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January 18, 2006

Dyson's Next Rampage

Here follows a paragraph from Michael Eric Dyson's upcoming book on Katrina, 'Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina And the Color of Disaster'. Even the title is annoying, but dig this:

The black-white racial paradigm was also pressured by an enduring question among social analysts that was revived in the face of Katrina: is it race or class that determines the fate of poor blacks? Critics came down on either side during the crisis, but in this case, that might equate to six in one hand, half a dozen in the other. It is true that class is often overlooked to explain social reality. Ironically, it is often a subject broached by the acid conservatives who want to avoid confronting race, and who become raging parodies of Marxists in the bargain. They are only concerned about class to deflect race; they have little interest in unpacking the dynamics of class or engaging its deforming influence in the social scene. In this instance, race becomes a marker for class, a proxy, blurring and bending the boundaries that segregate them.

Aside from being a strawman argument, it's also insulting to black conservatives, and shows the basic flaw in Dyson's approach - that we're all crazy and in denial. I'm sure I'm going to have to track through a painful reading if the book blows up, but I'm trying not to. I have to admit that I haven't been by P6 to see the reaction (if any) to this colorizing of the disaster, but I'm very interested to see how new or relevant the complaint might be other than you generic 'America catches cold, blacks get the flu' argument. That is because the de-blackification that is happening to New Orleans (and evidently out of Nagin's hide - more on that later) is happening precisely because the social difference and distance between displaced blacks from NO and their recieving communities is minimal.

So to state the obvious, it is both race and class that determines the fate of poor blacks. But poor blacks are more like poor whites than they are like middle-class blacks, which is why Cosby is so electrifying at all. America is really catching on to this because of the reality of middle class black social capital. Dyson will continue to rant that the rest of the world isn't paying enough attention to color, his problem is that we actually have a better perspective.

Posted by mbowen at January 18, 2006 10:42 AM

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He isn't insulting ALL black conservatives. The 'acid conservatives' he's reffering to are the extreme bunch that he clashes with from time to time that feel that blacks don't suffer from racism. The one's that make moderates like you look bad.

Did you read the brutally ig'nant post-Katrina articles written by 'top' black conservatives? I'm sure he touches on that in the book.

I plan to read it. I'm sure there may be leftist rhetoric within it. But consider his background.

And after all, conservatives must admit that he did 'pull himself up by his bootstraps' and made good. Perhaps that is why conservatives find him so hard to deal with.

Posted by: Lee at January 18, 2006 04:15 PM

'acid conservatives' isn't even a term in political use. it describes nobody and it's not what any conservative calls themselves. he's shadowboxing, that's what gets on people's nerves.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 18, 2006 04:19 PM

Cobb, you launced when, from the quote provided, he didn't even mention the race of a segment of conservatives who, by my reading, he considers extreme.

Posted by: DarkStar [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 18, 2006 05:26 PM

Dyson is the perfect NPR Brother. He uses words like paradigm in sentences that barely make sense - plus NPR whites love him because he fluffs their guilt and goads their self-hatred without ceasing. He and Tavis have got the game down cold. Now, the whole concept of "class" came over to the USA from European sociologists. Sure class exists in America but not to the crippling degree that it does in Europe, South America or Asia. America was founded on the notion that if you try to derive self-esteem from class origins you're probably in for a hard fall. Who among us takes seriously any asshole who prides himself on his social class? See? I just get the creeps when 6 figure media star commentator author consultant white guilt layer downer expert Dyson starts in talking in such an abstract way about poor blacks. Do you really think the guy even knows any poor blacks?

Posted by: Das [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 20, 2006 12:18 AM

good question Das...but I think Dyson speaks for poor blacks more so than any premier black commentator.

I had the liberty of meeting Dr. Dyson. I'm not sure if you know his background, but he identifies with ghetto pathology more than any of his scholarly contemporaries will ever be able to. And he always puts that out there...which makes you wonder how rough he really had it. Nonetheless, you have to applaud him for recognizing where the real void in the black community is: a voice for the "truly disadvantaged". The last decade has seen so much public debate about issues like affirmative action (which are in most cases issues that are exclusively racial and not class-oriented) that poor blacks are constantly being forgotten. It seems to me that middle class blacks complain more, about issues like racism, than do poor blacks.

I get criticized alot by black friends that attended predominantly-white universities and complain about racism when I say the bigger issue for blacks is poverty...so stop complaining. I still question this notion of institutionalized racism. Chris Rock said it best when he joked "black people complain about not being able to catch a cab. back in the day the nigga was the cab." Black liberals like Dyson are refreshing because at least they dont suffer from the middle class myopia that leads economically stable but liberal blacks to blame everything on racism, when they are doing little to help anyone other than themselves. Dyson address class and race, while many liberal blacks are only hung up on race. Black conservatives are refreshing b/c they understand the social and economic diversity that is now fully embedded in the black community. In other words, we are not all the same b/c we share the same skin color.

And yes, racism is still a problem...but poverty and the demise of the black family is the bigger issue that we have to confront now. Furthermore the black middle class needs to stop hiding their identity. We can't have our kids emulating "gangstas" when they live in a 4 bedroom house with a lawn and a backyard.

Posted by: frank at January 20, 2006 12:57 PM

Good points Frank - I'm sure that Dyson would be a blast to hang out with - he's smart and expressive - but conventional.

The black middle class is what it is - I don't think it is shirking an identity or ignoring poor blacks - it is just doing what middle classes all over the world do: (middle classes all over the world share these traits): delay gratification (somewhat); tries to get the kids off the streets and into bed - and preferably with some homework in the head; the husband tries to regulate his affairs (in all ways) and the wife to hold it together spiritually or psychically; says that a modicum of discipline will pay off in the future. Hey, bitching about racism in 2006 is an affordable luxury for the middle class, like Starbucks or a weekend gataway to wine country.

Posted by: Das [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 20, 2006 05:50 PM