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Rangel is the Black Michael Richards: Issues of Black Power and "Double Standards"

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

This morning at around 3:00 a.m. or so the TV was on and it was tuned into the Fox News show Fox & Friends where they were talking about New York Representative Charles Rangel’s “comedy routine…where he made a joke about President Bush and white supremacy.” The anchor than went on to say, “So was New York Representative Charles Rangel wrong, or was he just razzing?” The anchor (a white female) than went on to a panel of two (white male) news analysts where she asked. “Is there a double-standard when it comes to who is allowed to poke fun and make jokes and who isn’t and I don’t see this going over as well with a white congressman making fun of and poking fun of Black power or something along those lines.”

As soon as I heard this my ears perked up and I decided to watch to see what these two panelists had to say. Many whites tend to make an argument that all racism is the same and that all racism is, essentially, is thinking that one’s race is superior to anther’s and that other races are inferior. Yet many fail to realize that while racism does involve this much of racism (especially today) has to do with power and where those streams of power flow and whom holds power of whom. This especially comes in handy when looking at institutional racism and contemporary racism, especially in everyday life and how it effects people of color in everyday situations. We’ve especially seen this in previous posts with issues of the pervasiveness of “white beauty,”, being singled out for higher scrutiny due to one’s religious preference, and being singled out by law enforcement due to one’s skin color.

Rich Galen, a GOP strategist, answered the question by stating that “Charlie Rangel is the Michael Richards of the Democratic Black Caucus and he can get away with it because, as you say, there is a double standard which everybody knows and you can either wring your hands…or work your way around it.”

With that the other panelist, Ellis Henekin (I believe that is both their names because I don’t have a transcript in front of me, I’m transcribing this while listening to audio), lets out a gasp of exasperation and stated that “when your approval ratings are at thirty and falling, people are gonna make some jokes about ya.”

With that the other anchor (a Black male) states that they should go over what Rangel said, which was. “More than any other President that I can think of, you have really, truly shattered the myth of white supremacy.”

Henekin states. “I can’t believe that anybody could even be offended by this.”

With this the anchor woman quipped back. “You can’t believe it, really?”

“Are you shocked by this?” Henekin asks.

She than answers back. “I just think there seems to be a double standard both politically and racially because…didn’t Trent Lott have to step down.”

Henekin than blurted out, in disgust it seemed. “This is so far from Trent Lott.” And he than goes onto say that it like if he was to make fun of his cousins and that it’s OK for him to make fun of his own cousins but not anyone else. Which really didn’t address the issue at hand.

Many whites seem to bring up the “double standard” argument when talking about race, whether it be the use of honky and nigger or affirmative action. Yet in a society where white privilege is built up upon the backs of people of color using the term double standard is very disingenuous, especially uttered from the mouths of white people, such as that anchor on Fox & Friends. For more on this you should read “Honky Want a Cracker?” by Tim Wise on our blog, which talks about this very issue of whites bringing up arguments such as “double standard” and “reverse racism.” I’m only really going to touch on this issue very briefly since it will be touched on, no doubt, in more detail in latter blogs.

One can’t equate Rangel to Richards and one can’t equate his comment to Lott’s because of many factors, including factors of white privilege and power. First off, Trent Lott was making a comment that if Senator Strom Thurman had been elected we wouldn’t have had all of these problems in our country. What problems was Lott talking about? Well, to understand one has to look at Thurman, because when Thurman was running for president back in 1948 he was running on a platform of white supramacy and segregation. Secondly when Rangel was making a comment he was stating that, essentially, Bush was so dumb it undermines the argument by white supremacists (that is classic racist neo-Nazi types) that the white race is superior. In one Lott was arguing that if Blacks were segregating and had been “kept in check” there would have been no problems of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X and civil rights, etc. In another one Rangel was taking a jib at an unpopular president. Thirdly, to use the argument that white supremacy is the same as Black power is not only wrong but also racist. White supremacy is something that pervades our society to this day and privileges one group over another group through institutional racism and that was built off of the death and subjugation of people of color. Black power is in reaction to white supremacy (or white power) and is the complete opposite of white power. Black power is reclaiming one’s humanity and identity as a Black woman or man in the face of a never ending onslaught of whiteness surrounding our society. Black power is making one feel proud of being a person of color instead of being ashamed. Lastly, white supremacy is propped up not only by ideology but also by the power structures of our society, corporate and government power, as well as in the media and everyday interactions with others.

The fact that Henekin didn’t state this fact is quite disappointing. So while he was defending Rangel (in some parts strongly, in others weakly) he wasn’t bringing up the real issues of why this was even being brought up in the first place and why that anchorwoman was even using the term “double standard” when in reality there is no such thing. Part of this had to do with time constraints, the whole conversation lasted no more than five minutes. Another part of this has to do with the fact that Henekin is white and a male and it would be safe to say he remains blind to his own white privilege and to white privilege in society. Again, I am not going into too much detail but there will be posts, especially an upcoming one by Carlo Montemayor on the differences between Pilipino pride and “white” pride (among others), in the future that will touch on this issue in more detail.

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5 Comments
  1. nms permalink
    Friday, January 5, 2007 1:05 pm

    I agree with you on one particular part of this issue, I don’t see this comment by Rangel as being that bad.

    That’s where our agreement ends, however. I think racism is racism, it should not matter what race or ethnicity is doing it. There is no such thing as reverse racism, there is only racism.

    I don’t really want to rehash Trent Lott’s ridiculously stupid comment, but something you said provoked me. How do you know that Trent Lott said the comment because he really thought the country would be better if blacks were segregated. What basis do you have? Is in there a slight possibility that Trent Lott was trying to be nice to Thurman at a celebration, but ended up giving an uncomfortable a politically disadvantageous comment. Just a thought.

  2. Jack Stephens permalink
    Friday, January 5, 2007 2:48 pm

    Thanks for taking time to read our blog, very much appreciated. I would agree with you that maybe Lott was trying to be nice to Thurmond at a celebration. Yet the fact that he didn’t realize what he was saying, or the fact that he said what he said, shows Lott’s uncritical eye and his white privilege (as well as contemporary racist thought). Thurmond(and I think this will answer your first question) ran as a Dixiecrat. He essentially ran as a segregationist who was even more vocal about the “evils” of the “nigger race” than most politicians running as segregationists. He ran as a Dixiecrat because he opposed the Democratic party’s (he was a Democrat at this time) stance on civil rights. Because of this fact, the fact that he ran as a president on this platform shows me that what Lott said was in fact support for his platform. He expressed he wanted to see Thurmond win as president back in 1948, and Thurmond ran as president on that thoroughly racist platform. Even if Lott didn’t necessarily hold those same racist views as Thurmond he definitely wasn’t consciousness enough to be aware that he was essentially stating that he had wished a racist and pro-segregationist presidential candidate had won the presidency in 1948. Yet after he gave Thurmond a a nice and yet “uncomfortable” and “politically disadvantageous comment” Lott than goes on to say that if he did get elected we wouldn’t have had “any of these problems.” His whole commnet was actually this: “When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either.” When he goes into the realm of “all these problems over all these years” its pretty hard to argue against the fact that Lott was essentially saying that if Thurmond had been elected and implemented further policies of oppressing Blacks and other people of color, keeping those “folks in line,” we wouldn’t have had all of these “racial problems” over the years. Lott pretty much damned himself and while he did have to resign he’s now the minority whip of the Senate, so he pretty much all he received was a slap on the wrist, which is another issue all together.

    Regardless of all this, however, it still shows his white privilege and unconscious racist thought. Lott can say he was proud of voting for Thurmond because Lott is white and Thrumond was absolutely no threat to him. Thrumond called for the increased oppression of Blacks, if one was Black would it ever cross that persons mind that Thurmond would have been a great president, of course not. Since Blacks were at the brunt end of Thurmond’s racist attacks they knew the real threat he posed and the real harm he could do. Since Lott is white however, he can look back longingly at the good ol’ days and wish that Thurmond had been elected (or at least be nice to an old man and say he wished he had been elected) and not see the utter racist character in his comment. So even if Lott did make a comment because he was trying to be nice doesn’t take away the fact that he only could say that comment because of his lack of understanding of racism and his privilege in society because of his white skin.

  3. nms permalink
    Friday, January 5, 2007 3:39 pm

    In regards to my previous comment, I wrote it while knowing Strom Thurmond’s history. How do you know the specifics of what Lott was thinking and why he said what he said. I think you are jumping to conclusions. I subscribe to the theory that Trent Lott is just a bumbling politician who doesn’t think before he speaks. I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

  4. Jack Stephens permalink
    Friday, January 5, 2007 11:16 pm

    Exactly, he doesn’t think before he speaks, which can show us what he’s really thinking. One can take an educated guess by using deduction from the evidence from a person’s actions and words. By stating what he stated once can take an educated guess at what he’s thinking, and the fact that he just blurted it out (which he didn’t, he wrote and planned the speech, but hypothetically) shows us what his conscious mind thinks. I know I can’t read his mind, nobody can read minds, but that’s how history is written, and news pieces, and how people judge other people. Through natural deduction. But I agree, we’ll agree to disagree.

  5. Orca permalink
    Thursday, January 11, 2007 5:24 pm

    I was browsing through Wikipedia and thought this would be important in discussing Lott’s (not so hidden) racism.

    “According to his uncle, former state Senator Arnie Watson, “Trent is an honorary member” of the CCC, a group the Southern Povery Law Center calls “the incarnation of the infamous white Citizens Councils,” the white supremacist groups that attempted to resist desegragation…Lott hosted CCC leaders at his Senate office in 1997 and addressed its events at least three times in the 1990s. As a keynote speaker at a 1992 CCC convention, Lott heaped praise on its members: “The people in this room stand for the right principles and the right philosophy… Let’s take it in the right direction and our children will be the beneficiaries!”

    The CCC is the Council of Conservative Citizens, and, according to Wikipedia.

    “The Council of Conservative Citizens (abbreviated CCC or CofCC) is an American paleoconservative white separatist political organization that supports European, Southern, and caucasian heritage and opposes multiculturalism. It is an offshoot of the segregationist White Citizens Council of the 1950s. It is headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, and its most active chapter is in Mississippi. Other states with active chapters include Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and New York. Sporadic CCC activities occur in other parts of the country as well…The CCC considers itself a traditional Conservative group opposing Liberals and Neoconservatives and they also seek to promote some of the ideals of the Confederate States of America. Its specific issues include states rights, race relations, White separatism, and conservative Protestant Christianity. They have attacked Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Frankfurt School on their website. Consistent with paleoconservatism, they regard American culture as an offshoot of the European cultural tradition. The Council of Conservative Citizens is currently fighting against immigration, affirmative action and racial quotas, forced busing for school integration, and gun control. The CCC also looks favorably towards European nationalist and anti-immigration groups such as British National Party, Front National, and Vlaams Belang.”

    Pretty bad company to be associated with if you ask me, especially if you are trying to argue that one is not a racist.

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