Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Provocateur is wrong! Someone is wrong on the internet!

[Title explained here]

A blog out there, found through RealClearPolitics, is titled 'The Provocateur.' Today he writes against Mary Mitchell, apparently an inflammatory African-American columnist for the Chicago Sun Times. What did she say that incenses us so?
This is a sad day for Black America.
At a time when African Americans
are on the cusp of watching a barrier come crashing down, up jumps a
divisive issue that is being driven by those outside of the black
community.Obviously, Wright's timing for a press conference about his sermons couldn't have been worse. Still, when Obama
says he is "offended" by Wright's latest comments -- given in defense
against an orchestrated assault on his character and on his ministry --
he's opening up a can of worms. There is no institution in the
black community more respected than the black church. And the notion
that white pundits can dictate what constitutes unacceptable speech in
the black church is repulsive to most black people.

Let me say this: I understand both sides of the issue here. Of course some in the black community see Obama's candidacy as a breakthrough, and the possibility of it being undone when he's gone so far arouses resentment. I also see that others, often outside the black community, would see the kind of rhetoric Mary Mitchell uses as too heavily race-based or divisive. But what our kindly Provocateur does is to make the wrong move about this. Instead he does the old "let's flip the races and see if it sounds like the KKK" gambit.

I could do the easy thing and say "Why doesn't anyone complain about Asian, Jewish, Italian, Irish, German organizations? Why is it black organizations? There are groups advocating the same solidarity within Jewish and Chinese communities today, as well as others I don't know about. If the problem is with self-segregation, which you say it is, then you will now denounce these groups publicly."

Now that I've said the easy thing I'm going to say the hard thing. The reason that any group exerts pressure is that it's a minority. Majority groups make the situation against which pressure groups move. Majority groups have their system and their values normalized by virtue of being the majority.

Black Americans have to contend with a totally different power dynamic. That is why it is acceptable for Mary Mitchell to speak as she does. It matters how both sides see the problem involved. Provocateur sees it as separationist. I am not comfortable with the part that appears too ready to blame deliberate malice on the part of the white community. Yet there is also the other side of Mitchell's statement which comes from a long history of power imbalance between black and white communities. If you think that power imbalance ended with the Civil Rights Act, you are sorely mistaken. Even if every racist law in the country was struck down tomorrow there is the amorphous cultural power where Black America can in no way present a legitimate challenge.

It's not up to me, or the Provocateur, to say "Mary Mitchell is a racist" or "Mary Mitchell is a legitimate spokesperson for the black community". It is important to note that simply swapping the races in her comment cannot prove it is unacceptable because 'caucasians' do not have the history that correctly contextualizes the comment. I reject the 'race-swap' tactic in all its forms because it assumes that race relations develop in a historical vacuum and that any group can be substituted for any other. This is not true, and so the tactic is illegitimate.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

you're correct that swapping doesn't is not easy for minorities to trade up or majorities to trade down.remember that most people that vote do it based on some emotion and not studied reason.the meek shall inherit the earth.

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