Breaking Brown


03/01/12 Black Politics , Obama # , , , ,

Ron Paul and race (part II)

Up at Blacklikemoi, I have some additional thoughts on Ron Paul and his newsletters. As always, here’s a taste:

Over the past couple of weeks, two distinct memes about Ron Paul have grabbed hold; 1) Ron Paul is racist 2) a racist should never be President. I submit to you that even if both these suppositions are true, they still don’t matter, certainly not in any meaningful way that actually matters to African Americans.

Firstly, I would like to fundamentally change the definition of racism:  To the extent that policies target and do damage to the African American community, they’re racist. So being a racist and behaving as a racist isn’t solely a function of calling a black person the “N” word, making demeaning or disparaging comments, or harboring bias. It’s much, much broader than that, and it extends to all Presidents and public officials who marginalize the core issues impacting the African American community.

So please, stop thinking that the worst thing a white politician can do to you is call you a nigger, because it’s not the worst by any stretch of the imagination. The worst thing any politician can do to you is refuse to take your demographic seriously and thus, recapture and neutralize your political power. The worst thing a politician – any politician – can do to you and me is saturate us with symbolism and starve us of substance, as is the case with our current President who sends us Christmas cards showcasing a beautiful black family, with few policy initiatives that actually support any black families other than his own, to match the card….. keep reading


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21/12/11 Race & Racism # , ,

Ron Paul and race (cont’d)

Ron Paul

As candidate Ron Paul turns up the heat in Iowa, I see, rather predictably, that mainstream writers are turning up the heat on Ron Paul (see here, here, andhere). At issue now are the 20 plus year old newsletters, many of which were filled with racist rants, all of which were written under Ron Paul’s name. Ron Paul has previously denied both writing the letters and knowing who did, but that doesn’t stop elite media types from trotting out that very same skeleton from the closet every few years, all in hopes that getting black folks all riled up will be enough to beat back the momentum of Ron Paul’s supporters.

But there are some very important questions we should ask before arming ourselves with pitchforks and tearing off to the nearest Ron Paul for President campaign headquarters. When discussing Ron Paul, it’s important to consider whether all things are equal. I mean, does Ron Paul’s political philosophy still lend itself to the racist rants of twenty plus years ago? Or does his Libertarian philosophy trump a two decade old racist rag?

I’m not saying that Paul’s association with the newsletter bodes well for his personal ethics, but it does demand that we weigh its proportionality. Historians have sharpened our perception of Lincoln by highlighting that he was a man of the times and, although he did emancipate the slaves and save the union, he didn’t necessarily believe in race equality….continue reading

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20/12/11 Race & Racism # , , ,

Ron Paul and race

I hear a lot of people ratcheting up the rhetoric on Ron Paul and race.  For the most part, I get it. Ron Paul has said a lot of things that lend themselves to criticism. But he’s also said a lot of other things. Let’s have a bit of balance before we go getting all hyperbolic:

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07/10/11 Black Politics # , ,

Niggerhead 101

I really don’t care what most people have to say about Rick Perry and his ilk (and by “most people”, I mean Perry’s apologists, and others who would affix some sort of pseudo- reasonable explanations for how Niggerhead got there.) From my thirty something year old Negro woman perspective, I’m tired of playing professor to well-meaning folk who feign disbelief at why Niggerhead would be considered offensive.

While it is true that the etched on offense was  painted over, it is just as true that  the languid nonchalantness that allowed Niggerhead to remain intact well into the 20th century gets at why many African-Americans are suffering from race fatigue. The more we teach sensitivity, the more conversations we have about diversity, the more we’re reminded that it’s not about us. It’s about them. It’s about choice. People choose whether to engage or not, whether to understand history or not, and whether to give life to bias or not.

In many cases, convincing people to adopt your perspective – or a similarly rational or empirical one – is a fool’s errand.  I’m not being cynical, just acknowledging that these broad conversations on race, although culturally enthralling, aren’t reaching the people who require a refresher course on beating back segregationist inspirations.

You can attempt to coax the good ‘ol boys into this conversation all you like, but they ain’t comin’.   To them, and to those who think like them, Niggerhead wasn’t a blemish on Perry’s record so much as an indictment of overwrought African Americans  (we are “grumblers” and “criers”, remember?) and the increasingly PC media that gives voice to us. Perry sympathizers are wrong, of course, but when has that ever stopped them?

Don’t misunderstand me, we should do all we can to purge these folks from our midst. Racism and bigotry should never be tolerated. But more and more, I get the feeling that racists are toying with us, using dialogue and conversation about race as a stalling tactic. The “just teach me again for the 10,000th time so that I can better understand you” excuse just doesn’t fly anymore.   I’m tired of being played, or should I say, sitting idly by as some white people play the white race (befuddlement) card.

So if you seek understanding, I’ll point you in the direction of some really great authors. There are shelves upon shelves of them.  This ‘ish ain’t new.


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23/09/11 Black Media # , , , ,

melissa harris-perry; soldier without a cause

On several occasions, I’ve documented Melissa Harris-Perry’s outrage at Smiley and West over their criticism of President Obama. Even though both Smiley and West have consistently argued that their issue with Obama is his inability to substantively address issues that impact the poor, Harris-Perry has derided both men as having hurt feelings. She pretends to read their minds and speak to their intentions.

In a May 2011 article in the Nation, Harris-Perry had this to say about Smiley’s motives;

“But anyone with a casual knowledge of this rift knows it began during the Democratic primary, not after the election. It began, not with a puffed-up president but when Cornel West’s “dear brother” Tavis Smiley threw a public tantrum because Senator Obama refused to attend Smiley’s annual State of Black America.

And Harris-Perry added this bit about West;

“West’s sense of betrayal is clearly more personal than ideological. In Hedges’s article West claims that a true progressive would always put love of the people above concern with the elite and privileged. Then he complains, “I couldn’t get a ticket [to the inauguration] with my mother and my brother. I said this is very strange. We drive into the hotel and the guy who picks up my bags from the hotel has a ticket to the inauguration…. We had to watch the thing in the hotel.”

What’s obvious to Harris-Perry isn’t obvious to the rest of us.  Because what’s obvious to me is that Smiley was suspicious of Obama even before the election, and he made it known by pressing Obama to attend his forum. With regard to West, what’s even more obvious is that West was using the inauguration tickets as an example of how quick Obama is to use African Americans (West made of 60 campaign appearances on behalf of Obama) and then toss them aside.

Which leads me to the bone I have to pick with all of Harris-Perry’s stalwart defenses of Obama; they’re ALL speculative. All based on her belief that West and Smiley harbor animosity toward the President. And you know what, she’s at it again. Only in her most recent piece, she’s maligning all white liberals as racist for losing faith in her much beloved “O”.   If you’ve lost faith in Obama’s ability to lead the country out of this double dip recession, then according to Harris Perry, you’re a racist.

Harris-Perry in her own words;

President Obama has experienced a swift and steep decline in support among white Americans—from 61 percent in 2009 to 33 percent now. I believe much of that decline can be attributed to their disappointment that choosing a black man for president did not prove to be salvific for them or the nation.

The problem with Harris-Perry’s criticism is that Obama’s numbers aren’t just sinking among whites, but among blacks as well (How do you explain that sista gurl?). And since she was the first to jump on West for challenging Obama’s blackness – or fear of a strong and free black man – it would seem that she’d be reluctant to make any racially charged, and totally unfounded,  accusations. Harris-Perry’s vilification of white liberals is 100 percent unsubstantiated by any polling or data.

This is grasping at straws in the worst way.  Harris-Perry has homed in on race at the expense of other dissatisfactions such as the looming double dip recession and sky high unemployment.  And by focusing in on one arbitrary set of criteria at the expense of all others, she is engaging in exactly the same type of demagoguery of which she accused Smiley and West.

Pot, meet kettle.


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