Gene Lyons wrote a notable article on Salon today. It is ostensibly a rebuttal to Melissa Harris-Perry’s recent article in The Nation, “Black President, Double Standard: Why White Liberals Are Abandoning Obama“. Curiously, Lyons spends no wastes no space addressing anything Harris-Perry actually wrote, and instead spends half his piece attacking Harris-Perry herself through racist, misogynistic, and generally insultingly stupid rhetoric. Then he abruptly switches gears to cheerlead the Obama of recent weeks, I guess to illustrate that the POTUS is going to do just fine with his liberal base next election, without the likes of Harris-Perry stirring up a pot of
race cards trouble. His base doesn’t even notice or care that he’s black EVEN, so why does Harris-Perry have to be all selfish and “intimidating” and bring race into every previously post-racial thing?
Harris-Perry wrote a short piece raising clear, precisely defined questions about how racism operates today. She argues that old-school “I just won’t vote for a black candidate” style racism among whites is largely a thing of the past, but questions whether a subtler form of racism may be at play when white liberals chastise and abandon Obama for infractions that did not result in similar base erosion for Bill Clinton. She did not say, explicitly or implicitly, that “whites must support Obama unconditionally, and if they don’t they are Racist, and I’m going to look unfairly sexy while mean mugging ’til I terrorize them into cosigning every thing I say”.
Yet, it is this latter fantasy against which Lyons whines at length, in between vanquishing paper tigers (“See, nobody ever criticized Bill Clinton” Ooh, was that the sarcasm? It stings! With WTF-itude!) and complaining about how messed up it is to ask liberals to think critically about race, ever, because not even Obama (who is–ssshh–black!) makes them do that. If he thinks Harris-Perry’s logic is faulty, fine, write a piece about that, but there’s no examination of anything substantive here, at least not anything that has much to do with Harris-Perry’s article. Instead we get something that resembles a catharsis-therapy exercise through which Lyons may be attempting to exorcise the demons of his undergraduate years, where he may have had some traumatic experience in which a black student talked about racism and made him cry. But not in a satisfying “It’s so terrible! The racism! Over there!” way, in a “I’m uncomfortable! What right do you have to make me feel bad?! GARRcolonialrageA’slpode!” way. I’m disappointed that Salon felt it was up to their editorial standards. Maybe they were just trying to give their readers another rousing round of defensive-white-dude Bingo? Cuz we can’t find that anywhere on the internet. Thx, Salon.
Here are some things Lyons chose to address in his article instead of anything Harris-Perry actually said:
– Her “stern glare”.
– How her thinking is just like that of the KKK, if the KKK had terrorized and murdered white people, or at least been in favor of it. At least, I think that’s what he was saying. His exact words are “This unfortunate obsession [of Harris-Perry’s] increasingly resembles a photo negative of KKK racial thought.” The “obsession” in question is:
-“Unless you’re black, you can’t possibly understand. Yada, yada, yada.” It would be easier to address Lyon’s obsession with this “obsession” if Harris-Perry had actually said anything like this in her article. A less patronizing and more nuanced expression of related sentiments could have had a place in an article addressing how racism manifests today, but Harris-Perry didn’t actually say anything like this, at all. This is purely Lyons’ own projection.
-How Lyons’ fantasy “obsession” is “useful for intimidating tenure committees staffed by Ph.D.s trained to find racist symbols in the passing clouds.” Snap! Look how he turned a phrase out of his issues! Cookie time?
-Srsly, folk, you know how The Academy is run by paranoid black ladies and their white sycophants? Who just see racism everywhere, meaning in dudes like Lyons? Which is totally unfair and not true? Isn’t it better to just not talk about racism at all, unless it’s Republicans who are in the wrong? I mean, Lyons doesn’t see it, so it must not even be there, right? All the white dudes in the house, you feel me, don’t you? Doesn’t Gene Lyons speak for you? God, I hope not.
– How “Voters can’t be shamed or intimidated into supporting this president or any other.” Harris-Perry’s questioning of shifting dynamics of electoral racism was primarily an attempt to shame and intimidate white people? Someone took an extra narcissism pill today along with their Projectavix.
-“Harris-Perry’s becoming a left-wing Michele Bachmann, an attractive woman seeking fame and fortune by saying silly things on cable TV.” What? Just…what? Did I miss the part where either Harris-Perry declared her candidacy or Bachmann withdrew hers? Or the part where lying about scientific support for intelligent design became equatable with contrasting Liberal reaction to Clinton’s f-ed up policies with reaction to Obama’s, and asking if race plays a role? And anyway, how exactly is the latter is that a destructive question to explore? Furthermore, what does it have to do with Michelle Bachman, beyond that Lyons doesn’t like her or Harris Perry, but thinks they are hot and has seen them on TV?
It seems like Lyons pines for the good old days where white men almost-exclusively policed the parameters of political debate, before all the scary black people telling tall-tales of racism and dizzy dames trying to distract rational men with their pretty-power crashed the party and spoiled his
absolute privilege fun. Dear Mr. Lyons, I know power often pretends otherwise, but white dudes do not comprise the majority of people in this country, and plenty of white dudes don’t actually share your immature inability to listen or examine your own emotional reactions. This kind of self-centered tantrum has nothing to do with any viable progressive analysis. Grow up or shut up.