'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Monday, January 14, 2008

Ishmael Reed's Tour De Force on Race and Gender in America 

An excerpt from Ma and Pa Clinton Flog an Uppity Black Man:

Having been educated at elite schools where studying The War of the Roses was more important than studying Reconstruction, the under educated white male punditry and their token white women, failed to detect the racial code phrases that both Clintons and their surrogates sent out- codes that, judging from their responses, infuriated blacks caught immediately. Blacks have been deciphering these hidden messages for four hundred years. They had to, in order to survive.

Gloria Steinem perhaps attended the same schools. Her remark that black men received the vote "fifty years before women," in a Times Op-Ed (Jan.8) which some say contributed to Obama's defeat in New Hampshire, ignores the fact that black men were met by white terrorism, including massacres, and economic retaliation when attempting to exercise the franchise. She and her followers, who've spent thousands of hours in graduate school, must have gotten all of their information about Reconstruction from Gone With The Wind, where moviegoers are asked to sympathize with a proto-feminist, Scarlett O'Hara, who finally has to fend for herself after years of being doted upon by the unpaid household help. Booker T. Washington, an educator born into slavery, said that young white people had been waited on so that after the war they didn't know how to take care of themselves and Mary Chesnutt, author of The Civil War Diaries, and a friend of Confederate president Jefferson Davis's family, said that upper class southern white women were so slave dependent that they were "indolent." Steinem and her followers should read, Redemption, The Last Battle Of The Civil War," by Nicholas Lemann, which tells the story about how "in 1875, an army of white terrorists in Mississippi led a campaign to 'redeem' their state--to abolish with violence and murder if need be, the newly won civil rights of freed slaves and blacks." Such violence and intimidation was practiced all over the south sometimes resulting in massacres. One of worst massacres of black men occurred at Colfax, Louisiana, in 1873. Their crime? Attempting to exercise the voting rights awarded to them "fifty years," before white women received theirs. Lemann writes, "Burning Negroes" met "savage and hellish butchery.

"They were all killed, unarmed, at close range, while begging for mercy. Those who tried to escape, were overtaken, mustered in crowds, made to stand around, and, while in every attitude of humiliation and supplication, were shot down and their bodies mangled and hacked to hasten their death or to satiate the hellish malice of their heartless murderers, even after they were dead.

"White posses on horseback rode away from the town, looking for Negroes who had fled, so they could kill them."

Elsewhere in the south, during the Confederate Restoration, black politicians, who were given the right to vote," fifty years before white women" were removed from office by force, many through violence. In Wilmington, North Carolina, black men, who "received the vote fifty years before white women," the subject of Charles Chesnutt's great novel, The Marrow of Tradition:

"On Thursday, November 10, 1898, Colonel Alfred Moore Waddell, a Democratic leader in Wilmington, North Carolina mustered a white mob to retaliate for a controversial editorial written by Alexander Manly, editor of the city's black newspaper, the Daily Record. The mob burned the newspaper's office and incited a bloody race riot in the city. By the end of the week, at least fourteen black citizens were dead, and much of the city's black leadership had been banished. This massacre further fueled an ongoing statewide disfranchisement campaign designed to crush black political power. Contemporary white chronicles of the event, such as those printed in the Raleigh News and Observer and Wilmington's The Morning Star, either blamed the African American community for the violence or justified white actions as necessary to keep the peace. African American writers produced their own accounts-including fictional examinations-that countered these white supremacist claims and highlighted the heroic struggles of the black community against racist injustice."

Black congressmen, who, as a rule, were better educated than their white colleagues were expelled from Congress.

Either Gloria Steinem hasn't done her homework, or as an ideologue rejects evidence that's a Google away, and the patriarchal corporate old media, which has appointed her the spokesperson for feminism, permits her ignorance to run rampant over the emails and blogs of the nation and though this white Oprah might have inspired her followers to march lockstep behind her, a progressive like Cindy Sheehan wasn't convinced. She called Mrs. Clinton's crying act," phony."

Moreover, some of the suffragettes that she and her followers hail as feminist pioneers were racists. Some even endorsed the lynching of black men. In an early clash between a black and white feminist, anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells opposed the views of Frances Willard, a suffragette pioneer, who advocated lynching.

"As the president of one of America's foremost social reform organizations, Frances Willard called for the protection of the purity of white womanhood from threats to morality and safety. In her attempts to bring Southern women into the W.C.T.U., Frances Willard accepted the rape myth and publicly condoned lynching and the color line in the South. Wells argued that as a Christian reformer, Willard should be speaking out against lynching, but instead seemed to support the position of Southerners."

Ms. Willard's point of view is echoed by Susan Brownmiller's implying that Emmett Till got what he deserved, and the rush to judgment on the part of New York feminists whose pressure helped to convict the black and Hispanic kids accused of raping a stockbroker in Central Park. After DNA proved their innocence (the police promised them if they confessed, they could go home), a Village Voice reporter asked the response of these feminists to this news; only Susan Brownmiller responded. She said that regardless of the scientific evidence, she still believed that the children, who spent their youth in jail, on the basis of the hysteria generated by Donald Trump, the press, and leading New York feminists, were guilty.

As you might guess, there's much more, with Reed's observations about the tendency of some feminists to conflate white women with women, and the reaction of African Americans to the coded attacks upon Obama, constituting essential reading. As his ascerbically observes, mainstream feminists don't appear to be very concerned about the black and brown deaths in Iraq, deaths that have resulted from a war that Hillary authorized. But sadly, as Reed explains, that's entirely consistent with the history of American feminism.

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