Suey Park Would Have Hated George Carlin, Too

In this new era of instant celebrity and fame, individualism has taken a turn for the pathological. All it takes nowadays is a Twitter account, some controversial tweets, or a catchy movement to gain notoriety and followers. George Carlin, in his prophetic genius, spoke about this in his 2006 special, “Life Is Worth Losing.”

Carlin was one of the grittiest, most aggressive comedians of all time, who used some of the most over-the-top (and often grotesque) methods to elicit laughs and make the overall point of how American culture embraces the wrong things. In “Back In Town”, Carlin went on for eight full minutes describing an America where Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming and Utah were turned into fenced-in prison colonies, housing everything from sex offenders, junkies and violent criminals–and how the country would pay great money to see them kill each other to escape through gates that would open for only seven seconds.

Carlin pissed off everybody. He offended every single modern liberal sensitivity, glorifying crucifixion for crooked bankers and bashed feminists in ways that would make “hashtag activists'” heads explode. He once used every single racial slur known to humanity to explain the importance of context in 1990, and nine years later called the word nigger what it is: “authentic American language.” Much like Stephen Colbert, who dons the caricature of a dimwitted, self-unaware Fox News host, the color of his skin gave Carlin the agency to condemn the Right on their own playing field and was one of liberalism’s greatest champions (views against voting notwithstanding), and never once apologized.

Back then, everybody got the joke.

When Carlin died in 2008, the ability for liberals to process satire as an effective tool against the Right’s onslaught perished with him. On Thursday night, Stephen Colbert used his show to rightly destroy Washington football team owner Dan Snyder’s creation of the Original Americans Foundation, a charity he says is devoted to the improvement of the lives of Native Americans across the country, by a creation of his character’s own: The Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever. Suey Park, a 23-year-old “activist” that scored acclaim for her #NotYourAsianSidekick on Twitter some time ago, took to the social media platform again to voice her displeasure at Colbert’s use of Asian stereotypes as if he had exposed himself as some hateful enemy of the marginalized.

Except that Park was unequivocally wrong.

For starters, no one was talking about Asians to begin with. Colbert’s ire was targeted specifically at Dan Snyder’s perennial trolling of the media via his refusal to change the name of his team (a task that has become the cause of people like The Nation’s Dave Zirin and MSNBC’s Jamil Smith) despite appeals to his wallet and basic human decency. Snyder outdid himself again in this sense by making Gary L. Edwards CEO, who The Washington Post reported yesterday is connected to a fraudulent million-dollar federal contract involving law enforcement recruiting:

The investigation, outlined in a 2012 inspector general’s report, found that of the 748 applications the organization supplied, none were usable. One applicant was 80 years old. Several were not U.S. citizens. Of the 514 applications reviewed by the inspector general’s office, only 22 were of Indian descent. The inspector general’s office advised that the contract be terminated immediately, and it was. But then the bureau paid Edwards’s group an additional $600,000 as “settlement costs,” meaning it received almost the entire $1 million of the contract.

If Snyder really wanted to absolve himself, he could have written a check. Hell, it worked for the Florida State Seminoles!

Secondly, let’s look a little deeper, in terms of demographics. Colbert was brilliant in choosing Asians because right next to Native Americans, Asians are the second smallest population group, according to the Census Bureau. The whole point of Colbert’s skit was that the marginalization of any minority, no matter how small, is both heinous and un-American. Had Park understood this context, she could have saved herself a lot of drama, as well as the co-opting of the #CancelColbert hashtag by Michelle Malkin, of all people. Instead, Park reduced herself to a liability; a caricature of a stereotype the Left has been fighting for years: the humorless, word-policing prude constantly looking for things to be offended by.

Lewis Black said years ago that when one loses their sense of humor, they become dangerously close to everything we criticize others for. And let’s face it: as crazy as this world is, sometimes you just have to laugh. When you take away the ability to find a laugh in things, you lose the last vestiges of what it is to be truly human.

And that is a “privilege” I am not willing to check.

Foolish False Equivalence and the Black Progressive “Brand”

When the name Ta-Nehisi Coates comes up, many people treat him and his work as the immutable gospel of the Black struggle; the spirit of James Baldwin made flesh, so to speak. His words are treated as the final say as to what the true face of racism is, and all those who dare disagree are either not in touch with reality, or agents of white supremacy.

I, for one, confess that I was once one of these people. “Fear of a Black President”, arguably his greatest writing, was a piece that made me truly understand the forces at work against the man who has been the Executive the past five years. To know that the infrastructure of white supremacy this Nation was founded upon had turned its entire attention to reducing the name of Barack Obama to an unspeakable perjorative–and his presidency to nothing more than a placeholder in time–inspired in me renewed vigor and thankfulness in Obama’s presidency.

But recently, Coates’ pieces have begun to stink of the arrogance that befalls the building of a brand. Having become a household name on racism in Black and white mouths alike, Coates’ articles have started to read more like ramblings of a bitter solipsist, seeing racism in every blade of grass and in the air he breathes, beckoning his readers to abandon all hope of living in a country free of marginalization or achieving equality.

And then he goes and writes this:

A number of liberals reacted harshly to Ryan. I’m not sure why. What Ryan said here is not very far from what Bill CosbyMichael Nutter, Bill Clinton, andBarack Obama said before him. The idea that poor people living in the inner city, and particularly black men, are “not holding up their end of the deal” as Cosby put it, is not terribly original or even, these days, right-wing. From the president on down there is an accepted belief in America—black and white—that African-American people, and African-American men, in particular, are lacking in the virtues in family, hard work, and citizenship

So let’s make sure this is understood correctly. This President of the United States, who single-handedly overthrew more than two centuries of white male rule; who used the power of the Executive Branch by way of My Brother’s Keeper to try and break the cycles of systemic poverty and our youth killing each other in the streets; who raised the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10 an hour by way of executive order; whose Administration has fought and won in many places to eliminate mandatory minimum sentencing, one of the primary contributors to our immense prison population; who has tried countless times to get a jobs bill passed through a Legislative Branch more interested in voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act fifty-four times, to no avail; yes, this Man, to people like Coates, Melissa Harris-Perry, Mychal Denzel Smith, Tavis Smiley and Cornel West, is no different than the Galtist bigot he defeated in 2012 because he dares to call our people to ascendancy; to participate in the democratic process our Old Ones fought and died to pass to us? To call us to be more than victims?

How dare you reduce this President down to your myopic, short-sighted ideals of retribution and ideological purity? How dare you ignore the realities of our Struggle and project the foolish rhetoric of your individualistic nobility for the cheap benefits of your insipid brands? How dare you proclaim us as broken, helpless and frail, then leave this foolishness you call a Narrative hanging in the air as though we should lie down and wait for our destitution to come?

Are we not more than our circumstances? Is a lifetime of squalor and broken windows to be our eternal portion?

Yeah, you tried it.

Again.

But you will not get away with it this time.

What is becoming increasingly clear is that to a number of Black writers and “Thought Leaders”, the presidency of Barack Obama has become an existential threat. As President of the United States, Obama stands as the greatest example of what can actually happen when hard work, discipline, and luck come together to create success. Because these falsely so-called “progressives” need helplessness and malaise to sell clicks and Nielsen ratings–since apparently the wailings of the Right tend to actually put these peoples’ jobs in jeopardy (looking at you, Melissa)–joining in the chorus of bashing Obama for failing their lofty, imaginary goals becomes a fashionable way to remain relevant and “objective.” But since these people are not truly interested in defeating racism (Coates has said so, as has Mychal Denzel Smith), their brands flourish, and our people failed.

Had Obama actually quoted Charles Murray’s discredited, racist nonsense to explain away the problems of the Black community, or even as reasoning why My Brother’s Keeper exists, I would have nothing to say. But what makes Coates particularly disingenuous is that he has contradicted himself on his own feelings about Black culture in a previous piece that blogger Nancy LeTourneau pointed out:

My confusion stems from the fact that, in addition to those he listed as supposedly sounding like Rep. Ryan, I would add one Ta-Nehisi Coates – who once wrote one of the most powerful articles I’ve ever read on this topic titled: A Culture of Poverty. He begins with a story about how he, as an adult, almost came to blows with someone who challenged his writing. Later he reflects on what triggered that response.

Here’s the quote LeTourneau was referring to:

I thought about all of this yesterday while reading this Times’ piece on return of the culture of poverty. When we talk “culture,” as it relates to African-Americans, we assume a kind of exclusivity and suspension of logic. Stats are whipped out (70 percent of black babies born out of wedlock) and then claims are tossed around cavalierly, (black culture doesn’t value marriage.) The problem isn’t that “culture” doesn’t exist, nor is it that elements of that “culture” might impair upward mobility…

If you are a young person living in an environment where violence is frequent and random, the willingness to meet any hint of violence with yet more violence is a shield…once I learned the lesson, once I was acculturated to the notion that often the quickest way to forestall more fighting, is to fight, I was a believer. And maybe it’s wrong to say this, but it made my the rest of my time in Baltimore a lot easier, because the willingness to fight isn’t just about yourself, it’s a signal to your peer group…

I think one can safely call that an element of a kind of street culture.

So there you have it; even Coates believes that there is something about Black culture that may be wrong. This was one of the main points of New York’s Jonathan Chait’s response to Coates fallacious piece:

The argument is that structural conditions shape culture, and culture, in turn, can take on a life of its own independent of the forces that created it. It would be bizarre to imagine that centuries of slavery, followed by systematic terrorism, segregation, discrimination, a legacy wealth gap, and so on did not leave a cultural residue that itself became an impediment to success.

So what exactly is the problem here?

The problem is that people like Coates, Smith, Harris-Perry, Jelani Cobb and other Black “intellectuals” do not in fact have the constant ear of the President. These people, like Smiley and West before them, ironically believed this President to be the “Magic Negro” that would finally whisk away every ill of the Black community. Put another way, Bruh Prez ain’t in #nerdland on the weekends, which of course offends these peoples’ sensitivities and their platforms. Because these people cannot argue against what Obama actually does, as blogger @root_e pointed out, they can only prattle on about what they think this President says, which as usual, keeps The Conversation rolling right along.

To these charlatans, I ask as Uchendu did of Okonkwo in Achebe’s magnum opus, Things Fall Apart: Do you think you are the greatest sufferer in the world?

I don’t.

Pragmatically Choosing Role Models

Make no mistake: I despise the politics of Dr. Ben Carson, a man whose very demeanor and incessant comparisons of this nation to that of Nazi Germany are beyond disgusting. Carson’s brand of rhetoric is in the same poisonous vein of Black conservatives such as Alan Keyes and Allen West, professional bomb-throwers with nothing else to offer except sneering and mockery of the liberal ideology.

Justice Clarence Thomas is someone else I’m not fond of either, a man who annually and silently generates “think-pieces” as to what he could possibly be–well, thinking. His record for over 20 years has been overwhelmingly Right-centered, having voted in favor of Citizens United and the evisceration of the Voting Rights Act last year. The appearance of a conflict of interest his wife Virginia created while working as a lobbyist four years ago didn’t help his cause with me, either.

And who could forget Dr. Condoleezza Rice, one of the great architects of the now-certifiable false war in Iraq, one of George W. Bush’s closest national security advisors and eventual Secretary of State? Her antics were one of the major reasons our nation has been locked inside a seemingly perpetual season of war, that only now has shown signs of ending.

As a former Black conservative, these people make me cringe, particularly Dr. Carson, who just might end up being the token candidate of color in the Republican presidential primary for 2016. But is it right to completely dismiss his every accomplishment and past achievements simply because we don’t agree?

The Daily Beast’s Joshua DuBois seems to think so:

The problem is that, when exposed to the political limelight, Carson’s “gifted hands” have become careless, callous. And that’s a huge problem for former admirers like me.  Before our eyes, he is trading in the lasting significance of his impact on the world for whatever small reward is offered to him by CPAC, Fox News, or whatever Tea Party figure applauds him next. And we—the Carson boys, who met him years ago in our low moments and who he helped in ways small or large—can only watch in horror. For us, Dr. Ben Carson’s story has become an American tragedy. We can only pray that he reclaims his narrative in a way that still will offer others hope.

Here’s why I don’t agree.

Dr. Carson has indeed become much harder to look at, much less admire once he let his political views come to the fore at that prayer breakfast. As a kid from Baltimore, where Johns Hopkins Hospital’s ever-expanding takeover of the East Side continues, knowing that “Gifted Hands” was this much of a Right-wing jerk politically is a tough pill to swallow. But that does not in any way take from the fact that he was raised by a single mother in Detroit, graduated from Yale University, and led the neurosurgery department at Hopkins for many years, having become the first surgeon to separate conjoined twins back in 1987. Credit is and will always be due to this man on these facts.

DuBois’ critique further shows how pervasive this absolutist “all-or-nothing” ethos is within liberal circles, and we must work to destroy it. Far too many people (within Black culture particularly) seem to want every person they wish to throw support behind to fall in line with a litmus test of ideals, as demonstrated by all those who have panned President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative as something not worth doing because of “fundamental flaws”, as they call it. Ben Carson may not be one that a person of liberal cant would wish to emulate in terms of their politics, but if one of our Black youth has aspirations to be a doctor, Carson’s a great source of inspiration, as is Dr. Carl Hart, Columbia University’s first tenured Black professor of sciences; and as is Dr. April Wellons, the talented optometrist at a local store that worked on my own eyes three weeks ago.

Proper mentors and the people who guide us can be found all across the political spectrum. Learning to accept those that may disagree with us, however, is becoming increasingly difficult to do. It’s time to change that, and soon.