Several months ago, I pretty much tossed my interest in American Reparations for several reasons, many of which I may have actually forgotten. What follows is certainly the last thing I wrote. There is nothing bold in the original, I highlight now.
christopher edley jr. says elsewhere and i concur that there should be no such thing as a debtor race and a creditor race, but certainly some transfer of wealth is in order. but the irony is, i think, that in the case of america, blacks are probably not going to do what is necessary for this transfer of funds.
in all the time that has transpired since i last considered this subject, since september 10th  to be precise, it dawns on me that perhaps the time to make the case for economic reparations may have passed. like around 1969. there are several factors which drive this.
#1. a lack of extremist recourse.
#2. a lack of a geopolitical claim.
i don't know the details of the plaintiffs or complaint in a recent reparations suit, but i have head that one of the respondants is aetna insurance. i think one of the others was an old boston bank, which reminded me of first boston. but first boston is now credit suisse first boston. many of these old line firms have been and are being merged out of existence. it's going to be difficult to deal with corporate immunities, as enron proves. american and multinational corporations simply cannot be punished other than through shareholder pressures. the irony of this is that puts jesse jackson front and center again, because he, more than any individual or collective in america can get a company's stock to quiver because of racist charges. a friend of mine works in community relations for toyota and she tells me that company is absolutely petrified of jackson.
on the matter of geopolitics, there simply isn't any international support for african american causes. we used to matter to the world, and now we do not. not at all. it is something i haven't considered in all this time, but i don't believe there is any forum anywhere which considers the plight of the american negro. that is because the american negro doesn't exist any longer. there is no negro problem in this world, and even if there were, it pales in significance to the kurdish problem, the hutu problem, the albanian problem, and a dozen others.
i'll be called a bum and worse but the lesson of the holocaust seems to be that nationalism solves nothing. it only gives armies a home. these days i'm rather curious to check out what non-zero sum game theorists had to say about world government and pay close attention, because the way things are turning out, nations seem to be playing an old dysfunctional game and the moral high ground belongs to radical, violent liberation movements. in mind are subhas bose' indian rebel nationalists in concert with gandhi, malcolm x in concert with king, hamas in concert with whomever we eventually recognize as the good negroes of palestine, the 'good' mujahadeen in concert with karzai, etc.. [ok this all sounds grasping and far-fetched beyond utility]. but my point is that a good portion of negoitiating a peace requires a credible threat of war. that's how nations are reformed. african americans are not going to issue a credible threat of war for reparations, and the amount of reparation due from this nation requires that much. i believe olgetree will make the case and prove the theory, but the cost of not repairing is not high enough.
So wither integration? I have a problem, which may be a contradiction fixed in an ocean of theory, with accepting the notion that America is at a positive racial equilibrium. It seems to me that things are out of balance, not progressing and that we are losing the capacity to deal cogently with those two facts. Because of that, time is running out for consideration of solutions, and the current ideas of racial identity will become ossified.
Is it OK for Compton to remain Compton from here on out? Will America declare that nothing that overproduces for black Americans should ever be accepted? Will the talented tenth always falsely represent the entire caste half the time and the criminal hundredth represent us the other half?
Perhaps I am underestimating or undervaluating the benefits of a creative tension. Certainly as a pedagogical device, the trope of black vs white brings us to issues close to the core of American liberty and true freedom itself. This is easy for me to say. I've inherited a world of meaning through my skin and for similar reasons, no property. So I am a writer and heir to intellectual and social struggle, a privilege born in the desire to untangle the riddle of race in our national life. A coon boon.
I don't like being subsumed into the America I see. So I will continue to scratch at this until I find a more satisfactory set of answers.
Once upon a time, not long ago, I was canvassing the planet searching for sustenance. OK I exaggerate, i was scouring LA county looking for a good paying job, OK you got me, I was sitting waiting for my resume e-mail blast to drop a six figure gig in my lap.
Sure enough, there was something peculiar enough about my resume to attract the attention of a hustler. His scheme? Something like multi-level marketing, something like recruitment, something like nothing I've ever interviewed for in my life.
I passed through their initial screening. He let me do all the talking about my career, and since I had emphasized business development on that particular resume, he complimented me on my ability to present myself well over the phone. He invited me to his office which was over near the Pomona Fairgrounds in a small business park. I entered through the tinted glass door and listened to a stocky redheaded guy in a suit and sandals schomooze on the phone for a few minutes about the surf conditions, then lay into somebody's ass about getting their licensing dues to the head office on time. I sat, with my briefcase and Nordstrom tie awaiting my appointment, and glanced about the plaques on the wall. Top Performer, Club, Tiger of the Month. It was a boiler room.
The folks out in Pomona represented a huge corporation based in the Netherlands who were trying to expand their US presence. Divisions and groups and assets had been sold, and now they needed to find people who were willing to sell these financial instruments. The entire deal was that they weren't Merrill Lynch, but their financial instruments were just as good as anyone's. The parent company saved money on commissions by employing their own low overhead sales force instead of the high profile Gucci shoe types employed in the financial capitals of the world. If Morgan Stanley has a bad year and you are a Series Seven licensee who gets laid off, where do you go? Outfits like this one.
My interviewer was charismatic and bright. He had been a Harvard medical student, but he became impatient. He took an economics class and did the math. He would have to learn an extraordinary amount about the human body, pass test after test, pay off his Harvard debt, purchase malpractice insurance and build a practice from scratch. 15 years later, maybe he could afford a house in LA County. He needed cash. He helped build the adhoc sales force, he saw in me the right stuff.
People like you and I are too smart not to be rich. I now drive a new Mercedes Benz (always the Benz). I am only (some obscenely small number) and I'm already a millionaire. Those people don't care if you and I make money, you have to know what they know. This you can do in America. It's simply a matter of confidence.
It is a confidence game. I decided not to play, but I still fret over the fact that I promised him that I would show up at their big gathering. I can't afford to play those sports, because I don't own a home. If I did, then I would. I would be making hay in America. As it stands, I have a good deal of bonecrushing debt. But I understand clearly what it takes to make it in this country. You simply have to be young enough, dilligent enough, charismatic enough and rich enough. Rich enough means, you don't need to worry about having a roof over your head. Brains help, luck helps in about equal measure.
I hadn't thought about this opportunity until this morning in reflection over Charles mentioning that some guy predicted that America would be at war with Japan in the 80s. I remember the hatred when major motion picture studios and real estate in America's largest cities were being bought up by wealthy Japanese businessmen. I remember well the days of Lee Iacocca, the ridiculous American car and the ever increasingly powerful Yen.
My interviewer was Chinese.
This is the closest thing I've seen to the kind of reputation management I envision for Sleeves. I'll investigate further. It looks very good.
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Kapow! Mavericks of the academic elite have dealt a stunning blow to the theory of 'diversity'. It was only a matter of time before the proper argument was stated. Good riddance. Now perhaps we can get on with integration and social justice, you think?
I. The MAS asserts that achieving racial diversity in the university student body can never be a “compelling state interest” sufficient to justify explicit racial discrimination.
II. The MAS also asserts that the racially discriminatory admissions systems of the University do not, in any event, substantially advance intellectual diversity, nor do racebased programs contribute to the central aim of the University – the pursuit of truth.
III. The MAS further asserts that, under the Equal Protection Clause, “academic freedom” does not license or conscience racially discriminatory conduct.
IV. The MAS contends that the racial preferences of the University are immoral and totally unacceptable in a democratic society.
V. The MAS concludes that racial preferences in admissions engender tension and racial hostility on the University campus.
on the other hand, it leaves the question of the legacy of institutional racism entirely up in the air, and it flattens history against better judgement. it is exactly because there is no compelling state interest in diversity that one cannot equate the discriminations in admissions with those which have motivated constitutional amendments. to call it all 'racism' and equate all moral outrages is in itself an outrage.
it also makes a strong case that the mission of university is not public spirited in that it should not respond to popular demand. appealing, but...
Once upon a time in Europe, only monks could read and write. I'd say the process is fairly commodified now.
One of the things we forget about the star trek universe is that the development of anti-matter power generators and replicator technology fairly destroyed the concept of material prosperity. Material prosperity is infinite and ubiquitous in that world. If we develop technologies that destroy knowledge scarcity, what will that world be like?
I believe a number of problems that we are having are consequences of the fact that we are destroying knowledge scarcity faster than we can invent new forms of value. I'm slightly shifting my worldview in order to accommodate this idea.
The knowledge industry is coming out of its infancy. Right now, we are the equivalent of serfs just seeing the dawn of the industrial era. We live in knowledge squalor. Only a few of us even get information. Knowledge transfer is a very tedious, time consuming, expensive and labor-intensive process. We make a fetish of human intelligence because of the pride we take in overcoming barriers to learning, but learning is just a natural part of human existence, like growth. Yet our intellectual health is stunted because of our feral knowledge environment. We have yet to master the tools that will surround us with the proper environment, we have yet to develop the discipline to stay away from unhealthy knowledge.
We are still like foragers with cast iron constitutions. We still experiment with wild ideas and have yet to grasp the unadorned nutritional value of the information we consume. As we evolve our mental cuisine we will come to understand such things.
Our media industry recognizes the fundamentally unquenchable desire for mental stimulation. We know that deprivation of human contact and mental stimulation is the greatest torture. So the industry feeds us massive amounts and we never get enough. We have shown little capacity to reject more and more, we become obese with information.
I was lazy yesterday, and my laziness will make me look like an idiot. So I don't have citations to back up my claim that I finally figured out the reason for the Bush Administration's arrogance on Iraq, even though linking in the blogosphere is child's play. Ok so demote me from Bro to Poindexter.
Part of this was Condi's recent argument published in theNYT that they know Saddam is lying. Then I discovered someplace else, some brit I think, that in the 80s, Rummy used to be an attache to Saddam. And suddenly it becomes clear. We know that Saddam has WMD because we armed him. To make that patently clear would require an embarrassing inquiry.
OK so now I'll do a little linking. How about this on April Glaspie? OK, now how about this one on July 25th 1990?. Mind you, I'm not reading all that crap. I'm just inferring that if the general public doesn't speak about April Glaspie (as if she were Lord Voldemort), then it will be more difficult for us to make sense of our insistence on the go-ahead. It makes perfect sense to give as much credibility as possible to Hans Blix, but we already know what we know.
This brings up an interesting question about the redaction of Saddam's own report. A cookbook for terrorism is hardly a good excuse. Any idiot with a ChemE can cook up a bunch of Ricin. It's growing the 'nads to set off the bomb that we ought to worry about. That being the case, what if Saddam, not a complete idiot, decided to put in a goodly amount of propaganda into his compliance report? Something indicting the US with complicity and sanction of Iraq's weaponry. Imagine that Saddam said, hey remember that guy Richard Secord from Iran - Contra? Iraq was 'country two', we got our chemical weapons in exchange for some infromation about Iran that we got during that war when America was on our side. Here's the Bill of Lading. Oooh, that would sting.
So while I'm just happy to be an American citizen, relatively safe from American weapons of mass destruction, I'm not going to get bogged down in generating conspiracy theories. It simply makes plain sense to me, and is a matter of record, that we ought to know a bit more than Hans Blix can discover about certain weapons in Saddam's arsenal, because we were responsible for selling him some.
Don't look at me, I'm not an investigative journalist. I'm too lazy to link, remember?
On days like this, it's hard to be black. That is particularly because being black is all about unity. Well, that's not what it was all about, but it was a major factor. It seems we need to go back to the roots. But, you know, why bother? Oh well, now that I've started it, I may as well finish. It really isn't too hard being black, once you understand your place in the black world.
I've always said that being black has everything to do with growing up in a black neighborhood. The two extraordinary things growing up in a black neighborhood teaches one, if one is inclined to learn, is appreciation of diversity and hatred for racism.
You will come to understand quickly, when you grow up in the 'hood, that you have very little in common with your neighbors. On your left is a medium brown skinned family with eight kids from Dallas whose father drives moving vans, on your right is an elderly chocolate brown skinned Methodist minister who drives a Lincoln Continental and can *never* be seen not wearing a suit. Across the street is the high yellow busybody always peeking through her windows, next door to her is a woman who never leaves her perfectly manicured house. A couple doors down in the apartment building are the thugs and the drug dealer, next door to the apartment is the old lady whose house is the regular polling place. Just down the block is the family whose kids are in Ivy League colleges and they built a swimming pool in their backyard. The only reason you are all in the same place is because you are black, and this is where black people are allowed to live, period. This is the 'hood. 10 years before you moved here it was all white.
Racists have manipulated the system to put people with nothing in common but skin color in one place, which oh by the way, is patrolled by helicopters and cops who don't get out of their cars without weapons at the ready. Yet somehow you manage to make this place a neighborhood by becoming neighbors. That's what blackness was all about, forced unity, turned around and converted into community.
It is inevitable that men who come home from killing the enemy at war understand a new level of independence. There are certain things an ex-soldier will not put up with. Likewise it is inevitable that one who bridges the gaps of interest, background, experience and ability in the polyglot 'hood of dark skinned denizens, learns about human nature. In our argot, we would say I Didn't Raise 'Em in response to "There go your people." In short, you learn to live and let live; you understand that old saw that good fences make good neighbors, all relationships have their limits. And so when the shackles of restrictive real-estate covenants were broken, when affirmative action jobs meant more than 3 of the college education adults on the block had real jobs, when white radio stations started playing black music, when McDonalds started putting black children on their television ads, it became inevitable that the ghettos would start bursting at the seams. It became inevitable that ‘the’ community which loosen its grip.
We knew it all the time. We knew that reverend Robinson couldn't stand Mr. Arnold. We knew Mr. Green would never let any of the neighborhood kids on his lawn much less in his house. We knew it was Rixter who broke into our house and fried our goldfish in the skillet. We knew it was Frankie who got Theresa pregnant when she was 14. We knew Mrs. Burton would never invite us to her daughter's cotillion. We knew Mr. Pickett hated all of us, especially the drug dealers in his apartment. We knew each and every one of us every thing that separated us, and as soon as the big white foot was lifted off our heads, we would spread out. Get out of this goddamned neighborhood, go where there were more people like us.
Some people, however, needed the company. They knew that if it wasn't for the fact that most of us didn't have any place to go, they wouldn't have us around. The crabs. “You ain't never gonna make it.”, they said. “You'll be back. I couldn't make it, what makes you think you're going to make it?” The best place for a crab is on the bus. Because no matter how proper your English, no matter how thick that Physics book you're reading, no matter how sweet your threads, you still ain't got no car, and you are still riding the bus with the rest of us.
They say that you never know how American you are until you find yourself in another country. Well, you never know how black you are until you’re outside of the ‘hood. (Or the ghetto, or the projects, or the hill, whichever class of black place you come from.) So having been on the outside, you need to redefine what’s on your insides, and blackness gets refined. Suddenly, all those things you thought were just black things, because Mr. Green or Mr. Arnold did them, you suddenly find in Ralph and Pierre. Suddenly, whitefolks and Europeans, aren’t so mysterious. In fact, we knew it all the time – we just didn’t have first hand confirmation. So what was really black about me? Plenty, in fact so much that it’s impossible to cover in a blog in a year. Nevertheless, there are some old neighbors who still view the world through their kitchen curtains.
One of those crabs has come to dis Condi Rice.
Now all I really had to say was ‘The Black Commentator’ is a crab. 36 Million people from black neighborhoods would have immediately known what I was talking about. But I don’t presume that everyone is, nor that everyone who was remembers the way I do. That’s why I took a pleasant trip down memory lane with you, gentle reader.
Being black has everything to do with growing up black, and staying black has everything to do with staying strong. But speaking out as ‘the’ black commentator instead of ‘a’ black commentator, has everything to do with the delusion that the big white foot is still on everybody’s head, and that every ‘hood is just like Compton. Guess what, we ain’t all on the same bus. But I am not losing a moment’s rest over blackfolks who can’t abide Condi Rice, nor over blackfolks who think she is heaven sent. I dissed her once myself, and probably will again. And I don’t need to spend a whole lot of time getting bent out of shape about fools whose politics reserve their greatest condemnation in terms like ‘race traitor’. Why?
I didn’t raise ‘em.
Speaking from the progressive old school, 7th generation free people of color on the Louisiana side, confirmed Episcopalian by the Archbishop, this is Cobb, most noble greek brother of A Phi A, post-soul boho cusp bap reporting from the geographically desirable zipcode of 90277. Represent. What? What?
a friend sent me some photos of the nuba of sudan which are just over 50 years old. i've not seen any like these. when taken in their entirety this collection has the subtle effect of impressing you with a the nuba sophistication. i can remember pictures of the fighting bracelets - they are about my only memory of these people. i've only seen pictures of ones or twos, but hardly any with hundreds of africans such as these gathered for their events. suddenly they are coherent and less objectifyable. i've written this of the Harlem Posse.
given what sudan has become, it seems unlikely that any of these folks have survived. what has become of the nuba, and what of our memory of them? when will we become fodder for some underfunded anthropology research?
While everyone comes up with a good reason to justify killing Iraqis or not, I thought I might pause a moment to reflect on what cruel trades we make for the sake of empire. In the end, as sad as it seems, we're all jockeying for position on some scale to show how thoughtful and intelligent we are. The Blogosphere is full of I Told You So, a significant portion of which is angling towards military conflict. My DeathOMeter only starts at 3k, but I'm going to recalibrate it for a moment.
Some of you may have heard about a horrendous situation in NJ which resulted in the death of a small boy. This is the kind of stomach turning news that makes for light reading in comparison to the kind of suffering that goes on in this world. But because it is so rare in these United States, it still has the power to turn our minds towards more righteous ways of thinking.
And yet I still recall the murder of 7 year old Sherrice Iverson in a Nevada casino. Her assailant's friend, an eyewitness to the dastardly deed, managed to remain in good standing with UC Berkeley. I only refer to the political hay in passing. But I do take very seriously how my citizenship is tarnished as eyewitness to the sausage making in foreign policy discussion which aims for a militant solution.
The poem I wrote about the eyewitness, Mr. Cash is as follows:
lil ole girl
what the fuck
is you doing here?
must be nobody cares
don't you know this ole world
works on neutrons and valences
and balances of power
up beyond yo lil brown forehead?
i bet you think you cute
i bet you think you special
you don't know this place of chance
is for grown folk
watching for tells and duplicity
with videos and lasers?
of course you don't
you've got enough nerve to spit
as if you got wad
as if you got something i'm bound to respect
take that! and that!
now you dead.
my slack is cut
testimony for immunity
arms for hostages
In retrospect, I could have made it clearer that Cash was not the murderer, or the rapist. He just watched. My revulsion got the better of me. He did, nevertheless, cut a deal with DAs, defended his friend, and continued to study nuclear physics.
It would seem that there is something supernatural about those who would come to understand, as Oppy did, the power of nuclear weapons. Perhaps Cash, like the blackmailers of Pyongyang have something on us. Maybe the world is ordered in such a way as to make certain types of knowledge more valuable than human decency. I think that's part of it, but I don't think that's the primary reason we let Cash off easy.
We Americans simply don't believe in indicting the innocent. For us innocence is a way of life we strive to maintain at all costs. An innocent American is a proper American, goes the thinking. If and when we go to war, we may don the rhetoric, we may agree in principle, we may wish we were part of the action, but in the end we will not be combatants, and we will disclaim all responsibility for whatever slaughter occurs. We citizens will be eyewitnesses. We will be friends and family of the soldiers. We will provide the necessary cash. But we will refuse to be indicted.
I'm not sure I'm such a proper American, despite the fact that I don't like Bush's policy. I want to feel guilty in this. I want to feel responsible as I did so very fully when he presented his case against Afghanistan to the joint session of Congress in 2001. My gung, don't say Ho! any longer.
I know, however, that this all is being done in my name, if not my voice. And I believe the intention to protect my world is real and righteous. So I am not going to pretend for a moment that I'm not a part of this action. I am not going to stand here and tell anyone that Bush is not my president despite the fact that I had nothing to do with his election whatsoever.
You can read my English from anywhere on the globe, if you're interested. Google 'black republicans' and you'll come right here. If you think you don't like people like me, you're welcome to hear what I say and then decide. This is my politics right here. And I say, no to a costly war, and no to GWBush's kind of leadership into war. But Ialso say pull the plug on dictators like Saddam, whether or not they have super weapons. Which brings me to my final points.
Some of you out there, like Ritter, like Tarik Aziz, know exactly what kind of man Saddam is. You have been eyewitnesses to his dastardly deeds and you too have played innocent. I'm not going to forgive you. Bush's war bus is pulling off and that's the big way that the immediate future is going to be shaped, not by words, but by actions. Innocent Iraqi citizens are just as much a part of this as I am. And, I'm sorry to say, I probably won't read your blogs any sooner than you're going to read mine.
One day the numbers of dead are going to come back and haunt us. All of us with ordinary lives to attend to will crank up our DeathOMeters once more and remain aloof to the details of suffering. Not because we are inhuman or incapable, but by choice. While my lower threshold is hovering around 1, as in one murdered child, I offer tears on my keyboard and a moment of silence.
If I were President of the United States, I would send Congressmen and American Citizens to Iraq to attend funerals and bury your dead, and I would have your people come here and do the same. Until then..
the funniest evening i ever had in my life was at the houlihans at 42nd and lex, sometime in the winter of 91 or so. i sparked up a conversation with a brother who just happened to have a hilarious expression on his face as a young black woman in party clothes swished by. for the next hour and a half, we drank beers and continued crackin' at everybody of every stripe who walked into the bar. we were both busting each other up with laughter. i told him, man you ought to be a comedian. he said 'i am'. that brother was dave chappelle.
i have to remember that, and his last hbo special, because if i had been introduced to chappelle on the basis of last night's show on comedy central, i'd be less than impressed in multiple dimensions. (but, he'd still be better than martin lawrence).
the show was only good, so i was disappointed, but i did bust a gut once or twice. too uneven and not very well produced is my take. nevertheless, chappelle shows a great eye for sketch comedy with a level of outrageousness not seen since mr. show.
i do wonder why chappelle is not on hbo. i'm scratching my head on that.
for my money chappelle is one of the five funniest standup comics on the planet. the others? margaret cho, patton oswalt, eddie izzard & somebody else.
I've never been able to keep track of all my books. Being an autodidact is a horrible thing, dissonance-wise, but I can always be counted on for a uniquely twisted perspective. I found a box in the south 40 of the garage called 'good books' and it occured to me to go through them and swap some out of the bookcase that I'm sick of looking at.
The great find was Gwaltney's Drylongso, which I've been talking about only recently. I got rid of Gleik's FSTR which was a tremendous bore. I still have a shelf full of my black intellectuals, and recent events make me feel like I should have them, but I know I'm not going to read any Gerald Early soon, nor Ellis Cose, nor bell hooks, nor Gina Dent. I'm keeping the black autobiography on hand to reference my new black republican brothers. Marcus Mabry will make an interesting re-read in that context, despite the fact that I so much more admire Brent Staples. We haven't heard from Brent have we? What a great blogger he'd be.
I tossed half of my Amis fiction. I kept Julian Barnes. I buried Marquez and Bellow's Revelstien as well as Mailer's Harlot's Ghost. I kept my thin volumes of Charles Johnson and T. Boyle. I got rid of all of the Ishmael Reed except for Airing Dirty Laundry and Japanese by Spring. I put my Clancy on the bottom shelf. As much as I enjoyed and admired the principals of Every Man a Tiger, I'm war weary and we haven't even started yet. I suspect, however I will want to talk about sortie planning sometime this spring.
Silicon Snake Oil by Cliff Stoll. Hey, now there's a keeper. If I'd have read that twice instead of Po Bronson once, I'd be a wealthier man now. Also for the garage are The New New Thing and Good to Great, even though the latter is an excellent book. I got Plural But Equal to go next to Crisis of the Negro Intellectual. I also rearranged a shelf so that Lani Guinier is next to Political Numeracy and Information Systems & Democratic Processes. I'll be dusting those off soon enough.
I can't find any of my McPhees. Only the Curve of Binding Energy. So I stuck that next to Jonathan Schell's Fate of the Earth, and Einstein's Monsters. Right next to that on the pessimism shelf is Johnson's Intellectuals, Harold Bloom and E.D. Hirsch. Which reminds me, where is my Robert Nozick?
The top shelf is still the same, and I didn't realize that I had Cecil Adams right next to Stanley Crouch. That's funny, to me. Hey, now there's an idea. I think I have enough room to make a full O'Reilly shelf, especially since I'm not working...
Volokh vexes me. He's not entertaining. He reminds me of the man who has escaped the torture chamber and has decided to run roughshod over people who aren't making the absolute maximum profit allowable by law. But I concur with him on his point about what the MLK holiday should be, and I am integrating his thinking on the state's compelling interest, or lack thereof in campus diversity.
some days ago, i said:
I think you are left with a debate, not about affirmative action as a remedy for educational deficits, but attached to the fate of race mixing itself. What are the merits of racial integration? Determine that, then come back and see if university is a proper place to practice integration.
and i essentially didn't want to deal with the metaphorical tangle of woods the law makes with regard to strict scrutiny etc. but since i've always been a hardliner for racial integration, i don't want to see diversity be the leading reason for affirmative action. diversity is squishy and always has been. so i agree that the state does not, and should not have a compelling interest in diversity.
at the same time, i like 'critical mass' because i think the quality of campus life is greatly improved by having the strengths of black culture in particular maintained through a vital selection of clubs, organizations and fraternities.
even so, i don't believe the state has a compelling interest in maintaining critical mass or anything like it. i do believe the state has a compelling interest in seeing to it that barriers to opportunity are as limited as possible for the oppressed. i'm not sure that affirmative action in higher ed addresses this for blacks or whites, so i'm not so sure why the supreme court is involved in this matter. it seems to me that the consequences of the racial discriminations of affirmative action taken out of the context of america's racial history could not, under any circumstances, have generated the legal equivalent of passion attending the current controversy. in other words, affirmative action of this sort is not a constitutional issue at all, especially when we are using squishy terms like diversity.
despite the fact that the polity doesn't, i am confident that it could adjudicate such matters adequately in congress. thus i am in agreement with the principle that allowed the state of california (despite the fact that it was clint bolick, the man i love to hate) to settle the question (or not) via statewide referendum. remember, all the u of m is doing is trying to get 'diversity'.
as balkin has promised, although i am not finished, he has presented a reasonable case that the 14th amendment is not colorblind. i am willing to take him at his word as he summarizes in part two what i couldn't parse from part one. essentially he goes us one better by distinguishing civil rights from political rights and social power. to wit:
As I noted previously, most of the Framers of the Fourteenth Amendment believed in a distinction between civil, political and social equality. Civil equality included the the right to make contracts, own property, sue and be sued, give evidence in courts, enjoy freedom of speech and religious liberty. Political equality included the right to vote, hold office, and serve on juries. Social equality meant equal status in society, and concerned social comingling and intermarriage. The Fourteenth Amendment was understood to guarantee blacks civil, but not political or social equality. It was not a guarantee of colorblindness. When people said that the Fourteenth Amendment made all races equal before the law, it meant only that they were civilly equally, not politically or socially. They were equal in their “civil rights,” that is, their right to make contracts and hold property, sue and be sued in court, but not in any other respect.
so. given that affirmative action should be a tool for moving forward to a more realistic racial equilibrium, operating below the radar of political equality, what is wrong with its tokenism? nothing, i say. what's wrong is that a political class of whites, operating out of resentment and deception can manage to raise this discomfort to the attention of the supreme court.
here's to hoping they do as little as possible.
Some ahistorical knuckleheads are suggesting that Earl Warren, a Republican, led the charge for civil rights before King. I have my own problems with the deification of King (and Ron Karenga for that matter), but this is getting ridiculous.
"The Republican Party was born as a protest movement against a very specific outrage perpetrated by the Democrats ... an 1854 law they wrote which allowed slavery to expand into the territories" Zak said. "Opponents of slavery united with a single purpose: 'Enough concessions to the Slave-O-Crats. We draw the line right here. No slavery in the territories.'"As so many folks have come to learn, honest Abe had little intention of working for public equality. And for quite some time this has left people perplexed. I myself had some difficulty explaining how it was that John Brown could be considered so radical given that Republicans were claiming to be all that for the African. But Balkin's explanation took care of that for me - what we think of civil rights is different from what they thought, back in the day.
What's particularly annoying about this nonsense about what blacks owe the Republican Party is the suggestion that blacks weren't involved in their own liberation. This, coming from an NAACP spokeman, no less - if this article is to be believed. So repeat after me. Thurgood Marshall. Sound familiar? Aside from his ordinary greatness, Thurgood Marshall was frat. So what do you think of that?
I have no problem with Republicans laying claim to some good works, but I do have a problem with a lot of the self-serving rhetoric that passes for political debate these days, especially when it comes at the expense of historical completeness and accuracy.
I just finished The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter. It's quite an interesting book but not often a pleasant read. It works clunkily on many different levels but it probably should have stuck to one or two.
As a thriller, it really bites. I get the feeling that if Carter weren't so interested in putting us in his protagonist's stubborn and provincial shoes, we might figure out exactly what is going to happen next. Of course you cannot guess because the twists and surprises go for almost 650 pages. The thriller could have been shortened by half. But if we were to do that, we would have had to make the protagonist less harried and more intrigued.
But Talcott Garland is not intrigued, he is haunted by being the scion of a legendary judge and patriarch who has set in motion wrecking ball from the grave aimed directly at his upper middle-class life. Carter is not content to trace the trajectory of this wrecking ball as it crashes through the many windows and walls of Garland's complicated life - no that would be a thriller. Rather he draws out the contemplations of a man who may by his actions and reactions to the threats of this wrecking ball, may be going insane, or who may be becoming a hero. And since Talcott Garland is a member of the darker nation, Carter has reinscribed a new class of negroes into the duboisian dilemma of dual consciousness. What's so thrilling about that?
What's thrilling about it is that this is certainly what Carter must know he is doing. And as we like to say in the black upper middle class, 'this sets us back 100 years'. But that's just one angle on this story and I'll leave it at that.
Carter also injects a healthy dose of his most potent moralizing into the conscience of Talcott Garland who is forever trying to keep his wits and perspective about him. While he is surrounded by a whirlwind of manipulators and players, he tries desperately to play it straight. Talcott Garland has no guile to rely upon which gives him the courage to fight. Yet his abiding faith in his ability to recover the love of his cheating wife alone and finally serve honorably as head of his family pushes him to seek answers to the questions he'd rather not know. Garland comes armed with a host of virtues sown deeply in the ways and means of the talented tenth, but they are supplied not inherently but through his extended family. Each of a dozen family members and friends has a slice of those virtues and each imparts a bit of strength or knowledge upon poor Talcott as he valiantly struggles to unlock the mystery.
i think he does an admirable job of bringing race in and out of focus naturally as the story progresses, which is how it happens in life.
it's a very ambitious book and quite a tall order for any writer. as an artist he's not quite up to the task. although there are a number of gems in the form of page long paragraphs you can just tell couldn't be dickered with, most of the writing is just writing. his habit of dropping annoying little bomblets of discovery at the very end of his chapters serves the purpose of helping keep parts of Talcott's recognition obscured to the reader, but gets tiresome. but the ending 200 pages makes up for it, given Talcott's final machinations and collaborations.
i think the book is a bit chaptery, and it comes as no surprise that he created 64 to coincide with the number of squares on a chessboard, but i would have liked talcott to be a lot more chess-wise in his thinking. even having him think "protect the queen" would have been better. also i think talcott needed to be frayed a lot more. it would have drawn me in deeper. one never gets the feeling that Talcott's ruination would evoke in him the ugly side of losing one's status, i didn't sense his contempt for his potential lower-class neighbors, or his sense of how he would adapt. Talcott's mushy self-esteem is not a compelling place for a reader, but it does serve the purposes of carter's moral lecture...
...a momma's boy, i think, which would explain the great convoluted and complicated weaving of power into the mysterious and absent father figure. the simple wielding of some bogardship would suit him well, but carter's character is incapable of that, rather he is a passive-aggressive weenie always on the verge of outrage.
just because i'm part of the blogospheric echo chamber, despite the fact that it has been a month and i still don't understand trackback.
ANSWER whomever they are, are effective. not for me of course, because i don't much pay attention to protest marches, especially if they are catered by someone i don't know. never trust a stranger's canapes, i always say. it's always made sense to me to hire professional protest leaders and marchers. i don't know why more people don't do it. the point is not to be authentic, it's to get the attention of people on the street, and if you're really well organized, the news media.
the real trick, when hiring protest marchers, is to have a solid cast and repertoire. now nobody does this quite as well as the french, but they're too costly and, well they actually believe that strikes work. of course they do in france, but this is america. second best would be hispanics, because they don't necessarily have to be on rhythm or saying anything coherent. nobody in the mainstream media understands spanish anyhow. you've got to have a skinny black man with no shirt and a funny hat on of course. then an old jewish man with gold rimmed glasses and a short sleeved shirt. a pregnant white woman with long hair is always great to have on hand, although one with an infant is just as good. the infant should always be carried and never pushed in a carriage. grandmothers of any race will work, especially if they are spry. gotta be spry and feisty, but no cackling. cackling always sounds disingenuous. she should be shocked, and remember the days when people trusted each other more. she should be on a fixed income and stare off into space and say "after this, i don't know what i'm going to do"
so those of you who have lost sleep over the whole ANSWER scandal, understand that now, you too can be in the protesting business. send me $29.99 and i'll give you the rest of my secrets. act now and get a $5 coupon off the 'fight club' dvd.
Geegaw. Always interesting
Provocative article about Gender Swapping in Cyberspace. It lists several motives for why men pose as women and vice versa, a bunch of interesting anecdotes, and an uncannily accurate set of tough questions designed to tell "real" women from men posing as women — I'm curious how many men can fill in the blanks, e.g. —
- What's the difference between junior sizes and regular women's sizes?
- When dyeing hair, you need to leave the dye in for ____ minutes.
- Antibiotics can have the nasty side effect of ______.
- Your flow is heaviest on the ____ day.
Reminds me of some stuff I did on race and cyberspace. Hey Kali, you out there?
Hispanics are, by definition, people who speak Spanish. They are now, oh oxy of morons, the largest minority group. You know I just hate that phrase 'minority group' because you know it wasn't the Hispanics who decided to group together. Mickey Roonie y Lopez saying "Oye hermonos, let's put together a big minority show, eh?" Only in America.
Toe Jam & Earl Three is by far one of the most satisfying games i've played on the XBox for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, the game is funky fresh. That's right. If you can remember that saying from back in the days when hiphop was playful and simple, this game is right there. It's got Bootsy Collins and UTFO appeal complete with breakdancing, complicated dap, and pg-rated street dialog which is right up to date.
Secondly, the game is very clever in its concept of integrating lighthearted funk culture into a theme of integration and redemption. (did I actually say that?) Funky aliens come down from the planet Funkatron to funkify obnoxious earthlings and rescue the 12 vinyl albums which are the source of all funk in the universe from the minions of the anti-funk. There is no killing or anything, it's about using music to transform squares, geeks and a host of hilarious characters (including a demented dentist) into afro sportin' Bootsy sunglasses wearing disco dancers, for a moment anyway.
It was my wife who picked out the game. When I first played it, I had to do a double-take. Funk in a videogame? I kept thinking they're going to screw up something and I'm going to be offended. But I wasn't disappointed, in fact I was inspired. The authors ought to be proud of delivering the bomb metaphysics in a way even George Clinton himself would appreciate. And of course if you are truly funky, you'll be pleased at all the inside jokes and references even if you are not familiar with the earlier Toe Jam titles.
My elementary school kids absolutely love it. They sing the songs, they repeat the dialog (which has some subtle double-entendres on the border of pg-13, but you can turn the characters from 'naughty' to 'nice') and they run to tell me when they graduate from a 'dufus' to a 'poindexter'.
Now here's the kicker. I have never seen a videogame of any sort in which you use musical skills to defeat the enemy. But TJ&E will have you playing your XBox controller like a beat box to infect the earthlings with that irresistible funk fu.
Gameplay is not particularly challenging, it's laidback adventuring capture the goody style without tricky puzzles or traditional boss challenges. But there are plenty enough levels to keep you busy and characters that can render you helpless in novel and frustrating ways. This is another game that even when you die it's funny, and there's plenty fun to be had just roaming through the levels and having your avatar speak to the other characters. I wish there were more avatars to choose from and you run into the occasional glitch where your character gets stuck in some crevice, like between a tree and a lake shore. But on the whole the execution is very smooth and you are totally immersed. Action gets fast and furious like Gauntlet. The voices are excellent and the music is just right.
The levels are bright and fanciful with a kind naive surrealism and you get to run around like Bebe's kids trick or treating and kicking silly rabbits to the curb. It has the same kind of snarky badboy appeal as Conker's Bad Fur Day but in a totally lighthearted way. It's not even as dark as Banjo Kazooie or Blinx. In that way it's really cool for kids and you can play and play and lose and lose without getting angry, which is a lot to say given the state many videogames leave you in.
In the end it's all about the funk, what could be cooler?
my children are not black.
thursday i did my quarterly pennance as a school parent and came to my boy's classroom to help them build animal shelters. i was early and the teacher had them all sitting on the reading rug as she told them the story of mlk.
later that afternoon as we were all in the car discussing the homework assignments for the day, my wife, apropos the mlk discussion asked him who was black in his classroom. he thought edward might be. a couple other mexican kids he guessed might be black. but he didn't think of himself.
my kids are brown, and that's what i've told them they are. yes obviously we are african american but my wife and i are black, the kids are not black like we are and they never will be. that may or may not be a good thing depending on how the world turns, but it's a fact nonetheless. my children face a different society, a more integrated society, a less culturally walled off society than i grew up in. the existentials of black brotherhood are woven throughout, and nobody has to think that 'black is beautiful' is a radical transforming thought. black dap is damned near universal. racial politics is real, but the issues we confront have much more traction than they did when i was a child. we don't face race riots and assassinations. we don't require militants. today, it's about social power.
the language of race, racial conflict and the history of racism is still written by and large in black and white. my children understand very well, especially the eldest two, that they are named after an ancestor who fought for the north in the civil war. i've been keeping a family tree for about 12 years which goes about 7 generations back - on the new orleans free people of color track. the other tracks end, typically in the middle 1800s. so they also understand very well that they are the latest generation of a strong galaxy of family members. but they don't understand black pride, that remains subsumed in the argot of family love. i don't believe they will require quite as much umoja as we did.
the values of my family are not racialized. and while a great deal of my own identity was forged to be the kind of fearless black man the world only used to see in men like robeson (i could spend more time being subtle and more accurate by i'm not worth it), these are not qualities necessary to the survival of my children in america or the world. nor does the world require yet another kind of nouveau negro. we're all fine just the way we are.
my boy felt good about inheriting the black mantle on his first day hearing 'you are the only black kid in class'. i'm not sure that it will get extraordinarily more complicated than that. he knows who he is. he's a good boy, he's a happy boy, he's a friendly boy.
so it took me a moment to think of how i could explain the state of the affairs when i was 8 years old in 1969 in order to underscore the importance of mlk's efforts, and our family's efforts to remake the world. he understood that blacks would get yelled at or beat up for going in the wrong door, but that was just the academic answer. i found the answer in the world the all understand and love, the world of harry potter.
how does malfoy treat hermione granger? imagine that most people were like malfoy and that instead of dumbledore being the headmaster, that it was snape. imagine that everyday somebody called you a mudblood. that's what it was like when i was a kid. i think they got it. and that's about all the analogy i can stand.
my mailbox is full good news. this morning, one of my existential partners hooked me up with a film review of sorts from a.o. scott:
[...] The sense of musicianship instilled in his students by Dr. Lee (Orlando Jones) in "Drumline" and the ethic of haircutting handed down by Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer) in "Barbershop" are presented as the gifts of the "old school" — things worth doing well not for money or glory but for their own sake and for the pride that comes from doing them well. The movies communicate that feeling, which is music to ears of any color.the hard lesson i learned somewhere around 1992 after reading gwaltney's drylongso, was never under any circumstances, second-guess blackfolks. so while i like to play the curmudgeon game as much as anyone, i have become fairly immune to huge intellectual constructions about why blackfolks do something different than whitefolks. because they do. deal with it. i count myself fortunate to be born into a corner of a caste which laid down a set of principles, ways and means that are the strong threads of character and flavor we call the old school. i know that its light is covered by a bushel basket woven by the hands of smiling demons. but a big wheel is turning and slowly that light is being revealed. every once in a while a flash escapes sometimes it's a steady beam.
if patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels, then the republican party is the last refuge of white racists. it's important to know, however, that while desparate scoundrels get patriotic, not every patriot is a scoundrel. likewise not every republican is a racist. nevertheless, i will assume the worst for the sake of argument, and that is that america is 15% racist and that every last one of them expresses their politics through the machinery of the republican party. this only encourages my integration plans.
so why don't blackfolks integrate the republican party? to my eyes there are three reasons. the first, and most important, is that they simply don't care. insinuating oneself into party politics is not appealing to most people. in this blackfolks are just typical americans who don't have time to wonk any policy, don't attend enough mixers and conventions and don't blog or otherwise soapbox their way into hearts and minds. party politics is not a working class sport, it's not even a middle class sport. it's a chatting class sport (you know who you are), and like most americans, blackfolks don't engage that much in chatting class activities. especially not when there is so *much* on tv.
the second reason is moderately important. blacks are politically opposed to the policies and practices of the republican party. i won't belabor the point because i think we can all offer a halfway decent guess on what some of these policies and practices are, and since i don't have any statistics handy, i don't want to be on record as saying something incredibly stupid. (aside from the fact that i am hedging this conversation in the colloquial lower case.)
the third and least important, yet most significant reason is that to which i have alluded: the republican party has a WHITES ONLY sign over it, erected by all of its dumbass white racists. so what is a negro to do when faced with a whites only sign? stick with the other negroes of course. black men such as myself have different plans.
i should point out that in the era of jim crow, even whitefolks in the south could be shocked into a recognition that the evil done in their name (yes, virginia, white racists are protecting *your* virginity. you are white aren't you?) was partially their fault. i haven't read any of shelby steele's recent screeds but rest assured that he remains popular because his paying audience are whitefolks who wish to assuage themselves of the guilt imposed upon them by their evil cousins. the answer is rather simple: defect. then those like matt hale will have nobody to defend. but whitefolks are fat, lazy, intellectually sloppy americans just like the rest of us. (well not me of course). and, well, it's nice being white. nice whitefolks don't like the klan but they figure they can keep the klan out of their neighborhood without inviting blackfolks in. nice whitefolks also don't assume that their neighbors are closet klanners. nice whitefolks don't ask, racist whitefolks don't tell. the same holds true for nice republicans.
as defenders of all that is sacred in the sausage-making business of lawmaking and campaign fundraising, party bosses and top dawg congresscritters have developed strong stomachs. since america is a nice place full of nice people, it comes as no surprise that when somebody steps over some line, the bosses make nice. so it came as no surprise to me that trent lott's cross-in-mouth comments were defended at the outset. there are a lot of ugly things out there for which there is no zero-tolerance policy. the republicans know they have a lily white suburb, but if one of their neighbors is an actual racist, it's not nice, but to republicans it can't be tragic. racist votes count as much as any other kind, and who is going to go through all the trouble to prove this 'racism', hmm? the realpolitik of political racism is that the pain is already priced out of the polls for the republicans and they're all sleeping just fine.
strong stomachs and those cute little sleeping blindfolds make for gaffes of biblical proportions which we witness from time to time. occasionally somebody gets hurt, but it's generally somebody's feelings. these hurt feelings, unfortunately, tend to be the leading indicators of black unwillingness to integrate. and while it's true that they don't make blackfolks as robust as they used to and we're all getting soft now that we don't have to battle the klan so often, there are still a good number who are hard as nails.
it may come as a surprise to the lay reader that we in the old school have a strong sense of noblesse oblige, despite the fact that we may not spell it properly. sue me, i'm writing at quarter to two in the morning, what are you doing? this willingness to do battle marks us among humanity's better examples if you ask me. so there is something of a selfless sense of sacrifice involved here, and that's about as aggrandizing as i'm going to get about it.
the los angeles metaphor is basketball. it is a distributed, decentralized city. it is non-hierarchical, almost anti-hierarchical. even the old money doesn't live in one community. there are multiple flavors of wealth and poverty. there is a scattered canonical list of all things, l.a. but i forgot where i put it.
even so, angelenos are immediately recognizeable, whether it is that particular east los angeles accent of spanish, or that tossed salad hairdo with short pants and ray-bans on pacific coast highway.
we are america in microcosm because we are transitory. the only happy angelenos are those who have migrated the paths to a slightly better place. as clearly as there are routes in new york city there are semicurcular avenues in los angeles county that start from the boat or the border. they go from the industrial central east to sprawling south central to the east valley to south west out to the eastern edge in the starter suburbs of covina. they go from the valleys to the hills, simi valley to woodland hills to palisades to beverly hills. they go from hawthorn and lawndale to torrance to redondo to manhattan beach to palos verdes. but sometimes they get stall. they get stuck in compton for two, three generations. the run out of juice in lakeview terrace. they try for santa ana but never leave hawaiian gardens. they get squished between redevelopments and gentrification in culver city and venice. they fall capriciously and literally to the ground in northridge, or go up in flames in koreatown, or malibu.
for every class, for every ethnicity, for every persuasion imaginable, there are at least three neighborhoods in los angeles. for every subculture there is a spot, for young thais that hang out in dark, semi private dance clubs just north of the wiltern theatre, or for older south americans who come to salsa at club atlas in the wiltern building itself. for forgotten old money african americans 3 miles west of the wiltern now living behind perino's which used to be the poshest restaurant in the city. did you know about the miles and miles of horse trails high above the city, lined with eucalyptus leaves? no, that's nowhere near the hollywood sign, that's rolling hills. did you know about the sparkling quiet multicultural suburbs of walnut? did you know about the pristine woods in orange county?
los angeles is too huge to comprehend, and it defies categorization. but it invites you to take a closer look at every turn. angelenos are besides themselves with invention and always ready to show you their take on things, comfortably.
what i love about this town is that it has had its share of tragedy which has made it grow up. i feel a sense of pride and watchfulness. just enough vulnerability to make it a place worth fighting for. nightmare scenarios are not dismissed any longer, and now it's more than just stylized noir. it's the los angeles of fox's series '24'. it's the los angeles of denzel washington's 'training day'.
los angeles is growing up in other ways as well, in dimensions of the hopes and optimisms of tens of thousands of immigrants and transplants of every stripe who come here to add to the flavor. civic awareness is real, and the politics are healthy. there is a vigorous exchange of ambition working constantly on many levels trying to make los angeles more real to more people and a serious acknowledgement of what happens if too many get left out.
my love for los angeles creeps into me slowly every time i come back after a long time away. it happens when i hear an extraordinary song on the metropolis show with nick harcourt, or a fantastic story told by larry mantle on the airtalk show, or a stingingly frank interview with warren olney on 'which way l.a.?' it happens when fritz coleman tells me that el nino is back. it happens when i'm driving and i am surprised by the huge snowpack on mount baldy in my peripheral vision by the very fact that i can see it 60 miles away. it happens when i drive slowly on sunset boulevard and the kid next to me bomps his head absently to the pounding bass. it happens when i realize after 45 minutes of combing hermosa beach with my kid's elementary school class that i cannot find one beer can for my garbage bag, and then i realize that the shaggy old derelicts got here first to recycle for coins. it happens whenever outsiders talk about 'la la land' because i know so much better.
los angeles is even a cool place to be from. there's so much that i never feel compelled to do because i've been there and done that. being from los angeles demystifies the idiocies and fears so much of the country often fetishises. i'm from los angeles, therefore i have no need to watch 'baywatch', no need to climb rocks, no need to be afraid of police anywhere else in the country. no need to look for movie stars, no need to get over eating sushi or pronouncing spanish words. no need to doubletake at interracial gay couples, no need to wonder if i'd be killed in a race riot, no need to wonder how i'd survive if i could never afford to buy a house. no need to go to l.a. and find myself. (for that we go to vegas.)
i'm always happy to say a bit about my hometown. i still love it.
it has been a week or two that i've been immersed in the blogoverse and i think it's time to introduce all 12 of my readers who didn't already know that i'm rather interested in applying computer technology to this mushy thing called democracy.
i'm not the first nor will i be the last to try something like this, but i cannot tell you how encouraged i am by the progress made by the blogoverse. in fact, i think that the world is actually ready for the next step, which is the x-republic.
so i'm going to dave winer and see what he says. i think he'll understand and get it immediately, the question is whether or not he's willing to share credit. well, here goes suicide.