All Lives Matter Doesn’t Make Sense

Picture this scenario – Anytown, U.S.A., which has a small population of Black and Brown people who generally try to live by the same rules and regulations that everyone else around them abides by. These are folks who go to work, pay their taxes, try their best with parenting, and even participate in their community. By and large, these are people any community would be lucky to have.

Black and Brown community members are regularly harassed and dismissed (simultaneously!), however, by the white people around them. The same people who are solidly doing their jobs and being good citizens remain in constant fear that some event will befall them that ends their life prospects, their economic future, or their lives themselves for no other reason than being Black or Brown. Some of it is because there are stereotypes associated with being a person of color, such as being historically made out to be a threat or a menace. Some of it is because of pure, irrational racism that drives home unfounded (and normally proven to be untrue) assumptions and beliefs about people of color ranging from them being international terrorists associated with Al-Qaeda to being domestic terrorists associated with the Crips. These Black and Brown folks have become accustomed with this manner of living, with a regular worry that something needlessly oppressive will occur and that they will have no recourse to avenge any wrongs or injustices.

Over time, there was a buildup of these injustices and no reckoning. Black and Brown people (and even some white ones) noticed the pattern of injustice, who it continued to follow and negatively effect, and the policies enacted to maintain and protect oppressive institutions. Rather than remain resigned in their collective disappointment of their local government and community, they decided to engage the public at-large via massive demonstrations and a media campaign to re-educate the masses regarding the plight of Black and Brown people. The best method of quickly explaining that mantle, they decided, was to scream out with all of their souls, “Black Lives Matter!” They were met with a heavy police presence despite the largely peaceful protesting (an oxymoron in itself), something considered appropriate since there were a lot of Black and Brown people who were (justifiably) angry at the continued oppressive state they lived under. Quite frankly, when Black people get mad, white people get nervous.

One way they responded to the nervousness was to claim that “All Lives Matter” in defiance of “Black Lives Matter.” Fortunately, in Anytown, U.S.A., bad things can happen to anybody, and a young white woman met her unfortunate demise in Anytown as a result of police misconduct – she was gunned down needlessly while unarmed and not resisting or posing any danger. One might expect that there would be a response, since she was a victim of injustice. Perhaps a march down Main Street shouting, “All Lives Matter,” holding signs with pictures of her. But in Anytown, U.S.A., there was no march down Main Street. There were no signs with this young woman’s picture on it. There was a news report and a quiet firing of the officer, with rumors of a civil suit emerging in the aftermath. Anytown continued with business as usual, unconcerned with lives mattering as justice has been done (to some degree).

Business as usual in Anytown included regular dismissal and hostility towards homeless people and the poor. It included dismissals of women’s claims of sexual abuse. It, of course, included regular discussions behind closed doors regarding the problems of Black culture and ways to capitalize off of it. But this young woman’s death ended up a quiet nonstory in Anytown, a simple reminder that All Lives Matter only when people yell out Black Lives Matter.

At a recent Democratic Presidential debate, a fan question came in that asked, “Do Black Lives Matter or All Lives Matter?” The candidates responded, some saying the former, others the latter. Nobody stopped to address the elephant in the room – doesn’t this question sound like it has to be one or the other, not both? Is it impossible for Black lives to matter…precisely because all lives matter? Better yet, doesn’t all lives matter sound trivially true and practically false? Let me explain what I mean.

All lives matters seems to be obviously true. Everybody matters. Everybody’s special. Everybody’s got a place in the world, right? That really all hinges on what we mean by “matters.” What it means to matter can go a number of different ways based on what kind of criteria it takes for a life to matter, and what kind of mattering is being discussed. Here are a few examples of ways you could matter: to your family, to God, to your community, including your country, with respect to rights, and with respect to justice. This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, but should give a pretty good example of the many ways we all could matter in some respect. Some of these collapse upon each other, since rights are usually conferred or protected by governments – so if you matter to your country, the protection of your rights matters as well, being one of the ways a country can show that someone matters to it.

Let’s assume that in matters of justice in the United States, all lives matter. Then Black lives have to matter in terms of acquiring justice when confronted by something unjust, such as voter suppression tactics (which intimidate Blacks from using one major application of being a citizen and participating in the democratic process), a mass incarceration program that is directed towards Blacks (which, again, limits their ability to vote among other rights), and institutional racism that prevents many Blacks from accessing the resources and opportunities needed to flourish. There’s no way to slice it – if all lives matter in terms of justice, then Black lives (which HAVE to be a subset of all lives) matter with regards to the injustices that have happened and rectifying the injustices that have occurred. This claim doesn’t hold up if you have a different view of what All Lives Matter means.

Giving a charitable read of the All Lives Matter argument, I’ve come up with something like this:
1) Everybody deserves justice.
2) By focusing on the perceived plight of Blacks, it ignores that everybody deserves justice.
3) By focusing on the perceived plight of Blacks, it ignores that everyone is the same – color and race don’t matter in terms of justice.
4) Since everyone deserves justice and color and race don’t matter, Black Lives Matter doesn’t make sense.
Conclusion: All Lives Matter, not Black Lives Matter.

If this is the view, then Black Lives Matter doesn’t work at all for a number of reasons, chief among them its divisiveness in a country that is beyond color and race politics. This assumes that this is a country beyond race, which seems to be patently false. The call to be beyond race is often made by those who would stand to benefit from the end of race because it ends any form of historical guilt or those who think they will benefit from the end of race because it ends any form of contemporary discrimination. But if All Lives Matter, even from this particular stance, why hasn’t there been any marches for the dead white woman? Because from this particular viewpoint, there isn’t any systemic problem of police violence, it was one bad agent who happened to be a police officer. This is how any issue such as racism or sexism is viewed – one bad actor who may be in a position of authority.

Crucially, All Lives Matter is a position of critique and, in and of itself, critique isn’t a bad thing. It’s necessary to refine crude ideas into diamonds that our culture live by. Critique done with the purpose of undermining a status quo shaking position, however, doesn’t serve to strengthen our culture…unless you believe strongly that the status quo is effective. As many say, America is the greatest country on Earth, which assumes that because you’re the “best” that you’re not above improvement or that you don’t have to improve until the competition improves. LeBron developed a three, after all.

Here’s another problem with saying All Lives Matter – do mosquitos lives matter? Or the cow and pig that we ate today, do their lives matter? Plants are alive – do their lives matter? It strikes me that if their lives matter, they matter only relationally to ours. Plants should be afforded independent lives as long as their existence is needed or if we can turn them into paper. Bees’ lives matter only because of their relative importance to pollination and creating honey. All lives on this planet don’t matter, even if we said strictly human lives, as there would be much more concern for global politics and deplorable living conditions. All lives certainly still don’t matter if we say humans in the US, as the local homeless person you step over does not matter in terms of their justice claims. These latter two problems can be viewed without a racial lens, which prompts the question: do All Lives Matter or Some Lives Matter?

Without a question, some lives matter. It’s much less illegal to say you’ll kill me rather than saying you’ll kill the mayor of whatever city you reside in because political figures matter more to the community than Joe Schmo’s like me. Rich people’s lives, presumably because of their necessary existence for the success of the capitalist market, matter more than poor people’s lives, who suck on the teat of the rich for their existence according to some. A less abrasive example would be your interest in justice for your loved one or friend if he or she were a victim of an injustice compared to your interest in a stranger across the country being a victim of injustice. Some lives hold more perceived value than others; our decisions regarding who deserves justice are informed by their perceived value to us, our community, or our culture. Assuming this, hollering Black Lives Matter actually makes sense as a program to change the negative perceived value of Black lives. Hollering All Lives Matter is more like yelling, “The world is flat,” something that seems trivially true and yet actually false.

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2013 Ended Crazy – Megyn Kelly

I’ve been shocked by some of what I’ve seen to conclude the year.  Beyonce dropped a new album that made every woman go bananas (again), Jameis Winston wasn’t charged with rape (then won both the Heisman and National Championship), a football player left his team because of bullying and racism (and the team nearly made the playoffs following this episode), a kid even got drunk and killed 4 people (and was sentenced to probation), Instagram added direct videos and pictures (and you can’t just send them to everybody), and that’s not even half of the shit that just surprised me (government shutdown, rollout of Obamacare and the ensuing backlash, Edward Snowden telling us what we already knew).

But Jesus and Santa as verified white men is where I’ll begin my recap of what was a uniquely volatile year in human history.

Megyn Kelly from Fox News provided a moment of the year when she uttered:

“Jesus is what he is, which is white.”

Flipside is that there’s a professor accused of racism when she was talking to a journalism class about…racism in the media.

Megyn Kelly gave us some shock last month, telling America that Santa and Jesus are verifiable white men.  She went afterwards to try to clear up what has started a firestorm, focusing on Santa, and effectively blaming folks for spinning her words into what she didn’t mean and making character assassinations of her.  She even went so far as to say that it was clearly a joke, when nobody on the panel even chuckled.  Perhaps it’s because, as Kelly says, “Race is still a volatile subject in this country,” and the other panelists recognized her potentially troublesome joke and didn’t want to be part of the ensuing volatility.

But, if I may, she can shut the hell up.

I don’t get offended anymore by surprising revelations, such as, “Jesus was white, obviously!”  Or the even better, “Santa just is white!  Duh!”  I do get offended when people try to pull the wool over my eyes, as though nobody has done anything questionable.  Kelly (I just don’t wish to keep typing this ridiculous name – for all the shit people talk about Black names, who the hell puts a Y where an E goes?  Me-gyne is what it reads like.) did say that she was referring to the commercialized Santa, who is normally depicted as white.  Which is the same image that Aisha Harris was referring to as being problematic because Santa is only conceived of as white.  Commercialized Santa, however, is not Santa himself – it’s the popular depiction of Santa.  Just like the popular depiction of Jesus is of a white guy with a possible tan is not Jesus himself.  So no, Me-gyne, you can’t claim that you saying that Santa is white is backed up my popular depictions and that because the popular depictions are what we have, that it must be true.  If that was the case, given popular depictions of you, we would have to say that Me-gyne Kelly is a racist because it’s the consistent, popular depiction of you (regardless of if it is true of you, actually).

Even worse, she tried to make Harris’ piece into a form of comedy by claiming that her inclusive Santa response of a penguin must be a joke.  As somebody who grew up with Black Santa in the house, I’ve always had to be imaginative about how Santa must be.  He’s a fictional character, so there’s nothing about Santa Claus (not St. Nicholas) that prevents us from altering a depiction of him.  More to the point, Santa is for the kids anyway!  Kids NEED to use their imaginations to learn the difference between reality and fantasy, so if we’re telling a fantasy tale about a guy in a magic sleigh, with magic reindeer, who gives gifts to good kids (and lumps of coal to bad ones) all across the world in one night…would Santa being a penguin really change the fantastical nature of the story?  A morbidly obese white man who appears to be one too many chimney drops away from being rolled out in an ambulance, we’ll give him some latitude on our imaginations, but a penguin is too ridiculous?

Finally, Me-gyne has missed the boat on what Santa does – he gets to determine who has been good and who has been bad by watching over you the entire year, all day every day, and then dispenses favor or no favor as a result.  A permanently white Santa might make children of color frightened, seeing as there are ample instances of white judgment unfairly going against Black people.  It also lends itself, given the closeness of power to Santa and God (in kind, not degree), to the depiction of Jesus as white.  If one nearly-omniscient and nearly-omnipotent being apparently exists and is white, it’s an easier pill to swallow that an omniscient and omnipotent being would be white.  And we only talk about Santa when we’re about to talk about a holy holiday.

So yes, there was much bluster about race-baiters, whatever the hell those are.  But beyond the bluster lay a poor argument and even poorer justification for treating Santa and Jesus as verified white men.

What It Means to Be A Black Philosopher

It doesn’t mean many good things, not immediately at least.  It means the same men you study openly hated your kind for most of the history of philosophy (especially once you get into the modern period – Hume and Kant, famously).  It means there are colleagues in departments all across the country who cannot understand race in America and yet study it in order to be able to put it on their vitae because race is the newest hot topic in philosophy.  And you watch them do this, all the while when you read this work on race and notice just how bleak it’s been for so long, how far the wool has been pulled over our eyes in many ways, and you feel that wrench in your gut about how difficult it’s been made to be Black in any form…the colleagues cannot even comprehend what they read, just try to get down the arguments made.

A Black philosopher friend of mine told me that she was talking to a white male colleague of hers in her department who has been  increasingly studying race and philosophy.  He had told her that he didn’t understand institutional racism, even though he’s read about, studied it, believes it exists, but he just doesn’t understand what it is.  For all of his studying, he couldn’t comprehend institutional racism.  He just could not understand it.  In a few years, he’ll be teaching a class on this very topic, which has many more real ramifications than not understanding Hegel’s phenomenology of right (another famous racist in the history of philosophy), and it leads me to two disturbing questions: If this man, somebody who actively studies about this stuff and who is likely fairly intelligent, cannot understand institutional racism, what does this mean for most white people?  And if he can’t get it now, what hope does his future students have to grapple with this stuff (assuming he’s teaching at a mostly white institution)?

On the first question, I know this might be a tough generalization, but this is like somebody studying to be a scientist but doesn’t understand how to use a Bunsen burner.  Institutional racism and its resulting social, political, and even phenomenological effects are a core part of the intersection of race and philosophy, and my friend knows that he’s read this material and written on it.  Again, if he “knows” this stuff, but doesn’t understand it, what in the world kind of hope should I have for most white people?

I recognize this looks off topic, but these are the kinds of questions that go through a Black philosopher’s mind.  When I hear stories like this from my Black colleagues, these questions pop up.  For our other colleagues, I just don’t think these questions would naturally come to them.  And it’s no fault of their own – being Black is part of my life, not theirs.  By the way, hearing these stories, stories about the racism in departments where the Black students are ridden harder than the white students, the white students talking shit behind your backs (and then not finding out that we find out), the general dismissal of Black students by professors, and in a few departments there are known racists who Black students essentially have to deal with – which means being intellectually insulted, metaphysically ignored, and demeaned, not as a student, but as a Black student.

We have to support each other because we all know the same battle – there are plenty of philosophers around who don’t think you’re capable of doing philosophy because you’re Black, and think the same of other Black philosophers (I have heard a story of a professor telling a Black graduate student that Frederick Douglass wasn’t a philosopher.  Are you kidding me?!  The Black student was also stunned, and then explained how there’s plenty of philosophical material within Douglass’ writings, from the political situation of African-Americans to the lived experience of having been a slave, which shut the professor up.  That the student even had to go through that is exactly what I mean).  There are plenty of colleagues who question your ability to do high quality philosophy because you’re Black.  There are plenty of professors and colleagues who don’t want to deal with the question of race because they’ll have to deal with their own…predilections.  Amidst all of this, you have to perform.  And of course, perform well.

It means that events like the Collegium of Black Women Philosophers has to happen because they need to support one another to get through this process.  Professionals and graduate students come together there, sharing stories and offering support and doing philosophical work the entire time.  That these women opted to band together speaks volumes about the sort of isolation many of them have to work in.

To this point, it appears pretty rough to be a Black philosopher.  Seems like nobody gives a damn about you except for your fellow Black philosophers.  Truth be told, sometimes it does feel just like that.  Other times, it might feel like nobody gives a damn about you.  I don’t just mean in the personal sense, but also in the professional sense.  I suppose the hidden caveat about all of this is that those of us who make it through the turbulence of graduate school and achieve their Ph.D’s generally find employment.  They go get jobs.  Black philosophy Ph.D’s are so rare that when one comes up from a half-decent department, expect him/her to get a job.  Just one Black philosopher in a department represents ethnic diversity in a department.

While on the subject of diversity, I earlier mentioned the Black woman philosopher’s experience.  I’ve had conversations with some people on this matter, and a few (white) women would mention that it’s also difficult to be a woman in philosophy, with the sexism, likely unreported sexual harassment (and trust me, after my TA training and learning just how wide the scope is to even accidentally sexually harass, it’s likely), the mistreatment of gender studies, feminism, and even female philosophers being introduced to the canon, amongst plenty of other issues.  I’m not downplaying the struggles of being a woman in philosophy.  I’m only highlighting the issues Blacks in philosophy face.

Are there positives to being a Black philosopher?  It’s kind of like the positives of being Black in America.  Can someone name some of those?

My Fear of Being A N*****

I’ve been recently doing work on the post-racial concept and my healthy skepticism about race in America kicked in (like it always does).  I can’t seem to shake a fear.  It festers in my soul, noticeably so as to gently remind me of its existence and simultaneously not irritating me.  I fear that no matter what I do, no matter what good I may ultimately bring this world…I’ll be viewed as a nigger and nothing more.

It makes me uncomfortable to have this feeling, and I often wonder if it’s an irrational fear.  I suppose that’s redundant, given that fears are generally irrational, but of the normal fears one could have, this one might well seem a bit crazy.  I mean people can get fears of heights because the view is overwhelming and so is the fall.  Folks are scared of water because it can kill them even if you know what you’re doing.  I’m scared of a certain animal because it can sneak up out of nowhere and some can kill you.  Those fears are generally rational, and based upon a belief that doom will befall them if they encounter whatever it is they fear.  But a fear that I’ll be viewed as a nigger?  That doesn’t involve causing physical harm to me, right?  It seems out of left field.  Just who is it that’s going to view me as a nigger?

Perhaps that’s the irrational aspect of this fear.  I don’t have a specific person in mind.  I think that one day, when I go to a philosophy conference and present, there will be some folks in the audience who think to themselves, “There goes that nigger.”  Maybe it’s an unfair belief to have, hence why it’s an irrational fear.  But I cannot shake this fear for the life of me.  I fear that even those white people I know view me as a nigger.  It’s crazy reading this as I write it, but this is a thought that I have.  I’ve got no way to verify if they do or don’t, and I have to tell myself that I have no reason to have this fear.  But the fear remains, popping up from time to time.  I don’t understand what precipitated this fear.  If I were to be Freudian about this, I should look at my childhood.  And an event that sticks out to me is the first time I heard a nigger joke.  Perhaps this was my experience that created this fear.

When I was in sixth grade, I was a popular boy in school.  I was the President of the School Store, was a mentor to some younger students, and all of the teachers loved me.  My peers were fond of me as well, and I had many friends, some of whom I keep in touch with still.  But I had one friend in particular who had been my buddy for a lot of my time in grade school.  I won’t use his real name, so let’s name him Billy.  Billy was a white guy and he was a little weird, but he was my friend.  We hung out a lot in the school, and we’d hang out on the weekends sometimes.  He was a very good friend.

I don’t remember the date exactly, but I do remember there was a soccer game going on.  I was hanging out with some friends of mine, chatting about whatever it is sixth graders chat about.  Someone, I don’t remember who, ran over to me and got my attention.  The person said, “Billy is telling racist jokes!”  I was hurt.  My good friend Billy?  I knew that racists exist, and that there were some white people not to be trusted, but Billy couldn’t have been one of them.  I didn’t believe the person, and said, “Alright, if he’s telling these jokes, I’ll go catch him in the act.”  I didn’t believe the person, but that’s a pretty serious allegation.  I needed to check to see if Billy’s name was being slandered, because that’d be a problem.  We walked over near where he and some other white guys were standing.  I took a wider angle and hid next to the bleachers, just within earshot but clearly out of sight.  I heard the group giggle, and then I heard Billy speak.

“Hahaha, you want to know the difference between a bucket of shit and a nigger?  The bucket.  Hahahahahaha!”

I was crushed.  His laughter infuriated me.  I jumped out from my hiding spot and surprised him and everyone else.  Billy looked embarrassed; he knew he’d been caught and that I had every right to be as pissed at him as I was.  He stammered a little bit, as I took strides towards him quickly.  I don’t remember what he said, and quite frankly I didn’t care what he was saying.  My friend betrayed me in such a terrible way.  I don’t remember what I was saying to him as I walked up to him.  It probably involved a few profanities and anger and disbelief.  I  marched right up to him and got right in his face.  He looked scared.  Somewhat defiant, but still scared.  He didn’t know what I was going to do, but I have a feeling he knew he deserved it.

I decked him.  Gave him a right hand right to his jaw and it knocked him down.  I walked away after that.  The matter was settled then.  No matter what harm my hand gave him, he wasn’t going to tell.  They’d ask me what happened, and I’d tell the joke I heard him say.  And those teachers loved me – they knew I wouldn’t make that up.  The kids knew this also.  I never spoke to Billy again after that.

Perhaps this event is what precipitated my fear.  That even a person who appeared to have a genuine interest in me as a person will still think of me as a nigger.  It makes the fight against being called a nigger seem so futile.  All of the work to say, “Hey!  You have no right to call me a nigger not only because it’s rude but it’s also an inaccurate description of me,” it seems so worthless.  Because there will still be so many people who still look at me like I’m a nigger.  I’m a PhD nigger.  I’m a well-spoken nigger.  I’m a creative nigger.  The list goes on and on.

I can always tell myself that this is an irrational fear.  Remind myself that those people who do view me as a nigger no matter what (this is all based, I suppose, on the assumption that one can change the minds of those who do view all Black people as niggers) don’t mind to begin with.

But I can’t shake this fear.

Dr. Laura’s Views Revisited (The Intelligent Side)

The other day, I posted an ignant rant of sorts regarding the good Dr. Laura and her (former) radio show.  Having given it a few days to set in, to the intelligent side of the court we go, and there are two specific issues I would like to highlight in her statements beyond the use of the word, “nigger.”  She’s made some sweeping generalizations about Black people and the use of the word “nigger,” and also about the current state of racism in the United States now that there’s a Black man as the President.  Both of these views are problematic for the intellectual side of me (clearly, not so much for the ignant side).  As to the first (and possibly more pressing) issue, there’s a slippery slope that continually gets presented with her depiction of the “common” use of the word “nigger.”

At first, “nigger” is all over HBO and used by Black comedians, according to her.  Then she says that Black guys say it all the time.  This is concerning because both of these generalizations end up going from a smaller, more restricted group to a larger, more expansive group.  So from HBO and Black comedians (and to be sure, both of those are reaches in their own right) to now all Black guys saying it is a pretty large leap – in the grand scheme of Black people, the percentage of Black comedians relative to the Black population is minuscule.  But what worries me is just how quickly and how unverifiable these claims are.  To go back to Aristotelian logic, we’ve got claims like “All B’s are N’s,” “Some B’s are N’s,” and “No B’s are N’s.”  Substitute “are” with “say” and I think the logic still holds (“All Blacks say nigger, some Blacks say nigger, no Blacks say nigger”).

As a quick aside, I think it’s interesting to note that Dr. Laura, in her own words, “articulated the ‘n’ word all the way out.”  This may or may not be something to work on later on, but “nigger” is a pretty particular word in the history of the English language – and I don’t really hear full articulations unless it is meant to be an insult (albeit for comedic purposes at times).  This would probably be a precursor to the nigger/nigga distinction, but that’s for another time.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand – Dr. Laura’s slippery slope.  To go from a smaller group who use “nigger” to a larger group that apparently all use “nigger” without any sort of qualifiers like “some,” “a section of,” (I would even take a “there are many”) takes us down the slippery slope of saying that all Blacks say “nigger.”  Not to set up a strawman, but this type of slope could implicate an entire group of people or indict a culture due to the negative history of the word (that, ironically enough, these people didn’t create).  I’m not a fan, Dr. Laura.  These types of broad, sweeping generalizations have got to be avoided, even in an open discussion of the use of the word, “nigger.”  Quite frankly, these types of generalizations, while possibly unavoidable out of some sort of Humean habit, are dangerous when unchecked because they lead to multiple stereotypes about groups of people, and nobody likes being stereotyped.

Another question that comes up for me is: Why do some white people WANT to say “nigger” so badly?

A quick story: I was talking to a white guy I met in a bar one night about being a young man in Memphis and how he views the city.  Somehow, we got to talking about race relations and segregation and things of that sort.  At some point, the “n” word came up and he asked on a few occasions if he could use it in front of me.  I said that it’s his choice to say the “n” word and that it’s my choice to kick his ass if he did.  He laughed…but he damn sure didn’t say it.

Another quick story: I was talking to this white woman at a bar in St. Louis.  I’d told her I was a philosopher (great pickup line when used appropriately) and she was excited because she didn’t have deep conversation ever and was craving it (see, great pickup line).  We were talking and she was saying how she was tired of all of the racial angst and that she just wanted this stuff to be done with.  She was really exasperated and said, “And I’m sick of all of these white guys saying “nigger.”  She was making a general example of how the word was being used, so I didn’t mind it.  It wasn’t “nigger” to be able to say it and say it in my face to try to rub it in my face that you can call me nigger; it wasn’t malicious, it was historical.  I can live with that, like reading it in a book.  Though in hindsight, she didn’t need to say nigger – the “n word” would have sufficed.

All of that is to say, I still don’t get why white people want to say “nigger” so badly.  I have my theories though, and that’s perhaps to come in a later blog post….?

The second problem I have with her from my intellectual side is her idea that even with a Black president that there are Blacks trying to demonize white people still.  Here are a couple of quotes:

CALLER: — since Obama’s been in office —

SCHLESSINGER: — the point I’m trying to make —

CALLER: — racism has come to another level that’s unacceptable.

SCHLESSINGER: Yeah. We’ve got a black man as president, and we have more complaining about racism than ever. I mean, I think that’s hilarious.

And on “demonizing”…

SCHLESSINGER: I really thought that once we had a black president, the attempt to demonize whites hating blacks would stop, but it seems to have grown, and I don’t get it.

Both of these statements make me laugh.  I think she may have fallen into False Claim #1 with the Obamamania – him being the President doesn’t end racism.  Like there’s a Black president and then racism *poofs* and disappears.  That’s ridiculous.  A Black president doesn’t mean all Black people have equal clout as whites and are respected as their equals – there are people who really think Obama was not born on American soil, for God’s sake.  I agree with what the caller said, that there are some white people who are very nervous about a Black person in power and that these nerves are showing right now (think about the recent serial killer in Michigan).  Vitriol towards Blacks has been steadily rising with the rise of Obama, in my estimation, though it hasn’t been directed towards all Blacks.  It’s been directed towards Obama, and as a Black president, I believe that Black people take up for him (as well we should, in some regards.  In our minds, he needs support because he’s the first Black person to pull this off – he needs some backup).  Nevertheless, since Obama’s election, I’ve been worried about this particular claim gaining weight – that we are now beyond race and therefore;

1) We shouldn’t have such sensitivities to the past – it’s the past, duh!  The racism of the 20th Century is over in the 21st Century!

2) Because the racism is gone, we should all stop making white people feel bad about the past because we are all a part of a brand new future!

Of course this is kind of hyperbolic, but I think it’s a reasonable (albeit, thin) explanation of two implications of the post-racial era.  Being “beyond race” in and of itself isn’t very problematic for me, but the implications of the post-racial era do scare me sometimes – and this is one of those times.  I’ve touched on this subject briefly on a number of occasions, and won’t continue to do so now.

I won’t belabor the points any further – Dr. Laura’s infamous rant has produced a couple of problematic views that she (and I imagine many others) hold regarding Black people in the U.S. in the current cultural climate.  Thoughts?

A Rant on White People (but no, you shouldn’t be offended)

If ever there was a post that might get me into hot water, it’s this one.  I’ve done a Twitter rant that I posted on here before regarding the influx of music talking about getting women pregnant, but this one came the other day when Raekwon’s “House of Flying Daggers” came on my shuffle.  Maybe I was already in a slightly militaristic mindset coming into it, but for some reason that song put me in a mode.  And I used Twitter as the release.  I’m already expecting that I won’t get a job thanks to this blog, my Facebook (which doesn’t have anything all that bad on there but I anticipate anyway), and more than likely my Twitter.  The joys of the amalgamation of social networking sites and a desire to put things to paper.  Anyhow, I’ll let my tweets do most of the talking but I’ll also wrap it up afterwards with some thoughts about my stance.  And no, this isn’t meant to offend.  It’s just a stance I’ve had for a long time that doesn’t implicate any individual person.  And (I’ll go into more detail later), I recognize that the stance is prime for a slippery slope.  But let’s see what can be made of it.  Enjoy the Twitter rant.

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Theres some music that pops up on my shuffle that lends itself to bein blasted as I go on a crusade against white people. #yeahisaidit.

I’d be lying if I said I havent been an angry young black man for nearly 8 years probably. I’ve channeled it to other things but fact…

is that my stance on white people has been – I dont like em. I dont like the group. I dont like the power thats come, the commodification…

of Blacks thats come by way of them. With that said, I dont hold it against white persons. I like many white persons. Dont like the group…

but I like some members of the group. Like not liking Republicans but liking some Republicans. Or Democrats. But thats my stance…

Admittedly its been shifted after 4 years of all Black. But I had this stance in HS surrounded by white people. Many wield their whiteness..

Like a child with a loaded gun. I choose to carry my Blackness like theres someone trespassing-I might shoot first but I’ll be safe.

I know I got white followers. They might opt to unfollow cuz my stance appears militaristic. We aint post-racial. We aint brownin the US…

and I maintain that white people (the group) just aint been that great for Black folk. But many white persons have been. Anger expressed.

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So that was the first half.  This has more or less been my stance regarding white people I meet.  I’m not going think you’re racist, I’m not going to think ill of you, I’m not going to mistreat you – you’re a person, same as I.  But I’m not forgetting the historical context in which we live.  I’m not going to forget the historical context in which the race relations in this country (and elsewhere) have setup serious class disparities that oddly enough, run the color lines pretty well (gee, irony?).  I’m not going to forget that to this very damn day, there are white people out here who want to “save the Black people.”  And the closest analogy I could come up with is not liking Republican party ideology but liking some Republicans, for whatever reason it may be.  I recognize it’s a potential slippery slope, where you have “white people who are cool/not like those other white people” and “those other white people.”  Look, I’m not going to make a value judgment on you.  Those white folks who want to “save the Black people,” (a great thread here is that “if I can teach them to think like me, they’ll be fine!  Little do they realize it’s that same Eurocentric imperialist mentality that help create the system we’re in now!) generally do have good intentions, seeing (at least on the surface) that there’s a problem here.  And that’s the best method they might know to try to rectify the problem.  So no, I’m not saying that all white people are bad, or that all white people are the devil – just that the group itself has profited, and continues to profit from Black and Brown peoples across the globe, exploit Blacks in the US, and are the beneficiaries of the commodification, dehumanization, and institutionalization of the inferiority of non-whites.  And I don’t think I should have to abandon that.

Some might say, “We’re in a post racial society!”  Hell no we aren’t in any damn post-racial society.  What does post-racial mean?  Absolve the oppressors for the centuries of oppression?  Forget about the creation of race now that it’s possibly advantageous to remove it now?  I’m sorry, that won’t work.  And for those who believe in “The Browning of America,” I firmly believe you’ve cast your ballot in the wrong box.  Discrimination finds a way.  If they could find a color chart to determine what percentage Black you were (octaroon, anybody?), then I’m pretty certain that shades of brown won’t be hard to get over.  India had a caste system too, remember.  But my biggest fear here is that the whole “beyond race” concept will get over.  That people will buy into it, which might end up meaning that everybody’s white.  Let’s be honest – I don’t know of many white people who would want to be black.  If there was a choice, I bet you hear a lot of, “I’ll be Oprah/Obama/LeBron/Michael Jordan/Denzel.”  But the average Black person?  Nah, I don’t see many white people salivating for that option.  And I can’t say I’d blame them.  So if we go post-racial, does this mean that everybody ends up being white?  Sorry, but “white” has dominated the cultural landscape already and it’s nearly institutionalized, this would effectively institute the “white paradigm” as another feature of progress – except this time, it’s racial progress.  Doesn’t add up to me.

So here’s part 2 of the Twitter rant, which features a cameo from @AdamMSays:

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Damn I think my little rant might have scared the white people. I better start coonin to get em back! *Sambos off*

I guess it was bound to happen though. I said I’m an angry black man. I stand by it. I got mad at society long ago, got mad at capitalism…

And am thoroughly dissatisfied with this world. Shits disgusting everywhere. And I’m powerless. The recognition of powerlessness will make..

anybody angry. Powerlessness should piss you off. Thats why I’m a Marxist. The power structure is unbalanced and institutionalized.

But we take small victories like theyre big ones. If a foot’s been on your neck for 4 years, an inch of room is a big win for you. But not…

a big loss for the person who got their foot on your neck. I’m tired of bein happy with the damn inch. I want REAL FUCKING ACTION.

You know what, I’m done. I’m already blackballed cuz of my social/political affiliation, now I’m gon be called militaristic/separatist…

but you know what, I’m no Garvey – I’m much closer to A. Philip Randolph anyway. No need to separate-its already been institutionalized.

I’m going to stop here. I’m sure I’ve filled a few timelines and they go “oh its just Torrey the angry guy” but the real shit? I’m right.

And I know I’m right. Might need tweaking. And yall can pass me off as the angry nigga or whatever you want. But I got no reason to lie.

@AdamMSays – like the FSA that reduced the crack to cocaine ratio from 100-to-1 to 18-to1..they say it’s a victory, but there is still a discrepancy. They still put thousands of black and brown people in jail where they can legally enslave them (via the 13th amendment.)

@mrphilosopher3 – exactly. Those in power masquerade like its a win. And the powerless take their word for it. Everybody celebrates while the norm continues and those who were gettin fucked in the ass continue to be fucked in their ass. Might be graphic but its true.

@AdamMSays – True that bruh. Sometimes you have to be graphic to be real and stress the importance.

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So in the second part of this rant, it’s clear I’m displaying dissatisfaction with the present conditions and the response to those conditions.  If my last post didn’t display my dislike of apathy, then this finish to the rant probably did.  We’re so damn snowed that we think something has happened to the oppressor when the oppressor decides to remove his foot from our necks a tiny bit.  We rejoice it as a major victory – relax, it’s one small battle.  There should be a push for more.  Enjoy that the battle was won, but until you’re standing up and the oppressor cannot keep you down, there’s still more work to be done.

But the major thing that strikes me after putting it down a second time and looking is that powerlessness is a central theme.  And more must be explored about it.  There’s a feeling that we have power – but we don’t.  It merely appears that we have power.  That’s the nature of an oppressor/oppressed, master/slave, and in many ways white/Black relationship (and here I’m not referring to interracial dating).  The oppressed look for ways to exhort their autonomy and assert some power, while the oppressor doesn’t have to look – he just has to continue doing what he’s been doing.  So in my mind, the feeling of being empowered is a farce if that feeling comes as a result of your relationship to your oppressor.  Empowerment doesn’t feel like true empowerment when those who took your power originally are no bestowing it upon you (or so you feel).  If it can happen once, it can happen twice, which means that anything (person, entity, business, institution, system, government) that takes power and then later on restores it back to you knows more about the situation than we do.  That power might have been tweaked.  The oppressor might have enough power that what power he gave back pales in comparison to the current level of power he has.  But always ask, what reason does an oppressor have to give power back to those he’s oppressed?  Some sort of humanistic charge?  If you’re on top, why would you lower your bar or make it easier for someone else to unseat you?  I’m sorry, but I’ve got a distrust there.

I know I’ve kind of gone all over the place with this, but this should also show us that race, race theory, and race relations are not simple things to figure out.  They aren’t things we should take lightly.  They are definitely more than just theory.  I personally will declare, that if I hang out with you, deal with you, care about you, whatever – it’s at a personal level.  There will be commonalities that may or may not include race (a very good friend of mine is a Black male but race and race issues never really was our sticking point.  We had similar humor and enjoyed playing Mario Kart 64).  I suppose my stance is a little startling, especially considering how taboo it is to say you don’t like a certain group.  It’s the oppressor/oppressed relation, and I’m in the shoes of the oppressed.  I want that relation to disappear, but not at some costs that some of us appear willing to give up.  Thoughts and criticisms are welcome here, and I’m always happy to explain my stance in more detail (and tweak it).