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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Clint Eastwood: "What's the big deal with racist jokes?"

The London Daily Mail reports on everybody's favorite sensitive tough white guy's opnions on political correctness interfering with a good racist joke, as told to Germany's Der Spiegal magazine. Sounds like maybe Dirty Harry wasn't just PLAYING a bigot in his latest movie. No wonder he didn't win "best actor." Sad. Just, sad.

Clint Eastwood goes gunning for PC killjoys by saying we should laugh at race-based jokes

By Allan Hall
Last updated at 1:16 AM on 26th February 2009

Clint Eastwood, who is promoting his new film Gran Torino, says political correctness has gone too far

Clint Eastwood believes the rise of political correctness is no laughing matter.

He says the world would be a better place if we could still laugh at inoffensive jokes about different races.

The Hollywood actor and director, 78, said we live in constant fear of being labelled racist for simply laughing about national stereotypes.

'People have lost their sense of humour,' he told Germany's Der Spiegel magazine.

'In former times we constantly made jokes about different races.

'You can only tell them today with one hand over your mouth otherwise you will be insulted as a racist.

'I find that ridiculous. In those earlier days every friendly clique had a "Sam the Jew" or "Jose the Mexican" - but we didn't think anything of it or have a racist

'It was normal that we made jokes based on our nationality or ethnicity. That was never a problem.

''I don't want to be politically correct. We're all spending too much time and energy trying to be politically correct about everything.'

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hip Hop Chess Federation

Here's a plug for my Facebook friend's organization doing good work:

Adisa Banjoko is CEO of the Hip Hop Chess Federation, which is dedicated to providing an inclusive setting for individuals to interact, play and develop life strategy skills with people they perceive as mentors.

"Despite the school system's best efforts and intentions, and the efforts of overworked parents, the past generations have suffered from lack of suitable education and essential resources required for a successful life," states Adisa Banjoko. "We recognize that chess, martial arts and hip-hop unify people from multiple cultural, religious and social backgrounds. These black and white squares do not care what color you are or if you are rich or poor. The only thing they ask is that you come with your strategy, your patience and your skills."

Along with recreational activities, the Hip Hop Chess Federation also provides life strategy workshops and sponsor-supported education scholarships. Studies show chess provides invaluable life lessons such as patience, personal accountability, focus, emotional intelligence and understanding the consequences of one's actions before one acts.

They've got an event called "Mind over Matter II -- Celebrity Tournament" tomorrow in San Francisco (they've been active on both coasts). Check it out at, or Good Morning America video at

Good luck, Adisa and friends!

Two Very Different Christian Responses to the NY Post Cartoon, etc.

My friends at published a piece by my friend, the editor of Baptist Today, which takes to task the simple-minded, post-racial attitude of two many right-wing Christians (and lots of other folks, too). I especially liked this line by Pierce: "On this subject in particular, white evangelical Christians need to shut up about how to 'fix' the race problem and spend more time seriously contemplating why our own history of race relations is so deeply marred." Yea!!!!!!!!!!!

(link at found at Pierce's blog at

Posted: Thursday, February 26, 2009 12:03 am
A Time for Not Talking About Race | John D. Pierce

Southern Baptist editor Kelly Boggs’ recent column in Baptist Press reveals why white conservative Christians are not taken seriously in needed discussions about race.

The editor of the Louisiana Baptist Convention newspaper, Baptist Message, addressed the controversy over a political cartoon in the New York Post that many considered offensive—believing it to portray President Obama as a chimp. These racial sensitivities are understandable since for generations such racist portrayals have been common.

But white-guy Boggs is quick to give his white-guy perspective with comments like: “I saw nothing racial in the Post cartoon.” “So long as some in our country see racism behind every wrong, every comment and in every cartoon, we will never make progress on the issue of race or be able to put the real racists in their place.” “I do not believe that the Post cartoon contained any racial message.”

Then Boggs quotes and agrees with the equally white, religious right figure Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council—who said that the solution to racial reconciliation is found “in a more aggressive church where we unite around ideals rooted not in skin color but in Jesus Christ.”

While such lofty affirmations sound so-o-o spiritual, they ignore the reality that white evangelical churches have been a major part of the problem, not the solution to racism. An “aggressive church” is where racial discrimination was theologically justified and its related prejudices were reinforced within the faithful for decades.

Evangelical Christianity was a major obstacle to America’s quest for civil rights—in which the “ideals rooted … in Jesus Christ” concerning human equality were ignored or misconstrued by bad biblical interpretations.

Therefore, the words of white (especially Southern) evangelical Christians ring hollow. And Boggs is in no position to tell African Americans what they should or should not find offensive.

On this subject in particular, white evangelical Christians need to shut up about how to “fix” the race problem and spend more time seriously contemplating why our own history of race relations is so deeply marred.

Southern evangelicals have no more moral authority to speak on issues of race than the Roman Catholic Church does on sexual ethics. Such authority is granted—not grabbed.

Long reflection, ongoing confession and honest repentance must precede any meaningful proclamation. Maybe years after humbly confessing our sins—and acknowledging our capacity for hate and our inability to read scripture correctly when it goes against the grain of our culture and economic benefit—then we can offer a fresh word.

But now is the time to quietly and repeatedly ask ourselves and one another more troubling questions like:

How could we have missed such a basic biblical truth as the equality of all people? How could we treat fellow Americans—even sisters and brothers in Christ—as of less than equal value?

Why has racism been fostered by the very people who claim Jesus as Lord? How could so-called Christian churches not even open their doors to people of all races?

And perhaps more importantly: Where are our blind spots today? To whom will we need to apologize in the days and years ahead for our current sins of oppression and exclusion?

President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder—the first African Americans to hold their respective positions—have rightly called for more open, honest dialogue about race. But the best contribution from many of us would be to shut up and listen.

White evangelical Christians are not going to bridge the racial divide with proclamations that attempt to define what is and is not racism or try to quick-fix the centuries-old problem with spiritually-wrapped statements of simplicity.

Sure, it is more satisfying to tell other people the answers to all of their questions than to wrestle with our own. And we Baptists and other conservative Christians aren’t very good at the hard work of reflection, repentance and relationship building.

We like to talk—and act as if our latest opinion is the right one for everyone else to embrace. But our past actions do not afford us such a position on the subject of race. It is a time to shut up, reflect deeply and listen to others.

John D. Pierce is executive editor of Baptists Today

Response to Holder's Speech

Here is a good article I came across: says that while Holder faced criticism for having the gall to say that race is still a problem, the real problem with his comments were that they were aimed at individual biases, not embedded institutional ones. (Link at My thanks to Aikeem Cooper for posting this on Facebook

Color-Blind, Power-Oblivious:
Eric Holder and the White washing of Racism

By Tim Wise

February 22, 2009

It was all too predictable that Attorney General Eric Holder would be attacked for his recent remarks about race in America. To suggest that the nation is still haunted by the specter of racism is unacceptable it seems, especially since, with the election of President Obama, we have ostensibly entered the "post-racial" era.

But in truth, the nation's chief law enforcement officer deserves criticism more for what he didn't say than for what he did.

Specifically, Holder blamed personal cowardice for our racial divide, rather than institutionalized inequities, thereby minimizing his own Department's role in solving the problem; and he blamed everyone (and thus no one in particular) for being cowards, thereby letting white Americans--who have always been the ones least willing to engage the subject--off our uniquely large hook.

This combination of power-obliviousness (ignoring discrimination and unequal access to resources, while focusing merely on attitudes) and color-blindness (suggesting that everyone is equally at fault and equivalently unwilling to discuss racism) is a popular lens through which to view these matters. Indeed, the Oscar-winning film "Crash" was based almost entirely on these two tropes. But such a lens distorts our vision, and obscures true understanding of the phenomenon being observed.

The racial divide about which Holder spoke, particularly in terms of the neighborhoods where people live, is not the result of some abstract cowardice to engage one another. Rather, it is about the racist fears of whites, who decades ago began leaving neighborhoods when blacks began to move in. They didn't move because of declining property values, as they often claimed (indeed economic logic dictates that the rapid white exodus, not the black demand for housing, would cause such an outcome), but because of racism.

And in their fears, these whites were assisted by government policy, which subsidized their flight via FHA and VA loans that were all but off limits to people of color. This is how (and why) the suburbs came to be. From the 1940s to the early 60s, over $120 billion in home loans were made to whites, preferentially, thanks to these government efforts, while blacks and other persons of color were excluded from the same. Indeed, about half of all homes purchased by white families during this time were financed thanks to these low-interest loans, while folks of color remained locked in cities, their dwellings and businesses often knocked down to make way for the very interstates that would shuttle their white counterparts to the suburbs where only they could live.

We remain residentially divided today because of the legacy of those apartheid-like policies, as well as ongoing race-based housing discrimination: between 2 million and 3.7 million incidents per year according to private estimates. It is the AG's job to do something about that by enforcing the Fair Housing Act, not pleading for more dialogue. As Elvis once said, albeit about a very different subject, we need "a little less conversation, a little more action, please."

Holder also pulled a punch by issuing his charge of personal cowardice indiscriminately, as if to say that everyone was equally averse to tackling the subject of racism. But people of color have always voiced their concerns about the matter. It is whites who have tended to shut down, to change the subject, or to minimize the problem by telling those who mention it to "get over it already," or by accusing them of "playing the race card."

As exhibit one for this charge, consider the way in which most of white America has reacted to the recent New York Post cartoon, in which police officers gun down a wild ape, meant to represent the author of the stimulus bill; and this, directly opposite a picture of President Obama signing that very piece of legislation. That such an image trades on longstanding racist stereotypes is apparent to most folks of color, and yet, most of white America has yawned through the controversy, or worse, accused blacks enraged by the image of hypersensitivity. Likewise, most whites reacted with unaffected diffidence at the New Year's day videotape from the Oakland subway, in which a white police officer coolly executed a black man by the name of Oscar Grant, despite Grant putting up no resistance, possessing no weapon, and posing no threat to the officer. On message boards in the Bay Area--supposedly filled with progressive types to hear locals tell it--whites regularly expressed more outrage at protesters demanding justice for the Grant family, than at officer Mehserle for committing cold-blooded murder.

Sadly, whites are rarely open to what black and brown folks have to say regarding their ongoing experiences with racist mistreatment. And we are especially reluctant to discuss what that mistreatment means for us as whites: namely that we end up with more and better opportunities as the flipside of discrimination. After all, there is no down without an up, no matter how much we'd like to believe otherwise.

It is white denial, as much as anything, which has allowed racial inequity to persist for so long, and it's nothing new. In the early 1960s, even before the passage of modern civil rights laws, two out of three whites said blacks were treated equally, and nearly 90 percent said black kids had equal educational opportunity. Matter of fact, white denial has a longer pedigree than that, reaching back at least as far as the 1860s, when southern slave-owners were literally stunned to see their human property abandon them after the Emancipation Proclamation. After all, to the semi-delusional white mind of the time, they had always treated their slaves "like family."

Until we address our nation's long history of white supremacy, come to terms with the legacy of that history, and confront the reality of ongoing discrimination (even in the "Age of Obama"), whatever dialogue we engage around the subject will only further confuse us, and stifle our efforts to one day emerge from the thick and oppressive fog of racism. For however much audacity may be tethered to the concept of hope, let us be mindful that truth is more audacious still. May we find the courage, some day soon, to tell it.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ray Burris, contin.

The new senator from Illinois keeps the corrupt administration of Gov. Blago on the front pages long after the pols hoped that Blago's removal from office would put things to rest. With every new revelation, the quick flip-flop to accept Blago's appointment of Burris looks like a big mistake. My opinion is--Burris had all the scrutiny coming as soon as he agreed to appear on the same stage as the disgraced Blago, smiling and acting all buddy-buddy with a man whose actions have done my home state big-time harm. Burris was a state-wide elected official (comptroller, I think) way back when I was in Illinois up through 1984. I guess he never fulfilled his electoral aspirations--maybe racism was a factor. Still, his willingness to accept this appointment (after reportedly one or two others had turned Blago down) smacks of opportunism, and the continuing revelations of his contacts with Blago's circle over fundraising and the appearance of a quid pro quo between that and the appointment as senator call into question Burris's integrity. That's my opinion, anyway.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

New York Post Cartoon

Oh, yeah, about the cartoon with the chimp shot dead and the cop saying, "Who we gonna get next time we need a stimulus bill signed?" or some such rot:

Dumb, just dumb.....I mean, 7th grade idiot not-funny attempt at humor dumb. I decent middle school student editor would have nixed this tripe.

Best comment I heard on it was on NPR's call-in show Talk of the Nation. Someone sent in this reaction:

I don't think the lady whose face was mauled almost beyond recongnition would find it funny.
I don't think the lady whose chimp was killed would find it funny.
I don't think the thousands of people, mostly young black males, who are shot by police each year would find it funny.
And I don't think our first African American president would find it funny.

'Nuff said.

Eric Holder's Provocative Speech

Re: our new Attonrey General's speaking out on the need to talk honestly about race--I couldn't agree more (that's the point of this blog, as well as the goal of my career in sociology) It's a shame, though, that what the media pick out as a headline is the "nation of cowards" soundbyte. I guess Holder could have anticipated that, and chosen his words more carefully. Oh, well...


Holder: US a nation of cowards on racial matters

By DEVLIN BARRETT, Associated Press Writer Devlin Barrett, Associated Press Writer – Wed Feb 18, 9:36 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Eric Holder, the nation's first black attorney general, said Wednesday the United States was "a nation of cowards" on matters of race, with most Americans avoiding candid discussions of racial issues. In a speech to Justice Department employees marking Black History Month, Holder said the workplace is largely integrated but Americans still self-segregate on the weekends and in their private lives.

"Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and I believe continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards," Holder said.

Race issues continue to be a topic of political discussion, but "we, as average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race."

Holder's speech echoed President Barack Obama's landmark address last year on race relations during the hotly contested Democratic primaries, when the then-candidate urged the nation to break "a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years" and bemoaned the "chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races." Obama delivered the speech to try to distance himself from the angry rhetoric of his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Holder cited that speech by Obama as part of the motivation for his words Wednesday, saying Americans need to overcome an ingrained inhibition against talking about race.

"If we're going to ever make progress, we're going to have to have the guts, we have to have the determination, to be honest with each other. It also means we have to be able to accept criticism where that is justified," Holder told reporters after the speech.

In the speech, Holder urged people of all races to use Black History Month as a chance for honest discussion of racial matters, including issues of health care, education and economic disparities.

Race, Holder said, "is an issue we have never been at ease with and, given our nation's history, this is in some ways understandable... If we are to make progress in this area, we must feel comfortable enough with one another and tolerant enough of each other to have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us."

In a country founded by slave owners, race has bedeviled the nation throughout its history, with blacks denied the right to vote just a few decades ago. Obama's triumph last November as well as the nomination of Holder stand as historic achievements of two black Americans.

Holder told hundreds of Justice Department employees gathered for the event that they have a special responsibility to advance racial understanding.

Even when people mix at the workplace or afterwork social events, Holder argued, many Americans in their free time are still segregated inside what he called "race-protected cocoons."

"Saturdays and Sundays, America in the year 2009 does not in some ways differ significantly from the country that existed almost 50 years ago. This is truly sad," said Holder.

Matt Miller, a spokesman for Holder, said later the attorney general used "provocative words to be clear that Americans of all races should stop avoiding the difficult issues of race."

Andrew Grant-Thomas, Deputy Director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University, praised Holder's general message but said the wording of the speech may alienate some.

"He's right on the substance, but that's probably not the most politic way of saying it. I'm certain there are people who will hear him and say, 'That's obnoxious,'" he said, adding that what was missing from Holder's speech were specific examples of what painful subjects need to be addressed.

Hilary Shelton, vice president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, called the speech "constructively provocative."

"Nobody wants to be considered a coward. We've learned to get along by exclusion and silence. We need to talk about it. People need to feel comfortable saying the wrong things," said Shelton