Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Where Have You Gone, Mr. Charlie?

Kim McLarin, over at The Root, thinks she's really onto something, defending Michelle Obama from "right-wing extremists" intent to revive Ole Jim Crow before Barack Obama can be sworn in.

At issue: The dreaded "
whitey tape," which has yet to be produced, but is apparently rock-solid evidence that the night-riders are slipping on their hoods:

And so continues the conundrum of being a post-racial black candidate in a still-very-racial world. To speak the truth about anything involving race is to be accused instantly of dragging out that famous racial deck we've all been dealt that stands us in such good stead in America.

The campaign of Barack Obama has had to rebut, not once but several times, the wild rumors that his wife Michelle used an insulting term for white people while railing from the pulpit of Trinity United Church in Chicago. His campaign has had to set up a website to refute the charge, and Obama himself has had to chastise mainstream reporters for spreading the lie.

What he hasn't done—because he cannot if he wants to win the presidency—is roll out the clearest and most obvious knockdown of Whiteygate. Namely this: "When the hell was the last time you heard a black person call somebody 'whitey?'"

I mean, come on. White man, please.

Speaking as a person who has been black all of my 40-plus years on the planet, I can say with some authority that no self-respecting black, African-American, Negro, colored or even "there's only one race: the human race" person I know would use the word.

Not unless they were quoting Rush Limbaugh. Or maybe George Jefferson.

The accusation is insulting not only because it so clearly reveals the desperation of right-wing zealots terrified of losing their stranglehold on a gasping America by playing to baseline anxieties and sad, unfortunate fears of those hard-working white Americans we've heard so much about; but because, frankly, it's so ham-fisted in its mendacity.

I mean, 'Whitey?'

The woman has a law degree from Harvard, for crying out loud. If, for some reason, she was trying to rile up a congregation she could do much, much better than that. I have spent the afternoon trying—with all the honesty and courage and humble introspection that is called for in this historic moment, with America poised to finally cast off its original sin and move into the full realization of those ringing words in the Declaration of Independence—to think about the terms black folks use when talking among themselves about white people.

I could barely move my pencil tip. Probably because black folks spend a lot less time talking or even thinking about white people than most white, right-wing reactionaries and their black counterparts dream in their hot little dreams. I had trouble, and, after hours and hours, the best I could come up with was this:

White folks. Whites. White people. They.

Or, in the case of Limbaugh in particular: Hophead. Pill-popper. Junkie nincompoop.

But really, that was pretty much it. When I was growing up in Memphis in the groovy '70s, some people tried to get the word
"ofay" going, but, in my circles at least, it never really took. My mother's generation used Mr. Charlie, my older sister's cool boyfriend use to say The Man. There was redneck, of course, but growing up in Memphis, the only people I ever heard use that word were white people.

There was cracker, but usually that referred to a certain, specific kind of hog-jowled, Southern racist, as in "That cracker had the nerve to make me wash his sheets—and I don't mean the ones he use on his bed!"

I know a genteel older black woman who, out of delicacy or discomfort, will never use the words white or black when referring to people associated with those hues. Instead she says "wonderful people" and "beautiful people," which I think is kinda sweet.

But whitey? Uh uh! I'm sorry. No.
There's really a lot here with which to take exception.

But my first reaction, is c'mon, "ofay," give me a break!

You have to love this bit about the genuine black credentials,"in all of my 40-plus years," as if that's supposed to provide the gold standard of authority. You'd think in that "40-plus" Ms. McLarin might have heard someone utter an racial epithet representing a bit more raunchy vengeful indignation.

Where have you gone, Mr. Charlie?!!

But it's not just Ms. McLarin's inauthentic authenticy. Notice this line about how, as the campaign winds along, and Barack Obama's star continues its ascent, we're just now "poised" to cast off America's "original sin and move into the full realization of those ringing words in the Declaration of Independence..."

I'm shocked! You'd think we never had the civil right movment ... Yo, Dr. King ... it was all for naught!

Now, remind me again, what was that legislation we passed again, back in '64? Oh, yeah, the landmark Civil Right Act, followed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which resulted in the election of thousands of black officials throughout the South in the decades since.

Oh no (clutching my chest), "
I'm coming to join you, Elizabeth!"

Seriously, the postmodern, multicultural left is so invested in racial grievance that it's not enough to mount angelic protestations about how in "all my years" no "self-respecting" black would call their neighborhood bigot a "cracker."

Nope, the multi-culti types simply pull out the most convenient stereotypes, of petrified "right-wing zealots," most of whom are probably like Rush Limbaugh: Hopheads. Pill-poppers. Junkie nincompoops.

That's it! Turn it all around on the racist "shock jocks!" Sing it, honey! It's Limbaugh, Coulter, Malkin, and Hannity! They've done it ... they're the ones reponsibilty for that 71 percent single-parent black family statistic. No need to denounce "whitey," when you've got fascist crack-head terminology handy!

Of course ... that's what
Jeff at Protein Wisdom's talking about, with the "perpetuation of grievance politics being such an essential piece to the progressive political strategy."

I'm down wid' it, yo!