Southern Exposure

Ruminations of a Native Son


Greater Washington. DC., United States
February 06
Compulsive writer (mostly memoirs and sociopolitical rants), musicologist, hermeticst, fiscal conservative, radical centrist, agrarian socialist; Charter member, Factualist Party; born and raised in DC, healthcare professional, retired businessman, civic and political activist on two coasts, civil rights movement veteran. An empiricist's worst nightmare, I believe in everything but I don't believe everything, including many things I believe in. Turned down by US Army in 1966 for medical reasons, thrown out of Col. Hasan's Black Man's Army in 1967 for being "too militant." Scion of a family only Tennessee Williams could have dreamed up. There's more. There's always more.


APRIL 2, 2012 2:29PM

Racists and Bigots and Brutes

Rate: 16 Flag

It is clearly time to sort through our lexicon of sociopolitical terms and pejorative usages.

As we approach the End of Times according to those who believe the Mayans didn't simply run out of enthusiam or energy, and to those who live for the mad dream of immanentizing the Chritian eschaton , not to mention those who use politics and religion and safe havens for promulgating their sociopathy and gathering support for it,  the dicourse has become course, and speech and actions once considered too shameful to display publicly, even by those who held them dear, have become increasingly common. 

From the simple, clear and stunning public murder of Trayvon Martin to the passage of laws in various states reducing women to the status of cattle, the Far Right and Christian lunatic fringe have joined forces to seemingly issue the sort of cry for help that a mass-murderer often is seen to have broadcast prior to a slaughter of the innocents. Are these people pushing the envelope of sociopathy in order to be put forcefully in their place or do they truly believe they have the clout and/or firepower to bring us all to our knees? 

The religious right seems bent upon returning us to "the good old days," when Negroes and women both knew their respective "places" and a Negro woman had virtually no place, but was regarded, rather, as a sort of necesary, utilitarian evil, because who else was going to pick up after these swine, submit to their sexual aggressions, and serve, from time to time, in place of the black Whipping Boy. The Good Old Days.

Damn you, Norman Rockwell. 

These people on the far right (and there appears no longer to be any near right, no moderate right, no sane Republicanism as it once existed during the last of those Good Old Days when people like Dwight Eisenhower and yes, even the evolved Barry Goldwater provided some sort of intellectual and moral balance to the binary system in which we live and move and have our being), accept as their spokesmen people who are brutes, bigots, beasts, misogynists - and we are content to call them mere racists and pigs (an insult to pigs, at least).

Racists? Hell people, nearly everyone of us is racist, at least those of us who were born nominally white. I will accept that burden if the reader will not, if the gentle reader recoils in liberal righteous outrage at the suggestion that being born white almost confers a certain degree of racism along with all the rights and priviliges it continues to deny people of color. Yes, even I, the blackest white man most of you will ever meet, was born white, and so had a leg up on every black or brown person around me. Born and raised in Jim Crow DC in the mid-1940s, I was made aware, by my parents (particularly my mother) that we were given an advantage not conferred upon our black and brown bretheren. We could pass for white, even if we were of mixed ancestry, Irish, American Indian, and, yes, somewhere back there, a black guy, lost in the mists of time. We looked white. Of course the Irish did their turn at being black, Jews, members of a religion and perhaps sharing a sort of ethnicity, but basically white people, though racially sometimes different, sometimes darker, semitic, and so vulernable to charicature, had their own problems, and to a remarkable extent still do. In fact for many a Jew it's even worse, because they get to be white and an Jew at the same time, so the whiteness often does them less good than it does someone like me. Like the Irish, many a Jew learned to alter his last name so as to sound more Anglo-Saxon. This is pathetic.

Racism, then, is not the same as bigotry, and most of us, as I've already blurted out, are racist, at least those of us with the right skin tone and the right last names. We accept our advantage as a matter of course. We could reject it and put ourselves in the line of actual merit (wasn't that called "affirmative action," something that was forced on us so that "they" could take over and push us aside? I think I remember that). We live in and accept the terms of a basically racist society, simply by forgetting that our black or brown neighbors are, in fact, looked upon with suspicion and often have to work far harder to achieve the same level of material success and social acceptance that is give to us and which we can't even destroy by acting like literal monsters. So long as we don't go on mass murdering spress and confine ourselves to just the lone, occasional young black man, and so long as our sexual affinity for children goes undiscovered, we are pretty much free to pluck all the low-hanging fruit - and even then we get a pass more often than not if we but only act contrite once caught at our crimes.

We who pass for white get a better deal from the day we are born. And we take it for granted, even as we bemoan the lot of those less fortunate. In the words of William S. Burroughs, "Wouldn't you?" The system is rigged in our favor, and when we come to realize that, we realize we participate in a racist system, and that makes us racists. The least we can do is try to upend that system.

The same thing goes for sexism. It is an evil ideology as well, and any man who doesn't call it into question is less than a man.

The bigots are far, far worse, because those will preach from the pulpit or the podium or the public square or the electronic media their abject hatred for The Other. This deplorable condition is also generally found to co-exist with misgogyny, and while that has never fully gone away in our society, it had, for some decades, slowly made strides toward getting more nearly right - until now. Now the bigots, the mouth-foaming haters of non-whites and non-Europeans when you get down to it, are feeling more emboldened than ever to join the army of those who have decided to declare an all out war against women and the human rights of women. While these same people unfavorably compare Muslim society to  ours by citing examples of (isolated) cases of Muslim patriarchy, they seek to create a Taliban-like standard for American womanhood and, in the most recent development on this front, as it unfolds state-by-state, have now, in Georgia, passed legislation that effectively reduces women to the status of cattle (by use of the argument that a cow must carry a dead calf full term, as though that is even somehow a good and human idea), so women should have to do the same - with certain merciful exceptions, but in no case be able to obtain an abortion beyond 20 weeks.

Given any latitude, bigots evolve into brutes who physically abuse, torture and kill - in the name of some sort of "God." This is the end result of the evolution of unreason.

And we liberals, who are our very own selves reactionaries for the most part, respond by reacting - with vitriol and self-righteous superiority, as though if we repeat the andidotal words often enough, we have not only done our duty to the right (as opposed to the Right) but somehow believe this will have some effect on events.

Meanwhile the landslide continues toward us at the base of the mountain where our village sits and we all tell each other "It hasn't gotten here yet."

The fact that there be monsters, that there are utterly despicable people among us who are given a platform from which to spew their poison, does not make us, by default, the Good Guys. We actually have to do something. We have to show up. Women, rise up, as the statistical majority you are, and take back your hard earned ground - now. Liberals, show up and be heard. We are now in the midst of an all-out assault on our good and decent American ideals and the fact that we are almost all, to some degree, racists, needs to be understood and acknowleged so that we can join ranks with our non-white brethren. No, it shouldn't matter, but the fact is it still does. We've come a ways, but we are far from the destination, which is elusive at best. The biggest enemy we have is our own notion that "all that" was resolved years ago, and the assault on human decency is some sort of surprise attack. It is not! This war has been building a head of steam for at least 30 years. It comes from a virus never fully eradicated, but which, like herpes, lives in dormancy until the time is right and the host is compromised. We compromised ourselves and let this thing get loose by assuming we had "won." We have our work cut out for us now, and we have an opportunity to at least push it back into its damp, dark hole so as to address the problem without having to dodge literal bullets.

We don't have the luxury of sitting around and talking about "them" as though this will somehow shame them back into line. At last, perhaps we can see, they do, in fact, have no decency.

As the great cartoonist philosopher Walt Kelly once wrote:

"Resolve then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tinny blasts on tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us."



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A fun read, I might quibble on this or that, nit or pick, but I'd rather just have enjoyed it.. Yes, the true liberal, the Wilberforce or Fox must understand that he cannot point a finger at evil but must take it on and likely fail but certainly struggle years after the energy of youth was gone perhaps even lasting to that day when the cause becomes a source of conservative pride. And to do so, he must tolerate more than a fair share of enthusiasts joining up for the "six hour tour".
AJ, the time has come for standing up, speaking out and pushing back against racism, bigotry and misogyny. Thank you for being at the head of the crowd.
kenneth houck: Thanks for choosing not to pick at the nits. I'm sure someone else will do it anyway. :) Thanks also for understanding that the true liberal - or just the true good human - has an obligation to do more than just talk the problem into submission. And yes, there will always be those who only sign up for the "six hour tour." Those at least add something to the weight. We can at least do what we can.

Thanks for your kind comment.

CoyoteOldStyle: The only reason I'm up at the front is I was born sooner and got stuck up here. I'm not sorry though. Thanks so much for being here.
Bravo! This post is so damned intelligent it is guaranteed to be lost on the bigots you described. We all must stop talking/writing and start acting/fighting.

With L. Excellent post r.
Excellent analysis, I agree with you on every point. I wonder if the pendulum will swing and we will ever have a Republican party that
even remotely resembles the one we used to have before the lunatics came out of hiding.
rated with love
Well, nice use of the word "eschaton" anyway. And the Irish had a lot of practice being "black" before we got to America, as you no doubt know--about seven hundred years. "The Weight" would have been a better choice for music though; not more appropriate for the text, I just love The Band.

As another white person who grew up in the south in the 40s and 50s I am aware of both racism and bigotry. I also would add antisemitism as a virus that hides like a herpes simplex on the lips of humanity. Usually dormant except under stress, and disgusting. And I am sad to say that left-leaning people can be as antisemitic as righties. I've been in many an argument around the world with brilliant apologists who never, ever, consider themselves anti-semetic, but I sense it like gaydar. And I probably have left many of them with a budding cold sore of bigotry festering away at the stress of my arguments.
Lezlie: Thank you so much. It can be hard to be told we're not in the game when we're actually in the stands and not playing. I appreciate your reading of this. We all need to be actively engaged now. This shit is out of control, and the farther out it gets, the harder it's gonna be to reel it back in. Much appreciated!

Jonathan: Thank you so very much!

RomanticPoetess: Thank you! I'd love to think there may someday be a sane Republican party again, but right now all there is is a band of rogues and they are symptomatic of a deep and ugly sickness that has to be cured once and for all. We can only do it together, by actually doing it. We don't need them hiding for another 30 years. We need that sickness gone.

baltimore auriole: "Uninformed" is a relative term, relative to the full and current stream of information. To be referring to information that is old and has proven to be incorrect at best and bald-faced lies at worst leaves you appearing uninformed, and we don't want that. The fact that Fox News was the first to broadcast video of Zimmerman having been brought in by Sanford police with no blood, no grass stains and no evidence of any sort of personal injury nor even having been on the ground leaves your argument about the savage beating this hulking man took at the hands of his 140 lb victim sounding somewhat ridiculous or, to be kinder, very "last week." Then again, the mention of Trayvon Martin (very dead), was only fleeting in my post here. You're the one who's taken this on as a cause - with grossly outdated misinformation. Since you have, it is incumbent upon me to point out to you this fact and the fact that Zimmerman's father, a former magistrate of the court, managed via his considerable political influence, to get the State's Attorney to come out in the middle of the night and prevent Zimmerman's arrest at the time he was brought in by police stinks to high heaven. The video of a clean, tidy, uninjured and clean as a pin Zimmerman - by Fox News first, I must repeat - pretty well dispels the absurd notion that Martin somehow beat the snot out of an armed assailant who was nearly twice his size. If he had, however, that would have meant that Martin was exercising his legal right to STAND HIS GROUND against an armed assassin under Florida law. Your contention that this story constitutes a meme that this was a racist assault when by its very definition it most certainly was: How else does a white man justify the random killing of a black youth because he looked vaguely "suspicious"? Suspicious because of his wardrobe choice? If that's true then I and a good many of my white friends and relatives could be shot based upon the idiotic Geraldo Theory. The only other thing that might have made him "suspicious" was his color. But that never happens, does it? Your contention that were the races of the parties to this crime reversed my post would be considered inflammatory doesn't even make any sense. To say a black man who was a self-appointed vigilante who had decided a white youth was acting suspicious by walking down the street would have drawn precisely the same reaction: A man killed someone based upon race alone, and did so against direction of the police he had contacted to tell them of the situation. Neighborhood Watch is just that: a WATCH. NOT a firing squad.

Thank you for your comments and for helping me make my point.
BOKO: I really am gratified that you noted "eschaton." And being of Irish descent I often wonder how much that played into my "blackness," which I've mostly attributed to having the good fortune to have been born to a family poor enough to have to share the territory assigned to black folks in apartheid DC. It's a thought. I mean, being white, how did we manage to be so poor? Another topic for another time.

I wish I'd thought of The Weight. It would have worked as well, and I also love hell out of The Band.

Thanks for your comment!

Lea: If I failed to make the anti-semitic point adequately, I apologize. It's in there, and it certainly rates equal time with all the other groups which have found themselves in the midst of an unexpected open season. In fact, anti-semitism has been the one constant throughout the otherwise relative quiet period. It's always been there, never really seemed to have gone away. The fact that, as you point out, left-leaners can be every bit as guilty of this - and with far weaker excuses (it seems to me) is an enduring mystery and frustration. I hope you have left many a deserved cold sore in your wake. It's the least they deserve. Thanks for your comment!

As I believe I’ve stated before, I am not a Racist. My position is that I dislike everyone equally, with the possible exception of children who are, if anything, more trouble and aggravation than adults.

That said, I find I generally put up with them.

There was a time when I thought I could do without them, but that was in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s when I was a whole lot younger. Now I’m pretty sure I need their help to stay alive.
Course, most of them could use a little “help” in thinking through what they do, even a lot of the ones who are T-Partiers and Christians ( My kind of people).

Some of them need a little help understanding that Christian People of “Free Will” HELP their fellow creatures, of all sorts and species. And, “Free Will” is important, and some choices people have to make for themselves. Most of them already understand both concepts, they just need to be reminded of it from time to time.

I spent my Saturday morning measuring kids feet at my Church, my wife being one of the local organizers of “Shoes4 the Shoeless” in our area ( Our junior Pastor being another) she not only volunteered me to measure kids for free shoes (purchased by members of our church) she actually volunteered me to drive 3 of the darker complected ones to a barbershop in a neighboring city where some darker complected barber agreed to cut their hair, because it needed cutting, and he knew how to do it right, and it was the right thing to do. So I spent an hour and a half listening to Rap music and chatting with the gentlemen in the barbershop ( Did I mention I HATE Rap music?) I collected the kids and thanked the barber, who thanked me for bringing the kids in. Then I got to drive the kids home, hooting and kicking the back of my seat all the way. In other words, just like me and my brothers when we were that age. I didn’t actually kill them or anything. Hopefully I’ll see them at my youth group Wednesday.

I’m not sure what I mean to say by all this, except, it’d be really easy to “get mad” at all the “liberals” who support Obama’s takeover of our way of life”, but I don’t think they are really trying to do that, whether Obama is or not. He’s pretty much just noise, like Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, Limbaugh, etc. I try to tune him out and concentrate on the fact that most people are “good” people. They just have a tendency sometimes to get afraid and worked up and yell at each other. Like the people here on OS.
PS- Herr Zimmerman would, in other circumstances, be portrayed as "Brown" - racism is not the problem, "Cop" arrogance and abuse, and it's encouragement in Cop wannabes, is.
PPS- The "Knee Jerk" reaction you are observing on "The Right" is not of racism, but of the "Right Wing" tendency to confuse "Law and Order (Authority) " with "Justice"- to my mind a far more pernicious problem at this point. - interesting counterpoint to the recent "liberal" tendency to insist that Eric Holder. etc. represents "Justice", since the Left has been in power.
Herr Rudolphus der Rude: It struck me funny, your prefacing your remarks with "I am not a racist." I'm sure you don't consider yourself one, and that's to the good; I'll accept your self-exclusion-by-brownness, since I'm not sure how you arrived at that, and we all work with that same handicap here. I can live with that for now, though, given your other remarks were so typically interesting, misanthropic-yet-funny, and generally enlightened. I don't think there's any requirement that anyone like rap music, or any particular genre for that matter. For the record I don't X-out any genre, but only individual examples, as in "I don't know art but I know what I like." To each his own.

I am inclined to sympathize with your Law and Order vs. Justice view, too, and while we could debate and discuss both Obama and Holder ad infinitum, they are not at the root of anything directly concerned with what's going on, and can only cause so much good or evil, depending upon one's perception of each concept. They are nominally black, though, which should mean nothing.

Thanks for your comments. I always enjoy them, even when I disagree with parts of them.

Kate O'Hehir: Exactly, and thank you! We can never be a "post-racial" society so long as we are talking about race, even if it is in what we like to think of as the past-tense. I'm not sure we get to even BE post-racial, at least so long as there is more than one race. It's the "ism" part that's the problem, and many will never grasp that concept, fewer will acknowledge it. Thanks again.

My self exclusion from "Racism" is not for "brownness" ( The reference was to Herr Zimmerman, had he been, say , pulled over and detained for suspicion of being an illegal alien) but because I make no distinctions among humans- I dislike them all. regardless of race color or creed. - especially the little ones.

But, as Little Big Man's grandfather noted about the "White Man", "say what you will about him, you cannot get rid of him."

So I cope. Mostly I "cope" the way I coped with my younger brothers. I was firmly instructed that I didn't have to like them, but I had to love them . I still don't like them. But I still love them.

I was just reading two articles in "The American Spectator"


I'd be interested in your comments.
Herr etc.: The first article, written by Daniel Flynn, whose "The Blue Collar Intellectual" I very much admired, is, in my ever-so-humble opinion, horribly flawed. Flynn concludes, amazingly a la Geraldo, that we need to look and walk and talk and generally behave like good sheep in order to avoid the natural outcome of being shot for appearing to be a stereotype. This of course is a glib tissue of horse shit. When I was Martin's age at the time of his departure from the planet, I was his equal in many ways, most, in fact. That I should have been more of a conformist, less myself, less inclined in my unfinished 17 year old brain to be an anarchist, assume a punk demeanor, to dress in such a way as to evoke "Damn juvenile delinquents," to be developing, via a counterculture some sense of a social conscience, had I not been the lecherous, loutish, self-centered, angst-ridden follower of Kerouac and Burroughs, had I not been addicted to goofballs and a user of speed, then maybe I would not have been, transplanted into today's dystopia, fair game to be shot on sight. So my estimation of Flynn's own intellect and his ability to think critically just plummeted and I am thinking of burning my copy of the book I so enjoyed, in protest on behalf of my 17 year-old self.

The second article had more redeeming qualities, but a seriously flawed assumption, ie: "I did not get a response from Sr. Jackie. But I suspect she would have said that there are so many convicted felons that charities could never fill the need -- that there are a hundred criminals for every do-gooder. If that is the case, why bother?" I have rarely read a more skewed and irrational comment in my life. The overriding sentiment I agree with, but that part, and the "100 criminals for every do-gooder" render the whole of it useless, since all the reasoning used comes into question. I could pluck numbers from the air based upon what I believe when I don't actually KNOW, and that's one of the biggest problems we face right now, and is the precise thing that led to this horrible debacle in Florida, not to mention all sorts of silly mischief and human suffering.

Thanks for the links and the chance to re-evaluate Daniel Flynn.
We either stand and be heard NOW or we're going to be too late to even stand for our own individual rights. No longer can a progressive simply be a polite politician. Unfortunately, in order for us to beat the ultra right at their own game, we're going to have to learn to play their game just as well as they do and raise hell every chance we can. Then, the right wingers can thank us for saving THEIR rights as well.
Boomer Bob: This is the crisis we're facing: the politeness conundrum.
I agree with you and have never been neurotically polite when the situation calls for something else. I'm not a pacifist, either, just for the record, even though I abhor violence. There's a time and place for everything, and we really ought to be able to take their game to them, jack it up a notch or two, and leave them hanging on the ropes. The only reason we haven't is our goddam politeness. Thank you.
Very eloquent. Privilege is a hard concept to come to grips with. Everyone who enjoys it makes a daily decision as an activist whether they are willing to sacrifice it for social justice. People who do genuine battle on behalf of the oppressed will nearly always lose the credential that makes them privileged - their academic tenure, medical license, teaching/nursing registration. It's happened to nearly all the serious activists I know.
I see this as a powerful rant. Well done. I can see why people are sharing it on facebook and I will do the same.
Dr.: Privilege is, indeed, a difficult concept for many, perhaps most people. It is also a tenuous thing for anyone who chooses activism. It is one reason I keep my profile low and my credentials simple. It is as near as I can come to guerilla practice of nursing. And if those few credentials are lost - or at least the work - due to activism I will become more of a guerilla. There is no turning around now, at least not for me. Thanks for your insightful comments.

Sheila TGTG55: Thank you so much. The sharing is appreciated.