STARTING TOMORROW: A Week in The (Imitation of) Life!


For today, King on King: We're going to start with Colbert King, the veteran Washington Post Saturday morning columnist.

As far as we know, Colbert King is no relation to Dr. King. We thought he went horribly wrong at one point in the weeks before the 2000 election, but we've long admired Colbert King because of columns like the one which appeared in Saturday morning's (print edition of the) Washington Post.

In our view, Colbert King has kept his eyes on the prize. His headline thay day said this:

What would Martin Luther King make of our spiral of violence?

To what particular "spiral of violence" did King make reference this day? Just to establish the lay of the land, he started his column like this:

KING (1/14/23): On past occasions, I have used Martin Luther King Jr. Day, observed on Monday, as a moment to take stock of progress toward establishing the “reign of freedom and a rule of justice” that King called for in his Dec. 10, 1964, Nobel Peace Prize acceptance address. But today I pause to take a look around.

Dr. King might be distressed by what he would see today.

No one can say what Dr. King would think of today's society. That's why Colbert King discusses what Dr. King might see and feel today.

That said, here comes the spiral of violence Colbert King had in mind:

KING (continuing directly): The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was an apostle of nonviolence. “The ultimate weakness of violence,” he said, “is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.” He would see that darkness settling upon this city. Carjackings, shootings, fear, anger, weeping.

Last week, I railed about a drive-by shooting in an area of Northwest D.C. that I consider extended neighborhood turf. The gunfire that erupted near the corner of Georgia Avenue and Sheridan Street NW left one person dead and three others wounded, including an 8-year-old. Said D.C. Police chief Robert J. Contee III to an upset community, “Out of an abundance of caution, we will be deploying police officers to different sections of the 4th District.” Contee’s quickest actions were either too slow or the dudes with guns were too fast. The downward spiral continued.

Colbert King is 83 years old. 

Born in 1939, he grew up in "black Washington" at a time of legal segregation. He went on to pursue major careers within the federal government, within the banking industry, and then within the world of high-end journalism at the Washington Post.

In his pursuit of those three careers, he benefited from belatedly changing times. But King has kept his eyes on the prize. His column continued as shown:

KING (continuing directly): Wednesday, eight days later, a man and two children, 6 and 9 years old, were shot and injured at Sheridan and 14th Streets NW—two blocks west of Georgia Avenue and near the intersection where my family lived for decades.

As with the 8-year-old Georgia Avenue victim, the three victims did not appear to be the shooters’ targets. Not that it mattered to the guns and bullets. Neither, perhaps, to the man who brandished the weapon and fired the shots—described by D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) at the scene as “an idiot with a gun.”

How would we explain any of this to Martin Luther King? How to explain that among the first victims of deadly shooting this year were two teenagers under 18? Or that on a single day last week, eight people, including three teens, were injured in separate shootings over four hours.

I think of King’s reference to a “descending spiral” and am reminded that 105 youths were shot last year—nearly twice the 2021 figure.

And so on and so on from there. Colbert King still lives in his native D.C., and by some miracle of stasis, he somehow remains able to care about such matters as these:

KING: There’s more to what’s driving crime in our streets than easy access to guns: families without structure, love or discipline; schools that warehouse, not teach; revolving-door justice and oversold alternative programs; and some faith leaders seemingly on mute.

This King holiday will be observed with the traditional tributes, parades and prayer services. But this year will also find committed neighborhood groups, such as Ron Moten’s Don’t Mute DC and Phil Pannell’s Anacostia Coordinating Council, stepping up with actions directly aimed at youth violence.

What is driving the kind of youth violence which has injured and killed Washington children and teens? In that passage, King lists a group of possible causes. Amazingly, he still seems to care about children and teens such as these.

We mention Colbert King as a way to mention something about the rest of our blue tribe. You will never hear about these topics on our tribe's corporate "cable news" TV programs.

Those corporate channels pay gigantic salaries to a selection of clowns to keep us entertained and self-impressed. The clowns who spill out of those cable news cars tells us that We are the good decent people, and that the very bad people are Them.

Colbert King has long been struck by the deaths of the (very young) innocents in the streets of his native D.C. Your cable news stars never mention those kids, any more than they ever discuss this part of what King wrote:

KING: There’s more to what’s driving crime in our streets than easy access to guns: families without structure, love or discipline; schools that warehouse, not teach; revolving-door justice and oversold alternative programs; and some faith leaders seemingly on mute.

Do we really have public schools "that warehouse, not teach?" You will never hear that topic addressed by the multimillionaire corporate clowns who proceed to sell us pleasing script every day of the week.

In the face of all this silence, those clowncar riders keep telling us that We are the good / decent / moral people, and that The Others are racists. We love love love love love that message! Sometimes it sounds like this:

VILLAROSA (4/11/18): In 2016, a study by researchers at the University of Virginia examined why African-American patients receive inadequate treatment for pain not only compared with white patients but also relative to World Health Organization guidelines. The study found that white medical students and residents often believed incorrect and sometimes “fantastical” biological fallacies about racial differences in patients. For example, many thought, falsely, that blacks have less-sensitive nerve endings than whites, that black people’s blood coagulates more quickly and that black skin is thicker than white.

These white medical students today! At other times, the message we love may sound a bit more like this:

ATTIAH (1/6/23): Considering that nearly 70 percent of the NFL’s players are Black, the Hamlin episode is a reminder that almost every weekend, Americans tune in to watch mostly Black men bash into one another for the profit of White team owners.


[N]ot talking about race and the racial dynamics in the NFL only placates the consciences of the large White conservative fan base, people who simply want to enjoy their Sunday nachos while watching players risk brain damage.

These "Americans" today! Especially those "white conservative fans," with their gruesome modes of enjoyment!

Today, we're happy to tell you that there is zero evidence supporting the claim that These White Medical Students Today "often believe fantastical notions" concerning matters of race. 

Meanwhile, if you can't see what's wrong with the flippant statement that "Americans"—though perhaps exclusively "white conservatives"—watch NFL games for the reasons provided, we'll no longer try to explain.

For today, we'll offer this instead:

The self-impressed stars of our blue tribe elites almost never discuss the deaths (and the lives) of the innocents to whom King attends. They'll discuss only one of the possible elements which may be "driving crime in our streets."

Beyond that, you'll wait and wait and wait and wait before our wealthy tribal stars stoop to the level of discussing what happens in our public schools, where the future interests (and the current happiness) of lower-income kids are at stake every day.

Instead, they feed us pablum day after day. (George Santos lied!) This pablum keeps us barefoot and happy, and it keeps the stars rolling in dough.

Whether on an intellectual or a moral basis, our public discourse is a sick joke—and our blue tribe is one obvious part of the problem. Starting tomorrow, we'll try to examine a week in the life—though we'll start with the latest dispensation of The Crazy by the red tribe's Tucker Carlson.

That said, our own tribe isn't the ultimate repository of journalistic and moral brilliance. Despite that fact, the clowncar rolls up every day: 

"Our favorite reporters and friends" spill out of the car and proceed to dispense that message. 

Through some miracle of inertia, Colbert King's eyes have remained on the prize. He's even concerned when children are injured or killed by people who aren't the police!

Starting tomorrow, we'll offer a very limited selection of gruesome moments from A Week in The (Imitation of) Life. All in all, our public discourse is an imitation, and our tribe is part of this too.

Tomorrow: Tucker Carlson "explains"


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    1. "Today, we're happy to tell you that there is zero evidence supporting the claim that These White Medical Students Today "often believe fantastical notions" concerning matters of race. "

      And yet black people are being undertreated for their pain in medical settings. Go figure! They are even undertreated for pain in that experimental study Somerby wants to disparage. If it isn't because white subjects believe misinformation, then why does it occur? Does Somerby prefer white racism as an explanation? Somerby has not offered any alternative explanation for the data. And no, you don't get to ignore or throw out data any more than Somerby can ignore the facts of shootings of unarmed black people by police, just because there exist other forms of crime and poverty.

      And why aren't black players being given the chance to fulfill other roles in the NFL? And why isn't an obviously brain injured Herschel Walker of concern to white conservatives and fans? How can they see his obvious cognitive deficits and pretend he is a normal functioning adult, much less a viable candidate for office?

      Somerby is giving us an obvious dose of moronic sophistry and blaming it on Colbert King. That is outrageous on this day, dedicated to the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. and all he did to advance the cause of civil rights and to better the lives of black people in our country. Somerby finds odd inspiration, using this day to absolve himself of white guilt while punishing journalists.

      Yesterday I wondered how Somerby would commemorate King's achievements. Now I know and it makes me sick. Whatever low expectation one sets for Somerby in terms of understanding why the left supports civil rights, Somerby manages to crawl beneath the bar. Somerby should be ashamed, but he won't be.

    2. And you make me sick. Your rant is mostly just a bunch of non sequiturs with no real logical bearing on what Somerby said, but worded in a way to make it SEEM like Somerby has said something beyond the pale. Nothing but dishonest axe grinding/trolling, day after day after day, for years. Seriously, what's wrong with you? Get a fucking life.

    3. There was a day when Somerby would have said positive things about MLK on MLK Day.

      Mike, Somerby IS the problem, not people's reactions to him.

    4. Mike, you aren’t required to read the comments that you find worthless and infuriating and make you sick. I think you are wrong. I find the critical comments here interesting, important, and useful to counter Somerby’s propaganda. At least it is an attempt to discuss Somerby’s content, something that I notice you never do. But YMMV.

  2. Odd that the first mention Somerby makes of black social problems is to use Colbert King's words against white liberals, who unlike white conservatives, have been trying to address social issues all along.

    1. Colbert King has important opinions, but he doesn't speak for all black people.
    2. Gang and drug problems were not caused by civil rights but by a drug trade that originated and profits people outside the black community. See the Iran-Contra plot and its use of cocaine in black neighborhoods to fund an illegal war. Conservatives did that.
    3. Black people in their own neighborhoods have been the most active in fighting gangs. In communities with neighborhood policing, they have successfully reduced drive-by shootings by considerable amounts (see Los Angeles and San Diego, for example). Such alliances and approaches have only been implemented in places like Chicago in 2021.
    4. Majors crimes except homicide have been steadily decreasing, especially during covid, and have remained lower. You would think from Colbert's King's statement that the opposite were true.
    5. Crime exists among white people too. Existence of crime is no excuse to deny black people civil rights, as Somerby seems to want to do.
    6. Somerby himself has discussed the rising test scores among black children. While the pandemic has resulted in educational setbacks, it is a huge exaggeration to call any public schools warehouses these days. Somerby used to complain about such stereotypes. Now he lauds them.
    7. I have never heard Somerby complain about any of the endemic problems of black inner city neighborhoods.

  3. Today Somerby presents Colbert King as if he were joining conservative critiques of black "family structure" and blaming black people for the violence in their neighborhoods, but here is Colbert King on racism:

    "Set aside for a minute the confusion over just what is critical race theory. Understand, also, that D.C. schools don’t teach critical race theory but do provide anti-racist training for educators and classroom discussions of systemic racism.

    Concentrate, instead on the “neo-racist ideology” that Grothman alleges critical race theory teaches. Such an ideology held a firm grip on D.C. public education, as well as the entire nation’s capital, for decades. This was long before academics began examining how systemic racism has shaped American public policy.

    I have intimate knowledge of the experiences that informed notions about racism’s incarnation in the legal systems and policies of 19th and 20th-century Washington, D.C.

    Whether or not Grothman wants this fact taught, the truth is many Black people in D.C. and in the Deep South were raised under state-sponsored racism.

    We attended public schools, lived in neighborhoods, went to movie theaters, ate in restaurants, prayed in churches and were laid to rest separated from white people, by law and custom. This focus on group identity — a practice purportedly loathed by apostles of conservatism — was not a mutually agreed upon arrangement. White people made those decisions, including to engage in the practice of denying equal job and housing opportunities.

    And those judgments have had devastating consequences. The International Monetary Fund stated in a 2020 report on the economic cost of discrimination in the United States: “Racism has restrained Black economic progress for decades.”

    The telling of this history is not for the purpose, as charged by Grothman and critical race theory critics, of stoking cultural conflicts or “to set American against American.” It is simple truth-telling.

    Many of us don’t need critical race theory to know who did what to whom: who looked us in the face and said there were no job openings, declined mortgage requests, ignored skills and downplayed qualifications. Who otherwise stacked the deck, giving preference to the whiteness of skin."

    Perhaps King has drifted right, along with Somerby, or perhaps he said others things that Somerby has not bothered to quote. It is not the case that Colbert king is against civil rights and social justice, nor would Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. be against such things, as Somerby tries to imply today.

  4. Why is Somerby talking about Imitation of Life today? And what does he mean by it?

    Wikipedia says: "While the title Imitation of Life on the surface seems to be referring to the artificiality of Lora's glamorous career that takes her away from her daughter, the title is perhaps more of a sly comment on how racism in 1950s America denied African American people the life that white people took for granted."

    Fanny Hurst, a white Jewish woman, wrote a book called Imitation of Life in 1933. There were two movies based on that book and both considerably changed the plot and details. The book was controversial and accused of being based on racial stereotypes, but others saw it as calling out racism. Hurst was part of the Harlem Renaissance movement and was a friend of Zora Neale Hurston. The title has been used by others to describe life situations having nothing to do with racism.

    Somerby often tries to have things many ways at once, and he avoids being pinned down as to his own opinions. This reference is typically ambiguous. However, in the context of criticism of those decrying racism in medicine, and a convenient excerpt that makes it sound like Colbert King is blaming black people for their own problems, when he is actually decrying how much remains to be done to achieve equality between the races, it seems like Somerby is cynically using the title to imply that black achievements are an imitation of white lives and that black people live in a shadow where they only mimic life. And that sounds pretty dismissive of black people's lives and it seems racist to me. Somerby is not, like Hurst, making any criticisms of white society and its racism. He appears to be critical of black people themselves, implying that even when they achieve success in business or love, they are only going through the motions, because black communities have problems like drug abuse, poor schools, gang shootings and so on. And that makes black communities inferior to and only superficially similar to white ones. If that is not what Somerby is implying, as he juxtaposes Colbert King with Fanny Hurst, then Somerby needs to make his intentions clearer, be less coy about what he does mean.

  5. It seems odd that Somerby doesn't recognize that there are white and hispanic and asian gangs too, all participating in selling drugs and engaging in violence. Who does Somerby think Rittenhouse was hanging around with, if not a white male gang, when Rittenhouse killed two unarmed men and wounded a third who was trying to apprehend him? Yet Somerby defended Rittenhouse, saying words to the effect of, boys will be boys.

    Does Somerby think only black people are shot as bystanders? Does he not understand that there are far more white homicides than black ones? Does he think only black families have domestic violence and structure problems? Does he think only black children have bad schools, and not any white children? Does he think only black men go to jail again and again?

    And if both black and white communities have problems, what is the difference and why are rates for blacks higher? There are answers to such questions that Somerby never bothers to investigate or talk about. How much help do black communities receive, compared to what happens in white communities? Does Somerby know? Does he really care, other than to absolve his own conscience and that of white conservatives, whenever liberals want to address social problems? I think the answer is obvious -- Somerby doesn't give a fig about black people except to use their situation today in order to beat liberals and journalists over the head with Colbert King's complaint that says that injustice is still with us.


  6. "How would we explain any of this to Martin Luther King?"

    Yeah, great mystery, dear Bob. Liberals control the city -- that's how we explain any and all of it.

    1. Impossible. King was killed by the 1960s version of Kyle Rittenhouse for speaking about equal justice.

  7. Bob’s reaction to Jan 6 illustrates any concern he has over violence is situational.

  8. Noted by Digby today:

    "A message for the nation on Martin Luther King Day...From the most powerful woman in the US Congress:

    Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene...

    Vengeance is mine declares the Lord.
    God will not let evil go unpunished.

    The @HouseGOP must do what is right for the American people and no longer serve the Uniparty and the Globalist agenda.

    America First! [flag emoji]"

    Note that the Uniparty is an invention of Ralph Nader.
    Note also that Globalist is typically a code word for Jewish.
    "That's just beautiful." says Digby

    1. Notice how she was obviously worried that her followers wouldn't understand if she said "sayeth the Lord" or perhaps she gets her scripture from a modern language children's Bible. But in that case, wouldn't it have said "Getting even is my gig, said God"?

    2. “Vengeance is mine,” the Boss says.

  9. ‘Do we really have public schools "that warehouse, not teach?"’

    Whenever the naep scores would drop, and the media talked about “our failing schools”, Somerby would attack the media for their empty maligning of public schools.

    Here, he attacks the media for not discussing what amounts to a (possibly) similar empty headed attack on public schools from Colbert King.

    It’s no coincidence that right wingers are opposed to public schools and are working to undermine them all over the country.

    Somerby makes no attempt to figure out what King meant or if he is another columnist full of shit and hatred for the beleaguered public schools, and Somerby is not qualified to discuss it. Somerby makes his typical emptyheaded plea: “won’t somebody discuss this, because I sure as hell won’t.”

    Add public schools to the list of things Somerby no longer gives a damn about, if he ever did.

  10. "Do we really have public schools "that warehouse, not teach?" You will never hear that topic addressed by the multimillionaire corporate clowns who proceed to sell us pleasing script every day of the week."

    Somerby appears to think that the cable news hosts have not done enough to deal with racism, but in the next breath he tells us they are too woke and costing liberal votes by being mean to The Others.

    Meanwhile, In all four years of Trump's term in office, I never once heard him mention Betsy DeVos. When a black woman was appointed to the Supreme Court, Somerby considered her underqualified compared to white men who could have been appointed. Somerby has never talked about community policing and end-violence programs in Baltimore or anyone else, except to denigrate BLM when it was active. So, how exactly does Somerby think violence in the streets is going to be solved by attacking cable news hosts?

    And then there was Uvalde, and Somerby again said nothing. And he has never spoken about gun control, although he seems super happy that Colbert King isn't blaming guns for these shooting deaths.

    Somerby wants to call the cable news hosts hypocrites for never talking about gang shootings, but he himself talks about such things even less than cable news does. Who talks about it? Wyatt Cenac did, but he got cancelled. John Oliver has, and so did Deon Cole. Not Somerby though.

    I'm sure Somerby feels really sad when another black girl gets killed in a bystander shooting. Somerby gets mawkish over young girls, to the point where it is embarrassing. I personally think all bystander lives matter, but Somerby mainly only writes when a preteen is shot, preferably one headed for college or an A-student, and always black. Beyond the obvious fact that not even liberals are in favor of shooting children, Somerby has nothing to say about how to prevent such deaths. Shall we lock up our children? Somerby has never said anything about restricting guns. He doesn't particularly want to address social issues related to gangs and he apparently doesn't have any ideas for solving this problem. How then are journalists supposed to do it?

    After having shifted the burden onto journalist shoulders, Somerby shrugs and moves on, to attacking the next black female professor or writer, because that is clearly the way to make progress in our society.