Obama’s Citizenship & Race: Separated at Birth?

It never ceases to amaze me how eager some white liberals are to divorce race from political analysis when it comes to Obama. Bob Somerby of the Daily Howler (who seems to have settled nicely into his blogospheric role as the curmudgeonly Luddite uncle who refuses to replace his black and white TV with a flat-screen plasma because, goddammit, a 10″ Zenith was good enough for Al Gore back in college) has been relentless in his contention that wingnut animus towards the 2nd blackest president ever is simply par for the course when you’re a Dem. Even Birtherism is merely a burden that anyone with a ‘D’ following their name must bear.

Brendan Nyhan approvingly quotes:

Bob Somerby of The Daily Howler objects to the liberal conventional wisdom that, as the New York Times put it, “It is inconceivable that this campaign [birtherism]… would have been conducted against a white president”:

We think it was a remarkable statement because somewhat similar campaigns already have been conducted against white candidates. A somewhat similar campaign was conducted in 1988 against Candidate Michael Dukakis, for instance. After that, strains of the same ethnic/nativist cards were played against Candidate Kerry in 2004.

Somewhat similar except, well, they aren’t — unless one can recall a protracted disinformation campaign against either individual questioning their bloody American citizenship (rather than, eg, their patriotism, a more common line of attack faced by the left) that managed to drive the news cycle for well over 3 years. Nyhan himself acknowledges that Obama’s “unique” life circumstances have driven the way conspiratorial attacks are framed, before trying to use Chester A. Arthur as a counterexample of a white president who also faced baseless attacks on his citizenship. Which is true, except, as again noted by Nyhan, those attacks were framed in the context of Arthur’s Irish identity.

In the 1800s.

(No need to apply, natch.)

So, um, yeah,  nativist attacks against a member of a marginalized ethnic group clearly prove that race isn’t really a factor when it comes to Birtherism.

Look, no matter how many counterarguments are offered, one shouldn’t discount the fact that Obama’s ethnic identity affects the tone and tenor of attacks being leveled against him, and how said attacks are received by the general public (without twisting one’s contentions into Gordian-like contortions, that is). From the beginning, race has influenced how we frame this issue (much like Clinton’s identity as an ex-’60s radical boomer fed into the still-lingering divide of an America embroiled in the Culture Wars, or W’s class background and swaggering anti-intellectualism shaped how he was portrayed and perceived, both by supporters and detractors). To point that out isn’t to label any and all critics or criticism racist (though, obviously, some are), but, again, to try and properly contextualize.

Political opportunists jump on any and all opportunities; for some, Obama’s racial identity presents an all-too-tempting opening for baseless attacks that, if leveled against, say, Ronald Reagan or Jimmy Carter, would hold no traction.

On a less analytical note, it’s frustrating to be constantly lectured about what is and isn’t ‘racist’ by those who, quite frankly, have no lived experience with racism, merely in abstract. For many of us, this isn’t an intellectual exercise. When we see Obama’s citizenship in question on a mass scale, we recall all the myriad times some cluelessly earnest soul has asked us where we’re from originally (because apparently dark skin in a normatively white culture instantly screams ‘other’), an all-too familiar suspicion that, through Birtherism, has now been magnified to ridiculous proportions.

Yes, based on past history, any Dem holding the keys to the Oval Office would likely be subject to a dishonest scorched earth smear campaign by the GOP and associated right-wing partisans. But that doesn’t mean Birtherism is simply par for the course. Obama is being attacked because he’s a Democratic POTUS and because he’s a scary person of colour with a funny name.

It’s not an either/or proposition.

(x-posted)

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Advertisements

Of Patriarchy and Paradox.

So, um, Happy New Year, kids. We at bastard.logic are proud to kick off 2011 with the debut of our newest co-blogger, Amy Lauren, whom you’ll no doubt be seeing quite a bit of as the year progresses. – mb

Being a girl has become undesirable somehow, something to mock.  Women are expected to behave like men on emotional level in order to gain their acceptance.  I admit I’ve experienced feeling compelled to go against the “girly-girl” stereotype on a base level from the time I was old enough to perceive the reaction it evoked from the opposite gender.  Always ready to roll my eyes at the behaviour of my female peers for the benefit of a guy.  At the time I thought it made me cool, individualistic, set me apart from the flock.  Now I wonder if I have always been naturally inclined to sell out my gender to please men?  As an ardent feminist this notion is vaguely disturbing, while at the same time admitting that I haven’t entirely broken myself of this tendency.

For the twenty-thirty-something this seems to play out significantly in sexual relationships.  Somehow if you’re not to be considered this negative girly-girl type you must treat sex in a casual sense.  Seriously, if I had a nickel for every time I heard “I’m not looking for anything serious…” well, you know.  The marriage and babies obsessed set was never my bag, but I internalized the notion to the point that it seemed okay to deny myself anything meaningful and long term as long as my physical needs were kinda-sorta met.  As it turns out, meaningless sex is not my bag either.

So what’s a girl to do?

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Louis CK: “If you’re white and you don’t admit that it’s great you’re an *SSHOLE!”

by matttbastard

A must-watch for Uncle Pat and the rest of the fauxgrieved “WHITE FOLKS UNDER SIEGE!!11” brigade.

(Buchanan pwnage h/t Hubbit)

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Read This Now: “To be active is the difference between freedom and submission.”

by matttbastard

Renee brings the awesome with this passionate, inspiring must-read post on patriarchy, culture, and ‘the cycle of victimology’:

While I am certainly not in the position to judge another on the coping mechanisms which they employ to survive our racist, patriarchal culture, I do know that we need to be conscious of why we take on certain labels and how the interpretations of others impacts our decisions.  Allowing another to discern and control what the issues that effect our lives  entail is nothing more than a form of submission in the guise of owning victimology.

We are more than what someone does to us.  Each day when we wake, we make small decisions that have the potential to lead to great change.  It is because we have been understood as powerless that these actions continually fail to merit the respect that they deserve.  We can actively choose not to participate in conversations in which we have been declared unwelcome, or we can kick the door down and demand our voices be heard.  This is not the action of a militant, but the actions of a person that refuses to be the eternal victim so that others may patronize our struggle.  To be active is the difference between freedom and submission.

DJ rewind:

We are more than what someone does to us.

Yes, that.

As they say, read the whole damn thing.

Go on, read it.

Now.

Go.

h/t Sarah

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Various Reads

by matttbastard

Today looks to be a busy one in the meatworld, so here’s are some recommended reads to keep you distracted until I can find some time to throw up something substantial:

James Carroll, What the pirates say, Boston Globe

Javier Marias, Déjà Vu All Over Again, The New Republic

Marie Cocco, Where Are the Female Arnold Schwarzeneggers?, WaPo Writers Group

Azadeh Dastyari, The detained refugees Obama will not free, The Age

Robert Weissman, The 10 Worst Corporations of 2008, Multinational Monitor

Charles P. Pierce, Torn Up, Boston Globe Magazine

James Surowiecki, The Perils of Efficiency, The New Yorker

Tamura Lomax, William R. Jones Revisited: Is God a Racist Misogynist?, Religion Dispatches

Michelle Goldberg, Proposition 8, The Mormon Coming Out Party, Religion Dispatches

John Harwood, Change Is Landing in Old Hands, New York Times

Gary Younge, Americans have never felt so excited, and yet so depressed, The Guardian

Elaine Scarry, Presidential Crimes, The Boston Review

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Getting Used to a Black President – Melissa Harris-Lacewell

by matttbastard

ForaTV:

Political scientist Melissa Harris-Lacewell examines how Barack Obama may affect Americans’ conceptualization of race and the Presidency, should he be elected to the position.

Full video here.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers