Monday, April 19, 2010
'Minstrel' is the New 'Tom'
I am black. I am a (small "L") libertarian. I have, at various points in my past also self-identified as "conservative" and "Republican." And, as most black people of our general political stripe can attest, with it comes some pretty nasty insinuations and a lot of name calling.
"Sell-out." "Oreo." "[Uncle] Tom."
It's hard to put into words what it feels like to be branded a race-traitor by your own people; that explicit and ultimate denigration of your identity and character that says what you believe is incompatible with what you are, where you come from, and how much you care about other people like you; that your politics shows that you are ashamed of your blackness--and thus should be ashamed of who you are.
That Charles Blow and Jamelle Bouie publicly engage in this by saying black tea partiers are participating in a 'minstrel show' is deeply offensive, if not unhinged. I appreciate that Adam Serwer reasonably stated that black conservatives are not, indeed, minstrels--though I think his offhand dismissal of Conor's piece was unfair.
Indeed, I would say that Blow, Bouie and Serwer may have misidentified whom exactly the black tea partiers were signaling to with their "I'm not a racist" signs. Is it really all that unlikely that those who have, for years, endured smears and hateful venom from their racial kindred be a tad sensitive to accusations of racism-by-association from the likes of Keith Olbermann or thinly veiled accusations of Tomism from Charles Blow? (It's not like these insults are new. Seriously. At all. You can even read a book about it.) National media personalities who don't know us, and apparently don't understand us, just throwing out words like "minstrel" and "racist" just because some assholes show up fully displaying their ignorance. Yes, the Right has a racist past. But, duh, the Left does too.
BREAKING: AMERICA HAS A RACIST PAST.
I'm not a tea partier, but I know something about how they feel. I've found it quite ironic that we have to defend ourselves for being different--for being individuals and thinking for ourselves--against vicious slurs by supposedly enlightened ones who think we should all think and vote the same.
So much for the content of my character, huh?
Update: Jamelle has graciously issued an apology.