Apparently, Anthony Cumia, the shock jock better known as half of the duo “Opie and Anthony,” had a bad Tuesday night in New York. He claims that he was taking pictures when a woman just happened to wander into the frame and then assaulted him. If his account is true, it is highly unfortunate.
But whether or not Cumia was assaulted is not actually the point. Cumia himself made sure of that when he took to Twitter in the small hours on Wednesday morning to pontificate on the state of New York and African Americans in a rant amply documented by Gawker. (Both the Gawker post and links to Cumia’s tweets that appear later in this piece contain wildly obscene and offensive language.)
I first caught wind of Anthony Cumia’s tweets when one of my favourite rappers started retweeting them. At first I thought it was parody – some sort of tasteless piece of performance art that would be explained away as “satire”. My next reaction was to remember that the internet is full of people with opinions, and if you want to find hateful stuff out there, you can. But this wasn’t some anonymous nobody tweeting from some basement den for lulz, this was the host of a fairly popular radio show.
Unfortunately, the rest of this piece won’t make much sense if you don’t read the tweets, but for those of you who (wisely, I assure you) avoided clicking on the Gawker link in the pull-quote, I will attempt to summarize. Mr. Cumia claimed to have been taking photos when a black woman happened to enter the frame. She confronted Cumia angrily (allegedly physically assaulting him), and he responded by calling her a name*. A number of black men came to the aid of the young woman, who (again allegedly**) struck him repeatedly. In response to the confrontation, the assault, and the men taking the side of the assaulter rather than the assaultee, Cumia wrote a long and sweeping condemnation of the woman specifically, black people more generally, and (for some reason that eludes ready explanation) “illegals”. … Continue Reading
These days you can’t see who’s in cahoots, ’cause now the KKK wears 3-piece suits.
– Chuck D, “Rebirth”
In early August, 1969, members of Charles Manson’s “family” murdered Rosemary and Leno LaBianca. Police would find the words “Helter Skelter” written on the walls in the blood of one of the victims – a reference to Manson’s belief that a population of angry and disaffected black people would rise and violently confront their white oppressors. Manson’s intention was to use the murder of the LaBiancas and others to trigger the beginning of the “race war” that he knew was coming. It never materialized.
To this day, despite the track record of who the aggressors are in “race wars” (hint: it’s pretty much never black people), fears abound of an angry mob of savage blacks rising up and waging war on a beleaguered and long-suffering white population. In fact, in preparing to write this piece, I took a little trip through the Google looking glass and found repeated references to “the coming race war”, on pretty much exactly the kinds of sites you’d expect. Many of them made reference to the current “hidden” race war that only the likes of Glenn Beck seem to possess the wisdom to see. Remember the knockout game? Well these guys sure do, judging by the comment threads.
Whether it’s in Detroit or Black Wall Street or at Charles Manson’s house, white America has been in the thrall of its fear of “Helter Skelter” for pretty much forever. The myth, created and nurtured by white supremacy, of the savagery and inherent criminality of black people has resulted in repeated violent backlash against black communities. Backlash, incidentally, not against actual harms or danger, but against the fear of harm and danger that never seem to actually bear fruit. White America segregates itself from its black population, drinks deeply of its own racist stereotyping, becomes drunk on its own panic, and then arms itself to “defend” itself from the Negro bogeymen of its own imagination. With predictably tragic results.
By now the vast majority of you will have heard of the racist comments made by Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, an NBA team. Sterling was taped during a phone conversation with his girlfriend V. Stiviano, asking her not to bring black people to games with her. This is, apparently, part of a long history of racist comments made by Sterling over the course of this conversation and over a number of incidents stretching back many years. The response has been quick and severe, with players, owners, sports fans, and team sponsors all moving to condemn the comments and the man who made them.
Is Donald Sterling a racist?
Whether or not Donald Sterling is “a racist” is a question that I find profoundly boring. As I have said many times before, I do not recognize the validity of the category “a racist”. There seems to be no behaviour or set of behaviours that we can agree on to define what “a racist” is. All we know about “racists” are that nobody who is ever accused of being one, nor anyone who supports or is otherwise allied with the accused, will accept the label. Then there is something about how many bones in that person’s body are racist. And then some jiu-jitsu about who is really “a racist”. The pattern is as predictable as it is tiresome.
I am similarly not interested in writing a personal condemnation of Donald Sterling. I doubt he (or anyone else) would care if I did, and that ground is pretty well trod already. If you heard what Sterling said, and you don’t already think he’s a total scumbag, then I doubt that any combination of consonants and vowels could possibly convince you.
What I do want to do, however, is unpack what I think is a really revelatory statement made by Sterling in his recorded conversation. When Stivilano presses Sterling on the blatant racist content of the comments he’s made, and how it stands at odds with the fact that the players of the team he owns are predominantly black, Sterling is recorded as angrily responding: … Continue Reading
I have had a couple of people take some exception to the central thesis of this morning’s post, specifically the idea that white people by definition cannot experience racism:
white people are far less likely (some would say it is definitionally impossible) to experience racism than are PoC. It seems preposterous to assume that you, a person with no experience in the topic under discussion, would be in a position to lecture someone about that topic.
I want to take a careful look at the above quoted claim, and then attempt to respond to the criticisms in a satisfactory matter.
The easiest way for me to weasel out of the problem is to point out that I specifically use the words “some would say”, passing the burden of a response off to those “some”. I’m sure my critics wouldn’t find such a response particularly satisfactory, and neither do I. However, I do wish to clarify that there are some worthwhile definitions of racism that do not necessarily preclude the possibility of anti-white racism, which includes the one I have previously provided on this site. That definition – racism as the ascribing of group traits to an individual – would not exclude the possibility of white people being on the receiving end. There are lots of examples of white people being assumed to behave/believe a certain way based on their race, sometimes even with violent results.
In my zeal to make my point, I failed to account for these kinds of experiences, and that is a failure on my part. I apologize for that.
It is an interesting thing to observe that whenever I hear the term “real racist”, as in “maybe you’re the real racist here!”, it’s coming from the mouth of a white person. I have never heard a person of colour use this phrase either to a white person, let alone another PoC. I say “let alone” because maybe, just maybe, PoC trust each other to have a pretty accurate working definition of what racism is. Or maybe I’m reading too much into too little.
At either rate, the reason I find this little observation so fascinating is as follows: white people are far less likely (some would say it is definitionally impossible || EDIT: I have been asked to clarify this point, which I have done in a companion post) to experience racism than are PoC. It seems preposterous to assume that you, a person with no experience in the topic under discussion, would be in a position to lecture someone about that topic. It’s textbook ‘splaining. You’d have to have less than a spoonful of self-awareness to fail to see that.
It’s the “oh yeah, well if evolution is true why are there still monkeys?” of racial entitlement and ignorance. … Continue Reading
I am no great hand at satire. The screenplay I posted this morning was a sort of broad-spectrum attack on a bunch of different pet peeves of mine, but I’m not sure how much of that came across. So I’m writing this guide to explain the joke. If you’d rather not have it ruined for you that way, by all means skip this post. … Continue Reading
The social media world has been buzzing about Macklemore’s ‘Best Rap’ Grammy award and his subsequent self-aggrandizing behaviour immediately in its wake. The responses to criticisms of Macklemore – his win and his behaviour – have been impressive in their banal obviousness. Cries of ‘reverse racism’, the ever-popular refrain went up, Amanda Palmer said something stupid, and the edifice of colour-blind white supremacy trundled on, unfazed by the agonized screams of the PoC crushed in its wake.
With this in mind, I decided to lend my considerable writing talents to the creation of a film that finally, at long last, speaks to the suffering that white folks have to go through in our post-racial hellscape. I present a few choice scenes from a movie I tentatively call ‘Up Off The Mat’
(Setting: Harlem, New York City, daytime. Camera fades in on front steps of 28th Precinct HQ of NYPD. Music by Elvis Presley plays. MACK ELMORE jogs up front steps to door, gym bag over one shoulder, wearing t-shirt and track pants. Scene shifts to inside, ELMORE walks through police HQ. Most officers (like 80-90%) are black or Latino. They mostly ignore him as he heads toward LIEUTENANT WHITE’s office. Music fades as ELMORE knocks on WHITE’s door.)
CHIEF WHITE: (Looks up from papers) Come in!
MACK ELMORE: (Enters office) Sir?
WHITE: You must be the new guy. What was it? (fumbles with papers, searching for name) Edmore?
It is one of those sad and yet iron-clad laws of the internet that if you talk about race long enough, someone will accuse you of being a “race baiter” or “race hustler”. And because the people who say this aren’t terribly creative, you will also soon thereafter be accused of worshipping/fellating Al Sharpton, as though he is the only black person on the planet who discusses race. Perhaps more likely is that he’s the only black person on the planet they can name who isn’t an athlete or artist of some kind. So it goes.
When I have had this lazy accusation thrown my way, I have adopted the practice of asking my interlocutor to actually define what a “race baiter” is, as though I hadn’t heard the phrase before. Most of the time, unused as they are to having to actually think about the things they’re saying, the person will bluster their way through a series of insults and unimaginative aspersions before either quitting, or giving some form of the following definition:
Race-baiter (n.) – a person who inserts racial content into a discussion where race is not relevant for the purposes of winning the argument based on sympathy rather than the merits of their position.
I have, of course, translated the various responses I’ve received over the years into intelligible English for your sake. … Continue Reading
Horror films are a wonderful source of escapism, where we can feel the thrill of terror in the relative safety of our living rooms or a crowded movie theatre. One of the all-time classics within the horror genre is the zombie movie: hordes of shuffling, shambling atrocities hell-bent on devouring the flesh of the still-living. One of the iconic images of any good zombie movie is the panic-stricken victim of a zombie bite who is slowly turning from human into monster, as all morality and reason drains from their body while their comrades feverishly debate whether or not to put their erstwhile friend out of hir ‘misery’ courtesy of a well-timed shotgun blast to the face.
Right now, as you read this, some well-intentioned white kid on the internet is posting a link to this video. In it, the actor Morgan Freeman states that the way to solve racism is to stop talking about it. Specifically, Freeman says that if the host stops seeing him (Freeman) as “a black man”, then he will stop seeing the host as “a white man” and they can presumably just be man-friends and hold hands under a double rainbow or something. Needless to say, I am far from impressed by both the content and the ubiquity of this clip, as it serves more to confirm the “I don’t need to do anything” impulses of white people who haven’t given much thought to the matter beforehand.
For my part, I much prefer John Legend’s response to a very similar question. And I think there’s something to be gleaned from the age difference between Messrs Freeman and Legend. The former is a man who came up in a world where the consequences of anti-black racism were dramatically self-evident: vicious racist slurs coming out of the mouths of police officers and judges, blatantly and unashamedly racist laws and policies, frequent acts of race-motivated physical violence with a blind eye turned toward it by an indifferent society*. The latter is a man who came up in the world of ‘polite’ racism and “post-racial” politicking, where the fashion is to find an endless string of euphemisms to disguise racist attitudes and behaviours that, minus the drama, haven’t changed much.