Gene Lyons' column too far

To dismiss a great black public intellectual because she made you feel uncomfortable is completely ridiculous

Topics: Race, Barack Obama,

Race in America is a difficult subject. When it comes to race, America has the mental maturity of a 7 year old that, on occasion, will plug its ears with its fingers and sing “La, la, la.” Being American and Negro I understand this. I don’t really have any choice but to understand it. I can’t decide that racial matters or discussions are silly because I’m actually affected. I can’t speak of it philosophically and talk racial theory because for me its NOT theory. I’m Black. This is real. End of story.

Last night I came across an article that I was so offended by that I reserved comment until I had a full nights sleep. I thought to myself that it was so insulting, so idiotic that it couldn’t be as bad as I was perceiving it to be. I needed to literally go to bed, take a mental break, and come back. That article was Gene Lyons “Obama’s Bridge too Far” on Salon.com. The article, a poorly thought out and terribly executed piece which wasn’t even cohesive as a whole should have been axed in the editorial process. But it wasn’t. Take a look.

This just in: Not all the fools are Republicans. Recently, one Melissa Harris-Perry, a Tulane professor who moonlights on MSNBC political talk shows, wrote an article for the Nation titled “Black President, Double Standard: Why White Liberals Are Abandoning Obama.”

See, nobody ever criticized Bill Clinton, another centrist Democrat who faced a hostile Republican congress. Indeed, he was “enthusiastically re-elected” in 1996. Therefore, “[t]he 2012 election is a test of whether Obama will be held to standards never before imposed on an incumbent. If he is, it may be possible to read that result as the triumph of a more subtle form of racism.”

You can like Dr. Harris-Perry’s theory or not, but 1) its a theory not an etched in stone condemnation and 2) it’s based in reality. It’s based in feelings many in the Black community have wondered when hearing attacks from White liberals. It’s based in issues that have been previously pointed out within the progressive movement. You could make the argument that race has nothing to do with White liberals issues with Obama and I wouldn’t have an issue with that. But to dismiss one of the great Black public intellectuals of our time because it made you feel uncomfortable is completely ridiculous.



And that’s the problem. Dr. Harris-Perry made folks feel uncomfortable.

White liberals enjoy the concept that they are immune to accusations of racism. They’re LIBERALS. They obviously are totally and completely not racist so how could you ever dare even pose the possibility of such a thing? Matter of fact? Since White liberals are so “obvi” not racist they can dismiss this feeling amongst Black folks as silly and tell them to stop it. You can even get all Dave Sirota on us and say how this hurts the civil rights movement. Because questioning the possibility of racism obviously makes equality harder right? Thanks sir!

But Mr. Lyons isn’t done.

The professor actually wrote that. See, certain academics are prone to an odd fundamentalism of the subject of race. Because President Obama is black, under the stern gaze of professor Harris-Perry, nothing else about him matters. Not killing Osama bin Laden, not 9 percent unemployment, only blackness.

Furthermore, unless you’re black, you can’t possibly understand. Yada, yada, yada. This unfortunate obsession increasingly resembles a photo negative of KKK racial thought. It’s useful for intimidating tenure committees staffed by Ph.D.s trained to find racist symbols in the passing clouds. Otherwise, Harris-Perry’s becoming a left-wing Michele Bachmann, an attractive woman seeking fame and fortune by saying silly things on cable TV. (emphasis mine)

Lyons actually wrote that. To question possible racism is to be the photo-negative of the KKK. To dare question White folks who were nice enough to treat you almost fairly is to be the Black equivalent of the KKK. And to possibly question race is only helpful in gaining tenure–because you know. Blacks and tenure at colleges? We gotta play that race card right? And PHD’s find race in everything. It’s not that they might have studied history and race long enough that they actually understand the systemic problems within our society based on race and privilege–they just see it in EVERYTHING. Silly educated people.

Lyons compared the Scholar Harris-Perry to the publicly mocked known idiot Michelle Bachmann. How did Lyons think that was going to work out? You mock the concept that as a White man you might not always understand everything about racism, then you degrade a brilliant Black mind and compare her to a wilful White idiot who has said websites full of dumb shit. Oh yeah. You’ve just won me over. White Liberals are sooooooo not racist.

I’d like to point out that I know Dr. Harris-Perry. She’s been a supporter of my work and even appeared on my show. I also have worked with Salon, where Gene Lyons wrote this trash and they’ve allowed me a platform for This Week in Blackness. Fact is, my working relationship with Salon probably influenced this article. Because of it I deleted all of the instances of “Muthafuckas” in this piece out of professional courtesy. Referring to a place you contribute on occasion as “These Muthafuckas here…” is probably a good way not to contribute there anymore.

But seriously. These Muthafuckas here need to stop it.

Whoops.

Elon James White is the editor-in-chief at This Week in Blackness. You can also follow him on Twitter.

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