Wednesday, July 7, 2010

National Experiment

I'm not impressed nor convinced that the 'straight pride' bumper stickers are either humorously intended or a cry for no-special-rights, since they are, by definition, upholding an unequal dynamic. I was in Chattanooga, 90-94, during the release of Spike Lee's Malcolm X. When police stood heavily outside the theaters because... because... well, 'that material' might incite trouble. Hmmm. We manifest our fears and reflexive beliefs by our unconscious actions.
I worked at an all-male, former-military, evangelical Presbyterian boarding school. Yes. So, there was rampant religiosity and overt bigotry, and many many inadvertently funny testimonies. There was also a mini controversy over the rebel flag, which many stalwart sons of the south wanted to fly on their walls or in their windows. Now, the controversy wasn't that they did. Nay, the administrators were getting early-90s PC, ish, and began to forbid stars/bars from flying in the open--which was an effrontery to many. The controversy came when the handful of African-American students wore t-shirts or caps w/ the X on it. 'We can't wear our colors. How come they can wear theirs?' was the complaint of the white students. Several faculty members agreed.
The flag of a secessionist government, and outright symbol of 'southern pride' & antideluvian power order, and appropriated symbol of reactionary (if not racist) whites, the Confederate flag is a symbol of an actual political/cultural entity. Malcolm X was a man who held no elected office, made no laws, enforced only those already on the books (which said whites seemed slow to honor; and he 'enforced' them only insofar as he verbally reminded white America of their existence), and spoke articulately of racial imbalances. The movie, a biopic, sold souvenirs. Kids and adults wore them as show of pride, as cultural artifact, because Spike Lee & Denzel Washington are/were cool. (Equally, some white kids flew Confederate flag for same reasons--because it seemed cool and a way to participate in a larger community, without really knowing the what behind the why.)
But it's problematic that teachers were so easily led to equate the two, showing the hearts up their sleeves: fear, misunderstanding, resentment.

Which brings me to the ugly 'revulsion' spreading like fungus through white America about Obama. On one hand, it's just ('just') and extension of the Fox News stranglehold on people's minds, and our own complicity with easy slogan existence. Deeper, though, is a psychic reaction that is profoundly ugly. We should own it.

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