(Huffington Post) The writer of a much-maligned New York Times article about Michael Brown admitted on Monday that he had made a mistake when he described the slain teenager as “no angel.”
Those two words that John Eligon chose, along with a series of of descriptions about Brown’s “dabbling” with drugs, alcohol and rap music, set off a scorching round of criticism for the way the paper had characterized Brown. The Times dug an even deeper hole for itself by writing a concurrent article about Darren Wilson, the man who killed Brown, in which Wilson was described as a “well-mannered, relatively soft-spoken, even bland person.” Many said that the contrast seemed to fit a pattern in which black victims of crime are maligned in the media.
Lawrence O’Donnell’s send up of this article is freaking legendary, people.
Please read this piece to get some historical context:
Shortly before the Civil War, many white writers—especially abolitionists—began anxiously debating whether black children who died could become angels, and if so, whether they needed to become white first. As I write in my book, Racial Innocence, the 1862 abolitionist story “Poor Little Violet,” by Lynde Palmer, included a very disturbing scene in which Violet, an enslaved girl, discusses death and angelhood with a white slaveholding girl named Carrie. Violet asks,“[W]hen we goes to Canaan, that old Sambo sings about, may I be your little slave then, Miss Carrie, ’cause you’s allus so kind?”
“I don’t think there will be any slaves there,” said Carrie, slowly, pondering over the matter.
“Why, what will the black people do, then?” cried Violet, with curious round eyes.
“Maybe,” replied Carrie hesitatingly, “maybe there won’t be any black people—you know, Violet, our bodies are covered up in the ground,”—Violet shivered,—“but our souls go to heaven, and they must all be white.”
“All of ’em?” asked Violet, eagerly.
“Yes, mamma told me that no soul can go till it is washed white in Jesus’ blood.”
“And can my soul be white?” whispered Violet.
“Yes,” said Carrie, “if you ask God.” (Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights, p. 59)
The Times's reference to Michael Brown as “no angel” is so deeply hurtful because it extends a historical libel that African Americans, and African American children in particular, cannot be innocent. As the slaveholder Carrie tells Violet, to be an angel is to be white. And in this white-authored text—which was intended to critique slavery—a black girl joyously receives this information with hope that she can shed her blackness, become white, and become an angel.
Horror stories about Muslim misogyny have long been used by western patriarchs to justify imperialism abroad and sexism at home. The Guardian’s Katharine Viner reminds us about Lord Cromer, the British consul general in Egypt from 1883. Cromer believed the Egyptians were morally and culturally inferior in their treatment of women and that they should be “persuaded or forced” to become “civilised” by disposing of the veil.
"And what did this forward-thinking, feminist-sounding veil-burner do when he got home to Britain?" asks Viner. "He founded and presided over the Men’s League for Opposing Women’s Suffrage, which tried, by any means possible, to stop women getting the vote. Colonial patriarchs like Cromer … wanted merely to replace eastern misogyny with western misogyny." More than a century later, the same logic is used to imply that misogyny only matters when it isn’t being done by white men.
Have you noticed that the Ferguson situation has deliberately moved away from Michael Brown, and the media is now making the protestors the story? How many times have you heard the name of the police officer, or anything resembling investigative journalism on who this officer is…?
Don’t fall for the banana in the tailpipe trick…
(H/T Kamakura Faure)
Since this happened so recently and social media played such an important part in publicizing the story, it’s pretty easy to see that the national media only became interested in Ferguson once the protests began, not after Micheal Brown’s murder. They became even more interested when the situation in Ferguson became photogenically violent.
Now the national coverage is mainly about the protestors (usually slanted in a negative way) or about police militarization, which is usually portrayed as a problem for civil liberties in general. With some exceptions, they are doing their best to minimize the central role of white supremacy in all of this.
Tell me about a time where a white child was killed and black people made a hashtag mocking their death, a Halloween costume mocking their death, or a celebration of their death in any way shape or from. NEVER!!
Black pride has never been about hating white people, but white supremacy has always been about hating black people.
— James Baldwin, “A Report from Occupied Territory” The Nation, July 11, 1966
Police aggression. Detention of journalists. A call for respect for minority populations. They’re the type of issues the United States is usually scolding other countries about. This time, however, the criticism is coming the other direction.
Iran’s Grand Ayatollah tweeted about the “brutal treatment” of black people in the United States using the #Ferguson hashtag, China’s official mouthpiece wrote about America’s “human rights flaw,” and the Egyptian government called for “restraint and respect for the right of assembly and peaceful expression of opinion.”
The condemnation is not only limited to countries who may be gloating about the chance to slam the United States about its internal affairs for a change.
On Monday, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, through a spokesman, called on authorities “to ensure that the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are protected.”
“He calls on all to exercise restraint, for law enforcement officials to abide by U.S. and international standards in dealing with demonstrators,” Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman said.
Amnesty International, the global human rights organization, said it had sent observers to Ferguson. It’s the first time the group has deployed such a team within the United States.
And here’s another chapter in the perennial debate about conservatives: stupid or evil?
Paul Ryan offered his opinion on federal intervention in Ferguson:
"There is no problem with the federal government having a role," he said. "But in all of these things, local control, local government, local authorities who have the jurisdiction, who have the expertise, who are actually there are the people who should be in the lead."
He said that today. Has he literally been hiding under a rock?
At this point, the only reasonable conclusion is that the local authorities in Missouri and Ferguson are clueless and repulsive. Yet Paul Ryan thinks they should be given the lead to resolve a situation they themselves have created and escalated.
So….is Paul Ryan a dumbass?
I don’t think Paul Ryan is a dumbass, but he often sounds like one. In this instance, he’s chosen to ignore U.S. history and everything that has happened in Ferguson lately because it is evidence that not only conflicts with his ludicrous political philosophy, but destroys it.
But I don’t think it’s just a case of cognitive dissonance. No one who remains a libertarian past the age of 19 or so can be trusted because, in this country, quite a few self-described “libertarians” would be better described as neo-Confederates. Many of these same ‘libertarians’ are even bringing back antebellum classics like nullification.
No, Paul Ryan isn’t a dumbass. Paul Ryan knows what he’s doing.