Ron DeSantis Battles the African American A.P. Course—and History :: Dr. Jelani Cobb : The New Yorker

Ron DeSantis Battles the African American A.P. Course—and History

The state’s intent seems to be to provide white Floridians, from a young age, with a version of history that they can be comfortable with, regardless of whether it’s true.

Dr. Jelani Cobb

By Jelani Cobb January 29, 2023

The debacle surrounding the Florida Department of Education’s recent rejection of an Advanced Placement course in African American studies is a reminder that battles over the past are almost always tied to efforts to win some war being waged in the present. The late-nineteenth-century romanticization of the Confederacy was meant to justify the new regime of segregation then being implemented across the South. That campaign was so successful that, in 1935, when W. E. B. Du Bois published “Black Reconstruction,” his reconsideration of the period following the Civil War, he devoted an entire chapter to the ways in which the South had lost the war but won the historiography.

The road runs in both directions. The social movements of the nineteen-fifties and sixties spawned their own, generally corrective takes on the nation’s past. The discipline of Black studies, which originated in the late sixties and is now more often referred to as Africana or African American studies, is a direct product of that wave of scholarly revisionism. Today, during a period in which states, particularly with Republican-led legislatures, have taken to removing books from libraries, stoking fears about critical race theory, and eviscerating diversity-equity-and-inclusion programs in schools—forty-two have proposed restrictive measures—it’s scarcely surprising that a discipline built on an interest in exploring Black humanity would find itself in the crosshairs. That such a thing would happen in Florida is even less so.

Last year, Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican who is frequently mentioned as a 2024 Presidential contender, signed into law the Stop woke Act, a piece of Trumpist culture warfare that regulates how subject matter relating to race can be taught in public schools, picking up from where the right-wing crusade against Nikole Hannah-Jones’s 1619 Project left off. (The State Board of Education had banned the teaching of critical race theory in public schools in 2021.) DeSantis also signed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which limits discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools and became the centerpiece in a conflict over gay rights with Disney, one of the state’s largest employers. (The Governor voiced concern, too, about the inclusion of “queer theory” in the A.P. course, saying last Monday, “When you try to use Black history to shoehorn in queer theory, you are clearly trying to use that for political purposes.”) Both laws have been challenged in court, but together they show the demagogic lengths to which DeSantis is willing to go to burnish his profile among conservatives nationally.

DeSantis shared some of his own ideas about the nation’s past during a gubernatorial-campaign debate last fall, stating that “it’s not true” that “the United States was built on stolen land.” That claim, of course, is starkly at odds not only with the history of westward expansion but with the history of Florida; thousands of Native Americans were forcibly relocated from the region, with the Indian Removal Act of 1830. In general, the Governor’s objective is seemingly to provide white Floridians, from a young age, with a version of the past that they can be comfortable with, regardless of whether it’s true.

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The A.P. course is being piloted in sixty high schools across the country, including at least one in Florida, and is scheduled to be available to any schools that offer A.P. courses in the 2024-25 school year. There appear to have been few problems with teaching it, even in Florida, but on January 12th the state’s education department sent a letter to the College Board, which oversees the creation and implementation of A.P. courses, notifying it that the curriculum is “inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.” On January 20th, Manny Diaz, Jr., the commissioner of education, tweeted, “We proudly require the teaching of African American history. We do not accept woke indoctrination masquerading as education.” He cited the course’s references to notable academics, including Robin D. G. Kelley, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and the late bell hooks, as supposed examples of such indoctrination.

A day earlier, the College Board had released a statement saying that the course was still in draft form, and that “frameworks often change significantly” during the revision process. But the official framework of the course is scheduled to be released to the public on February 1st, the first day of Black History Month. The course guide for instructors, which runs to two hundred and forty-six pages, states in its preface that A.P. “opposes indoctrination” and that courses are built around an “unflinching encounter with evidence” and empirical analysis. It’s an odd note to direct at teachers of high-school students who have displayed the intellectual and emotional maturity to engage with college-level coursework. However, it’s likely intended not for them but for any bureaucrats and politicians who believe that “wokeism”—a threadbare slang term for social awareness—is an actual ideology.

Of all the criticisms aimed at the course, the most questionable is the department’s contention that it “lacks educational value.” The course includes contributions from some of the most highly regarded academics in the field, including the literary scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and the historians Nell Irvin Painter and Annette Gordon-Reed. Faculty from Harvard, Emory, Georgetown, the University of California, and the University of Connecticut are on an advisory board. With that contention, the department is, in effect, dismissing the import of Frederick Douglass’s autobiography “My Bondage and My Freedom,” excerpts of which are included in the curriculum; the Dred Scott decision, also excerpted; and the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, whose origins are explored in detail. In fact, the idea that the subject matter covered in the course does not warrant a place in the classroom is contradicted by Florida’s own educational standards. Among the topics examined are the transatlantic slave trade, the roots of the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the birth of the civil-rights movement, some of which students are taught as early as the fourth grade.

Last Wednesday, three Florida high-school students, represented by the civil-rights attorney Benjamin Crump, said that they were prepared to sue the DeSantis administration if the ban on the course is not lifted. But there is little likelihood that the course can be revised in such a way that it is palatable to DeSantis and the state’s education department without losing the essence of what it is attempting to convey about the miasma of race in American history. Their sense appears to be that the evils of the past are not nearly as dangerous now as the willingness to talk about them in the present. ♦Published in the print edition of the February 6, 2023, issue, with the headline “Historic Battles.”

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Jelani Cobb, a staff writer at The New Yorker, is the co-editor of “The Essential Kerner Commission Report.” He is the dean of the Columbia Journalism School. He is an OUR COMMON GROUND Voice.

How Oppressive Systems Work :: Jason Lefkowitz

from Jason Lefkowitz

You may be asking tonight how five Black cops could beat a Black man to death.

I can’t answer that. All I can do is tell you a story.

During the Holocaust, at every stage of the Nazi persecution of the Jews, there were some Jews who were willing to help them along. Nazi rule in the ghettos of Eastern Europe was enforced by Jewish police. Forced labor gangs in the concentration camps were worked to death by Jewish overseers.

These collaborators worked under a range of titles, but in the history books one, in particular, has come to stand for all of them: “kapo.” And that label has stuck. To this day, 80 years later, one of the worst insults you can hurl at a Jew is to call them a kapo.

Why did they do it? In a system rigged against them, collaboration was a way to suffer less. If you collaborated, you got better food, warmer clothes. You got beaten less. You got to live another day. And you got a little bit of power — power that you could wield however you wanted, as long as you only wielded it against your fellow Jews.

The kapos would have told you they had other reasons, of course. Some would tell you that they were trying to be a buffer between their people and the system that oppressed them. Some may even have thought they could change the system from the inside. But in the end, the justifications didn’t matter; when the kapos stopped being useful to their masters, they were just as disposable as their justifications.

If you are wondering how a system can get to a point where people are oppressing their own, all I can tell you is: that is how oppressive systems work.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kapo

About Jason Lefkowitz

Amid global hellscape, full of modern recreational flavor. Founder, president and cruel intergalactic tyrant of Rogue Repairman Productions. Web developer for 25 years now (oh god). Writer that nobody reads; leader that nobody follows. #fedi22 #writing #movies #cycling #kayaking #programming #php #python #wordpress #history #military

Follow Jason Lefkowitz @jalefkowit@octodon.social

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Remembering the Rosewood, FL Massacre

January 7, 2023

100 years ago, a white mob completely destroyed the primarily Black town of Rosewood, Florida. The death toll is unknown and the story was erased from history for 70 years. No one was ever prosecuted for the crimes.

We cannot continue to allow the erasure of Black history. The Governor of FL is waging a war against the knowledge of Black history and of Black people. Banning books and restricting scholastic offerings related to Black studies and history. If he can, he will continue.

ABOUT THE ROSEWOOD, FL MASSACRE

The Cruelty Is the Point

“The Cruelty Is the Point: WHY TRUMP’S AMERICA ENDURES”

By Adam Serwer

BOOK OVERVIEW

“To many, our most shocking political crises appear unprecedented—un-American, even. But they are not, writes The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer in this prescient essay collection, which dissects the most devastating moments in recent memory to reveal deeply entrenched dynamics, patterns as old as the country itself. The January 6 insurrection, anti-immigrant sentiment, and American authoritarianism all have historic roots that explain their continued power with or without President Donald Trump—a fact borne out by what has happened since his departure from the White House.

Serwer argues that Trump is not the cause, he is a symptom. Serwer’s phrase “the cruelty is the point” became among the most-used descriptions of Trump’s era, but as this book demonstrates, it resonates across centuries. The essays here combine revelatory reporting, searing analysis, and a clarity that’s bracing. In this new, expanded version of his bestselling debut, Serwer elegantly dissects white supremacy’s profound influence on our political system, looking at the persistence of the Lost Cause, the past and present of police unions, the mythology of migration, and the many faces of anti-Semitism. In so doing, he offers abundant proof that our past is present and demonstrates the devastating costs of continuing to pretend it’s not. The Cruelty Is the Point dares us, the reader, to not look away.”

MORE about the book

ABOUT ADAM SERWER

Adam Serwer has been a staff writer for the Ideas section of The Atlantic since 2016, focusing on contemporary politics, often viewed through the lens of history. He is the recipient of the 2015 Sigma Delta Chi award for commentary,… More about Adam Serwer

To Fight Attacks on “Critical Race Theory,” Look to Black History – Black World Media Network (BWMN)

To Fight Attacks on “Critical Race Theory,” Look to Black History

There is a long tradition of Black educators fighting attempts to keep America’s true history out of the classroom—one we can all learn from
Forten
African American abolitionist, poet, and educator Charlotte Forten (1837–1914), circa 1865.

 

By Keisha N. Blain

thenation.com

February 18, 2022

This week, South Dakota’s House of Representatives passed two bills, one targeting the teaching of “divisive concepts” and the other aimed at “protecting” kids from “political indoctrination.” While neither bill mentioned the words “critical race theory,” it was clear what they meant. They followed just a few weeks after the Mississippi Senate passed Senate Bill 2113—another “critical race theory” bill authored by Michael McLendon (R-Hernando)—over the objection of Black lawmakers, who walked out of the chamber in protest. Both of these efforts, along with many others, are part of a nationwide campaign led by conservatives to supposedly rid classrooms of “critical race theory”—a term for a high-level legal discipline that has been used as a cover to ban books by Black and brown authors.

While the obsession over “ critical race theory” is a new manifestation, it represents long-standing efforts to keep Black history—and the perspectives of Black writers—out of the classroom. For many conservatives, the attack on “critical race theory” is rooted in a desire to shield their children from the uncomfortable aspects of history and evade “sensitive” topics such as racism, white supremacy, and inequality. As this wave of anti-Blackness and anti-intellectualism grows, Black educators and their allies must be prepared to oppose these forces, building on a long tradition of Black protest.

For as long as white politicians have employed these tactics, Black educators in the United States have vigorously resisted. Through a myriad of strategies—including creative lesson plans and the production of anti-racist books and articles—Black educators have worked to counter the spread of misinformation and ensure that students have access to texts and perspectives that represent the diversity of the nation—and the world.

During the antebellum era, Black teachers in the North led the charge to ensure that Black students would receive a quality education—despite having limited access to resources. These efforts often required “conscious, vigorous, and sustained acts of defiance and protest,” as historian Kabria Baumgartner recounts in her groundbreaking book In Pursuit of Knowledge, but Black educators were willing to take such risks.

In 1830s Boston, for example, Susan Paul taught at a primary school for Black children where she intentionally included lessons on the evils of slavery and the significance of abolition. Paul brought her students to meetings of the New England Anti-Slavery Society—an interracial abolitionist organization founded in 1832. She also encouraged her students in the Boston Juvenile Choir to perform songs that extolled abolitionist ideas. Her inclusion of abolitionist materials and her focus on her students’ public comportment represented a direct challenge to the era’s racist propaganda on the capabilities and qualities of Black people—a mission she followed even as she faced threats of violence from white Bostonians at the time.

Paul published the Memoir of James Jackson in 1835 to honor a student of hers who had passed away from tuberculosis. In telling the story of Jackson’s short life, the book also revealed Paul’s pedagogical emphasis on Christian empathy as an opposing force to racial prejudice.

Similarly, Charlotte Forten, a Black educator from Philadelphia, passionately resisted the spread of miseducation in the classroom—and introduced an array of diverse materials to broaden her students’ perspectives. One of the first Black women teachers to be hired to teach in the integrated schools of Salem, Mass., Forten joined the staff of the Epes Grammar School in 1856. Though she only taught in Salem for a few years, she was unwavering in her commitment to nurturing Black students, and in 1862, traveled to the Sea Islands in South Carolina to teach Black children who were recently emancipated by Union forces.

Forten used this opportunity to instruct her students about the life of revolutionary Haitian leader Toussaint L’Ouverture. “I told them about Toussaint,” she explained in an 1864 Atlantic Monthly article, “thinking it well they should know what one of their own color had done for his race.” This determination to center Black perspectives in the classroom as a counter to stereotypical representations of mainstream accounts guided Black educators in the decades to follow.

In February 1926, historian Carter G. Woodson, known as the father of Black history, devised a strategy to address the failure to teach Black history in classrooms across the nation. By first establishing “ Negro History Week,” Woodson provided an avenue for educators to recognize and celebrate the history of people of African descent in the United States. In so doing, he disrupted educational norms shaped by white supremacy and anti-Blackness. Woodson and members of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History—the organization he had established several years earlier—created and distributed books, lesson plans, and other curriculum materials to aid teachers across the nation.

Within five years of the program’s creation, 80 percent of Black high schools in the United States were celebrating Negro History Week. According to Jarvis R. Givens, author of Fugitive Pedagogy: Carter G. Woodson and the Art of Black Teaching, Woodson’s mission as a scholar “was influenced and made possible by the pedagogical work of black schoolteachers.” These educators had instructed and prepared Woodson’s generation after the end of legal slavery, and a new generation now risked their own personal safety to defy the accepted curriculum by implementing Negro History Week lessons, influencing generations of scholars and activists to follow.

It is in this spirit that the famed scholar and activist W.E.B. Du Bois published Black Reconstruction in America in 1935. The pioneering book, which would go on to shape future writing and research on Reconstruction, was a direct refutation of the false narratives emerging from leading white scholars. Black Reconstruction in America unequivocally challenged the racist Dunning School of historians—named after William Archibald Dunning of Columbia University. In their portrayal of Reconstruction (1865–77), the Dunning School scholars, as Du Bois explained, had portrayed the South as victims and the North as having committed a “grievous wrong.” Their writings on the subject treated the free and enslaved Black population with “ ridicule, contempt or silence.”

This framing of the ideals motivating Reconstruction—and the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments—as a mistake was further propagated in popular media, most notably in the 1915 film The Birth of a Nation. Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction offered an important counterargument that not only reaffirmed the evils of slavery but also demonstrated the active role enslaved people took in liberating themselves. They were, as Du Bois powerfully demonstrated, not simply the passive recipients of white actions but agents in shaping their own destiny.

This tradition coalesced into the dynamic field of Black Studies during the 1960s and 1970s. As Abdul Alkalimat, one of the founders of Black Studies, points out in The History of Black Studies, the field’s growth is directly tied to the pioneering work of scholars like Woodson and Du Bois. The work of Black educators—combined with other forces, including the civil rights and Black Power movements as well as the vital intellectual space created by historically black colleges and universities—provided the catalyst for the establishment of Black Studies programs and departments.

Freedom Schools, such as those established by organizations like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the rise of Black Power ideology, fundamentally shaped Black college students and challenged mainstream (anti-Black) university curriculums on college campuses and beyond.

Today, we are witnessing an effort to return to an era when Black voices and experiences—along with those of other marginalized groups—were excluded from classrooms. The recent legislative and executive bans on “critical race theory” are designed to intimidate teachers and school districts from teaching accurate representations of American history. As the historical record reminds us, these attempts are not new. But we can draw inspiration from the long line of Black educators and their allies who vigorously worked to overcome these forces in the past.

Keisha N. Blain is an associate professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh and a 2022 National Fellow at New America. Along with Ibram X. Kendi, she is the editor of Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619–2019. Her latest book is Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Message to America. Twitter: @KeishaBlain

Source: To Fight Attacks on “Critical Race Theory,” Look to Black History – Black World Media Network (BWMN)

Are Black People the Crash Test Dummies for Democrats? | Black Agenda Report

10 Nov 2021

Are Black People the Crash Test Dummies for Democrats?
Crash test dummies

Black people in the US are the crash test dummies for the Democrats. The Democrats showcase the misery of Black people to maintain their legitimacy while deploying the Black political class to neutralize the “progressive” elements in the party.

crash test dummy  is a simulated humanoid used in car accidents to test the safety of vehicles for human consumers. In the U.S., Black people are the crash test dummies for the Democratic Party and the liberal establishment. The Democrats showcase the misery of Black people – through a discourse of “racial grievances” – to maintain their legitimacy while deploying the Black political class to neutralize the “progressive” elements in the party.

During the Obama era members of the Black chattering class were used as crash test dummies to manufacture a liberal curated message that Obama, the Wall Street Manchurian Candidate and first Black president, was the embodiment of Black political aspiration justifying Blacks abandoning their civil rights posture toward racism. From this 2008 New York Times article , “Is Barack Obama the End of Black Politics:”

““I’m the new black politics,” says Cornell Belcher, a 38-year-old pollster who is working for Obama. “The people I work with are the new black politics. We don’t carry around that history. We see the world through post-civil-rights eyes. I don’t mean that disrespectfully, but that’s just the way it is.

“I don’t want in any way to seem critical of the generation of leadership who fought so I could be sitting here,” Belcher told me when we met for breakfast at the Four Seasons in Georgetown one morning. He wears his hair in irreverent spikes and often favors tennis shoes with suit jackets. “Barack Obama is the sum of their struggle. He’s the sum of their tears, their fights, their marching, their pain. This opportunity is the sum of that.”

During Obama’s tenure over 35% of Black wealth  evaporated, and there was no recourse for or Black America. Furthermore, 95% of Obama’s presidential job growth  was low wage temp jobs. Blacks were the crash test dummies whose noble history of struggle was pimped out so Banks could be protected as America saw one of the greatest wealth transfer s upward since the gilded age.

After the 2016 election, the racial grievances of Blacks rendered them as crash test dummies again. This time the corporate faction of the Democratic party deployed the Black political class and its media acolytes to neutralize the rising cry for social democracy and anti-capitalist politics. Black thought leaders in the chattering class deemed the Bernie Sanders candidacy as “tone deaf on race,” while pushing to coral Black politics around neoliberalism and Hillary Clinton. Furthermore, the Black political class has been repeatedly dispatched to destroy candidates for office that have carried the Sanders message. This subterfuge became obvious with both the 2021 Nina Turner campaign  in Ohio, as well as the India Walton  campaign in Buffalo, New York.

What is fascinating about the deployment of the Black liberal political call to destroy progressive social democratic policy rooted in political economy is that during the inter-war period, before Anti-Communism made such politics impossible to demand, the Black liberal political class took its lessons from Black socialists and Black communists.  They used these lessons to shape their advocacy for Black America.

The book , “What the Negro Wants,” was written in 1944 and is a series of essays by some of the most heralded Black thinkers and activists of that era. W.E.B. DuBois, Rayford W. Logan, Charles H. Wesley, Mary McLeod Bethune, and A. Phillip Randolph are just a few of the contributors. What is fascinating is how little discussion there is about racism and White Supremacy, and how much is based on programmatic solutions rooted in political economy. I guess these folks would have been called “class reductionists” since almost all their solutions were premised on social democracy . In reading the book, you realize the bankruptcy of today’s Black social and political thought. A review  of the book tell us:

What the Negro Wants provides a unique view into black politics during that time period. The essays reveal the wide array of ideological tendencies operating within black political life, something often missing today from analyses that adopt the monolithic framework of a singular “black community.” Perhaps more striking was the common agreement among the diverse tendencies — and what this tells us about the transformations in black political life from then to now.

The writers shared a broad consensus around the vital importance of the labor movement (especially the Congress of Industrial Organizations, CIO), given black people’s overwhelming working-class composition. There was also much agreement around broadly social democratic demands and the necessity of interracial coalitions.”

Under the current Biden presidency Democrats are worried that the strategy of using Blacks as crash test dummies by dispatching “woke” racial grievance discourse to stain Trump’s Republican party is backfiring. As working-class voters flee the Democratic party, the belief is that the age of “wokeness,” has cost Democrats so much that they might have to start appealing to working class white voters using whatever messaging is possible. The recent controversy over political data expert David Shor and his calls for the Democratic party to embrace his messaging strategy called “popularism,” has the vapid Black chattering class worried that the Democratic party is going to throw Black people under the bus to appeal to working class Whites. Elie Mystal, the Black MSNBC contributor, and writer for, “The Nation,” expressed outrage as he argued that the Democrats were going abandon Blacks to embrace David Shor’s “Popularism.”  As, Mystal states :

“I disagree with Shor not on the problems but on his proposed solutions. Shor, according to Klein, suggests doing what Democrats have traditionally done: figure out what the racists want and give it to them, while simultaneously pretending the party will never take real steps to challenge white supremacy.”

Acolytes of Shor quickly responded to Mystal’s complaints by basically admitting that the Democratic party has no choice but to appeal to working class white voters because demographically the party cannot win without their support, regardless of the size of the Democrats’ Multi-racial coalition. As  “New York Magazine,” writer Eric Levitz published in his piece , “Smearing Popularism Does not Help Black Voters:”

“All of which is to say: There is nothing inherently anti-Black about wanting the Democratic Party to avoid alienating bigoted voters, much less white working-class ones more broadly. A “mobilization” strategy will only benefit African Americans to the extent that it keeps the Republican Party out of power. Black families surely need a Justice Department that cares about civil rights, an NLRB that sides with working people, and a Congress interested in expanding social welfare more than they need Democratic messaging that rhetorically centers systemic racism. Yet Mystal makes no effort to demonstrate that the electoral math on his preferred strategy adds up. He does not sketch out how Democrats could afford to disregard white working-class voters and still capture a Senate majority. By all appearances, he simply presumes that there must be a way for the party to do so.”

The last time Democrats used major polling analysis  to change their messaging we got the Democratic Leadership Council , Clinton Crime Bill, the New Democrats, NAFTA GATT and worse neoliberalism that was highly racialized against Blacks. And in 1984 the same argumentation was used, “Democrats need to find a way to appeal to working class Whites.” As vapid as the Black liberal chattering class has always been, I don’t think we can totally fault them for their paranoia about the Democratic party’s alleged embrace of “Shorism” or “Popularism.”

What we are seeing is the failure of Democrats’ cynical post Obama strategy of focusing on racial grievance discourse divorced from materialist policy. That strategy was supposed to both shut down the possibility of any social democracy, or Sanders-type politics that would benefit most Black people, while secondly using Blacks as crash test dummies to fight Trump. That strategy has blown up in the Democrats face and is doing nothing but feeding the reactionary right. This is largely happening because liberals and the left flank of capital chose to platform neoliberal Blacks and Black foundation types spewing race first politics that only lined their own pockets from Ta-Nehisi Coates to Black Lives Matter . The support for this liberal “woke” racial grievance discourse has allowed Trump operative Steve Bannon to organize a grass roots takeover of political apparatuses throughout the Red States using contrived paranoia about Critical Race Theory as a flashpoint. Liberals played the Black elite and the Black Chattering class like suckers again. Now with debates emerging about “popularism,” and the tactics of David Shor, Democrats might seek to hang Black voters out to dry, once again, since they now realize they were riding a one trick pony that was only good to get Biden elected.

These racial changes in political messaging have a long and effective history during the 50 plus year counter-revolution against the gains of the 1960s and the New Deal. Starting with the hard hat riot  and framing late 60s radicalism as social chaos, Nixon was able to begin the process of White working class spillage into the Republican party causing the first fracture of the New Deal-Civil Rights Coalition. Reagan doubled on this strategy by using the Nixonian Southern strategy fostering the “Reagan Democrats.” Bill Clinton was the key to where this whole strategy of white racial appeal went bad. Clinton used the Southern Strategy as well to appeal to working class Whites by appearing tough on crime with the execution of Ricky Ray Rector  and his Sister Soulja moment .  Predictably, Clinton governed in a way that destroyed the working class across the board and savaged poor Blacks. The consequences of Clintonian politics were so bad that neoliberalism became equated with Democrats in the conscience of many Americans. Obama had an opportunity to repair these issues. Obama had more goodwill coming into office than any U.S. president in modern history. Instead, Obama doubled down on the worst elements of neoliberalism as a handpicked pawn of the banks. Furthermore, under Obama we also saw a massive opioid crisis ravage poor and working-class Americans hurt by Clinton Era NAFTA and GATT policies. Bernie Sanders revived a progressive left that had been dead for 50 years while Hillary Clinton was the emblem of all that was horrible with Clintonian Neoliberalism after Obama’s lack of recovery.

Therefore, the culture war  nonsense is a product of a policy bankrupt Democratic party using vapid identity politics virtue signaling with no real material benefits to posture progressive while masking their complicity with the agenda of finance capital and the power elite. This shift to dump the working class was a strategic choice of the Democrats, not an accident. They did so under the charade of hoping Blacks and Latinos would forget they were working class and instead see themselves as ethnic and racial identities first. The Republicans have spun the culture wars to appeal to other aspects of the working-class psyche not contingent exclusively on racial identity, such as anti-vaccination mandates. Though neoliberalism has been a bi-partisan consensus since the 1970’s, the 30-year strategy and pivot of Neoliberal Democrats starting with Clinton and continuing through Obama, worsened the carnage. This is why Democrats deserve most of the blame for the turn in American capitalism to neoliberal privatization.

Some have argued that the current “wokeness, ” paranoia has been caused by the social democratic Sanders faction of the Democratic party. Progressives did not ignite a culture war. Liberals ignited a culture war doubling down on woke racial grievance discourse to use black people both as crash test dummies to fight Trump and to neutralize the Progressive faction of the Democratic party’s actual demand for materialist politics. The Liberal institutions from media to foundations, and even corporate finance, all supported wokeness  especially after George Floyd’s murder. Progressives weren’t pouring millions into capitalist streaming services like Netflix and Amazon to platform programming focused on Negroes racially navel gazing and fart sniffing their problems to pander to white guilt. Progressives, got their politics crushed by this materialist bankrupt form of race reductionism that they have been calling out while being called “class reductionists.” Yet the only class of Negroes benefitting from this race reductionist nonsense are pedigreed Blacks who have always leveraged the misery of Black toilers for policy considerations that largely only benefit those Black elites. Negro elites and certain Blacks in academia have made a fortune off George Floyd’s corps for doing nothing but protecting the status quo. So don’t blame Progressives. Blame the liberals, Black, White, and otherwise who have been using Black people as crash test dummies while showing sheer disregard for most of Black America during almost all the last 50 plus year counter-revolution.

Pascal Robert is an iconoclastic Haitian American Lawyer, blogger, and online activist for Haiti. He is an OUR COMMON GROUND Voice since 2012. He is co-host, This Is Revolution podcast.

You can find his work on the web at Thought Merchant, and at Huffington Post. He can be reached via twitter at @probert06 or thoughtmerchant@gmail.com.

Source: Are Black People the Crash Test Dummies for Democrats? | Black Agenda Report

Beyond Racism and Misogyny | Boston Review

Editor’s Note: This essay was originally published in Boston Review in December 1991.


In June 1990, the members of the rap group 2 Live Crew were arrested and charged under a Florida obscenity statute for their performance in an adults-only club in Hollywood, Florida. The arrests came just two days after a federal court judge had ruled that the sexually explicit lyrics in 2 Live Crew’s album, As Nasty As They Wanna Be, were obscene. Although the members of 2 Live Crew were eventually acquitted of charges stemming from the live performance, the federal court determination that As Nasty As They Wanna Be is obscene still stands. This obscenity judgment, along with the arrests and the subsequent trial, prompted an intense public controversy about rap music, a controversy that merged with a broader debate about the representation of sex and violence in popular music, about cultural diversity, and about the meaning of freedom of expression.

Two positions dominated the debate about 2 Live Crew. Writing in Newsweek, political columnist George Will staked out a case against the Crew, arguing that Nasty was misogynistic filth and characterizing their lyrics as a profoundly repugnant “combination of extreme infantilism and menace” that objectified black women and represented them as legitimate targets for sexual violence.

The most prominent defense of 2 Live Crew was advanced by Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., an expert on African-American literature. In a New York Times op-ed piece, and in testimony at the criminal trial, Gates portrayed 2 Live Crew as brilliant artists who were inventively elaborating distinctively African-American forms of cultural expression. Furthermore, Gates argued, the characteristic exaggeration featured in their lyrics served a political end: to explode popular racist stereotypes about black sexuality precisely by presenting those stereotypes in a comically extreme form. Where Will saw a misogynistic assault on black women by social degenerates, Gates found a form of ‘sexual carnivalesque’ freighted with the promise to free us from the pathologies of racism.

As a black feminist, I felt the pull of each of these poles, but not the compelling attractions of’ either. My immediate response to the criminal charges against 2 Live Crew was ambivalence: I wanted to stand together with the brothers against a racist attack, but I wanted to stand against a frightening explosion of’ violent imagery directed at women like me. My sharp internal division-my dissatisfaction with the idea that the “real issue” is race or that the “real issue” is gender– is characteristic of my experience as a black woman living at the intersection of racial and sexual subordination. To that experience black feminism offers an intellectual and political response: aiming to bring together the different aspects of an otherwise divided sensibility, it argues that black women are commonly marginalized by a politics of race alone or gender alone, and that a political response to either form of subordination must be a political response to both. When the controversy over 2 Live Crew is approached in light of such black feminist sensibilities, an alternative to the dominant poles of the public debate emerges.

At the legal “bottom line” I agree with the supporters of 2 Live Crew that the obscenity prosecution was wrongheaded. But the reasons for my conclusion are not the same as the reasons generally offered in support of 2 Live Crew. I will come to those reasons shortly, but first I should emphasize that after listening to 2 Live Crew’s lyrics, along with those of other rap artists, my defense of 2 Live Crew, (qualified though it is) did not come easy.

The first time I listened to 2 Live Crew, I was stunned. The issue had been distorted by descriptions of “As Nasty As They Wanna Be” as simply “sexually explicit.” “Nasty” is much more: it is virulently misogynist, sometimes violently so. Black women are cunts, “‘ho’s,” and all-purpose bitches: raggedy bitches, sorry-ass bitches, lowdown slimy-ass bitches. Good sex is often portrayed as painful and humiliating for women. Take, for example, “The Buck.”

That’s the only way to give her more than she wants,
Like a doggie-style, you get all that cunt.
Cause all men try real hard to do it,
To have her walking funny so we try to abuse it.
Bitches think a pussy can do it all,
So we try real hard just to bust the wall.

And:

I’ll break you down and dick you long.
Bust your pussy and break your backbone.

Elsewhere:

I’m gonna slay you, rough and painful,
You innocent bitch! Don’t be shameful!

And for added measure:

That dick will make a bitch act cute,
Suck my dick until you make it puke
…
Lick my ass up and down,
Lick it till your tongue turns doodoo brown.

This is no mere braggadocio. Those of us who are concerned about the high rates of gender violence in our communities must be troubled by the possible connections between these images and tolerance for violence against women. Children and teenagers are listening to this music, and I am concerned that the range of acceptable behavior is being broadened by the constant propagation of anti-women imagery. I’m concerned, too, about young black women who, like young men, are learning that their value lies between their legs. Unlike men, however, their sexual value is a depletable commodity; by expending it, girls become whores and boys become men.

Nasty is misogynist, and a black feminist response to the case against 2 Live Crew must start from a full acknowledgment of that misogyny. But such a response must also consider whether an exclusive focus on issues of gender risks overlooking aspects of the prosecution of 2 Live Crew that raise serious questions of racism. And here is where the roots of my opposition to the obscenity prosecution lie.

An initial problem concerning the prosecution was its apparent selectivity. A comparison between 2 Live Crew and other mass-marketed sexual representations suggests that race played some role in distinguishing 2 Live Crew as the first group ever to be prosecuted for obscenity in connection with a musical recording, and one of only a handful of recording artists to be prosecuted for a live performance. Recent controversies about sexism, racism, and violence in popular culture point to a vast range of expression that might well provide targets for censorship, but that have not been targeted. Madonna has acted out masturbation, portrayed the seduction of a priest, and depicted group sex on stage, yet she has never been prosecuted for obscenity. While 2 Live Crew was performing in an adults-only club in Hollywood, Florida, Andrew Dice Clay was performing nationwide on HBO. Well-known for his racist “humor,” Clay is also comparable to 2 Live Crew in sexual explicitness and misogyny. In his show, for example, Clay offers: “Eenie, meenie, minee, mo, suck my [expletive] and swallow slow,” or “Lose the bra bitch.” Moreover, graphic sexual images–many of them violent–were widely available in Broward County where the performance and trial took place. According to the trial testimony of Vice Detective McCloud, “nude dance shows and adult bookstores are scattered throughout the county where 2 Live Crew performed.” But again, no obscenity charges were leveled against the performers or producers of these representations.

In response to this charge of selectivity, it might be argued that the prosecution of 2 Live Crew demonstrates that its lyrics were uniquely obscene. In a sense, this argument runs, the proof is in the condemnation–if their music was not uniquely obscene, it would not have been deemed so by the Court. However, the elements of 2 Live Crew’s representation that contributed to their selective arrest continued to play out as the court applied the obscenity standard to the recording.

To clarify this argument, we need to consider the technical use of’ “obscenity” as a legal term of art. For the purposes of legal argument, the Supreme Court in the 1973 case of Miller v. California held that a work is obscene if and only if it meets each of three conditions: (1) “the average person, applying community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest”; (2) “the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law”; and (3) “the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” The Court held that it is consistent with First Amendment guarantees of freedom of expression for states to subject work that meets all three parts of the Miller test to very restrictive regulations.

Focusing first on the “prurient interest” prong of the Miller test, we might wonder how 2 Live Crew could have been seen as uniquely obscene by the lights of the “community standards” of Brossard County. After all, as Detective McCloud put it, “patrons [of clubs in Broward] can see women dancing with at least their breasts exposed” and bookstore patrons can “view and purchase films and magazines that depict vaginal, oral and anal sex, homosexual sex and group sex.” In arriving at its finding of obscenity, the court placed little weight on the available range of films, magazines, and live shows as evidence of the community’s sensibilities. Instead, the court apparently accepted the Sheriff’s testimony that the decision to single out Nastywas based on the number of complaints against 2 Live Crew, “communicated by telephone calls, anonymous messages, or letters to the police.”

Evidence of this popular outcry was never substantiated. But even if it were, the case for selectivity would remain. The history of social repression of black male sexuality is long, often-violent, and all-too-familiar. Negative reactions against the sexual conduct of black males have traditionally had racist overtones, especially where that conduct threatens to “cross over” into the mainstream community. So even if the decision to prosecute did reflect a widespread community perception of the purely prurient character of 2 Live Crew’s music, that perception itself might reflect an established pattern of vigilante attitudes directed toward the sexual expression of black males. In short, the appeal to community standards does not undercut a concern about racism; rather, it underscores that concern.

A second troubling dimension of the case against 2 Live Crew was the court’s apparent disregard for the culturally rooted aspects of 2 Live Crew’s music. Such disregard was essential to a finding of obscenity, given the third prong of the Miller test requiring that obscene material lack any literary, artistic, or political value. 2 Live Crew argued that this test was not met since the recording exemplified such African-American cultural modes as “playing the dozens,” “call and response,” and “signifying.” As a storehouse of such cultural modes, it could not be said that Nasty was completely devoid of literary or artistic value. Yet the court denied the group’s clause of cultural specificity by re-characterizing those modes claimed to be African-American in more generic terms. For example, the court reasoned that “playing the dozens” is “commonly seen in adolescents, especially boys, of all ages.” “Boasting,” the court observed, appears to be “part of the universal human condition.” And the court noted that the cultural origins of one song featuring “call and response”–a song about oral sex in which competing groups chanted “less filling” and “tastes great”–were to be found in a Miller beer commercial, and thus not derived from any African-American cultural tradition. The possibility that the Miller beer commercial may have itself evolved from an African-American cultural tradition was lost on the court.

In disregarding testimony about cultural specificity, the court denied the artistic value in the form and style of Nasty and, by implication, rap music more generally. This disturbing dismissal of the cultural attributes of rap, and this effort to universalize African-American modes of expression, flattens cultural differences. The court’s analysis here manifests in legal terms a frequently encountered strategy of cultural appropriation. African-American contributions that have been accepted by the mainstream culture are eventually absorbed as simply “American” or found to be “universal.” Other modes associated with African-American culture that resist absorption remain distinctive and are either ignored, or dismissed as “deviant.”

An additional concern has as much to do with the obscenity doctrine itself as with the court’s application of it to 2 Live Crew. The case illustrates the ways that obscenity doctrine invites racially selective enforcement while at the same time pressing into focus the wrong questions about sexual expression.

As I mentioned earlier, obscenity requires a determination that the material, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest. Although the prurient interest requirement eludes precise definition it seems clear that prurient material must appeal in some immediate way to sexual desire. While it is difficult to say definitively what constitutes such an appeal, one might surmise that the twenty-five cent peep shows that are standard fare in Broward County rank considerably higher on this scale than the sexual tall tales of 2 Live Crew. But the obscenity doctrine is, as justice Stevens said, “intolerably vague,” and the result is that “grossly disparate treatment of similar offenders is a characteristic of the criminal enforcement of obscenity law.” More precisely, as the case of 2 Live Crew suggests, the vagueness of the doctrine operating in a world of racial subordination represents an invitation to racially selective enforcement.

While 2 Live Crew should be one of the lesser candidates in the prurient interests sweepstakes mandated by the obscenity doctrine, it is also a lesser contender by another measure that lies entirely outside of obscenity: violence. Compared to such groups as N.W.A., Too Short, Ice Cube, and the Geto Boys, 2 Live Crew’s misogynistic hyperbole sounds minor league. Sometimes called “gangsta’ rap,” the lyrics offered by these other groups celebrate violent assault, rape, rape-murder, and mutilation. Nevertheless, had these other groups been targeted rather than the comparatively less offensive 2 Live Crew, they may have been more successful in defeating the prosecution. The graphic violence in their representations militates against a finding of obscenity by suggesting an appeal not to prurient interests but instead to the fantasy of the social outlaw. Against an historical backdrop that prominently features the image of the black male as social outlaw, gangsta’ rap might be read as a subversive form of opposition that aims to challenge social convention precisely by becoming the very social outlaw that society has proscribed. For this reason, their lyrics might even be read as political, and if they are political they are not obscene. So long, then, as prurience remains an obsession of First Amendment argument, and violent imagery is seen as distinct from sexuality, rap artists may actually be able to strengthen their legal shield by heightening the level of violence in their lyrics.

I do not mean to suggest here that the distinction between sex and violence ought to be maintained in obscenity, nor, more specifically, that the violent rappers ought to be protected. To the contrary, these groups trouble me much more than 2 Live Crew does. My point instead is to emphasize that the obscenity doctrine itself does nothing to protect the interests of those who are most directly implicated in such rap–black women. Because the doctrine is vague, it opens the door to selecting offenders on the basis of race, Because it separates out sexuality and violence, it shields the most violently misogynistic rappers from prosecution. For black women who are hurt by both racism and misogyny, it does no good at all.

Although black women’s interests were quite obviously irrelevant in this obscenity judgment, their bodies figured prominently in the public case supporting the targeting of 2 Live Crew. This brings me to my final concern: George Will’s Newsweek essay provides a striking example of how black women were appropriated and deployed in the broader attack against 2 Live Grew. Commenting on “America’s Slide into the Sewers,” Will tells us that “America today is capable of terrific intolerance about smoking, or toxic waste that threatens trout. But only a deeply confused society is more concerned about protecting lungs than minds, trout than black women. We legislate against smoking in restaurants; singing “Me So Horny” is a constitutional right. Secondary smoke is carcinogenic; celebration of torn vaginas is “mere words.”

Notwithstanding these expressions of concern about black women, Will’s real worry is suggested by his repeated references to the Central Park jogger. He writes that “Her face was so disfigured a friend took fifteen minutes to identify her. ‘I recognized her ring’. Do you recognize the relevance of 2 Live Crew?” (Emphasis added.) While the connection between the threat of 2 Live Crew and the specter of the black male rapist was suggested subtly in the public debate, it is manifest throughout Will’s discussion and in fact bids fair to be its central theme. “Fact: Some members of a particular age and societal cohort–the one making 2 Live Crew rich–stomped and raped the jogger to the razor edge of death, for the fun of it.” Will directly indicts 2 Live Crew in the Central Park jogger rape through a fictional dialogue between himself and the defendants. Responding to one defendant’s alleged comment that the rape was fun, Will asks: “Where can you get the idea that sexual violence against women is fun? From a music store, through Walkman earphones, from boom boxes blaring forth the rap lyrics of 2 Live Crew.” Since the rapists were young black males and Nasty presents black men celebrating sexual violence, surely 2 Live Crew was responsible. Apparently, the vast American industry that markets every conceivable form of misogynistic representation is irrelevant to understanding this particular incident of sexual violence.

Will invokes black women twice–as victims of this music. But if he were really concerned with the threat to black women, why does the Central Park jogger figure so prominently in his argument? Why not the black woman in Brooklyn who was gang-raped and then thrown down an airshaft? For that matter, what about the twenty-five other women–mostly women of color–who were raped in New York City during the same week the Central Park jogger was raped? In Will’s display of concern, black women appear to function as a stand-in for white women. The focus on sexual violence played out on black women’s bodies seems to reflect concerns about the threat of black male violence against the security of the white community. In this, Will’s use of the black female body to press the case against 2 Live Crew recalls the strategy of the prosecutor in Richard Wright’s novel Native Son. Bigger Thomas, the black male protagonist, is on trial for killing Mary Dalton, a white woman. Because Bigger burned her body, however, it cannot be established whether Mary was raped. So the prosecutor brings in the body of Bessie, a black woman raped by Bigger and left to die, in order to establish that Bigger had raped Mary.

These considerations about selectivity, about the denial of cultural specificity, and about the manipulation of black women’s bodies convince me that race played a significant if not determinative role in the shaping of the case against 2 Live Crew. While using anti-sexist rhetoric to suggest a concern for women, the attack simultaneously endorsed traditional readings of black male sexuality. The fact that most perpetrators and victims are of the same race is overshadowed by the mythical image of the black male as the agent of sexual violence and the white community as his victim. The subtext of the 2 Live Crew prosecution thus becomes a re-reading of the sexualized racial politics of the past.

While concerns about racism fuel my opposition to the obscenity prosecution, I am also troubled by the uncritical support for, and indeed celebration of, 2 Live Crew by other opponents of that prosecution. If the rhetoric of anti-sexism provided an occasion for racism, so, too, the rhetoric of anti-racism provided an occasion for defending the misogyny of black male rappers.

The defense of 2 Live Crew took two forms, one political and one cultural, both of which were advanced most prominently by Henry Louis Gates. The political argument was that 2 Live Crew represents an attack on black sexual stereotypes. The strategy of the attack is, in Gates’s words, to “exaggerate [the] stereotypes” and thereby “to show how ridiculous the portrayals are.” Thus, Gates concludes, 2 Live Crew and other rap groups are simply pushing white society’s buttons to ridicule its dominant sexual images.
I agree with Gates that the reactions by Will and others to 2 Live Crew confirm that the stereotypes still exist and still evoke basic fears. But even if I were to agree that 2 Live Crew intended to explode these mythic fears, I still would argue that their strategy was wholly misguided. These fears are too active, and African-Americans are too closely associated with them, not to be burned when the myths are exploded. More fundamentally, however, I am deeply skeptical about the claim that the Crew was engaged–either in intent or effect–in pursuing a postmodern guerilla war against racist stereotypes.

Gates argues that when one listens to 2 Live Crew the ridiculous stories and the hyperbole make the listener “bust out laughing.” Apparently the fact that Gates and many other people react with laughter confirms and satisfies the Crew’s objective of ridiculing the stereotypes. But the fact that the Crew are often successful in prompting laughter neither substantiates Gates’s reading nor forecloses serious critique of its subordinating dimensions.

In disagreeing with Gates, I do not mean to suggest that 2 Live Crew’s lyrics are to be taken literally. But rather than exploding stereotypes as Gates suggests, I believe that they were simply using readily available sexual images in trying to be funny. Trading in racial stereotypes and sexual hyperbole are well-rehearsed strategies for getting some laughs. 2 Live Crew departs from this tradition only in its attempt to up the ante through more outrageous boasts and more explicit manifestations of misogyny. Neither the intent to be funny, nor Gates’s loftier explanations, negate the subordinating qualities of such humor. Examining parallel arguments in the context of racist humor suggests why neither claim functions as a persuasive defense for 2 Live Crew.

Gates’s use of laughter as a defensive maneuver in the attack on 2 Live Crew recalls similar strategies in defense of racist humor. Racist humor has sometimes been defended as an effort to poke fun at, or to ridicule racism. More simply, racist humor has often been excused as just joking; even racially motivated assaults are often defended as simple pranks. Thus, the racism and sexism of Andrew Dice Clay could be defended in either mode as an attempt to explode the stereotypes of white racists, or simply as humor not meant to be taken seriously. Implicit in these defenses is the assumption that racist representations are injurious only if they are devoid of any other objective or are meant to be taken literally.

Although these arguments are familiar within the black community, I think it is unlikely that they would be viewed as a persuasive defense of Andrew Dice Clay. African-Americans have frequently protested such humor, suggesting a general recognition within the black community that “mere humor” is not inconsistent with subordination. The question of what people find humorous is of course a complicated one, sometimes involving aggression, in-group boundary policing, projection, and other issues. The claim that a representation is meant “simply as a joke” may be true, but it functions as humor within a specific social context and frequently reinforces patterns of social power. Moreover, even though racial humor may sometimes be intended to ridicule racism, the close relationship between the stereotypes and the prevailing images of marginalized people complicates this strategy. Clearly, racial humor does not always distance the audience from the racist subject, nor does it indict the wider society in which the jokes have meaning. The endearment of Archie Bunker suggests at least this much. Thus, in the context of racist humor, neither the fact that people actually laughed at racist humor nor the usual disclaimer of intent has functioned to preclude incisive and often quite angry criticism of such humor within the African-American community.

Although a similar set of arguments could be offered in the context of sexist humor, images marketed by 2 Live Crew were not condemned but, as Gates illustrates, defended, often with great commitment and skill. Clearly, the fact that the Crew and the women it objectifies are black shaped this response. Had 2 Live Crew been white in blackface, for example, all of the readings would have been different. Although the question of whether one can defend the broader license given to black comedians to market stereotypical images is an interesting one, it is not the issue here. 2 Live Crew cannot claim an in-group privilege to perpetuate misogynistic humor against black women. They are not black women, and more importantly, they enjoy a power relationship over them.Sexual humor in which women are objectified as packages of body parts to serve whatever male-bonding/male competition needs men have subordinates women in much the same way that racist humor subordinates African-Americans. That these are “just jokes” and not meant to be taken literally does little to blunt their demeaning quality–nor for that matter, does the fact that the jokes are told within a tradition of intra-group humor.

Gates advances a second, cultural defense of 2 Live Crew: the idea that Nastyis in line with distinctively African-American traditions of culture and entertainment. It is true that the “dozens” and other forms of verbal boasting have been practiced within the black community for some time. It is true as well that raunchy jokes, insinuations, and boasting of sexual prowess were not meant to be taken literally. Nor were they meant to disrupt conventional myths about black sexuality. They were meant simply to be laughed at, and perhaps to gain respect for the speaker’s word wizardry.

Ultimately, however, little turns on whether the “word play” performed by 2 Live Crew is a postmodern challenge to racist sexual mythology or simply an internal group practice that has crossed over into mainstream America. Both versions of the defense are problematic because they each call on black women to accept misogyny and its attendant disrespect in service of some broader group objective. While one version argues that accepting misogyny is necessary to anti-racist politics, the other argues that it is necessary to maintaining the cultural integrity of the community. But neither presents a sufficient reason for black women to tolerate such misogyny. The message that these arguments embrace–that patriarchy can be made to serve anti-racist ends is a familiar one with proponents ranging from Eldridge Cleaver in the sixties to Sharazad Ali in the nineties. In Gates’s variant, the position of black women is determined by the need to wield gargantuan penises in a struggle to ridicule racist images of black male sexuality. Even though black women may not be the intended targets, they are necessarily attached to these gargantuan penises and are thus made to absorb the impact. The common message of all such strategies is that black women are expected to be vehicles for notions of “liberation” that function to preserve their own subordination.

To be sure, Gates’s claims about the cultural aspects of 2 Live Crew’s lyrics do address the legal issue about the applicability of the obscenity standard. As I indicated earlier, their music does have artistic value: I believe the Court decided this issue incorrectly and Will was all-too-glib in his dismissal of it. But these criticisms do not settle the issue within the community. “Dozens” and other word plays have long been a black oral tradition, but acknowledging this fact does not eliminate the need to interrogate either the sexism within that tradition or the objectives to which that tradition has been pressed. To say that playing the dozens, for example, is rooted in a black cultural tradition or that themes represented by mythic folk heroes such as Stackalee are “black” does not settle the question of whether such practices are oppressive to women and others within the community. The same point can be made about the relentless homophobia expressed in the work of Eddie Murphy and many other comedians and rappers. Whether or not the black community has a pronounced tradition of homophobia is beside the point; the question instead is how these subordinating aspects of tradition play out in the lives of people in the community, people who otherwise share a common history, culture, and political agenda. While it may be true that the black community is more familiar with the cultural forms that have evolved into rap, that familiarity should not end the discussion of whether the misogyny within rap is acceptable. Moreover, we need to consider the possible relationships between sexism within our cultural practices and the problem of violence against women.

Violence against women of color is not presented as a critical issue in either the anti-racist or anti-violence discourses. The “different culture” defense may contribute to the disregard for women of color victimized by rape and violence, reinforcing the tendency within the broader community not to take intra-racial violence seriously. Numerous studies have suggested that black victims of crime can count on less protection from the criminal justice system than whites. This is true for rape victims as well–their rapists are less likely to be convicted and on average serve less time when they are convicted. Could it be that perpetuating the belief that “blacks are different” with respect to sexuality and violence contributes to the familiar disregard of black female rape victims like Bessie in Native Sonor the woman thrown down an airshaft in Brooklyn?

Although there are times when black feminists should fight for the integrity of the culture, this does not mean that criticism must end when a practice or form of expression is traced to a particular aspect of culture. We must determine whether the practices and forms of expression are consistent with our fundamental interests. The question of obscenity may be settled by finding roots in the culture, but obscenity is not our central issue. Performances and representations that do riot appeal principally to “prurient interests,” or that may reflect expressive patterns that are culturally specific, may still encourage self-hatred, disrespect, subordination, and other manifestations of intra-group pathology. These problems require group dialogue. While African-Americans have no plenary authority to grapple with these issues, we do need to find ways of using group formation mechanisms and other social spaces to reflect upon and reformulate our cultural and political practices.

I said earlier that the political goals of black feminism are to construct and empower a political sensibility that opposes misogyny and racism simultaneously. Converging this double vision into an analysis of the 2 Live Crew controversy, it becomes clear that despite the superficial defense of the prosecution as being concerned with the interests of women, nothing about the anti-2 Live Crew movement is about black women’s lives. The political process involved in condemning the representations that subordinate black women does not seek to empower black women; indeed, the racism of that movement is injurious to us.

But the implication of this conclusion is not that black feminists should stand in solidarity with the supporters of 2 Live Crew. The spirited defense of 2 Live Crew was no more about defending the black community than the prosecution was about defending women. After all, black women–whose very assault is the object of the representation–are part of that community. black women can hardly regard the right to be represented as bitches and whores as essential to their interests. Instead the defense of 2 Live Crew primarily functions to protect the cultural and political prerogative of male rappers to be as misogynistic and offensive as they want to be.

The debate over 2 Live Crew illustrates how race and gender politics continue to marginalize black women, rendering us virtually voiceless. black feminism endeavors to respond to this silencing by constructing a political identity for black women that will facilitate a simultaneous struggle against racism and patriarchy. Fitted with a black feminist sensibility, one uncovers other issues in which the unique situation of black women renders a different formulation of the problem than the version that dominates in current debate. Ready examples include rape, domestic violence, and welfare dependency. A black feminist sensibility might also provide a more direct link between the women’s movement and traditional civil rights movements, helping them both to shed conceptual blinders that limit the efficacy of each.

The development of a black feminist sensibility is no guarantee that black women’s interests will be taken seriously. In order for that sensibility to develop into empowerment, black women will have to make it clear that patriarchy is a critical issue that negatively impacts the lives not only of African-American women, but men as well. Within the African-American political community, this recognition might reshape traditional practices so that evidence of racism would not constitute justification for uncritical rallying around misogynistic politics and patriarchal values. Although collective opposition to racist practice has been and continues to be crucially important in protecting black interests, an empowered black feminist sensibility would require that the terms of unity no longer reflect priorities premised upon the continued subordination of black women.

The AFRO-American Newspapers invests to digitize 129 years of archives – Local Media Association + Local Media Foundation

The AFRO-American Newspapers has a daunting task ahead: Creating a searchable and publicly-accessible database to house an estimated 3 million photos, thousands of letters, business records, original audio recordings, advertisements and even reporters’ notebooks. And then there are the newspapers themselves — 129 years of them. “The collection is really remarkable. It’s probably one of […]

Source: The AFRO-American Newspapers invests to digitize 129 years of archives – Local Media Association + Local Media Foundation

A Tribute to Black Truth Warrior, Glen Ford ::: OCG Honors His Work

“Remembering Glen Ford”

This Week on OUR COMMON GROUND we remember Glen Ford. Glen who made his transition on Thursday, July 28, 2021.

Glen Ford was the Founder, Executive Editor of Black Agenda Report, an important publication, blog, and radio station.

Glen Ford, Founer and Executive Editor, Pioneering Black Truth Teller

Ford co-founded BlackCommentator.com (BC) in 2002. The weekly journal quickly became the most influential Black political site on the Net. In October 2006, Ford and the entire writing team left BC to launch BlackAgendaReport.com (BAR).

He created his first radio syndication, a half-hour weekly news magazine called “Black World Report” – and Washington, DC. In 1974, Ford joined the Mutual Black Network (88 stations), where he served as Capitol Hill, State Department and White House correspondent, and Washington Bureau Chief, while also producing a daily radio commentary. In 1977, Ford co-launched, produced, and hosted “America’s Black Forum” (ABF), the first nationally syndicated Black news interview program on commercial television.

In addition to his broadcast and Internet experience, Glen Ford was national political columnist for Encore American & Worldwide News magazine; founded The Black Commentator and Africana Policies magazines; authored The Big Lie: An Analysis of U.S. Media Coverage of the Grenada Invasion (IOJ, 1985); voiced over 1000 radio commercials (half of which he also produced) and scores of television commercials; and served as reporter and editor for three newspapers (two daily, one weekly).

We have lost a brilliant, insightful strong voice, his persistence, his sacrifice, his passion, and the spirit of an INFORMED, LIBERATED, and FREE Black nation. His service and work will resonate for many Black generations and years to come.

Always a Truth Warrior, now a Beloved Ancestor.