So What?

No, I’m not talking about the Miles Davis song, but you should listen to it.

Over at I Cite, Jodi resounds with me, albeit in a different register, in saying “so what?” to all the hub-bub raised over Obama’s speech on race. She comments that his pastor’s anger is politicized in a way that comparable anger coming from white pulpits is not, but also that “Many liberals (Zizek’s beloved liberal multiculturalists) like it this way. They are most comfortable talking about racism, not race. To notice race, in their way of thinking, is to be racist.” It’s telling that these same liberals take a similar distance to race as these Fox News jerks debating the finer points of what one can “get away” with when speaking of race, particularly when you are of one race and your comments are directed towards another.

Towards the end of that clip, Chris Wallace, another Fox News anchor, pretty smartly says that he thinks Obama’s generalization is true! One of the other anchors, however, was quick to downplay Wallace by suggesting that the sentiment is “generational.” In other words, we can be honest about the relevance of age difference in how people view the world, but not when it comes to race. To have invoked race on that show would have been to actually take their comments about racism seriously, but it would have probably yielded wildly different results. For example, it makes sense that Obama (black or white) invokes a “typical white person,” because there is a typical white experience in America, because that is practically all we know collectively. It makes no sense for a white-person like Hillary Clinton or Chris Matthews to talk about a “typical black person,” which in our collective self-image doesn’t exist, except as a scary blind-spot.

The offensiveness of it is not merely that there is a black experience not captured in white America’s white vision of itself, which is all too aware of the racism that persists to this day, but that when anyone tries to talk about the difference and why there is a difference they are dismissed or chided. You don’t have to argue that the black-experience is of equal or superior value to anything else in order to just point out that that very black-experience exists because and is a symptom of white hegemony. The key is not to enjoy the black experience (read as: the multiculturalist experience), but to reject the racist horizon defining this experience of race.

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