Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Political Wrap Up II: Domestic--Trans-Racial Discourse

A fascinating discussion with Juan Williams and Michael Eric Dyson on the future of the African American community. They are discussing William's new book Enough.

Here's the link You need to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page its the last entry bottom right column.

Worth the watch if only to see Dyson flip out about 2/3 into it. He starts going on some almost completely incoherent rant (with excellent verbosity no doubt) to which Williams calmly says, "Michael ask me a question." Brilliant--worldviews colliding (in this case)=good television.

[For a shorter, non-argumentative version see William's interview on his own NPR]

The title of the Juan's book is Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America -- and What We Can Do About It. Nice subtitle, pretty much states where's he's coming from.

Dyson might be characterized by what is called Mean Green Meme. aka victim-meme.

Williams work flows out of Bill Cosby's (in)famous speech in front of the NAACP. Williams is in the "Cosby-camp", if you like, arguing that the primary (note primary, not only, primary=first and most important) emphasis within black circles needs to be on self-reliance and esteem.

An "integralism" can help here I think. The inner and outer quadrants. Discrimination represents injustice to the exterior. It is the right and duty of our government to fight discrimation. It has no place in our society. Things like housing or job discrimination. Or in the past of course, horrifically, slavery and Jim Crow/segregation.

Of course there is still discrimation in the US, loads of it. But relative to the past, there's no comparison. And I think we dis-honor the struggle and transcendent courage of those in the past who faced church bombings, public lynchings, the KKK, the overseer to say it's all the same today. It's just a different form of oppression, etc.etc.

It's not just different, it's qualitatively different and that is just ideology talking to not admit that. It still is awful, no doubt, but relative to our own past and relative to other countries on the planet---see how the French treat the Muslims in their country recently? Or Serbs towards Bosnians, Hutus & Tutsis, seriously. It's bad but it ain't that bad.

Racism is an interior phenomena. No government can outlaw racism. It does not have the right to violate your interior feelings, thoughts. It can only enforce uniform codes of behavior in public. Like you're free to think that blacks and whites (or multi-racial marriage generally) is wrong. But there's no passing laws to that effect---laws that did ex-ist in the US for a long time.

I think it's sad that people have racist views. I think they need to called out and I'm even for what Robert Wright calls "moral sanction."

Bc when we don't do that, the government does the sanctioning, and then it becomes censorship and "hate speech laws", political correctness etc.

And it leads to certain leaders stating that black people will never get anywhere in the US unless white people stop being racist. Which I gotta tell you, is NEVER going to happen. There are always going to be racists--and all of us frankly should be honest that unconsciously elements of racism are a part of all of us, across the board.

But that is manifestly untrue that African Americans will not succeed while there is still racism. They will not succeed and reach into the mainstream while there is DISCRIMINATION. Exterior-right hand injustice/oppression. Not to me when the black middle class is bigger than it has ever been in our nation's history AND white racism has certainly not in massive decrease.

It seems to me that the best argument to counter racism has been, as the great black leaders have always said, to show that their idiots. To prove them wrong by living an exemplary life.

Another strong brilliant voice for African Americans---truly arguably a "teal" thinker--John McWhorter (read both his books, Losing and Winning the Race). Check out for some glowing reviews of his work for the future of race discourse in America.

I know McW.'s considered too conservative, square, a sell-out, Uncle Tom whatever. But the guy has heart, it comes through so clearly in his writing. And while Cosby certainly in the heat of the moment said some things that should have been backed off a bit later, it was, to me, a cry of pain, a cry out of love, however one-sided the presentation.

What McW offers is a reconstruction as to why the acceptance (however broad one thinks it is--Dyson v. Cosby) of the "victim" meme. The interiors of the black people were so crushed and so hurt for so long, that when the major (not completely) discriminatory barriers were lifted in the 1960s, it finally gave space for an opening to not be on 100% guard at all times for the white sheets and the whip.

And people found this deep pain and sorrow. Along came the acceptance among intellectuals of multiple contexts and communal wisdom (mostly white people interestingly) which filtered down via therapy to the acceptance and embrace of other-ness, history, and embedded culture. And there was an outpouring of all kinds of feelings--both beautiful, pained, and even at times violent/combative.

The combative types became an infatuation with a certain kind of folk anti-hero renegade. Sometimes referred to as a by product of the secret love affair between "green and red." Traditional structures were de-constructed leaving only the against the system forces--gangsta idealization, gun play, criminal gangs.

And to connect this whole discussion 0f internationalism, we see the US ghettos as essentially our own Anbar province. Non-state actors like gangs controlling neighborhoods. The US ghetto and underlcass as our own "Gap" within the Core of our Country. [Even the Core/Gap within our own psyches].

And as pathetically incompetent as our administration (and the opposition party to boot!!!) is at reconstrution abroad---see the case of Hezbollah--so we are at home.


At 9:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Terrific link.

Kudo's to these two warriors giving of themselves with such open resolve.

Of the many important issues raised, I'd like to focus on an underlying theme that struck me and that, I think, transcends (but of course includes) the particulars of the conversation itself.

It seems there is global polemic that is now attempting to flesh itself out: namely, how we envision and execute action that will heal and level the existential playing field.

Be it global warming, aids, or systemtic discrimination, it matters where we orient ourselves when tackling the world's great concerns.

I can't help but be seduced by the simplicity of acting from the strict awareness of the moment we live. We need the momentum of consistently dealing with problems that exist in this moment, refusing to regress to past inequities or projecting towards future calamities.

It seems to me that regressive history is a place of anger, projecting calamity a place of fear. Both can be veiled with an ideal of caring, but neither can contribute directly from heart.

And while it may be a dangerously narrow, reactive, and disempowering position to continually respond to the hand your dealt, it is unimaginably burndensome to be shackled by the structures of the past, or be unseated by unseen potentials.

This interview with Bjorn Lomborg illustrates an import shift in priority, and though it is not without its weaknesses, it reframes our immediate efforts under terms that can actually be accomplished.

And yes, it requires a personal responsibility that acknowledges the burdens of historical atrocity, or the dangers of future collapse, but positions itself from a place of rigourous humility that takes vivid account of the time and place in which we live.

It is, I feel, the only worldcentric position that has any sustained dexterity and is largely without the shadows of narcissism.

The race issue itself I'm unqualified to speak against, but the universal message of this is striking.

peace brother.


At 9:50 AM, Blogger CJ Smith said...

you've hit the nail so eloquently on the head my friend.


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