“I’m not a racist.” You sure about that?

quoted from darkblack on firedoglake:

“It never ceases to amaze that the same old cycle perpetrates in some quarters, with no regard to who or what… Person or group X says person or group Y is all wrong, out of line, ‘burning the last bridge between X and Y in this country’…
…unless they do it Person or group X’s way.

Therefore doing their part to continue divisiveness and suspicion, whether they are aware of it or not.

This might surprise some people, but Mau-Mauing The Flak Catchers is still in print. And liberal bloggers didn’t leave people in the arms of Katrina.

I am certainly interested in Liza’s views, as I do the views of others…But if mine are to be discounted out of hand because I am supposedly racist, then it makes communication and understanding difficult.

I am not a racist.

From an artistic viewpoint, which is my sole contribution to this episode, I demand to be judged on my broader work.

It was fortuitous that Gilliard linked to Liza…Forced exposure creates honesty.

So let us all take advantage of it before the exploiters come along.”

I recall there was a significant dust up over the “black-face” depiction of Senator Joseph Lieberman during the primary campaign in Connecticut. Since that time, another flare up occurred following Slick Willie’s meeting in his Harlem office with a group of non-black bloggers. While reading comments to a write up at FireDogLake, I came across this line, “I demand to be judged…” and decided to take a look at the broader work. From my perspective, there are some interesting patterns that emerged. The patterns are probably obvious to some folks and imperceptible to others. I believe the patterns betray a sense of cultural tension that may or may not be racism, but it’s definitely white supremacist in orientation.

The artwork depicted at this flickr site tends to depict african-american african-black cultural artistic and historical phenomena from a white supremacist framework. That may be too simplistic, but by saying the framework of the artist is white supremacist I am suggesting that the artist has chosen to traffic almost exclusively in white supremacist imagery (with respect to Black folk). These images are generally caricatures and ancient American stereotypes from the era of the Saturday Evening Post and Steppin’ Fetchit. The artists tends to traffic in these images for the purpose of conveying those traits most typically associated with Blacks (by white supremacists). The traits are disloyalty, weakness, stupidity, and cowardice. There are more traits, but in a political context, these may be the most relevant.

These traits suggest a white supremacist orientation precisely because there is no juxtaposition with a Black aesthetic norm. For me, this indicates that the artist clearly operates outside of a Black cultural milieu. There are no normalized frames of reference to satirize. The satire is exclusively derived from recapitulations of old Saturday Evening Post-era imagery. It’s simply too easy to traffic in pre-1960’s anti-black images to communicate with a political audience. The “left” leaning of that audience is immaterial, given that Americans on both sides of the aisle have found common cause in anti-black activity. To be fair, I wanted to see if a collection with a preponderance of satirical images would also use “normalized” imagery for “whites.” The site has numerous examples of this: Bushmore, How’s Our Driving, Fascinating, LieBush – to name a few. There aren’t any “normalized” images utilizing African cultural phenomena. This is substantively different than normalized depictions of black individuals like Condoleeza Rice or Mike Tyson. The cultural (graphic, textual, etc.) formulations reveal a deeper level of insight than the mere re-presentation of a photo.

At this deeper level, the depictions of African phenomena are remarkably consistent. Take the case of Joe Lieberman: he has been depicted in black face with George Bush, as a lawn jockey (aka Porch Monkey), and Mr. Bojangles. But there is a twist…when Lieberman is depicted within “white” cultural paradigms, Lieberman is often feminized and the context is almost invariably sexual. There is a pattern here: A Cabinet Post, A Little Necking, Auld Lang Syne, Codless, Sitting In A Tree, Love Connection and others.

It seems like the artist has trouble capturing any African cultural phenomena in ways that do not comport with latent memories imbibed over decades. Does that mean this artist is racist? It doesn’t matter because this artist can consistently be relied upon to provide material that will be of considerable value to racists. The artist is clearly a white supremacist (which is not a function of biology or ethnicity – anyone can join the group). The artist appears to convert objects of scorn to “others” in order to communicate a heightened level of contempt. It’s an interesting tactic. It’s not unique – in fact, it’s timeless. It’s like a graduate seminar in high-tech hate: Photoshop 505: Dehumanization and Objectification or Using an Artistic Viewpoint to Scapegoat.

“Forced exposure creates honesty.” Truer words…


  1. Thank you. Finally — someone has begun to talk about this isue. I also went to darkblack’s flicker pages and noticed much of what you sso aptly describe here, but didn’t feel I had the vocabulary to speak of it well. I have also found it incredibly ironic that darkblack–just before the sister to this brouhaha, Jessica-has-dark-intern-like-hair-and-“nice”-boobs-and-is-photoed-standing-in-front-of-Bill-Clinton-gate — created an image of the gathering in pj’s (they were all about to go to bed?) and placed this same Jessica in a sexy black negligee, while all the other (older, less perky) women were dressed in flannel.

    Did you notice this black-face-esque image entitled “Raggedy Man” which evokes one of the most racist childrens poems of the 20th century (and standard fare for any “well-educated” white child growing up in the 1st 2/3’s of the 20th century) by James Whitcomb Riley?

    How incredibly clueless. Which is how latent sexism, like racism flourishes in the unconscious of pure-as-the-driven-snow, liberals.

    You know it is really bad when you see things like this, in Mahablog’s very righwing-esque jusitfication “My cause is my country.”

  2. Thank nysp: 

    Let me say, first off, that I don’t really care about the meeting. I have never liked Slick Willie or his wife. I’m a new blogger – but if I were invited, I’m not entirely sure that I would have gone. I certainly would not have gushed about going, nor would I post flicks of it. But that’s just me. Some black folks are still rockin’ pictures of JFK in their homes and offices. I’d prefer that they posted symbolic pictures of the vat of acid into which Congolese freedom fighter Patrice Lumumba’s tortured body was dumped. I’d prefer they had pictures of Kennedy, Frank Carlucci and others who collaborated with Belgian mercs to get that job done. So, the Slick Willie pics go right next to my Rwanda pics, ya dig.

    Back to db – I did notice the Raggedy Man image. It’s actually the same as the Bojangles image which I referenced in my post. I had no idea about this poem, though. Thanks a million.

    One of the themes that has emerged with respect to this debate is the alleged “racial anonymity” of bloggers. In other words, bloggers and their regular readers assume racial and even gender invisibility in cyber space. I find that premise to be largely absurd.

    Initially, I guessed that db was either a 40-50 something, gay artist from the midwest (because of the preponderance of Saturday Evening Post/misogynist images and the repeated sexualization of Lieberman and Bush. Of course none of these correspondences are 1-1. I don’t mean to suggest a biological-essentialist relationship in any way. Still, I’m not so sure about my guess now. In any event, it doesn’t matter. The issue is that his art consistently presents themes for mass consumption that are predicated on extreme white supremacism. And, he claims to have no idea.

    As Rick James 1nce said, “Cocaine is a helluva drug!”

  3. Allow me to join nysp in thanking you, Temple3, for undertaking this work. You’ve formulated a critique which I felt and intuited but, like nysp, didn’t feel prepared to articulate. That’s why, as you may have noticed, I quoted you so extensively in my post on the subject. Not that I’m much interested in the blogger meeting, but I’m interested in some of what its surrounding phenomena reveal.

    I agree with you that the notion of the internet being a “colorblind” space is highly suspect. There are all manner of indications to people’s socio-cultural orientations; furthermore, this “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude toward internet race really indicates that “whiteness” is normalized and serves to define the acceptable range of behavior — to step outside that range is to “come out” as something other than white.

    I don’t know whether db is gay or homophobic; but I’m pretty sure he’s middle-aged midwest-bred — not that it matters, as you point out. The only thing I know for certain about db’s profile is that he no longer lives in the US. For some reason, this makes me even more annoyed at his work from afar.


  4. Yeah…I don’t want to get too much into the biology – because it is largely immaterial. I know that when I initially read his post and viewed his art work, the patterns were simply jumping off the screen. The stuff is compelling – and when the metaphors and juxtapositions are on, they’re on – but with respect to black folk – they’re generally way off.

    Normalizing “whiteness” is another issue altogether. I tend not to have too much dialogue with white folks about this stuff because it’s not a focal point of how I get down. I am not likely to take the time to walk someone through this stuff – least of all someone who purports to be a rocket scientist. I’ll send them to Rachel’s Tavern (where the beer is always cold) or to Prometheus 6 or somewhere like that where they can enter a more open dialogue. At this juncture, all I’ve got are hammers and this type of blindness qualifies as little more than a nail in need of a beat down.

    I believe it will be difficult to carve out a space for yourself with/within this group if that is your intention. I am new to reading their “A-list” blogs. The focus, from what I’ve read is a traditional political focus within the two-party context of the US. That’s not where I’m coming from…I don’t draw “lines in the sand” between Dismalcrats and Republicants. Both parties have done – are doing too much to undermine Black folk, here and abroad for me to embrace either uncritically or reject either uncritically. After having read those blogs a bit, I can see why the authors were sought by Slick Willie. They’re are doing some heavy lifting for the Democrats. This work will begin to truly pay off in coming years – but only if it appreciated, nurtured and directed.

    Just as you said, it is in a ruler’s best interest to get some face time and see who will drink the Kool Aid. The early reports indicate that most will gladly drink all that is offered. WJC has never been a fool. Perhaps the most telling insight of his wisdom and charisma is that those who present themselves as critical still embrace him after he dismissed their high-priority issues while in office. Seduction is an art in which he has been well educated. The confessions of being captivated are truly remarkable because they hint at a feeling of belonging, of closeness and of oneness.

    Simply, that doesn’t work for me. I have no intentions of being seduced by old men or anyone else for that matter.

  5. I don’t care all that much about the Clinton meeting either (I do not do well in in-groups!), but I do applaud the efforts of people like Liza and Terrance to call people out on the obvious hypocrisy. Because if they hadn’t the meeting would just be another instance when privleged liberals (they are not progressive and not even close to radical) are not called on their shit.

    While I am not surprised by inherent racist attitudes held by Trex, Jane, Christy and their legion of commenters, I am totally freaked out that they are so drunk on their hubris that they think that they can get away with such a display of blatant racism with impunity. And I even more discouraged that none of the other big-gun bloggers (like Steve Gilliard anyone?) are willing to touch this with even a 10 foot pole: the The silence is remarkable.

    The upside is the truth is out there in broad daylight for anyone who is williing to see it.

    Re James Whitcomb Riley: as a child, I loved his book “A Child’s Garden of Verses.’ So in the early 80’s, based on this memory, I specifially sought it out and bought it to read to my own daughter. And was absolutely horrified by what I saw through the lens of an adult eye. It was a huge lesson for me, which I have never forgotten.

    It is interesting that you pegged db as being from the midwest, because Riley is thought of as a great son of the state of Indiana, and well, I know don’t have to go into Indiana with you!

  6. Well said, Temple3. I like your bluntness. It’s not your job to sit around educating dumb-asses. Fortunately its not my intention to carve out space amid the liberal “A-list” (barf! what is this, Access Hollywood?!). I’m no fan of either corporate-political party.

  7. thanks, poo (if i may). and no, you don’t have to go into Indiana with me…in fact, back in the day, I would’ve passed on that trip altogether. it’s precisely my clarity about that fact of american life vs. celebrants of Riley’s life choosing to ignore that same history that creates the gap.

    I can understand why they do it. i mean, if my grandma and grandpa spent their weekends at lynchings, i probably would change the subject too.

    conversely, it’s why guys like oj are so popular – their brains (with respect to a black identity – cultural vs. “racial”) is like a box of rocks…there is nothing sexier to white folk than a black cultural eunuch. imagine having your very own non-white “cool” guy that you can relate to: making amends without amending a thing – until he decides to up and kill someone/two – allegedly.

    this is such a dangerous game that people play. the same wall of perception that clouds the liberal mind with respect to black folk clouds the general american mind when it comes to why so many nations have beef – not just so-called islamo-fascists.

  8. This is a great analysis, which I’m a little too tired to really take in at the moment. I couldn’t find the photos you reference, but will try again in the morning.

    I wanted to mention though, in relation to this, that this seems to be a pattern there, mainly with TRex but also, as you’ve noted, with the darkblack photos and Hamsher even considering using the blackface one.

    Makes me think of kids with a room full of rag dolls that they just loooove – hugs and kisses and links – but when someone who looks like one of the dolls offends them, they carefully choose the appropriate one and use it to beat the offender over the head. Giving it a hug afterwards and putting it back on the shelf with the others – and exclaiming in horror when someone points out the cruelty of that… “what do you mean!? I LOVE my rag dolls!”

    There is probably a term for it, this using of… not even race, exactly, but racial and cultural pointy sticks to go after people… sort of the difference between calling a black man the N word and calling him “boy”. Both offensive, both have long cultural histories, only one can be passed off as ambiguous and all in the mind of the hearer.

    Like “anchor baby” (and while this post was apparently removed from the FDL site pretty much immediately, I doubt it was because of that particular term so much as the other). This one was also a leap to defend Hamsher when Michelle Malkin called the blackface photo racist. Hmmm. And then there is Malkin again, and John Yoo starring the “asian honky“.

    Add those two to whatever else (if there is anything else… I didn’t search this stuff out or anything, just came across it in comments) and you have a definite pattern.

    Anyway, people are sort of popping up here and there with… “well, this really offended me when I read it.” The atmosphere at the site does not encourage people to um… “spread dissent”, which it seems is how they view disagreement, (as Kai and others have found out) so maybe some might be speaking up for the first time. One good thing to come out of all this, maybe.

    Well, besides finding all sorts of wonderful new (to me) writers that I may not have heard about in the normal course of things.

  9. I am still uncomfortable with the discomfort I didn’t speak up about regarding FDL. Discomfort not just about race . . . but a sort of theme of look at us, aren’t we so cute and special and all that. I remember thinking much of what passed for discourse or writing read like bullying. And the willingness to use abusive language (as I saw it). Which is one of the disadvantages to the internet. In live situations, one doesn’t have to stick one’s neck out so publically to check up on one’s percepttions. You can privately ask someone, “did you see/hear what I just heard?”

    I initially discovered FDL about a year ago due to my interest in the Valerie Plame matter. And then I was captivated by the candidacy of Ned Lamont (Joe Lieberman creeps me out almost as much as Bush). Which is how I rationalized my silence. I really wanted Lamont to win. I even took Metro North up there to work for him for a few days (esp since the Dem party in NYC is pretty much looked down by the DLCC and local cronies).

    I will make a prediction. They think have successfully shoved this under the bed, but as Temple puts it, they are playing a rather dangerous game. (Check this Rovian shit out) However, history shows us that people get away with stuff enough, it is not long before they begin to think they can get away with anything with impunity. It is only a matter of time before this (or something similar) blows up.

    And one good thing about the internets is that they have a pretty good memory.

  10. and if people are concerned about “wedge issues,” then maybe they should stop acting like such human wedgies and just address what they need to, finally.

    the way to keep your base is to not fucking take them for granted. when do people learn?

  11. >But there is a twist…when Lieberman is depicted within “white” cultural paradigms, Lieberman is often feminized and the context is almost invariably sexual.>

    You know, there is a tradition there as well: the “feminized” Jewish man. In this regard…eh, I’m struggling for the best way to put this. But: I see connections between the hyper-macho stance of the neocons and that of militant Defenders of Israel (Jewish and otherwise); and likewise, it’s not, I think, an accident that the founder of neocon ideology was a Jewish man who fled Nazi Germany.

    There’s a connection here. Traditionally, there’s a lot of linkage between Jews and homosexuals: both groups have been perpetual outsiders, both often linked with corruption and stealth, “passing;” urbane, sophisticated, counter to good staunch upright lumpenfolk, you know. “Liberal,” and thus “weak.”

    And so, of course, ultimately, effeminacy; you see why with gay men, but the connection’s there with Jewish men as well. example: I have a book about the Spanish conversos; in passing I noticed that a traditional piece of urban folklore was that Jewish men menstruated. but in general: “soft,” weak, porous boundaries. In the case of gay men, this fear is related to both their being outside the traditional “bounds” of heterosexual structures and the associations people have with physical (sexual) penetration. In the case of the Jews, I believe, it’s always been about being a nationless people in a time of nationalism.

    And then along came Israel: which in many ways was founded on the intense desire to reverse everything that had made the Jews the victim, the ultimate victim. And yeah, while I hear mixed reviews wrt tolerance of actual homosexuality in Israel itself, the macho thing: it is large.

    And on a parallel note: the neocons are by and large “former” liberals, and many of them Jewish.

    The connection of that bunch with the theocratic Christian right, which shares its fearful emphasis on hyper-macho militancy as well as a strongly protective stance wrt Israel (albeit for different reasons, I think), but ultimately has its own agenda, is something I have been pondering deeply for a while now.


  12. and don’t forget about the tradition of nazis and homosexuality and greeks and romans and priests and … fbi agents and slavemasters and …. I’m tired.

  13. Obviously; but in the minds of the hyper-macho heternorm-defenders, they -are.-

    there’s also a fair tradition of fem-phobia (“sissyphobia”) w/in gay male culture, it must be said.

    yeh, gender and sexuality get entangled in complicated ways, along with, as we see here, a bunch of other shit.

    but yet another thread: well, Greeks and Romans; y’see, there’s still a gender policing going on; it just plays out somewhat differently. It’s still shameful to be the penetrated one (past a certain age); it is shameful to be “effeminate.”

    as per the Nazis: not sure what you mean here. yeah, there was covert homosexuality in the ranks, (less so after the Night of the Long Knives) and as much homoeroticism as there always is in any highly masculine-worshipping, military culture. the actual gay men still have their asses thrown in the camps; but i assume you know that. there’s a disconnect going on here, perhaps.

    I am particularly interested in the connections between antisemitism and homophobia as i am both Jewish and queer; and tend to experience the latter rather more keenly than the former, yet am aware of echoes of the once-far-more-overt antisemitism in expressions of..other stuff.

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