A week after our office day of reflection on anti-racism issues, we met again (via Zoom) for a discussion of learning and next steps facilitated by Larry Roper. I had been pondering the question, Why is an anti-racism movement finally gaining some traction now, centuries since what Dr Gerald Horne and others call The Construction of Whiteness? But one of our number raised another excellent question when she recounted that people on what she had watched were quite matter-of-factly discussing how to keep the BLM movement going when the powers-that-be lose interest.
As to the first question, my theory is that BLM is at least partially a useful rallying cry for the resistance against the Trump insurgency, using those terms as defined by John Robb in an interview early in Trump’s presidency:
The concept is that the American political scene is now the battleground between two weaponized social networks that have taken over the political process. It started with the insurgency, which is the rejection of the establishment that voted and put Trump into office. The insurgency is a maneuver base. It disrupts systems, causes chaos and because of that chaos, it disrupts the decision making process of the opposition, the established opposition as well as any network opposition. It’s been fairly effective. It put Trump in office. It’s maintaining his popularity. Trump is a natural in terms of that maneuver based disruptive strategies. He has lots of what’s called a fast transiency. Moves from one topic to the next, one disruption to the next. There’s never really any time for the opposition to build a momentum in terms of opposition on any specific point.
The resistance is the network that’s been most effective at combating the insurgency. It found its purchase in the identity side, very values focused. Its pure tunicle. In many respects doesn’t put up with violations of values. It’s in the process of taking over the democratic party and we’re seeing the compromise mainstream candidates being thrown to the side like Biden and anyone who’s tried to straddle the middle ground. AOC for instance, is the perfect example of the resistance participant. Both of these networks are open source. Meaning there’s not anyone specific person that’s leader. Those people that you see at the front tend to be more like a weaponized version of the network. There’s lots of conflicting ideas within these open source networks but they’re all agreed on a single animating purpose. That’s just the, the core of the idea.
Poli Sci and Econ professor Mark Blyth believes that swing state voters went for Trump to make themselves heard in an economic system that was ignoring and savaging them but the Donald also clearly caters to and is popular with white nationalists in the US. The resistance has searched for a mode of attack, such as MeToo, Russiagate, etc. – none of which gained real traction – but BLM is a pill he cannot swallow without alienating that racist base. Between BLM and his boneheaded lack of response to the pandemic, Trump appears poised to lose to Joe Biden, who is feeble, but far less offensive to Democratic donors than Bernie Sanders.
Certainly many people are honestly appalled by the recorded evidence of official violence against people of color, but I suspect that once Trump is out of office, BLM will no longer enjoy the media focus it does just now. Hopefully I will be proven wrong.
My wife’s grandson nailed it on Facebook last week. Someone was griping about Baby It’s Cold Outside, and he said that it was just bait. Meaning, it was trolls trying to get clicks and sew discord by attacking something people seem to like. Like Christmas, or Xmas, or people who write Xmas instead of Christmas. I have it on authority that religious students regularly abbreviate Christ as X, so I suppose it’s not that bad if I do it, too.
I’ve been going through the rounds of Xmas movies again this year to get myself in the mood. First I watched Love Actually. It has as tenuous a connection with Xmas as Die Hard, but both of them always make the lists of best Xmas flicks. I hadn’t seen LA in quite a few years, and I had read a critical review a few days before – actually a re-review by a critic who seemed perplexed that it had become a Xmas classic. The critic claimed that the falling in love in LA was way too simple, and didn’t show any of the work involved in relationships. I’ve been guilty of falling in love way too fast myself, but I still enjoyed the film. Even though I still adore Emma Thompson, I had a bit more sympathy for Alan Rickman as her husband tempted by provocative coworker Mia (Heike Makatsch). Not that it has ever happened to me, of course.
Then I found a DVD of Holiday Inn at Target. This bluray includes the original black and white version, a colorized version and a film of the 2017 Broadway version. Holiday Inn, which features all the major holidays, always makes the Xmas lists, too, but is always flagged for a blackface scene. Apparently most broadcasters, except Turner Classic Movies, cut that scene out, but it is kind of important to the plot.
Jim (Bing Crosby) wants to hide Linda (Marjorie Reynolds) from his amorous former partner Ted (Fred Astaire), so he resorts to blackface for the Lincoln’s Birthday show number. During Bing’s song, they briefly cut to Jim’s servant Mamie (Louise Beavers), singing to her two children about Lincoln freeing the darkies. And Linda appears dressed as a pickaninny. In 2000 Spike Lee took flak for a parody of the minstrel show and blackface in Bamboozled, but it wasn’t terribly surprising to someone who saw Amos n Andy on network TV in the 1960s to see them as part of a mainstream show.
What I found sad was that by Thanksgiving, when Linda had left Jim for a career in Hollywood, Mamie served the very lonely Jim a turkey while she and the kids ate in the kitchen. Wouldn’t a lonely man want any sort of company at his table on Thanksgiving? Not if it was black folk, no. Not in 1942, anyway.
Netflix still has White Christmas, which is often seen as a remake of Holiday Inn since they both feature Bing singing Irving Berlin’s song at an Inn in Connecticut. But Bing has a great singing partner in Rosemary Clooney, a great dancer in Vera-Ellen, and the versatile Danny Kaye to help move things along. Mamie was replaced by stalwart character actress Mary Wickes. My favorite number was Snow, but I had forgotten that I’d Rather See a Minstrel Show and Mister Bones is in White Christmas, too. The minstrel scene isn’t in blackface, but there is an interlocutor, and a bone man, and traditional minstrel costumes interpreted by the great Edith Head. Again, this was 1954, so seeing remnants of minstrelsy wasn’t that unusual. I’m not sure when I learned that Danny Kaye was actually born David Kaminsky. Irving Berlin was openly Jewish, but those who performed his music had to adopt anglo names.
I have to admit that I cried towards the end of the film. They were honoring old General Waverly played by Dean Jagger, and it just made me think of my father who passed away this year, and how I used to watch these movies with my whole family before everything became bait, and we all became divided.
I read that Fox will be no longer using their, “Fair and Balanced” tagline. I wonder who will snap that one up? Maybe the DNC? Maybe the Republican’s charity softball team? I think Fox is replacing it with, “Laughing Our Ossoff.” Or maybe the Democrats already have that trademarked, having spent a fortune to run another Republican-lite candidate while campaign consultants laughed all the way to the bank.
The Dems reminds me more and more of the Washington Generals, who were paid to play straight up basketball (and lose) against a team that ignored the rules in favor of showmanship.
The Redskins get to keep their name, and no NFL team has signed Colin Kaepernick, who offended the league by pointing out that police were shooting dark-skinned people almost as casually as they shoot barking dogs.
Shaun King believes that Black Lives Matter is losing the struggle. I think we are all losing the struggle, but no one is shooting at me yet.
In support of friends Charles Murray and Allison Stanger, Andrew Sullivan wrote, Is Intersectionality a Religion? at New York Magazine.
Middlebury College’s American Enterprise Institute Club had invited Murray to speak with Poli Sci and Econ Professor Stanger about his 2012 book, Coming Apart: America’s Growing Cultural Divide, which does for the class divide what The Bell Curve did for racism in 1994.
Given Murray’s reputation for providing a semi-scientific basis for considering blacks to be genetically inferior, and Middlebury’s reputation for liberalism, I would have hoped that students would either stay away or politely challenge his position, but the latest issue of The Middlebury Campus offers a timeline of planning for a significant protest:
By evening on Feb. 24, several months after the AEI had scheduled Murray’s talk, the decision to bring Murray to the College had escalated into a campus-wide controversy. Over the weekend of Feb. 25-26, Middlebury Resistance, College Democrats, Wonderbread, other clubs and ad-hoc organizations were already beginning substantive organization efforts. Some of the first goals that emerged were to get the Department of Political Science to rescind its co-sponsorship in the event, to urge President of Middlebury Laurie L. Patton to not appear at the event and to pressure either the College or AEI to retract the invitation altogether.
On Monday, Feb. 27. Professors and students together led organizing efforts, which soon divided into two different groups: those who wished to carry out non-disruptive protests, and those who wished to shut down the event and prevent Murray from speaking.
There was in fact a loud protest along the lines of an Occupy march (“Racist, Sexist, AntiGay! Charles Murray go away!”), as shown in longer and shorter student videos. You can contrast these videos with the rigid sense of decorum afforded the debate between James Baldwin and William F Buckley fifty-two years earlier at Cambridge, but you should also contrast the relative life expectations of students then and now.
Organizers gave up on the debate in favor of a livestreamed discussion, but afterwards:
When Murray exited the building, escorted by [Middlebury VP] Burger and Stanger, the group was approached by protesters, several with their faces covered and some of whom were non-students. As Stanger and Murray attempted to get inside a car, protesters allegedly placed themselves in their path.
Murray was not physically harmed in the ensuing confrontation, but Stanger suffered from a neck injury following a physical altercation that transpired after she attempted to shield Murray and usher him to their vehicle. Stanger experienced whiplash that evening. On the following Sunday, she was diagnosed with a concussion. She was taken to Porter Hospital on both days.
As in so many protests that go violent, it is tempting to suspect black bloc provocateurs. Sullivan cites statements in the video (which I couldn’t find) and claims that these students are in the thrall of intersectionality. Which is, what?
“Intersectionality” is the latest academic craze sweeping the American academy. On the surface, it’s a recent neo-Marxist theory that argues that social oppression does not simply apply to single categories of identity — such as race, gender, sexual orientation, class, etc. — but to all of them in an interlocking system of hierarchy and power. At least, that’s my best attempt to define it briefly. But watching that video helps show how an otherwise challenging social theory can often operate in practice.
Sullivan’s goal is to portray intersectionality as just a left wing version of Trump-style intolerance, a charge that has been leveled against both the politically correct and social justice warriors. But intersectionality is a fairly straightforward idea, meaning that the challenges facing a person belonging to several traditionally-oppressed groups at once might not be covered by what we think of as racism, sexism, ageism, etc. White people trying to grok oppression is easy to parody, and critics who wish the idea of oppression would simply go away often comedically reduce it to a way of determining who gets to complain the loudest. Sharper critics observe that class differences are often overlooked in discussions of intersectionality.
I like to browse LiveLeak, but I have found that the comments section immediately descends to the worst sexism, racism and/or jingoism no matter what the topic. As an example, there was a video – from somewhere in Asia – of a young man on a scooter wiping out trying to avoid a woman who hadn’t pulled her scooter far enough off the road. Commenters immediately called for her to be raped. That’s just the way it is on Liveleak.
With that caveat about reading the comments, this morning I ran across a LiveLeak video, Alaska rappers stopped while performing at Fairbanks fair claim to be victims of racism by fair management.
While sending video to Facebook, Michael Cofey, whose stage name is Starbuks, very politely asked the fair’s general manager, Joyce Whitehorn, why she had cut their act short, but got no clear answer other than that it was her decision to make. Cofey claimed he and Julian Lillie (Bishop Slice) had sanitized their lyrics to be family-friendly, but some woman claimed they were rapping about, “slashing faces.” Cofey initially denied that, but Whitehorn got tired of being put on the spot and ordered that the performers be escorted out of the fairgrounds. Cofey remained calm and collected, though obviously dissatisfied at how he was being treated.
KTVA 11 News ran the video in, Fairbanks rappers kicked out of Tanana Valley State Fair during scheduled performance.
After Cofey’s video was posted to Facebook, the community of Fairbanks rallied around the performers, Lillie says.
“We’ve been getting nothing but support,” he said. “It’s crazy. It’s people I don’t even know. It’s kinda cool that, you know, Fairbanks would come together and defend us and stand up for what’s right.”
Cofey says he sees Thursday’s incident as insight into a bigger problem.
“It’s really not about rap music,” said Cofey. “It’s about how she treated us. And it’s about how … we gotta wake up. We gotta wake up as a community, we gotta wake up as a country. This is happening every day, everywhere. Period.”
Alaska Dispatch noted the reaction, Online outrage pours in, other acts cancel after Fairbanks rappers ejected from Tanana Valley fair:
As the controversy over the ejection spread, other musical acts have canceled their scheduled performances at the fair, said entertainment manager Isaac Paris.
“There were 17 performances scheduled today and four of them canceled,” he said in an interview Sunday. “I had five cancel yesterday.”
Paris said he was “embarrassed and frustrated” by what had happened and didn’t understand why the performers were ejected.
I’m not an expert about rap, but I used to watch Yo MTV Raps – to the annoyance of an old girlfriend – and appreciated that rap was another mode of expression. I found a few of Bishop Slice’s videos on youtube, and like them. I’ve heard a lot edgier and angrier stuff but you can make up your own mind:
Bishop Slice x Starbuks “I’m From Fairbanks” (Directed By Ife)
Bishop Slice x Starbuks “The North” (Directed By Ife)
Bishop Slice & Ca$his – “Sick Of The Penn.” Featuring Apostle Gabriel Cross
Update 20160822: According to the NY Daily News, the rappers got some appy polly loggies:
Alaskan rap duo Bishop Slice and Starbuks were given an apology after a viral video showed them confronting the general manager of a festival who kicked them off stage during a show.
The board of directors of the fair issued an apology on Tuesday, stating that it “understands the issues involved and the sensitivities expressed by all parties” and promised to pay the group for their full show.