Friday, October 9, 2009

it must be april the first...

First TP says that he may or may not try to have Madea play lady in red in For Colored Girls...and now Barack Obama wins the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

I am fatigued. The constant comparisons between Martin Luther King, Jr. with Barack Obama are daunting. The myth of the eternal return...of King's (seemingly only / only misread) dream allow for a continual link between the two historic figures in an uneasy way. I think the formulation towards which most point, the desire to be judged not on the basis of skin but on the content of character is one of those unfortunate phrases; an unfortunate phrase people hope to achieve.

It is unfortunate for me because it posits that there is some deep interiority of our personhood that is not discernable on the surface. I’m cool with that. But to posit it in a racialized world totally obscures the practice of racialization and of racism. I think people nestle in that one extremity of King’s “dream” because it is the most comforting, and is most easily obscured. People don’t generally know that King played the dozens or sprinkled the N-word (that would be Nigga, not Nigger) into his conversations with friends and comrades affectionately. No. We typically wake up in January, McDonald’s lights a candle for everything’s done, we hear about dreams and the beat goes on.

A couple of things. First, we must remember that race in a Western context is situated on the surface, is concerned with aesthetics, is – as the aphorism states – "surface deep." One-drop rules and DNA tests both have histories tied to this aestheticizing of the body but are not foundational to racializing projects. So when folks were “passing,” they were doing so not because of blood and DNA but because of an aesthetic allowability, an aesthetic non-rendering of their blackness. So some folks could have very easily been judged on the content of their character because they already passed the dermatological test.

Medical discourses of race come after-the-fact of race, used to explain and/or buttress raciality and racism. I’ve been reading a lot of psychoanalysis lately, so pardon my French (*rimshot!* do you get it? lol). But it appears that our subjectivity comes by way of the “cut” of language. The language – the grammar – of the West is always already pulsating with racial meaning, from negro, to nigger, from Moor to the black, from Creoles to blacks, from Colored to blackness, from African to Afreux. The logic and language of race functions by bringing folks into a racial subjectivity. But this subjectivity is bound up with the surface, with the color of the colored.

But now with the Nobel Peace Prize, there is another link between the dreamer and my nightmare. Through the granting of the NPP to Barack Obama, there becomes an easy one-to-one relationship between the two of them that even the dream could not sustain (though it did help fashion). Although the dream was utilized to imagine the two figures as somehow representing the same ideologies (read “Remaining Awake During a Great Revolution” by King to see how far off that idea is, delivered months before his assassination), dreams are ephemeral, we forget them, reimagine them, reconceptualize them, try to grasp them but they slip away into the ago as soon as they present themselves. This concept of the dream is, I imagine, what allowed for King to be revisioned in so many ways after his death. But the NPP is another thing. It is a material realization of striving for peace. The only problem is, the striving for Peace with which Obama represents runs counter to living peaceably.

It doesn’t seem to matter to some that the nominations for the award had to be received by February 1, 2009. So he must have won either because 1) he ran a good, well-financed campaign, 2) he was the first black* president or 3) he has done a great deal of peacemaking in those two weeks of presidency. Hmm. Maybe not. He was in office less than 2 weeks. He didn't do ANYTHING to deserve even the nomination. that was, indeed, "hope."

Purportedly, he has changed the international climate in such a way that warrants him receiving the award. But at home, in the US, I wonder – to steal from my facebook status – what to make of Obama winning the NPP while at the very same time increasing troops in Afghanistan? While at the very same time allowing racial profiling of Latinos/as? While at the same time refusing to have the US participate in the international race summit? While at the same time not closing GITMO as stated previously? Jobless rates are up, so it's a ruse that the economy is getting better. Then there's GITMO "closing"...they're removing the detainees and placing them in other prisons but not allowing them to have representation or court trials. The Obama administration is pretty much extending the Bush 2 era of legality with regard to the detainees.

But, of course, there are more reasoned arguments as to why he is an appropriate recipient of the NPP. One is that because he speaks so vociferously against Nuclear Proliferations (unless they are, of course, ours), he deserves a nod at diplomacy and peace. But this is just a weird formulation, in my opinion. I mean, if this is the reasoning, then diplomacy and peace are dependent upon a trivializing, a domestication, a shadow of its former self. Diplomacy and Peace Lite, if you will…like bread that has less carbs. The way to defend him as diplomatic and peace seeking is by changing the definition of what it means to be diplomatic and peace seeking. I just wonder when will peace mean peace?

Random Thoughts

So I’m not a hater, or maybe I am. I mean, I’ve been critical (some may say hyper-critical) of BHO since before he took office. He concedes too much, condescends too much. I’m over it. But I’m also over the misapplied category of “hater” to any and everyone that disagrees with him. I guess, in that one sliver of a way, I agree with him. Everyone that is critical of him is not racist. But everyone that is critical of him is not conservative either. As my boo SM said to me once, when critics are only conceived as “from the right,” this conception silences the radical folks on the left and in the center who are also critical of him. Every BHO critic isn’t apart of the Birthers movement (or whatever they are). Some are thoughtful people, people who care genuinely about the world (not just the US). “Hater" is just one of those catch-all phrases that is sorta lazy, in my don't have to understand or engage someone's argument, just dismiss them as a “hater” and move on.

I also think there are some links between consumption, capitalism and the whole "MY PRESIDENT (is black)" that I see pop up in facebook statuses and political views. But that for another time...for now, there's more post-race to detect (and lie about), post-haste, even!

But I’ll tell you this much, just like I won’t pledge allegiance to the flag, my kids won’t be singing BHO songs in school; I’ll say we’re abstaining for religious purposes.

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