Solidarity with our dreams will not make us feel less alone, as long as it is not translated into concrete acts of legitimate support for all the peoples that assume the illusion of having a life of their own in the distribution of the world.
Latin America neither wants, nor has any reason, to be a pawn without a will of its own; nor is it merely wishful thinking that its quest for independence and originality should become a Western aspiration. However, the navigational advances that have narrowed such distances between our Americas and Europe seem, conversely, to have accentuated our cultural remoteness. Why is the originality so readily granted us in literature so mistrustfully denied us in our difficult attempts at social change? Why think that the social justice sought by progressive Europeans for their own countries cannot also be a goal for Latin America, with different methods for dissimilar conditions? No: the immeasurable violence and pain of our history are the result of age-old inequities and untold bitterness, and not a conspiracy plotted three thousand leagues from our home. But many European leaders and thinkers have thought so, with the childishness of old-timers who have forgotten the fruitful excess of their youth as if it were impossible to find another destiny than to live at the mercy of the two great masters of the world. This, my friends, is the very scale of our solitude.
– Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Dec. 8, 1982
By Arturo R. GarcíaAn ESPN analyst is involved in what could be one of the most interesting stories of the year — depending, in part, on whether the network decides to cover it.
Doug Glanville is among the many former pro baseball players who contributes to the network’s Major League Baseball coverage. But he’s also penned columns for The New York Times and Time, on top of writing his own biography. But it’s his work this week for The Atlantic that has garnered attention.
Instead of covering his life on the baseball field, though, his column this week discussed his experience with a more commonplace aspect of life in America: racial profiling. Outside his own home.
By Arturo R. García
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.”
By Guest Contributor Tressie McMillan Cottom, cross-posted from TressieMC
This is one of those posts that can go nowhere but down.
There are things you simply cannot do in this life and slaying unicorns is one of them.
What do I mean by “slaying unicorns”? It’s an old Livejournal term. It means providing evidence that one’s sacred emotional belief or object is either not a) universal b) all that great or c) grounded in reality or supported by empirical evidence.
I am really, really bad about this. I tend to slay unicorns even when I only mean to make an observation or intend to honor my own truth or even when I just mean to get through the day. I end up slaying unicorns way more than I’d like. My hands are filthy with their rainbow blood.
An initial tentative reaction about not seeing my experience as a black woman in the article provoked such passionate responses that my mentions on Twitter took two days to recover. And, I don’t mean the responses that disagreed with me. I mean I got tweets that charged me with not being a feminist or not understanding because I don’t have children and one lovely message that seemed to intimate that I was just too stupid to “get it”.
I decided to leave that unicorn alone.
But that did not mean that I did not want to make sense of it myself. After a great deal of thinking I think I can finally articulate my reaction and I owe much of that process to this tweet:
I’m a Reagan baby. You can’t say “trickle-down” to me and not evoke a response.
I went back and re-read The Atlantic article. I’ll try to take my thought process step-by-step in an effort to do minimal damage to the unicorn.
Later, I sat down with Maddie in a quiet factory office where nobody needs to wear protective gear. Without the hairnet and lab coat, she is a pretty, intense woman, 22 years old, with bright blue eyes that seemed to bore into me as she talked, as fast as she could, about her life. She told me how much she likes her job, because she hates to sit still and there’s always something going on in the factory. She enjoys learning, she said, and she’s learned how to run a lot of the different machines. At one point, she looked around the office and said she’d really like to work there one day, helping to design parts rather than stamping them out. She said she’s noticed that robotic arms and other machines seem to keep replacing people on the factory floor, and she’s worried that this could happen to her. She told me she wants to go back to school—as her parents and grandparents keep telling her to do—but she is a single mother, and she can’t leave her two kids alone at night while she takes classes.
I had come to Greenville to better understand what, exactly, is happening to manufacturing in the United States, and what the future holds for people like Maddie—people who still make physical things for a living and, more broadly, people (as many as 40 million adults in the U.S.) who lack higher education, but are striving for a middle-class life. [...]
I never heard Maddie blame others for her situation; she talked, often, about the bad choices she made as a teenager and how those have limited her future. I came to realize, though, that Maddie represents a large population: people who, for whatever reason, are not going to be able to leave the workforce long enough to get the skills they need. Luke doesn’t have children, and his parents could afford to support him while he was in school. Those with the right ability and circumstances will, most likely, make the right adjustments, get the right skills, and eventually thrive. But I fear that those who are challenged now will only fall further behind. To solve all the problems that keep people from acquiring skills would require tackling the toughest issues our country faces: a broken educational system, teen pregnancy, drug use, racial discrimination, a fractured political culture.
This may be the worst impact of the disappearance of manufacturing work. In older factories and, before them, on the farm, there were opportunities for almost everybody: the bright and the slow, the sociable and the awkward, the people with children and those without. All came to work unskilled, at first, and then slowly learned things, on the job, that made them more valuable. Especially in the mid-20th century, as manufacturing employment was rocketing toward its zenith, mistakes and disadvantages in childhood and adolescence did not foreclose adult opportunity.
— “Making It in America,” by Adam Davidson for the Atlantic
(Image Credit: The Atlantic)
A Racialicious Roundtable
Whether you describe it as the dawning of a post-racial age or just the end of white America, we’re approaching a profound demographic tipping point. According to an August 2008 report by the U.S. Census Bureau, those groups currently categorized as racial minorities—blacks and Hispanics, East Asians and South Asians—will account for a majority of the U.S. population by the year 2042. Among Americans under the age of 18, this shift is projected to take place in 2023, which means that every child born in the United States from here on out will belong to the first post-white generation.
“I think white people feel like they’re under siege right now—like it’s not okay to be white right now, especially if you’re a white male,” laughs Bill Imada, of the IW Group…“There’s a lot of fear and a lot of resentment,” Newman-Carrasco observes, describing the flak she caught after writing an article for a trade publication on the need for more-diverse hiring practices. “I got a response from a friend—he’s, like, a 60-something white male, and he’s been involved with multicultural recruiting,” she recalls. “And he said, ‘I really feel like the hunted. It’s a hard time to be a white man in America right now, because I feel like I’m being lumped in with all white males in America, and I’ve tried to do stuff, but it’s a tough time.’”
“I always tell the white men in the room, ‘We need you,’” Imada says. “We cannot talk about diversity and inclusion and engagement without you at the table. It’s okay to be white!”
“But people are stressed out about it. ‘We used to be in control! We’re losing control!’”
So this roundtable has been a long time coming. In mid-January the team started to take a look at Hua Hsu’s Atlantic Monthly article “The End of White America?” And we had a lot of pissed off things to say. And yes it did take us more than a few weeks to corral all our righteous indignation together. But we hope you’ll think it was worth the wait.
On the Cover
Andrea: This is the impression I got from the cover and the article: screamingly alarmist. The half-face of Obama juxtaposed with heavy-block sans serif capital letters that can be seen half a long Barnes & Noble check-out line away. As if to say this single man–a bi-racial man who self-identifies as Black–is single-handedly ruining white people, whiteness, and, most importantly, white privilege. It seems to play off the fear-mongering miscegenation fantasies of yore: the “receding” of the “white” phenotype, that “beiging” of America that Hsu refers to in the piece. Then, before anyone gets any ideas about the writer’s race, in smaller red letters, is the scribe’s name. Sorta like, “Ha! You can’t accuse The Atlantic of being racist ’cause the name can’t be ‘read’ as white.” Doesn’t matter, IMO. The zero-sum game that is US racism is visually in full effect.
Actually, The Atlantic cover reminds me of another cover from a magazine about twenty years ago, when “coloredness”–coded as “identity politics” and “political correctness” back then–was also “threatening to tear the country apart.” From Time magazine, April 9, 1990:
Just some visual perspective on these kinds of articles. Continue reading