Posts Tagged ‘Racist Wankers’

The Tragedy of Shelby Steele

Monday, June 8th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

Shelby Steele has a column in today’s Wall Street Journal that is, amazingly, quite possibly the single most pathetic thing Steele has ever written. Adam Serwer says that Steele has gotten “predictable,” but I’m not sure that’s right. For one thing, Steele has always been predictable. He’s only got one trick, after all. No, at this point Steele has just become dishonest. If before you could make the case that he was being obtuse or making problematic, broad based claims, reading this effort, there’s simply no way to argue Steele doesn’t understand exactly what he’s doing in getting basic facts wrong, things he’s gotten wrong before.

For example, Steele continues to downplay President Obama with the same rhetoric he was using before the election, even implying that he was correct then:

I have called Mr. Obama a bound man because he cannot win white support without bargaining and he cannot maintain minority support without playing the very identity politics that injure him with whites. The latter form of politics is grounded in being what I call a challenger — i.e., someone who presumes that whites are racist until they prove otherwise by granting preferences of some kind to minorities. Whites quietly seethe at challengers like Jesse Jackson who use the moral authority of their race’s historic grievance to muscle for preferential treatment. Mr. Obama has been loved precisely because he was an anti-Jackson, a bargainer who grants them innocence before asking for their support.

Now, the most obvious intellectual problem here is that Steele doesn’t note that the sub-title to his “bound man” critique included a cliam that Obama “can’t win,” which would seem to be significantly undermined by the fact that Obama, you know, won. And what’s more, Steele isn’t even making an explanation as to why he was really right, even though he seemed to be spectacularly wrong, he’s just disappearing the fact altogether. Secondly, Steele is continuing the rhetoric from his post-election column that Obama somehow seduced white people into voting for him, even though Obama didn’t improve much on the level of support John Kerry or Al Gore enjoyed among white voters. Again, it’s not that Steele is “wrong,” it’s that he’s explaining why something happened, even though it didn’t happen. And he’s just pretending no one ever pointed out that he was just wrong about the facts of the matter (which he might believe, since it really wouldn’t make sense for Steele to read criticism of his parlor act, would it?).

Even more dishonestly, Steele rips Sotomayor’s “wise Latina” remark out of context even more egregiously than most other conservatives have:

Throughout her career Judge Sotomayor has demonstrated a Hispanic chauvinism so extreme that it sometimes crosses into outright claims of racial supremacy, as in 2001 when she said in a lecture at the University of California, Berkeley, “a wise Latina woman . . . would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a white male.”

Steele doesn’t even note that the broader context of the speech related to racial discrimination cases, he eliminates Sotomayor’s reference to the differing experiences of people of different identity groups. So yes, in this context, you certainly could come away thinking that Sotomayor was making the claim that Latina women are inherently superior to white men, but this isn’t Sotomayor’s quote. It’s an edited snippet of the quote that drastically changes the meaning of the remark. Steele isn’t even attempting to provide an accurate depiction of Sotomayor’s opinion, he’s hacking her words up in such a way as to change what she said, and he knows it. So far, this is the first time I’ve seen someone of any political persuasion edit out the “experiences” part of the quote, and it’s not as though this hasn’t been remarked upon heavily. This is just intellectual dishonesty of the highest form, which shouldn’t really surprise anyone who’s familiar with the bulk of Steele’s work, but what’s really striking is the degree to which Shelby isn’t even trying to hide it anymore. It’s right out there, and it’s extremely lazy in its construction.

Of course, this is still Shelby Steele, so the cheap racism is still there because, well, that’s what Shelby Steele exists to provide:

The Sotomayor nomination commits the cardinal sin of identity politics: It seeks to elevate people more for the political currency of their gender and ethnicity than for their individual merit. (Here, too, is the ugly faithlessness in minority merit that always underlies such maneuverings.) Mr. Obama is promising one thing and practicing another, using his interracial background to suggest an America delivered from racial corruption even as he practices a crude form of racial patronage. From America’s first black president, and a man promising the “new,” we get a Supreme Court nomination that is both unoriginal and hackneyed.

But of course, Steele doesn’t actually demonstrate that Sotomayor lacks individual merit. He predictably brings up the Ricci case but, also predictably, does so without making any mention of the relevant statutes or precedent. Like every other conservative commentary on the case, the decision is simply taken to be wrong for the simple reason that conservatives don’t approve of the outcome. But other than that, there’s nothing. Steele doesn’t make the case that Sotomayor lacks formal qualifications (because that would be too absurd even for him), he doesn’t dig through her career to find any sort of example that would show her to be unqualified in a substantive manner, in part because that’s not what Shelby Steele’s work is built around. Rather, because Sotomayor is a woman and a racial minority, it must be taken for granted that affirmative action is at work he. An hispanic female is ipso facto less qualified than a white man, the same way any other minority is in Shelby Steele’s world. Minorities in general, and black people in particular, don’t get ahead in that world on their own merits, unless, of course, they’re conservatives. Someone ought to ask Shelby Steele what he thinks of Michael Steele, and whether or not the latter would have his current position if the Democrats hadn’t elected the nation’s first black President.

Racists? What Racists?

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

One great thing about the nomination of a Hispanic to the Supreme Court is that Mark Krikorian’s head was more or less guaranteed to explode, and that’s exactly what happened. He started by wondering how we should pronounce her name, and then doubled down on that today with a full throated defense of unilateral Anglinizing of the pronunciation of names, whether or not the individual likes it:

Deferring to people’s own pronunciation of their names should obviously be our first inclination, but there ought to be limits. Putting the emphasis on the final syllable of Sotomayor is unnatural in English (which is why the president stopped doing it after the first time at his press conference), unlike my correspondent’s simple preference for a monophthong over a diphthong, and insisting on an unnatural pronunciation is something we shouldn’t be giving in to.

For instance, in Armenian, the emphasis is on the second syllable in my surname, just as in English, but it has three syllables, not four (the “ian” is one syllable) — but that’s not how you’d say it in English (the “ian” means the same thing as in English — think Washingtonian or Jeffersonian). Likewise in Russian, you put the emphasis in my name on the final syllable and turn the “o” into a schwa, and they’re free to do so because that’s the way it works in their language. And should we put Asian surnames first in English just because that’s the way they do it in Asia? When speaking of people in Asia, okay, but not people of Asian origin here, where Mao Tse-tung would properly have been changed to Tse-tung Mao. Likewise with the Mexican practice of including your mother’s maiden name as your last name, after your father’s surname.

This may seem like carping, but it’s not. Part of our success in assimilation has been to leave whole areas of culture up to the individual, so that newcomers have whatever cuisine or religion or so on they want, limiting the demand for conformity to a smaller field than most other places would. But one of the areas where conformity is appropriate is how your new countrymen say your name, since that’s not something the rest of us can just ignore, unlike what church you go to or what you eat for lunch. And there are basically two options — the newcomer adapts to us, or we adapt to him. And multiculturalism means there’s a lot more of the latter going on than there should be.

This is, of course, completely fucking ridiculous. For one thing, Sonia Sotomayor is not a “newcomer,” she was born and raised in The Bronx, which is in New York City, which is in the United States of America. But she has an ethnic name, and she, and her family, prefers to pronounce it based on the rules of its original language. Any decent person ought to respect that, but Krikorian is obviously not a decent person. He’s a shameless hack who heads an anti-immigration special interest group, and opposes all forms of immigration, including legal immigration, and has a particular problem with Hispanics. He is, in other words, a pretty blatant racist (or at the least, an extreme ethnocentrist), who is extremely bothered by the correct pronunciation of ethnic words, like Senator Geary, insisting on calling the Corleone family the “Cor-lee-ons.” 

Because obviously that is the most important issue facing America today.

The Right’s Comedy Deficit

Monday, May 11th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

I didn’t really think Wanda Sykes was all that funny at the WHCA dinner (to be fair, I don’t really think anyone is all that funny at the WHCA dinner. Even Colbert wasn’t all that funny for a good chunk of his routine, and most of the humor in his infamous appearance was the realization that he was actually doing this bit with Bush standing about 10 feet away from him), but the utterly predictable bleating about double standards from conservatives is ridiculous, and says a lot more about them than it does about anyone else.

As far as I can tell, it’s perfectly ok for white people to tell jokes about non-white people. I haven’t noticed any harm done to Jeffrey Ross’s career after this appearance (NSFW):

And I mean, that’s brutal. He calls Shaq a knuckle-dragging gorilla for crying out loud. And everyone is laughing hysterically. Of course, the important factor is context. Jeffrey Ross is a professional comedian, and the venue is a roast. That’s what happens at a roast. Everyone knows that going in, so everyone understands that it’s all in good fun. The same goes for George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Chris Rock, etc.

The problem the right has when they try to “joke” about Barack Obama, or minorities in general, is that they’re not really joking. Jokes have punchlines. There’s no punch line when Rush Limbaugh compares Obama to a terrorist or declares that you have to “bend over and grab your ankles” because he’s black. And so ultimately what this boils down to is more right-wing victimology; they’re mad that they don’t get carte blanche to be hateful and claim that they were “just joking” after the fact, no matter how little sense that makes, and so they claim a double standard exists and that they’re obviously victims of it, even if it makes no sense under even modest scrutiny. I mean really, watch a couple of Lisa Lampanelli routines and tell me that white people can’t make fun of minorities.

But what the Malkinesque right really wants is cover to be more overt racists. Plain and simple.

Nope, No Racists Here

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

You rarely get the sort of candor Jonah exhibits here:

For starters, I think the ideal Republican candidate just might be Hispanic — and tough on immigration. The way our politics work, you need some kind of authenticity, some kind of membership, to go after sacred cows. Not just in the Nixon to China or Sista Souljah sense, but in the sense that only members of a “special group” can challenge the orthodoxies of the self-appointed (left-wing) leadership of that group. Blacks can challenge racial quotas in ways whites can’t. Women can attack feminism in ways men can’t. Jews can criticize Israel, Catholics can challenge the Church, gays can question gay marriage, and so on. Yes, they’ll still be attacked for their heresy. But the chief weapon — charges of bigotry — is severely blunted when “one of your own” leads the assault. I don’t like it, but it is what it is.

So, with that in mind, I think an Hispanic Ward Connerly could do wonders for the GOP. For starters, he could set the immigration debate right in a way that fixes much of the GOP’s so-called branding problem. He — or she, though my sense is it would need to be a he — could make it clear that legal immigration is good (though in need of reform) and that illegal immigration undermines not only continued legal immigration, but assimilation. More important, he could allow the GOP to reclaim at least some of the extremely good and noble narrative of immigration as a story of individualism, entrepreneurialism, and patriotic assimilation rather than group victimization. An Hispanic businessman could shake things up in all sorts of ways. He could send the signal that the GOP is still the party of opportunity and self-reliance. He would help with the deteriorating Catholic vote, with the Western states, and even some Eastern urban areas.

But most of all, an Hispanic candidate would help win back Republican moderates. Remember how important Colin Powell and the diversity pageant at the 2000 GOP convention were. It was never the intent to win over huge numbers of black voters. Rather, it was to send the message to soccer moms and the like that it wasn’t “racist” to vote for the GOP. An Hispanic candidate could have the same effect. The trick, however, is for the Hispanic to be a conservative who sells conservatism to Hispanics and others, not a Hispanic who tries to convince conservatives that La Raza is basically right and that Republicans need to get over their alleged racism.

There’s actually two unseemly aspects of modern conservatism here. The first, obviously, is the way tribal conservatives view everyone else through comically caricatured veneers of identity politics. Much like non-conservative females are reduced to caricatures of feminists, and African-American voters are assumed to care only about affirmative action (and welfare, don’t forget the welfare), in imagining conservative “outreach” to hispanics, apparently the only thing Jonah thinks conservatives need to work on is convincing hispanic voters that Republicans are right about…illegal immigration. And something about La Raza. And assimilation. But really, who could ever guess conservatives have a hard time attracting support from minorities?

The second, and more disturbing/amusing, is the modern conservative’s penchant for self-delusion, as evidenced by the way Jonah analogizes his envisioned candidate as a “Hispanic Ward Connerly.” Because Ward Connerly is a model of Republican outreach to minorities? Ward Connerly has made a name for himself in some circles by opposing affirmative action, but not as an appeal to black people, as an appeal to white males. Moreover, the last time I checked, the GOP hadn’t really made any measurable gains with black voters in the past 40 years so, regardless of his intended audience, it certainly seems strange to try to credit Connerly for something that hasn’t happened.

And, of course, there’s the paens to the “alleged” nature of Republican racism. It would certainly be wrong to say that all Republicans, or conservatives, are racists, and it would even be over-simplifying a bit to say that conservatism is founded on vaguely racist conceits (although not by much, at least in the contemporary sense), you would think someone writing under the masthead of a publication whose official position was that ending segregation was worse than segregation itself, who’s writing on the same group blog as someone who wrote a book entitled The New Case Against Immigration, Both Legal and Illegal, and which boasts almuni who go on to write columns explaining why the opinions of black people don’t really count might have a better sense of why some people perceive the conservative movement of being, at the least, a little too tolerant of racism and racists.