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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Race and the Rock Era

OK, so my ethnocentrism (that sounds more palatable than racism, doesn't it?) showed itself just now--I read a teaser on Yahoo about Rolling Stone magazine's poll of top 100 singers of the rock era. The teaser said Elvis was NOT number 1 in the poll, but rather number 3, thus inviting the reader to guess the two ranked ahead of him before clicking the article. (http://music.yahoo.com/read/news/61852568)

I guessed two other white boys--Springsteen and Bono. Turns out the two ahead of him are both black--Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles. My only, weak defense is that I read "of the rock era" as meaning "of the rock (and roll) music genre." Yeah, right, like I said, a pretty weak defense--latent racism is the more plausible explanation.

Turns out that blacks dominate the Top 10 on this poll: 1. Aretha Franklin; 2. Ray Charles; 4. Sam Cooke; 6. Marvin Gaye; 8. Otis Redding; 9. Stevie Wonder; and 10. James Brown. (The whites are 3. Elvis; 5. John Lennon and 7. Bob Dylan--in his case, using the term "singer" loosely!)

Of course, in our officially color-blind society, we can't POINT OUT in the article the dominance of blacks--it might be taken as a criticism, or a statement of black superiority, or something, so the article only points out the prponderance of dead over living artists in the top 10.

Just makes you realize that this color-blind nonsense deprives us of recognizing and enjoying the diverse colors of the human rainbow.

P.S. It's also worth noting that the poll was of industry insiders, not of readers. Had it been readers, I doubt the outcome would have reflected quite the same impact and influence of African-American singers since the mid-1950's.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

More Blather about Obama's ascention meaning the end of racism

Oh, boy, here we go again, another AP writer telling us how Obama's election to the highest office in the land means the end of race as the primary organizing principle in our society.
"Obama victory opens door to new black identity" shouts the headline of the article by JESSE WASHINGTON, and the article starts with "Shortly after leaving the voting booth, 70-year-old community activist Donald E. Robinson had a thought: 'Why do I have to be listed as African-American? Why can't I just be American?'

The answer used to be simple: because a race-obsessed society made the decision for him. But after Barack Obama's mind-bending presidential victory, there are rumblings of change in the nature of black identity and the path to economic equality for black Americans.

Before Tuesday, black identity and community were largely rooted in the shared experience of the struggle — real or perceived — against a hostile white majority. Even as late as Election Day, many blacks still harbored deep doubts about whether whites would vote for Obama.

Obama's overwhelming triumph cast America in a different light."


Don't get me wrong: I'm happy as can be that Obama won. I know that his election is a great milestone. It is a sign of how far we've come. But as long as we live in the school and residential segregation we are in, as long as the prisons are filled with black men sentenced 100 times as stiffly for their crack crimes as whites are for their powder cocaine, etc.--Mr. Robinsons can call and think of himself however he wants, but the majority of whites, at least, in this society are still gonna see black first, American later.

Another part of the article got under my skin: "Certainly racism did not disappear after Obama's white votes were counted. No one is claiming that black culture and pride and community are no longer valuable. Many also dismiss the idea of a "post-racial" America as long as blacks and other minorities are still disproportionately afflicted by disparities in income, education, health, incarceration and single parenthood.

But white groups that once faced discrimination, such as the Italians, Jews and Irish, have moved from the margins to the mainstream. America debated whether John F. Kennedy could become the first Catholic president; now that's a historical footnote."
"

Another tired old comparison of blacks to white ethnics, as if the same route of assimilation and absorbsion into our mainstream society is open to blacks.As if Italians, Jews and Irish were kidnapped, packed like sardines in the hole of a ship, sold as property if they survived the journey, bred like livestock, lynched with impunity, considered more ape than human, etc. Besides that, perhaps assimilation like the Irish would be a BAD thing for blacks, basically a selling of soul for a piece of pie. Anyway, I thought an AP writer would know better than to bring up that argument/hope. Guess I'm naive.

"Mutts Like Me"

Obama's first news conference: refers to himself and other mixed-race folks as "mutts." Interesting--I wonder if he offended any of his fellow mixed-race folks? Also, the writer takes this as an indication that Obama is gonna be open in discussing race. That's reading a bit much into one off-hand comment, don't you think? He avoided the issue like the plague (with good reason) for most of his campaign. Also, the writer brings up that popular doomsday forecast: "Extra! Extra! Read all about it! We Whites will be a minority in our own country in X years!" and calls it "fortuitous" that we have a prez who is at ease discussing race, because, by golly, we only got 35 years to sort out our comfort level as a nation, because, like I said, "Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Whites will be a minority in 2042!" Of course, it is actually NON-HISPANIC whites, and chances are that eaither or both of Hispanic whites and (at least some) Asians will be admitted into the "White CLub" as at least probationary whites by that time. Anyway, here is the news story:
(http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081108/ap_on_el_pr/mutts_like_me)

'Mutts like me' - Obama shows ease discussing race
By ALAN FRAM, Associated Press
WASHINGTON – It popped out casually, a throwaway line as he talked to reporters about finding the right puppy for his young daughters.

But with just three offhanded words in his first news conference as president-elect, Barack Obama reminded everyone how thoroughly different his administration — and inevitably, this country — will be.

"Mutts like me."

By now, almost everyone knows that Obama's mother was white and father was black, putting him on track to become the nation's first African-American president. But there was something startling, and telling, about hearing his self-description — particularly in how offhandedly he used it.

The message seemed clear — here is a president who will be quite at ease discussing race, a complex issue as unresolved as it is uncomfortable for many to talk about openly. And at a time when whites in the country are not many years from becoming the minority.

Obama made the remark as he revealed his thinking in what is becoming one of the highest-profile issues of this transition period: What kind of puppy will he and his wife, Michelle, get for their daughters as they move into the White House.

Because Malia, 10, has allergies, the family wants a low-allergy dog. But Obama said they also want to adopt a puppy from an animal shelter, which could make it harder to find a breed that wouldn't aggravate his daughter's problem.

"Obviously, a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me," Obama said with a smile. "So whether we're going to be able to balance those two things, I think, is a pressing issue on the Obama household."

In his first postelection news conference, the man who will be president in just over two months described himself as a mutt as casually as he may have poked fun at his jump shot.

If he thought nothing of such a remark in his first news conference, doesn't that signal that over the next four years, the country is likely to hear more about race from the White House — and from the perspective of a black man — than it ever has before?

It's not necessarily that he will make a crusade about the issue once he takes office. There was little sign of that in his election campaign, in which he ran on issues like the economy with a broad appeal to all Americans.

But it does underscore that the president-elect clearly does not see race as a subject best sidestepped or discussed in hushed tones. To Obama, race in all its complications has long been a defining part of his life, and he is comfortable talking about it.

The timing seems fortuitous. Obama will be sworn in as the country is rapidly becoming more racially diverse. The latest government projections indicate that by 2042, white people will make up less than half the nation's population.

Blacks have been elected to local and statewide office in growing numbers in recent years, a sign that the country is becoming more tolerant. Obama lost the white vote to Republican John McCain by 12 percentage points, according to exit polls of voters — a better showing than Democrat John Kerry's 17-point deficit with whites four years ago.

Still, a conversation about race over the next four years that is more open and explicit than the country has ever heard from its president can't be bad, can it?

Obama's comment was all the more noteworthy coming from a man who just ended a presidential campaign in which he stayed relentlessly on-message and made few comments that could be hurled against him. This is a man who can limit himself to saying exactly what he wants to say — usually.

One remark that did haunt him came during his long-running primary campaign against Hillary Rodham Clinton. Speaking at a private fundraiser in San Francisco, Obama said some residents of depressed rural areas get bitter and "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them."

Eager to avoid slips like that in the campaign's closing days, Obama usually avoided reporters and seldom departed from prepared remarks.

At his news conference Friday, Obama seemed less guarded. But that led to another eyebrow-raising moment.

Obama told reporters that he has turned for advice to all "living" former presidents. But he then joked, "I didn't want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about, you know, doing any seances."

The former first lady actually has not been linked to conversations with the dead. President Reagan's former chief of staff, Donald Regan, did write that she set her husband's schedule with the help of an astrologist.

Obama called Mrs. Reagan late Friday to apologize.

Ironically, Obama's remarks came just a day after Italy's Premier Silvio Berlusconi, in an apparent joke, described Obama as "young, handsome and even tanned." Critics called the comment racist, while Berlusconi defended it as a compliment.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election

First off: "WWWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO HHHOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!"

Having said that: the first person to use Obama's election as proof that we live in a "post-racial, color-blind society" gets a cold slap in the face...

Interesting comment on the changing demographics of the electorate:
"What's most interesting about early results is not just how many people voted but the shifting demographic of American voters, said Stephen Ansolabehere, a political science professor at Harvard and MIT.

Using exit polling data, Ansolabehere determined that whites made up 74 percent of the 2008 electorate. That's down considerably from 81 percent in 2000 because of increase in black and Hispanic voting, he said.

"That's a big shift in terms of demographic composition of the electorate," Ansolabehere said early Wednesday." (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081105/ap_on_el_pr/voter_turnout)

My comment: "Ought oh, watch out white America, we're losing our grip on control!"
All sarcasm aside: if those numbers are accurate, and don't simply reflect some change in self-identity among some Hispanic whites and mixed-race folks, that is a rather astounding shift in the span of just 8 years: the "white majority" proportion of the electorate dropping from 81% to 74% in that time. At that rate, my rough estimate is that (non-Hispanic) whites will be about 65% in another 8 years, under 2/3'rds. "The sky is falling!!!!! The sky is falling!!!!" LOL