American Culture

America's Negro Cracker Problem: Ich bin ein Auslander

Part one in a series.

Listen to the victim, abused by the system
The basis is racist, you know that we must face this

In 1991 Pop Will Eat Itself produced one of the most damning comments on racism in society in the history of popular music. “Ich Bin Ein Auslander” was specifically aimed at anti-immigrant racism in Europe, but over the past 17 years it’s been impossible for me to hear the song without mapping its penetrating, undeniable truth onto our American context. Our black auslanders aren’t recent arrivals (although many of our brown ones are), but they nonetheless remain social, political, economic and cultural outsiders, and whatever progress they may have made in the several hundred years since they first arrived in shackles, only a fool can believe that the basis is no longer racist.

I said some time back, as the presidential election lurched into overdrive, that the heavy racist stuff was coming. Not that it necessarily took Nostradamus to predict that, of course – as staggering prognostications go this one ranked right up there with “the sun will rise in the East.” Still, the predictability and magnitude of racism in America, the absolute certainty of it, matters.

Welcome to a state where the politics of hate Shout loud in the crowd
“Watch them beat us all down.”
There’s a rising tide on the rivers of blood
But if the answer isn’t violence, neither is your silence

So I collected the bits and pieces of evidence as they began flying across the transom. As Obama’s lead solidified. As McCain became more desperate. As the ignorant and hateful on the Right were whipped into a lynch-ready lather by Rush, Hannity, O’Reilly, by the Coulters and Savages and their legions of local market disciples. As they were egged on by the silence of a gutless old man who’d sold what little soul he had to start with; and by the photogenic perkiness of the former beauty queen he chose as his running mate: finally realized, Dan Quayle and Marilyn all rolled into one, witch doctor-approved, and so far to the right politically and theologically that even Pat Robertson has to be thinking “that bitch is crazy.” And of course, by their cynical proxies, who have read enough history to know a thing or two about the value of a good “other” when the scapegoating hour arrives.

Slowly, but all too surely, Cracker America began to realize that its most horrific of spectres is taking corporeal form: the White House is about to become the Black House. One of the greatest truisms of human nature is this: crisis reveals character. Or, in this case, lack of character. If you want to know what people are all about, at their core, back them into a corner. The truth will soon reveal itself, for good or ill.

The Code of Real America

“Take a look around at the cities and the towns.”
See them hunting, creeping, sneaking
Breeding fear and loathing with the lies they’re speaking

I said I had been collecting evidence. Let’s have a look, shall we?

  • A Virginia county GOP chair wasn’t content to play the race cardhe played the whole race deck:

    You need to read this column to believe it. In “humor” he accuses Obama of wanting to paint the White House black, supporting reparations, changing the national anthem to the “black national anthem”, teaching “black liberation theology in all churches”, and replacing the flag with a “star and crescent logo”.

    That he resigned is good, but it hardly excuses anything.

  • While we’re talking about Virginia, what do you think Virgil Goode means by “politically correct loans”? Hmmm. Far be it from me to accuse someone of Mr. Goode’s stature of employing code, but as someone on one of my political lists points out, it’s worth noting that if you Google the term, the top result is … illuminating.
  • When it comes to deciding whether a particular person is a racist, it’s hard (despite Mr. Bush’s claims of omniscience regarding Harriet Miers) to know his or her heart. Still, we might infer something useful from looking at the company the person in question keeps. With this in mind, Sarah Palin’s political associations should certainly raise a couple questions, don’t you think?
  • In our current climate – which I guess we’ll call semi-actualized – it’s no longer acceptable or prudent for a candidate to stand up and shout something as inflammatory as “lynch the nigger!” So when you want people who are open to that message to hear it without you actually saying it, some sleight of tongue is required. At the moment, when we hear the word “terrorist” we tend to think of people who are … how to put this? … not white. We don’t think of Timothy McVeigh or Eric Rudolph, for some odd reason, nor do we think of the Irish Republican Army or the fine folks who advocate bombing Planned Parenthood clinics and murdering doctors who perform abortions (although we do get exercised about Bill Ayers, a man nobody cared about until he became a vague acquaintance of Obama’s; dare I suggest that he wasn’t a real terrorist until he was found in the company of negroes?) So when we hear Palin linking “Obama” and “terrorist” the way she’s fond of doing, we shouldn’t be surprised to hear people in the crowd stepping up for their portion of the call-and-response with “terrorist!” and “kill him!” You may argue that there’s nothing racist about this at all, and if it existed in a vacuum, if it were isolated from any larger context, I might have to cede the point that this was simply about a general ignorance of the facts. But there’s a lot of if in that equation, and those showing up to see Palin certainly seem capable of connecting the dots.

    At a McCain rally on Monday, television stations caught audio of a crowd member calling Obama a “terrorist,” while Dana Milbank reported that “[o]ne Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, ‘Sit down, boy.'” Also on Monday, at a Palin rally, one member of the audience yelled, “Kill him!”

    So I don’t see any of us benefiting from playing stupid.

  • But, you say, it’s not the fault of McCain and Palin that there are a few yahoos in the crowd. True. I’m not responsible for your stupidity. However, I am responsible for my reactions to that stupidity. If you yell “nigger” in a crowded Republican rally and I, the candidate, say nothing, how can I be seen as doing anything but endorsing it? As Solomon Burke sings in “None of Us Are Free,” “if you don’t say it’s wrong, then that says it’s right.”
  • By the way, I’m having a hard time understanding why the Secret Service isn’t hauling people out of these rallies and charging them with whatever the charge is when you incite/advocate murdering a Senator. Just saying….
  • The above assumes, for the sake of argument, that the campaign’s racist tone and tactics aren’t by design. As last week’s Frank Rich column illustrates, though, we can’t possibly assume anything of the sort.

    From the start, there have always been two separate but equal questions about race in this election. Is there still enough racism in America to prevent a black man from being elected president no matter what? And, will Republicans play the race card? The jury is out on the first question until Nov. 4. But we now have the unambiguous answer to the second: Yes.

    McCain, who is no racist, turned to this desperate strategy only as Obama started to pull ahead. The tone was set at the Republican convention, with Rudy Giuliani’s mocking dismissal of Obama as an “only in America” affirmative-action baby. We also learned then that the McCain campaign had recruited as a Palin handler none other than Tucker Eskew, the South Carolina consultant who had worked for George W. Bush in the notorious 2000 G.O.P. primary battle where the McCains and their adopted Bangladeshi daughter were slimed by vicious racist rumors.

    No less disconcerting was a still-unexplained passage of Palin’s convention speech: Her use of an unattributed quote praising small-town America (as opposed to, say, Chicago and its community organizers) from Westbrook Pegler, the mid-century Hearst columnist famous for his anti-Semitism, racism and violent rhetorical excess. After an assassin tried to kill F.D.R. at a Florida rally and murdered Chicago’s mayor instead in 1933, Pegler wrote that it was “regrettable that Giuseppe Zangara shot the wrong man.” In the ’60s, Pegler had a wish for Bobby Kennedy: “Some white patriot of the Southern tier will spatter his spoonful of brains in public premises before the snow falls.”

    This is the writer who found his way into a speech by a potential vice president at a national political convention. It’s astonishing there’s been no demand for a public accounting from the McCain campaign. Imagine if Obama had quoted a Black Panther or Louis Farrakhan — or William Ayers — in Denver.

  • McCain’s campaign co-chair employed a pretty nifty code-swarm when he worked “guy of the street,” “cocaine” and “Jeremiah Wright” into a conversation with Dennis Miller. “Guy of the street.” Hmmm. Granted, this steps away from all that “elitist” bullshit, which is nice. But if you’re black, your choices are now “uppity” or “street thug”? Lordy, how far our darkies have come from the days of “field negro” vs. “house negro”…
  • We haven’t talked about Virginia in a few bullet points, so how about this: Obama = Osama. And again, let’s remember – we’re all smart enough to see the big picture and understand the larger context, especially in light of the fact that we now know this wasn’t a one-off – it’s part of the sewage that campaign workers are being trained to spew.
  • By Virginia, of course, we’re referring to real Virginia. You know, Macaca Virginia, which we assume to be part of pro-America America. Just to make sure we’re all on the same page.
  • There’s not only a “real Virginia,” there’s a real America. This FiveThirtyEight analysis takes a good, hard look at Palin’s ideal America (based on her rhetoric and the places she’s chosen to appear lately) and guess what? Real America is significantly whiter than … unreal? … America.
  • In Fairfield, Ohio, Halloween is evidently being celebrated by hanging Obama in effigy. If you’re a little confused by the Star of David on his head, join the club. I imagine black and Jew are all pretty much the same thing in some people’s minds.
  • By the way, you know that whole “Obama is a Muslim” thing? Read up on the piece of work who fabricated it here. Turns out he don’t like them dirty Jews, neither. And that’s not the half of it.
  • You may be thinking – how have I gotten this far without once mentioning FOX “News”? I think this item will reward your patience. Up until now Colin Powell’s negrocity has been tolerated, but yesterday he forgot his place and endorsed Obama. Which means he’s fair game for stuff like this: “Colin Powell has his dancing shoes on, fueling speculation that he’s gearing up to do the Obama Two-Step.” I guess we should be grateful that they stopped at “two-step” (I was expecting “shuffle”) and that they didn’t deliver the story in blackface.
  • Lest you think that racism is confined to the South and Midwest, this entry hails from the Great State of California. Where, apparently, them jigaboos loves them some fried chicken and watermelon. Of course, the perpetrator apologized because, you know, she didn’t mean to offend nobody.
  • Want more? We got more. Check out the gallery of stupid over at Pam’s House Blend, where you’ll find:
    * More fun in post-racial America
    * John McCain forced to denounce racist, homophobic member of Virginia leadership team
    * Kentucky, I know you can do better than this
    * FL: middle school teacher uses ‘nigger’ to describe Barack Obama
    * Palin praised racist writer who called for RFK’s assassination
    * Values at the Values Voter Summit – Obama as a Muslim Aunt Jemima
    * Westmoreland stands by ‘uppity’ remark about Obama
    * White supremacists: Obama’s boosting our movement
    * John McLaughlin: Obama fits the ‘Oreo’ stereotype
    * Georgia: publication features Obama in crosshairs on cover for article on white supremacist threat
    * Bigot eruption: GOP House member refers to Obama as ‘boy’
    * South Carolina: black reporter attacked by white family (on camera!)

As the song says:

Freedom of expression doesn’t make it alright
Trampled underfoot by the rise of the right.

Next: None of Us Are Free

20 replies »

  1. It astounds me the so many of my compatriots find the ugliest facets of America beautiful. And while i’ve long hoped that i was wrong in my estimate that America would gleefully accept fascism, a fair amount of this election cycle tells me that i am not wrong.

    Fear and loathing on the campaign trail is no longer one man’s burden or dark, cynical humor; it is real. Which leads me to repeat one of HST’s favorite catchphrases, “We’re a nation of pigs and we’ll get what we deserve.” Only this time it isn’t my own dark, cynical humor that provokes the words from my mouth. Now it feels like prophecy.

  2. Oh, no. Do we really need another wacko lefty site to spew hate and ignorance around? I say no. Bad luck to your plans for a socialist propaganda future.

  3. A comment that appeared in this thread earlier this morning has been deleted. Per our comment policy, we don’t tolerate certain kinds of things. Comments advocating murder and domestic terrorism fall well within that list.

  4. Brian: That’s very true. I actually know real, live socialists. I doubt Fred does.

    As a side note, whatever disagreements I have with them politically (and there are several), most (but not all) have been pretty decent, well-intentioned people. You know, the sorts of people you could have a beer with.

  5. Interesting entry, although I think the racism displayed by Republicans will back fire. I look at my kids, they’re so thoroughly marinated in civil rights teaching every single year during 12 years of school that they’re hyper sensitive to stuff that I don’t even think of as racist until they point it out to me.

    And my door knocking experience on behalf of the McCain campaign this weekend (dare I say that on this site?) validated that, several people voiced concern with Republicans playing the race card (granted, that was in an affluent suburban area of Colorado)

    However, I’m finding the sexism Hillary and Palin has faced this year is much more overt and socially acceptable…

  6. Anders: I don’t think you can link the two. What Palin has faced is MORE than fair because of the ideological basis from which she proceeds. Her whole base is about making women second class citizens and denying them the choices that Palin would secure for herself.

    Put another way, when you’re part of the reason sexism is such a problem, you don’t get to play that card.

  7. Anders,

    “And my door knocking experience on behalf of the McCain campaign this weekend (dare I say that on this site?)”

    Actually as long as you following the posting rules and try to be coherent anyone seems welcome here. I’m an unrepentant republican, although a left wing repub who is going to have to vote Obama because McCain/Palin scares me, especially Palin. Jeff, who frequently posts is very republican and a right wing fiscal conservative of the first stripe but his postings, most especially the ones on economics, are articulate and generally well thought out and presented, even the ones I don’t agree with.

    😉

  8. My youngest sister-in-law is 18 and is excited about voting for the first time. She’s also volunteering for Obama and Udall and doing all those lovely phone calls in the evening hours. She has people call her a “N- lover” and hang up on her. This in Colorado in the 21st century.

    Lara Amber

  9. I often wonder if some of these nutjobs actually know the history of either party. The democrats and republicans of today are very different from the parties of, say, around the civil war. You could argue that their polices have flipped. Much of the reason the republican party came into existence had to do with the democrats’ view of slavery. And now?

  10. Lara,

    Tell your sister-in-law that she’s in good company. “N- lover” was my sobriquet for more than a few of my teenage years.

  11. You can certainly compare the sexism Sen. Clinton faced to the racism Sen. Obama faces; in terms of overtness and social acceptability, at least. In fact, it’s almost as though an omnipotent social scientist designed that particular contest… The criticism of Palin as a woman, as Dr. S pointed out, is of an entirely different stripe.

  12. Great piece, you really hit on a lot of the crap out there.

    One term you used –“cultural outsiders”– I found interesting. I would say that while black America is outside of the mainstream culture they are perhaps the greatest exporters of “new” culture in the world today. Be it music, fashion, sports or even the evolution of the English lexicon, black America is having a tremendous influence on the world.

    Since the Harlem Renaissance when upscale whites tried to be cool going into black clubs, to Elvis imitating black music, to now, with the world dressing, dancing and singing like black folk, one undeniable truism shines through: Much of the world wants to be black.

    Bobby
    http://www.idlewordship.com

  13. I dunno, bobby. I don’t want to be black. But that doesn’t stop me from liking jazz or R&B or some rap (not that i think any of those forms are necessarily “black”, either). Same thing with other cultures. I like anime, I own a katana and two tea ceremony sets, but I don’t wanna be Japanese. I also love Mozart’s Mass in C minor and gargoyles, but I don’t wanna return to Catholicism. Admiration doesn’t necessarily imply a need or desire for imitation.

    This is kind of a tangent from the original topic. But while I agree with you that black culture has had a lot of influence, couldn’t you say that about a lot of other cultures as well? Seems like we have influences from all sorts of cultures — asian, african, polynesian, european, persian, muslim. Maybe I notice it more because I was raised in Hawaii in a city where europeans were, by far, the minority, i dunno.

    Oddly enough, it seems like every time we get into a war with some particular “group” of people, whoever “they” are ultimately changes “our” culture. Would the Kite Runner have been as popular in the US if it had come out 20-30 years ago?

  14. I happened to come up in a city of segregated neighborhoods and integrated schools at the time that gangsta rap was becoming widely popular. I can remember some of the same people who put “Straight Outta Compton” on to cruise around being racist to the point of violence. And i lived inside Detroit (Greenfield and Tireman) while in university during the mid-90’s: drive-bys, home businesses run through mailslots, the whole nine yards.

    I’m still white, but these experiences have colored my reaction to the ghetto imitation that i’ve seen the world over. Now i live in white, rural splendor. Yet i see kids who’ve probably never actually known a black person rollin’ like they’re a thug. I always wonder if their behavior is no deeper than fashion or if they believe that they can actually relate to the black, American experience.

    The ghetto life portrayed in rap speaks to cold, violent reality if you’ve ever seen that life with your own two eyes, whereas it becomes borderline mythological hero worship when you’ve never had to arrange your living room furniture based on possible ballistic trajectories. I have to figure that most of the suburban gangsta contingent does not actually relate to black America any more than most of the 60’s hippies could actually relate to leftist radicals. It is often nothing more than rebellion against the life that “middle class” parents try so hard to create for their children…one without want or violence.

    In other words, the emulation of black culture among today’s youth probably extends no deeper than the Sean Paul jeans; however, that imitation probably does prepare the minds of our youth for the idea of a black president…so long as they think deeply enough to realize that not every black person is a pimp, playa, or money mother fuckin’ maker.

    Still, the fashionable emulation pisses me off to no end. I’m always tempted to start chest poking and ask how many of the cocked hat kid’s friends know what it feels like to take a bullet or have been locked down for murder. Taking everything except the burden and pretending they know about shit that would have them filling their $200 sneakers with a puddle of piss.

    sorry for the rant.

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