Black White Man

My mother is black, and my father is white. I walk among you.

Archive for the ‘Politics’


Obama teaches us that the Black community can be divided, just like the White community can.

Something has always sat wrong with me about the debate over whether Barack is “Black enough,” and I wasn’t about to put my finger on it until a conversation I had last night with my father-in-law. So, first of all, thank’s to him.

It seems to me that the discourse has been either “he’s not really Black because he wasn’t raised working class,” or “that’s ridiculous, of course he’s Black.” Now, I think that the first argument, the way it is phrased, is on it’s face racist, because it assumes that you have to be poor in order to be Black. But I do think that there are important differences between people like Barack (and me) and the mainstream Black community. As Americans, we tend to emphasize race more than other countries, and de-emphasize class. And I think *that’s* actually the blind spot that we’re hitting here. It’s as if, because he’s Black, we have a hard time seeing that he also has a stuffy air of privilege about him. At least, I had a hard time seeing it. It’s taken me

Barack is problematic as a representative of the Black community for the exact same reasons that Kerry was problematic as a presidential candidate — and the same reason that Bill and GW were so popular. Bill and GW have an accessibility to them — they seem like ordinary folk (even though they are just as silver spooned as the rest). Barack doesn’t have that skill. So, I wouldn’t say he’s not Black enough, but he definitely suffers from not being approachable enough to the working class (at least to the Black working class).

Blacks in America: Bargaining and Challenging

http://americanpowerblog.blogspot.com/2007/12/barack-obama-and-politics-of-racial.html
I’m so very tired of analysis over Barack Obama’s blackness.    But when I came across this post, I was shocked at how fresh and interesting analysis can be when it’s intelligent and insightful!    In a nutshell, the author talks about how Black people can either challenge white America for its current and past racism, or they can “bargain” with white America, presenting a feel-good I’m-okay-your-okay type of situation which allows the individual Black to succeed and the white participant to feel good about themselves.    He’s basically reframing the age-old dichotomy between the agitator and the collaborator.

The really interesting part of the analysis of politics is when he points out (I think rightfully) that Obama has to distance himself from challenging Black politicians like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.    Clinton can afford to associate herself with this Black constituency, and so has a fair chance of winning the “Black vote”.

But I’m actually more interested with the broader application of this dichotomy.    Personally, I’ve always been very influenced by Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” — I believe that the right, if painful, approach for Black Americans is to bargain on the outside, and challenge on the inside.   I believe that there are times to strike, when the iron is hot, but ultimately we’ve got to play their game.

I’m rambling a bit, but this post has given me quite a bit to think about.

Clinton Surrogate Makes Creepy Reference To JFK Assassination – Politics on The Huffington Post

Clinton Surrogate Makes Creepy Reference To JFK Assassination – Politics on The Huffington Post

In light of the recent accusations against Bill Clinton for “playing the race card”, I think that this story about one of Clinton’s aids is a little more relevant than it was when it posted.

But really… the interesting thing to me about this story is that I think more people should be talking about the chances of assassination.    One of the things I dislike about race relations in this country is that the fear of being called a racist stifles important and relevant conversation.   And I do think that a conversation about whether Obama is seriously risking his life is both important and relevant.

I don’t think I’m saying that he shouldn’t run.    I think I’m saying that we should all be prepared for what will happen in this country if he’s elected and his presidency is … short.    No doubt it was callous and extremely cold-hearted for this aide to be so flip on the subject, but he’s the only guy I’ve seen in the media who’se talking about this!

“Tolerance Fatigue”

What to do with racist politicians…

Yet another political email scandal.

The thing that I find interesting about this article isn’t the exposure of racism, which I perhaps cynically assume is ubiquitous anyway. The thing I find interesting is the suggestion that having a racist elected official resign may not be the best way to deal with him. I’m not thoroughly convinced about this, but I do think there are good arguments for keeping politicians in place after a scandal.

— Capital Hill is like some horrible hydra. There are so many old, rich white men. Hundreds if not thousands of potential future politicians graduate from ivy league schools every year. If a politician resigns because he’s been exposed as a racist, some other racist politician will just get elected in his stead.

— The politician who has been in a scandal has a strong motivation to reverse his behavior. He’s atonement to perform, a reputation to live down, and maybe, just maybe, he’s learned a lesson and had a guilty conscience to deal with.

— More broadly then politics, I think that we, as a culture, focus too much on flipping out when someone slips. The whole idea of a “scandal” over racism predicates that racism is rare. If it’s common, then the appropriate solution is to get it out into the open and deal with it … to heal. The correct response isn’t exile and ostracism, because then people just bottle up their racism and keep it hidden… you know, like in private emails.

Should Black women vote for Obama, because he is Black, or for Clinton, because she is a woman?

The answer is, “neither.” If we, as a nation, are going to get past race and gender as way of judging people, then we, as a Black community and (I presume, being a man) as feminists, have to get past it as well. And I think that, for the most part, Black women understand this a lot better than the white media do. They keep asking leading questions, like the one above, instead of simply asking, “Who are black women going to vote for, and why?”

Take this article, from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, as representative of hundreds of articles I’ve read, glanced at, or seen the headlines for and flipped the page in the last six months. The reporter continually focuses on race and gender, and many of the “experts” interviewed as well. But the people being interviewed bring up a diversity of reasons far beyond race and gender:

They admire [Clinton’s] intellect and political acumen.

They like [Obama’s] intelligence and willingness to work across racial and party lines.

Vivian Creighton Bishop, wife of U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), said she has admired Clinton for years.
“Senator Clinton is a brilliant woman,” Bishop said. “She’s very stately. She’s independent and strong.”

“I think he’s smart. I think he’s capable. I like what I’m hearing from him,” [Henrietta] Antoinin said.

Patricia Wilson-Smith [of blackwomenforobama.org], a 42-year-old information technology specialist who lives in Lawrenceville, contends that Obama would be the best leader because he reaches out to all Americans. She argues that Clinton is too divisive and too much of a Washington insider.

Alston, the president of the Spelman chapter of the Young Democrats of America, explained that she supports Clinton because of her strong stance on health care reform and women’s rights.

Now, granted, I just pulled out all of the quotes that didn’t have to do with race, and there were several — but my point is that the average Black woman has a *lot* more to go in making her decision than simply deciding whether she’s a woman first of Black first.

The whole suggestion that someone should have to choose between their race and gender is absurd. Do people not read Alice Walker anymore? You can’t extricate the one from the other, and you can’t directly compare them. For example, the expert cited asks whether Black women feel more oppressed as a Black person or as a woman. Well, again, I’m not a women, but I would argue that the discrimination that Black women feel as women and the discrimination they feel as Black people is entirely different and not easily compared. Are you talking about catching a cab in New York, or respect in a conversation about football? Are you talking about fear of being lynched or raped? A lot of it is really apples and oranges. And then there’s the stuff that’s specific for Black women. The sum is larger and different than the parts.

Anyway, I’m on a bit of a tear here. My point is really that the media is not only reducing the candidates to their race and gender here, but also the constituency. As a Black community, we’ve gotta prove that our level of discourse is a lot higher than they think it is. We know it is. But they don’t.

Justice Department official says, laws that affect old people don’t affect Blacks, because we “die first”

Headline: Justice Dept. Official Regrets Remarks

John Tanner, the man in charge of voter rights in the Department of Justice, has been in a lot of trouble for saying that laws which require voters to show their ID before they can vote don’t really impact minority populations. This is, according to Mr. Tanner, because (a) the most likely people to show up at a polling location without an ID are the elderly, and (b) African-Americans “die first” and therefore, there aren’t many elderly black voters.

In a completely different speach (to the NAACP in Alabama), he said that minorities are more likely to have their ID, anyway, because they are required at check-cashing places.

In the last week or so, Mr. Tanner has been getting a lot of heat for these comments, and will probably be forced to resign. He’s publically apologized, but for the “tone” of the “way I presented” the information — and not for _what he said_. Basically this is more white racism trying to get by under the guise of facts and science, and then complaining of a the “politically correct” world we live in, when people get upset.

I’m not a statistician, and I can see flaws in his argument. This means that he’s not only bigoted, but also incompetent at his job.

1. Life Expectancy is an median average, and therefore doesn’t address distribution. We can’t say that, because African-Americans have a lower life expectancy, that there are proportionally fewer elderly. My gut assumption is that African-Americans who live to be 35, probably have comparable chances of living to old age as their white counterparts. Although there are differences in access to healthy food, exposure to cigarettes and alcohol, and so forth; I would expect that the youth-specific issues of AIDS and incarceration have a huge impact.

2. Several southern politicians are reporting that elderly black people vote at a higher frequency than elderly white people, in their districts.

3. It’s entirely possible that other factors affect the amount to which people carry a driver’s license. As a white-skinned guy, I’ve been pulled over driving without a license and let off with just a fine. If I were dark-skinned, that could have gone very differently. The process at the DMV can be very subjective; I have to believe that it’s easier for the average white elderly person to keep their ID as they get older.

4. The impact of a law which may or may not be unfair shouldn’t be rated merely in the number of people it affects!

Now I’m brainstorming off my head… so it’s quite possible that some or all of my points are wrong. But this guy should at least have the sense to brainstorm antithetical arguments and address them when he’s making a speech with inflammatory claims like the ones he made. On behalf of all the old black voters in my life (like my Mom), I’m pretty well disgusted.

Obama: is he Black

In a word, yes. And the question is ridiculous.

In college, my roomate for two years was a good friend of mine who was born in Nigeria and moved to Long Island at a young age. For as long as he could remember, he was here in the States. When I first met him he would wonder whether he was “African American”, or simply “African”. He wondered if perhaps he shouldn’t be called “African American” because his ancestors had no heritage of slavery.

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