February 19, 2011

The Chauncey DeVega vs Herman Cain Revue: A Farce Full of Ironies

A version of this essay first appeared as a guest post at Chauncey DeVega's We Are Respectable Negroes. Formatting and style have been adapted for Oh Crap's template.

Note to Republicans: hire some new PR people. The minions you've sent out screaming "Democrat Plantation" at Blacks in an effort to make a dent in the largely Democratic voting bloc are an abject failure. Read on to find out why they are consistently rebuffed, and treated with the all the derision and ridicule a fool deserves.

Still in the Shadow of Uncle Tom: This Week's Political Showbiz and the Race-Based Melodrama That Ensued

I was raised by Reagan Democrat(ic) Moral Majority Christian Coalition parents, both ordained ministers, who were primarily "race people". That is, they saw their own work as the first/only Blacks in their places of employment, our positioning as the first/only Blacks in our neighborhood and their decision to send me to all-white Christian schools as desegregation part 2. Many liberals do not know about, or understand, this aspect of Black conservatism. I do, because I lived it, and am a product of it. I spent three years at Fundagelical U., where I had my first more-than-friends same-sex set of events (oh, the things that go on in those sex-segregated dorms...) My father was emeritus and board member of a Christian college with ties to the New Apostolic Reformation. My first vote was for Pat Robertson.

And yes, I really do have a crush on Sarah Palin.

With those ex-conservative bonafides out of the way, I can say with certainty there's good reason not to trust people like Herman Cain, Unhyphenated-Americans like Lloyd Marcus, and the seven other Black characters on the Tea Party circuit. Their sincerity is in question, due not simply to their skin color, as Chauncey's detractors wish to make one believe, but because of their behavior which fits longstanding patterns of race-opportunism.

Enter: coonery, tommery and minstrelsy--the popular American art form infamous for distorting and misrepresenting Black people to their audiences. Make no mistake: Race minstrelsy continues in the 21st century.

Ask yourself the following. Do tales of black incompetence, vindictiveness, threats of socio-political instability, and white slavery sound familiar? They're really old complaints.

Have you ever noticed that Republicans, for with all of their loud wails of being the "party of Lincoln," do not mention the postbellum era of Republican Reconstruction, 1865-1877? Though "Jim Crow" was a character out of blackface minstrelsy, white state's rights conservatives imposed this formal type of racism on all non-whites immediately after the end of the Civil War, with this period of de facto white supremacy being codified into law with the landmark Supreme Court case Plessy vs Ferguson (1896). Furthermore, in many regions of the US, such as the west, south, north and midwest, this condition lasted into the late 1970s and sometimes decades beyond.

So of course Republicans don't mention the problematic era of Reconstruction--at least not in their outside voices anyway. Why? To do so would alienate their state's rights, Confederate flag-fetishizing constituents.

Hey you, the voter with all the values! Have some Obama waffles!

For example, the Obama Waffles caricature, based in Aunt Jemima visual rhetoric, is directly out of minstrelsy branding. Black conservatives know this. The Muslim-baiting, McCarthy-lite inside content was even worse. But how many conservatives, outside of one, professional homo-hater Bishop Harry Jackson, have ever dared to speak up against such bigotry?

Have you ever noticed how these "lovers of the Constitution" are silent on Tammy Bruce's almost-daily characterization of President Barack Obama as "Urkel?" What is a reference to a 1990s-era sitcom character that scholars Mary Dalton and Laura Linder associate with minstrelsy stock characters such as Sambo the coon. Moreover, it never made the news when Bruce asserted back in January that she gets to call gays "homos" because she is one.

Of course, we heard a few grumbles from their corner when Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake.com posted an illustration of Senator Joe Lieberman in blackface. But, I do not recall it making the news at Fox News.

And no maliciousness or death wishes are ever directed at those who wield the epithet "race-pimp", which on the American right is synonymous with Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Yet we saw it happen against Mr. DeVega over at Alternet.

Conservative jihadis from the lowliest twitterers to the twits at Fox/Kingdom Holding News Channel seek to silence Chauncey DeVega's so-called "racism" as they are quick to condemn and police the behavior of every Black person outside the conservative fold. Ultimately, a Black man speaking his mind about the behavior of a Black conservative without the permission of white overseers, and without apologies or reservation, is an affront to their white authority.

To white states rights conservatives, this is bad behavior. Moreover, it is bad behavior that must be punished. Preferably, with repeated epithet strings like like "you're on the Democrat plantation"; "only Black conservatives (i.e. 5% of Black voters or less) think for themselves"; The KKK is the Democrats Robert Byrd; Nazis are Socialists; Read some Ayn Rand, etc. etc. etc.. We observed this behavior from freeper after freeper over at Alternet.

Nobody with common sense buys their stale old Reconstruction-era hysteria. This is the fundamental issue conservatives have with Chauncey DeVega's article, and his subsequent, rage-inducing refusal to be intimidated by even the loudest, most obnoxious Right-wing bullies.

For Herman Cain's part, he is simply using this as a free publicity grab. He should be thanking Chauncey DeVega and giving him 15% for putting Cain on the cultural map, instead of leaving him to stew in Tea Party obscurity.

At A Crossroads of Cognitive Dissonance: The Leftwing of the Far Right

Despite what the paleoconservatives at Outside the Beltway would have us believe, images out of race minstrelsy are ugly. So is minstrelsy-inspired talk like "Sambo beat the bitch" if that was actually uttered (personally, I doubt it.) Who can blame white state's rights conservatives for wanting to distance themselves from this history?

At present, the mainstream state's rights crowd and affiliated Tea Partiers seem to be testing out another remedy.

Armed with language and concepts stolen from liberals, the left wing of the far Right is on the march. They are bringing the conservative movement to a social crossroads.

This week, we saw all manner of state's rights conservatives labeling the entire left "racists" who, like Chauncey DeVega, victimize them with "hate speech". The late 20th and early days of the 21st centuries are apparently moments when the bizarre and surreal have seemingly become the new normal and mundane.

Conservative gays like GOProud attend CPAC. Even Glenn Beck says same sex marriage isn't a threat to America and shouldn't be a priority of the right. Sarah Palin wears the label "feminist" with in-your-face aplomb, and, seeimingly, singlehandedly introduced the concept of "misogyny" to the same right-wing males who have spent the past twenty years denying it's existence. Now, they use the term with relish against anyone who disagree with her policies. The feminists who did not vote for Mrs. Palin are now "the sexists".

Two years ago, no conservative would be caught dead engaging in such leftist Marxist progressive politically-correct anti-liberty speech. Today, it's the norm in many of their circles. However ironic and problematic, given their backgrounds the lemmings cheering on Herman Cain at CPAC are going to have a much tougher time repackaging themselves as mavens of diversity and true inheritors of the mantle of abolitionism and civil rights.

During the Civil Rights era, state's rights conservatives such as the John Birch Society (which bankrolls CPAC) and Ezra Taft Benson (Glenn Beck's favorite), routinely labeled MLK and any other civil rights workers Communists, Socialists, or Marxists. They were in the right-wing gaze people who were unable to think for themselves.

Today, the GOP runs candidates who dress as Nazi war criminals in their spare time. Their gubernatorial candidate for New York sends these emails to friends on the taxpayer dime. Conservative Republicans permit governors to impose Confederate History Month onto the public, and dig in their heels when others allow KKK members to be commemorated on state license plates. A Republican women's organization in South Carolina recently held a "Southern Experience" ball, complete with Confederate generals (Glenn McConnell, R - SC State Senate President), and rent-a-slaves. McConnell's colleague in the senate, Jake Knotts, called other GOP politicians "ragheads".

For me, this grand burlesque of extreme cognitive dissonance has been the week's entertainment. Save for a couple shows on Fox and the usual suspects on the Right-wing side of these Internets, their predictable antics in trying to shut down Chauncey DeVega turned out to be a flop. In a tragicomedy of sorts, conservatives have become the very anti-First Amendment PC police they have spent the past two decades decrying. And it is high comedy watching them try to fulfill this role on the public stage.