Your Feelings Don’t Matter

Look. Maybe it’s just that I spent a weekend drinking and talking about writing and the art of avoiding being a pussy with people who don’t have the particular problem of not being able to separate their own personal bullshit from, you know, the things that happen in the world, but I am just about full up to my fucking ears with this sudden need tovalidate the feelings of people like this.

On the other hand, I am sick to death of black people as a group. The truth. That is part of the conversation Obama is asking for, isn’t it? I live in an eastern state almost exactly on the fabled Mason-Dixon line. Every day I see young black males wearing tee shirts down to their knees — and jeans belted just above their knees. I’m an old guy. I want to smack them. All of them. They are egregious stereotypes. It’s impossible not to think the unthinkable N-Word when they roll up beside you at a stoplight in their trashed old Hondas with 19-inch spinner wheels and rap recordings that shake the foundations of the buildings. . . .

Here’s the dirty secret all of us know and no one will admit to. There ARE niggers. Black people know it. White people know it. And only black people are allowed to notice and pronounce the truth of it. Which would be fine. Except that black people are not a community but a political party. They can squabble with each other in caucus but they absolutely refuse to speak the truth in public.And this is the single biggest obstacle to healing the racial divide in this country.

Glenn’s commenters do a pretty good job of taking apart most of it, but the part I’ve bolded there is what I want to talk about. Because, fucking seriously? The inability of somebody to adequately call somebody else out for having clothes and a car which are not to your taste is the single biggest obstacle to healing the racial divide in this country? Fucking SERIOUSLY?

Fifteen miles south of the center of Chicago is an almost entirely black town in which I spent a great deal of time as a reporter. I used to drive down and carefully stop at stop signs, only to realize I don’t really need to stop at stop signs here, because a couple of years back, just about the whole entire police force was indicted for selling badges and influence, so ain’t nobody there to pull you over for failing to stop at a sign so rusted it was just about ready to fall off its pole. The town’s only librarian lived in a house with broken windows. The library was two rooms at a school, with donated books.

In this town, when I worked there, there was neither gas station, nor bank, nor restaurant. No stores, of any kind, not a single one. The schools have chains on the doors and the windows when you’re lucky open all the way in the summer and close all the way in the winter. If you’re lucky. Sometimes you’re not, so you either swelter or freeze. Don’t ask about air conditioning. The principal paid for a new coat of paint out of his own pocket, and an eighth grade boy, class president, told me he knew kids from other towns thought he and his classmates were losers. Thirteen years old.

But the inability of somebody to say that young black men this needy creep saw on a street corner should pull up their pants, that’s the biggest obstacle to healing the racial divide in this country.

It is long past fucking time we stopped equating things which are vastly unequal. The Chicago Tribune this morning has announced that we must all begindealing with our feelings, and it’s all very nice, that some people are going to feel better, but it is past fucking time that we cease to make feeling better our highest national objective, over, you know, DOING better. Yes, there needs to be greater understanding, tolerance and compassion. However, I don’t think the way you start the process towards that is equating decades of systemic discrimination which affects every aspect of someone’s life with having to see people wearing things you don’t like them wearing, or playing loud music or putting shiny hubcaps on their cars.

I don’t think you start a conversation towards racial healing with rewarding people who think their contrarian tendencies make them brave, who think it’s some kind of sincere rebellion to spout a bunch of ignorant horseshit, by making it important that they feel better in their ignorance. There’s a huge gulf between acknowledging white resentment is real, which Obama did, and putting sentiments like the above on a level of being the single most important obstacle toward healing the racial divide. Because, fucking no, okay? Fucking hell to the no, it doesn’t work that way, and if we are going to have this conversation, that’s where it needs to start, with telling this dude who thinks the biggest obstacle toward healing the racial divide is that he can’t say the N-word without risking getting his pasty ass beat, telling that dude to take his feelings and shove them in one of the many, many places where the sun doesn’t shine.


ps. Bravo’s Top Asshole up there is also a good time in that he demands all black people repudiate a short list of black people he finds offensive, in order to prove to him that they’re worthy of his love, or something. This kind of demand never fails to remind me of the abusive parent who tells the kid he’ll stop beating the child when the child stops being bad. It’s never true, it’s never fair, and it never fails to turn my stomach, so again, fold it four ways and go play in traffic.

12 thoughts on “Your Feelings Don’t Matter

  1. I used to work with a guy, a black guy, that lived in the old Robert Taylor homes and one time he gave me a ride home via his apartment in the projects. I’m a white guy and had never been there (drove by yes, stopped hell no) and he told me in advance it was really bad and he was trying to save money to get out. When we drove by I said something like “this isn’t that bad” to be polite and my friend told me in no uncertain terms that it WAS that bad and that his kids came home directly from school every day and were allowed outside NEVER. His wife worked as an elevator repairman for CHA and between the two of them they saved up enough money to buy a home in Harvey, IL which sounds like it’s about 10 minutes from where A is discussing. That was doing better for them, to move to the conditions that Athenae is discussing. And hell to the yes for them and their dream. People really do just want to do a little better for themselves. That’s a good thing to talk about.
    Maybe Obama can start doing a little call and response on the stump. Call “Change” then respond “For the better!” and then flesh it out with policy. I think the best part of his speech on race was how the issue distracted people from talking seriously about the real obstacles to doing better. I’m pretty confident the guy knows what he’s doing so I’m eager to see how these next few weeks unfold.

  2. I’ve spent the last week buried in what were called “race records” in the early 1930s — music made by black musicians for predominantly black audiences. Listening to the world described in the songs of (oftentimes) years-dead musicians speaking from a lifetime ago, I can see how things have, in fact, gotten vastly better…
    …and I can see how things have changed absolutely not at all.
    Can we write people like Instapunk off yet? If your idea of “having a dialogue on race” relations is being cranky that you can’t say the word “nigger” in public anymore, and bitching that black guys wear their pants too low (funny, come around where I live, and the vast, vast, overwhelming majority of the guys you’d see dressed like that arewhite), and you’re (like my sister, gack!) only interested in whining about how “only black people are allowed to be racist anymore,” you’re a lost cause. (It’s everyoneelse we need to talk to.)

  3. i grew up in a nice enclave in the outer core, had gradparents on the nice side of milwaukee who were on the edge of $$$ wauwatosa. i went to grade school closer to the inner core. i had many black friends. i have driven thru the inner core. i have been all around milw. i shopped in the inner/outer core. i know where they are and it sucks. how dare white people say a damned thing.

  4. The thing is, racism is utterly incomprehensible to much of white America. They’ve never lived in the South, or Chicago, or Harlem/Queens, or Oakland, whatever. Racism is over, it’s history, dead and buried, the END. And then Wright blows Obama’s cover and suddenly white people are all atwitter, “What are you talking about? What have *I* done? I thought racism was over, but it’s not because blacks still hate white people! And after we all we did for them!” And these people can think this without having driven past the ‘hood or even SEEN a black person other than those happy smiling black people on TV that play football, golf, and basketball.

  5. For extra yuks, A, the last we heard from the Instapunk blog, they were up in arms at the left blogosphere for using too many curse words.
    I’m not kidding.

  6. My husband, a white airline pilot, flew with a black copilot several years ago. Now this is the upper middle class we are talking about not where A is referring to. They got into a discussion about race and my husband flat out told the copilot that things hadn’t changed for black people at all since he’d been a kid. The copilot was stunned that a white man admitted this as truth. They continued their conversation and fleshed it out a bit. My husband’s father was a professor at Tulane right smack in the middle of the civil rights movement and was run out of town by being for it. My husband remembers being called all sort of vile names as a child and being in fear for his safety just walking down the street from school. The black copilot never experienced that type of violent racism, just the soft lowered expectations. That’s why he fought hard to go to college and joined the military.
    As for the low slung pants, they look shitty on every one: male, female, black, white, brown. For what it’s worth in my ‘hood (like Interrobang’s), all the white boys except the farm and preppy boys, wear their pants slung around their knees. The Mexican kids wear their pants right around their waist and we don’t have but one black family in town and their kids are preppy (Ambercromby and Finch, GAP, etc.) Their mom would have their backsides red if they wore the same trashy clothes the white kids do.

  7. I think I had an encounter with racism last week. It wasn’t necessarily that anybody did anything overt (which is why I say “I think I had”), but the context and the result of the encounter left me wondering if I actually knew white people who deep down were uncomfortable with black people. And I’m not talking about the Archie Bunkers of the world, whom I have encountered before. I’m talking about people I thought were better than that.
    It was, to say the least, unsettling.
    G in Indiana’s husband is right–things haven’t changed. People are just better at camouflaging it, at least as far as the polite encounters are concerned.

  8. he demands all black people repudiate a short list of black people he finds offensive, in order to prove to him that they’re worthy of his love, or something. This kind of demand never fails to remind me of the abusive parent who tells the kid he’ll stop beating the child when the child stops being bad.
    That kind of crap always floors me. Why do we assume that any single black individual (or female, Mexican, Cuban, Arab, etc.) is an official spokesperson for all the different black communities throughout history? And then force every black person to “denounce” or “repudiate” this random black person to “prove” themselves? Where the hell did this come from? And how in hell do white males get a free pass?
    I think you’re right about the abusive parent comparison. Amanda over at Pandagon often refers to this kind of double standard as an excuse to beat up women (blacks, Arabs, etc.)–it’s entire purpose is to be a game you can’t win and you’re not allowed to quit.
    The more I get into explaining “adult concepts” like racism and sexism and war to my daughter, the more I realize how many of the rules of our society are developed by bullies who want one more excuse to abuse everyone who isn’t in their “club”.

  9. While we’re at it, shall we make white men repudiate Cheney, Bush, Rove, et cetera…? 😉

  10. I’ve been reading a lot of Zora Neale Hurston lately, and her essay “My People, My People” sure sounds a lot like the crank in this rant. Maybe she was right; race pride may cause bigger problems than any good it does since while it validates the white supremacist it also drags down a race whenever someone stupid of that race does anything. At what point do we move on from what a race does to what individual people do?

  11. bravo for this post. and for the many enlightened and enlightening comments.

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