Black and white Archives

December 9, 2006

All quiet on the internal front

Reader correspondence from the mailbag:
A while back, you posted an excellent column asking where the nationwide black uprising was in response to the State-assisted suffering of black, poor Hurricane Katrina victims.

Perhaps now you should write one asking where the upsurge of nationwide Black rage is after the murder of Sean Bell by the NYPD death squads. Not one riot, not one mass mobilization, not one general strike, not anything. Pathetic.

When Martin Luther King was murdered, when Rodney King was brutalized by LAPD thugs, this nation was on fire. These days, what's Black America doing...waiting around for the goddamn' CBC, or Kweisi Mfume or somebody to give 'em permission to rise up?

Hell of a good question. Is it related to the question of why there's no anti-war movement worthy of the name?

Of course you could argue that there's no anti-war movement comparable to the Vietnam period, because there's no draft, and so most people's ox simply isn't gored, actually or prospectively, by the Iraq folly. That argument doesn't hold for the Sean Bell case, though -- it's pretty clear that NYPD has declared open season on black men. Declared it some time ago, and has been acting on it with impunity since. Every black man in New York is walking around wearing a target these days.

The generally despicable Bloomberg did at least react a little more intelligently, on this occasion, than his gangsterish predecessor Giuliani would have done. It's possible that that deflected some of the fury.

But I have a bad feeling that the core reason why there isn't more resistance either to the war or to the police death squads is simply that the repression has worked -- worked on all the dimensions where it's been applied. The roll-back-the-sixties campaign which has driven so much of our politics for the last thirty years or so has been largely successful.

There's the very visible and concrete dimension of over-policing -- too many cops running around, too many jails, way too many people in them, brutal mandatory sentencing right out of the Judge Jeffries playbook. Then of course there's the vast expansion of police powers and the reciprocal narrowing of civil liberties and privacy. On top of that is the ideological offensive -- the terrorist scare, the moral panic du jour about child molesters, Internet predators, carjackers, etc. -- all the bogeys that persuade people to embrace the whips and chains of their prison-house.

Finally, I think that in spite of all the cliches about our "polarized" political culture, the fact is that elite consensus is really quite strong, thorough-going, and almost universally agreed-upon. All the shouting, red-faced popinjays on TV, and their spittle-spewing rants about feminazis, scheming liberals, surrender monkeys and so on, ultimately reinforce, by exaggeration, core principles of that consensus; and the violence of the ranters' language and demeanor is just show business. Violence sells; Bill O'Reilly is the modern equivalent of a bear-baiting, and as with a modern execution, he's a pale, paltry shadow, comparatively poor in entertainment value, of the real good old Renaissance original. All talk and no action, like a liberal Protestant church service.

As for the political parties -- the frenzy of elections is pure factional struggle, a contention among indistinguishable gangs of opportunists for the spoils of office. The various slogans they deploy, as they pursue the same brass ring with the same strategies, are like street gang colors -- ball caps from different, arbitrarily chosen teams, worn so you can tell the contenders apart.

When our rulers are undivided, it's much harder for us to gain any traction against them. Looking back at the Sixties, I think we can see that the elite consensus that dominated the immediate postwar period (I mean World War Two, kids) had rather broken down. We seen, or sensed, our opportunity, and we took it. But no such opportunity exists now, and so our rulers have us boxed up but good.

I don't imagine that's the end of the story. I don't think history is over, not quite yet, and there are still a lot of us and not many of them -- in fact, there are fewer and fewer of them, every day, compared to the more and more there are of us. That's the strategic picture. But there's no denying that just at the moment, the tactical picture is pretty bad, and our troops are mostly pretty discouraged.

April 6, 2007

The not quite late Louis Farrakhan

The head on this op-ed from the Boston blob caught my eye: "After Farrakhan":

Farrakhan is a man I have a deep respect for, so I read it and got provoked:

...To some, Farrakhan's importance is far from self-evident, and his legacy is quite simple: anti-Semitism and bigotry....
Ya ya ya, sure sure, we all remember the MSM lashing the Rev to the leg of Jesse Jackson, and demanding Jesse repudiate him, but the Globus goes on to note:
...Farrakhan more than any other well-known leader has been more willing to engage the issues of poverty and violent crime ... What are we to do with millions of young black men in poor, violent, hyper-segregated neighborhoods in all of our major cities?
Oddly, or maybe not so oddly, the Globenik fails to mention the current solution: put 'em in prison. But he's trying to be a calmer and a peacemaker here, so he gives us... background:
Urbanization created countless numbers of apathetic, despairing lower-class black men, who were essentially incarcerated in ghettos... To these men, who had exchanged the pogroms and apartheid of the South for the hypocrisy and discrimination of the North, the black nationalist critique of liberal integrationism had an indisputable logic.
Urbanization? An abstract noun did this terrible thing? Who knew that was even possible? Our man might have said that those "apathetic, despairing" men moved north and into 'hoods that promptly shed job opportunities like a mangy dog sheds hair -- but let's move on.
In this historical context the Muslims performed a necessary political function.
Now that's about as blandly-stated a version of the synergies of radical threat and moderate reform as you are likely to read in a big-city paper -- better than you'll see in that pretentious but shallow rag a few hours down I-95. But even so, it's just posing a Machiavel myth:
They served as a counterpoint to the established civil rights leadership.
Counterpoint? Guy doesn't know what the word means, but even so -- who saw them as a "counterpoint" at the time?
The uncompromising voices deconstructing the glamorous hypocrisies of American society served to strengthen the hand of the more moderate leaders....
Threat begat reform. That's true enough -- in fact it's the only way you get reform. But it didn't happen because the black community played Mutt and Jeff with Whitey's state. Imagine telling a Mr X, Hey thanks, my brother, you be servin' an invaluable function!

Mr X: Say what, asshole?

You iz "by forcing political reforms, averting a much worse conflagration...."

Mr X: You mean to tell me "the riots of the 1960s" were just good tactics in a reform? You can fuck that, man!

Oh, but there's more: public policy for the black poor integration has largely been a failure.
But it did work for the talented tenth, the black boozhoizee. Our Globe man observes,
The nationalists underestimated how much the black middle class would be integrated into the professional and managerial class of the wider society.
Translation: they underestimated just how much leverage the uprisings of the 60's gave the "more moderate leaders."

So now, having set the scene by showing how the lower-order black urban uprisings of the 60's led to absolutely zippo for that same lower order, our man turns to his to-do list for any "centrist, pragmatic black nationalism" focused "on problem solving."

To what ends will these pragmatical centrists push?

Reducing violent crime, the black-white achievement gap in education, the failure of black fathers... family stabilization....
Get Louis X on the phone -- he'll find this delightful. Fruits of Islam indeed.
We need a new black church-based movement that promotes community-based public policies designed by black nationalists for the black poor.
Church-based but designed by black nationalists? Martin Luther Malcolm Marcus King the 23d!

The author: The Rev. Eugene F. Rivers III, pastor of Azusa Christian Community.

Amidst his call to go back to the community knitting needles, the dear reverend quotes the "distinguished Harvard historian" Oscar Hanlin:
As long as common memories, experience, and interests make the Negroes a group, they will find it advantageous to organize and act as such, and the society will better be able to accommodate them as equals on those terms than it could under the pretense that integration could wipe out the past.
Amen my white brother, amen -- or whatever Muslims say instead of Amen. Insha' Allah, perhaps?

July 17, 2008

Mom! He said the 'N' word!

Exalted Indignator Jake Tapper has found a way to stay mad at Jesse Jackson, the man Big Media loves to hate:

"Barack ... he’s talking down to black people ... telling n***ers how to behave," Jackson said, using a racial epithet so unacceptable to Jackson he called for a boycott of the DVD box set of the seventh season of Seinfeld to protest comedian Michael Richards' use of it during an infamous 2006 comedy routine, and for a ban of the use of the word in popular culture.
(Gotta love the coy three stars, not to mention the carpet-chewing spray of subordinate clauses.)

This is indeed news. Whoever heard of a black guy using this word? And having the gall to be offended if somebody else uses it?

These n***ers. You just can't please 'em.

October 13, 2008

Obama: the boating crowd's verdict

During my recent Maine to New York sailing odyssey, I experienced a small political epiphany. I had brought my boat in to a yard in Pocasset, Massachusetts, a pleasant little place more or less in the armpit of Cape Cod, and at the very cul of the sac that is Buzzards Bay:

As I fussed and fretted trying to replace a broken navigation light, I overheard a conversation, conducted in the characteristic Massachusetts nasal dialect, between two leathery old boater gents hanging out on the dock. They were discussing the presidential election.

Now boaters, though they are usually quite amiable, are seldom Pwogwessives. And increasing age doesn't usually turn them in that direction. So the conversation took some fairly predictable turns -- bitching about taxes, waste, incompetence, and so on. The current incumbent was roundly abused, the Democrats deplored in turn. Finally one of the old boys came right out and asked: "So -- who yah gonna vote fooah?

His friend paused a moment, sighed, then replied, "Ah hell, the niggah, I guess."

Up to this point in my trip, I had been starting to wonder -- after the marvelous initial Palin moment, and Barack's rather lackluster performance as nominee -- whether the Illinois wunderkind might actually snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and put the sacrificial goat McCain improbably into the White House. I was starting to get the sense that Barack's charm really didn't travel well beyond his core demographic.

I still think that's true. My dockside philosopher in Pocasset hadn't caught the Beatlemania, and wasn't likely to. "Change" and "hope" and "belief" and all that misty feelgood Obablather left him, clearly, as cold as a mackerel. But it was also clearly his sense that the current gang had thoroughly screwed the pooch, to the extent that he was willing to vote, not just for a Democrat, but for a "niggah."

My grandmother used to say, of a certain type of pre-Nixon Southerner, that they'd vote for a hound dog if he was a Democrat. It really does seem that much of the public is in the same mood this year. It wouldn't have taken an individual with Barack's undoubtedly exceptional personal gifts to inherit the truckload of sewage that the Republicans are -- gleefully, I'm sure -- going to unload on the Hunger Chancellors next month.

I daresay Barack will be a disappointment. He's taking on a Roosevelt-sized mess. It's possible that he'll want to, and try to, and perhaps be able to, come up with a Roosevelt-sized response. But I'm sure not holding my breath.

Well, look on the bright side. At least we'll have set a gratifying benchmark when the "niggah" takes the oath of office. It's purely symbolic, but symbols have their value.

July 27, 2009

Life's little ironies

A nice item by Ishmael Reed on Counterpunch about America's "Leading black intellectual" (you mean that's not Cornel West)?

Now that Henry Louis Gates Jr. has gotten a tiny taste of what “the underclass” undergo each day, do you think that he will go easier on them? Lighten up on the tough love lectures?

...[I]t was his Op ed for the Times blaming continued anti-Semitism on African Americans that brought the public intellectual uptown. It was then that Gates was ordained as the pre-eminent African American scholar when, if one polled African-American scholars throughout the nation, Gates would not have ranked among the top twenty five.....

.... Under Tina Brown’s editorship at The New Yorker, Gates was hired to do hatchet jobs on Minister Louis Farrakhan and the late playwright August Wilson.....

Gates is among those leaders who were “given to us,” not only by the white mainstream but also by white progressives. Amy Goodman carries on about Gates and Cornel West like the old Bobby Soxers used to swoon over Sinatra. Last week Rachel Maddow called Gates “the nation’s leading black intellectual.” Who pray tell is the nation’s leading white intellectual, Rachel? How come we can only have one?

May 20, 2011

Pasture time

Father Smiff and his pal Glen Ford seem to have gone off on quite a jag lately, bashing the leading lights of the African diaspora. The good father has been spitballing Melissa and Cornel, while Brother Glen kicks those poor old mules Al and Jesse.

According to Glen the two are now nothin' but a broken-down pair of "court jesters for Power". Of course that's no news at all -- but maybe this is: not content to scratch and shuffle for the O'Barry bunch, now they're "cheerleaders" for the "so-called War on Terror"! And a lot of lefty palefaces are whoopin' it up right along with the Glenster.

Here's Ford:

"Jackson either needs to hand in his anti-war credentials right now, or find a good mouth doctor that will stop him from encouraging those who would increase the $1.2 trillion national security budget that is pushing human needs programs into the Valley of Death... It does not bother Sharpton that Obama’s bigger picture means bigger wars. Which is alright with Sharpton, as long as he gets a bigger check."
I don't get it, really. Why bring the heat here, and why to these two Passover lambs?

Let 'em be, for fuck's sake. So what if in their twilight hours they play side trumpets for the Obaminator? Ain't times hard all around? Come on, bro, they've earned some slack. There were moments, weren't there, when they made... well... moments -- right? Why not let their mellow sloe-gin juicy-eyed wistful old Heckle and Jeckle gig pay 'em some long-overdue White House dividends?

Scolding 'em like this strikes me as absurd. It's like screaming at the Katzenjammer Kids for stealing a hot pie off Mama's kitchen windowsill.

Let's have some respect for forced indignities. Who among us has not sung chorus in the Beggars' Opera?

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