Friday, July 16, 2010

Ta-Neishi Coates says it for me...

This is starting to be a trend.

First Chris Bodenner (writing for the vacationing Andrew Sullivan) wrote this:

Ta-Nehisi, who has been critical of the NAACP in the past, can't side with me, Weigel, and others exasperated with the group's Tea Party resolution


For me the issue is a practical matter; was the NAACP resolution helpful for race relations? Based on the immediate and inflammatory backlash showcased in the MSM, I think not.

And then he followed up with this:

Perhaps the NAACP could have approached [Tea Party Movement] leaders in private first, offering to help with a PR strategy to purge the racist elements of the movement from its core, small government message. That would have been the Obama-esque approach. But publicly shaming the [Tea Party Movement] into doing so doesn't seem smart or pragmatic.

I cannot think of a more stupid (and yes, frankly...racist) sentence to write in the English language than that.

Why is it that every time there is racist action on the part of White Americans, and Black Americans have the temerity to protest it or just let folks know it happened; it always becomes our fault? It's never the people who committed the racist action, it's always something we should have done better.

I put the following in an email to Ta-Neishi Coates, the writer who touched off Mr. Bodenner's comments:

Perhaps the Rodney King could have approached L.A. Police in private first, offering to help with a PR strategy to purge the racist elements from their ranks and get them to stop beating the hell out of him. That would have been the Obama-esque approach.

Dave Weigel chimed in today, following through on the "the NAACP shouldn't have done this" meme :

When I said the NAACP's move would backfire, I meant things like this would happen. I didn't mean they were wrong to go down that road. It's just that they should know that calling out a group for "racism" is pointless -- whoever's been targeted will simply claim to have been attacked unfairly and had his free speech threatened. Remember what happened when Eric Holder said that America had been a "nation of cowards" in discussing race. Boom: Backlash. Anger. Debate over why he said it, but not what he meant. A year and change later we have a ridiculous national debate over whether Holder's department hates white people because it won't draw and quarter the New Black Panther Party. This stuff is what he meant, of course. But saying it isn't actually starting the debate. It's pretty obvious that the NAACP failed here.

Suddenly, I find myself just a little less sympathetic to Mr. Weigel's dismissal by the Washington Post a couple of weeks ago.

But finally, Ta-Neishi stepped up, and wrote back to Mr. Bodenner and Mr. Weigel:

To the extent that the NAACP has, as Dave says, "failed," it is because the arbiters of facts have ceded ground, and reporters and writers dutifully, and uncritically, dispense the notion that an organization which helped birth modern America has "a long history of...racism." But it also fails because there is very little pushback on this notion from "sensible" liberal writers. (I don't include Dave among them, mind you.) Instead we're getting calls for the president to condemn the NAACP, essentially, for being the NAACP.

Dave concedes that the NAACP has a case, but concludes that they're wrong for making it. But they're only wrong for making it because the broader society, evidently, believes that objecting to a call for literacy tests is, in fact, just as racist as a call for literacy tests. This inversion, this crime against sound logic, is at the heart of American white supremacy, and at the heart of a country that has nurtured white supremacy all these sad glorious years.

It is the Founders claiming all men are created equal while building a democracy on property in human beings. It is Confederates crying tyranny, while erecting a country based on tyranny. It is Sherman discriminating against black soldiers, while claiming that his superiors are discriminating against whites. It's Ben Tillman justifying racial terrorism, by claiming that he's actually fighting against terrorism. It is George Wallace defending a system built on bombing children in churches, and then asserting that the upholders of that system are "the greatest people to ever trod this earth."

Those who employ racism are not in the habit of confessing their nature--inversion is their cloak. Cutting out the cancer means confronting that inversion, means not wallowing in on-the-other-handism, in post-racialism, means seeing this as more than some kind of political game. Someone has, indeed, failed here. It is not the NAACP.

Well said. (Though I do put Dave Weigel in the category of failed "sensible" writers.)