The Black Face of Racism in Ebony

I just picked up the July 2007 issue of Ebony that advertises in bold white letters against a black background: "An Honest Examination of Race, Language, and The Culture of Disrespect." Flipping through the pages of that particular section in the magazine I'm struck immediately by a couple things. First, the examination involves only opinions of black people. All other races are excluded from the dialogue. Second, several of the pages, in the footer, run blurb after blurb of historical instances of white racism. Third, references to Don Imus and his infamous quote are ubiquitous, including one that refers to his comment as a "sexually abhorrent tongue-lashing" and adding that "The moment was historic because the nation had finally reached a negativity limit and people reacted in protest." Hmmmm, well, I kinda thought it was because Al Sharpton seized on it and sounded the trumpets of God for weeks, no? Maybe it was historic then.

It recalls a story from a friend of mine who was quickly slapped by a couple of "white liberals" because he dared suggest in open conversation that Sharpton, given his history, should admit his own racism, and that all racism is wrong. And, btw, do hypocrites like Sharpton have the moral authority to address issues of racism? I ask you. But anyone can say whatever they want, of course.

Back to Ebony. Upon closer examination of the examination, I came upon an especially interesting article by Adrienne P. Samuels entitled "The Culture of Disrespect." BTW, here is a quote from Ms. Samuels from an interview-article online:

If people write to me, I've usually made them uncomfortable. I'm all for that – making people uncomfortable. If I've done that, I've done my job. Mostly what I want to get across is that we have to be fair.
But back to Ms. S's piece. What is striking are the images of Martin Luther King, Al Sharpton, and black civil rights marchers (featuring a smilling Sammy Davis Jr.--rather awkward esp cause Frank was absent) juxtaposed to images of Imus and the Rutgers University women's basketball team. I thought all this stuff would be old news by now, but it is referred to again and again and again throughout the magazine, as if the readers and and Ms. S can never get enough of it. Imus is the looming symbol of racist white America, the truth lurking beneath the surface, always ready to disrespect at a moment's notice.

Ms. Samuels does an admirable job of getting lots of opinions on the issues of Imus and disrespect and how it came about, but all from black Americans, only black Americans. Is this indicative of racism or simply smart politics? Are they both entertwined?

Is it fair?

Going further, and perhaps because I am not a usual reader of Ebony, I was surprised by a few viewpoints as the discussion of "disrespect" naturally fused with the black music business and quotes by black notables on this subject, e.g., Jeff Friday, founder of the American Black Film Festival, says Black America made a mistake in allowing critics to launch an assault on a Black music form:

For me, I just think that we give White people too much power.

Apparently, Jeff thinks Whites should be muzzled at appropriate times. And then we hear from Q-Tip, a "legendary" hip-hopper who "worries that the community won't heal if the music of youth continues to be attacked." So the issue isn't the hate speech of black music artists, its the attack on black youth by Whites and White-sponsored puppets like Oprah (who is noted as being divisive). Meanwhile, NPR commentator Jimi Izrael says "pooh to the culture of disrespect and other discussions he feels are egged on by Whites." According to Jimi:

Whenever they want an explanation, we stand up straight, clean our noses and try to give them an explanation. We've trained them to do that ... they feel like it's up to them to put us in check.
Okay Jimi, uhhhh, and just below the above statements, at the base of the page, a blurb that reads:
Ragtime music reached its peak in popularity. It was celebrated for its
innovation and decried for being Negro music and too exciting.
And there are more blurbs and more blurbs. Wow. Wow. Wow. I'm still rubbing my eyes and blinking. Where's Martin Luther King when we need him?

Thanks, Ebony. Guess I'll go back to being a racist now ... Ah, and one more thing, nowhere in the disrespect article that included the above quotes is a single mention of Al Sharpton as having any responsibility for the elevation of the Imus issue or the subsequent debate that followed.

Just had to note that.


The Corporate Supreme Court Strikes Another Death Blow To Democracy - No, really.

"Where the First Amendment is implicated, the tie goes to the speaker, not the censor."

Stirring words from the Bush appointee to the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, as the final gavel came down like an axe on the McCain-Feingold campaign reform law. Along with his fellow Bushers, he has now made certain that evangelical and corporate America can run tens of millions worth of attack ads against corporate-unfriendly and non-"Christian" candidates in the final days before the presidential election. Of course, it also paves the way for "liberal interests" to do the same thing, thus not only creating supreme confusion while hiding the real truth, but making Americans more cynical than ever.

It's my contention that so-called free speech issue of Roberts and blue company is a convenient argument created by corporate attorneys and agreed to by Roberts. The law did NOT prohibit anyone from saying anything they want on television or in adverts--it simply prevented them from connecting the lie or smear or graphically misleading statement to a specific candidate in the final days before an election.

"This is a big win for big money," the Washington Post reported Mary Wilson, President of League of Women Voters. Indeed, the addition of Alito and Roberts has been a windfall profit for the corporations who put "good business" over the welfare of their nation. It's going to be an all-out war of smear and disinformation that only benefits special interest groups, their marketing agencies, and the TV industry. A few media heads will bitch and moan, but after the green dust settles, true democracy will be even be more of a dream than it is now.

Thank you Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and the rest of you blue-blooded, black-hearted bastards.


A Great Prosecutor to Convict an Innocent Man - Nifong, Fatty Arbuckle, and Nancy Grace

My passion for gross and obvious injustice is equaled only by my loathing of The Emperor's Children, however, I must call attention to these observations by Jonathan Turley following the Duke Rape Case:

What's most remarkable about the whole scene, though, is how rare it is. Nifong's misconduct was hardly unusual: Some of the most high-profile cases in history have involved strikingly similar acts of prosecutorial abuse. But instead of being punished, the worst violators are often lionized for their aggressive styles -- maybe even rewarded with a cable television show.

Nifong is a classic example of the corrosive effect of high-profile cases on a prosecutor's judgment and sense of decency. Even before the players were indicted, the district attorney had played to the passions surrounding a black stripper's allegations that she had been raped by affluent white college boys. Nifong called the Duke players "a bunch of hooligans'' and promised that he would not allow "Durham in the mind of the world to be a bunch of lacrosse players from Duke raping a black girl in Durham."

But he had a problem. The accuser kept changing her story, and there was no evidence of a gang rape. In addition to his prejudicial comments, Nifong was accused of withholding test results showing that DNA found on the woman's body and underwear came from at least four unknown males -- but none of the 46 lacrosse team members.

Nifong isn't the first prosecutor who, in his words, "got carried away" in the glare of television lights. In 1921, the silent-film star Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle was tried for the alleged rape and murder of a 30-year-old showgirl named Virginia Rappe during a party in a hotel suite. The San Francisco district attorney, Matthew Brady, faced a situation almost identical to Nifong's: His chief witness was less than credible.

Rappe's friend Maude Delmont dramatically described how Arbuckle had dragged Rappe into the bedroom, gleefully proclaiming, "I've waited five years to get you." She insisted that she spoke with Rappe three days later, just before the young woman died (of peritonitis caused by a ruptured bladder), and related the too perfect account of how Rappe yelled, "I'm hurt, I'm dying. He did it, Maude." In reality, rather than staying by her dying friend's bedside, Delmont had run to send a telegram to friends that read: "We have Roscoe Arbuckle in a hole here. Chance to make some money out of him."

It didn't matter. Brady was hooked. Like Nifong's conflicting DNA report, the coroner's report in the Arbuckle case found "no marks of violence . . . and absolutely no evidence of a criminal assault, no signs that the girl had been attacked in any way." Just as Nifong insisted that he had clear evidence against the lacrosse players, Brady released a statement (soon after receiving the coroner's report) saying that the evidence "shows conclusively that either a rape or an attempt to rape was perpetrated." Notably, when Arbuckle was finally acquitted in a third trial, the jury issued a written apology for the "great injustice . . . done him."
and further:

History is rife with such "great prosecutors" convicting the innocent to satisfy the public. In the 1913 Leo Frank trial, Atlanta chief prosecutor Hugh Dorsey pursued a Jewish factory owner for the rape and murder of 13-year-old factory worker Mary Phagan. It was a period of intense anti-Semitism, with crowds chanting "Kill the Jew" outside the courtroom. Prosecutors ignored the fact that all the evidence pointed to a janitor, Jim Conley, as the killer. Instead, they repeatedly rewrote Conley's conflicting statements to help him manufacture a coherent account for trial. Conley was identified years later as the killer by a witness, but it was too late for Frank. He was kidnapped from prison by vigilantes (including many leading lawyers) and hanged near Mary's grave.

When told that he had secured the death penalty against an innocent man, a Texas prosecutor once reportedly boasted that "any prosecutor can convict a guilty man; it takes a great prosecutor to convict an innocent man."

and on to my favorite bad-TV personality who gets five stars for creative man-hating:

Consider the career of Nancy Grace. Before becoming a CNN and Court TV anchor, she was a notorious prosecutor in Alabama. In a blistering 2005 federal appeals opinion, Judge William H. Pryor Jr., a conservative former Alabama attorney general, found that Grace had "played fast and loose" with core ethical rules in a 1990 triple-murder case. Like Nifong, Grace was accused of not disclosing critical evidence (the existence of other suspects) as well as knowingly permitting a detective to testify falsely under oath. The Georgia Supreme Court also reprimanded her for withholding evidence and for making improper statements in a 1997 arson and murder case. The court overturned the conviction in that case and found that Grace's behavior "demonstrated her disregard of the notions of due process and fairness and was inexcusable." She faced similar claims in other cases.

You might have expected Grace to suffer the same fate as Nifong. Instead, she has her own show on CNN, and the network celebrates her as "one of television's most respected legal analysts." On TV, she displays the same style she had in the courtroom. (In the Duke case, her presumed-guilty approach was evident early on, when she declared: "I'm so glad they didn't miss a lacrosse game over a little thing like gang rape.")

The Grace effect is not lost on aspiring young prosecutors who struggle to outdo one another as camera-ready, take-no-prisoners avengers of justice. Grace's controversial career also shows how prosecutors can routinely push the envelope without fear of any professional consequences. Often this does not mean violating an ethics rule, but using legally valid charges toward unjust ends.

One of my favorite topics, and one largely ignored by Americans everywhere.


Messud's Horrible Novel Wins

I just stumbled onto a few other people with some semblance of sanity who also fully recognize that Claire Messud is one of the worst writers ever published in America to receive lavish praise as one of America's best writers.

As One Minute Book Reviews puts it:

The most overrated book of 2006 was The Emperor’s Children, a windy and cliché-infested novel full of repulsive characters who move in eddies around an aging New York journalist.

Now I have to quote this from Messud's novel:

"He remembered his father’s telling him - his father, small as he was himself tall, with sloping shoulders off which Murray feared, as a child, the braces might slip, a bow-tied little man with an almost Hitlerian mustache, softened from menace by its grayness, and by the softness, insidious softness, of his quiet voice, a softness that belied his rigidity and tireless industry, his humorless and ultimately charmless ‘goodness’ (Why had she married him? She’d been so beautiful, and such fun) - telling him, as he deliberated on his path at Harvard, to choose accounting, or economics, saying, with that dreaded certainty, ‘You see, Murray, I know you want to go out and write books or something like that. But only geniuses can be writers, Murray, and frankly son …" [p. 124]


I'm a Cyborg, But That's Okay

From IFCB, a good glimpse of a new Korean film, I'm a Cyborg, But That's Okay.

Park Chan-wook (mostly) trades in the vengeance for offbeat romance in "I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK," a love story set in the most adorable mental institution in all of Korea. Lim Su-jeong plays Young-goon, who's committed following a possible suicide attempt after she's convinced herself that she's actually a cyborg and therefore do not need to eat. Pop star Rain is Il-sun, who suffers from the delusion that he's disappearing and that he also has the ability to steal aspects of people's personalities.


"DIRT" Picked by Doty

IBPC award ... Thanks to Rus Bowden!

Revolt of The CEOS - Who is Kidding Who?

From Hayes at Washington Monthly:

"When it comes to business’s united front against regulation, as Leo Hindery, former CEO of the YES Network and author of the book It Takes a CEO, puts it, “[These guys are] looking and saying, ‘Look, if we don’t play this global-warming thing right, heck with politics, our company’s going to get hurt. If we don’t reform health care, I don’t care if I’m a Republican, my company will fail.’"

And further:

"If these polls and other political winds are any indication, then massive change may be coming to Washington in the near future, most likely starting in January 2009. On energy and health care—two huge sectors of the American economy—the regulatory power and reach of the federal government is likely to expand in a way that hasn’t occurred since the 1970s. Today’s conservatives, desperately embracing the small-government ideology that once supported their movement, are almost completely unprepared for this tsunami of federal growth."

Corps have been in Washington rewriting and writing regs for their own benefit for god knows how long. But this viewpoint by Hayes seems like unbridled optimism or go-with-the-flow bs of some kind.

Perhaps for the same reason that literary reviewers pretend like Claire Messud can write?

Carl Sagan Speaks From The Grave

It's a little corny, but I do like it ... You go Carl!


Buzz, Balls, and Hype Faults Oprah

From BBH and MJ Rose:

I seem to be keeping score on Oprah: since Jan 2005, she's picked 8 books.
All of them have been by men.
If you go back, since 2003 she's picked 14 titles. 12 of them are by men.
For approximately 40* million reasons I find that amazing.
*49 million viewers watch the show every week and the majority are overwhelmingly female. More than 80% say some searches.


We hear you MJ, but why "amazing"? With "40* million reasons I find that amazing" you seem to be saying that a human being's gender should rightfully dictate their preference for male or female authors? Or are you claiming that women should not read novels written by men or simply that women don't read books written by men, or don't want to? Or are you claiming that Oprah is morally wrong to promote male authors to an audience of mostly females?