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Sister Souljah, the Cadillac welfare queen, and the fears of white people

Mandos's picture

Very recently, this thread on Clinton Derangement Syndrome erupted into flame over Bill Clinton's famous Sister Souljah Moment when I mentioned it as a possible cause of dissatisfaction with him felt by some people (me included) during his presidency. You know, things were different then, and we never imagined things could get this bad. Ah, the memories.

Anyway, the issue of race, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama keep cropping up for various reasons, and to me that thread illustrated a lot of the problems that some Clinton supporters have understanding the discussion of race and racial privilege. This is not to say that Clinton supporters are wrong about everything or that Obama supporters necessarily did not cynically exploit this misunderstanding or miscommunication to their candidates advantage, but it's a misunderstanding I thought was worth an illustrative post. I'm sure it's tl;dr for some of you, but I felt I had to write it anyway.

The problem is that racism and racist statements are very wide-ranging and complicated phenomena, and they depend on who is engaging in them and where and when. It does not mean the same thing when a black person says something racist than when a white person says it. Furthermore, ostensibly egalitarian-minded statements coming from a position of privilege can have racially disadvantaging effects.

(For a many-layered example, see here. On the naive surface level, it's two ignorant white people talking trying to be nice to their objectified black "friends." On the next level, it is white people laudably mocking this phenomenon among their own people. On the yet still next level, there is a risk that, e.g., white folk look at it and laugh and congratulate themselves that they don't do it, because they get the joke. And so on.)

So, for instance, as came up in the original thread, when Sister Souljah makes a radical and perhaps offensive statement, it means something quite different from when David Duke expresses a similar sentiment. Why? At the simplest level, David Duke's words are addressed to the majority. A powerful majority, which can and did once act on a large scale on those very sentiments. Who benefits historically from that action.

That makes David Duke's words powerful, and that he said it, a matter of special concern and offense.

Sister Souljah, however, is a cultural phenomenon of a historically oppressed minority, which has ostensibly shedded the bonds of formal oppression, but remains undeniably damaged by the history of it. Such situations typically call for experimentation with various forms of liberatory movements, and have done so the world over. Some of these movements have difficult ideologies, and some of them merely use violent expression to gain the attention and fear of the majority. The stick, as it were. The same kind of stick was used to bring in the New Deal. It's an ecology.

So when Bill Clinton, a white man, criticized Sister Souljah and equated her words to something that may have emerged from the mouth of David Duke, he was also declaring the contexts of these statements to be equivalent. He was eliding the entire historical context of a minor cultural phenomenon like Souljah, and declaring the sentiment to be as meaningfully dangerous as that of Duke.

I find that absurd on its face. It's obvious that nothing that Sister Souljah could ever be as dangerous as something said by David Duke. Remember, at around that time, people were really afraid of David Duke. At least, I remember that.

So let's say that Bill Clinton suffered from facile ideas about race (I doubt this, I really do). But I'll give him the well-intentioned benefit of the doubt. What was the effect of what he said? It apparently had the effect of reassuring white voters that he rejects black declarations of uprising and violence, he, a white man. This presupposes that there really was such a threat. This itself plays into a well-known racist trope. So even if he didn't mean to have this effect, he benefited from this effect.

Thus, he was either a witting or unwitting recipient of the benefits of white privilege from saying those things.

Herb the verb, in the original thread, then admonishes me,

Mandos, I would have more respect for your arguments if you had better arguments. For instance, look at the context of WHERE Clinton made his comment:

“while giving a speech to Jesse Jackson Sr.’s Rainbow Coalition, saying, “If you took the words “white” and “black” and you reversed them, you might think David Duke was giving that speech.”

Given where he said it, how can you honestly believe that was some kind of cowardly racist pander? Wouldn’t the less raving CDS viewpoint be that he was putting forth a point of common ground? Denouncing violence on both sides? Expressing respect by speaking in that venue and speaking his honest opinion even if it may not be warmly recieved?

This makes it even worse. If he were saying those things to white people, he would be just another well-intentioned white guy reassuring white voters that he does not intend to let a machete-wielding black man run around chopping them up, affirmative action or no. But when he said them to prominent black people, in public, he was putting them in their place.

Because you see, in the minds of many white voters at the time, and even now, it is black movements, through their threats of violence, that cowed bleeding-heart liberals to shovel white tax money at them. Where such shovelling allows the lifelong black welfare queen to drive her Cadillacs with her two dozen dole-collecting children.

You see, welfare reform and racism are all one big fabric. I remember it well. I remember the hype about workfare. And yes, it was about race. And the still-fresh fear of black militants, and the weakness of bleeding-heart liberals, and the need to assure the white voter that more money would not be shovelled down the black welfare hole.

Whether Bill Clinton was well-intentioned or not, it had this effect. And anyone running on an anti-racist platform, in my opinion, should at least be sufficiently educated to understand the basic operation of racial privilege.

So, for the record,

How many have that kind of courage? Obama? Are you really so blinded by your hate of the man that you can’t see that? The point is not whether “oppressed people” can talk like Sister Souljah it is whether it is GOOD to talk like that. Is it good? Do you think it is good to talk like she did? Productive? Healthy? Oops, sorry, since Bill Clinton is WHITE he has no place pointing out anything that is TRUE about race relations. How easy us white (or more specifically “non-black”) folk forget….

Most of these functions can also be executed by black politicians. Black politicians running for white votes. In fact, it is especially important for black politicians running for white votes to participate in these tropes. It's easy. It's fast.

And indeed, I don't doubt that Obama has no problem doing it. So save your accusations of CDS and Obama-worship for someone else. I'm neither with you nor against you.

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Damon's picture
Submitted by Damon on

But, did you need your own personal post for this? I really do think (looking at the other thread) that you're blowing this up to something bigger than it was. Brevity, my friend, is the soul of wit. Is there really enough on this board that believe that all racial comments are equal that you needed such a wordy post?

Submitted by Paul_Lukasiak on

...that being said, the key premise here is that David Duke was considered dangerous -- as if Duke was a major influence. That's nonsense.

herb the verb's picture
Submitted by herb the verb on

Thank you Mandos, apparently since my comments are the entire basis for your post, I have now become the poster child for knuckle-dragging white privelegists (there, a new word). Bravo! Maximo Bravo!

Before I start, I would like you to first read this and the more recent post that linked to it. I may not agree entirely with all of what is there, but these links describe better than I can what I think you are doing here.

Now, let me quote what I commented in the CDS post, where you engaged in a little CDS yourself.

My comment was entitled,

Oh yeah, poof-

"Poof, all of a sudden what I said equates to asking Massa when it’s ok to be mad.

For the record, I didn’t say that, for the record, I would never say that and also for the record, we are talking a lot about context of something that happened 16 years ag. The main part of that context (i.e. the sixteen years between then and now) is being pretty conveniently ignored for the sake of one person here [that would be you Mandos] to justify their current CDS. Part of that context should be Clinton’s actions since leaving office, but it won’t be because that isn’t convenient to the narrative of calling him a racist. Which is what Sirota clearly does in the piece that prompted the post, and what Mandos clearly defends using weak-ass shit from 16 years ago."

Why is it weak-ass shit? Not the least of which it is from 16 years ago and stripped of any context of the years between then and now, it is weak-ass shit because you still can't admit that what Clinton said was objectively true. You also still can't admit that as Paul says, both SS and DD were marginal, bit-players at the time. Easy fodder, even laughable and that was AT THAT TIME. If Clinton could be faulted for anything it was picking on poor Sister Souljah, who was so obviously a joke that hardly anybody in ANY community bothered to defend her. Yes, he threw her under the bus, but he didn't throw the Rainbow Coalition under the bus, and he ended up appointing more people of color, women, etc. than anyother president before or since.

I grant you that Clinton would have shown more courage vis-a-vis losing white support if he had gone in front of the Rainbow Coalition and said "Yes, black people have been screwed over by white people for hundreds of years, please tell us how we can undo that damage." That would have been more courageous, it also would have been incredibly stupid. Did you really want 4 more years of GHWB? What he said was POLITIC, he is/was a POLITICIAN, get it?

Oh, and now for my personal background, and why I'm honored you would single me out as a knuckle-dragging, ignorant, white privelegist. I have no problem with your opinion of me. Hell, I spent my entire childhood being taunted as a spic, greaseball, wetback, n*r-lips, beaner who should swim back to my country (a country I'm not from of course). I've been beaten for my background, I've lost jobs because of my background (people "in my culture" are lazy apparently). How you characterize me on a blog therefore has less affect on me than a pimple on my ass. Certainly much less than the heartbreak of psoriasis.

So, there you go, "bring it on" as another poster might say.

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Around these parts we call cucumber slices circle bites

Submitted by lambert on

1. Since the national conversation on race obviously isn't going to happen on the national level, it's good to have it here.

2. tl;dr ??? "Clear"?

3. Because I try to take the systemic perspective, I have a lot of sympathy for Mandos' argument here (and a lot of payback accumulated in the Obama campaign's account for making "You're a racist" the second or third move in the game of sorting Democrats into the in group (Obama) and the out ([not Obama]). That was a two-fer: Both trivializing and toxic.)

4. I'm not sure that relitigating the Clinton era is the best way to go about having this conversation.

5. What I would really like is a list of the tropes, with usage examples, so I can call bullshit when it happens. I'm sure there is one. And that would help with the conversation.

But what would I know? I'm a racist. [Yes, of course, in the sense that I benefit from a system that privileges whites. No, of course, in the sense that Tier Two and downward of the Obama campaign consistently applies it, that not to vote for Obama is to be a racist.]

[ ] Very tepidly voting for Obama [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Submitted by Paul_Lukasiak on

the problem here is that the conversation is starting from two mutually exclusive positions

Souljah and Duke are absolute equivalents (myiq)

and

Souljah and Duke are completely different (mandos)

Both are dead wrong.

I don't think that Mandos is showing signs of CDS so much as reflecting what we see on blogs that take an exclusively Afro-centric perspective -- and those who disagree with Mandos are offering "knee-jerk" Clinton defense responses.

Mandos' biggest flaw is that he sees David Duke as "dangerous", while representing Souljah as essentially harmless. David Duke was simply not dangerous -- his ideas are rejected by the over-whelming majority of Americans, and the biggest "danger" that Duke posed was to the GOP, which went to great lengths to not merely disavow, but defeat, Duke when he managed to win a GOP primary election in Louisiana.

While the "ideas" of David Duke are certainly a potential threat to the black community, those ideas were unequivocally rejected by the "white" establishment.

Nevertheless, its understandable why African Americans saw Duke as a threat... and equally understandable why white people saw Sister Souljah as a threat for the similar reasons -- while there was no chance that either's ideas would be embraced by the overall community at which they were aimed, whites perceived Souljah's message as resonating in the black community, and blacks saw Dukes message as resonating in the white community.

The difference was between 'overt' and 'covert' acceptance. The ultimate message to the black community of the Duke controversy was that while exploitation of racism through 'dog whistle' campaigning is acceptable, you can't give the game away by adopting 'dog-whistles' after employing overt hate-based rhetoric. Souljah, on the other hand, represented (to the white community) the overt acquiescense of hate-based rhetoric by the black community.

Mandos's exclusively afro-centric perspective ignores the meaning of Souljah within the "white" community, and insists that only the African American perspective on both Duke and Souljah is valid.

myiq2xu's picture
Submitted by myiq2xu on

I never said Duke and Souljah were "absolute equivilents."

My original point was that Mandos shows up (here and elsewhere) to pick fights by saying outrageous, ahistorical bullshit in order to get attention.

------------------------------------------------
“Payback is a PUMA”

Submitted by Paul_Lukasiak on

... when in response to this...

It is *different*...
Submitted by Mandos on Mon, 2008-08-25 20:47.
…when it comes out of the mouth of David Duke than when it comes out of Sister Souljah’s. It is different.

you wrote

No, it's not
Submitted by myiq2xu on Mon, 2008-08-25 21:00.
Hate is hate

most of your responses to Mandos were pure, knee-jerk anti-CDS responses.

I don't think that you can treat the afro-centric pespective that mandos is bringing here the same way that you treat CDS. While an Afro-centric critique of the Clintons may wind up sounding like/mimicking/adopting tropes that are part and parcel of CDS, its an entirely different perspective.

myiq2xu's picture
Submitted by myiq2xu on

If you want to defend talk of killing people based on the color of their skin, you go ahead.

Let me know how that works out for you.

------------------------------------------------
“Payback is a PUMA”

Submitted by lambert on

... is in good jerking order.

[ ] Very tepidly voting for Obama [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

herb the verb's picture
Submitted by herb the verb on

Is the entire point of what is going on here. Nobody here is buying the "Clintons ran a racist campaign" trope that Mandos was selling, so the need to go deep into the well to 16 years ago to create a "context" which ignores everything since.

An honest discussion of race would barely involve the Clintons. They are scarcely part of the equation. This is merely a tactic to further marginalize, divide and discredit anyone who thinks Bill and Hillary Clinton are anything less than ogres. [note: I left out all sorts of colorful descriptions of what kind of ogres they are, their feeding habits, etc. for the sake of the children.]

Therefore, I am NOT sympathetic to Mandos argument. It is deeply dishonest and personally offensive.

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Around these parts we call cucumber slices circle bites

Submitted by lambert on

I meant the Clinton administration, not the Clinton campaign this year.

[ ] Very tepidly voting for Obama [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

herb the verb's picture
Submitted by herb the verb on

but I believe Mandos IS INDEED engaging in CDS. I define CDS as defending Sirota's statement that Clinton ran a racist campaign.

In this case he is defending Sirota by attempting to relitigate the earliest Clinton campaign, using Sister Souljah and "Cadillac Welfare Queens" (something Clinton never talked about), and Clinton's supposed dog-whistle to white fear. At that time, the concern may have been real, but it is CDS NOW by not acknowledging anything between those days, oh so long ago, and the present situation we are in NOW.

YMMV.

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

Around these parts we call cucumber slices circle bites

myiq2xu's picture
Submitted by myiq2xu on

It was something he said back when he was Governor of California.

Like I said, ahistorical bullshit intended to pick fights and gain attention, not intended to advance any productive discussion.

IOW - trolling

------------------------------------------------
“Payback is a PUMA”

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

There's really only one reason why I felt it was necessary to write a whole post on it. It's not that I desire to relitigate the 90s in front of a crowd that views it favourably. Though I do wish to point out that those of us who were dissatisifed with the Clinton administration did have actual reasons, but often reasons quite unconnected to what when on this time around.

No, the reason why it needed a blog post is that this campaign, and the resentment that many Clinton supporters have felt towards many Obama supporters, has brought up issues regarding race and elections that had larger implications. It seems to me that to many Clinton supporters, the use of racism accusations has discredited more subtle arguments about race and electoral politics.

As this is with reference to Hillary Clinton's campaign, naturally it turns to the issue of some people's antipathy towards her husband. But the political abuse of racism accusations, such as it was, shouldn't let us throw the baby out with the bathwater. There were real reasons why people remember the Sister Souljah moment. Only if you think Bill Clinton is infallible is this not a valid subject for discussion. And, as I said, it became relevant because of this campaign.

Submitted by Paul_Lukasiak on

It seems to me that to many Clinton supporters, the use of racism accusations has discredited more subtle arguments about race and electoral politics.

your post and comments were not about "subtle arguments" -- rather they were ahistorical, and one-sided.

as to a-historical:

I get particularly bothered by accusations that Bill Clinton should have "fought harder" against welfare reform because it ignores contemporaneous political reality. "Welfare reform" was a hot-button wedge issue -- the "benign neglect" strategy had worked, and the welfare system was (perceived as) a complete mess.

Clinton had already vetoed two welfare reform bills, and the public wanted welfare reform. Clinton had two choices -- get the best deal possible for welfare reform and remove it as a political issue in the Presidential election, or lose the election and have a far more draconian 'welfare reform' bill passed by a GOP congress and president. (Quite honestly, I'm surprised that the GOP didn't 'sit on' Clintons two vetoes and use them for political advantage in 1996. Had Gingrich not felt obligated to work toward fulfilling his "Contract With America", Clinton would never have been re-elected.)

as to "one-sided"

I tried to address that above. Based on the GOP's successful embrace of 'dog whistle' politics, African American fears of David Duke are understandable. But "white" fear of Sister Souljah's rhetoric was equally understandable based on stuff like the "Rodney King" riots. And it is your insistence on promoting an exclusively Afro-American perspective that does not take into account the legitimacy of fear among white of race-based violence that I find problemmatic.

herb the verb's picture
Submitted by herb the verb on

I did say (if we must needs relitigate this) that Clinton was unfair to pick on poor Souljah. The fact is, she was a joke, a nobody, just another loudmouth, whereas David Duke was actually elected to run for public office as a Republican. In some ways, Clinton tarred Duke (and by extension the Republicans) worse than he did Souljah by using the comparison.

Seriously, how many people (and Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin don't count as people) were actually "frightened" by Sister Souljah? Seriously? Now how many people, white AND black, were afraid of David Duke (and Duke was a Republican, remember)? Who do you think Clinton actually damaged worse with his statement (a statement that no one yet has stepped forward to say they don't believe was objectively true)? Was it the black community? Or was it David Duke, and by extension by reminding people he was a Republican, the Republican party?

I had alot of problems with Clinton, but I am coming to the conclusion that he is/was a hell of a lot smarter politically than I thought he was, and I thought he was plenty smart that way already.

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

Around these parts we call cucumber slices circle bites

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

In this case he is defending Sirota by attempting to relitigate the earliest Clinton campaign, using Sister Souljah and “Cadillac Welfare Queens” (something Clinton never talked about), and Clinton’s supposed dog-whistle to white fear. At that time, the concern may have been real, but it is CDS NOW by not acknowledging anything between those days, oh so long ago, and the present situation we are in NOW.

Clinton did not talk about welfare queens, but by signing the welfare reform bill later on, and not in open mourning and protest, he legitimized the Cadillac welfare queen trope which is definitely connected to the Black Horde trope, which he himself had caromed off during the campaign.

But, regarding me, I did in fact distance myself from the accusations against Hillary Clinton in my post, by suggesting that it was overblown regarding her, now.

Nevertheless, it's a bit of a dilemma here. If I let racism accusations be connected to CDS, I permit a facile and superficial understanding of race stand. Because there were reasons to object to Bill Clinton's record on race, marvellous as it may or may not be otherwise. But if I bring that up, I am defending David Sirota and participating in CDS.

The problem is that folks like myiq2xu won't go beyond a superficial analysis of race, language, and power. It's also the case that many Obama supporters are genuinely likely to see subtle racism in a lot more things, and for good reason. That doesn't excuse a cynical use of that analysis (for instance, to destroy Hillary Clinton over more minor issues), but it doesn't mean that we need to retreat to facile thinking.

Submitted by lambert on

1. You didn't "lose a post." It's in the queue. Yes, sometimes you have to wait on posts about race, sex (and Israel), because otherwise... Well, you can imagine.

2. A serious discussion of race is not, by definition, participating in CDS; see my comment here, for example.

3. However, IMNSHO opinion, saying that accusations of racism agasint Hillary were "overblown," now, you support the idea view that the slime hurled at them by the Obama campaign had some basis in a serious analysis of racism, when in fact it was just a case of "any stick to beat a dog," and has had the effect of trivializing the concept (and the reality) and making any discussion of it toxic.

As I keep saying, "What would I know? I'm a racist!" And since I've been told that over and over by the OFB -- and not as a serious use of an analytical tool, but in pure and simple feces-hurling mode -- who am I to deny it? And, to follow the logic through to its completion, why on earth would they want racists in their party or their movement? So, I'll go -- which was certainly the intended effect.

[ ] Very tepidly voting for Obama [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

*smacks forehead* It was a symbol, not a quote. Yes, anyone who signs a welfare reform bill with maximum years and so on is participating in the trope set up by Republicans. Sure, he may not have had another option, but as I pointed out with a link in the other thread, Clinton did not exactly sign it under protest.

I lost a longer post on this somehow.

Submitted by Paul_Lukasiak on

The question is whether Clinton 'participated in' or 'defused' the 'cadillac welfare queen' trope.

A couple of questions

1) Do you think that Clinton would have won re-election in 1996 if 'welfare reform' had not been accomplished, and taken off the table?

2) Do you think that Dole and the GOP would have passed a far more draconian version of "welfare reform" without funding for job-training, and even more severe time limits on receiving welfare?

3) Do you think that Clinton could have negotiated a substantially better "welfare reform" bill before the 1996 election?

herb the verb's picture
Submitted by herb the verb on

Bingo!

To use the quote from Obama's favorite president: "There you go again".

So, how pray thee did it "became relevant because of this campaign"? Is it because "naturally it turns to the issue of some people’s antipathy towards her husband"? Why is that natural? women can't be independent of their husbands? Ho ho! Don't go there Mandos, for there madness lies!

Nope, it is "natural" because "some people" believe Bill Clinton is a racist and Hillary ran a racist campaign and that is what you are defending Sirota for saying. Come on, just let it out, you know you want to!

BTW, I'm still waiting for you to say that what Bill Clinton said was categorically, objectively false. Then we could consider the context of the intervening 16 years, which include things Clinton has done since leaving office, and then we could have an honest discussion, right? Instead just one based on memories, perceptions, "contexts" and willful abandonment of anything that has happened between then and now, as if nothing did.

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

Around these parts we call cucumber slices circle bites

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

I have written a post for the second time about the rhetorical dilemma of talking about racism and Clinton, and I lost it somehow after pressing "post comment". Is it in the spam queue?

Submitted by lambert on

There is an error message that ought to appear (bold and red) but apparently, it isn't.

In general, your post is not "lost" but queued. In any case, a browser is not a word processor. Posting can fail for all kinds of reasons: Network failure, browser hiccup, or hitting whatever the magic key combination is that I occasionally hit that takes me to the next page while clearing the cache.

Therefore, get in the habit of ALWAYS doing a Select All and a Copy of your content before pressing Submit, and you will never lose anything.

[ ] Very tepidly voting for Obama [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

So, how pray thee did it “became relevant because of this campaign”? Is it because “naturally it turns to the issue of some people’s antipathy towards her husband”? Why is that natural? women can’t be independent of their husbands? Ho ho! Don’t go there Mandos, for there madness lies!

Because Clinton supporters blame it on CDS, and CDS is at least a partial reference to the events of the 90s.

Submitted by lambert on

Ah, a classic use of the passive voice in order to conceal agency!

How to unpack this...

Mandos, I think you're Canadian, right? There's a lot of back story on all of these issues that you may not be completely aware of. Think of it as being on the order of the PQ's series of referenda, except with a lot more players and a lot more vicious, and then imagine that an American came in and started making pronouncements on the Quebecois as White Niggers (as the famous book of that title has it). No matter how analytically sound the pronouncements, a lot of detail would just be wrong, and that would have the effect of undercutting the analysis.

Since this is a quick summary, I will not offer linky goodness. Think of this as an Op-Ed.

First, I, and I think many other Clinton supporters, do not believe that racism "became relevant" in the campaign because of CDS. Rather, we believe that the Obama campaign deliberately used false charges of racism against both Clintons, first, to pump up the vote in SC after Obama's loss in NH, and second to smear and silence any supporters of Hillary as being racist -- since that could be the only possible reason not to support Obama. As you can see, this is not a serious analysis of systemic racism at all (as your post is); it's simply feces-hurling. And the Clinton supporters on the receiving end of it recognized this trivializing and toxic bullshit for what it was, and called it out. This is a current phenomenon. It does not have its roots in the 90s at all.

Second, CDS (Clinton Derangement Syndrome) also has its origins in false charges, but those false charges were manufactured by the Republicans for use against Democrats (as opposed to, as above, Democrats against Democrats). The CDS smears -- Vince Foster, and so forth -- been around for at least a decade, since there's quite a good living to be had by going on the teebee and pushing them. However, the energy in CDS is generally sexual in character (think Monica), and focuses on Hillary as a woman. CDS is the origin of the misogyny in the primary, not the racism. Here too, the Obama campaign leveraged false and hateful charges and characterizations (all the while preaching unity), but they simply adopted what had already been place in circulation by the Republicans, instead of (as above, with racism) creating new and original material.

The bottom line is that I welcome a serious discussion of race at any time, because I always welcome the creation of new analytical tools, but if that discussion is to be had, it cannot be had in the context of charges the Obama campaign made in this primary, because they were false, or in the context of CDS, because that is not relevant.

The Sister Souljah moment of a decade ago can be relitigated indeed, but I don't see any great utility to it. As I said, I think the listing the tropes would be a far more effective analytical tool. "Teach someone to fish..." and all that. Eh?

[ ] Very tepidly voting for Obama [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Submitted by Paul_Lukasiak on

Rather, we believe that the Obama campaign deliberately used false charges of racism against both Clintons, first, to pump up the vote in SC after Obama’s loss in NH, and second to smear and silence any supporters of Hillary as being racist — since that could be the only possible reason not to support Obama.

we don't all believe that is why Team Obama went the "Clintons are racists" routes.

IMHO, the use of the racist trope was not to get black votes -- rather it was to make it impossible to say that Obama's South Carolina victory was based on his being 'the black candidate'. At the time that the whole 'racist' nonsense started, Obama already had the support of a large majority of the black community in South Carolina, but was garnering little support among whites there. Because African Americans constituted about half of the SC Democratic electorate, he was guaranteed a win.

Team Obama had to prevent Obama's victory being reported as "race based" -- and absent accusations of racism, that is exactly how it would have been reported. (No one who asserts that a white candidate with Obama's resume and schtick would receive the vast majority of black votes against Clinton and Edwards -- who had received 37% of the black vote in 2004 -- can be taken seriously.) Obama had lost in Nevada and New Hampshire, and winning South Carolina would not have been seen as significant if it was reported as the result of black racisl preference.

The 'Clinton is racist' attacks accomplished two things -- it provided a 'plausible' narrative that explained why blacks voted for Obama other than the simple fact that he was black, and made it virtually impossible to even talk about how Obama's win was based on overwhelming black support. (and Bill Clinton was crucified for stating this obvious fact.)

Submitted by lambert on

We should put together a timeline on this, we really should....

[ ] Very tepidly voting for Obama [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

BTW, I’m still waiting for you to say that what Bill Clinton said was categorically, objectively false.

I did. I categorically denied that you can take unpleasant/violent words from Sister Souljah's mouth and put them in David Duke's mouth, exchange white for black, and then be even more horrified about Sister Souljah.

I definitely deny this, and I do believe Clinton claimed it.

Then we could consider the context of the intervening 16 years, which include things Clinton has done since leaving office, and then we could have an honest discussion, right? Instead just one based on memories, perceptions, “contexts” and willful abandonment of anything that has happened between then and now, as if nothing did.

Sorry, what happened between then and now and what Bill does in his retirement doesn't much impinge on why some of us may not remember the Clinton years themselves so well. And why we should have a more than superficial analysis of race and elections. And so on.

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

Seriously, how many people (and Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin don’t count as people) were actually “frightened” by Sister Souljah? Seriously? Now how many people, white AND black, were afraid of David Duke (and Duke was a Republican, remember)? Who do you think Clinton actually damaged worse with his statement (a statement that no one yet has stepped forward to say they don’t believe was objectively true)? Was it the black community? Or was it David Duke, and by extension by reminding people he was a Republican, the Republican party?

I had alot of problems with Clinton, but I am coming to the conclusion that he is/was a hell of a lot smarter politically than I thought he was, and I thought he was plenty smart that way already.

Sister Souljah was a minor figure, and what happened to her personally was not that important. She probably sold more books or whatever it is she does.

You're probably right that David Duke and Republicans were hurt politically worse than anyone in the short run. After all, Bill Clinton won, in more ways than one.

However, some of us aren't sure whether it was necessary to extend the trope, and don't also necessarily appreciate its long-term cultural effects. And its real effects in policy, including what was implemented during Clinton's time.

That real trope was first named by Republicans. But it has a life of its own. It's about the machete-wielding black male hordes, bursting forth from the wombs of the Cadillac Welfare Queen. A driver of policy in much of the world.

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

However, IMNSHO opinion, saying that accusations of racism agasint Hillary were “overblown,” now, you support the idea view that the slime hurled at them by the Obama campaign had some basis in a serious analysis of racism, when in fact it was just a case of “any stick to beat a dog,” and has had the effect of trivializing the concept (and the reality) and making any discussion of it toxic.

Yes and no. It was not merely a stick to beat a dog. It was a trap. That's the part that a lot of Clinton supporters have trouble seeing. The accusation was based, at least superficially, in the kind of analysis that I was using, an analysis that necessarily and correctly disadvantages the white party in the discussion.

I see many Clinton supporters (myiq2xu a prime example) immediately rejecting the entire analysis. That definitely made them, at least on the internet, look crazier to the *wince* Kossacks and allowed the CDS hordes to be whipped up into greater frenzy.

Do you see the trap? Yes, it's baited with just a little bit of the real analysis, which has a history and a set of fears. That's why I have to say, "overblown." Because white people running in elections against black people can't help, even inadvertantly, stepping in a race puddle. That's why "presumptuous", while itself a neutral word in the abstract sense, is a still dangerous word in reality.

The right thing to do is acknowledge that there's some inadvertant racism and move on. There always is something. Instead, that's not what happened. That was a mistake, and falling into the trap.

Submitted by lambert on

How, exactly. Spell it out.

[ ] Very tepidly voting for Obama [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

I'll do that next time, but now there's another post in the evil queue. Oh, the queue! O tempura! O morays!

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

We'll have to agree to disagree on strategy. I guess some of deeper strategic disagreement within the "online party" at least until 04 or 06 was precisely on that issue---of getting the best deal, and surviving politically rather than planting seeds. Whether Bill Clinton got The Best Deal is one thing, but if so, it at least risked being a Pyrrhic victory in that it reinforced the ideology.

Of course, when of the reasons why, believe it or not, I am a bit bitter about Obama is that that discussion seems to have ridden away on a tricked-out Unity Pony...

herb the verb's picture
Submitted by herb the verb on

"I categorically denied that you can take unpleasant/violent words from Sister Souljah’s mouth and put them in David Duke’s mouth, exchange white for black, and then be even more horrified about Sister Souljah."

And there, there in bold indeed lies the rub, yes? That is not the question I asked Mandos. Hence my premise that you are engaging in a less than honest conversation here. See if you could categorically say that after removing the bolded section which is your CHARACTERIZATION of what he said not the text of what he said. If I agreed with your characterization, I would agree with your statement. I don't, but opinions are.....

Further case in point (re: your opinion)-

"Sorry, what happened between then and now and what Bill does in his retirement doesn’t much impinge on why some of us may not remember the Clinton years themselves so well. And why we should have a more than superficial analysis of race and elections. And so on."

Of course it doesn't matter when we are talking about how the Clintons are racists TODAY, I mean, how stupid would it be to consider the last 16 years. What was I thinking!!!!

But we should expect less than honest conversation when you write:

"machete-wielding black male hordes, bursting forth from the wombs of the Cadillac Welfare Queen."

I mean, wow, hyperbole much? Why use a needle when a sledgehammer will do? So that was Clinton warning about those hordes, right? When he threw Souljah (who you basically admit was a self-promoting moron), and more importantly, Duke under the bus? Who knew? Certainly not "white peoples", who IIRC didn't take what he said in the way you seem to feel it was meant (and how YOU feel WHITE PEOPLE took it you incredible mind-reader you). But then, it is all about you and your feelings, and you are entitled to them, but don't pretend this is an honest discussion about race and politics, because it is not.

Update: added Duke to who Clinton threw under the bus.

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Around these parts we call cucumber slices circle bites

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

Powerful anglos in Canada used to call francophones that exactly, btw.

But seeing as most politically aware Canadians are avid followers of US politics, I don't think I'm missing *too* much of the relevant context.

herb the verb's picture
Submitted by herb the verb on

"you're "missing" enough".

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Around these parts we call cucumber slices circle bites

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

I can't do an indepth answer to all of you now.

1. Lambert: A real listing of tropes is impossible because cultural phenomena are not easily enumerable and always come up relative and in context. This disadvantages well-intentioned people seeking answers, I know.

2. Paul: From the perspective of the time, after globalization and welfare reform, it felt like once that were done there was no point in US Democratic politicians. From the perspective of the time. Hence the Nader phenomenon and so on. So if you had asked me then, I'd have said, "Yes, otherwise there's no point." If you had asked me now, I'd probably have said, "Yes, if the Democrats had done a better job of seizing the narrative, which they seemed completely incompetent to do."

3. Paul again: Yes, it's true that I don't put too much weight to white fears, especially after the Rodney King riots.

4. Herb: We'll have to agree to disagree on that too. If you remove the bolded part, I feel you lose what Bill Clinton was saying. Why would you make the comparison to David Duke otherwise, unless you were trying to inspire increased disapproval in your listeners? That's part of the fact, not part of the opinion. And no, he wasn't literally saying that (re machetes). But, it was a cultural trope that is fed by little things said by big people. It's the systemicity you're missing.

5. Lambert: sure, false charges. Agreed. The point is the set-up, as I said before.

Whew!

herb the verb's picture
Submitted by herb the verb on

Especially when you turn opinions into facts with just a mere swipe of the hand. Therein lies not madness but truthiness.

Facts, characterizations, opinions, all the same things apparently in your world.

I can agree to disagreeing to that.

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Around these parts we call cucumber slices circle bites

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

I'm no fan of the Sister Souljah moment, I do think it was designed to send a signal to white America that he wasn't going to cater too much to black America. I think you can argue that it was smart politically, but that doesn't mean it wasn't done for a less than noble reason.

What's troubling to me is that not only is there apparently still a need to do this kind of thing, but now when Obama does it, even liberals cheer and call it courageous. As if telling poor people they suck has ever taken political courage.

As Adoplh Reed, Jr., said in the Black Agenda Report, we're moving to a place where there will be liberal and conservative agreement on the fact that poor people are poor because of their own moral failings (I believe he called it ideology of the underclass). That's something, btw, I don't think either Clintons believe based on other things they've said, I think they both understand the larger social issues related to class even if their solutions are often too centrist IMO, but it is where all of this - led primarily by the right-wing and media - is headed. Obama seems only too happy to go in this direction as well cheered on at times by his "creative class" supporters (question - what kind of government help do racists in Appalachia deserve? none!). I don't know enough about the subject to comment intelligently , but it would be interesting to see a more complete review on the issue of class within the African American community and whether upper class blacks are unifying with upper class whites to agree that poor people don't deserve shit. There was some discussion of this in the Reed article and I'd like to know more.

And, yes, in too many cases race is a trap in any political discussion. When Obama called for his national discussion of race (which, of course, he didn't actually want), my first thought was that nobody is going to want to participate after you managed to brand even Bill Clinton a racist.*

* BTW, it's not that I think Clinton isn't a racist in the sense that we all grow up in a racist society so that we're all, on some level, racist. But I believe the labeling of someone as racist is a personal attack meant to convey that they are racist beyond this "normal" level. I don't think either Clinton meets this standard.

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

So here's the trap.

Many people think about race the way I think about it. Agree or disagree with it as you will. That means, that most actions can be evaluated in terms of varying degrees of privilege. That means that it's very easy to make a plausible, if minor, accusation of racism against a white person, because for us it's a much broader phenomenon than it is for others.

Of course, most things being minor, we don't.

The trap was to---if you will---make something up (or seize on something minor or inadvertant, depending on your version of events, it's the same effect). Then, at least in the online echo chamber, certain forms of denial can be taken as confirmation.

One of these forms of denial is to reject the underlying (perhaps abused) racial analysis.

That's where the trap comes it. That denial can easily be re-spun into a rejection of that deeper analysis of racism, which can be construed as an attack on the civil rights project, which can be construed as racism itself...

And so on from there.

Submitted by lambert on

"Why will my opponent not deny he fucks goats"?

And with the most complex and toxic topic in American culture (besides Indian genocide, I suppose). My respect for the Obama campaign's technical chops goes up another notch. And my desire to reward them with my vote sinks again.

[ ] Very tepidly voting for Obama [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Submitted by Paul_Lukasiak on

The "trap" lies in taking "nuanced" critiques that incorporate presumptions the impact of subconscious bias, and giving them agency. Or, to put it another way, the trap was race-pimping.

I can think of no better example of this than Bill Sheehan's remarks about Obama's drug use.

Sheehan expressed concerns about Obama's past drug use because of how the GOP would exploit it.

No one knows whether Sheehan was using the GOP as cover to inject Obama's drug use into the campaign, or whether he was genuinely concerned. (When considering whether to support Obama, electability was a factor for me. I was bothered personally by of Rezko, and not personally bothered about Wright and Ayres -- but I was very concerned about how the GOP would be able to use Wright and Ayres because I know that most of America doesn't see things the way I do.)

But Obama supporters immediately accused Sheehan of trying to use Obama's drug use against him. And they went further, accusing Sheehan of being 'racist' by associating Obama with his past drug use. And later, they cited Sheehan's comments as 'proof' that "Hillary Clinton is running a racist campaign." In other words, what may or may not have been a statement made by Sheehan of genuine (and legitimate) concerns about Obama's vulnerability to GOP attacks based on the "drug" issue morphed into an accusation that Sheehan's comments were part of a conscious racist plot.

What could, and should, have been a "teaching moment" about the impact of subconscious racism was turned into an attack on "racist" Bill Sheehan, and later "racist" Hillary Clinton.

It must be understood, however, that the worst 'race-pimp' is the mainstream media -- the existence of Al Sharpton as a national figure is all about the media's use of race-pimping to either pump up ratings, or discredit the legitimate concerns of African Americans. The media does not want issues that are important to black Americans to be discussed, because any such discussion will necessarily include how african americans are represented (and under-represented) in and by the media.

(One of the things that kills me is how every time a stupid white person like Don Imus comes along, the media says that its time for a serious discussion of race in America -- and that 'discussion' immediately becomes about the question 'why can black people use the n-word, and white people can't')

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

Sorry, there's no facts about racism without characterizations, perceptions, and opinions. An innocuous statement in one context is an incitement to genocide in another, and it's all dependent on opinion, which is a form of fact in this discussion. Yes, it is. You can't seriously talk about race, gender, and privilege without accepting that.

And I forgot to copy my post again, where I Spell It Out for Lambert.

herb the verb's picture
Submitted by herb the verb on

Bill Clinton was "crucified" because he is a racist from way back. Back, back, back. Back all the way back to 1992 when he was troping machete-wielding black hordes coming to kill whitey. Back when he was comparing righteous black anger to David Duke and the KKK. Back when he was putting black leaders back in their place with his lectures. Back when he was stealing the food from black people's tables and sending them homeless and unclothed into the night. Back when he was justifying every horrible Republican trope.

He had it coming Paul, didn't you get the memo?

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Around these parts we call cucumber slices circle bites

Submitted by lambert on

Sorry!

[ ] Very tepidly voting for Obama [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Mandos's picture
Submitted by Mandos on

...then you make it sound like it was necessary for a black candidate to do so to overcome the advantages that a white person had. I didn't think about it that way, Paul, until you said it.

Because it's important to prevent a black candidate from being seen as "the black candidate" as some white people are wont to do.

Submitted by gob on

would certainly make it easier for those of us taking an interest in what you're saying.

"that way"

What way?

A most interesting, though confusing, discussion; thank you, Mandos.

Policy not party!

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