What does the Obama victory mean for the future of "race" in America?

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Star Spangled C...
What does the Obama victory mean for the future of "race" in America?

 

Star Spangled C...

There have only been a few times in my life when I've really felt like I was witnessing "A Moment" - not just a news story of the day like msot previous elections ahve been but something that makes you really stop and think to yourself that you're witnessing History with a capital H and something that is going to profoundly change things. I had moments like this when I watched the Berlin Wall come down, I had one on September 11, 2001 when my mother called me and told me to turn on the TV. And I had one on Tuesday night when tens of thousands of people streamed into the main square in my city, danced on cars, drank champagne in the streets, hugged strangers and partied all night long, not over a sports victory or something fleeting and temporary but over an election.

And I think that the reason we all saw that significance, that sense that something special had occurred had everything to do with race. If Obama were white - even with the exact same ideas, intelligence, rhetorical skills, etc. - the victory would ahve been seen as welcome relief from the last 8 years but not much beyond that.

I live in a part of the country where racial tensions have been high from its founding. I live in a city where statues of Confederate generals are in our streets and parks and where it's not uncommon or particularly noteworthy to see a Confederate flag flying from someone's home or affixed to their car. A city with a tennis club that at one point would not allow one of the greatest players of all time, Arthur Ash to play on their courts because he was black. A city where older black people actually remember not being able to vote and who, on Tuesday, stood in line for a couple hours in some cases, took their kids to see how far things had progressed.

Standing there watching the results come in, there were black folks with tears running down their face. Others took their babies and were telling them that this now proves, once and for all, that race will not be a barrier anymore, that nothing can hold them back. There was a real sense that this barrier that had existed for so long had finally and permanently been shattered. Someone was saying that he likes that we'll no longer ahve to hear about "the first black president" or "the first black coach to win a super bowl." That they'll no longer be seen as historic or noteworthy, jsut a fact of life, no more significant than when a white guy is elected president or a white guy coaches a team to a super bowl victory.

And I have to say, I was caught up in the moment and really believed this. i guess what I'm wondering is if I'm being naive. HAS this proven that race is no longer a barrier? Is affirmative action really no longer necessary or justifiable when we jsut elected a black graduate of Columbia and harvard to the most powerful job in the world? Should Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton find a new line of work?

There will always be racism but mostly from the fringes. From angry, strange hateful people with no credibility to whom no one pays any attention or gives any respect. It's always been here and always will be. But in the broader, mainstream sense, have we now put race behind us? Have we finally overcome?

I hope so and I'd like to think so.

What do you guys think?

George Victor

quote:


There will always be racism but mostly from the fringes. From angry, strange hateful people with no credibility to whom no one pays any attention or gives any respect. It's always been here and always will be. But in the broader, mainstream sense, have we now put race behind us? Have we finally overcome?


I, too, want to believe, but the strange , angry, hateful people you list above make up a huge part of the American Heartland, and SArah the moose hunter turns them on.

Read Joe Bageant's Deer Hunting With Jesus. And evening's read. He is speaking out of Winchester, Virginia, his hometown. See if he has tagged the folks roundabout pretty accurately. He does not call them hateful, just sort of locked into their belief system.

He fails in not giving enough weight to education as central to solving the problem, although in calling them "dumb as a bag of hair", he certainly sees its importance in making those folk what they are. Along with a depressed and depressing state of being.

I'd personally give his take on things huge weight in trying to decide your question. And it's not to be read to inspire hope, necessarily.

asterix

I'd agree that progress has been made. And now that the barrier's been broken, it'll be that much easier for the next aspiring president who lacks the traditional advantage that comes with being a straight white male.

But I think the reality is that most people of colour still face systemic racism. While this will certainly [i]help[/i] that fight, it doesn't magically eliminate racism overnight.

Barack and Michelle Obama are both Harvard-educated lawyers who've consequently managed to accumulate significant wealth -- but not every African American is so lucky. Many still live in communities stricken with poverty and crime; many still face an educational system that needs to be massively reorganized; many still live in states that voted for McCain on Tuesday.

And throughout the election campaign, we still saw race-based attacks on Obama -- the only difference being that because even the outright racists knew perfectly well that calling him an unfit president because of his skin colour wasn't going to fly, they coded it instead in concerns about his religion, his birthplace, his purported associations with counterculture radicals. We saw dominionist Christians whispering about whether he's the Antichrist. We saw people calling undue attention to the fact that his middle name happens to be Hussein. We saw at least one Republican politician in the Deep South call him "uppity"; we saw Ralph Nader call him "Uncle Tom". We saw people call attention to the insignificant fact that his surname happens to be only one letter different from "Osama". We saw a young woman invent a story about being assaulted by a big beefy black dude because she had a McCain sticker on her car. We saw ludicrous stories about Black Panthers -- because there are so many of those around in 2008 (*eyeroll*) -- threatening white voters. We saw unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud swirling around black voter registration efforts.

While it was heartening to see that a majority of voters repudiated those tactics, the fact remains that a lot of voters were still swayed by them, and a lot of politicians still thought they were acceptable in the first place.

Yes, progress has been made. A barrier has been shattered. The psychological benefit to people of colour in knowing that they really can now aspire to even the highest office in the land can't be underestimated. And that's all amazing and beautiful and long overdue.

But there does still exist the very real danger that people will point to Obama and claim that racism doesn't exist at [i]all[/i] anymore, that America no longer need do [i]anything[/i] to help the millions of African Americans who haven't been as fortunate. The danger exists that he'll unwittingly become the metaphorical rug under which people [i]sweep[/i] the fact that racism [i]is[/i] still a problem.

And as a wiser person than me said recently, we'll know that race has [i]really[/i] been overcome when a black person doesn't have to be as compelling and exceptional as Obama to make it, but can still get on the ticket while being as mediocre, or even as woefully unfit for office, as a George W. Bush or Sarah Palin.

[ 06 November 2008: Message edited by: asterix ]

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Did the election of Margaret Thatcher improve the position of women in the UK? How about Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan? Did the election of Alberto Fujimori improve things for the Asian population in Peru? What about Abel Muzorewa in Zimbabwe/Rhodesia? Barrow in Belize? Sir Lynden Pindling in the Bahamas?

martin dufresne

I expect that it did, yes. Do you have evidence that it didn't?

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

You're asking for evidence of a negative? How about giving us some evidence of a positive?

martin dufresne

I was asking you to provide evidence for what you suggested by framing these as rhetorical questions. Never mind.

George Victor

quote:


There will always be racism but mostly from the fringes. From angry, strange hateful people with no credibility to whom no one pays any attention or gives any respect. It's always been here and always will be. But in the broader, mainstream sense, have we now put race behind us? Have we finally overcome?


I believe it's going to depend on the ability of our productive systems to produce a satisfactory lifestyle for the majority. If the rednecks of the Heartland fall further behind - and they are numerous enough to fit your "mainstream" requirement - I would not bet the farm on anything, frankly.

I don't think we can talk in nebulous terms about any ONGOING situation - and certainly we cannot make any useful comparison with recent events around the world. The U.S. will have its own dynamics, and everywhere, they depend on a society's capacity to satisfy material needs.

And of course, there's always intermarriage at work. [img]wink.gif" border="0[/img]

martin dufresne

quote:


There will always be racism but mostly from the fringes. From angry, strange hateful people with no credibility to whom no one pays any attention or gives any respect.

Tell it to the Irakis, Afghans and other aliens faced with Pax Americana and see if they agree.

AfroHealer

Obama's presidency will not mean anythign positive for the multitude of racialised and marginiliased communities in America.   WIthougth some seriouse and conciouse organissing, combined with a fundamental change in the policies nad procedures of the GOVt.

THe presidency has also meant that there are record number of people joining the Aryan nation, KKK and other overtly racist organisations.   

There have also been states that have legislated the end of Affirmative action, and other measure to rectify/compensate for systemic racism.

I grew up in west-Africa, and know first hand that having a Black president in on its own does not mean jack.    

What counts is having  consiouse and social  justice oriented style of governance. 

THe majorityof Americans are poor, but you hardly heard of the poor and low income mentioned in the run up to the elections.

How does a tax cut help you, if you don't even make enough money to pay taxes?

History has taught us that the election or selection of a member of a marginilised groups, does nto automatically equate to progress for the marginalised group.

We can hope for change, but I'm not delusional enough to believe that the Presidency of Obama is earth shattering & will automaticaly mean that the battle for racial equality is over.

We have only just began.

We understand that the POWERS that be, have never relequinshed power willingly.  So we collectively have to force that change, and be the change that we want to see.

May the truth set you free, Lord knows the lies are keeping us in bondage.

From your brother from another mother

 

 

 

 

Slumberjack

Judging by the expectations, Obama has the unenviable task unraveling centuries of white hegemony, while at the same time being held responsible for maintaining it's structures intact during his presidency.

George Victor

 

There will always be racism but mostly from the fringes. From angry, strange hateful people with no credibility to whom no one pays any attention or gives any respect. It's always been here and always will be. But in the broader, mainstream sense, have we now put race behind us? Have we finally overcome?

I hope so and I'd like to think so.

What do you guys think?

-----------------------------------------------------------------

 Could I ask for Star Spangled Canadian to respond to this one question:

 Did you pick up a copy of Deer Hunting With Jesus, or had you already read Joe Bageant?  Does he describe those people you don't think much of?

 

Fidel

George Victor wrote:

What do you guys think?

I think the Wall Street boys and big business needed a human face for the status quo elite and their agenda. Goldman Sachs, J. P. Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Bill Gates' Microsoft are among his main campaign contributors as was billionaire Warren Buffet. His transition team is filled with right-wing ideologues. The real changes needed by African-Americans and millions of poor Americans in general won't happen. Like Dubya, Obama will be another cosmetic figurehead leader. In fact, America will not be saved by this cosmetic change of leadership, I'm sorry to conclude. Cry

retiredguy

You guys have a very short view of history. So I'm going to give you a little lesson. When I was growing up 8 years old, i went to the first integrated summer camp in the south. The Klan poisoned our swimming hole, dynamited our front gate and burned a huge cross in front to the property. We had to move 40 little 8-12 year old campers under cover of darkness to a more secluded location in Tennessee, the Highlander Folk School. Two days before, one of the camp staff had been pulled from a camp truck, one of the same one we rode in to Tennessee, beaten, taken to the hospital, picked up at the hospital and charged with assault. The police had given all the plate numbers of vehicle owned by the camp to the klan, so they could hand out clan justice, so there was tension every minute of the journey from Georgia to Tennessee.  All the campers were given instruction in what to do if we were pulled over and attacked. I was 8 at the time. The camp was later burned to the ground by Tennessee State troopers, after the House Un-American Activites Committee declared it a communist institution. All civil rights organizations were communist according to among others J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI.

 

Growing up, my family camped a lot. There were no hotels or motels where a mixed race couple could stay. Race laws prevented it, everywhere, north and south. Now I could go on about this stuff for a few hours, with my own little documentary of the Civil Rights Movement. ALl I'm going to say is that, for you whining little snot nosed brats with your total lack of knowledge of where you came from and who sacrificed to make the election of Obama possible at all, what people went through, for you to sit in your privileged little world and think yourselves fit to pronounce that the election of Obama means nothing. You who have never had to put your lives on the line for anything. All I can say is, you have no clue. I think you might be grumpy because you need a diaper change. Go find you mommies.

Fidel

African-American in the White House. Good-good! And now all they need is democracy. That one will take sweat, blood, and some tears both sides of the border.

Maysie Maysie's picture

Thanks for that post retired guy. I would love to hear more of your stories.

  

George Victor

quote

Growing up, my family camped a lot. There were no hotels or motels where a mixed race couple could stay. Race laws prevented it, everywhere, north and south. Now I could go on about this stuff for a few hours, with my own little documentary of the Civil Rights Movement. ALl I'm going to say is that, for you whining little snot nosed brats with your total lack of knowledge of where you came from and who sacrificed to make the election of Obama possible at all, what people went through, for you to sit in your privileged little world and think yourselves fit to pronounce that the election of Obama means nothing. You who have never had to put your lives on the line for anything. All I can say is, you have no clue. I think you might be grumpy because you need a diaper change. Go find you mommies.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 

 

Wow!  I happen to think that Obama is progress. But you have responded in the fashion of the Bageant redneck.

That, really, was what the question was about. Does Bageant describe the folks in the Heartland, those who are now expected to reform around a new Republican force and push forward the Palins to represent them.

Don't forget, oh Retired one, that we of the longer toothed generation, can identify with Bageant, who is really lamenting the loss of some different values (not the loss of the KKK).

Or perhaps you haven't read him ?

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Why would anyone read Joe Bageant? Blowhards rarely make good reads.

I find it difficult to discount the people, mainly African Americans, who worked tirelessly to get Obama elected and the elation they expressed when he was. The viscera of retiredguy's post should communicate the symbolic weight of electing an African American to the highest office. I'm skeptical of what Obama will objectively achieve as an executive, but his campaign has meant a lot to a lot of people, and I think that's worth something.

KenS

One thing I will say is that we can expect that the daily effect of white folk seeing President Obama on the television is bound to have a cumulative visceral effect on how folks percieve black people in general.

And considering the opening that Obama has for dealing with the nation's crises- the hopes invested on him by everyone who does not flat out hate him- he has a very good chance of delivering up something that people will appreciate. That black man who is President talking to you.... and more important, who you are definitely listening to.

KenS

Obama being elected means everything.

But "race will not be a barrier any more" is still just  an expressed hope of what is possible.

We aren't even on the cusp.

The vote for Republicans went up substantially among white Southerners, while going down substantially among everyone else.

And even in the North and West where white people voted for Obama in big numbers, we have absolutely no reason to think that racism has changed one iota. No one knows whether this is just another case of 'white exceptionalism'- that perhaps people have accepted Barrack Obama for the same reason they have always made some speficied exceptions in their practice to Black people.

We have an opening.

And black people, people of colour in general, have some new pride.

Those are to be celebrated.

But no basis for getting carried away.

George Victor

Catchfire:

Why would anyone read Joe Bageant? Blowhards rarely make good reads.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 In your case, he would be read to overcome an ignorance of the world that runs to the sublime! You make the case for redneck distrust of city folk who only read to their refined "taste".

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

That's a personal attack, George.

George Victor

That's a personal attack, George.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

And, of course, attacking my taste in reading is only a "roundabout" attack.

Doesn't wash, Catch.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

I was responding to your  tedious insistance (three times in this thread) that someone read a book you liked. I found it arrogant and called you on it. You responded by calling me ignorant. I suppose that's all in the game, but reading Bageant won't fix anyone's ignorance, while you wear your perceived well-read background like a crutch. I'm sorry you were hurt that I don't like your favourite authors, but a lot of people don't like Ernest Hemingway either and I rarely take it to heart.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

retiredguy wrote:

You guys have a very short view of history. So I'm going to give you a little lesson....

Thanks for the lesson.

So does this mean all that racist crap will never happen again, now that the USA has become an enlightened, prejudice-free society?

What exactly is the lesson for all of us snot-nosed brats?

George Victor

quote:

I was responding to your  tedious insistance (three times in this thread) that someone read a book you liked. I found it arrogant and called you on it. You responded by calling me ignorant. I suppose that's all in the game, but reading Bageant won't fix anyone's ignorance, while you wear your perceived well-read background like a crutch. I'm sorry you were hurt that I don't like your favourite authors, but a lot of people don't like Ernest Hemingway either and I rarely take it to heart.

----------------------------------------------------

 

Read it again, Catch. I have always asked people if they agree with Bageant's take on the U.S. Heartland.  Just as I read Deer Hunting With Jesus to understand the Republicans' appointment of Palin.

 I always read to be instructed, Catch. Sorry if you can't hack him and are put off by my "tedious" requests, but believe me, I couldn't give a fiddler's fart about your personal take on it if you do not enter into the text and tell me just exactly what your so bloody superior intellect tells you is at fault.

 Talk about  tedious!

Makwa Makwa's picture

George Victor wrote:

Catchfire:

 In your case, he would be read to overcome an ignorance of the world that runs to the sublime! You make the case for redneck distrust of city folk who only read to their refined "taste".

I would appreciate it if you would dial the personal attacks back a bit, George Victor, if you please.  There is no need for this thread to become a personal spitting contest.  

George Victor

 

Sorry, Makwa, but I've been desperately trying to get the originator of this thread,  Star Spangled Canadian, to reply to a question regarding a book (I daren't mention it's name again for fear of being "tedious" and offending one who is easily offended).

 

I'm beginning to think this "star spangled" guy doesn't live in Virginia near he who must not be named. 

 

And how about that retiredguy, eh?  I wish he would be willing to engage in more discussion and enlighten us all about our societies' past. I have invited him before, but no dice. I come on line to learn, not to engage in nasty little back and forths with sniping egotists.

I can't just submit to insults.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

George, I'm not sure if you think you are fooling people into thinking that you are not engaing in childish name-calling, but your camouflage attempts leave much to be desired. Knock it off.

In the meantime, maybe those people you are trying to goad into responses haven't been back to the thread yet. Probably they only need to be asked to read your favourite book once.

George Victor

 

As the fella in the blackface Chatauqua act would always say, Catch..."after you, Mr. interlocutor."

Slumberjack

As the story goes, people once landed on the moon. The event was presented as a pivotal moment, a stepping-stone, whereby humanity would move further and further into the heavens. Nearly 40 years later, besides the occasional piece of space junk sent off to a few planets, physically, we haven't actually moved much beyond the ozone layer. They're still exploiting the alleged landing as the zenith of all human achievement. That it may all turn out to be a sham is certainly a possibility, but the fact that some people to this day actually get to float around up there for awhile is an achievement worthy of note, if only to recognize all the knowledge, dedication, hard work, and danger that goes into it.

Makwa Makwa's picture

George Victor wrote:

 

As the fella in the blackface Chatauqua act would always say, Catch..."after you, Mr. interlocutor."

While I am relieved that the details of this obscure reference escape me, I can say that minstrel show japes, however ironic, are generally not good things to banter about in an anti-racist context.  Less snark would be appreciated from all sides, if you please, good gentles.  

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[url=http://www.counterpunch.org/dimaggio11142008.html]Obama's Victory and the "End" of Racism[/url]

Anthony DiMaggio wrote:
Media commentary on the significance of an Obama Presidency remains relevant in light of America's continued problems with racism.  What will Obama do to tackle questions racial bigotry that have so long haunted American politics?  Historian and progressive commentator Paul Street draws attention to America's continued problems with "structural racism," in his superb book: Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis: A Living Black Chicago History.  Structural racism is such a dangerous phenomenon because it's implicitly embedded within America's major political, economic, and social institutions.  As Street explains: structural racism "generates racially disparate results even without racist intent"; it represents a sort of "state of mind on the part of white actors." 

Structural racism persists today, in large part because of the continued insistence of whites that the U.S. has transcended, or gotten beyond race, despite the widespread and appalling prevalence of segregation and discrimination.  Nowhere are promises of the "end of race" better represented than in pro-Obama post-electoral celebrations in corporate media outlets such as CNN.  CNN correspondent Candy Crowley, for example, refers to America's experiences with racism as a thing of the past by describing Obama as "born when much of the country was still segregated, as the son of a white woman and a black man."  Such a statement is extremely naïve and irresponsible, especially when reporters fail to present any evidence that segregation no longer exists today.

It has become commonplace in media debates to refer to segregation and racism as ancient history.  Following the November 4th election, CNN anchors consistently called back to the Civil Rights era (during the 1950s and 1960s and earlier), interviewing African Americans who suffered under segregation.  The choice has been to focus on segregation as a thing of the past, rather than to discuss its continuation today.  The intent is clear enough: the message is sent that Americans are finally transcending, or have transcended race.

KenS

The media and all sorts of pollyanna's with a coincidental interest begin predicting the end of racism.

I could never have predicted that.

George Victor

 

I've been listening to CBC radio news that a commission that includes Roy McMurtry  studying violence in Toronto schools has reported that racism and poverty are central to understanding the phenom.

No surprise there, but has anyone come across a print version of this ?

And wouldn't similar conditions - poverty - have to be overcome along with the new leadership? If Obama can bring that off without fundamental structural change, I'm a convert to belief in miracles.

 

Maysie Maysie's picture

I just read this article by Dylan Rodriguez, called "Inaugurating Multiculturalist White Supremacy". 

I need to read it again. It's long, detailed, exacting, and worth the time to read it.

Quote:

What happens to the politics of antiracism when the phenotype of white supremacy “changes?” At the risk of being scolded for offending the optimistic spirit of this historical moment, I offer these thoughts with a different kind of hope: that the spectacle and animus of the Obama campaign, election, and presidency fail, and fail decisively, to domesticate, discipline, and contain a politics of radical opposition to a U.S. nation-building project that now insists on the diversity of the American “we,” while leaving so many for dead.

To be clear: the political work of liberation from racist state violence—and everything it sanctions and endorses, from premature death to poverty—becomes more complex, contradictory, and difficult now. The dreadful genius of the multiculturalist Obama moment is that it installs a “new” representative figure of the United States that, in turn, opens “new” possibilities for history’s slaves, savages, and colonized to more fully identify with the same nation-building project that requires the neutralization, domestication, and strategic elimination of declared aliens, enemies, and criminals. In this sense, I am less anxious about the future of the “Obama administration” (whose policy blueprint is and will be relatively unsurprising) than I am about the speed and effectiveness with which it has rallied the sentimentality and political investment (often in terms of actual dollar contributions and voluntary labor) of the purported U.S. “Left.” 

(snip)

 Putting aside, for the moment, the liberal valorization of Obama as the less-bad or (misnamed) “progressive” alternative to the horrible specter of a Bush-McCain national inheritance, we must come to terms with the inevitability of the Obama administration as a refurbishing, not an interruption or abolition, of the normalized violence of the American national project. To the extent that the subjection of indigenous, Black, and Brown people to regimes of displacement and suffering remains the condition of possibility for the reproduction (or even the reinvigoration) of an otherwise eroding American global dominance, the figure of Obama represents a new inhabitation of white supremacy’s structuring logics of violence.

This is to say, Obama’s ascendancy hallmarks the obsolescence of “classical” white supremacy as a model of dominance based on white bodily monopoly, and celebrates the emergence of a sophisticated, flexible, “diverse” (or neoliberal) white supremacy as the heartbeat of the American national form. The signature of the “post-civil rights” period is precisely marked by such changes—compulsory and voluntary—in the comportment, culture, and workforce of white supremacist institutions: selective elements of police and military forces, global corporations, and major research universities are diversely colored, while their marching orders continue to mobilize the familiar labors of death-making (arrest and justifiable homicide, fatal peacekeeping, overfunded weapons research, etc.). While the phenotype of white supremacy changes—and change it must, if it is to remain viable under changed historical conditions—its internal coherence as a socialized logic of violence and dominance is sustained and redeemed. 

(snip)

 This is the political condition of possibility for the opening lines of the victory speech that arrived in storybook fashion just days ago:

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”

The euphoria of the moment allowed far too many to happily surrender any political and moral revulsion at this invocation of the Founding Fathers, and pushed far too few to seriously consider what, exactly, animated the founders’ nation-building dream and what it might mean for someone like Obama to valorize it. In the end, however, my concern is not with Barack Obama the politician, but rather with the emerging liberal multiculturalist common sense that assembles its points of optimistic compromise and political enthusiasm in alliance with the reforming and re-visioning of classical white supremacy that the Obama campaign and administration represent.

(snip)

At best, when the U.S. nation building project is not actually engaged in genocidal, semi-genocidal, and proto-genocidal institutional and military practices against the weakest, poorest, and darkest—at home and abroad—it massages and soothes the worst of its violence with banal gestures of genocide management. As these words are being written, Obama and his advisors are engaged in intensive high-level meetings with the Bush administration’s national security experts. The life chances of millions are literally being classified and encoded in portfolios and flash drives, traded across conference tables as the election night hangover subsides. For those whose political identifications demand an end to this historical conspiracy of violence, and whose social dreams are tied to the abolition of the U.S. nation building project’s changing and shifting (but durable and indelible) attachments to the logic of genocide, this historical moment calls for an amplified, urgent, and radical critical sensibility, not a multiplication of white supremacy’s “hope.”

[url=http://illvox.org/2008/11/14/inaugurating-multiculturalist-white-suprema... illvox.org [/url] 

 

KenS

Both long and dense.

Nonetheless: blah, blah blah blah Blah. [Realists] cup somewhat more than half empty.

Instead of what a lot of us say: [Realists] cup somewhat more than half full.

Boil it all down, and the difference is more apparent and rhetorical, as opposed to the substantive difference a lot of us think we are arguing.

 

Quote:

I am less anxious about the future of the “Obama administration” (whose policy blueprint is and will be relatively unsurprising) than I am about the speed and effectiveness with which it has rallied the sentimentality and political investment (often in terms of actual dollar contributions and voluntary labor) of the purported U.S. “Left.” 

Emphasis on that word "purported" Left. Which is incredibly varied. And that parts of it that are 'fooled' are and will be no more or less than before. Many people will act foolish regardless of what the African-American President really does. But they won't be more foolish.

Quote:

the figure of Obama represents a new inhabitation of white supremacy’s structuring logics of violence.

This is to say, Obama’s ascendancy hallmarks the obsolescence of “classical” white supremacy as a model of dominance based on white bodily monopoly, and celebrates the emergence of a sophisticated, flexible, “diverse” (or neoliberal) white supremacy as the heartbeat of the American national form. The signature of the “post-civil rights” period is precisely marked by such changes—compulsory and voluntary—in the comportment, culture, and workforce of white supremacist institutions: selective elements of police and military forces, global corporations, and major research universities are diversely colored, while their marching orders continue to mobilize the familiar labors of death-making (arrest and justifiable homicide, fatal peacekeeping, overfunded weapons research, etc.). While the phenotype of white supremacy changes—and change it must, if it is to remain viable under changed historical conditions—its internal coherence as a socialized logic of violence and dominance is sustained and redeemed.  

"its internal coherence as a socialized logic of violence and dominance is sustained and redeemed."

True.

But who expected otherwise.

Lots of people- including African Americans who want to beleive the Obama moment is destined to change everything. Really- so what?

The 'preface' to that is metaphor masquerading as political analysis.

 

Quote:

This is the political condition of possibility for the opening lines of the victory speech that arrived in storybook fashion just days ago:

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”

The euphoria of the moment allowed far too many to happily surrender any political and moral revulsion at this invocation of the Founding Fathers,

What Obama said wouldn't be what I would say. But so what?

Its an issue if we can expect that he is deluding people. Which is different than them being dazzled or stunned.

There are SO many people in the US- folks across the rainbow- who would say the same thing. At any chance. And a very great many of them will go out and do something about it- and they won't wait for Obama.

Did Obama say that racial prejudice is over? No.

Did he play to people who want to beleive that? Yes.

Safe to say he knows he is playing to ambiguity and using it.

Thats the complexity of politics out in the actual public space.

But there is a mirror complexity among activists. People who say they beleive, but aren't going to be waiting to be told what to do.

African-Americans are anything but monolithic. Those who are roughly speaking 'realistic' and progressive don't expect miracles from Obama. They are well aware hw much he panders to mythical and white America [not the same things, but with important overlap]. Most don't get their noses bent about it.

Bottom line: those inclined to take action [and I'm including on a very small and community or personal scale] are if anything more inclined to do so right now.

No one can deny the real possibility that people will be lulled into waiting for deliverance.

But thats all it is: one possibility. But analysts act as if it has already happened.

Lots of possibilities. This is an opening. Time for pushing- and realism, yes. But not for moaning over intellectual obituaries.

 

"Rumours of my death are premature. "

 

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Slavoj Žižek - Use Your Illusions

Quote:

In The Contest of Faculties, Kant asked a simple but difficult question: is there true progress in history? (He meant ethical progress, not just material development.) He concluded that progress cannot be proven, but we can discern signs which indicate that progress is possible. The French Revolution was such a sign, pointing towards the possibility of freedom: the previously unthinkable happened, a whole people fearlessly asserted their freedom and equality. For Kant, even more important than the – often bloody – reality of what went on on the streets of Paris was the enthusiasm that the events in France gave rise to in the eyes of sympathetic observers all around Europe and in places as far away as Haiti, where it triggered another world-historical event: the first revolt by black slaves. Arguably the most sublime moment of the French Revolution occurred when the delegation from Haiti, led by Toussaint l’Ouverture, visited Paris and were enthusiastically received at the Popular Assembly as equals among equals.

Obama’s victory is a sign of history in the triple Kantian sense of signum rememorativum, demonstrativum, prognosticum. A sign in which the memory of the long past of slavery and the struggle for its abolition reverberates; an event which now demonstrates a change; a hope for future achievements. The scepticism displayed behind closed doors even by many worried progressives – what if, in the privacy of the voting booth, the publicly disavowed racism will re-emerge? – was proved wrong. One of the interesting things about Henry Kissinger, the ultimate cynical Realpolitiker, is how utterly wrong most of his predictions were. When news reached the West of the 1991 anti-Gorbachev military coup, for example, Kissinger immediately accepted the new regime as a fact. It collapsed ignominiously three days later. The paradigmatic cynic tells you confidentially: ‘But don’t you see that it is all really about money/power/sex, that professions of principle or value are just empty phrases which count for nothing?’ What the cynics don’t see is their own naivety, the naivety of their cynical wisdom which ignores the power of illusions.

KenS

I'd like to post quotes of the same article that sandwich the one above.

"....[Obama, the othor says,] will pursue the same basic policies in a more attractive way and thus effectively strengthen the US hegemony, damaged by the catastrophe of the Bush years.

There is nonetheless something deeply wrong with this reaction – a key dimension is missing from it. Obama’s victory is not just another shift in the eternal parliamentary struggle for a majority, with all the pragmatic calculations and manipulations that involves. It is a sign of something more. This is why an American friend of mine, a hardened leftist with no illusions, cried when the news came of Obama’s victory. Whatever our doubts, for that moment each of us was free and participating in the universal freedom of humanity."

...and...

"The true battle begins now, after the victory: the battle for what this victory will effectively mean.."

 

[interesting note: MSpector quotes a different part of the same article in another thread]

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Slavoj, the left of the United States doesn't need any lectures about the power of illusions. They are all too familiar with that power, which has held the U.S. working class in thrall for over half a century. If Noam Chomsky urged people to vote "without illusions" it was because the good old Democratic Party illusion-manufacturing machine had been working on overdrive for months.

In a country where the working class eats, sleeps, and breathes illusions; where it votes for illusions; and where it sends its sons and daughters off to die for the sake of illusions, it is, to say the least, unproductive to chide the left for "ignoring the power of illusions". Especially so when, as you yourself say, it is essential in the present financial crisis that the workers awaken from their dream:

Quote:
The danger is thus that the predominant narrative of the meltdown won’t be the one that awakes us from a dream, but the one that will enable us to continue to dream. And it is here that we should start to worry: not only about the economic consequences of the meltdown, but about the obvious temptation to reinvigorate the ‘war on terror’ and US interventionism in order to keep the economy running.

The predominant narrative of "hope" promulgated by the Democratic Party wing of the US bourgeoisie is in no way the same as the narrative of hope that the working class must embrace. The hope of the working class does not lie with Obama, but with the possibility of realizing its own power and achieving goals in spite of Obama. His victory only "widens our freedom" to the extent that the working class gains confidence in its own power rather than placing trust in his administration.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Quote:
In a country where the working class eats, sleeps, and breathes
illusions; where it votes for illusions; and where it sends its sons
and daughters off to die for the sake of illusions, it is, to say the
least, unproductive to chide the left for "ignoring the power of
illusions". Especially so when, as
you yourself say, it is essential in the present financial crisis that
the workers awaken from their dream.

Well, I think what  Žižek is saying is that this is exactly the issue: if the ruling classes have all but admitted the illusion of capitalism, and still this illusion sustains Western society, doesn't that bear witness to the power of illusions? The power of symbolism carries a consonant weight: if it's only illusion, can't we change it? His argument hardly stops at the recognition that illusion, or 'symbolic' change is enough, but that such a belief carries impeteus of real change. Žižek argues that Obama's election shows that change is possible, if the will is there. He has long told the secret that 'Communism will win', so he is hardly satisfied with a continuation of liberal 'democracy' (as Ken S's quotations show). The French revolution failed, and so too, in all likelihood, will Obama's 'change is possible' campaign. But such events do attest to possibility. And if we can't measure progress, we can still see that it is possible.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

The French Revolution failed?

Geez, I missed that. They brought back the ancien régime?

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Sorry, my bad. I forgot how 'liberty, equality, and fraternity' are all the rage in France right now. Why are you so forgiving to Napolean over Louis 18 but not so much for Obama over Bush?

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Obama's victory is not a revolution in historical terms (or any other terms besides symbolic ones). Comparing it to what is probably the quintessential paradigm of the bourgeois revolution over feudalism - one that inspired revolutions all across Europe (and in Haiti) - is absurd.

If all Žižek is saying is that Obama's victory shows that change is possible, that is an unremarkable insight. It also fails to explain why he would diss Chomsky for telling voters to ditch their illusions about Obama.

I wonder, was Žižek equally enthusiastic about the election of Margaret Thatcher as a symbol of change? Did any of his British "hardened leftist" friends cry over that one?

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

It's quite alright to be cynical about Žižek's comments. He's pretty much the paradigm of politcal cynicism himself. He was certainly not enthusastic about Thatcher's election--he was busy being blacklisted by the Yugoslavian government. He's also certainly not calling Obama's victory a 'revolution'. I'm out of my depth when it comes to the French revolution, I can only speak of the massive disenchantment amongst Western writers that followed it--that's where I come from when I speak of its 'failure': in absolute terms. Certainly you can agree that the bourgeois revolution did not start and stop in Paris, or even in France? So certainly, you can be speaking of nothing else if not the 'symbolic' weight of the French revolution, when you appeal to its quintessence?

Žižek was pointing out that Chomsky endorsed Obama, yet advised voters to ignore the very quality that made Obama worthwhile at all: his symbolism: 'A sign in which the memory of the long past of slavery and the struggle for its abolition reverberates'. Why would Chomsky endorse Obama at all if in his substance--or quintessence, if you will--he was nothing but 'Bush with a human face'? Haven't you also questioned Chomsky's peculiar advice?

I'm interested in what you thought of the essay over all...you did post it on antother thread, I've seen. It's hard to beat Žižek on cynicism, but I also don't expect you to align with his psychoanlytical views. Yet you clearly agree (I think?) with his analysis of the recent economical collapse, etc. Where would you diverge from his position?

Maysie Maysie's picture

Catchfire, I'm recovering from a cold and a bit feverish. I can't read Kant or anyone deep at this point. I will try to return to your questions but I can't promise.

In the meantime, here's some cheery news that answers the OP's question "What does the Obama victory mean for the future of "race" in America?" The answer is: lots more open racism and lots more racist violence. 

Quote:

Election spurs 'hundreds' of race threats, crime

By JESSE WASHINGTON, AP National Writer – Sat Nov 15

Cross burnings. Schoolchildren chanting "AssassinateObama." Black figures hung from nooses. Racial epithets scrawled on homesand cars.

Incidents around the country referring to President-electBarack Obama are dampening the post election glow of racial progress andharmony, highlighting the stubborn racism that remains in America.

 From California to Maine, police have documented a range ofalleged crimes, from vandalism and vague threats to at least one physicalattack. Insults and taunts have been delivered by adults, college students andsecond-graders.

(snip)

Other incidents include:

_Four North Carolina State University students admittedwriting anti-Obama comments in a tunnel designated for free speech expression,including one that said: "Let's shoot that (N-word) in the head."Obama has received more threats than any other president-elect, authoritiessay.

_At Standish, Maine, a sign inside the Oak Hill GeneralStore read: "Osama Obama Shotgun Pool." Customers could sign up tobet $1 on a date when Obama would be killed. "Stabbing, shooting, roadsidebombs, they all count," the sign said. At the bottom of the marker boardwas written "Let's hope someone wins."

_Racist graffiti was found in places including New York'sLong Island, where two dozen cars were spray-painted; Kilgore, Texas, where thelocal high school and skate park were defaced; and the Los Angeles area, whereswastikas, racial slurs and "Go Back To Africa" were spray painted onsidewalks, houses and cars.

_Second- and third-grade students on a school bus inRexburg, Idaho, chanted "assassinate Obama," a district officialsaid.

_University of Alabama professor Marsha L. Houston said aposter of the Obama family was ripped off her office door. A replacement posterwas defaced with a death threat and a racial slur. "It seems the electionbrought the racist rats out of the woodwork," Houston said.

_Black figures were hanged by nooses from trees on MountDesert Island, Maine, the Bangor Daily News reported. The president of BaylorUniversity in Waco, Texas said a rope found hanging from a campus tree wasapparently an abandoned swing and not a noose.

 _Crosses were burned in yards of Obama supporters inHardwick, N.J., and Apolacan Township, Pa.

_A black teenager in New York City said he was attacked witha bat on election night by four white men who shouted 'Obama.'

_In the Pittsburgh suburb of Forest Hills, a black man saidhe found a note with a racial slur on his car windshield, saying "now thatyou voted for Obama, just watch out for your house."

Emotions are often raw after a hard-fought politicalcampaign, but now those on the losing side have an easy target for their anger.

"The principle is very simple," said BJ Gallagher,a sociologist and co-author of the diversity book "A Peacock in the Landof Penguins." "If I can't hurt the person I'm angry at, then I'llvent my anger on a substitute, i.e., someone of the same race."

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081115/ap_on_re_us/obama_racial

 

George Victor

 

The future is not in the alignment of the planets, however, but in how effective Obama is going to be in restoring homes and jobs to the little guy in 'Merica.

If he brings it off, with the help of a revitalized Democratic Party,  the sick, redneck element, the lumpen people that in the past have been dressed up in brown or black shirts and marched around, will not come to be.

It's still all about economy and jobs.  

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Catchfire:

[url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNpNzDoH1II]Chomsky didn't really "endorse" Obama[/url] [hyperlink] as far as I know. He publicly declared his intention to vote for Cynthia McKinney, though he would have voted for Obama in a "swing" state. He endorsed and voted for John Kerry in 2004. I don't agree with all of his politics, by any means; especially his bourgeois lesser-evilism.

But he was not advising Obama voters to ignore the symbolism of electing a black president. He was advising them not to fall for the illusion that so many of them were all too willing to accept as reality - that electing Obama would mean a fundamental change in the way the country is governed over the next 4 years. Chomsky is of the school that believes Obama supporters are somehow going to be able to influence him in the White House, and that they are going to have to influence him if they hope for anything progressive to be accomplished. That requires shedding their illusions about what Obama will do without any pressure from the left.

I thought Žižek's essay was something of a hodgepodge (for example, why the hell did he drag Henry Kissinger into a discussion about the cynicism of the "hard left"?) and I just cherry-picked the good part and posted it in the other thread.

I suspect you and I don't agree on the meaning of "symbolic". I would say the French Revolution was more than symbolic because it had an actual influence on world events. It was an archetype or paradigm, not a mere symbol. I suspect you don't agree with that distinction. Thus we can both agree that Obama's win is symbolic, but that would not indicate agreement on the practical and political consequences, if any, of the win. 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

bigcitygal wrote:

The answer is: lots more open racism and lots more racist violence. 

Heh. That's funny, because when I said essentially the same thing about 10 days ago (I believe the phrase I used was that racism was "getting a shot in the arm") I was denounced as if I were saying that black people shouldn't run for public office because of the backlash effect.

Cueball Cueball's picture

I don't remember you being universally denounced for saying what you said. I remember a small clique of persons denouncing you for that.

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