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August 6, 2007

stuff i've been tired of for years


The comment reproduced below came in response to my post earlier today on Barry Bonds, Crooks & Liars, white liberals and their blindspots. I used a picture of Firedoglake founder Jane Hamsher to illustrate the post, and made reference in both the entry and the image to the infamous "Blackface Joe" incident. A few hours go by and I get this, from someone identifying themselves as Scarecrow, a name I associate with a Firedoglake frontpager:

I'm afraid you don't know Jane Hamsher -- a friend of mine. I don't argue with the offensiveness of the blackface image, nor does Jane, who on several occasions has (1) apologized and (2) said it was a mistake, which is why she pulled it very soon after it went up. But the image -- the metaphor -- was about Joe Lieberman pretending to be someone he wasn't -- a loyal friend of Afro-Amer- voters at a time he was demonizing Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and sending race-baiting signals to Republicans in Connecticut because these two men had endorsed Lamont. That was the point of the post, however badly it misused the image.

Jane's comment about the faux controversy was not a defense of the image -- again she admits that was wrong -- but a comment on how it was used by Lieberman's campaign as a distraction in his fight against Lamont, who had nothing to do with the image.

And Jane happens to be a white woman, but so what? CNN asked her to go on CNN to talk about Yearly Kos, the convention she had just attended; she didn't go on presuming to represent people of color but rather to talk about other issues.

I hope you get to meet Jane someday, but in the meantime, an open mind on who she is and what she thinks would be helpful.

First of all, Scarecrow, let me just say that (assuming this is you!) I've always enjoyed your FDL posts. Your comment above aside, I've found your additions to most conversations to be sterling, so it is with a heavy heart that I find myself forced to call bullshit on you in this particular instance.

I also have to say that while I'm genuinely touched that you felt the need to come all the way over to defend Jane Hamsher (a.k.a., the founder of the site through which you share your words and insight with so many thousands of people), it did kind of freak me out when you wrote: "I hope you get to meet Jane someday, but in the meantime, an open mind on who she is and what she thinks would be helpful." I mean, helpful to what? I live in LA, and whenever someone tells me it'd be "helpful" for me to "keep an open mind," I start looking for the Scientology/Landmark Forum materials. It's basically like you're telling me Jane's not going to be able to eat my brain unless I let go of retained negative emotions about Blackface Joe. (Engram, anyone? Racket?). My brain is important to me, Scarecrow, but that's just me...

Regarding your specific comment, I find it telling that you have not a word to say concerning the bulk of the post to which you're purportedly responding, i.e., the annoying thing that went up and down on Crooks & Liars today. It's all about you and your bud, I guess. The funny thing about this is that I reached for Jane pretty much on a lark. The offending Mark Groubert item was still in my Feedburner this a.m. (despite having been taken off of C&L), and there, floating just a few posts above it on my screen, was Jane of Blackface Joe fame, smiling down from the heavens on all the good progressive boys and girls. It was just too rich a coincidence, so I wove her into the post about how Mark Groubert had similarly spoiled himself for me with his endumbening Barry Bonds commentary.

The context of the image I snagged was Jane's CNN discussion of a Mitt Romney interview, so your comment about Yearly Kos somewhat mystified me. That is, until I found this:

Things I'm Already Tired Of

"Why wasn't more attention paid to issue X at Yearly Kos..."

"Why was Yearly Kos all white males..."

The diversity issue is a real one, but I think a lot of critics have really overstated the case. First of all women were very well represented, both in the audience and on panels. I'm not going to guess at the precise proportions, but the gender balance seemed to be actually pretty good. Second, often the discussion of the issue neglects that fact that the great orange Satan himself is probably not best described as a "white male." His existence doesn't negate or minimize the importance of the general issue, but it should at least be acknowledged. Third, there's a tendency to talk about it as if the relative lack of diversity is a reason to fault a specific individual or group, rather than seeing it within the broader context of diversity issues.

...ah, I see Jane was here first. [atrios]

Which led me to this post by your friend Jane Hamsher:

YearlyKos and the Myth of the White Male

I just want to comment on the Washington Post article which said that based on observations made about Yearly Kos, the progressive blogosphere is a bunch of white males. I spoke with the author, Jose Vargas, at length prior to its publication but what I had to say doesn't seem to be the story he wanted to write and there were many other non-bloggers willing to validate his point and that's what made it into print. From my perspective, while there may have been a socioeconomic bias that may have made it easier for white male non-bloggers to attend Yearly Kos, there is diversity in the blogosphere and more than that a tremendous willingness to embrace more. And I question the authority and the knowledge regarding the progressive blogosphere of people who don't acknowledge that.


People can insist that the blogosphere is a bunch of white males but it just isn't. I sat there and listened to someone who actually does blog and who I like a lot say that nobody of color was blogging on "A" list blogs about prison reform or immigration and I looked over at Pach, a person of color who writes about those issues frequently on FDL, and we both just shrugged our shoulders. What were we going to do? It wasn't what anybody wanted to hear. [full Jane]

That's when I realized that - of course! - this "response" I had gotten from the white liberal blogging world had actually nothing to do with the underlying comments and issues I had raised. It actually had to do with a side conversation being held between Jane, FDL and whoever about a WaPo article that I hadn't then read, hadn't commented on, and hadn't posted about. That makes your bit about friendship, and hoping, and knowing, and an open mind, and apologizing all pretty much, well, bullshit, in the Harry Frankfurt, On Bullshit sense of "utterances and speech acts which do not add to the meaning of the set of sentences uttered, but which are added purely to persuade interlocutors of the validity or importance of other utterances."

Your comment certainly has nothing to do with the Crooks and Liars post or, at the root of it, even Blackface Joe. You regurgitate Jane's original non-apology for the image, thereby recapitulating in rather pristine terms her underlying racial error. Although you're at obvious pains to assert how sorry Jane is, how offensive you personally find the image, you also just can't resist bellying up to the crap, self-serving (Jane-serving?) argument that the larger frame around the controversy was the Ned Lamont campaign, where "faux indignation" was "ginned up" by the execrable Michelle Malkin. The simple fact that that proposition, in the context of Hamsher's forced, insincere apology, might have actually been more offensive than the stupid picture eludes you a year later, as does the fact that Hamsher specifically slurred literally hundreds of people of color as "distracted" rubes being bamboozled by the right's use of a race card.

You write that "on several occasions [Jane Hamsher] has apologized," but those mea culpas must have been offered up in that brain-eating "meet Jane someday" friend-zone of which you write so ominously, as I can only find a single, on-the-record apology from Hamsher on this topic ever. Setting that particular wrinkle aside (and Scarecrow: please do send me additional evidence all these apologies) this is hardly an apology. What that is, is the an artfully parsed ass-covering through clenched teeth - "I sincerely apologize to anyone who was genuinely (emphasis mine) offended by the choice of images accompanying my blog post today on the Huffington Post" - followed by five paragraphs about how poor Jane is being used to keep easily manipulated black voters from voting for her candidate. Such a thin gruel might be able satisfy Jane's pals, but,given my lack of insider personal context, forgive me if it didn't work for me.

But I will say this: you're right that I don't know Jane Hamsher. All I know about her is what's on the screen, a lot of which is great, and some of which tiresome, defensive white dunderheadism of the most predictable sort, like "the day I have to make the blog a slave to the PC language police who want to mau-mau it into sterility by throwing around loaded and innacurate race- and gender-baiting accusations is the day I shut it down." I wasn't at YearlyKos, I have no idea how diverse it was, and this particular question is distinct from the specific points I made in my post. What I do know, though, is that on the same day I referenced Blackface Joe, Jane Hamsher happened to write a self-congratulatory post about who is gay, and who is Hispanic, and who is a woman, and who she shrugs shoulders with, and despite all that warm fuzzy diversity in her life she couldn't be bothered to find a photo with more than half a person of color in it to go as an illo. Now, I know that's not a Federal offense or anything, and, moreover, half of James Rucker is thrice your average activist, but I still just have to laugh. You guys are so passionate and intelligent about so many critically important things, and yet, for some reason, on this particular set of issues, you insist on remaining the rankest of practical, formal and intellectual amateurs. It really does baffle me.

Posted by ebogjonson in on August 6, 2007 2:13 PM


Ah, those famed arguments about liberal white racism. There is a basic assumption that being "liberal" automatically renders one impervious to the allegation of being a racist. As if not aligning oneself to the basest elements of right wing political ideology gives a white person a total pass on the reality that white skinned privelage will endow him/her with a certain racial asshole quotient that most black folk find annoying, regardless of how well itentioned that white person may be. I remember when I was in law school during the whole O.J. Simpson fracas. A fellow African American student told me about how he asked this white girl out to lunch and she protested "I can't, I can't ..I just haven't gotten over this whole O.J. thing!" I was like, that "liberal" white chick just straight out equated your black ass to that alleged murderin' mutha f#$ka O.J. Simpson?!. That was one of my first tastes of how "progressive" liberal whites can be. Unless your willing to go out like old school abolitionist John Brown...you still might be viewed as suspect and have your racially progressive passcard stripped from you.

Posted by: Abdul Jabbar at August 6, 2007 8:11 PM

Right on, again.

But, but....this token? It does not please you?

You'd think they'd stop trying that line and just forge on ahead with the Southern Strategy.* After all, it's about electability, right?

*Not to imply race baiting wouldn't get them votes up north too.

Posted by: sly civilian at August 10, 2007 10:19 PM

John Brown creds, huh?

So funny.

In a lot of the comments on blogs taking up this issue, they keep assuring those commenter who are suspicious of those defending the conference's diversity, that though this specific blogger may be white, and liberal - they are nonetheless "saints" when it comes to "black issues."

They are on your side!

If they were saints, they would have been properly chagrined by the obvious lack of diversity at the convention and not made ANY excuses. Why make excuses AT ALL??? Well, again

Sadly - many white liberals delude themselves into thinking colored people need them, instead of understanding liberals need colored people. Progressive minded people of all sorts need full participation in the policy process or else the clothes may just change, but the emperor doesn't (Hillary.)

So to defend the right to their privilege, they are forced to stay in denial, defend Digby, defend Kos. They MUST believe that colored people are oversensitive, clueless tools of the enemy, simple-minded reactionaries. They stay in denial. They are "the Cheney-lites." And they'll keep losing elections.

Posted by: ProblemWithCaring at August 13, 2007 4:40 PM

I doesn't happen often, but occasionally I am reminded that even the most 'well-intentioned' people have that twinge of white supremacy deep inside. Now, let me explain why I used that term [quoting from something I heard Dr. Cornell West once say], I am specifically referring to the vestiges of the historical background of race relations in this country and the inability of some people to see when they are not as acutely aware of racial\cultural sensitivities as they would like to believe.

I am from the midwest, but just moved to Northern Colorado after spending 3 years in Los Angeles. I was told by a college educated white female colleague that this new area that I am calling 'home' is VERY liberal and progressive- not like the ultra-conservative southern section of the state. However, not long after that conversation, we were talking specifically about race and society when she ACTUALLY 'almost' used the word 'colored' in reference to non-whites. She caught her self about halfway through the 2nd syllable. The look on her face was of absolute horror- mixed with a feeble attempt to hide the 'mistake' in syntax. I was not shocked. It is not the first time that I was in a situation like that.

Did I call her a racist? no.
Did I point out the error in her ways? No need- she is beyond helping. I didn't have time for 'that' argument.

Posted by: Mr. tech at August 14, 2007 12:56 PM

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