The center of gravity of my concern today on Farai's show was radicalization.
When the producers called me last week and gave the list of topics, I was somewhat disappointed to hear that we were going to talk about two (more) black men who were shot by police. It's a tired old story. One took place in Bellaire, TX which was incorrectly identified by one of the other guests as an 'all white suburb' and the other in Oakland. I went to Bellaire a couple years ago and it's a largely Asian suburb - a malltown looking very much like those in Southern California's Inland Empire. But you can't stop the old black vs white idea when we run these stories.
The germ of my idea against this assumption of radicalization began when I was listening to Hugh Hewitt take on one of the writers from Slate. Greenwald I think was his name. Anyway he went on about how the residents of Gaza were 'obviously' and 'naturally' going to be radicalized by the excesses of the Israelis. And sure enough this morning, one of the other guests started in with explanations about how this is to be expected in the black community.
But radicalization is not a natural phenomenon. It requires intellectual discipline and leadership. It requires, quite frankly, radicals. These are the ex parte individuals who often call themselves 'community activists' who organize protests and hire people with bullhorns to chant 'no justice no peace'. There is always some leader somewhere with a political agenda, fuzzy and ill-informed as it might be, that is behind these riots. I don't want to sound like Richard Nixon, but he was right when he said that there is a silent majority who are always for law and order and they don't ever want to be parts of the mob. Even giving these radicals the benefit of the doubt as to their peaceful intentions, how do you square their leadership and responsibility to the community when you get stuff like this:
The mob smashed the windows at Creative African Braids on 14th Street, and a woman walked out of the shop holding a baby in her arms.
"This is our business," shouted Leemu Topka, the black owner of the salon she started four years ago. "This is our shop. This is what you call a protest?"
Wednesday night's vandalism victims had nothing to do with the shooting death by a BART police officer of Oscar Grant on New Year's Day - but that did little to sway the mob.
"I feel like the night is going great," said Nia Sykes, 24, of San Francisco, one of the demonstrators. "I feel like Oakland should make some noise. This is how we need to fight back. It's for the murder of a black male."
Sykes, who is black, had little sympathy for the owner of Creative African Braids.
"She should be glad she just lost her business and not her life," Sykes said. She added that she did have one worry for the night: "I just hope nobody gets shot or killed."
The chances that Nia Sykes is going to vote in favor of candidates who would spend more money on police is slim, but the circumstances around the shooting indicate more money for training is just what's needed to prevent this kind of thing from happening again. But whether or not police improvement of that particular nature is needed, there is some definite responsibility I think writers and journalists need to take when discussing the reactions of people who assemble into mobs.
I think a number of writers irresponsibly contribute to the radicalization of people through their injudicious use of terms like 'oppression' and their arbitrary recognition as legitimate anybody behind a protest or grievance movement.
This idea follows up the slight opportunity for people to take seriously the idea that Obama changes things. I recognize that people are now giving themselves license to believe things about black people that they never did before. When you get words like this:
He continues his commentary: "We are so comfortable defining black in
certain ways, in restricting it to the politics of grievance and
lament, that we sometimes do not recognize it when it takes other
forms. One is reminded how people used to say 'The Cosby Show' was not
black enough and never mind all those cultural signifiers, never mind
the anti-apartheid sign on Theo's wall, Cliff's penchant for sweaters
from historically-black colleges, all those guest appearances from
elder statesmen of jazz and R&B, that episode saluting the 1963
March on Washington. Not black? No, what they meant was, this is not
the kind of black we expect, not the black of violence, ignorance,
poverty and clownishness."
Booker Rising response: As others and I across the ideological spectrum have commented, it's long overdue. The promotion of thuggishness, ignorance, and clownishness as "authentic" blackness is out. Authentic blackness promotes positive culture, about progress and education and staying connected with your family. Stragglers, get in where you fit in and show some class. Oh yeah, young uns, pull up those pants and put on some clothes.
You want to say 'yay' maybe they finally get it. But I think so many Americans have been so pessimistic about race for so long that they forgot what the entire point of change was all about. They kept arguing that black could only be as much as 'subtle racism' would let it be, and completely forgot about the human spirit. So I am likely, when I hear 'how can it be in 2009 that we still have this kind of racism', I'm going to turn that around on the spot. For how can it be 2009 and people still feel limited by it? It is a reductive co-dependence.
Several years ago when I started this blog, one of my axioms was that the Civil Rights Movement is over and the good guys won and nobody is about to turn back the clock. Y'all didn't believe I was serious.