Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A Redder Shade of Neck on a Whiter Shade of Trash

Melissa over at Shakesville pointed to a truly malignant editorial the Philadelphia Inquirer was kind enough to run to show how fair and balanced and crap they are, and I can't help but want to take a few whacks at it myself. Here's the gist of what Tom Adkins had to say:

For more than a century, the millstone of white guilt hung around our necks, retribution for slave-owning predecessors. In the 1960s, American liberals began yanking that millstone while sticking a fork in the eye of black Americans, exacerbating the racial divide to extort a socialist solution to the country's problems. But if a black man can become president, exactly what significant barrier is left? The election of Barack Obama destroys the validation of liberal white guilt. The dragon is hereby slain.

OK, he Freudian slips a bit there at the end, since we all know dragons don't exist, so white guilt never did (at least for Tom Adkins). Not that he doesn't have his own dragons to slay--the 1960s, liberals, socialism. Adkins, after all, is a founder of CommonConservative.com, a site that is dedicated to "attack[ing] liberalism with both barrels blazing" since you won't take his gun away till you pry it from his cold dead argument.

And let's grant him the only reason to feel guilt (and does it have to be couched in pseudo-religious terms?) is slavery. I mean, after 1865 there was nary a racist episode in this country. At the least turn off that recording of Billie Holiday singing "Strange Fruit."

For what I most want to decry is the belief that if one person succeeds, that means anyone can. I know that's the American myth--it's the myth Obama himself likes to refer to and part of the reason his election is so compelling. It does give us a reason to believe the U.S. is a country where all are created equal. But is that true? I'd like to defer to someone who knows better than I do, even if he wrote it 48 years ago:

The people, however, who believe that this democratic anguish has some consoling value are always pointing out that So-and-So, white, and So-and-So, black, rose from the slums into the big time. The existence -- the public existence -- of, say, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. proves to them that America is still the land of opportunity and that inequalities vanish before the determined will. It proves nothing of the sort. The determined will is rare -- at the moment, in this country, it is unspeakably rare -- and the inequalities suffered by the many are in no way justified by the rise of a few. A few have always risen -- in every country, every era, and in the teeth of regimes which can by no stretch of the imagination be thought of as free. Not all these people, it is worth remembering, left the world better than they found it. The determined will is rare, but it is not invariably benevolent. Furthermore, the American equation of success with the big time reveals an awful disrespect for human life and human achievement.

That's James Baldwin in his perceptive essay "Fifth Avenue, Uptown: A Letter from Harlem."

For ultimately the notion of "white guilt" itself is the problem. Adkins, it's not about you and your fellow white folk (that means me, too). So just shut up.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Smitty said...

and the inequalities suffered by the many are in no way justified by the rise of a few

This sums it all up. Conservatives still don't get it. I still see, as proven by your quote, that they think that nowthat we finally have ablack President, we can finally stop bitching about race.

No...

We can start bitching about it with some authority now.

3:28 PM  
Blogger Ben Varkentine said...

Dragons don't exist?

7:28 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

That Baldwin quotation is excellent.

4:34 AM  
Blogger CLD said...

I couldn't believe it when I found that editorial. I kept reading on, thinking it had to be satire. If read as a sarcastic piece, it made more sense, even if it was still crude and objectionable. I'm still reeling that it was published in a newspaper in a major city.

6:25 AM  
Blogger George said...

CLD, hi. Were you the one who brought it to Melissa's attention in the first place? If so, original hat-tip to you.

Ben, right-wing dragons don't exist. Yours can.

Mike, yes, that's one of my favorite quotes ever. It's sort of sad Baldwin isn't thought of as highly as I think he should. The Fire Next Time is one incredible book.

9:43 AM  
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