Friday, December 20, 2013

Yes, Mr. Robertson, There Are Consequences for Hate Speech

Let's be clear about the facts. Phil Robertson, the bearded patriarch of Duck Dynasty fame did not simply declare homosexuality to be a sin or against the Bible's teachings. Robertson condemned homosexuality as a perversion, a step on the slippery slope to bestiality. Robertson expressed a hatred and condemnation for gay people in vile and filthy language that reflects the garbage that rumbles around in his head.

Two examples from his GQ interview:
“It seems like, to me, a vagina -- as a man -- would be more desirable than a man’s anus," Robertson told GQ. "That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

“Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong. Sin becomes fine," he later added. “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers -- they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

The A&E network has responded to Robertson's declarations by suspending him from his television show on that network, Duck Dynasty. Conservatives and some Christian groups are crying foul and insisting that Robertson's first amendment rights have been violated.

Freedom of speech and the first amendment have nothing to do with Robertson's suspension. The 1st amendment prohibits the government from restricting speech (note, even that prohibition isn't absolute, there are types of speech that can be regulated by the government). The first amendment protects us from laws being made that restrict freedom of the press, of religion, and of speech. However, it doesn't protect us from all the consequences of making ignorant and bigoted commentary. The government didn't do anything to Robertson; his employer did.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. --U.S. Constitution
The A&E network isn't the government nor an agency of the government, and like any employer, unless there is an employment contract to the contrary, can suspend or fire an employee at will. The big exception is that an employer can't fire someone for discriminatory reasons if it can be shown that the individual belongs to a protected class as defined by law and the rational for the dismissal is directly linked to the person's status as a member of a protected class.

Bigots aren't a protected class and A&E consider Robertson to be bad for business. There are consequences for expressing your views. He can continue to express them but I'm not losing a bit of sleep because A&E said, "Not on this network!"

Of course, there are those who declare suspending Robertson is another prong in the liberal anti-Christian movement. After all, the man was quoting the Bible and he has a right to do so.

Except, Robertson isn't quoting the Bible. There are only seven references in the Bible that appear to be about homosexuality and Robertson quoted none of them. Just making up crap and attributing it to the Bible doesn't make it about Christianity. Robertson did not quote the Bible, he interpreted the Bible according to his understanding and beliefs.

I have a Bible quote for Robertson, "Judge not, that ye be not judged." Matthew 7:1 (KJV)

Here's a more conservative view of the Bible's statements on homosexuality; still only seven references and nothing even remotely echoing Robertson's alleged Bible quoting tirade.

We live in a country of at-will employment laws. Employers can fire employees for no reason, for cause, for anything that is not prohibited discrimination under the law. Robertson stuck his foot in it.

By the way, Robertson's anti-gay bigotry has caught so much attention that his comments on race have been ignored. Please note, that according to GQ, Robertson volunteered much of the controversial information in the interview. He wasn't asked about his views on homosexuality or race.
Phil On Growing Up in Pre-Civil-Rights-Era Louisiana:
“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field.... They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”
Maybe during his suspension, Robertson will have time to visit some of those happy black people with whom he worked, and sing a few songs. I'm certain they're also longing for the good old days, pre-entitlement and pre-welfare.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

My Santa Claus Is a Dead Ringer for Barry White

My Santa
Okay folks, let's reconnect with reality. I've been reading some odd comments on Facebook regarding Fox News reporter Megyn Kelly's assertion that Santa Claus and Jesus are white and everybody knows it. 
For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white. But this person is maybe just arguing that we should also have a black Santa. But, you know, Santa is what he is, and just so you know, we're just debating this because someone wrote about it, kids.--Megyn Kelly
Kelly was responding to an article by Aisha Harris, a black writer, who proposes that in an America that is culturally, ethnically, and racially diverse, perhaps it is time that Santa's image as an old white guy gets a makeover. 

Most of you appear to think Megyn Kelly is a flake, but I've read these lengthy discussions in which people dismiss Kelly as a nitwit but engage in serious debate that Santa is white or that there's no reason to mess with Santa's traditional appearance (white, fat, bearded guy).  

Kelly is a twit, but her assertion of the whiteness of a fantasy figure does reflect white privilege at its overblown best, as do some of the comments that I've read on Facebook. As Santa is not real, he can be any color that we like, including purple with green polka dots and red stripes. So why should a little black child have to imagine that Santa Claus is white? I have more than one black Santa in my house. My favorite does a sassy dance to "Jingle Bell Rock." Declaring that Santa is white is just as nonsensical as declaring that the Easter Bunny is a white rabbit and everyone knows it. 

We can adapt folklore and legend to reflect our own cultural identity. One of the biggest misunderstandings that I frequently encounter when it comes to white people interacting with black people is a failure by so many whites to step into the shoes of being black in a culture which has consistently and traditionally devalued blackness. 

Imagine living in a country in which you see nothing that reflects your image. When I was a child, I remember very clearly the first time I saw a black doll in a store, a pretty black doll with brown skin and brown eyes and curly hair. I also remember having to reach adulthood before black dolls with kinky hair like mine became available. Our mother brought black dolls for me and my sister after we first spotted them in the store and I was in love with that bundle of plastic parts because she looked like me.

Oh Megyn look, I have a black angel!!

Megyn Kelly's assertion was thoughtless and arrogant. However, I would never waste my time trying to explain that to her because she wouldn't get it and I would only end up frustrating myself. I am sharing this with you dear readers because I believe that some of you, a lot of you, will listen to what I am saying and truly hear me. That's all that I ask. Step out of your comfort zone and try to understand why I've taken the time to write about a fantasy man who exists only in the imaginations of children. 

I also noticed that quite a few people seemed a bit confused as to the origins of Santa so I've provided a bit of clarity on that topic.

1. Santa Claus is not real (if you're under the age of 10, I'm sorry.)

2. Santa is a fantasy figure cobbled together out of Nordic, Scandinavian, Turkish, Greek, and Germanic (includes English and Old English) cultures. The Catholic church does not recognize Santa Claus as a saint. There was a 4th century Christian Bishop, St. Nicholas of Myra who contributed to the concept of Santa Claus, but he is not Santa Claus.

3. In addition to St. Nicholas, Santa Claus is a mixture of the Norse God Odin, Father Christmas, Sinterklaas, and Christian beliefs in the Christ Child. The essential quality of the benevolent figure was as a gift-giver to children.

4. The image of Santa as the jolly guy in red with reindeer and a house at the North Pole emerged in the 19th century based on the poem, A Visit from Saint Nicholas (aka The Night before Christmas) by Clement C. Moore. Cartoonist Thomas Nast solidified Moore's description of Santa in an illustration for Harper's Weekly in 1863. Note, this image of a large white man with a beard and a bunch of elves is an American concept fabricated from old legends by Clement in his poem and Nast in his drawings. 

5. I repeat, Santa is not real. The fantasy figure reflects American and European cultural norms, he is therefore depicted as white. The growth of media has made the image available worldwide but do not arrogantly presume that Santa Claus is eagerly awaited by children all around the world. Different cultures have different images of the gift giver. American traditions are not the traditions of the world. Santa does not fly around the world on Christmas Eve.

If you want more information on the origins of Santa Claus, follow this link to an informative history.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

President Obama and What to Do About Syria

Damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. 

On August 21, a gas attack in Syria leaves 1400 people dead.The presumption is that the Syrian government, under President Al-Assad, used Sarin gas against its own people and a soon to be released UN report is expected to confirm the use of chemical weapons. President Obama announces that the U.S. is prepared to take military action to send a clear message to Syria that it will not be allowed to violate the international chemical weapons ban without there being consequences. Liberals and conservatives find common let's-trash-the-President ground, with one group declaring Obama a warmonger and the other decrying his alleged inexperience and large ego. However, a handful of Republicans support getting tough with Syria. Then the administration suggests the possibility of reconsidering taking military action if Syria will hand over its stockpile of chemical weapons. Putin volunteers to help broker this deal with his Syrian friends. 

Some liberals declare Obama to be "lucky" to be "rescued" by Putin, but still insist that he has betrayed us and declare that the U.S. lacks moral superiority to chastise Syria because of our own past and present transgressions. Most of Congress says they will not authorize Obama to take military action, totally ignoring that precedent supports the President making a decision to use military force against Syria as long as it is not a pursuit of war but a police action against a perceived threat to the safety of the U.S. However, the small GOP crew that wants to get tough with Syria doesn't like the idea of a diplomatic solution and call Obama weak for even considering it. 

To drop bombs or not to drop bombs, that is the question. Whether it's nobler to pursue a diplomatic solution or to blow Syria up? As of this Saturday, September 14, an agreement has been reached under which Syria will be expected to put its stockpile of chemical weapons under international control before they ultimately are destroyed. Everyone is happy! Well not quite, it seems that the folks who wanted the President to take military action against Syria are not pleased with the agreement because it does not include a provision that the U.S. gets to use military force against Syria if Syria reneges on the agreement. 

The President has indicated the U.S. will support the UN Security Council resolution, (one of the next steps in the process) which doesn't threaten Assad with the use of force if his government fails to comply. Senators McCain and Graham have labeled acquiescence to the U.N. resolution as an act of "provocative weakness." They insist that the President looks weak in the eyes of the world for not insisting that it's our party and we'll bomb Syria if we want to. A segment of the liberal contingency continues to bemoan Obama's betrayal and insist that he's morphed into a warmonger. There are also those who insist that the U.S. just needs to stay out of all affairs in the Middle East or anywhere outside of the U.S., which is ironic given the insistence of a majority of Americans that ours is a nation founded on Christian principles. Evidently, those Christian principles exclude any responsibility for being your brother's keeper unless your brother lives within the U.S. The non-believers aren't concerned with biblical admonishments but are focused on denying that the President had any input in maneuvering this situation to obtain the ultimate goal of Syria agreeing to get rid of its chemical weapon stockpile; after all, he's just a mindless warmonger.

It's true that the agreement does not address the ongoing civil war in Syria and the death toll from that war continues to rise. It's not a perfect agreement but it does take chemical weapons out of the equation and demonstrates that there can be effective use of diplomatic means to curtail the use of some of the weapons of war. In addition, an agreement by Syria to join the Chemical Weapons Convention is making its way through the legal offices of the UN.

There are some of us, renegade liberals, who believe that we're moving in the right direction, investing our efforts in finding diplomatic resolutions to conflict. We view the careful, negotiations and policies, including a threat to use force if necessary, as being part of a well thought out strategic plan by the administration to achieve the end result that is now on the table--Syria's dismantling of its chemical weapons program. We see President Obama as having skillfully navigated through the coral reefs and made it to a safe port for a brief respite before continuing on in the pursuit of the ever elusive peace, unknown to us in the history of humankind.

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."--Lao-tzu, The Way of Lao-tzu, Chinese philosopher (604 BC - 531 BC) 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Pastime of Slut Shaming: Targeting Miley Cyrus

Some of my female friends, whom I admire and respect and like a whole lot, continue to express dismay over Miley Cyrus' sexually provocative performance at the VMAs. Across the Internet, some are labeling the performance as slutty, disgusting, and degrading to women. Funny thing is that I don't feel at all degraded as a woman due to Cyrus' romp on stage with Teddy Bears and Robin Thicke. 

I'm too old to appreciate Miley Cyrus' music but her performance style doesn't offend me any more than Madonna did in her hey day. Recall that video where she crawled across the floor and lapped milk out of a bowl? 

While I greatly appreciate and continue to like my female friends, I have to pose the following questions. Why is it that women are the first ones to turn on other women who are overtly sexual in their actions or appearance? We label these women as sluts, nasty, trashy, just doesn't sound very sisterly to me. What's with this judgment that a woman who expresses her sexuality while performing on stage is behaving in a shameful way and any decent female should be ashamed of her and for her? 

Michael Jackson grabbed his crotch and hoisted his junk in every performance. Even in the staid 1950s, Elvis gyrated his hips in a distinctly sexual manner, accompanied by pelvic thrusts. I can't recall a single male performer whose overtly sexual performance has ever elicited the same type of need to express revulsion and disgust as Miley Cyrus has garnered for shaking her butt, thrusting her pelvis forward, and sometimes pointing at her crotch.

Why are we still defining women in terms of meeting some 1950s standard of ladylike behavior? 

The Syrian government appears to have used chemical weapons against its own people but the big topic in the U.S. is that Miley Cyrus was twerking on television! Oh the horror! She pointed at her crouch and did a slow grind a few times with Robin Thicke. Notice how there haven't been any headlines labeling Robin Thicke as a slut, nasty, disgusting, or an embarrassment to his gender? Miley wasn't on that stage alone.

Perhaps we need to step back and really think as to what the message is that we wish to convey. Do we really want to adhere to some arbitrary and outdated standard that divides women into good girls and sluts? All the 20-year old Miley Cyrus did was express herself as a sexual being. She didn't advocate for violence. She wasn't an object; she was in control and she chose how to express herself. That's a far cry from exploitation in my book. Just something to think about.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

All the Stupid People, Where Do They All Come From?

This post is not addressed to my regular readers. I know that you know this information. However, if you choose to do so, this is for your use. Please feel free to send it to anyone that you feel is talking nonsense about Obamacare. You may share it in part or as a whole. It probably won't do any good but it made me feel better to write and share this post. At least my head won't explode.

Just when I'm in a positive frame of mind, I go and read something so stupid (post from August 21 re: Affordable Health Care Act) it makes my head want to explode. There are a lot of sites that advise people not to buy health insurance in compliance with the Affordable Health Care Act. However, that's not what has my head expanding. It's the number of brainless nitwits who assert that noncompliance will result in not just fines but imprisonment. 

There is no imprisonment for not buying health insurance. Don't believe every stupid bit of information that you read on the Internet.

There are fines for not having health insurance. In Obamacare's first year (2014), the fine is $95 per adult or one percent of income, whichever is highest. The penalty is half the adult amount for children under 18. The penalty goes up every year, landing at $695 or 2.5 percent of household income in 2016.

If you own a car, states require you to buy at minimum, liability insurance. This is not to protect you but to protect your fellow drivers from being  hit by uninsured drivers and having to either pay out of pocket or file a claim with their insurance and risk an increase in their rates. 

When you get sick, (and unless you die young from an accident, you will get sick at some point in your life, and traipse off to the emergency room with no insurance) the rest of us pay for your health care. Those ridiculous overcharges at hospitals are to create sufficient funds to cover treating the uninsured.

So while you defiantly refuse to spend $100 per month on health insurance (if you're in good health with no pre-existing conditions your insurance costs will be low), when you are in an accident or become seriously ill and take yourself to the emergency room and are hospitalized, who do you think pays for your medical care? You have no insurance. The hospital can try to collect, but if you have no assets worth a crap, then there is nothing for the hospital to collect from you. And in spite of the nonsense I've read recently, there is no such thing as a debtor prison in the United States. Your property, if you have any, may be forfeited but no one goes to prison because he or she cannot pay their debts. 

Please stop spreading misinformation and declaring that anyone is going to prison because he or she does not purchase health insurance. If you'd rather pay a fine, so be it.

As for the chicken little cries that the AHCA equals Socialism, I suggest you start with the basics and check out Wikipedia's entry on Socialism. It's exceptionally simplistic and ultimately inaccurate to characterize Socialism as a redistribution of wealth. However, I don't have the time nor energy to give a fundamental lesson in Socialism.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Julius Chambers: October 6, 1936 – August 2, 2013

Julius Chambers
I heard the news of Julius Chambers' death in the early hours of Saturday morning. The first time that I met Julius, I was tongue-tied. He was a personal hero and I was awed to be in his presence. He shook my hand and murdered the pronunciation of my first name. I repeated my name for him and he smiled and nodded. I was a part of a group of attorneys testifying before the U.S. Civil Rights Commission on the impact of high stakes testing on minority students. Those of us involved continued to meet after our appearance before the commission to discuss strategies for improving the delivery of education services to minority students in North Carolina. Chambers was the catalyst for getting the group going. At that time, he was the director of the UNC Center for Civil Rights, founded in 2001 by Chambers at the UNC School of Law. 

As I got to know Chambers, my hero worship grew. He was brilliant in his knowledge of the law. He was also charming, had a great sense of humor, and totally unassuming.  This was the man who was responsible for perhaps the single most significant factor in moving school integration from just words in the 1955 Brown vs. the Topeka Board of Education Supreme Court decision to reality. It was Chambers' Swann lawsuit that ultimately resulted in court ordered busing which facilitated school integration. The 1971 ruling in the Swann vs. the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education case mandated cross-town busing to end segregation of local schools. It led to the 1971 Supreme Court ruling that allowed school districts to bus students to desegregate schools to achieve racial balance.

My fondest memory of Julius is of a dinner to celebrate the anniversary (can't recall which one) of the opening of the UNC Center for Civil Rights. I invited my Dad to be my escort, knowing that he would be thrilled to meet Julius. What I didn't know was that I was one of the guests whom Julius planned to introduce to the other attendees. I sat at my table, chatting with my dad who was in ecstasy because he had engaged in a lengthy cocktail hour chat with Bill Friday who had served for three decades as president of the University of North Carolina System. 

Julius began by announcing that he had some special guests whom he wished to introduced. He named an individual, provided a brief bio, and noted the person's contributions to the fight for civil rights for all people. He began my introduction by announcing that he didn't dare call my full name because he might mispronounce it and I would loudly correct him in front of everyone. He alleged that he had been forced to call me Ms. Reid all the years that he had known me because he wasn't allowed to say my first name. I was laughing so hard that I gave myself the hiccups while my bewildered father looked embarrassed that his daughter had dared be so sassy with Julius Chambers. Julius gave me a big innocent smile as I briefly stood to acknowledge the intro. He'd waited a few years but he had finally paid me back for my chutzpah in correcting him when we first met. 

The world will miss his presence. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Just Some Random Thoughts on Race

I've been reading a lot of material about race and racism in America here lately. A friend suggests that addressing white racism needs a more humane approach to guide white people into confronting their racism and dealing with it. I'm not feeling so generous.

I'm tired of waiting for white people to understand the obvious. I'm tired of reading nasty racists comments on a story about fashion. Almost any topic on the Internet can be used by those who want to spread racist hate to do so. I'm tired of having to coddle white racists and I'm at the point where I don't really give a damn if they go screaming into an insane asylum. I agree with an old friend, a white southerner, who says that white people need to talk to other white people about racism.

How long does it take for white people to recognize that they have participated in and benefited from a monstrous system? When I was a child growing up in a society of "no colored allowed" signs, I thought that we were going to move beyond that. I thought that Dr. King's dream was going to become a reality. But while legalized racism has been dismantled, societal norms and social conventions haven't caught up. Since Obama's elections, racism has become more public. A 17 year old unarmed black male is deemed suspicious by a neighborhood vigilante who follows him, shoots him and then successfully argues that it was self-defense. I can accept that the jury viewed the evidence as insufficient to convict. What pisses me off is all of the white people who assert that Zimmerman's stalking of Martin had nothing to do with race. Are they really so ignorant that they don't know that "looks suspicious" is code for walking while black in Zimmerman's world? There was no reasonable cause for Zimmerman to follow Martin, exactly what is suspicious about a kid walking through a neighborhood?

I just read a comment by a white male in NC who talked about how well his integrated neighborhood gets along. He extolled the image of all the neighbors being friends. I'd love to talk to the black people in his neighborhood and find out how many of them agree with him.

My experience has been that it is always up to the black people to conform to white society in order to be accepted by the more enlightened liberal whites. There is nothing that we can do to be accepted by the sheet wearing crew. Wearing the mask, that is cloaking our connections to black cultural norms, is psychologically harmful and emotionally draining. We've been doing it since the first Africans were carted to these shores in the belly of a ship. There was and is immense pressure from the white culture for black people to assimilate culturally if we wish to be reasonable successful in the larger society. I don't want a colorblind society. I want to be appreciated as a black southern woman. Race is a social construct but my black cultural identity is an essential part of who I am.

President Obama's recent words about the Zimmerman verdict were beautiful and heart felt but they've also been said over and over again and haven't really made much difference. White people are not only still clinging to racist generalizations but when all else fails, they accuse black people of "reverse racism" and with sincere indignation declare that it is black people, led by that irascible duo of Sharpton and Jackson who keep racism alive. 

I have no more patience with the persistence of racism and I certainly don't have the emotional energy to help white people learn how not to be racist. 

White people are not the victims but the perpetrators of a system of racial exclusion that has persisted long past the end of chattel slavery and imposed social and economic consequences on black people that have impeded our ability to successfully and fully compete in the economic infrastructure in this country leaving us disproportionately represented in the underclass and in the nation's prison system. I find this to be unacceptable and I think that it's long overdue for white people who know better to talk to those who don't, about racism in America.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Obama, Holder, and the Matter of Race

I don't have any problems with Rich Benjamin's article at, the one where Benjamin poses the question, does Attorney General Holder represent the President's "inner nigger"? I wonder if the folks expressing outrage and offense over the article read past that question. 

Benjamin's piece addresses the same topic as an old, eloquent poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar, We Wear the Mask. Benjamin isn't calling the President nor Holder a nigger; he is addressing the duality of consciousness written about by diverse voices from Carl Jung to W.E.B. DuBois.

Being black and participating in a white culture creates a sort of duality of nature for many black people. We must be careful not to be too black in our attitudes and behaviors because that frightens and disturbs white people. In Benjamin's words, "As such, what black person doesn’t understand duality and double consciousness, especially when s/he speaks to multiple publics and circulates in multiple contexts?" (

Many otherwise rational people have taken issue with Benjamin's critique of Obama's speech. Bob Cesca offers a rambling and accusatory commentary on Benjamin's piece that essentially consista of repetition of variations of, "what the fuck?" (Bob Cesca, WTF is this?) Some liberals seem particularly bent out of shape because they perceive the article as accusing the President of being a coward, afraid or unwilling to speak out on race. This obtuse misconstruction of Benjamin's thesis reflects the general lack of familiarity with the body of work dealing with race theory and race consciousness. Most relevant is the concept of "double consciousness" as defined by W.E.B. DuBois.

In DuBois' Souls of Black Folk (a summary), he describes double consciousness as follows:
It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.
It is this double consciousness that is the underlying theme of Benjamin's thoughtful post. Discussions of race are rare in this country; meaningful discussions of race are virtually nonexistent. When we do talk about race, there is a focus on agreeing that the narrative stay in safe territory so as not to offend anyone, especially white people who are sympathetic to issues of race and racism. President Obama said all of the right things. His words can only be construed as offensive by windbags like Beck and Limbaugh, and those who continue to enjoy dressing up in bed sheets and attending tea parties.

However, Rich Benjamin does not fail to recognize that Obama made the speech that he needed to make. The point of his post is not to bash Obama but to highlight the complexities of America's race problem. Benjamin fully recognizes that an angry back man is not a readily acceptable image for the President of all of America. In Benjamin's words:
Where Trayvon Martin is concerned, the president is also wise to sweep a racial discussion under the rug, because that discussion tarnishes his political capital. Politically, he seeks to run-up his party’s Latino support, by burnishing his reputation for historic inclusion and racial reconciliation. In discouraging too much diversity talk or racial gripe, the president’s image management promotes him as a racial icon with no racial agenda. His image management shrewdly polishes his racial identity even as it downplays it.
The disturbing reality is that even President Obama's measured and thoughtful words have left many white Americans up in arms and crying reverse racism. I've debated with friends since Obama's election in 2008 about the careful steps that Obama has had to make in navigating the minefield of race in America.

Benjamin's question shocks in his choice of language. I think that it is intentional and appropriate. Racism is the insidious scourge of the United States that has long survived the chains of chattel slavery; its continued presence should shock and disturb us. Benjamin suggests that Holder and the President are the flip side of the same coin, or as he puts it, Holder is the President's doppelganger, the voice that expresses the unpalatable truths that the President cannot. It was Holder who put a less than rosy spin on the state of race matters in a 2009 speech in which he accused Americans of “...retreating to our race protected cocoons, where much is comfortable and where progress is not really made.”

The divisiveness reflected in public reactions to the Zimmerman verdict belie that we have entered into the golden age of a post-racial society. Rich Benjamin never suggests that President Obama is weak or ineffective only that perhaps the President has to repress all that he would and could say and that Holder voices the deeper frustrations that the President may feel. It's an interesting theory and adds another layer to the matter of race and identity in this country.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The N-Word Debate Resurrected

I have no problem with Quentin Tarantino's use of the word nigger in his film, Django Unchained. As he has said, it's accurate usage for the historical period of the film. I also don't have a problem with his usage at the Golden Globes. It really is about context. He didn't call anyone a nigger; he made an observation about its usage.

(Note: I'm breaking my own rule in this post in using the word nigger instead of the euphemism, n-word. I think that it's time for me to take away the power of the word in my life.)

However, I do take issue with the prevalent mythology that black people use the word nigger all the time. I'm black and 57 years old. I don't know all black people but I know a lot of black people. NONE of the black people that I know typically use nigger as a greeting or in general conversation.

The arguments that I read from white people who feel put upon because they can't use the word is that black rappers say it all the time! I don't know any rappers, but I don't count entertainers looking to make a dollar as the standard by which I live.

Black people do not run around greeting each other with the word as a rule. Among many black people, it is not considered a polite term to simply use in greeting.

What I don't understand is why under normal circumstances a white person would desire to say nigger. What's the point? If you really hold no racist feelings, then why on earth would you want to use such a vile and demeaning term? Is it some cheap thrill?

If you are engaged in a discussion where you need to say nigger, then I have no issue with that. However, it would come across as less offensive if you simply said n-word. What most black people object to is the use of the term nigger to define us. You can't call me a nigger and argue that you have a right to do so because it's not fair that only black people can say it. I just don't buy that white people are really that stupid or naive.

I have no problem with using the word in context to describe some historical application of the term. However, I don't find myself in circumstances where there is a need for the use of nigger as a rule. I can't help but wonder just when it is that white people find such a pressing need to say nigger that we're still having this ludicrous discussion about the alleged unfairness of white people not being able to freely use the word.