LOW-COUNTRY CADENCES: Widely rejected!

MONDAY, JUNE 29, 2015

Part 1—Big northern brains push back:
We’re not sure we’ve ever seen a more remarkable welter of pushbacks than we’ve seen in the past week.

The pushback came from Professor West, simultaneously speaking all sides of the topic on yesterday’s Reliable Sources.

(West on our cable news channels: “You’ve got MSNBC, you know, is basically Obama propaganda. You’ve got Fox News, right-wing propaganda. CNN, much more ambiguous, able to generate some insights, wrestle with some issues, like your show. But still, CNN fearful because you’ve got to deal with the profit margin. You’ve got to deal with making money.”

(Two months back, we captured Professor West kissing the ascot of his “brother” Sean Hannity as he attempted to sell his new book. Whatever! We’re just saying!)

Back to the recent pushback:

The pushback came from Professor Butler (of Georgetown), first in an angry hour with Diane Rehm, then in a somewhat puzzling segment with Chris Hayes, who praised him twice for being “frankly honest.”

Inevitably, the most pitiful form of the pushback came at the new Salon, in this jumbled essay. The pushback also came from Karen Attiah, on-line at the Washington Post.

In some ways, it seems to us that Attiah expressed the pushback most directly. It also seems to us that some of what follows doesn’t exactly make sense.

We tend to be like that up north:
ATTIAH (6/28/15): In society’s rush to fawn over how quickly and easily blacks turn to the Bible, and forgive and reconcile with those who seek to dehumanize black people, to harm black people, to destroy our sense of security at our places of worship, there is the tendency to ignore the psychological and spiritual price racial terror and white supremacy extracts from black people by striking fear into our hearts.

For black people in America, there has been a lot to feel afraid of lately. Are my family and friends at black churches safe? Can a black girl who looks like me go to a swimming party in a McKinney, Tex.? Will my brother and black male friends be safe at a “routine” traffic stop? Will my college-age friends be safe from chants of segregation and lynching from fraternity boys?

The media was filled with headlines riffing on the themes of “Grace in Charleston,” “Forgiveness in Charleston,” aiming to celebrate the capacity of black folks to forgive yet another unspeakable act of violence. We were enthralled by President Obama, the first black U.S. president, singing “Amazing Grace” during his eulogy for S.C. State Senator Rev. Clementa Pinckney, allegedly gunned down by white supremacist Dylann Roof this month at the Mother Emanuel AME church.

I admit Obama’s eulogy in South Carolina was a welcome tonic, easing, if only a little bit, the pain and weight of what happened in Charleston. But, as barely two weeks have gone by since the massacre in that church, many black folk are still hurt, angry and afraid.
Without any question, many black people are feeling hurt, angry, afraid. There’s no reason why people shouldn’t be feeling those ways.

Has there been a “tendency to ignore the psychological and spiritual price racial terror and white supremacy extracts from black people?” That could be true as well.

Beyond that, though, Attiah said that “society” “rushed to fawn” in the aftermath of the recent murders in Charleston. More specifically, she said society “rushed to fawn over how quickly and easily blacks turn to the Bible, and forgive and reconcile.”

Attiah also criticized “the media,” saying it was “filled with headlines...aiming to celebrate the capacity of black folks to forgive yet another unspeakable act of violence.” She linked to one alleged example, this analysis piece in the Atlantic. She didn’t cite the media entity for which she herself works.

(For the record, the piece to which Attiah links also cites the way Amish families forgave the killer in a 2006 mass schoolhouse shooting. The piece specifically states this point: “An individual or community’s gift of forgiveness, however, does not obviate a society’s demand for justice.”)

Attiah seemed to praise President Obama’s eulogy, failing to note that he too hailed the way those “black folks” in Charleston did what they did with respect to love and forgiveness and the affirmative refusal to hate. But so it has tended to go as this pushback has unfolded.

In our view, this pushback against the Charleston families has often been unattractive and condescending and not hugely helpful or wise. It has also been quite widespread in the past week.

We thought of this pushback when we read Andrew Sullivan’s post about Friday’s same-sex marriage decision. Sullivan has been advocating for this issue since 1989. He described the early pushback, including that which came from “much of the gay left:”
SULLIVAN (6/26/15): Those were isolating days. A young fellow named Evan Wolfson who had written a dissertation on the subject in 1983 got in touch, and the world immediately felt less lonely. Then a breakthrough in Hawaii, where the state supreme court ruled for marriage equality on gender equality grounds. No gay group had agreed to support the case, which was regarded at best as hopeless and at worst, a recipe for a massive backlash. A local straight attorney from the ACLU, Dan Foley, took it up instead, one of many straight men and women who helped make this happen. And when we won, and got our first fact on the ground, we indeed faced exactly that backlash and all the major gay rights groups refused to spend a dime on protecting the breakthrough … and we lost.

In fact, we lost and lost and lost again. Much of the gay left was deeply suspicious of this conservative-sounding reform;
two thirds of the country were opposed; the religious right saw in the issue a unique opportunity for political leverage—and over time, they put state constitutional amendments against marriage equality on the ballot in countless states, and won every time. Our allies deserted us...Those were dark, dark days.

I recall all this now simply to rebut the entire line of being “on the right side of history.” History does not have such straight lines...
Just to be clear, there is no reason why “the gay left” or any of the “the major gay rights groups” were required to support this movement, whether then or now. Marriage equality has come to be seen as a basic right by most on the left. There’s no reason why everyone had to see things that way in 1989.

Still, we thought of the pushback against the Charleston families when we read that passage. That pushback is being disguised in various ways, as is our wont up north in our journalistic and academic circles.

For the most part, we’re framing our pushback as a pushback against “society,” or more often as a pushback against “the media.” We’re hiding behind these safe targets as we secretly ridicule southern blacks for their quick, easy turn to the Bible.

In some of her phrasing, we thought Attiah made this, our actual target, more clear than others have done. Again, we’ll suggest what we suggested last week:

In the past week, Northern liberal alleged intellectuals have been pushing back against southern blacks for all their stupid Bible crap and all their love and forgiveness. It seems to us that this isn’t the greatest idea.

Full disclosure—we aren’t religious ourselves. We hold no religious or cosmological views, aside from the cosmological view that we humans have no idea who, what or where we are or what we’re doing there.

South Carolina’s church traditions don’t belong to us—but they do constitute an important part of American and world history. On balance, we think they’re being denigrated in ways which aren’t especially helpful or smart, as is our wont up here.

We northern alleged intellectuals! Last Friday, Lizette Alvarez profiled two of Charleston’s murder victims. Early on, she let a bit of the glory out.

Good for her, we said:
ALVAREZ (6/26/15): Yet in the face of profound loss, the funerals Thursday were jubilant, the overflow crowds swaying, singing and cheering, doing the syncopated “Lowcountry clap.” Speakers recalled both women as pillars of their families and their church.

The victims’ family members have drawn national attention for the grace they have shown, offering blessings, love, and even forgiveness to the man accused in the killings—an example they say was set by the people who were suddenly ripped from their lives.

One by one, Ms. Lance’s five grandchildren stood in front of the congregation at Royal Missionary Baptist Church, where her body lay before the altar in a shimmering silver gown, and praised her spirit of generosity, which they hoped would be embraced by all. One of her granddaughters said the family wished her legacy to stretch beyond the bullets and bloodshed at Emanuel.
Alvarez cited the families’ “grace” even before Obama did! She also referred to “the syncopated ‘Lowcountry clap’ ” which animated those funerals.

South Carolina is culturally unique in various ways; this is especially true of coastal South Carolina. In principle, large continental nations can gain from the cultures which may emerge in their various corners and crannies.

As far as we know, southern black church traditions didn’t come, in the main, from coastal Carolina. That said, we were happy to see Alvarez make that lovely reference to that “Lowcountry clap.”

Our question:

Is it possible that we all-knowing northerners have more to gain from southern black culture than this one rhythmic infusion? Is it possible that our professors and journalists might gain from an examination of their own basic instincts this time?

Tomorrow: The aggressive refusal to hate

23 comments:

  1. Commence the sarcasm.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. "In some ways, it seems to us that Attiah expressed the pushback most directly. It also seems to us that some of what follows doesn’t exactly make sense.

      We tend to be like that up north:"

      Attiah is a black woman from from Dallas, Texas. She has working experience and two degrees in actual real journalistic practice.

      In our view she shares nothing in common with Bob Somerby
      that would warrant his us of the pronoun "we."

      We Texans prefer to let lonely, miserable, mid-century east coast Irish Catholics "otherize" themselves.

      That do it for you, @ 11:52?

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    2. I doubt Somerby was referring to Attiah's black Texas heritage when he used the word "we" but rather to her urban liberal activism and intellectualism.

      I am tired of commenters who think that an analogy is wrong if it isn't entirely congruent with what is being analogized.

      White and black liberals are "we" in the struggle for social justice, whether living in Texas or Baltimore. When Somerby chides those on his side for their tactics, his goal is to advance that struggle and his disagreement is about the best way (the most effective way) to make progress.

      I agree with Somerby that it is disrespectful of the families of those murdered to scorn their forgiveness, whether arising from religious or personal reasons.

      There are jokes about funerals where the dead man's mistress cries louder than than the wife. It is considered tacky to out-grieve the family of the deceased. I think it is also wrong to be angrier than the family of the deceased -- that is perhaps why some liberals are pushing back (as Somerby calls it). Their thunder, their opportunity to express their outrage have been undercut by the family's willingness to let it go to preserve the spirit of the departed.

      I see this as a matter of decency and I don't think Attiah and others are showing respect when they want to use tragic deaths to further their own cause -- even when that cause is just. They need to stand back and shut up until some time has gone by. There will still be injustice to fight if they wait a bit.

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    3. "When Somerby chides those on his side for their tactics...."

      Somerby does nothing lately BUT chide those he claims to side with. And if he does not want to see people "otherized" he should quit doing so himself based on real (or incorrectly imagined) regional origins, beliefs, or occupations.

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    4. "I agree with Somerby that it is disrespectful of the families of those murdered to scorn their forgiveness"

      Unfortunately Bob Somerby chose a very poor example in the piece by Karen Attiah by alleging she scorned the forgiveness of the victim's families in Charleston.

      Your comment displays woeful ignorance if you interpret her writing as disrespectful of these families. In so doing, I think you are the one showing disrespect.

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    5. Sick ass burn 12:22. DFdub in da houzzzzE!

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    6. "White and black liberals are "we" in the struggle for social justice, whether living in Texas or Baltimore."

      No, decidedly not. Not anymore. The interests of blacks vs white campus progressives who define "liberals" now couldn't be more disparate.

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    7. "I see this as a matter of decency and I don't think Attiah and others are showing respect when they want to use tragic deaths to further their own cause -- even when that cause is just. They need to stand back and shut up until some time has gone by."

      Jon Stewart did a whole segment on comments like this...
      except he used clips from the talking heads at FOX news.

      What is it with white folks like Somerby, FOX, and @ 1:44
      that prompts them to tell black people to shut up when they are commenting on the racist victimization of a group of black people who were targeted for no other reason than because of race?

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    8. No one is telling black people to shut up about everything. I told them to stop criticizing black families of victims for expressing forgiveness. Somerby said something similar.

      No one in their right mind is condoning the shooting. No one is telling black activists to stop being activists. It is wrong to attack members of a grieving family for grieving in whatever manner helps them cope with their tragedy, even if that includes expressing forgiveness for the perpetrators of an obvious crime.

      You do, however, illustrate how quick some black people are to see suppression in any act. Someone tells you to have some decency and respect for grieving families and you make it racial.

      Delete
  2. Here's what all of Bob's Mammy and Pappy, Yessah-Massuh forgiveness get you, when it aint get you a bullet like Trayon: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/06/29/six-predominately-black-southern-churches-burn-within-a-week-with-arson-suspected-in-at-least-three/

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  3. "For the most part, we’re framing our pushback as a pushback against “society,” or more often as a pushback against “the media.” We’re hiding behind these safe targets as we secretly ridicule southern blacks for their quick, easy turn to the Bible."

    For the most part, Bob Somerby is hiding behind "northern", "professor", and "intellectual." For the most part, Bob Somerby is hiding behind "we" and "our."

    And what is Bob Somerby hiding from? Who is he secretly ridiculing? Black people who dare to react to the killing of a group of black people differently than the people who were related to the murder victims.

    Is it because Bob Somerby thinks all black people should think alike?

    Is it possible that our blogger might gain from an examination of his own basic instincts this time?

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    1. Black and white people who utilized the tragic murders of people to advance agendas arguably against the interest of improving race relations, and in some cases for the very purpose of undermining race relations.

      Delete
  4. I am glad Somerby is defending "the media" against these attacks from "us liberals."

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  5. "(Two months back, we captured Professor West kissing the ascot of his “brother” Sean Hannity as he attempted to sell his new book. Whatever! We’re just saying!)"

    Actually two months ago Blogger Somerby's coverage of Professor West's appearance on FOX was not really the "capture" of "ascot kissing." It was an "ascot kicking" of another black Professor entitled:

    Something Professor Dyson missed!

    Blogger Somerby seemed to praise Professor West for his constructive outreach to brother Hannity's tribe and cuffed aside Professor Dyson for missing West's appearance.

    Blogger Somerby chided Professor Dyson for this omission just as he welted Big Northern Brain Attiah for leaving out something Obama said.

    I am sorry Blogger Somerby missed telling you this. Of course when he wrote that post two months ago Blogger Somerby also missed something Dyson said about West. I was reminded of it when Blogger Somerby interrupted this post to tell us things he was reminded about when reading Andrew Sullivan.

    "As a freelancing, itinerant, nonordained, self-anointed prophet, West has only to answer to himself....

    In truth, West is a scold, a curmudgeonly and bitter critic who has grown long in the tooth but sharp in the tongue when lashing one-time colleagues and allies."

    I was reminded of course because what Dyson said about West reminds me of Blogger Somerby.

    I forgive Bob Somerby for leaving all this out. I know those of you who hold him silently in high esteem will forgive me for this impertinent addition for the record.

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    1. You demonstrate over and over that you cannot forgive Somerby anything.

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    2. Whatever. Your'e just saying.

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  6. The pushback from the left against family, work, and education has done more damage than everything the right has ever supported, combined.

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    1. By having a deliberate policy of far less than full employment, both the "left" and the "right" in the USA have harmed race relations more than any policy either side could dream up to deal with the race issue directly.
      There has been a class war in this nation for quite a while, and being deprived of the respect of a full time job that allows one to support a family is the biggest hurdle the black community has in its way.
      Divide and conquer, and sprinkle in a whole lot of hopelessness.
      We need smarter rich people. The kind that know how to make a nation prosper, not just the swells.

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    2. No one could disagree that full employment and a fairer distribution of wealth are desirable but the cultural rot is so deep and so countenanced by liberals most of the problems would persist regardless.

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  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  8. Well, let me have another go. Honest Question: Is the fact that these family members are talking to the defendant something recent? I had seen prisoners getting talking to by family members after sentencing, which I assumed was an outgrowth of the victims rights movement. But Attiah is correct, for maybe the wrong reasons, a prisoner should not be dressed down in that fashion after the trial, let alone before it. That's a civil liberties nightmare.
    The families of the murdered should have access to state sponsered counseling and other help. But the rest is wrong.

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