Let’s talk about race. Wait, whose facilitating this discussion and what, at this given moment, is considered speech that you don’t like?
When the conversation of race is brought up in America, my attention is honed in like an American sniper stalking a Nazi back in the Vietnam War. But a dark part of me (#MicroAggression #CodeWord #RacialDogWhistle) is more interested in the facilitators of the conversation rather than the issue at hand. Lets face it, when Jesse Jackson is leading a discussion on race, if you possess the ability to understand half of what he says, you are in for the joyride of your lives. Ever notice that when a public figure wants to discuss the tensions in race relations, nothing ever gets accomplished? It’s like turning in your final after a semester of Philosophy 101. It always ends with the preverbal “Let’s agree to disagree.”
Enter Bill Maher and a discussion about Rep. Paul Ryan and his controversial statements he made about poverty and the inner cities. For the record, I am having to double up on my Pepto-Bismol intake after coming to the 5th stage of grief (Acceptance) in agreeing with Bill Maher. I have said it before, and I’ll say it again, Bill Maher was amazing back in the 90’s when he was under the delusion that he was a Libertarian. He was equally cynical back then.
Here’s part of a dialogue from his show:
Bill Maher: I want to talk about Paul Ryan. He was on Bill Bennet’s radio show… Paul Ryan said, “We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work…”
… My conservative friends are always saying you guys see race in everything. Maybe we do. I’m asking honestly. Is this a case where’s he’s just being honest and it’s not about race, or are we seeing race here where it shouldn’t be because that was the criticism is that he was talking in code.
Enter comedian W. Kamau Bell…
W. Kamau Bell: I’m going to go ahead and say that there is race there, that he was talking about black people when he said that. He was talking about black and latinos when he says it, absolutely. Because you can’t blame the people in the inner city, blacks and latinos, for not having jobs when there’s no jobs to get in the inner. And you can’t blame them when the schools suck, the hospital sucks, there’s no grocery store, all there fathers are in jail, you can’t blame them for not doing better when that’s the case.
Okay, so far so good. Perhaps there were racial undertones in Rep. Paul Ryan’s statement. Perhaps not? Let’s continue.
Bill Maher: “Here’s something else Paul Ryan said, ‘when it comes to getting an education too many of our young people just can’t be bothered, they’re sitting on couches for hours, playing video games, watching TV, instead of dreaming about being a teacher or a lawyer or a business leader, they’re fantasizing about being a baller or a rapper…” “Oh wait, that wasn’t him that was Michelle Obama.”
Now think mushroom cloud! There was an awkward smile on W. Kamau Bell’s and the audience was silenced into shame.
W. Kamau Bell: You know I don’t think this is a Republican (chuckle)
Bill Maher: (Turning to his audience) Hushed silence!
W. Kamau Bell: I don’t think this is a Republican or a Democratic issue, this is a people issue.
Bill Maher: Well, yeah suddenly.
Rick Lazio: Yeah but you just called Ryan a racist.
W. Kamau Bell: Did I actually say he was a racist?
Rick Lazio: Basically.
W. Kamau Bell: No I said he’s talking about black people. There’s no basically calling someone a racist. You’re either racist or your not racist.
Bill Maher: But come on. I just read this and you thought it was from Paul Ryan.
W. Kamau Bell: Because you told me it was.
Bill Maher: For a reason. I’m just asking is something less true if a white person says it about black people?
W. Kamau Bell: (Stuttering) The truth is the truth and a lie is a lie. I’m not here to represent the side of, like, if black people say it it’s more true because black people say it.
Pause and take a deep breath, because W. Kamau Bell, unwittingly, just dismantled a key foundational argument use by those whose living is made from the Racial Grievance Industry (Big Race).
Bell said, for the record, that in regards to Paul Ryan’s statements that “there is race there, that he was talking about black people when he said that. He was talking about black and latinos when he says it, absolutely.”
Then, Bill Maher attributes Michelle Obama’s statement about young people wanting to be ballers and rappers and playing video games to Paul Ryan, and then pulls the rug out from under Bell, there is nothing but awkward silences and smiles.
Bell, wanting to put some distance between his reaction to Paul Ryan’s/Michelle Obama’s quote, begins to say that this issue is not a Republican or Democratic issue but Bill Maher interjects by saying, “Well, yeah suddenly.” Rick Lazzio chides Bell for calling Paul Ryan a racist which Bell responds by saying that he actually didn’t use those words. This sentence alone proves Bell’s arguments are faulty. Maher asked the question whether or not there were racial undertones in Ryan’s statement and Bell instinctively jumped up and said yes. It’s as almost as if he was conditioned to do so.
When Rick Lazzio accuses him of calling Paul Ryan a racist, Bell says that he didn’t actually say that Ryan was a racist.
Again, look further:
In Paul Ryan’s statements, Bell has to sift through the words and dig into the mind of Ryan. His conclusion was that Ryan was speaking about the laziness of black and latino people even though Ryan never used the words black and latino.
Now, when Lazzio accuses Bell of calling Ryan a racist, he said that he never actually called him a racist. All of the sudden, Bell becomes a stickler for exact wording from his statement but was able to hear the high pitched sounds of the racial dog whistle in Ryan’s statement. Bell tries to reach for the White Flag (#CodeWord #MicroAggression #RacialDogWhistle) of bipartisanship by saying that this issue of poverty is not a Republican or a Democratic issue.
If I were to use Bell’s logic against him, I would hypothesize that he really thinks that only black people can address the plight of inner city poverty. He didn’t say those words, but, if you will allow me to use Bell’s own words, “there is race there…” I come to the conclusion that when Bell is confronted with the fact that a statement he thought was from Paul Ryan, was actually from Michelle Obama, he is operating from the distorted belief that black people are the only legitimate voices in the struggle against inner city poverty.
What Bell has done is uncovered a deception that has infected much of the dialogue of race relations in that certain voices are legitimate and others are not. I have long sensed known (#OverusedPhrase) that this was the case, but like the town nut, I was told I was… a nut. But I don’t take credit for this. Anyone who has a modicum of functioning observational skills and a descent sense of self-honesty knows that this deception has been allowed to metastasize into the dialogue of race relations and has set itself against real solutions and tradeoffs.
Despair.com said it best, “If you’re not a part of the solution, there’s good money to be made in prolonging the problem.” Do I think Bell operates out of this deception? “I’m going to go ahead and say that”… yes, I do think that Bell is not being honest when it comes to discussing race relations “…absolutely.” But I do not think Bell is the genesis of this deception. The boundaries of this discussion were set long before Bell ever stepped onto the scene and they were set up by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton whose very existence is dependent on racial grievance.
Bell is right about one thing about poverty, it is not a Republican or Democratic issue. But people like Bell (#RacialCodeWord #RacialDogWhistle) need to be able to argue against what Paul Ryan said on the merits and demerits. By immediately jumping to the racial conclusion at the first sight of disagreement means that Bell is just as stuck in the racial mire as any stereotypical redneck from the South. Unlike like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, W. Kamau Bell does not appear to have any incentive to stay locked in that mindset.