Wednesday, July 28, 2010

This is where I came into the movie....

If I keep posting about racism, it's because it keeps coming up:

"What struck me about [the Sherrod speech] was that sort of little, casual aside, where she says something about health care, and 'I've never seen people so mean' ... The implication is -- and she uses the phrase at one point 'the black president' and 'we endured the Bush years'. And the implication to me was that she was saying 'if you didn't agree with Obamacare then you're a bigot,'" Lord said. "The essence of the formula is 'scare race X to death that race Y or Z is coming after them in some fashion, and then, you know, you get all the votes and the money, etc, etc, etc. And that all that's gone on over a couple years of history of the Democratic party is that the races have changed."
No, don't stop there; it gets crazier. Lord actually argued, earlier, that progressives are the real racists, although everybody stumbled over his insistence that "lynching" can only mean "death by hanging." It's a stupid point to cavil over, but he stands his ground:

Barraged by criticism Monday, Lord later expanded his critique of Sherrod by arguing that Hall wasn't beaten to death by enough people to constituted a mob, and therefore it couldn't have been a lynching in two different ways. He stands by that assessment.

"Certainly the image in my head of a lynching is rope around the neck," Lord told me. "And when we really got into this, it was quite apparent to me that there was all sorts of other things. That there has to be a mob -- mob action. Well what is a mob? Is it two people? Is it three people?"*
It's an unintentionally ironic pose for Lord, but it also proves by his own words that he's just an inflammatory idiot. The central contention in Lord's original piece is that Hugo Black is somehow the responsible author for the the opinion in Screws v U.S. Government, a case that was remanded for new trial on 14th Amendment grounds. (The opinion was written by Douglas, with Black and three other justices concurring.) Lord doesn't understand or address the holding of the case, but rather uses it (because Shirley Sherrod mentioned the case in her speech) as a club to beat up on Hugo Black, and, by extension, all progressives. The unintentional irony is that the Court's opinion turns on very fine definitions of statutory and Constitutional law, definitions established by precedent which the Court is at great pains to cite. Lord, on the other hand, just grabs hold of a definition of "lynch" and insists he's in charge of it. Sort of like he insists Hugo Black wrote an opinion Black apparently just found to be sound legal reasoning on a Constitutional issue. Oh, Lord also gets to determine what a "mob" is, too. Which means nothing to legal definitions, or to any other user of the English language; but then, everyone else is wrong. And a racist.

Does that last statement seem to go too far? Not for Lord, who has set himself up as the French Academy, deciding by fiat what words mean and who's to be the master of them. Jeffrey Lord is Humpty-Dumpty; a racist Humpty-Dumpty.

As I've said before, I really don't think this amounts to much. Lord and his ilk are on the backside of the cultural wave. They are the fringe of a fringe, gaining notoriety more because of modern technology than for the power of their ideas. As Rachel Maddow said of the Tea Parties recently, "objects in media are smaller than they appear." It's even an old strategy, to speak of outreach to black voters like this:

"Get out there and engage on race," Lord said. "There's no reason in the world that we can't be getting the black vote. But it's our job to separate black from left and talk about left and right."
Reminds me of my childhood; and the strategy worked really well then, too (as you can tell today by the support the GOP has from blacks). I think the Biblical metaphor for what Lord is doing is straining at gnats and swallowing camels. Lord is really nothing than a sideshow attraction, a carnival geek. What's worse is this:

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights' investigation into the New Black Panthers case -- specifically, whether racial bias played a role in the Justice Department's decision to close the case -- is part of a pattern at the commission: A pattern of investigating almost exclusively, for lack of a better word, reverse racism.

The conservative majority on the commission, as well as former DOJ lawyer J. Christian Adams and much of the right-wing (including many Republican senators), believe that black members of the New Black Panther Party engaged in widespread intimidation of white voters on Election Day 2008. Further, according to Adams, the Obama administration is purposely dropping cases against black defendants in a blanket policy of pro-black racism.
Like I said, the subject keeps coming up. The struggle never ends. Does it?

*Two people suffice for most state statues, according to Wiki.

Today lynching is a felony in all states of the United States, defined by some codes of law as "Any act of violence inflicted by a mob upon the body of another person which results in the death of the person," with a 'mob' being defined as "the assemblage of two or more persons, without color or authority of law, for the premeditated purpose and with the premeditated intent of committing an act of violence upon the person of another."
No, that's not the best source in the world, but it's good enough for Lord's argument.


  1. As I've said before, I really don't think this amounts to much. Lord and his ilk are on the backside of the cultural wave. They are the fringe of a fringe, gaining notoriety more because of modern technology than for the power of their ideas.

    And yet, just the other day, Sherrod was fired by an African-American preisident - for a mistake, an edited video clip. Lord and his ilk are not dead yet, and we shouldn't fool ourselves that they are.

  2. Sherri2:44 PM

    I hope Lord is on the backside of the cultural wave, but I'm no longer so sure as I once was. Schools and neighborhoods and churches seem as segregated as ever. The demonization of the 'illegal alien' is at fever pitch. Protests against mosques being built are popping up, not just at Ground Zero. I suppose I should remember that this is the inevitable backlash from having elected our first black President, but it's still discouraging.

  3. A) I don't think Obama fired Sherrod. If he did, as I've said in an earlier post, he REALLY needs to sort out his priorities. Worrying about an employee at the state level of the Ag. Dept. should not be on the POTUS's daily agenda.

    B) I think this is the blush on the cheek of a dying age, myself. I've seen much, much worse in my lifetime, and America's love of xenophobia is, IMHO, another thing altogether. I'm also of the opinion that attitudes like Lord's definitely (even conservatives have been appalled by his argument in the American Spectator) appear larger in the media than they are in real life. As for segregation of schools, that hasn't been my daughter's experience, nor mine. Neighborhoods, a bit more multi-cultural than before. Churches: well, still the most segregated hour in America. Not sure when that changes, if ever.

    But then, I'm belligerent and argumentative. And annoyed people like Lord and Breitbart get as much attention as they do. My argument is not that they are ineffective; it is only that they aren't representative.

    Kinda like the U.S. Senate, in fact.....

  4. Obama fired Sherrod only in a the-buck-stops-with-him sort of way. I'd have done better to say "in the administration of an African-American president".

    Robert, the racists may be a dying breed, but generations will pass before racism is dead. And, in my neck of the woods, they are present in depressingly greater numbers than I want to see.

  5. Yeah, as I said below, this is not new, but I don't think it's necessarily resurgent, either. I remember much worse, and more casual, racism in my childhood. It is both less casual and less present than once it was, which is not to say it's gone, or will go soon. Bad ideas never really die, but Lord's essay has drawn more fire than it has approval (in fact, I don't think it's drawn much approval at all). The Civil Rights Commission may like "reverse racism," and Lord may try to argue that progressives are racists; but I don't think anyone else is really listening.

    Obama's presidency is definitely bringing the racism out of the fringes, and that's why I'd like to see more of a national conversation on the topic (and less denial of this truth). But given the knee-jerk pessimism of left blogistan, I feel compelled to point out a patch of ice doth not a winter make, nor a group of malcontents a return to gone-away.

  6. In re your wiki quote -- how long then before Lord argues "well, see it wasn't a lynching ... since the sherrif was involved, that provided the authority of law"?

    Neighborhoods, a bit more multi-cultural than before. Churches: well, still the most segregated hour in America. Not sure when that changes, if ever.

    Whenever I hear the "yes, there was racism in America, but that was a long time ago" argument, I, as a very young guy, feel tempted to remind people: (a) I am married to someone who was born in a whites only hospital (my FIL is from Jamaica and, as far as Jim Crow was concerned in South FL at the time, except in terms of marriage, immigrant professionals were considered "white" no matter what their skin color) -- and when my MIL was sick (the delivery was problematic) her family didn't visit her because they were afraid to step foot in a whites only hospital as they could get lynched for doing so, and (b) the reason why we live in annoying co-op we live in is that when my wife was ready to buy rather than continue to rent, many co-op boards were still not letting African-Americans in ... in Queens, NY in the 1990s! Out co-op may be corrupt, annoying, etc. -- but the board is not racist, so that is where we live.

    As to 11:00 AM on Sunday being the most segregated hour in America ... well, for us it's 9:00 - 12:00 on a Saturday (although let's face it, we're lucky to make it by 10:00 AM ;) ) ... but there are only a handful of non-whites (counting Middle Easterners and South Asians and Hispanics of primarily European ancestry as white) in our shul -- which is a huge shul with 100s of families.

  7. I was rereading Matt Bai's column from a few weeks ago on race (my wife had discovered it) and noticed another interesting tic about our "discussion" such as it is, on race (a tic that Charlie Pierce has commented on and made one of the points that I am about to make) -- we tend to equate our country's history of anti-Catholicism and anti-Semitism with our past racism (e.g. Matt Bai's referencing of Kennedy). Except that there were a few key differences between being Black in racist America and being Jewish or Catholic in religiously prejudiced America ...

    First, many Protestant Americans may have distrusted (and WASP society excluded) the Kennedy's, most of my family and people like them because they didn't cotton to "Papists" or to "Jews", but people of "the Roman faith" like the Bouviers and the Beales or "people of the Hebrew faith" my paternal grandmother's family could attend mass or shul every week, be open about it and somehow past enough muster as "whites" to join all but the most exclusive country clubs, etc. For most of the history of the Jim Crow era (both in the South and the North), AFAIK there was no similar class of "people of the African race" who could go places in society where Blacks couldn't go (indeed, note that our first Black president is "African" and -- upper class at least -- African and Afro-Caribbean immigrants perhaps were the closest Black equivalent to "Hebrews").

    Part of the issue is, of course, that someone prejudiced against Jews or Catholics could easily ignore where Phelan Beale went to church or that my uncle Charlie prayed in a synagogue on Saturdays rather than in a church on Sundays -- but being black is often as plain as the skin on one's face (although, of course, there are light skinned blacks who could "pass" for white, but then they had to deny their heritage rather than just not make too big a fuss of it).

    Second, even for Jews and Catholics who couldn't join the WASP old-boys network (or for that matter for poor white Protestants who couldn't join), they could form their own old-boys networks (this is what Charlie Pierce has pointed out). African-Americans who tried to form any support network (outside of the church) would be quickly lynched or otherwise face violence from the Klan. True, Jews and Catholics faced violence because of their religion and ethnic origins, but the violence was not targeted so specifically as lynching was -- i.e. to keep African-Americans from developing the social institutions to move, as a community, into the middle class or upper class (in the same way Jewish, Irish, Italian, etc. social networks have enabled mobility amongst white ethnics).