• A Most Uncomfortable Conversation About White Liberals And Race.

    "Just because I criticize the president doesn’t make me a racist."

    Of course it doesn't. You merely assume blacks automatically see you as a "racist" for not agreeing with the president's policies. Because you assume everyone must be on-board with the president to be seen as "not racist." Because somehow supporting the president is a matter of "racial loyalty."

    You know what that makes you? That makes you one assumptive motherfucker.

    Racism is a charge which is a conversation ender. It stops discourse and should, because of this, be used sparingly and only in the most obvious and egregious cases.

    However, racialized speech, which is speech that is often dehumanizing, condescending, and aggressive- passively so quite often, must be examined in terms of who is saying it, and what is being said.

    I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's back this bitch up to the beginning.

    Professor Melissa Harris-Perry penned an article asking a good question about whether Obama's flagging approval numbers were related to the number of well-meaning white liberals who were disillusioned about Obama not being the Magic Negro™ they all voted for. Bill Maher bemoaned how he ended up with a standard run-of-the-mill white guy pol in blackface instead of the "genuine" black guy he was looking for, and Michael Moore wondered on The View when Obama was gonna start showing off his "gangster" side, apparently standard issue equipment for all blacks.

    For well-meaning white liberals who fancied themselves as being enlightened individuals who not only understood "race," but also considered themselves above "race" and viewed black individuals and causes with an open mind, Prof. Harris-Perry's article stung hit a vein. All of the hard work they did and black folks still see them in the same way they see those godawful Teabaggers? Essentially, "Us? Racist? No way, you're just over-reacting/being overly sensitive/crazy/whiny."

    Sometimes, I'm not even sure if it is racism that's involved. That's the whole problem with parsing the motives of most folks when it comes to blacks and many other races - the well of social and political discourse was poisoned by racial discrimination from this nation's beginnings. Reconstruction offered one of the rare, genuine moments to detoxify the well, but the expediency of keeping some aggrieved groups of people satisfied and on their side short-circuited that opportunity and since then, the poison's continued to flow unabated.

    The poison was once overt and "out there." You could see the symptoms as plain as day. Over time, it evolved into something so vague, so transparent, that it's become something akin to AIDS -- it may look like it's all good on the outside, but there's a war going on inside. That means I, as a person of color, have to wonder if there's a racial subtext behind the way many white liberals are behaving about Obama, because so many people who may disdain the president based on some ill-conceived stereotypes, but they're not gonna tell you outright and be embarrassed in public -- instead, they'll smile and say it was nothing.

    I can recognize the racially charged Teabagger bullshit. The overt displays of disrespect for the president (remember "YOU LIE!"?), overt name calling ("Socialist Kenyan"), outright refusal to accept him as the president of these United States and equal refusal by conservative Congressmen to work with him for the good of the nation. Everything short of calling him a "Nigger," since that'd finally wake the nation up to how Obama's been treated and effectively put whoever or whatever group that said it out of polite media circles for good. I can see that.

    This rather insidious, low-level, passive-aggressive racism that seems so dismissive, condescending and blithe...it's hard to see it at first glance. It's the sort of unthinking, unconscious racism that one makes a quick quip about, with absolutely no introspection as to whether that should have been said at all. It's pretending you know more about the mistreatment of a group than the actual members of the mistreated group, while expecting the member you're talking to to nod in both agreement and deference. It's all voiced in a way that causes a black liberal to question whether their white counterparts are more than what they seem to be.

    For instance, instead of seeing Obama as a president who could change the way this country is run, he was seen as a Magic Negro™ type capable of fixing America's woes in just a few months. Others saw him as a living trump card against people calling them "racists." Yep, somehow supporting President Obama inoculates you from accusations of racism. Over time, President Obama proved he wasn't the Magic Negro™ many white liberals were looking for. Dissatisfaction with President Obama's policies grew, rightfully so in some cases, and wrongfully in others. At any rate, the long knives started coming out -- his own supporters started calling him weak, indecisive, effeminate, cowardly, a failure, a punk, etc,. Many people out there want to primary him against a Magic Female™ (usually Hillary Clinton), since the Magic Negro™ obviously didn't work out for them. Notice the constant comparisons between Obama and Bill Clinton, the "first black president."

    They wondered aloud if President Obama was too much of his mother's son instead of the fiery black guy they thought they got. That explains Bill Maher's disappointment about the supposed "bait and switch." A lot of people don't see him as being "black," because a black president would have done this or wouldn't have stood for that or enacted this or that. The president is his own man, and I doubt he identifies with race as some would want him to. He identifies with the American people, as a whole.

    Nevermind the stereotypical desires by liberals for Obama to show his "black side" or get down and gangster with it. They almost peed their pants when Obama went all Willie Dynamite and put the Congressional Black Caucus on notice. And perhaps that's why the CBC is in such a shitfit over being "called out" when no one else was. Something that whites love to see but won't admit they love seeing by far and large is black people chastising each other in public. In a way, it validates all of the faults and stereotypes many whites see in blacks, plus it's the closest thing they'll get to blacks admitting they've got their own problems. For a group of people constantly being accused of being "racist," it's a refreshing change of pace and a brief respite from feeling like the world's biggest punching bag.

    It's no wonder the piece didn't go down well with a lot of liberal whites. Joan Walsh's reaction was that of condescending disappointment in "her friend Melissa" for daring to suggest that she and her fellow contemporaries were in any way "racist." David Sirota dove in to put her in her place, metaphorically speaking, on Twitter. John Aravosis stood behind Joan Walsh, stepped up to the plate and delivered a vicious line drive:

    Are you disappointed with Obama simply because you’re a white racist and he’s black? Unlikely. Because if we were all white racists, we wouldn’t have supported Barack Obama in the first place. And we did. Far more than we probably should have.

    Damn. I guess this is what Angry Black Lady meant:

    At this point, I much prefer the comment section of Fox Nation to the comment section of Salon.com or Firedoglake. At least when you walk into the lion’s den at Fox Nation, you kow what to expect — unabashed, KKK-style racism. But on the left? As a black person, you never know how you’re going to be received.

    Maybe on Monday you’re their best friend and they invite you to a panel on their podcast or radio show. But then on Tuesday when you speak out about something that they don’t want to hear, they try to silence you. They demand proof and data. They discount your experiences. They call you divisive. They turn your life experiences into a joke. They play the victim. They start naming black people who agree with them (because Negros are a hive-mind, you see). They tell you about that one time they wrote an article about how racism really sucks and that proves incontrovertibly that they aren’t racist. They play dumb and act like they don’t know the difference between being A Racist, and Saying Racist Shit. They tout their liberal bona fides, thus ending all discussion. White liberals cannot be racist. It’s in the Bible. LOOK IT UP.

    Hell, maybe white liberals do know more about racism than the black folks who suffer under it. After all, they helped invent it, didn’t they? Maybe we hapless Negros should just shut up and let the white people talk. Maybe they will tell us what’s best for us. Because apparently a renowned professor who studies and teaches race, gender and politics simply does not understand racism in the way that a white douchebag on AM radio does.

    But hey, what do I know. I just used the term “white liberal” — repeatedly — without specifying precisely which white liberals I’m talking about, so I guess that makes me the real racist.

    Of course Prof. Harris-Perry fired back, but she was sick and tired of having to defend just about every little thing she said on this and other issues. And I agree -- it's exhausting when you have to refine and break down what you've said further and further for the "benefit" of the affronted and disbelieving, and black commentators are always being told to further explain themselves as to why they say this or that. As I said, it's exhausting.

    At least John Cole got it:

    As a general rule when a black person or persons tell me something is racist or bordering on racist, particularly people I respect like ABL and TNC, I don’t argue. If I disagreed with them initially or just didn’t notice the racist aspect of something, what I try to do is just be quiet for a minute. Then I try to figure out what it is that made me not recognize something as racist. I’d say a lot of it has to do with the fact that I am a middle-aged white guy from a state with a small minority population, and I just don’t have the same experiences...

    And I’m done talking about this crap. I’m seriously sick and tired of some of you who every time ABL posts something, you go ballistic and start calling her a race-baiter. It’s absurd, and ABL isn’t the one who looks stupid. Sure, she is over-the-top and in-your-face, and she’ll admit to it, but maybe you should just take a moment, shut the fuck up and be quiet, and think about why she is interpreting things through a different lens than you are. Or, if issues of race are so unsettling to you, you just scroll past her posts and continue to convince yourself we live in a post-racial America, and you won’t have to trouble your pretty little head with the kind of ugly crap that good people like ABL, TNC, and your President and his wife and beautiful daughters go through every day. It’ll be easier that way. You can tell yourself “I’m not racist, so therefore it doesn’t exist.” It will keep you from grappling with things. It will keep you from saying “Wow. You know, I never knew that something I used to say or do could be perceived as racist.” You’ll not have to deal with the fact that good people can still say stupid ugly things, even when they don’t mean to. You’ll never have to think about the fact that maybe you’ve been doing something or saying something hurtful or ugly without even meaning to, because your intentions are as pure as the Virgin Mary. You can just keep on rolling on, and mutter to yourself about all those hyper-sensitive black people.

    He's on to something. Every time the black community attempts to verbalize their experiences and air grievances, they're told they're just "whining." Or being "hyper-sensitive." Or "ungrateful." What some of these folks want is for blacks to finally shut the fuck up about themselves and their troubles, so whites will no longer have to feel uncomfortable about interacting with blacks or feel guilty about NOT interacting with blacks, and so they won't have to hear or see stories of how their parents, grandparents and great-great grandparents treated blacks, or have to deal with the whole "sins of the father" issue. And yes, these are white liberals thinking these things, but they'll never let on to it, even outside of polite company.

    This isn't a post designed to beat white liberals or people who don't support or like President Obama like rented mules and re-captured slaves. It's both an observation of how this unconscious racism resides deep in many people and how it takes little to bring it out in a variety of ways.

    I couldn't care less what people thought of this piece. Like Prof. Harris-Perry, I'm tired of having to defend what I write to people who will never be satisfied with the answers I give.

    "Angry Black Lady Chronicles" has an entire series of posts dealing with the fallout from Prof. Harris-Perry's pieces.