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In our June 26 issue we shared a bit of Black Commentator shorthand: “The Bubble,” our buzzword for the normative white American political/cultural/historical frame of reference. “To those on the outside, the bubble is transparent,” we wrote. “However, viewed from inside the bubble, the surrounding world is distorted, disconnected, chaotic, menacing and – most importantly – an inferior place.” A majority of the people of this “society floating in a bubble,” we concluded, are “cognitively damaged” and “so alienated from the rest of humanity that they represent a collective threat to the survival of the species.” (See “Blind, Deaf, Dumb and Deluded: White America unfit for global role.”)
has riffed on this theme in a number of previous commentaries. African slavery and Indian extermination gave birth to a white society that was constantly in conflict with reality, itself. “The Bubble” is the social space in which whites daily convinced each other that the lies they told about Indians and Blacks were facts, thus making mass murder bearable – even glorious. As we wrote in our March 13 commentary, “Racism and War – Perfect Together”:
The English arrived with criminal intent - and brought wives and children to form new societies predicated on successful plunder. To justify the murderous enterprise, Indians who had initially cooperated with the squatters were transmogrified into "savages" deserving displacement and death. The relentlessly refreshed lie of Indian savagery became a truth in the minds of white Americans, a fact to be acted upon by every succeeding generation of whites. The settlers became a singular people confronting the great "frontier" - a euphemism for centuries of genocidal campaigns against a darker, "savage" people marked for extinction.
The necessity of genocide was the operative, working assumption of the expanding American nation. "Manifest Destiny" was born at Plymouth Rock and Jamestown, later to fall (to paraphrase Malcolm) like a rock on Mexico, the Philippines, Haiti, Nicaragua, etc. Little children were taught that the American project was inherently good, Godly, and that those who got in the way were "evil-doers" or just plain subhuman, to be gloriously eliminated. The lie is central to white American identity, embraced by waves of European settlers who never saw a red person.
It is no wonder, then, that “an exhaustive international survey shows conclusively that the planet has a great deal to fear from the people of the United States,” as we stated last week. A BBC-coordinated survey of 11,000 people in eleven nations showed clearly that “What the World Thinks of America” bears little resemblance to what America thinks about itself. (Opinions were solicited in Australia, Britain, Canada, Brazil, France, Indonesia, Israel, Jordan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States.)
Almost four centuries after the founding of the Jamestown and Plymouth colonies, white America floats above the globe in a monstrously armed “bubble,” neither hearing nor respecting the opinions of mankind. Some examples from the BBC survey:
Between 70 and 80 percent of Americans heartily applaud the general military role played by the U.S. in the world….
On key questions relating to world security, only Israel and three other nations can be considered part of the American political conversation: Britain, Canada, and Australia. One is the “mother country,” the other three began as European settler states….
Is the U.S. a “beacon for hope for the world?” Positive answers: U.S. 85 percent, Israel 51 percent, Canada 46 percent, Britain 20 percent, Australia 14. Every other country registered negatively.
Is the U.S. “reaping the thorns planted by its rulers in the world?” (A question Americans must have found unfamiliar and disturbing.) Every country tallied majorities in agreement – except the U.S….
It requires only a few minutes of reading the non-security-military responses to the survey to conclude that supermajorities of Americans believe the U.S. is superior in all aspects of material, cultural and spiritual life.
The poll showed that Americans worship themselves in overwhelming numbers, and appear to believe that most other peoples of the planet admire them – or should. “At the other end of the American spectrum,” we noted, “is the lonely 15 percent or so of Americans who refuse to join in the national boosterism. No racial breakdown is available, but experience teaches us that at least half of these Americans are Black.”
It is here that Beth Call enters the conversation, with a thoughtful letter:
I find your commentaries refreshingly truthful. As a white Progressive, I dare to hope that more than 15% of the American people realize that the US government these days is the very opposite of a beacon of hope to the nations we dominate, either militarily or economically - witness the millions who turned out to oppose the war in spite of government officials and the media doing everything they could to discourage and downplay the demonstrations. And the 360,000 who participated in MoveOn's candidate selection process.
You have to consider who's taking the polls that indicate 70% of Americans consider the US the "light of the world". I agree with the black caucus more often than any other political group. The overwhelming majority of our local Democratic party. of which I am secretary, also usually share their views and passed a nearly unanimous resolution against the Iraq War last September. This is quite remarkable considering that Walla Walla [Washington] is traditionally a conservative little town. Still I must admit that there are also huge numbers of SUV's with flags waving.
Thank you so much for being there. We shall overcome!
Ms. Call deserves a clearer presentation of our views.
We do not believe that the "lonely 15 percent or so of Americans who refuse to join in the national boosterism" is an actual measure of the "progressive" population. This 15 percent group can more meaningfully be called "rejectionists," comprised of a number of "tendencies" - some of them not "progressive" at all! If the survey reflects ethnic America, the core of the group is certainly Black, and "rejectionist" for very good historical reasons. But a large part of the Black population, although essentially progressive, tends to "shade" its opinions when asked "soft" questions. This group, like an even larger proportion of Hispanics, attempts to respond to polls in as "positive" a manner as possible. (See Harvard Prof. Michael Dawson in our Nov 21 article on the Black Consensus.)
When it comes time to pull the voting lever, Blacks pull the right one 90 percent of the time in national elections. However, African Americans vote/act in the knowledge that they are the targets of the Right, which probably has the effect of exaggerating the actual character of the Black political worldview. Maybe only 80 percent are "progressive."
A DLC-favored pollster divides Hispanics between "pro-opportunity" and "pro-government" tendencies. Based on the questions and answers, one could conclude that Hispanics are 65 - 70 percent "progressive" - but that doesn't jibe with Hispanic voting patterns, even when Cubans are excluded. We don't pretend to fully understand the complexities of Hispanic or immigrant perceptions, but 60 percent sounds like a good "progressive" guess.
Based on lifetimes of close, working journalist observations of many elections involving a myriad of circumstances and issue/candidate configurations, ’s publishers agree that no more than 20 percent of white Americans can be meaningfully described as "progressive." The proportion varies by region, and gets very tricky depending on the presence of race as an overwhelming issue. (Or the perception of race as an issue.)
Leaving out "others," it appears to us that less than one-third of Americans can be counted on to consistently vote/act like "progressives" - and about half of these are white. (We avoid the word "liberal," because it is almost always based on a white American "norm," skewing the criteria to the right of the American spectrum, thereby creating more “liberals” than actually exist.)
Less than one-third is not good, but it's not hopeless, either. Active minorities win elections in America. But that's another subject.
Chris Daniels is an example of how a progressive American might in good faith answer “Yes” to the question, Is the U.S. a “beacon for hope for the world?” Daniels writes:
George W. Bush, the featureless preppy figurehead for a gang of puppeteering leeches, isn't our country. Nor are his cronies. Nor are his bosses.
Our country is where Sojourner Truth and Martin Luther King and Patrick Henry were born. It is a country where millions of people have struggled and will continue to struggle to uphold decency, honesty, compassion and creativity. It is a country where we are able by law to speak together freely in order to learn to live together. The United States of America is the Bill of Rights (no matter who wrote it), a Constitution that can be revised if the people desire it; it is the music of Aaron Copland, and it is the music of John Coltrane.
love your site. I've been reading 100% of every issue for the past three
months, and have been checking the archives all along for things I've
missed. Many have died for the truth that you so ably and compassionately
uphold, and you seem incapable of forgetting that fact. You and your
collaborators are erecting a monument to human decency, and I salute
Gamila Zahran finds our logic easy to digest.
This is a great article. It is amazing how things are so simple and clear – for those outside the bubble.
Denizens of the bubble, on the other hand, are capable of infinite delusion. They are eager to absolve active racists and supporters of mass murder, as hapless victims of cabalist indoctrination.
I basically agree with your premise about the stupidity of Americans in the unquestioning acceptance of the right wing extremist policies of this administration, but to blame it on whites is – well – racist. After all, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, both African Americans, are feeding us this crap.
replied (to the writer who shall remain nameless):
Most white Americans feast on the "crap." They invented the "crap." They built a worldview and culture based on the "crap." And now you want to minimize four centuries of "crap" by citing two Black Bush hirelings? You are full of "crap."
Unmaking the list
We’re glad Illinois State Senator Barack Obama has directed the Democratic Leadership Council to remove his name from their “New Democrats Directory,” and hope it will have disappeared from the noxious columns before the DLC holds its “National Conversation” in Philadelphia, July 26. (See “Obama to Have Name Removed from DLC List: Says “New Democrats” acted “without my knowledge.”)
Obama is a very serious candidate for the U.S. Senate, with a solid progressive legislative and activist history. presented him with three questions on NAFTA, national health insurance, and the October 10 Iraq War Powers resolution, “bright line” issues that reveal the DLC leadership’s corporate-Republican innards. Last week, Obama responded:
You are undoubtedly correct that these positions make me an unlikely candidate for membership in the DLC. That is why I am not currently, nor have I ever been, a member of the DLC. As I stated in my previous letter, I agreed to be listed as “100 to watch” by the DLC. That’s been the extent of my contact with them. It does appear that, without my knowledge, the DLC also listed me in their “New Democrat” directory. Because I agree that such a directory implies membership, I will be calling the DLC to have my name removed, and appreciate your having brought this fact to my attention.
Steve Cohen has been following our columns on the “New Democrats.”
Thanks for taking on the DLC in such an upfront way. Nobody else is doing it. Too many "progressives" are confused about this, hamstrung by understandable but undeserved nostalgia for DLC member Bill Clinton and desire for the DLC's money. Sure, I'd take Clinton over Bush any day of the week and twice on Sunday, but I'd do so with eyes wide open and not without taking note of his myriad weaknesses.
Democratic Party's biggest problem is that their largest funding source
has interests diametrically opposed to those of its voters. They can't
forever play the game of "punish your friends, reward your enemies".
That's political suicide (as in NAFTA, as you point out) and it's never
talked about by Clinton's apologists. This issue has to be talked
about and you are providing a valuable service by doing so.
We agree that the "message trimming" is not "worth the price." In fact, that string has played itself out, and there is no longer any room to dance with the "practical" men and women who are selling the Democratic Party. Progressive Democrats will either revolt, or be mooted. That's why we offered the "bright lines" - for the purpose of finding a place to stand.
Prof. Sam Hamod, editor of Today’s Alternative News and a wise man of the Left, posted our Obama piece on his excellent site, and offered these remarks:
Good piece on Obama; I too wondered about his DLC inclusion.
As is usual with that group, they are frauds and practice lying when it fits their needs. It is heartening to know that he has thrown them off his back. They are a scurvy lot, wolves in sheep's clothing, Republicans in Democratic name tags only (and supporters of fascism at that).
From Oakland, California, Leutisha Stills offers some candidates for probing examination.
on your effort to expose those African-American members of an organization
that serves to undermine everything our ancestors fought for. It is
due to efforts like Black Commentator’s that we stay informed.
Ms. Stills is referring to Memphis Congressman Harold Ford, one of the “Four Eunuchs” among the Congressional Black Caucus that voted last October to empower Bush to make war against Iraq. Three of them are DLC, and two – including Ford – are Blue Dog Democrats. (See “Rep. Harold Ford: Mess of the Blue Dogs,” October 17.)
McKinney on Zimbabwe
Cynthia McKinney’s voice seems to resonate from any podium. Last week we presented her speech, “Up Close – Zimbabwe,” delivered to the First African Presbyterian Church in Lithonia, Georgia.
In George Bush’s New World Order, all roads lead to Washington, DC. And it is only in Washington, DC that we can effectively deal with our problems and those that plague Africa. The Bush cabal is planning regime change operations all over the world. They’re currently threatening Iran and Syria; rattling sabers at North Korea and China. They’re unhappy with Russia and Germany. But if we don’t organize ourselves carefully in this country, and reach across the oceans to our African brothers and sisters, and they reach back, this could truly be the twilight of our freedoms.
Jerome Patrick Webb directs our attention to other sources of McKinney-related information.
There is an article on www.alternet.org concerning Rep. Cynthia McKinney (she still represents me and always will) that may be of some interest to you. It is entitled “The Screwing of Cynthia McKinney.”
Greg Palast unmasked several lying corporate rags and their slobbering, mealy-mouthpieces, including Lynette Clemetson of the New York Times. It is certainly strange, and makes you go hmmmm, why she wasn’t fired when the NYT was doing its housecleaning.
I am so very heartened by Cynthia’s decision to reclaim her seat after she was BUSHwacked by number two skeeza and great white hope Denise Majette and her Zionist puppetmasters.
Thank you for being a beacon of light in these perilous times!
McKinney has another staunch ally in Leona Heitsch, of Bourbon, Missouri.
Cynthia, as usual is right on, and tells things so people can understand them. She said she'd never shut up and I am glad she hasn't. Blessings on her energy to keep going! If those of us who are white don't smell the stench in D.C., then, we will all ride the waves of the sewer together. It’s time we support our black brothers and sisters here and in Africa. Nobody better than Cynthia to explain what white wealth has robbed from that continent and this one, while enjoying what they can pull off by perpetuating in their quiet, clever machinations, the divisive and soul wrenching mess that is racism.
Giving bell the hook
San Franciscan Joseph Anderson started a discussion in these pages about Black male-bashing, with his June 12 Guest Commentary lambasting author bell hooks. “Hooks feeds into the smug and superior fascination that white media programs…seem to have with cataloguing everything that is supposedly pathological or deficient with Black people - especially with Black males,” wrote Anderson. “Under this analysis, Black males are, at root, not only fundamentally different, but uniquely pathological, uniquely predatory (especially sexually) and misogynist - in Hooks' words, sexually immature, traumatized and dysfunctional.”
Pennsylvania State University composition instructor and graduate student Trineka D. Greer wrestled with Anderson’s argument in our June 26 e-Mailbox column – and found it insufficient.
Perhaps he could have discussed why so many Black men mimic the unsavory behaviors and attitudes of their white male counterparts (i.e. good old boy clubs, sexual harassment, etc.). Whatever the case, more Black men need to be taking the issue of sexism and gender-based oppression more seriously. As a Black Feminist, it unnerves me how oblivious some Black men and women for that matter are to these problems. Look, Black women have been feminist or infused feminism into their every day and ordinary actions (i.e. Sojourner Truth, Anna Julia Cooper, Angela Davis, etc.) long before white feminists ever invited "us" to speak at one of their meetings.
This week, Tray Bailey wrote to expand on Ms. Greer’s remarks. Bailey even provided a title for his letter: “Black Feminism and Adopted Myopia”:
Bishop found himself in our archives, read our December 5 2002 commentary,
“College SATS Incompatible
with Black Mobility: Abolish the tyranny of the tests” – and got
the whole piece wrong. We’ll let him speak first:
I agree with the principle of diversity and temporary assistance to
address historical disadvantage, I take offense to a key assumption
It's good to learn that you have been exploring 's archives. Here is what we said:
"...Black student bodies [at elite universities] are destined to whither away unless the relative weight of standardized testing is drastically reduced or eliminated. There is no other choice."
Here is why we said it:
"In a race-neutral competition for the approximately 50,000 places for first-year students at the nation's 25 highest-ranked universities, high-scoring blacks will be buried by a huge mountain of high-scoring non-black students. Today, under prevailing affirmative action admissions policies, there are about 3,000 black first-year students matriculating at these 25 high-ranking universities, about 6 percent of all first-year students at these institutions. But if these schools operated under a strict race-neutral admissions policy where SAT scores were the most important qualifying yardstick, these universities could fill their freshman classes almost exclusively with students who score at the very top of the SAT scoring scale. As shown previously, black students make up at best between 1 and 2 percent of these high-scoring groups."
The JBHE further reported that:
“In 1988 the average combined score for whites of 1036 was 189 points higher than the average score for blacks. In 2002 the gap between the average white score and the average black score had grown to 203 points. In the past year alone the black-white scoring gap on the SAT increased by two points.”
Mr. Bishop begins with an oppositional idea in his head, grafts it onto ours, and proceeds to argue against his own conjure. He then thinks himself smart to advise us to “try campaigning for college admission criteria that are more predictive of graduation rates and final GPA.” That’s exactly what is meant by our call to reduce or eliminate “the relative weight of standardized tests.” Obviously, other criteria would be accorded greater weight.
From both a practical and principled standpoint, the most effective way to press for significant reduction of the weight of SATS in college admissions is to make the case that these tests are fatally flawed on their face, consistently empowering identifiable strata of society (white, and especially upper income whites) while just as predictably marginalizing Blacks of all incomes. (Asians are another group, altogether, whose high scoring on SATs cannot be related to low scoring among Blacks; that’s apples and oranges.) When a test compounds harm to a group of citizens, the onus must be placed on the test.
If women (or men) failed driving tests in huge disproportion to the other sex, creating a social mobility crisis, no one can doubt that the tests would be changed. The effect of SATs is to diminish Black social mobility. Mr. Bishop and others are apparently embarrassed by low Black SAT scores. His own doubts about “American” Black people – that parents and students somehow share the blame for low scoring – render him incapable of taking on the “intelligence” industry and the beneficiaries of their tests. This is timidity masquerading as race pride. He’d rather confront us with a misdirected letter than go up against entrenched mechanisms of white privilege.
Speaking of entrenched, they lowered ol’ Strom into his trench, this week. Hundreds of celebrants visited to read our December 19 Reprint of the article, “Strom Thurmond’s Black Daughter: Common knowledge about a special relationship,” by Ken Cummins (1996). The alleged daughter is Essie Mae Washington, now reportedly living in California.
Robert Thompson II, of Southern Pines, North Carolina, has a family connection to the story.
In the wake of Strom Thurmond's recent death, I spent a little time searching the WEB for a story that had been told in my house all of my life. My parents, Robert & Elsie (Livingston) Thompson, were students at South Carolina State College during much of the same time that Essie Mae Washington was. In fact, Mrs. Washington pledged Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. "under" my mother.
While reading Ken Cummins' "Strom's Secret" on your website, I was astonished to find out just how closely his accounts of Thurmond's campus visits and monetary support confirm what my parents often spoke of. Thank you for publishing the accounts that CNN, NBC, ABC, and FOX have obviously found to be non-relevant in the details of Senator Thurmond's venomous political tenure.
And so this edition of e-Mailbox comes full circle. We began with a discussion of realities that white America cannot or will not recognize – and end at the same place.
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