Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Say What?


At the American Conservatives' weblog, Scott McConnell shares some thoughts on race:
It’s as unfair as anything that happens in politics, but there it is. There’s a kind of perfect internet storm now, between the Serena Williams outburst, the Kanye West outburst, and the wilding episode posted on the top of Drudge today.
Let's pause for a second there. My last recollection of the term "wilding" being used in this sense dates back to 1989, and an assault on a jogger in Central Park.
According to a police investigation, the culprits were gangs of teenagers who would assault strangers as part of an activity that became known as "wilding." New York City detectives said the word was used by the suspects themselves to describe their actions to police. This account has been disputed by other journalists, who say that it originated in a police detective's misunderstanding of the suspects' use of the phrase "doing the wild thing", lyrics from Tone Lōc's hit song "Wild Thing". April 19 was known to have been a night when such a gang attack occurred, in which the suspects had entered the park in Harlem with over 30 acquaintances. The group had indeed assaulted many park-goers.
I don't recall this term ever being used to describe the behavior of white kids, no matter how outrageous. Do you? Whatever the intention, it's use in a context such as this fits with a racist sensibility that minority youths are somehow feral and predatory.
Just as Obama surely benefited from the desire of many whites to elect a black president...
I've heard that before, but exactly who are these "many whites" who had a desire to vote for Obama merely because he was black? Can I have a name or two? Will I be able to count every such person in the country on one (perhaps zero) hands? As I see it, that's a right-wing canard that seeks to cast aspersions on Obama's supporters, or at least a subset of them, and to diminish Obama's accomplishment at the polls.
... so he will be harmed by widely circulated media images of blacks that reinforce negative stereotypes.
That's quite a leap. Even assuming the initial premise is correct, how does the conclusion follow?
  1. Obama benefited from the desire of many whites to elect a black president.
  2. ?????
  3. Therefore he will be harmed by widely circulated media images of blacks that reinforce negative stereotypes.
There's not even a hint of logic in McConnell's assertion.
Serena and West are of course very rich and talented—but gentlemanly or ladylike or gracious they surely are not.
So what? John McEnroe was a boorish clod on the tennis court - not just in one angry outburst, but time and time again. How did that reflect on President Reagan? Mel Gibson went on a drunken, anti-Semitic rant. How did that reflect on President Bush?
The wilding image is what every white parent who sends his child to an integrated school or lives in an integrated neighborhood most fears.
This "wilding" incident was a fist fight on a school bus that may turn out to be run-of-the-mill bullying instead of a racial incident. Find me a town in America where there has never been a fight on a school bus. Find me a middle or high school in America were kids of any race haven't cheered on a fight. Find me a school, anywhere, where there's never been a problem with bullying. (I didn't think so.) Now find me another such incident that was described as a "wilding". (Was this a "wilding"?)

And what exactly is it that every parent supposedly fears from school integration? That instead of getting into fist fights with or being bullied by children of the same race, the other person involved might be a minority? Seriously - I'm a parent and I have a right to be told why I supposedly fear integrated neighborhoods and schools.
It is the precisely the kind of thing that doomed David Dinkins’ mayoralty in 1993, though no New York politician was a greater gentleman.
Being held responsible for the bad behavior of African American criminals, because he happened to share their race?
Obama is obviously not anything like Serena, or Kanye West, or the thugs on the bus.
Except, as McConnell points out as the essential thesis of his post, for his race. Which is it - President Obama's nothing like them, so it's racist to hold their conduct against him because of his race, or even though he's nothing like them a race-based "guilt by association" argument can be automatically raised in relation to any bad behavior by any African American of any age?
But they have more power to bring down his presidency than all the Joe Wilsons and Glenn Becks and teabaggers in the world.
I guess it's the latter.
For those who (I count myself) supported Obama and have hopes that he will be able to carry out at least part of his agenda, it’s a bitter recognition.
I'm still at a loss. Is McConnnell deploring racism, or is he saying it's understandable and somehow alright, even though it may interfere with the President's ability to do his job?
But I’d be very surprised if the stories linked above didn’t have a negative impact on our president’s popularity.
So, basically, McConnell's on the same page as Maureen Dowd?

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