My Problematic Favorite In The Age Of Wokeness

I’m a hypocrite. I am a hypocrite because of Notorious B.I.G. I am a hypocrite because of Big Pun. I am a hypocrite because of Sam Cooke. I am a hypocrite because of James Brown, Bobby Brown and Chris Brown. I am a hypocrite because of Rick James. I am a hypocrite because of …(and this one hurts most of all) Nas.

Today TMZ published a story about Philadelphia Eagles Defensive End Chris Long labeling John Lennon a bad person. Ostensibly because he physically abused women during his life. This led to a back and forth Twitter exchange between Long and a Lennon fan who insisted things were too complicated to label Lennon a bad guy. To which Chris Long replied “Shut the fuck up”.

We are experiencing a moment in American discourse where (especially among those of us who have opted in to social media) it is becoming easier to establish a baseline for acceptable behavior. We have almost all identified a common language that makes it easier to express ideas without fully understanding them. To know what “social justice” or “white privilege” is or to label yourself a feminist without truly doing the work besides tacking on a few hashtags at the end of your scorching hot tweets.

But rightly or wrongly those of us who consider ourselves on the right side of history have begun demanding better behavior than our predecessors. (I stress this doesn’t apply to anyone who wants to Make America Great Again). We’ve coalesced around a set of common values that doesn’t attempt to transcend race, religion, gender or sexual orientation but instead it attempts to include those considerations in our execution of these ideals. Witness the Parkland shooting survivors reaching out to include the urban youth of Chicago in their crusade against the gun lobby. Those who recognize their privilege and instead of jealously hoarding it like a precious commodity extend it to the marginalized are the manifestation of the slow incremental progress of a shared respect for human rights.

In other words as we evolve socially at a snail’s pace our standards for behavior evolve. The marginalized are no longer voiceless and at this point if you remain ignorant to their pleas for justice that is a willful ignorance that results either from a personal antipathy or an irresponsible apathy.

When Chris Long reached back through the annals of time to remind the worshippers of the vastly overrated Beatles that John Lennon himself (their Patron saint) was a confessed abuser of women I had a brief gloating smirk at the hypocrisy of that Lennon fan who rushed into the fray to defend his hero. Then I stopped myself because I’m a hypocrite. I am a hypocrite because of Notorious B.I.G. I am a hypocrite because of Big Pun. I am a hypocrite because of Sam Cooke. I am a hypocrite because of James Brown, Bobby Brown and Chris Brown. I am a hypocrite because of Rick James. I am a hypocrite because of …(and this one hurts most of all) Nas.

All of these men have been accused of, proven to be, or admitted to physically abusing women. And yet I haven’t seen my behavior towards them change. I haven’t labeled any of them bad guys although a few of them most assuredly are. What standard should I hold them to? I see the hypocrisy within myself because when I hear about new rappers with whom I have no attachment being abusive towards women I instantly and reflexively reject them. You won’t hear me rocking too much with XXXtenacion and I’ve had my fill of Kodak Black. Neither of them will be getting any intentional spin in my rotation. But even that is inconsistent after all Kevin Gates kicked a female fan and although I don’t have a decades deep respect for him I check for his music.

You have to right to do what you want. In life you will most certainly make choices that contradict other choices. The only time this is truly problematic is when you to try to preach purity to others. Chris Long doesn’t want to hear any moral equivocation when it comes to John Lennon. Part of this is admittedly for him that he is no fan of the Beatles. The other part of this is that he’s not trying to convert John Lennon’s fans. You decide for yourself what can turn you off from an artist beyond their music. If abusing women in his youth automatically makes John Lennon a bad guy then I’m confident in his line of work Chris Long has embraced some bad guys as teammates.

I’m pretty sure most of us have some bad guys amongst our family and friends. This is not to excuse any one’s actions or provoke a circular debate. If you tell me Nas is a bad guy and I reply “It’s complicated” feel free to tell me to “Shut the fuck up”.

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Book Of The Month: The New Jim Crow

 

It seems we are having a moment in America. Let me correct that it seems we are having a Moment with a capital M in America. What the activists and commentators on social media are doing is raising awareness to the level that traditional media has been forced to respond and in some cases alter the narrative that reinforces white supremacy in the majority of these cases.

But sometimes we need more than the immediate reaction to current events. Before we can start to think of solutions to our current standing in society we must accurately diagnose the problem. Michelle Alexander has done a pretty good job articulating one of the more pressing issues in her book The New Jim Crow : Mass Incarceration In the Age Of Colorblindness .

In this book she advances the premise that the disastrous war on drugs and the “tough on crime” mentality in the national consciousness since at least the 1980’s is actually a root cause of the problems plaguing the black community in America and not a result of a pre-existing affinity for crime among the urban poor as the common media narrative would have you believe.  It’s empowering to finally have someone exhaustively examine this topic. When discussing the idea that blackness has inherent criminality in the view of society you rarely find someone who can succinctly articulate the valid points that support your reasoning.

But when confronted with statistics and some general facts about our current state of mass incarceration one with a firm grasp on reality would be hard pressed to deny the inequity  that exists in our judicial system. Explored in depth in this book is the execution of the drug war itself. Although drugs are used at almost identical rates by white and black youths the drug war has almost exclusively been waged in neighborhoods of color.  The prison population that hovers at nearly 50% black despite the fact that we never make up more than 14% of the US population should be a clue that some sort of unnatural selection is being made. And although the media makes a big deal about the arrest and prosecution of violent criminals the majority of African-Americans branded felons by the state have been convicted of non violent drug offenses and are subject to harsh mandatory sentences that even some prosecutors and judges fear are too harsh.

Also explored is the stigma attached to someone labeled a felon in this country. If you are an African-American convicted of a felony your role as a functioning member of society is essentially over. The harsh truth is that another system of control has been constructed in America. Slavery and Jim Crow existed to exploit and expand inequity. Mass Incarceration is nothing short of genocide. A society actively working to weaken an entire population without implicitly invoking race so that it can sleep at night believing that it somehow has realized Martin Luther King’s dream.  But for most of us reducing MLK to platitudes about colorblindness isn’t a solution it’s actually part of the problem. Read this book for the rest of the diagnosis.

Racism is America’s Greatest Weaknes

If The United States Of America were a nation of robust empathy and moral temerity then no amount of racist agitprop would have had any noticeable effect on our election.

Last week we learned that a company called Cambridge Analytica used some dubious methods to collect and sell data from Facebook for profit. Most of the reporting on this story has been about the unethical way in which this data was collected and exploited. But what troubles me more personally is what the data suggested. America’s failure to grapple with the legacy of race has metastasized into a terminal cancer that has the potential to kill us all. It was so easy to stir the seeds of racial resentment among not only the least educated whites but among large swaths across every single segmentation to the point where a plurality of white voters are ensnared in the delusion. And thus begat Trump.

If The United States Of America were a nation of robust empathy and moral temerity then no amount of racist agitprop would have had any noticeable effect on our election. However we are extremely weak in that area. America’s obsession with race is surpassed only with its need to appear to not be racist. Even as study after study after study empirically confirms what all people of color know in their hearts to be true: that American racism is a malevolent force making our nation weaker. You will read a lot in the press about “racial resentment” but let’s be clear here what they mean is out and out racism. And the levers of power and privilege are such that in this case the moral crime must be reported timidly as to not offend the perpetrators. Because they represent a sizable portion of the audience.

It’s incredible how racism works in our society. Racism isn’t just about attitudes and actions, it’s about language, it’s about power, and it’s about the lens through which interpret all of the above. The 2016 serves a serious case study in which all the ways racism has made our country vulnerable. All throughout the election you heard about the travails of the “white working class”. The media never interrogated our society to ask what the most important part of that phrase was. What is so remarkable about white people that they need their own special subset of the working class? Why would their interests be any different than that of the Latino working class or the African-American working class? The answer to those questions which the media never got around to asking are simple. The culture of whiteness has been shaped to view the economic upliftment of non white people as being at the expense of white people. The forces of tribalism, nationalism and racism have conspired to create a toxic, entitled, and embittered population. This is so clear that when turned into a statistical model Cambridge Analytica, Russia, and the Republican Party are able to deftly exploit it. They don’t need to know anything about Trump other than that his rise upsets Blacks and Latinos that’s not a bug, that’s a feature.

The same Republican Party that touted family values in the wake of Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct in the White House have largely acquiesced control of their party to a man who bragged about sexual assault and had multiple affairs throughout his 3 marriages. Racism is a cancer and Trump is a tumor. He has weakened our resolve. He has exploited the divides in our country and he is governing a nation for the 1 percent while exploiting the unique ignorance of his supporters.

If Americans stopped being racist we would be safer as a country. Sure both political parties might still be in the thrall of special interests and corporate lobbyists. But those lobbyist themselves would be demanding policies that actually helped us economically. A sensible immigration policy not based on xenophobia and fear mongering but on the net economic benefit of immigration would be a start. A school reform policy that saw black and brown and even poor white children as the raw material for a new tech based economy. (Teach these kids how to code) would be next. A new GI bill that served to rectify the inherent injustice of the WWII era where white veterans came home to create the middle class and while black veterans were deposited in slums and ghettos. Imagine a non racist America where these ideas were feasible based on face value alone.

Knowing that the resentment and hatred of minorities is a prevalent force in our politics is only half the battle. The other half is to find and support candidates who will openly acknowledge and address this. As such for me any candidate mentioning specifically the “white working class” will get an automatic side eye from me. There you again making exceptions and pleas for the hateful to drop their psychological bags and join the rest of us. I need a candidate to learn from the failures of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. You can’t work with people who hate you. You have to work around them. We must stand fast in what we believe in even as the opposition wavers.

In a way we are lucky it is Donald Trump and not someone with more class, dignity and sophistication. Someone with the charm of Ronald Reagan, the false piety of George W. Bush or the sheer sinister maneuverability of Richard Nixon might do more serious permanent damage to our world. No Trump is the accidental president. Someone who probably didn’t even want the office but most likely has been blackmailed by a foreign government into taking it. He’s a rich con artist, a vain fool, a sexual abuser and an unrepentant racist. And he’s sitting at the highest seat in the land. Every second he sits in that chair he exposes the lie that his supporters care about anything or anyone but themselves. I’ll sign off by repeating one of my everlasting truths: to the greedy, the ignorant and the hateful Trump is all of you.

In Defense Of Jemele Hill

Jemele Hill is right but we live in America where the worst racial slur is “racist”. 

I realize that not everyone wants to blog or tweet. I realize that not everyone is articulate or social. I recognize that there are many people who simply want to go to work, pay their bills, and send their kids to college. They don’t understand the compulsion to share their innermost thoughts and opinions on these interwebs. Some people feel as though they have the privilege or as they would say the “right” to ignore politics. It doesn’t matter to them. They want to watch the game, drink a beer and..wait.. what’s this? Why isn’t that guy standing for the national anthem? That’s disrespectful to our military! That ungrateful ni- uh errr that spoiled anti-American athlete.

A lot of people don’t seem to connect their aversion to political engagement with the stance our black athletes are taking. By exercising the privilege to ignore the metastasizing racial divide in America you have ceded enough power to White Supremacy to allow black men to be summarily executed routinely by law enforcement with little to no repercussions. Your unstated détente with the “real racists” has allowed them to elect the most temperamentally unfit person on Planet Earth to the highest office in the land. To be fair I’m not calling you a racist. You are actually much worse than a racist. You are a person who hears a woman screaming outside your window and just assumes someone else will call the police. You are the person who sees a lost child in a public place and reasons with yourself that their parent is nearby. You are the person who thinks affirmative action probably isn’t necessary anymore because anyone can make it if they try hard enough I mean look at all the successful black people.  Not necessarily racist but a racial bystander someone who has resigned the fight because it’s not personal enough.  You are the type of person most likely to tell a commentator to stick to sports and you are the people that ESPN apologized to yesterday after Jemele Hill stated an essential fact about Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is in fact a white supremacist. He appeals pretty nakedly to white supremacist orthodoxy. He retweets white supremacist memes on Twitter. He popularized the White Supremacist birther theory that President Barack Obama was not born in America. He evoked talk of 2nd Amendment solutions last year in regards to the prospect of Hilary Clinton winning the election. He has made a crackdown on nonwhite immigration a pillar of his agenda. His presidency thus far has been unnaturally obsessed with erasing the accomplishments of the nation’s first black president. Talks of border walls and muslim bans are still the fundamental proposals on his agenda. And all this is before his weak response to the incident in Charlottesville, VA last month. Maybe America is afraid to reckon with the fact that Donald Trump is a white supremacist because it’s an indictment about what it means to be an American in 2017.

Yes White Supremacy is popular enough in the present day to win a major party nomination. Yes White Supremacy is popular enough to win a Presidential Election. Trump’s political appeal has always been rooted in white resentment. Sadly while this makes him a poor human being it makes him an excellent Republican. Deal with it America. Now you have these quislings calling for Jemele Hill to be fired from ESPN. If you are more offended by someone pointing out that the President is a White Supremacist than you are by the fact that the President is a White Supremacist than you are exactly the kind of mediocre senseless moron that’s destroying America with your passive “lets all just get along” rhetoric.

You so-called “moderates”, you people who want your public figures to sacrifice existential truth at the altar of politeness get to act fake outraged every time Trump says something impolitic but won’t concede to accurate descriptions of his behavior. You people are worse than offensive you are increasingly irrelevant. You can’t be neutral on a moving train. I’m not saying you all have to hold up banners and march in the streets for equality because if we’ve learned anything about your ilk it’s that you’ll never ever do anything to upset the status quo of America’s racial hierarchy. (Hell, most of you would proudly claim to not recognize race). But at the very least you have to have an accurate description of White Supremacy.

Donald Trump isn’t catering to White Supremacist as part of some shrewd political machination. He’s one of them and to state that fact should not be controversial. Jemele Hill by virtue of her honesty has transcended corporate sports media for the same reasons that Colin Kaepernick has transcended the NFL. For those on the right side of racial justice walking around the offices of ESPN must be akin to the astronauts walking around the original  Planet Of The Apes. For Kaepernick would signing with an NFL team even be a win? Would any one of consequence be willing to work on the hard problem of police brutality in the black community? Certainly not Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions. And that’s what we’re dealing with in America a bunch of grown adults who have the same understanding of racism that third graders have. “Things were bad but then MLK came along and now black people can drink from the same water fountain, The End.”

What Jemele Hill does on her immensely popular twitter feed is to respond to trolls with the truth. There just so happens to be a huge overlap with the people trolling her and those that support Donald Trump and this in itself is not a coincidence. Is there any better starting point for trolling than White Supremacy? It pisses off all the right people. The whiny liberals that trolls hate. The minorities, the immigrants, the Muslims, the gays, the Jews. Trolling is the next best thing to violence. It’s a non-prosecutable hate crime and Trump himself has mastered it. Jemele tweets “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.” And that should be as non controversial as saying “Toyota Prius’s get excellent gas mileage”. But we live in America where the worst racial slur is “racist”.

What I find absurd beyond the point of irony is that White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders has called for Jemele Hill’s firing from ESPN. So we are holding ESPN anchors Twitter feeds to a higher standard than we hold the President of The United States? The reckless vitriol and untruths unleashed by Trump on a regular basis are just fine. He can call Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas, he can threaten North Korea with Nuclear War, he can retweet an account called “White Genocide TM” with  an explicitly false racist meme. He can verbally insinuate that a Mexican-American judge is inherently biased against him. He can advise law enforcement to rough up suspects at the point of arrest. All of this speech is fine. But to call someone a racist is beyond the pale? I think if conservatives got any more hypocritical my head would explode.

Jemele Hill is right of course. Trump has had numerous occasions to just outright disavow white supremacy. Every single time he prevaricates, hesitates, obfuscates, and then if he manages to say anything mildly challenging to the forces of evil he bends over backward to undercut it and let the KKK and Nazis know that he stands with them. The sad truth is a lot of people stand with them. You might have passed one at Walmart. You might see one at a Red Sox game. They came out in droves to put their guy in the White House and he knows he owes his baseline 40 percent approval rating to them. He stands with them. He is them. Jeff Sessions is one of them. Stephen Miller is one of them. Sebastian Gorka is one of them. Steve Bannon is one of them. Michael Flynn is one of them. So let’s review for the slow kids : Trump is in fact a White Supremacist, and he has surrounded himself with White Supremacists. America is lousy with white supremacists it turns out. It’s never been easier to advocate hate in America. Let’s not start making it harder to state that essential fact.