Tuesday, September 15, 2009

“INCIVILITY” AND "RACE" (JOE WILSON; SERENA WILLIAMS & KANYE WEST)

It’s interesting that the mass media has suddenly become fascinated by “incivility”—i.e. the rudeness of some people in public, or rather public people in public.

All those angry mostly older white folks carrying signs depicting Obama as Hitler or the devil or accusing him of lying and wanting to brainwash their children etc. etc. etc., including the public figures on the right and in the Republican Party, and most of the focus has been on their anger and allowing them to voice it as if it’s righteous instead of self-righteous and either completely ignorant or totally misinformed (as I noticed last night on Anderson Cooper's show on CNN when some rightwing apologist was given what seemed like hours but was probably fifteen or twenty minutes to justify exactly that behavior, no apologies requested or given).

But now that we have three incidents that involve African-Americans, suddenly it’s all about “civility” which reminds me too much of old racist ideas about how African-Americans are less “civilized” than whites and therefore can be either treated like they’re “less civilized” (i.e. Congressman Wilson’s rude outburst during Obama’s speech the other night shouting “You lie!”) or are expected to behave “less civilized” i.e. reactions to Serena Williams’ outburst against the line judge who made a bad call and cost her the game and championship, or Kanye West’s rude grabbing of the microphone away from Taylor Swift when she was trying to give her acceptance speech for winning best female video for the MTV awards.

Many people I’m hearing in the media and reading on the net disagree that these incidents can be linked by “race” or racial issues, but how can you avoid it?

John MacEnroe himself, as a TV commentator for the match, criticized Serena Williams’ outburst! MacEnroe, who has made a living—since being a tennis champ who was constantly “uncivil”—as a character in commercials with the reputation of being capable of blowing up at any minute over any thing!

I remember when MacEnroe and Jimmy Connors were winning matches and mesmerizing but also confusing tennis fans with their rude outbursts against officials at their matches. It was embarrassing for many Irish-Americans at the time, because the WASP tennis champions of old (and even the rare non-WASPs and single African-American, Arthur Ashe) never exploded with vocal venom at their tennis matches.

So what gave MacEnroe the right to criticize Serena Williams for her outburst at what turned out to be a bad call (MacEnroe and Connors didn’t have the advantage of instant replay to verify their claims), she cursed, and threatened to shove the tennis ball down the judge’s throat.

Interestingly, the line judge was a diminutive Asian-American, who Williams towered over and who behaved as if she were genuinely frightened that Williams was going to physically attack her. Would she have felt the same way if a petite blond white tennis player had verbally attacked her or even threatened her? Did she really think Serena was going to physically attack her in front of an arena full of tennis fans and various tennis officials as well as police and guards all over the area? She acted as if she did.

Serena was wrong to lose control in such an obviously vitriolic way, but was it really worse than what MacEnroe and others have done in the past? I’ve certainly had outbursts like hers, though I’ve worked hard not to have them over the years.

If she were a Spanish or Russian or French player and had cursed in her native tongue would people be reacting as harshly against what she did? Isn’t part of the problem that it could be said that she swore in her own native tongue, i.e. “African-American”?

Or will I be accused of being a racist for saying that? I certainly have used the language she used and I’m not African-American. And plenty of white people I’ve known over the years have cursed in the same ways. But it’s usually not at tennis matches on national TV.

Joe Wilson cursed at President Obama (and I’m really getting tired of the media constantly referring to him as “Mister Obama”—how long do you think the right would let the media get away with that if it were Reagan or Bush?) in the language of white Southerners or macho white male culture in general in this country.

What was the worst thing a cowboy could call another cowboy in the old Westerns, or a man could call a Southern gentleman in the Hollywood fantasies of the old South—a liar. It meant there had to be a shootout or a duel. The honor of the one called a liar had to be defended to the death.

Wilson, a congressman from South Carolina—the last state to do away with segregation laws in my experience (when James Meredith was marching on Ole Miss and lunch counters were being forcefully integrated in Georgia, I was stationed in Greenville, South Carolina, where African-Americans were not allowed to even go to the local drive-in in their own cars or walk in the local park, which the city closed down rather than integrate, etc.), the state with the most fundamentalist Christian cults, the state where the right almost always triumphs— knows that “You lie” would be the same as yelling “You are a coward, a dog, an ingrate” and all the other insults famous from Hollywood’s version of Southern men with honor.

He also knew that he was yelling it at the president in a public forum and on television. He knew what he was doing and what impact he wanted it to have. That he would be seen as the champion of those who are having a difficult time accepting Obama as president, which obviously has a lot to do with Obama’s being partly African-American, because as much as the right hated Bill Clinton—the supposed “first black president”—they never questioned his legitimacy as having been elected president and they didn’t shout “You lie” when he addressed both houses of Congress with his own push for healthcare for all, they just tried everything they could to get him removed from office.

Can you imagine what the right would be doing if Obama were caught with a young white female intern in the oval office?! It’s obviously racial.

And Kanye West? My little guy wanted to watch some of the MTV awards before he went to bed so we actually caught West’s rude intrusion on Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech and both reacted critically to it. It was obviously rude and self-centered and self-indulgent etc. even if his point was that Beyonce deserved the award instead of Swift and he obviously thought he was standing up for Beyonce and that Swift could finish her speech after he gave back the mic, but she was either too distraught (the way the media is playing it) or, as my son and I saw, the director of the show got confused and interrupted her attempt to continue her acceptance speech with music (ala the Academy Awards when someone’s speech goes over the allotted time) and then with repeated starts, as though the reel was skipping, of a filmed interlude with Tracy Morgan and Eminem (a series of supposedly comic vignettes that also played on some racial stereotyping interestingly).

But would West’s behavior have garnered the same level of attention if it had been a fellow African-American performer he interrupted during their acceptance speech? Oh, wait a minute, he did that a few years ago and, hmmmmmm, it didn’t get almost any attention in the mass media.

My little guy has a crush on Taylor Swift, so that was part of his negative reaction to West’s rude behavior, but probably a lot of people have crushes on her—she’s a lovely looking blond young woman who comes across as super sweet and talented as a singer/songwriter—and the visual impact of the interruption was hard to miss, a very dark African-American male with patterns shaved into his very shortly cropped hair, dressed in black if I remember correctly with the stance and verbal thrust of a rapper, i.e. “gangsta” style (even though West is famous for being the more cerebral version of that stance) grabbing the microphone from this slim, pale-as-virgin-snow, teenage looking (I’m not sure if she’s finally twenty or not, my little guy says she is), blonde, wisp of a girl looking like a virginal prom queen of old, as opposed to the other female music stars at the awards who were mostly dressed like classy hookers or strip joint female crotch grabbing dancers, or drag queen ghouls (Lady Ga Ga) etc.

Though Beyonce looked pretty classy as usual and interestingly was exceptionally classy in turning over her later award (in another category) acceptance speech time to Swift, calling her out with an introduction in which Beyonce spoke about how she remembered being a seventeen (which is what I thought Swift’s age is) year old first time award winner and how much it meant to her. Interestingly (and I believe for racial reasons) Beyonce’s classy move did not seem to make the evening news or most of the mass media shows I checked in on. Hmmmmm.

I also watched Kanye West apologize on the new Jay Leno show last night and he seemed not only truthfully contrite but totally confused by the reaction to and by his own behavior, genuinely disturbed by it all. And why shouldn’t he be? This kind of behavior has been rewarded by audiences and CD buyers (predominantly white) since long before he started his career as a clean-cut young man who rapped to convince his fellow African-American young men, in particular, to take the higher road but then got off it himself to increase his street cred and sell more CDs, because that works.

It’s the trap of wanting the cake and eating it too. We can’t have a culture that glorifies old stereotypes (Southern gentlemen and their “honor” and their white virginal women—young urban black gangsters turning rudeness into millions—black athletes overcoming great odds to succeed in previously white dominated sports but not allowed to act out in the stereotypical supposed “black” manner, i.e. cursing and threatening to do mythical damage that is obviously meant to intimidate but is not really a threat, anymore than the fingers many of us flash in traffic when cut off by others is etc.) and gets past them at the same time.

Having Obama in the oval office seems to have allowed a lot of “Americans” to on the one hand believe we’ve crossed some barrier that will lead to racial harmony while others take it as an excuse to be openly racial without having to actually talk about race. But ain’t no way these three incidents didn’t pivot on racially based conceptions of accepted behavior in the arenas where they occurred.

24 comments:

JIm said...

Joe Wilson was out of line, but right. Obama lied about illegal aliens being covered, cost, and availability of private insurance, if government run health care is allowed. As proof of that, the Senate rushed through an amendment specifically barring illegal aliens after Wilson's outburst. A little incivility now and again is good for the nation. Liberals seem to reach for that handy epithet "RACISM" when ever they are losing on facts. They lose on facts and history often, if not always. The Tea Party folks are made up of Democrats, Republicans and Independents who are concerned about our nation’s economy and survival of individual freedoms. Zogby just released a poll which said there is great agreement amongst people of different political persuasions for, non government controlled, reform of health care.

Poll: Americans agree on health insurance
But Obamacare out of step with Zogby-O'Leary respondents

________________________________________
Posted: September 14, 2009
11:39 pm Eastern

© 2009 WorldNetDaily

Americans have put aside partisan difference and agree on several significant health care issues, but facets of Obama's health-care plan remain outside of those boundaries, according to a newly released Zogby International/O'Leary Report poll.
"Congress should put forward a health care reform plan that addresses these eight issues on which most Americans agree," Brad O’Leary, publisher of "The O'Leary Report," said today.
"In particular, tort reform and permitting Americans to purchase health insurance across state lines have near universal appeal with voters. New taxes, on the other hand, are almost universally opposed," he said.
http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=109836

Anonymous said...

Dad,

Kanye is misspelled in the title of the post.

- M

Lally said...

Thanks Miles, I corrected it.

Butch in Waukegan said...

“Poor South Carolina–too small to be a country, too large to be an insane asylum.”

http://harpers.org/archive/2009/09/hbc-90005700

Definitely race and racism is a large (but not the only) component of the tea baggers and friends. Joe wants to get out in front with his Confederate Flag.

That being said I would like to see more incivility shown towards all politicians. Many Democrats knew about the falsehoods manufactured prior to the rush to invade Iraq and said nothing. We would be in a much better position if they sharply challenged Bush - a la British Parliament’s “question time”.

Re the other two, entertainers / athletes are not rewarded for their impulse control. It’s not a big deal, unless you are black.

I see Mr. Off-Topic-Commenter has weighed in, linking again to WordlNutDaily. All those who find him persuasive might want to read following WND article before you sign your daughters up for the Girl Scouts.

http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=97977

Ed Baker said...

I could say something
however

two Edward G. Robinson flicks are on tonight that Rocco one:
Little Seezeher
and the one withe the hurricane where the stupid southern cop shoots teh two American Indian brothers

and a Cagney movie where he says "take THAT, you Dirty Rat!"

around here Takoma Park

and most likely everywhere else

NOBODY in need of health care especially emergency gun-shot wounds is turned away by The Hospital

no way. never! regardless of any laws passed by our Stellar Leaders..

only Billie Holiday was refused emergency care at a southern hospital

was sent somewhere "down the road"

and died!

harryn said...

i've been saying it for a while now, but it seems to be have either fallen on deaf ears or avoided as discomfort - most of this anger we're seeing in town halls, protests, and media coverage is closet bigotry and racism ...
granted, there may be a whole lot of dissatisfaction with the way our government and wall street behaves - but when the linch mobs mobilize, who do you think they're looking for ...
to the self righteous, ignorant ones - the balance of power has been upset ...
abuse disguised as humor is still abuse, and racism disguised as opposition is still racism ...

JIm said...

Paul,
Could there be a stray racist here and there at a townhall or Tea Party? Sure. Is that the main driver? Not a chance. Your wrong Paul, but take heart. Jimma Carter agrees with you. And Jimma has international credability now that Osama Bin Laden has endorsed his book, which is a diatribe against Israel.

harryn said...

jimmy -
as intolerable as even a stray may be - that doesn't seem to be what's been represented by the media with the gun totters, signage, endorsements from the elected, radio and tv personalities, and less than intelligent interviews i've heard from the attendees - funny that you would articulate the word 'stray' in light of the attention you pay to media ...
that being said, i'd like to know what is the main 'driver' when the messaging comes off as so personal - when people referred to bush as an idiot or accused him of deceit, it was directly due to the misinformation he and his staff propagated or the policies and diplomatic stances he took ...
no where do i see the signage saying we disagree with bill xyz or policy abc in things like 'bury obama ..." , hitler, joker, or muslim references - and there are more than a few stray signs and messages on clear channel radio ... unless of course, dan brown discovers something along the way ...
and i doubt - though i haven't read mr. carter's book yet - that with his capacity for understanding the prevailing and historical nuance of middle east conflict he would be so undiplomatic as to raise diatribe against a nation ...

Butch in Waukegan said...

In honor of this blog's "Uncle Rex", here's Jimmie Carter on the case:

http://www.indecisionforever.com/2009/09/16/jimmy-carter-has-a-sneaking-suspicion-that-there-might-maybe-still-be-some-racism-in-america/

JIm said...

Socialism vs. a free enterprise system is the issue, with significant distrust of politicians of both parties for their failure to follow the Constitution and allow out of control federal government growth of power and spending.

PS To call a politician a joker is not racist. To campare current policies to failed policies of the 20s,30s and 40's is also not racist. Liberals use the term racist to stop the discussion because they have run out of ideas and historical justification for policies that do not and never have worked.

JIm said...

Butch and your Uncle Rex,

I do not care if he is poka dot. I hate his socialist, anti free enterprise, anti business, anti American, anti Israeli policies. Lest you jerks forget, we have and have had accomplished folks of color on our side. A partial list includes; Michael Steele, Condolessa Rice, JC Watts, Clarence Thomas. I would include General Powell but he is more Democrat than Republican. I suspect you sniggered at the cartoon characterizations of Rice and Thomas, you hypocritical a** hole.

Ed Baker said...

JIm..

that word "hate" and the phrase "you jerks" sure jumps out of your very brief and factually ignorant comment!

heck according to ALL news services this morning:

"the recession is over" so I guess Socialism worked! and it only took 6 months!

the so called "free enterprise system"

well

competition lowers costs? horse-shit!

those "free enterprise system" guys are the oxy Morons who got us into this mess! etc.

and
please ignore this response...I gotta go out and use my new credit card.... and, spend,spend,spend

so don't have time to get a meaningful dialogue between us
going...

just don't never ever signify!

harryn said...

come on jim, take it down an octave or take your medicare provided meds ...
what's this "Liberals use the term racist to stop the discussion" - if anything in that statement is true, it would be about stopping the wrong discussion - but i haven't heard anything but accusations, and demeaning rhetoric from your side of the fence - if any of the rightwingers have an idea, let's see how it plays to popular vote - but the shock 'n awe media coverage that's undoubtedly being sponsored by some pretty deep health insurance pockets has a different agenda - you're being played, again - you can't be that blind jim - or don't your benefits include myopical ...
i'd love to see your brilliance and cynicism turned to the real issues and culprits ... that was the 'change' i was hoping for ...

JIm said...

Paul,
I stuck with private health insurance. I did not trust the government. Popular vote will be interesting if the polls are correct and if the small number of liberals vs. conservatives and independents is true.

Butch in Waukegan said...

. . . we have and have had accomplished folks of color on our side. A partial list includes; Michael Steele, Condolessa Rice, JC Watts, Clarence Thomas.

Whenever racism comes up Jim trots out his own variation of the “some of my best friends” argument. I bet I’ve seen it a half dozen times.

At every Republicans convention there are only several hundred people of color attending (if that) . . . but they get the good seats. Behind the speaker and up front, the camera can’t miss them.

Why do they do this? To win black voters over? No, Republicans have no programs or policies that are in their interests. Their political calculation - developed by Rove and other amoral operatives - is to pick up enough white voters who don’t want to support (or appear to support) a racist party.

The stone racist base of the Republican party knows this game and speak in code to communicate. The phrase “undeserving poor” is a good example. Beck and Wilson and Armey are skilled at this.

JIm said...

Here is a partial history of recent Democratic party racism including; Biden, the Clintons, Democrats throwing oreo cookies at Michael Steel, Ted Kennedy, Harry Reid, Robert Byrd, vicious cartoons and liberal radio hosts.
Excerpts follow, the full list is available at this link. Of course the worst example of racism is the Democrats continuing to support the Teachers Union rather than choice or vouchers in inner city schools.

http://www.nationalblackrepublicans.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=pages.othernewswhenisracism&tp_preview=true
OtherNewsWhenIsRacism
By Frances Rice
Excerpts
Senator Hillary Clinton set the tone for this type of race-based slander when she insulted Mahatma Gandhi of India who was a role model for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by calling Gandhi a gas station attendant.

Equally reprehensible rhetoric came from Democrat Senator Ted Kennedy when he unabashedly referred to black judicial nominees as "Neanderthals". Democrat Senator Harry Reid punctuated Kennedy’s slur on black professionals when he appeared on Meet the Press and attacked Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, demeaning the justice as an incompetent Negro, incapable of writing good English. “Slap at Thomas stinks of racism,” was the headline of the New York Daily News’ December 7, 2004 editorial.

Democrats threw Oreo cookies (black on the outside and white on the inside) onto the stage during an appearance of Maryland’s Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele. Two members of the Democratic Senatorial ..

Pat Oliphant drew Dr. Rice as a big-lipped, buck-toothed squaking parrot, smearing her as a empty-headed stooge. Jeff Danzinger depicted Dr. Rice as a stereotyped “mammy,” barefoot and ignorant. Ted Rall referred to Dr. Rice as President Bush’s “House [N-word]”. John Sylvester, a white liberal Democrat in Madison, Wisconsin, characterized Dr. Rice on his radio talk show as a stupid, servile black woman, calling her an “Aunt Jemima”.

Clinton failed to take action to stop the massacre of over 800,000 Rwandans. Without congressional or UN approval, Clinton sent 20,000 troops to help the white Europeans in Bosnia, but refused to send troops to help the 800,000 blacks in Africa.

Clinton also refused to help black longshoremen who were called the N-word on the job and denied promotions. When a federal court ordered several hundred major shipping companies to adopt an affirmative action program to hire and promote more black longshoremen, Clinton refused to enforce the court order.

In stark contrast to their rhetoric, Democrats, by their actions, demonstrate that they are hostile to civil rights and economic prosperity for blacks.

harryn said...

oh dear ...

Butch in Waukegan said...

Racist Democrats and racist Democratic policies? No doubt.

But Jim, your examples are mostly lamer than lame. Hillary’s unfunny joke, someone threw some Oreos, a cartoonist? Rowanda is the only serious issue raised and US foreign policy is a bipartisan affair - it’s not like Republicans were jumping up and down about Rawanda. And it’s really a stitch that you cite Clinton’s refusal to enforce court ordered affirmative action!

Mike’s post asserted that there is a racist component to Wilson’s cat call and his support, and by extension the Tea Baggers. Attacking Democrats at this point in thread seems a little desperate. Talk to us about your party Jim. Why only 36 black delegates (2% of the total) at your last convention? Why no black Congress or Senate members? Seems like these facts indicate more than some liberal using the N word.

So why such a dismal record attracting black voters? You’ve got the answers, why aren’t minorities buying what you’re selling?

JIm said...

Butch,
Tell it to the inner city black kid whose older sibling went to the extraordinary school that the Obama kids go to, but they can not, because of actions of Obama and the Democrat congress.

Many black voters have been raised on the welfare teat, that Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moighnahan warned of in the seventies. The danger of socialism is that it robs individuals of initiative. Welfare history is a prime example.

Butch in Waukegan said...

Jim, condensed version:

Blacks don't vote Republican because they all are on welfare.

JIm said...

Butch,
You may have a kernel of truth there. I believe it is not in the Democrats best interest to have people do well. It is in their best interests to exploit and enflame class warfare. If a poor black child from Washington DC is able to receive an excellent education from a private school via a voucher or choice school he or she may grow up and decide that the free enterprise system is worth preserving. Policies that kill opportunity like high taxes and onerous regulations may not get their support. If a superior education is obtained despite the opposition of the teachers union, they may look less kindly on unions. All in all individualism may be more appealing than collectivism.

Butch in Waukegan said...

Jim, condensed version 1.1:

Individual black people are OK. It's black people as a whole who are the problem.

JIm said...

Butch,

No, the problem is a political party that works for the teachers Union to the detriment of students which impacts poor kids more than middle class or rich kids who can get a good education if they want it. The Democrats work for trial lawyers to the detriment of the cost of health care and the economy. Democrats work for ACORN who takes taxpayer money and then subverts election laws and advises its client on how to break laws in order to have people who can not afford a mortgage get a mortgage. In exchange for this largess, the Democrats receive enormous campaign contributions and support from unions, trial lawyers and the criminal organization ACORN.

Butch in Waukegan said...

Limbaugh: We need segregated buses