The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Race & Reality, Pt. 1

Tim Wise says what I was thinking a few weeks ago: What if the tea party was black?

Activists Take Part In Second Amendment March In Washington

Let’s play a game, shall we? The name of the game is called “Imagine.” The way it’s played is simple: we’ll envision recent happenings in the news, but then change them up a bit. Instead of envisioning white people as the main actors in the scenes we’ll conjure – the ones who are driving the action – we’ll envision black folks or other people of color instead. The object of the game is to imagine the public reaction to the events or incidents, if the main actors were of color, rather than white. Whoever gains the most insight into the workings of race in America, at the end of the game, wins.

So let’s begin.

Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters – the black protesters – spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protesters — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that’s what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose.

Imagine that white members of Congress, while walking to work, were surrounded by thousands of angry black people, one of whom proceeded to spit on one of those congressmen for not voting the way the black demonstrators desired. Would the protesters be seen as merely patriotic Americans voicing their opinions, or as an angry, potentially violent, and even insurrectionary mob? After all, this is what white Tea Party protesters did recently in Washington.

Actually, a coworker and I played that game a week ago. when hundreds of gun activists came to D.C.

Except our version went something like this: What would happen if we took, say, a couple hundred nicely dressed black men, to a gun show out in rural Anywhere, U.S.A.? What if we came in a couple of busloads, legally purchased firearms and left in a quiet and orderly fashion, just as we’d come. What kind of news coverage, if any, would we get?

Now, what if what if hundreds of angry and armed black protesters descended on Washington D.C.? What if there was even a movement of African Americans almost entirely based on and driven by anger?

The answers to these questions aren’t difficult: “No,” “No,” and “None.”

So, why is that true of the tea party movement?

There is no one simple answer, and certainly not one that can be summed up in one blog post (which is why this one will likely be a series of two or three). But we can start with the anger exhibited by some in the movement.

Whatever its causes are (and there are many arguably legitimate causes), there are two things that distinguish the tea partier’s anger from that of any other group, and account for media attention that it’s actual numbers don’t seem to justify. One is that the importance or significance afforded the tea partiers’ anger is directly related to their demographics.

Tea Party supporters are wealthier and more well-educated than the general public, and are no more or less afraid of falling into a lower socioeconomic class, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

The 18 percent of Americans who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters tend to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45.

They hold more conservative views on a range of issues than Republicans generally. They are also more likely to describe themselves as “very conservative” and President Obama as “very liberal.”

And while most Republicans say they are “dissatisfied” with Washington, Tea Party supporters are more likely to classify themselves as “angry.”

The other, as I wrote during the 2008 election, is that anger is a privilege in our culture.

I’ve noticed something. No one seems to seems to question whether the angry white men that swept Newt Gingrich and the Republican majority into power in 1994 were justified in their anger. It’s assumed that whatever they’re angry about they have a right to be angry about.

But not so for the so called “angry black women.” Their anger is somehow less “real” and less justified. Perhaps that that’s because being angry is a privilege in this culture. Anger, if you are a minority, is dangerous. If you are a woman, or a person of color, gay, etc., your movements must be calm, your voice must be modulated, and your anger must ever show.

Joy is permitted. You may sing, dance, and celebrate in your joy. It is a performance, sometimes a command performance, demanded of you even in the midst of despair. Suffering is permitted. It, too, is familiar and non-threatening. It can even be reaffirming to those looking upon it; reaffirming their power and privilege. Sadness is permitted. You are allowed to mourn, and to moan, keen, and cry in your mourning. Fear is permitted. Your fear — wide-eyed screaming of stunned silence — is familiar, and recognizable.

You are allowed all of the above, especially in response to another’s more “real” anger, but not your own anger. Anger implies entitlement — to material goods, to power and privilege, or a certain kind of treatment. Anger implies a right to expect something, and is a justifiable response to not receiving one’s due. And you aren’t due that which you’d have a right to be angry about having been denied.

It is, in part, about who gets to be angry and whose anger matters, and it’s an American reality that neither candidate- nor President Obama can even escape.

But if Obama wants to get elected president of the United States, getting mad is the last thing he can afford to do. He may be the Democrats’ standard bearer, but he is still—as the McCain camp consistently points out with their unsubtle “not like you” messaging—a black man.

This is a struggle that black men—especially those of us who work in professional settings and want to remain there—grapple with daily: Showing our anger, no matter how justified, is a death sentence. We feel outrage. We want to say and demonstrate our daily frustrations, but we don’t dare because we know that the release of our pent-up emotions can’t ever be explained after the fact.

And so it goes for Obama in his quest for the highest prize in all of America. We won’t know whether the nation is ready to cast aside enough historic prejudices to elect a qualified, smart, articulate and family-oriented black president until after all the votes are cast. For the first time in U.S. history, the possibility exists.

But, let me assure you, there’s no need to hold the vote if Obama blows his stack before then. It might satisfy some Obama supporters to see him put McCain-Palin in their places, call them out John Wayne-style and pummel them into submission. For a quick, exhilarating minute, it would feel like the 21st century equivalent of Joe Louis’ 1936 knockout of Nazi Germany’s Max Schmeling.

But it would be political suicide.

Most Americans, about 98% of us, can’t escape or insulate ourselves from the financial crisis. And most of us, about 98% of us, are waiting for this recover we keep hearing about to pay us a visit. Thus, at least 92% of us are unhappy with the economy and our declining standards of living.

Two recent studies by the Pew Research Center — “Health Care Reform — Can’t Live With It Or Without It” and “A Year Or More: The High Cost of Long-Term Unemployment” paint the picture. [Via Hiram Lee.]

  • 85% of us say jobs are difficult to find locally, up from 80% in 2009
  • 54% of us report that someone in our household has been jobless this past year
  • 21% of us have lost our jobs or been laid off, up from 18% in 2009
  • 15 % of us have dealt with reduced hours and/or pay, up from 11% last year
  • 24% of us report problems paying rent/mortgages
  • 70% of us have had one or more of these job problems in the past year, up from 59%
  • Most of us are more worried about jobs (45%) than the deficit (22%), even among Republicans (39% economy/ 35% deficit)
  • 15 million of us are unemployed, and 3.4 million (23%) of that number have been jobless for a year or more

So, if the tea partiers are riled up about that reality, well, so are most of us.

But to hear the tea partiers — who make up about 4% of the population — tell it, there’s still been far too much attention paid to minority concerns, and not enough paid to, well, them.

Now, what if what if hundreds of angry and armed black protesters descended on Washington D.C.? What if there was even a movement of African Americans almost entirely based on and driven by anger?

The answers to these questions aren’t difficult: "No," "No," and "None."

So, why is that true of the tea party movement?

There is no one simple answer, and certainly not one that can be summed up in one blog post (which is why this one will likely be a series of two or three). But we can start with the anger exhibited by some in the movement.

Whatever its causes are (and there are many arguably legitimate causes), there are two things that distinguish the tea partier’s anger from that of any other group, and account for media attention that it’s actual numbers don’t seem to justify. One is that the importance or significance afforded the tea partiers’ anger is directly related to their demographics.

Tea Party supporters are wealthier and more well-educated than the general public, and are no more or less afraid of falling into a lower socioeconomic class, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

The 18 percent of Americans who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters tend to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45.

They hold more conservative views on a range of issues than Republicans generally. They are also more likely to describe themselves as “very conservative” and President Obama as “very liberal.”

And while most Republicans say they are “dissatisfied” with Washington, Tea Party supporters are more likely to classify themselves as “angry.”

The other, as I wrote during the 2008 election, is that anger is a privilege in our culture.

I’ve noticed something. No one seems to seems to question whether the angry white men that swept Newt Gingrich and the Republican majority into power in 1994 were justified in their anger. It’s assumed that whatever they’re angry about they have a right to be angry about.

But not so for the so called “angry black women.” Their anger is somehow less “real” and less justified. Perhaps that that’s because being angry is a privilege in this culture. Anger, if you are a minority, is dangerous. If you are a woman, or a person of color, gay, etc., your movements must be calm, your voice must be modulated, and your anger must ever show.

Joy is permitted. You may sing, dance, and celebrate in your joy. It is a performance, sometimes a command performance, demanded of you even in the midst of despair. Suffering is permitted. It, too, is familiar and non-threatening. It can even be reaffirming to those looking upon it; reaffirming their power and privilege. Sadness is permitted. You are allowed to mourn, and to moan, keen, and cry in your mourning. Fear is permitted. Your fear — wide-eyed screaming of stunned silence — is familiar, and recognizable.

You are allowed all of the above, especially in response to another’s more “real” anger, but not your own anger. Anger implies entitlement — to material goods, to power and privilege, or a certain kind of treatment. Anger implies a right to expect something, and is a justifiable response to not receiving one’s due. And you aren’t due that which you’d have a right to be angry about having been denied.

It is, in part, about who gets to be angry and whose anger matters, and it’s an American reality that neither candidate- nor President Obama can even escape.

But if Obama wants to get elected president of the United States, getting mad is the last thing he can afford to do. He may be the Democrats’ standard bearer, but he is still—as the McCain camp consistently points out with their unsubtle "not like you" messaging—a black man.

This is a struggle that black men—especially those of us who work in professional settings and want to remain there—grapple with daily: Showing our anger, no matter how justified, is a death sentence. We feel outrage. We want to say and demonstrate our daily frustrations, but we don’t dare because we know that the release of our pent-up emotions can’t ever be explained after the fact.

And so it goes for Obama in his quest for the highest prize in all of America. We won’t know whether the nation is ready to cast aside enough historic prejudices to elect a qualified, smart, articulate and family-oriented black president until after all the votes are cast. For the first time in U.S. history, the possibility exists.

But, let me assure you, there’s no need to hold the vote if Obama blows his stack before then. It might satisfy some Obama supporters to see him put McCain-Palin in their places, call them out John Wayne-style and pummel them into submission. For a quick, exhilarating minute, it would feel like the 21st century equivalent of Joe Louis’ 1936 knockout of Nazi Germany’s Max Schmeling.

But it would be political suicide.

Most Americans, about 98% of us, can’t escape or insulate ourselves from the financial crisis. And most of us, about 98% of us, are waiting for this recover we keep hearing about to pay us a visit. Thus, at least 92% of us are unhappy with the economy and our declining standards of living.

Two recent studies by the Pew Research Center — "Health Care Reform — Can’t Live With It Or Without It" and "A Year Or More: The High Cost of Long-Term Unemployment" paint the picture. [Via Hiram Lee.]

  • 85% of us say jobs are difficult to find locally, up from 80% in 2009
  • 54% of us report that someone in our household has been jobless this past year
  • 21% of us have lost our jobs or been laid off, up from 18% in 2009
  • 15 % of us have dealt with reduced hours and/or pay, up from 11% last year
  • 24% of us report problems paying rent/mortgages
  • 70% of us have had one or more of these job problems in the past year, up from 59%
  • Most of us are more worried about jobs (45%) than the deficit (22%), even among Republicans (39% economy/ 35% deficit)
  • 15 million of us are unemployed, and 3.4 million (23%) of that number have been jobless for a year or more

So, if the tea partiers are riled up about that reality, well, so are most of us.

But to hear the tea partiers — who make up about 4% of the population — tell it, there’s still been far too much attention paid to minority concerns, and not enough paid to, well, them.

Now, what if what if hundreds of angry and armed black protesters descended on Washington D.C.? What if there was even a movement of African Americans almost entirely based on and driven by anger?

The answers to these questions aren’t difficult: "No," "No," and "None."

So, why is that true of the tea party movement?

There is no one simple answer, and certainly not one that can be summed up in one blog post (which is why this one will likely be a series of two or three). But we can start with the anger exhibited by some in the movement.

Whatever its causes are (and there are many arguably legitimate causes), there are two things that distinguish the tea partier’s anger from that of any other group, and account for media attention that it’s actual numbers don’t seem to justify. One is that the importance or significance afforded the tea partiers’ anger is directly related to their demographics.

Tea Party supporters are wealthier and more well-educated than the general public, and are no more or less afraid of falling into a lower socioeconomic class, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

The 18 percent of Americans who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters tend to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45.

They hold more conservative views on a range of issues than Republicans generally. They are also more likely to describe themselves as “very conservative” and President Obama as “very liberal.”

And while most Republicans say they are “dissatisfied” with Washington, Tea Party supporters are more likely to classify themselves as “angry.”

The other, as I wrote during the 2008 election, is that anger is a privilege in our culture.

I’ve noticed something. No one seems to seems to question whether the angry white men that swept Newt Gingrich and the Republican majority into power in 1994 were justified in their anger. It’s assumed that whatever they’re angry about they have a right to be angry about.

But not so for the so called “angry black women.” Their anger is somehow less “real” and less justified. Perhaps that that’s because being angry is a privilege in this culture. Anger, if you are a minority, is dangerous. If you are a woman, or a person of color, gay, etc., your movements must be calm, your voice must be modulated, and your anger must ever show.

Joy is permitted. You may sing, dance, and celebrate in your joy. It is a performance, sometimes a command performance, demanded of you even in the midst of despair. Suffering is permitted. It, too, is familiar and non-threatening. It can even be reaffirming to those looking upon it; reaffirming their power and privilege. Sadness is permitted. You are allowed to mourn, and to moan, keen, and cry in your mourning. Fear is permitted. Your fear — wide-eyed screaming of stunned silence — is familiar, and recognizable.

You are allowed all of the above, especially in response to another’s more “real” anger, but not your own anger. Anger implies entitlement — to material goods, to power and privilege, or a certain kind of treatment. Anger implies a right to expect something, and is a justifiable response to not receiving one’s due. And you aren’t due that which you’d have a right to be angry about having been denied.

It is, in part, about who gets to be angry and whose anger matters, and it’s an American reality that neither candidate- nor President Obama can even escape.

But if Obama wants to get elected president of the United States, getting mad is the last thing he can afford to do. He may be the Democrats’ standard bearer, but he is still—as the McCain camp consistently points out with their unsubtle "not like you" messaging—a black man.

This is a struggle that black men—especially those of us who work in professional settings and want to remain there—grapple with daily: Showing our anger, no matter how justified, is a death sentence. We feel outrage. We want to say and demonstrate our daily frustrations, but we don’t dare because we know that the release of our pent-up emotions can’t ever be explained after the fact.

And so it goes for Obama in his quest for the highest prize in all of America. We won’t know whether the nation is ready to cast aside enough historic prejudices to elect a qualified, smart, articulate and family-oriented black president until after all the votes are cast. For the first time in U.S. history, the possibility exists.

But, let me assure you, there’s no need to hold the vote if Obama blows his stack before then. It might satisfy some Obama supporters to see him put McCain-Palin in their places, call them out John Wayne-style and pummel them into submission. For a quick, exhilarating minute, it would feel like the 21st century equivalent of Joe Louis’ 1936 knockout of Nazi Germany’s Max Schmeling.

But it would be political suicide.

Most Americans, about 98% of us, can’t escape or insulate ourselves from the financial crisis. And most of us, about 98% of us, are waiting for this recover we keep hearing about to pay us a visit. Thus, at least 92% of us are unhappy with the economy and our declining standards of living.

Two recent studies by the Pew Research Center — "Health Care Reform — Can’t Live With It Or Without It" and "A Year Or More: The High Cost of Long-Term Unemployment" paint the picture. [Via Hiram Lee.]

  • 85% of us say jobs are difficult to find locally, up from 80% in 2009
  • 54% of us report that someone in our household has been jobless this past year
  • 21% of us have lost our jobs or been laid off, up from 18% in 2009
  • 15 % of us have dealt with reduced hours and/or pay, up from 11% last year
  • 24% of us report problems paying rent/mortgages
  • 70% of us have had one or more of these job problems in the past year, up from 59%
  • Most of us are more worried about jobs (45%) than the deficit (22%), even among Republicans (39% economy/ 35% deficit)
  • 15 million of us are unemployed, and 3.4 million (23%) of that number have been jobless for a year or more

So, if the tea partiers are riled up about that reality, well, so are most of us.

But to hear the tea partiers — who make up about 4% of the population — tell it, there’s still been far too much attention paid to minority concerns, and not enough paid to, well, them.

(To be continued…)

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