own role in the scheme of things,” Mr. Hoch said. “These folks don't want to do the work, they just want it to be fixed.”

    Struggling, authenticity and the “real” world are themes that appear in every scene in
    Taking Over, which seamlessly weaves together an almost invisible pattern of human and economic impact.

    The mostly native crowd at the Grand Street Auditorium was enamored with Mr. Hoch, cheering him on with shouts of “go home” to Kaitlan, the entitled newcomer, who was forced to sell t-shirts when her allowance was reduced from $5,000 to $1,000 per month. She preferred Williamsburg when it was "grittier."

Danny Hoch talks about his
one-man show, Taking Over

Thursday, October 16, 2008

think of the "working class" as the "(white) working class"

The following piece of political satire, a guest post from Kit,

also appears at her blog, Keep It Trill

What about
Jamal the Plumber?

We heard a lot about Joe the Plumber at last night's final Presidential Debate, but what about Jamal the Plumber?

I met him over coffee early this morning to get his opinion.

"I don't want to sound petty," he said, "but it should have been my turn to shine. I have issues and concerns too."

"Like what, Jamal?" I asked.

"McCain been yapping 'bout what he's gonna do for Joe Sixpack forevah. I know Joe; we're in the same bowling league. He drinks entirely too much and ain't seen the crack of dawn since he caught the school bus twenty years ago. Last I heard, he was chilling in that Pennsylvania bar, clinging to his Bible and his gun and waiting for Hillary to visit again. He's not gonna even vote for McCain..."

I interrupted him. "Why not?"

"Joe got problems that John McCain said he won't fix, and Joe figured this out. He's been dying to get into a rehab for his alcoholism, but has no healthcare. McCain's plan ain't universal and thus, ain't gonna help him. That's the third reason why he was digging on Hillary so much."

"What were the first two?"

"She's white and can chug-a-lug."

"Jamal, come on, did he tell you this?"

"Not the white part, but I ain't stupid. When Joe got all pissy that 'the black guy' beat her out, he said he was looking at McCain a lot harder 'for his service to his country'. It was all I could do to keep a straight face."

I chuckled, knowing what he meant. Jamal looked at his watch and sipped his coffee before continuing.

He said, "McCain act like he don't really want black votes other than from a handful of Negro GOP suck-up politicians, and that strange fella in his audience last week who was begging him. Geez! That man looked like he had died and gone to heaven when McCain touched him! As a black man, I was embarrassed for him."

We both cracked up laughing.

"So McCain ain't got the black vote," Jamal said, "and I overheard Joe Sixpack say he might as well be black too for what the GOP will do for him, which is nothing, except keeping the White House white, so he's voting for Obama."

I asked, "So what about this new guy who McCain was talking about, Joe Plumber? Do you think he'll vote for him?"

"There's more than one Joe Plumber out there," he said. "The one I know told me last night that he didn't like his name being put out there like that. He thought it was funny a couple months back when McCain was bouncing Britney Spears name around without her getting her endorsement first. Upset the girl so much I think she wanted to go back to the hospital to get away from the paparazzi. Joe Plumber was pissed when it happened to him. He had a dozen camera crews outside his house last night. He refused to talk to any of them."

"Why wouldn't the Joe Plumber you know enjoy his fifteen minutes of fame?"

"He's been going through a lot lately," Jamal answered. "I talked to him an hour ago about a job we'll be on this morning. Joe P. said his wife is four months pregnant and they want the baby, but she's having big time problems. The doctors are watching her closely, and they say she might need a late term abortion if her health becomes endangered, but McCain made it real clear last night that he don't play that."

"Was he a McCain supporter before?"

"His family has always voted Republican, but they ain't been happy during the Bush years. Joe Plumber said he lost his stomach for McCain after coming back from one of those hate rallies. He was standing near the guy that screamed 'Kill him!' about Obama, and he was worried to death that the cameras panned on him. He knows how that guilt by association thing works in the media, and he don't want no one thinking he's a pal of a domestic terrorist threatening a public official. As Joe Plumber said, 'I was just in the room, the same as Obama was with that Ayers guy. I didn't have a thing to do with what that man said or did.' I couldn't agree more. I know Joe Plumber, and Joe Plumber is no domestic terrorist."

Jamal looked at his watch again. The sun was shining now, and I knew I had time for only a few more questions.

"So Jamal, what was your favorite part of the debate last night?"

"That's easy," he said. "Barack rocked it with all his answers. For one, he ain't gonna freeze all spending except defense like McCain will. He has a banging tax and health plan, and maybe best of all, he didn't renounce that black Congressman, John Lewis, for saying McCain's campaign rallies and ads had been planting seeds of hate. My man Obama is tired of being bullied for words that don't come out of his mouth. Lewis told the truth, but McCain and the haters been trying to back Obama into a corner like the racism don't exist. He stood his ground, yet at the same time, was cool about it."

"Have you experienced being hated on more in the past month or two?"

"I can feel it and see it in the eyes of some white folks in certain areas, especially when I wear my Obama t-shirt. I used to ignore the frowns, but I had a run in at a gas station with some yahoo boys who seriously were trying to bait me into a fight. Sometimes, late at night before I fall asleep, I wonder if I'll be attacked or shot or worse in a random act of violence by a bigot with a grudge when Obama wins."

I nodded, agreeing. "That's been on the minds of a lot of black folks."

"Yes," he replied softly, "and if it happens to me, I wonder if anyone in the media will care enough to ask one question."

"What's that?"

His voice became even softer.

"What about Jamal the Plumber..."

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