Sunday, August 24, 2008

White Face

Today's Sunday Weekend Edition has a troubling segment on race and politics. Featured are two white folks to talk about the topic (that's curious, eh?). One is a man named Hubert Smith who espouses a point of view that would do Rush Limbaugh proud:

At Hansen's request, Hubert reads comments he originally posted on NPR's website:
"We organized. We marched. I was a public television producer and did shows with black activists...we were optimistic - not anymore. Today, what do many black kids get? A chip on their shoulders and nothing but a long list of grievances. Black politicians insist on their Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks boulevards, but ignore those black kids, or defend them when they mess up...."
At this point I was pretty disgusted. "We organized. We marched." ??? Am I seriously supposed to believe this reactionary racist ("their Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks boulevards") organized and marched for Civil Rights? Does Hansen challenge him to prove his claims? Does she challenge his gross generalizations of all "Black politicians" and "black kids"? Not a bit. Hansen simply states, "Thanks for reading that Hubert, you said you were once a bit of an activist for civil rights, and now you sound disillusioned, what happened?"

Hubert is off and running again:
"I think an opportunity was that point [after the assassinations of King and Kennedy] the challenge was to make something out of their legacies and - rather than do that - black leadership, the supposed voices of the black community and to a large extent many black persons squandered that legacy....they have promoted the victim mentality and the perpetual grievance mentality and they have tried to instill the notion in the black community...they should remain angry...and needy in perpetuity"
Is this the most complex discussion of race NPR could dredge up? Wouldn't it be amazing if NPR had someone on who might reflect on the fact that the US had slavery and violent Jim Crow for over 300 years of its history, that civil rights laws weren't even passed until the mid 1960s, and that affirmative action wasn't even 20 years old when it began being dismantled in the Reagan revolution?


Buzztree said...

I heard that too and was really disgusted. Thanks for summarizing it. There was irony, too, in the other "listener" talking only about Obama, if I remember correctly, which only perpetuates the notion of our "post-racial" world.

Anonymous said...

This just goes to show how out of touch NPR is with reality.

I, too, was profoundly disgusted with the purported marcher's viewpoint.

People like him, if they're not accusing Black Americans of embracing a culture of victimhood, they're accusing them of being uppity.

It's all two sides of the same racist currency.

Sadly, racism is alive and well, and has the imprimatur of NPR.

The way I see it, the folks that really wallow in victimhood are all those people who want to see affirmative action abolished, who say with a bald face that whites are shut out of jobs, or who bitch about Mexicans "taking our jobs."

The fact is that very few white Americans would care to work in a poultry/meat processing plant (think Postville, IA), or in housekeeping or at the food courts at the mall, or picking vegetables and fruit in California, or in construction (so many of those still working on rebuilding New Orleans, for instance, are migrant workers from Mexico and Central America).

As I see it, those people are the ones who really espouse a culture of victimhood.

Anonymous said...

Well, I don't know if you noted it or not. But a couple of Sunday's ago they had two rather staid people on the program: a white. older liberal male, and a Panamanian-American older woman with African heritage.

It was spooky listening to the white liberal male make counter points to the woman's rant that Obama 'played the race-card' by pointing out that he doesn't look like other past presidents whose faces adorn our currency.

Really!? Obama played the race-card? WTF Seems as though he as pointing out fact, and countering the racialized fear-mongering we have seen from the rightwing.

God bless the older liberal male's heart--but there wasn't time in this truncated segment to really dig deeply into the matter. Brevity is the soul/heart of corporate/NPR propaganda.

I didn't listen to the segment you comment on above--and, Jesus, I am glad I didn't.

Now, if NPR would ever have the guts to have Tim Wise on--now that would be an interesting show.

If you don't know who Tim is, google him, you will be intrigued. His arguments are very compelling--and that's why corporate media disappears this guy.

Anonymous said...

Flavio, I am a white male that is developing a farm, and engages in landscaping, stone work, etc.

Undocumented workers are super-exploited, and function to put downward pressure on wages in any industry that requires labor.

From my experience, both liberals and conservatives want cheap labor, and you don't hear much honest, indepth discussion about this issue--either in the 'progressive media (The Nation), or among the corporate propagandists.

Where do I stand? With my (legal workers), and with the working class in general.

It is not that 'whites won't do the work'--it is that nobody wants to engage hard, dangerous, physical labor for slave-wages.

To survive, we do work that the Mexicans simply won't do--otherwise we would have been defunct long ago.

Karl Marx, though much maligned by the liberal/conservative wings of the US ruling class, had it essentially correct: follow the money baby. Much of what goes on is all about the domination of social classes, racial privilege, divide and conqueor, etc.

The game's always been played within these dynamics. Concepts change but the struggle remains the same.

Anonymous said...

Oh, don't get me wrong, Slave Revolt. I totally agree with you: undocumented laborers are, indeed, super-exploited and both liberals and conservatives like cheap (i.e., slave) labor.

All I was trying to say was that people like Hubert Smith are hypocrites and plainly racist.

As for native US workers not taking hard jobs like construction, like meat processing,like produce picking, I stand by that. I've seen it. In the state I live in, I've seen construction workers from as far as Brazil and Argentina!

Now the solution is that these workers should be legalized and protected just as the native-born workers are. They should not be illegal. No human being is illegal.

Besides, I love the rhetoric of free trade: it's all about the mobility of capital and never about the mobility of persons. Some free trade! That's another hypocrisy.

Please: tell me people can move as easily as capital!!!

That would be free trade! And that's probably why the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) was rejected at Mar del Plata, Argentina, in 2005, and why under the South American Common Market (MERCOSUR), if I have a blue Brazilian passport, I can go work in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Venezuela or any of the associate countries--with the mere presentation of my passport.

That's all I'm saying.

Porter Melmoth said...

Good points, all.

The one thing this segment did illustrate though, was that there are actually types like this Hubert dude out there, and that they are not all that rare. I've encountered similar minded people, and they are content to remain so, as it justifies themselves.

Speaking for myself, I worked in a food processing plant for 5 seasons. The workforce was mostly local blue collars, college students and drifters, with a tiny migrant (as Hispanics were referred to then) group. The WASP family that owned the company then switched the shifts from two to three, succeeded in minimizing the union and then gradually replaced the local workforce with cheaper Hispanic labor by reducing wages and cutting benefits. It wasn't a case of 'illegal aliens' taking American jobs, it was a case of American corporate strategy in freezing local workers out, and Hispanics taking the drastically reduced in value jobs that were offered them. Thus, the whole issue is based on corporate-level policies, which are designed for maximum profit, no matter who does the labor. There is no allegiance to America or Americans in such policies.
Indeed, Marx pointed out the obvious.

Anonymous said...

Flavio and Porter--yep, you guys have it pegged, that's pretty much how it works.

There is also an unspoken, racialized hierarchy in play--I have met some white people that see picking fruit or landscape work as being 'beneath' them. This is insane.

What is disturbing is that there is very little in-depth, productive discussion of issues like undocumented workers, super-exploitation, outsourcing jobs in a race to the bottom, etc.

Corporate power truncates and distorts the discussion.

And this is why NPR is so repugnant--this is the venue you would expect a more full discussion in. Most of the time it doesn't happen--then they have to nerve to pose as 'progressives' and beg for money from the same people their reporting causes harm to.

Anyway, I am very impressed that you guys have the intelligence to understand this multi-faceted issue in some of its nuance.