Monday, July 2, 2012

The Elephant Rears its Head

After having the pleasure of reading Salon's and Alternet's  Sara Robinson's "Southern Values Revived" I was left with a feeling of  comfort that one often experiences after a large helping of macaroni and cheese or your comfort food of choice.  Sara Robinson has penned myriad streams of consciousness. One of her chosen topics has echoed through our heads for decades.  The Elephant in the American Room is Race, it has shaped the history, culture and economy of the United States.  White supremacy is woven into the American tapestry as much as the fight against said supremacy is apart of the American story.

How can MLK Day exist without white supremacy? Why do we think slavery started in the South? Opposed to America-bashing the identification of  and the acclimation of a central cause of amomie such as socially constructed racism is actually very healthy for America.  The current discourse around power in some sections of the contry focus on the power of the East coast elites.  Robinson writes,

"For most of our history, American economics, culture and politics have been dominated by a New England-based Yankee aristocracy that was rooted in Puritan communitarian values, educated at the Ivies and marinated in an ethic ofnoblesse oblige (the conviction that those who possess wealth and power are morally bound to use it for the betterment of society)."

Another strain of eliteism that has been quite vocal and popular in some corners of the Internet (think your conservative facebook friend) has a very different origin.  Robinson writes,

As described by Colin Woodard in American Nations: The Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, the elites of the Deep South are descended mainly from the owners of sugar, rum and cotton plantations from Barbados — the younger sons of the British nobility who’d farmed up the Caribbean islands, and then came ashore to the southern coasts seeking more land. Woodward described the culture they created in the crescent stretching from Charleston, SC around to New Orleans this way:"
It was a near-carbon copy of the West Indian slave state these Barbadians had left behind, a place notorious even then for its inhumanity….From the outset, Deep Southern culture was based on radical disparities in wealth and power, with a tiny elite commanding total obedience and enforcing it with state-sponsored terror. Its expansionist ambitions would put it on a collision course with its Yankee rivals, triggering military, social, and political conflicts that continue to plague the United States to this day.

Hearken back to your American history classes, remember reading about how plantation owners would use the selling of a family member as behavior management? (link) Similar  threats were made promising to sell off people to the West Indies or the deep south as those regions were reported to use more brutal methods and treat their slaves worse than the more genteel Virginian or northern slave owner. 

Robinson explains how the new conservative Republican party owes its success to the Southern elite value structure.  She eloquently explains how terms like freedom and liberty can now be used in the ironic ways that they are in the American media, she writes,

"When a Southern conservative talks about “losing his liberty,” the loss of this absolute domination over the people and property under his control — and, worse, the loss of status and the resulting risk of being held accountable for laws that he was once exempt from — is what he’s really talking about. In this view, freedom is a zero-sum game. Anything that gives more freedom and rights to lower-status people can’t help but put serious limits on the freedom of the upper classes to use those people as they please. It cannot be any other way. So they find Yankee-style rights expansions absolutely intolerable, to the point where they’re willing to fight and die to preserve their divine right to rule."

Lost in many history lessons is the knowledge of European slaves in America.  Irish, Scottish and working class English whites comprised the first American workforce.  Indentured servants continued to be imported to the country alongside Africans.  A good part of today's discourse  around the Tea Party suggests the manipulation of the poor and poorly informed is effective because they forget their best interest to do the bidding of elites.  This tactic is as old as America itself.  In the old south the plantation owner was the regional elite with close ties to the British monarchy, the University of Virginia still call themselves Cavillers.  Poor whites were manipulated to believe that their poverty and lack of education were  secondary to their status as white, even if they were suffering and not free.

Robinson constructs a strong thesis supported by relevant research and captivating writing.  In her thesis she echoes how much race is the Elephant in the room in the American parlour    The current context also serves as a loom for post-modern tapestry creation.  The President is a black man who is closely ties to the East Coast elitist model of leadership.  The House and large swaths of the media promote the Southern style.  Before November should we critique the past four years with Sara Robinson's article in the front of our minds?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Stories That Europe Tells Itself About Its Colonial History

It is not that Europe has denied its colonial history. Instead, Europe has developed a way of telling the story of its colonial history that ultimately seeks to erase that history”

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Manning Marable's biography of Malcolm X

Amiri Baraka and Bill Fletcher, Jr., offer conflicting perspectives on Manning Marable's biography of Malcolm X. Also, Patrick Dooley discusses a Tom Stoppard play about radical thinkers in 19th-century Russia.

Against the Grain - April 10, 2012 at 12:00pm

Click to
listen (or download)

The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination

Alondra Nelson, author of "Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination," talks to Sasha Lilley about the little known history of the Black Panther's medical activism, from setting up free clinics to genetic screening for sickle cell anemia.
Against the Grain with Sasha Lilley - April 9, 2012 at 12:00pm

Click to listen (or download)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Hey, its Elon from This Week in Blackness

Black Politics in England

via: BBC 4 Analysis

A New Black Politics? 

David Goodhart meets the politicians who claim to advocate on behalf of Britain's black communities and asks how the ideologies of black politics have changed since the 1980s. The programme hears from David Lammy MP, Kwasi Kwarteng MP, Tory activist Shaun Bailey, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission Trevor Phillips, 1980s Black Sections politician Linda Bellos, and Stafford Scott, who was a community leader during the time of the 1985 Tottenham riots."

Listen Here

Trevor Phillips (Chair of the Equality and Hum...
Image via Wikipedia
Trevor Phillips

MP David Lammy
Image via Wikipedia
David Lammy

Link: here
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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Compare and contrast: The UK and The US

This post from the amazing, Afro-Europe eloquently explains the phenomena that we love to explore.,  Lola Adesioye  expresses her view on why Being black in the UK doesn't mean the same as being black in the US!”  Ms. Adesioye explains 3rd culture children, global citizenship and she even sings about it...
Lola Adesioye

Watch and Read Here

Pandering to The Elephant in the Room

Readers of this blog are familiar with the Elephant metaphor constructed in so many posts on this site.  The Elephant in the American room is race.   The  social construction of race in America intertwines issues of intelligence, economics, civilisation and integrity between Europeans and many post-modern "others".  The sharpest dichotomy between races exist between blacks and whites in America.  Also,  side note, the genius who scheduled a Republican debate on MLK Day deserves a steak dinner.

The public display of racial pandering that exists in the Republican primaries is predictable, unfortunate and telling.  The racial undercurrent  running through the Republican Primaries is a clear indication of the effectiveness of the Southern Strategy of the post-modern Republican party.  Rachel Maddow's clip illustrates how the Elephant is now sitting at the table.  Know who else is sitting at the table with Ms. Maddow?  Reverend Al Sharpton, that's who.  He actually makes some good points.
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Friday, December 23, 2011

The power of Image

This informative broadcast on the origins and composition of media technology brings to mind the stunning archive of meaningful photos that is the wonderful blog Beautone.  My only critique of the following broadcast is that the black voice in the settlement of the West and specifically San Francisco was left out.  Inclusion, that is what makes Beautone such an important site.  In our media fuelled post-modern minds, image is incredibly important.  Photos, videos and pictures help to create meaning and provide context to social and personal issues.  Images can be historical record, they provide signposts for context.  Have a listen, then visit Beautone , it is featured just on the right of this page or on on tumblr....
(tumblr tip, find the "Archive" button to see all images and posts on the site)



Against the Grain - December 5, 2011 at 12:00pm


A succinct and Accurate Description

Senator Ron Paul as a metaphor for the issue of race in America.  The Rachel Maddow Show did an expose on Texas Senator Ron Paul. Rachel and Melissa Harris Perry created a compelling metaphor.  They equated the spectre of racial discomfort in Ron Paul's past to American attitudes on race.  The comparison was apt and compelling.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Césaire on Colonialism

 Césaire on Colonialism featuring Dr. Robin D.G. Kelly is an Against the Grain, must listen, podcast.  For anyone interested in globalism, colonialism, capitalism or even just issues about black people this show will make you think.  For you black studies students remember Aimé Césaire?  Nigritude, ring a bell?  Perhaps you associate him with the surrealist movement, but you must remember "thingification" or the concept of reducing human beings to things....  Have a listen to jog your memory, or perhaps learn something new.

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Big Up, Bruv

Big up and Bruv are two words in the English spoken language that have deemed important enough to be included on the BBC English language learning website.

The origins of the word Bruv                           
Via: link

The origins of Big Up


Via: link
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Monday, October 24, 2011

Corey Robin on Feudal Democracies

Corey Robin's assessment of rightwing thought is scintillating.   His thesis revolves around privledge, the creation of privilege where there is none, exploitation and keeping the lower orders in line.  His Feudal Democracy sub-thesis and his identification of how some on the right frame the wealthy as victims are perceptive.  His analysis is very pertinent to today's political discourse
Have a listen... HERE  or visit the Lectures and Words page on this blog.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Eve or Isis? Genes Race and Exploitation

Adam Curtis is an amazing film-maker.  His insight and artistic talents are apparent in most of his work.  The story of Henrietta Lacks is layered with meaning.  Henrietta Lacks, Neo-Eve, mother nature and the exploited.  Her tale is that of black women throughout colonisation and slavery.  Her story is that of the human race.  Adam Curtis writes,

"I have always been fascinated by the story of Henrietta Lacks.

Henrietta was an African American woman from Baltimore who died of cervical cancer in 1951. Before she died some of her cancerous tissue was taken - without her permission - and the cells have been reproducing in laboratories around the world ever since."
Her story as told by Adam Curtis,

or here,
Adam Curtis -- The Way Of All Flesh : Adam Curtis : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive
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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Post-modern confusion and identity protests

Via The Crunk Feminist Collective"I do not dig debating with young white feminists late into the night about white privilege and having other Black women in the thread have to call out the supposed anti-racist feminists for not speaking up, for yet again forcing Black women to do the exhausting work of teaching"

From The Crunk Feminist Collective a poignant discussion on SlutWalk NYC and Racism.
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