Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Here we go again, as Ronald Reagan famously said.

For the umpteenth time – and quite frankly, I’ve lost count – someone says or does something that is historically contextual in-your-face-racism and then -– after days of denying that they've done anything wrong –- issues a weak apology to anyone who “. . .was offended by my action” along with an excuse such as "at the time I received and forwarded the email, I didn't stop to think about the historic implications and other examples of how this could be offensive.”

Yes, yes, I’m talking about 74 year old Marilyn Davenport, elected official of the California Orange County Republican Central Committee, self-described “Christian” Sunday school teacher, and a woman who is now claiming that –- at 74 years old -– she is somehow clueless to the “. . . historic implications and other examples of how this” –- and by “this” she meant sending out an e-mail depicting President Obama and his family as chimps -- “. . . could be offensive.”

Well, I don’t buy what she is trying to sell and neither should you.

Depicting African Americans as monkeys has a long history in the popular culture of this country. Examples abound, including and especially from two sources that consciously, systematically, and “benignly” inculcates Americans into cultural thought: popular entertainment and the media. From the 1933 “classic” King Kong; the ubiquitous Disney machine’s offerings, such as a 1948 Mickey Mouse book, “Mickey Mouse and Boy Thursday” (where Mickey the Mouse receives a crate full or West African bananas only to find an sub-humanly drawn African in the crate instead) and a 1967 film, “The Jungle Book”, showing a Black ape-like King Louie; to countless European and American pictures, texts, and other images, America has a long and despicable history of depicting African Descendants as monkeys, chimps, gorillas, and apes.**

For SEVENTY-FOUR year old Marilyn Davenport to claim that she did not think about the implications of her e-mail is ludicrous.

The LA Times reported this written message from her (emphasis is mine):

“I’m sorry if my email offended anyone, I simply found it amusing regarding the character of Obama and all the questions surrounding his origin of birth.” In no way did I even consider the fact he’s half black when I sent out the email. In fact, the thought never entered my mind until one or two other people tried to make this about race. We all know a double standard applies regarding this president. I received plenty of emails about George Bush that I didn’t particularly like, yet there was no ‘cry’ in the media about them.”

Now come one!!! Isn’t it funny – and not in a “ha ha” way – how President Obama all of a sudden becomes “half black” when people are trying to back their way out of a charge of racism? As if American history is not replete with examples of “half black” people and other people of African descent being enslaved, lynched, raped, AND being depicted as monkeys. Because in this society – and correct me if I am wrong here – “half black” has meant “all Black and we are asking no other questions, Nigger” if one did not hold white skin privilege.

For Ms. Davenport –- at 74 years of age, and with all the historical perspective of that –- to claim that race did not enter in this shows, more than any words can say, the arrogance with which she holds her own white privilege at the expense of the historical oppression of others.

Scott Baugh, Orange County’s Republican chairman, rightly said that he condemned her actions despite her apology and he believed that she should resign. But do he and others believe that enough to mount an intra-party campaign for her to do so?

Because in the industry of “racism repentance” what does an “I’m sorry” mean if you –- or your party or your government or your businesses or your country –- continue to do it again and again?

Moving Forward,


** For more information on the depictions of African Descendants by Europeans and white Americans, see Winthrop Jordan’s study “White Over Black.”

Sunday, April 10, 2011


"For Whites Only" scholarships take you back to the "good old days" when the concept of white entitlement was a given: the overriding custom, law, and influencer of opportunity and access affecting all aspects of life from cradle to grave.

For less than 50 years -- and that would be less than a quarter of this country's long, sordid history of institutional racial terrorism and oppression of African Americans to the benefit of whites as a group, mind you -- programs have been put in place to try to "even" a racial playing field in a country that has yet to acknowledge the severity of the impact of racial terrorism on generations of its citizens of color or the myriads of ways in which its white citizens continue to benefit, especially economically (

Yet a new generation of young white men in Texas and elsewhere -- the same generation famously touted as being "colorblind" and "post-racial" -- have decided to take a "blast from the past" and institute their own form of Jim Crow, 21st Century style, with the introduction of scholarships for whites / white men only.

In its most recent incarnation, 28 year old founder and Iraqi veteran Colby Bohannan says "We're not racists, just guys trying to help young Americans." He says "In the landscape of the scholarship foundations in this country, there is just one demographic that does not have a single dedicated scholarship, and that demographic is white males. That's the gap we're trying to fill” (

Although careful to distance their group’s philosophical perspectives and motives from "extreme" white supremacist groups, they heartily continue the (white) American tradition and mindset of ignoring the historical and on-going manifestations of institutional racism, opting instead for a "fish in water" approach to the issue: if you are a fish, you do not see your water privilege --even though you swim in it every day (or maybe because of that?) -- until you see your exclusive right to the water being threatened.

Although much of the recent press has been about the Texas "For White Men Only" scholarship, this concept, and the white racial victimology that drives it, is not new or strictly Southern.

Any rudimentary Google search will bring up pages on the subject, including one, established in 2004 by a Republican student organization at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island and another established by college Republicans at Boston University in 2006.

Those who create “For Whites Only” scholarships are disingenuous in their logic about the purpose. They ignore the vast number of opportunities and scholarships at their disposal. They also very deliberately and willfully ignore the fact that what they term "affirmative action" scholarships account for less than 4% of college scholarships.* They are ignore a couple of other very pertinent facts: that those 4%of scholarships targeted toward racially marginalized groups were created less than 50 years ago -- in their parents and grandparents time -- when scholarships and most opportunities were "For Whites Only"; that they are still economic and social beneficiaries of privileges bought as a result of the racial oppression of the very groups they accuse of receiving "racial preferences" today; and that they, as a group, still hold the "golden ticket" when comparing life opportunities and chances of any other racial group.

So what gives here? Draw your own conclusions -- panic over changing racial demographics that have whites seeing themselves as "minorities" and "victims" because of the color of their skin, stoking their racial fears; the changing national and global economic climate which stokes their racial insecurities and fears; inch-worm slow movement toward a semblance of "racial equity" which stokes their racial insecurities and fears; and a myopic view of life, centered on the fast growing concept of white racial victimhood which obliterates historical perspective and all data regarding current racial realities of life's opportunities and chances.


As a country we are famously ahistorical, and whites as a group -- famously -- seem to have perfected a form of collective amnesia when it comes to acknowledging and truly seeing the day-to-day impact of their continuing white privilege, even as they pass the baton of this legacy to succeeding generations.

But whether we as a country acknowledge the slippery historical slope of "For Whites Only" scholarships or continue to falsely equate them with so-called "affirmative action" scholarships, one thing is for sure:

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it

Moving Forward (or, in this case, Back),


*U.S. General Accounting Office, 1994. “Information on Minority Targeted Scholarships,” B251634. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, January.

**George Santayana, Reason in Common Sense, The Life of Reason, Vol.1

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Wow. After an extended period of disinterest in blogging -- I mean, what is there to say that others have not discussed, either with more clarity and insight or just clogging up the blogosphere -- I finally came across a topic that has pulled me back in.

I had the privilege of participating as a panelist in a Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle Freedom Forum titled "Can Youth Lead". Great topic, but my oh my did our unconscious "Western" philosophical perspectives show as we fell all over ourselves affirming youth leadership. We spoke about the leadership of youth in every movement in America while leaving out the strategic context of putting youth bodies on the front lines - not because youth were leaders (although some were) but because of the strategic hope that perhaps the white supremacist agents of the state would be more humanistic towards youth than adults (as history records, they weren't).

We spoke about the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X and discussed them as "youth leaders" when in reality they were young ADULT leaders with families of their own. They were PARENTS, REAL PARENTS taking care of their children while facing real risks (not just "Baby Mamas" and "Baby Daddys" who paraded their children as new accessories before handing them off to grandparents or foster parents responsible for their day-to-day care . . .but I digress).

Finally, during the forum's Q & A period, one 17 year old stated that youth -- she in particular -- should be on panels like this because, after all, she was 17 and was a youth and had opinions while everyone else on the panel were adults. One panelist immediately ceded her seat to the youth, who went on to mis-characterize what panelists had said about youth leadership. Only one panelist dared to challenge her mis-framing of what the other adults on the panel had said, while the others watched in indulgence and affirmation. No one challenged her on her seeming belief that individuals with actual bodies of work and expertise on these issues that transcended the scope of personal experience, could actually be advocates with insights to share in this forum. As adults on the panel, we failed -- miserably and completely -- in our responsibility to make that happening a "teachable moment" and an example. Acknowledging this does not negate that 17 year old's point, but it is an example of how we adults fail in our roles of teachers of respect and models of appropriateness to younger generations.

There was much talk by panelists about getting back to the communal interdependent Afrikan model of community that has brought us so far in surviving and even thriving in this country. But in that model, adults were ADULTS who did not cede their responsibilities AS ADULTS to learning youth. ADULTS parented, educated, taught, nurtured, modeled, listened to and mentored youth, readying them for leadership and the assumption of their place as responsible adults in society. Youth LEARNED to lead. FROM ADULTS.

Have we so assimilated that we have fallen into the trap of believing that "children shall lead us" (and can we please acknowledge already that we so take this Bible quote out of context!)? If we truly believe that this is the case, then why parent youth? Why protect them? Why guide and nurture them, why impose standards and parameters for their safety? Western society tries to have it both ways -- on the one hand, it says that we need to protect, shield, and teach youth. On the other hand, it promotes an "our children shall lead us" philosophy that fuels the entitlement thinking among youth that youth for youth's sake is enough to lead and adults should just listen to and hear their wisdom and follow their lead.

Let me put it this way: if you are not willing to say that you will allow your teenage youth to lead in your home -- to run your home -- then why are we willing to sign on to the fiction that they are ready to lead in forums that are not appropriate to their levels of experience, expertise, or skills? As one panelist said, we should tell the truth! And the truth is that there are different scales of leadership and certainly arenas appropriate to youth who are learning to be leaders or who are leaders in some of those arenas. But leading outside of those arenas? Taking on the full scale of risk, responsibility, and accountability that those in the full bloom of leadership take? Don't try to sell me that putting youth leaders in those arenas is an Afrikan model or responsible behavior.

What is wrong with this picture? Are we afraid -- in a youth obsessed society -- to be adults, to be Elders, with all that means? Is that why we run from the responsibilities of those roles and from the voices of those individuals speaking unpopular truths in this society about the differences between youth and adults and about the critical role of experience gained from life's journey? Do we run because we are trying first and foremost to be friends with youth instead of stepping up to our central role of preparing them? Or do we run because we are still trying to BE them?

If we are still claiming -- at 24, 26, 30 and older -- that we are "youth" instead of young adults, adults, and Elders, we need to seriously take a look at ourselves and figure out why we are clinging to an extended state of self-described adolescence -- and whose model we are emulating and assimilating into -- even if and while we are stepping up to the work.

And if adults and Elders believe that youth can "lead" them in forums where experiences, expertise, a body of work, a wider worldview, and life "seasoning" greatly inform decisions as parents and leaders, then we have larger issues to discuss: namely the abdication of our own roles, as adults, in their lives.

Moving Forward!