This year’s political convention season, says MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry, got complicated. Although she is in Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention this week, she missed going to Tampa, FL, last week for its Republican counterpart because real life got in the way. Hurricane Isaac’s path, which initially threatened the convention before tearing through New Orleans, meant the Tulane University professor and her family had to evacuate their home, which they subsequently lost.
“In a certain way, the personal drama, set against the backdrop of the convention, helps to remind us that the personal is political,” she told Raw Story Wednesday. “On the one hand, we were having our own personal issues about wind and rain and a hurricane, but the fact is, levees are political, and disasters–whether or not aid is going to come to your community–has to do with who is making those choices from a political position. And so, certainly it’s been hard, but it’s helped to crystallize why elections really do matter.” Read the Post 5 Questions For: MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry, On Political Diversity And Being “Better Off” [#DNC2012]
In “Fear of a Black President,” which appeared this past week in The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates takes on the entirety of President Barack Obama’s approach to racial matters during his tenure. Or, as Coates defines it, his lack of an approach.
Confronted by the thoroughly racialized backlash to Obama’s presidency, a stranger to American politics might conclude that Obama provoked the response by relentlessly pushing an agenda of radical racial reform. Hardly. Daniel Gillion, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania who studies race and politics, examined the Public Papers of the Presidents, a compilation of nearly all public presidential utterances—proclamations, news-conference remarks, executive orders—and found that in his first two years as president, Obama talked less about race than any other Democratic president since 1961. Obama’s racial strategy has been, if anything, the opposite of radical: he declines to use his bully pulpit to address racism, using it instead to engage in the time-honored tradition of black self-hectoring, railing against the perceived failings of black culture.
His approach is not new. It is the approach of Booker T. Washington, who, amid a sea of white terrorists during the era of Jim Crow, endorsed segregation and proclaimed the South to be a land of black opportunity. It is the approach of L. Douglas Wilder, who, in 1986, not long before he became Virginia’s first black governor, kept his distance from Jesse Jackson and told an NAACP audience: “Yes, dear Brutus, the fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves … Some blacks don’t particularly care for me to say these things, to speak to values … Somebody’s got to. We’ve been too excusing.” It was even, at times, the approach of Jesse Jackson himself, who railed against “the rising use of drugs, and babies making babies, and violence … cutting away our opportunity.”
At the same time, though, he takes issue with Obama’s remarks following the killing of Trayvon Martin, saying his weighing in with empathy toward the Martin family and recognition that, if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon, took the case “out of its national-mourning phase and lapsed into something darker and more familiar—racialized political fodder. The illusion of consensus crumbled.”
As I’m still wading through the piece, I do feel the need to point out that, had Obama not said anything–or offered only encouragement that justice be served–that illusion would have crumbled anyway, from any direction. It’s not like Rush Limbaugh, The Daily Caller, or the conservative hate machine around them were waiting for that particular moment to bring out the torches; they would’ve just changed the vitriol to focus on some supposed callousness on his part.
“Trayvoning,” a meme too disgusting to dignify with a link, didn’t come about because of Obama’s remarks–it happened because there are thousands of people too insensitive and too emboldened by relative anonymity who can’t resist making jackasses of themselves online. No speech could have prevented it. As MacDaffy put it yesterday at The Daily Kos, “President Obama’s blackness does not ‘irradiate everything he touches.’ Racism does.” Read the Post Video: Ta-Nehisi Coates Discusses Fear Of A Black President
By Guest Contributors Kendra James and Jordan St. John and Managing Editor Arturo R. García
MSNBC’s Transgender in America: Hosted by Melissa Harris-Perry, this 20-minute segment started off with a bang when she gave a definition of ‘cisgendered’ on national mainstream media television and only got better from there, including taking time to speak about the CeCe McDonald case. If you still have a bad taste in your mouth from Barbara Walters’ 20/20 interview with Jenna Talackova (in which every question is somehow worse than the last and Donald Trump thinks he’s clever), Harris-Perry’s MSNBC segment might be just what you need to restore a bit of faith in the media. You can read Autostraddle’s full wrap-up here. – KJ
Glee: From 20/20 to MSNBC… to Glee? This episode of Fox’s musical dramedy couldn’t have aired with better timing. When Wade (a student from rival glee club Vocal Adrenaline, played by Glee Project runner-up Alex Newell, who is not a trans actor) comes to Mercedes and Kurt for performance advice, they discover she wants to perform as her female alterego “Unique.” While at first appearing male to the audience, she reveals to Kurt that she identifies as female. Perhaps this isn’t as much of a traditional learning experience as the MSNBC special but, for a show aimed at a younger viewing audience, it seems to be a fairly big step.
On my Twitter Bucket List–stuff that I want to do with some of the incredible people I follow on it before I die–a couple of things I wanted to do are get on the bumper cars with historian Blair L.M. Kelley and do brunch with a couple of other women I admired. Professor Kelley responded:
“Hey, I want brunch, too!;)”
It is this brunch/bumper car combo that get the good professor the loved-up for the week. OK, not just those things…
Tuesday night, the U.S. Justice Department announced it would investigate the slaying of Martin. And, especially in light of what we’ve learned about not only Zimmerman, but the social climate around him that enabled him to not only feel justified in an abhorrent sense of paranoia toward young black men, but to continue walking the streets after bringing about the worst possible outcome of that entitlement, the question comes to mind again: Will they get it right this time? Read the Post Voices: Justice For Trayvon Martin
By Guest Contributor Tami Winfrey Harris, cross-posted from What Tami Said
Sexism from a brown face is still sexism. Male privilege with a unique cadence and sartorial style is still male privilege. Patriarchy is still patriarchy when perpetrated by doctorate-wielding black activists. Demanding that a black woman march in lock step with your agenda or be labeled “treacherous” and “a fake and a fraud” is to further the twin demons of racism and sexism that black women battle every day. It’s disgraceful.
Cornel West on Melissa Harris-Perry in the latest issue of Diverse Issues magazine:
“I have a lot of love for the sister, but she’s a liar, and I hate lying,” says West. … Harris-Perry’s scathing critique, West says, has more to do with the fact that the Center for African American Studies unanimously voted against her when she came up for promotion from associate to full professor, adding that her work was not scholarly enough. “There’s not a lot of academic stuff with her, just a lot of Twittering,” says West, who added that her book Sister Citizen, released last year was “wild and out of control.” “She’s become the momentary darling of liberals, but I pray for her because she’s in over her head. She’s a fake and a fraud. I was so surprised at how treacherous the sister was.”