This So-Called Post-Post-Racial Life

December 16, 2009

I picked a bad day

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — pprscribe @ 5:28 pm

to start reading The Huffington Post again.

October 27, 2009

Eating Obama (Again)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — pprscribe @ 4:55 pm

Here we go again with the Obama-food-racist imagery. This time the culinary delight is fried chicken. Apparently, one of the RNC’s Facebook fans uploaded an image of the President chowing down on what appears to be a chicken wing (no word on whether it is the left wing or the right wing) with text that read, “Miscegenation is a crime against American values/Repeal Loving v. Virginia” (Source, incl. image). The image has been removed—but it seems it was up for some time before this action was taken. This reminded me of this post from a while back, so I decided to re-post.

Yes, Obama makes some folks bat-sh** crazy ravenously hungry. Not to mention scared that he’s going to be the harbinger of Black men taking up with the all the White women eating up all of America’s friend chicken….

Eating Obama

One thing I know for certain: Barack Obama sure seems to make some people hungry.

"Now, for some pie!" PunditKitchen, http://punditkitchen.com/2008/11/11/political-pictures-barack-obama-pie/

We’ve had Obama Waffles (“Change You Can Taste!”), White House lawn-grown watermellons,  and Obama Bucks to buy all of this food. More recently there have been Obama Fingers—a tasty fried chicken treat, and this frozen ice cream treat that appears to be vanilla covered in nut-sprinkled chocolate.

On a less sinister note, we’ve also witnessed portraits of Obama in the medium of over 1,000 cupcakes, Obama campaign logo cookies, and even Obama (flavored?) hot sauce.

What’s going on with all this Obama-inspired culinary activity?

Are folks just hungry, and want to combine their love of (or hate for) Barack Obama with nutritional ingestion? Are some supporters on an Obama Eucharist kind of trip, thinking they’ll witness some kind of miraculous transubstantiation after eating foodstuff emblazoned in his image? We Obama supporters often were accused of looking upon the man as Messiah. But my answer to all that was always, “Don’t hate because you have a boring snoozer of a candidate. We Dems certainly have had to suffer with such candidates in the recent past.”

As for the more negative portrayals, is food just an efficient shorthand tool for expressions of racism? In the case of the non-US food companies, do they really just have no clue? Well, at least with the frozen treats, it seems as if the whole racial “____ on the inside and ____ on the outside” meme is a feature of their product line. Clearly they know more than they seem to be letting on. But perhaps they still see the product as harmless, even complimentary? The Americans—I have no sympathy for them. Everyone past a certain age who grew up here knows what they are doing when they invoke food-related racial imagery.

**Sigh**

I don’t know. Damn the Internets, though, for bringing this constant barrage of images to our front doors/browsers. It’s going to be a long 4-8 years…

October 21, 2009

LOLObama

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — pprscribe @ 12:27 pm

As this blog is not even a year old yet, it may be too soon to do a re-post. But I think this post is an appropriate one to re-examine given my little piece of fiction from yesterday on the subject of humor. (And for anyone who read Part 1, Part 2 is on the way. I know you just were on the edge of your seats waiting to find out about the lady with the clown make-up!)

I first posted this February 19th, just weeks after Barack Obama’s historic innauguration. Considering all that has gone on since, it seems like a lifetime ago. It also seems like there has been a lot less political humor, and a lot more incivility and anger—on all sides of the political spectrum—than I hoped for or think is healthy. What do you think—of these two examples of political humor specifically and the state of political homor in the “Obama Age” generally?

(Also possibly of interest, the follow-up post, “Ur, hoa evr, doin it rong…“)

Humor in Post-Post-Racial USA: Ur doin it rite, akshully

Nation’s Blacks Creeped Out By All The People Smiling At Them:

WASHINGTON—A majority of African-Americans surveyed in a nationwide poll this week reported feeling “deeply disturbed” and “more than a little weirded out” by all the white people now smiling at them.

First witnessed shortly after President Obama’s historic victory, the open and cheerful smiling has only continued in recent months, leaving members of the black community completely unnerved.

…According to the poll, more than 92 percent of African-Americans have noticed a dramatic increase in the number of beaming Caucasians in their vicinity, as well as a marked rise in the instances of white people making direct eye contact with them on the bus, engaging them in pleasant conversation, and warmly gazing in their general direction with a mix of wonder, pride, and profound contentment. All respondents reported being “petrified” by the change.

“Yesterday, I’m pretty sure the cashier at the Giant Eagle winked at me,” said Eddie Wilkes, a Pittsburgh resident who described himself as “not a politics person.” “Then she said something about what a happy day it was and tried to bump fists. The whole thing gave me the willies”…

Discussion here before about the complexities and challenges of joke-making in this so-called Age of Obama. Joke-tellers everywhere may find themselves walking a thin line between forging new paths in comedic observation and retreading old paths of racist humor. Joke-listeners everywhere may find themselves challenged with their reactions to such jokes. When is offense and indignation justified? When do we allow ourselves to lighten up?

The above Onion satire is, in my opinion, a good example of a hopeful direction in this comedy and is well worth a full read.

Why it works: Like many Onion pieces, this one has an air of borderline (at least) plausibility. Polls like this are taken, names of people and organizations are real and familiar, and the behavior described is not wholly unbelievable. The joke can stand as an observation of the (perhaps temporary) goodwill and brother-/sisterhood towards humans that seemed to sweep many quarters of the country in the time leading up to election night right through inauguration day. Viewed deeper it also subtly pokes fun at the notion of a “post-racial America”: Blacks and Whites still have different views of the same phenomenon, some Whites are still clueless as to their impact on people of other races. The simple regard for Blacks’ humanity is shown simultaneously as previously missing from much interracial contact and likely just a blip in such interactions.

Who might find it especially funny: Some Blacks who have experienced these kinds of reactions might be especially inclined to laugh uproariously at this piece, similar to how I reacted the first time I explored the Rent-a-Negro and Black People Love Us websites. Others who are fighting the feel-good idea/myth/wishful thinking of a post-racial world might also find the piece humorous, regardless of their race and ethnicity.

Who might have problems with it: Some people may take offense at how the butt of the joke is mainly White people and, perhaps more specifically, the largest segment of White people who supported Barack Obama during the campaign (urban, well educated, young). Obama-age humor will be particularly prone to having a “strange bedfellows” quality to it. In this case, both some Black people—both who did and did not supported Obama—and some White conservatives and others who did not vote for Obama may be laughing. But for different reasons.

Let’s try another one. This one is from the popular user-generated Pundit Kitchen site. It depicts a loving moment between the Obamas. Michelle is saying, “Let’s play Naughty Nurse meets the President again.” Barack responds, “Okay, but this time I get to be the President.”

//punditkitchen.com/2008/12/05/political-pictures-obamas-naughty-nurse/

Why it works: Classic comedic reversal of expectations. Because Barack is, in fact, the President—and, is male—the initial assumption from the first line is that when the two play this game Michelle is the “Naughty Nurse” and Barack is “the President.” Of course, the second line throws this expectation on its head.

Who might find it especially funny: Someone who feels that Barack Obama is too “soft” and Michelle Obama too “manly.” So, this might be funny to some detractors of the Obamas. But also, the joke might be funny to someone who believes in the empowerment of women, the positivity of sexual expression, gender egalitarianism, or other such notions. Particularly the empowerment of Black women, the positivity of sexual expression in Black couples, etc. Again, different segments of people will be laughing for different reasons.

Who might have problems with it: Someone who is troubled by what they see as the sexual fetishism that seems to be directed toward this particular President and First Lady, and the racial overtones involved in it. Black women as sexually loose and emasculating, Black men as sexual studs, etc. Also, some feel that this type of joke-making about the leader of our nation is inappropriate no matter who is in office. The presidency should be held in high esteem, according to this view, so this kind of focus on the President’s sex life is disrespectful and inappropriate.

Me? I find both of these examples extremely funny. Hard times are here, with harder times to follow. We’ll all get through them a lot easier if we are able to laugh at ourselves, each other, and our leaders.

September 8, 2009

Text of Obama’s Socialist Indoctrination Message to the Nation’s School Children

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What do you mean, you can’t see the socialism????

Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama
Back to School Event

Arlington, Virginia
September 8, 2009

The President: Hello everyone – how’s everybody doing today? I’m here with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. And we’ve got students tuning in from all across America, kindergarten through twelfth grade. I’m glad you all could join us today.
I know that for many of you, today is the first day of school. And for those of you in kindergarten, or starting middle or high school, it’s your first day in a new school, so it’s understandable if you’re a little nervous. I imagine there are some seniors out there who are feeling pretty good right now, with just one more year to go. And no matter what grade you’re in, some of you are probably wishing it were still summer, and you could’ve stayed in bed just a little longer this morning.
I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn’t have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday – at 4:30 in the morning.
Now I wasn’t too happy about getting up that early. A lot of times, I’d fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I’d complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and say, “This is no picnic for me either, buster.”
So I know some of you are still adjusting to being back at school. But I’m here today because I have something important to discuss with you. I’m here because I want to talk with you about your education and what’s expected of all of you in this new school year.
Now I’ve given a lot of speeches about education. And I’ve talked a lot about responsibility.
I’ve talked about your teachers’ responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn.
I’ve talked about your parents’ responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.
I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve.
But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.
And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.
Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide.
Maybe you could be a good writer – maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper – but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor – maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine – but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.
And no matter what you want to do with your life – I guarantee that you’ll need an education to do it. You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military? You’re going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You can’t drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.
And this isn’t just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.
You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You’ll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy.
We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.
Now I know it’s not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork.
I get it. I know what that’s like. My father left my family when I was two years old, and I was raised by a single mother who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn’t always able to give us things the other kids had. There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and felt like I didn’t fit in.
So I wasn’t always as focused as I should have been. I did some things I’m not proud of, and got in more trouble than I should have. And my life could have easily taken a turn for the worse.
But I was fortunate. I got a lot of second chances and had the opportunity to go to college, and law school, and follow my dreams. My wife, our First Lady Michelle Obama, has a similar story. Neither of her parents had gone to college, and they didn’t have much. But they worked hard, and she worked hard, so that she could go to the best schools in this country.
Some of you might not have those advantages. Maybe you don’t have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job, and there’s not enough money to go around. Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don’t feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren’t right.
But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying.
Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.
That’s what young people like you are doing every day, all across America.
Young people like Jazmin Perez, from Roma, Texas. Jazmin didn’t speak English when she first started school. Hardly anyone in her hometown went to college, and neither of her parents had gone either. But she worked hard, earned good grades, got a scholarship to Brown University, and is now in graduate school, studying public health, on her way to being Dr. Jazmin Perez.
I’m thinking about Andoni Schultz, from Los Altos, California, who’s fought brain cancer since he was three. He’s endured all sorts of treatments and surgeries, one of which affected his memory, so it took him much longer – hundreds of extra hours – to do his schoolwork. But he never fell behind, and he’s headed to college this fall.
And then there’s Shantell Steve, from my hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Even when bouncing from foster home to foster home in the toughest neighborhoods, she managed to get a job at a local health center; start a program to keep young people out of gangs; and she’s on track to graduate high school with honors and go on to college.
Jazmin, Andoni and Shantell aren’t any different from any of you. They faced challenges in their lives just like you do. But they refused to give up. They chose to take responsibility for their education and set goals for themselves. And I expect all of you to do the same.
That’s why today, I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education – and to do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending time each day reading a book. Maybe you’ll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community. Maybe you’ll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn. Maybe you’ll decide to take better care of yourself so you can be more ready to learn. And along those lines, I hope you’ll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don’t feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.
Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.
I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work — that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you’re not going to be any of those things.
But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.
That’s OK.  Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures. JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, “I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
These people succeeded because they understand that you can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn’t mean you’re a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.
No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work. You’re not a varsity athlete the first time you play a new sport. You don’t hit every note the first time you sing a song. You’ve got to practice. It’s the same with your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right, or read something a few times before you understand it, or do a few drafts of a paper before it’s good enough to hand in.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust – a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor – and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.
And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.
The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.
It’s the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon. Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.
So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?
Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you’ve got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.[Source]

The speech will be broadcast today, Tuesday, September 8th, at 12:00 PM (EDT). See this site for links to resources and mor information. If your school or classroom is not broadcasting the speech, please consider taking your children out of school for the broadcast (e.g., not for the entire school day) and writing to your superintendent of schools, principal, and/or teachers to let them know of your disappointment and disgust.
I’ll let you know later today or tomorrow how my own day went.

September 6, 2009

Blacks in the Great Recession

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — pprscribe @ 9:49 am

From The Defenders Online:

In the midst of this crisis, President Obama has tried to help those left behind by the conservative drift of the last three decades by stimulating the economy, extending health care coverage, reforming our immigration policies, and enabling workers to freely form unions. And just as Dr. King spoke of “twin-headed creatures”, the opponents of Obama’s initiatives rail against efforts to use government’s powers to aid the less fortunate and simultaneously, use very thinly-veiled racial codes to whip up opposition. (And often, codes are not used at all.)

…What lesson can we draw from this on Labor Day? The key to revitalizing the black community lies in improving the economic fortunes of its workers. One the one hand, this means getting the Black unemployed into good paying jobs—we cannot be satisfied by accepting any job as being good enough—and improving the quality of jobs held by black workers—many blacks are holding low-paying jobs, and these jobs must pay decent wages.

But more fundamentally, this means that, just as the black community had to rely on self-help and political action to defeat legal segregation, the black community cannot focus solely on community uplift to improve the conditions of black workers; we must also engage in political action to raise the living standards of black workers.

September 4, 2009

To My Fellow Hamilton County, IN Residents:

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — pprscribe @ 11:46 pm

As you know, our country is under attack by right wing extremists who are hellbent on convincing us that our President cannot be trusted and is a Facist-Communist-Socialist, etc. These same folks are now tearing down our President by way of our public schools.  This Tuesday President Obama plans to address students across the country on what is considered the official first day back to school. In this historical address, President Obama is to speak on the importance of good grades, not to drop out and to encourage the setting of short and long-term goals.

Instead of allowing our students in Hamilton County to listen to this important message and participate in this historic moment, school officials are either blocking the address altogether or taping it for review and possible edited re-broadcast later.

Below are some of the school systems that have made it public that they are not allowing the live broadcast of President Obama’s address.  Please contact the school in your area and let them know that this is unacceptable.  Instead of teaching our students the values that they need to be productive citizens, we’re teaching them that they can’t trust our President enough to hear him out.

Hamilton Southeastern
Dr. Brian Smith, Superintendent
594-4100
bsmith@hse.k12.in.us

Noblesville
Dr. Libbie Conner, Superintendent
844-9961
lconner@ccs.k12.in.us

Westfield
Dr. Mark Keen, Superintendent
867-8010
keenm@wws.k12.in.us

Carmel-Clay
Dr. Barbara Underwood, Superintendent
844-9961
bunderwo@ccs.k12.in.us

Thanks for all of your support.  I can only hope that these schools reconsider their partisan stances.

Sincerely,

Keith Clock, Chair
Hamilton County Democratic Party

Do you know what your local school system is doing with regard to this issue?

August 31, 2009

An Unhappy Anniversary: NOLA Four Years After the Katrina Levee Breaches

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remember-katrina

August 26, 2009

Rest Peacefully; Live On

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We’ve lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever. We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice.

~Family statement, on the death of Senator Ted Kennedy

July 27, 2009

On the “Teachable Moment”

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President Obama has stated that he hopes “Gatesgate” can become a “teachable moment”:

My hope is that as a consequence of this event, this ends up being what’s called a teachable moment where all of us, instead of pumping up the volume, spend a little more time listening to each other and try to focus on how we can generally improve relations between police officers and minority communities, and that instead of flinging accusations, we can all be a little more reflective in terms of what we can do to contribute to more unity. (Source)

I am not sure where the term “teachable moment” originated from. But I was first exposed to the term when I was a preschool teacher about a half lifetime ago. What it meant then in that context was that—though a good teacher carefully creates and executes lesson plans for children that are age appropriate, engaging, and high in educational content—the excellent teacher is flexible enough to take advantage of those once in a blue moon opportunities to teach something not originally in the plans. So, for example, yes we may be in the middle of a week-long lesson on colors and shapes. But on Wednesday when the children excitedly discover a bird’s nest with freshly laid eggs right outside the classroom window, the lesson changes to one on birds…baby animals…which animals fly, swim, and walk on land…etc.

The main point is that in the preschool classroom, teachable moments are driven by the needs, interest, and motivation level of the students combined with the presentation of a unique opportunity.

Given my background, it is understandable that I judge teachable moments by this metric.

So. Does/can Gatesgate be a useful and informative teachable moment?

First: the Interest Test. Presumably, there is a lot of interest in this case. Almost a morbid curiosity in some cases. So perhaps it passes the “interest” test. But interest to who? Who is going to be “taught” by this incident? The officer? The professor? The President? Police forces across the country? Communities across the country? The public at large?

In my preschool classrooms, although the bird’s nest is generally interesting (at least temporarily) to all the children—due to novelty, proximity, rarity, or other reasons—in a couple of days the children’s attention span has started to ebb.  Jamahl is still highly fascinated—and will be for the rest of the school year. Claude, however, had moved onto other interests the day after the discovery. Miriam, whose mother is pregnant, is interested—but for very different reasons than other children not expecting a new baby brother or sister. DeAnte and Cesar and Brie become most fascinated by the dead baby bird with its guts spilling out all over the playground lawn that appears on the Monday after the discovery. That Monday Vanessa—who had been highly interested—is now more interested in cars as a result of the new one her uncle bought over the weekend…

So, too, in today’s public sphere around race. “Interest” is fleeting, multifaceted, multi-sourced. So on second thought I would have to conclude that we are really not that interested in “having a conversation” about race. Some of us are interested in airing grievances. Some, in getting others to come around to our way of thinking. Some want to use these “conversations” to further spew racist poison. Many of us will be interested—even open to true conversation—but only until the next shiny interesting quasi-news story comes along to steal away our attention. Some are pretty beat down and have little hope of things changing for the better so, hey, why talk more about it. Plenty of folks just want “race” to go away….

Now for the second test. Is this Gates incident a True Opportunity? Is Professor Gates really the right poster child for a demonstration on the evils of racial bias?

Probably not.

As one blogger has commented, Professor Gates’ experience and its aftermath may be yet one more example of “All the victims are male and all the oppressors are White.” Those of us decrying racism have little rhetorical capital when the only incidents worthy of protest are when victims are Black, heterosexual, and male. (And—in this incident—upper middle class, highly educated….a “proper” Negro.) And when the oppressors are White and male. And bonus points for a White male police officer—the most favorite buggaboo of affronts to Black civil rights.

Then there is the ambiguity surrounding the case. I do not doubt for one minute that race played a big part of the professor’s and officer’s interaction. I fully recognize how police can abuse their power, and that the ranks of police forces across the country contain out-and-out racists as well as those who experience subconscious racial bias.

But I think that class was the compounding factor. Is it possible that police officers in Cambridge have to put up with elite, privileged, self-entitled college folk all the time? Yes, I think so. I also think testosterone compounded things even more. This was a male-on-male thing as much—or more than—a Black-on-White thing.

Adding to the gray area was the outcome. Professor Gates—thankfully—suffered no physical injury, no loss of property, no loss of life. Yes, dignity is important. But it is not clear that the opportunity here is the best to provide that important lesson about race. If anything, it makes the (presumably) working class, lower paid, public servant the injured party. Can you imagine being lambasted in the international media by the President of the United States?

If this is a teachable moment, then it should be about how we, in a free society, want our rule of law to be carried out by those entrusted to protect us. (See here and here, for example.) It should be about the boundaries of State power, including police officers, and what offenses count as arrestable and freedom-limiting activities. But that, actually, is an even bigger conversation than race. It gets to the very heart of how we see our democratic society. What a boring conversation, in contrast to the high drama and titillation of race and racism…

I say all this as someone who has held something of an intellectual crush on Professor Gates for many years. I was consumed with envy and awe when a grad school friend got the opportunity to meet him after one of her family members was profiled in his African-American Lives 2. I love his intellect, his sense of humor, his somewhat sly smile. Even his cane gives him that extra flair, that je ne sais quoi, that is just appealing to me, an academic geek (and proud of it). I do not have a bone to pick with Dr. Gates—in fact I freely admit that I felt for him because I see myself in his same socioeconomic class and his arrest brings home even more how much a Black man or woman with a PhD is still “just” Black first.

I also say all this as someone who has never signed a petition in support of a Black male death row prisoner, or Black male taser victim, or Black male supposedly railroaded-by-police “innocent” bystander. My reasons for this lack of overt support are many and deserve a separate blog post. But suffice it to say that I am in the camp that would like to see more support for the victims of Black-on-Black crime and injustice, than the far fewer in number victims of White-on-Black crime and injustice. And I would definitely like to see more Black compassion for Black female lives and bodies—at least as much as wee seem to have for Black male lives and bodies.

Finally, I also say all this as someone who has supported and followed President Obama ever since he was a young, unknown Senator with a funny name just making a speech on a national big stage. I believe most of the criticisms of him range from par for the course (e.g., he has taken on too much) to the ridiculous (e.g., he is not US-born). He is in a unique position of walking a racial tightrope, and in all cases he will generally be damned if he does and equally damned if he does not.

In this instance, however, I think this “teachable moment” is for President Obama and President Obama alone.

In my preschool classroom, that was a definite no-no. It is great if I just happened to be a bird enthusiast, had a closet full of bird teaching materials that I have been just waiting to use, and that this dovetails wonderfully with the children’s interest and with the unexpected arrival of the bird and her nest. But it is not OK if I try to manipulate interest or opportunities to satisfy only my own needs.

This may be one case where the teacher is teaching for the benefit of the teacher.

President Obama needs a win. He needs to make up for what some are reading, charitably, as a mis-step and others are reading, with relish, as a tool for a potential upset come re-election. He is probably interested in recapturing the glow from his widely acknowledged groundbreaking speech on race from the campaign. (Which, it is important to note, was also forced upon him through a “teachable moment.”) He is motivated to maintain the sense of balance, the air of racial objectivity, that he likely feels he needs as the first non-White president of the United States. He is also likely motivated to bring this incident to some closure. It was not in his original lesson plan and he wants to get quickly back to health care and other “real” issues.

I hope, for the President’s sake, that the menfolk-downing-beers-in-the-White-House move works out. But this is not a teachable moment for the country on race. Perhaps we will have one at some point. But this ain’t it.

March 19, 2009

Conservatism: Now 96% Hope-free…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — pprscribe @ 12:29 pm

Liberalism’s glamour follows from its promise of a new American innocence. But the appeal of conservatism is relief from this supercilious idea. Innocence is not possible for America. This nation did what it did. And conservatism’s appeal is that it does not bank on the recovery of lost innocence. It seeks the discipline of ordinary people rather than the virtuousness of extraordinary people. The challenge for conservatives today is simply self-acceptance, and even a little pride in the way we flail away at problems with an invisible hand.

~Shelby Steele,”Why the GOP Can’t Win With Minorities

Great taste, less idealism? (Plus, now 40% less redemption than the leading brand…)

March 12, 2009

“We’re a complicated country, and we have complicated politics.”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — pprscribe @ 8:58 am

Real data plotted by Nate Silver reveals that

The correlation between the fraction of conservatives and the fraction of liberals agreeing to a given question is essentially zero.

Is this surprising? Perhaps. If conservatives and liberals had fundamental disagreements on most major political questions, you’d expect to see a statistically significant inverse correlation in their responses. But you don’t see that. Conversely, if they agreed on most of these fundamental questions, with the differences being only around the periphery, you’d expect to see a statistically significant positive correlation in their responses. But you don’t really see that either.

What this means basically is that people who identify as conservative and those who identify as liberal agree sometimes and disagree other times, and the (non-)pattern of this agreement/disagreement is not linked to their identification as conservatives or liberals.

Meanwhile, additional (fake) data plotted by PPR_Scribe at GraphJam:

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

March 11, 2009

Makes me go “Hmmm…”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — pprscribe @ 5:29 am

Rush is to the Republicanism of the 2000s what Jesse Jackson was to the Democratic party in the 1980s. He plays an important role in our coalition, and of course he and his supporters have to be treated with respect. But he cannot be allowed to be the public face of the enterprise—and we have to find ways of assuring the public that he is just one Republican voice among many, and very far from the most important….

~David Frum, Newsweek

"Questions in the Dark." Mathew_Dutile, http://www.flickr.com/photos/mdutile/3289061063/

"Questions in the Dark." Mathew_Dutile, http://www.flickr.com/photos/mdutile/3289061063/

Jesse Jackson = Rush Limbaugh? I’ll have to think on that for a while…

More conversation on the question of Mr. Limbaugh in the comment section of this BlogHer post. (Thanks, Vérité Parlant!)

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