Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega
Chicago, Illinois, USA
September 11
A (Sometimes) Respectable Negro
Editor and Founder of the blog We Are Respectable Negroes He has been a guest on the BBC, Ring of Fire Radio, Ed Schultz, Joshua Holland's Alternet Radio Hour, the Burt Cohen show, and Our Common Ground. His essays have been featured by Salon, Alternet, the New York Daily News, and the Daily Kos. The NY Times, the Daily Beast, the Utne Reader, Washington Monthly, Slate, and the Week (among others) have featured his expert commentary and analysis on race, politics, and popular culture.

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APRIL 12, 2011 2:56PM

Of Pastor Terry Jones, Liberal Racism, and Koran Burning

Rate: 5 Flag

 "Jones’s burning of the Koran was daft. But it did not directly cause 'the tragic, deadly violence' in Afghanistan, as one Pentagon spokesman claimed. To suggest that it did, to argue that Jones has “blood on his hands”, as the New York Daily News put it,  is to overlook the fact that there is an important bridge between words  and actions. That bridge is us, people, the audience, the public, who  are possessed of free will and thought and who must make a decision  about whether, and how, to act on the words we hear. The idea that words  lead directly to action, that the image of a burning Koran in the US  leads inevitably to violence in Afghanistan, is to cut out these middle  men and present speech as an all-powerful force that dictates world  events.

Such an outlook is dangerous for two reasons. First because there  would be no limits to the curbing and policing of speech if we all  bought into the mad notion that it can directly cause other people’s  deaths."


Let it not be said that I am unfair to my political rivals. Just like the brother from the ACLU who defended the KKK's right to privacy in Texas, I may find you abhorrent and your words foul, but I will stand up for your Constitutionally protected right to say them."
I am hard on American conservatives. As measured by the foolishness of the Tea Party GOP they have certainly fallen from grace in the Age of Obama. While I was no great champion of his ideas--especially on the Civil Rights Movement--I could at least respect the intellect of the William F. Buckleys of the world. Heck, I could even tolerate Bush the Elder. I am not a "liberal" or "progressive" as those labels are casually thrown about in our contemporary political discourse. Thus, why I scoff when I am labeled as such. Those titles come from an honorable lineage. And there is no shame in them. But, I am an unapologetic Black pragmatist. My ultimate commitment is to the truth, be it moral, philosophical, scientific, or political.

Because as of late I have been focused on beating up the New Right's lemmings, the buckdancing Herman Cains, and the other mouth breathing troglodytes who comprise contemporary Conservatism as a political movement, I have neglected one of my other favorite intellectual curiosities--liberal racism. It has been a long time since I have seen a classic example of liberal racism, one that is inspirational enough to motivate a response.

For the uninitiated, liberal racism is part of the same cosmology as (conservative) racism. However, while the latter thrives on an insincere language of colorblindness, often naked appeals to racial resentment, and is predicated on an unapologetic embrace of white privilege and maintaining a herrenvolk republic at any cost, the latter works differently. Liberal racism embraces the soft bigotry of low expectations, where one tolerates conditions for others they would not for themselves, is afraid of speaking the truth about the ghetto underclasses and their often pathological and self-destructive behavior(s), and is possessed of a sense of racial superiority born of noblesse oblige, as opposed to a relationship prefaced on an equal power relationship between agents.

Both are ugly. Both are pernicious. They are merely different sides of the same coin.

Traditional white supremacy and conservative racism are cognitive maps for ordering the world. Liberal racism does the same work for its practitioners. And neither are limited by the stopping power of water as they frame how individuals think about the nature of political life, both at home and abroad.

The Telegraph's critique of how some on the Left responded to the riots in Afghanistan last week--a murderous rampage which supposedly occurred because of "Pastor" Terry Jones' decision to burn a Koran in his "church"--is a spot on vivisection of the perils of liberal racism. Just as we saw some of the worst examples of multicultural and pluralist excuse making in the aftermath of the Muhammad cartoon debacle, a moment when folks gave in to threats of violence and were tolerant of political thugs (who ironically benefit from free speech, but will not allow others to practice it), there are some who are engaging in an odd form of the White Man's Burden in which liberal racism mandates that we engage in excuse making and cultural relativism as we try to make sense of wanton violence.

In total, liberal racism demands that white folks and the West deal with the Other as "little brown brothers and sisters," as opposed to equal human beings with agency, reason, and who should be held culpable for their deeds.

By implication, I won't let a conservative pat me on my head as though I am a child. Nor will I let a liberal racist do so either.

And the second problem with the “blame Jones” brigade is that it lets  rioting Afghans off the hook. It says they’re not really responsible  for the bloodshed they unleashed; Jones is. There’s a great irony here,  because many of the commentators who make this argument do so in order  to express their apparently enlightened and cosmopolitan sympathy with  beleaguered Muslims in Afghanistan, yet in the process they  patronisingly depict Afghans as overgrown children, as attack dogs  almost, who hear a command or see an offensive image and act on it,  robot-like. Modern-day liberal pity for Muslims would seem to be a  comfortable bedfellow of the old-world colonial outlook: in both  instances Third World people are treated as hapless, helpless creatures  who must have their eyes and ears shielded from dodgy ideas.
The consequences of taking this approach to the Koran controversy are  potentially dire. Just as in the Muhammad cartoons controversy, Western  liberal politicians and thinkers are giving Muslims a licence to feel  offended, a licence to go crazy; they are effectively legitimising  violent responses to offensive images by saying: “It’s understandable.  This is what happens when we fail to respect their culture.”

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belief/religion, politics

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In many ways, I think "liberal racism" is more dangerous and sinister than the outright racists, though that is becoming less obvious as they become more "sophisticated" in their approach and now have a entire party and movement to speak and cover for them.

The "liberal racists" simply refuse to accept the reality of racism as it effects our political system. It has never been demonstrated so clearly now that we have a "black" president, who is constantly and inextricably having to deal with it each and every day knowing that the forces that will not accept him NO MATTER WHAT HE DOES comprise such a large measure of the electrate and they are not in the least interested in any other form of "appeasement" he may offer them in terms of policies that support their best interests.

Basically, they are turning the other way in refusing to support Obama any longer given his concessions to the right, which he would not have to do if he knew their loyalty was at the polls, and not in their dream world where racism is a thing of the past.
Too many whites aren't color blind, and liberal racism is a lot more prevalent than you can believe. However, there's an intervening variable in the Koran burning in Florida and the violence in Kabul. And that is Harmad Karzai, who deliberately disseminated the pastor's delusional act throughout the country for his own benefit.
I don't hold Jones' Koran burning separate from the attack in Afghanistan as far as cause/effect goes. However, it's no reason to restrict anyone from burning Korans. He's a twit, but he is a free twit, and I defend freedom for twits.

You hit upon a theme that has been very costly to America. Instead of the Civil Rights acts being color-blind, as was intended, and even legislated to be just that, the idea of busing, in particular, found its way into being enacted. This was after HHH, for example, promised those voting on the CRA it would not be, as it was a flip-side of discrimination.
The focus should have been raising the standards and funding for minority schools. You can't force people to social change; it has to happen, as it would, over time. Bill Cosby on I Spy, at about that time, did more for integration than the universally unpopular busing decision ever could. In fact, it backfired in many ways.

The price paid for that is the shifting of middle class voters to voting on anger instead of economic benefit, and thus the death march of the middle class began.
I'm in total agreement with everything you've said here, and it is very rare for me to say such a thing. There is no excusing book-burning, but surely there is no justifying murder of the book-burner, let alone a dozen people who had nothing whatsoever to do with the book-burning.To suggest there is ANY such justification is to be in league with the crazies who committed the foul deed.

I touched on this subject in my post:

The Appalling Ignorance of Bobby Ghosh