My colleagues at the SuperSpade blog have joined some 600,000 petitioners in decrying Fox News’ allegedly racist portrayals of black people. SuperSpade is collaborating with MoveOn.org, Color of Change, and the rapper Nas to “call for an end to Fox News’ racism.”
Gilchrist writes: The myth of the post-racial society is becoming more and more pervasive. The problem is that it is itself based on a conservative, racist mode of thinking about race in America that equates progress with individuals. Using this as a measuring stick, makes it possible for the Fox News’ of the world to attack individuals and Black folks collectively.”
I’m uncomfortable whenever I hear people attacking “the myth of the post-racial society,” because I know that the attacker doesn’t want “post racial” to be true. Whether they be conservatives too grumpy to participate in a kumbayah session, or liberals who think that post-racial means cutting off the faucet of government programs targeted for minorities, there’s always an ulterior motive there. Saying “we’re not quite there yet” is different than the more common “and we’re not even close!” represented in Gilchrist’s argument. We may not be close, but we’re closer than we’ve been in any time in American history. And we would’ve gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for those pesky pundits!
Gilchrist again: “If instead we saw that progress can only be meaningfully defined as collective improvement, we would focus on solving the root causes that lead to individuals making the choices that look stereotypical. Who knows, maybe CNN will go at it like that? I doubt it.”
That sentence was the product of the belief that the person reading it buys into heaps of assumptions that myself and my readers do not share.
I will take this opportunity to challenge SuperSpade to expound on collective improvement — what it means, how it can be achieved, and why that’s a better way to look at things than by treating improvement as an individual matter. I have read Mr. Gilchrist’s post on how the “myth of individualism is destroying the black community,” and on Tuesday I will address his premises piece-by-piece. Stay tuned for that.
Having been editor of a conservative publication on a liberal campus, I have seen first-hand how the word “conservative” is a four-letter word to my co-Millenials. “Conservative” means uptight, either naive or willfully ignorant, and backwards-looking rather than future-oriented. I have been subjected to attacks on my blackness just because my political beliefs didn’t jibe with someone else’s idea of “collective improvement.” I have had people walk away from debates with me because to argue with a conservative is to give credence that the conservative’s view might possibly have merit.
And you know what? Those people, the ones who were too “right” to explain themselves, were the ones missing out. Many of my “progressive” friends left college with their worldview more or less intact; very few of them had been challenged by professors who already agreed with them. Instead, I challenged my professors on every weak point, sometimes winning the day and other times changing my own mind. This was not an instinct shared by my progressive counterparts, and they are the only ones who suffered for it. Think about it: you couldn’t be at Michigan and not be bombarded with liberal opinions; you had to be open-minded to know what conservatives thought.
But people found it easier to be snarky and call names rather than debate the issues; going against “what everyone knows” was proof that you weren’t worth discussing issues with.
I wonder whether this boycott of Fox News isn’t just another form of running from what you don’t agree with. I’ll admit that I don’t watch Fox News, as I find the tone and the personas buffoonish at times (there are exceptions), but I can’t but help that the best thing for Nas, and MoveOn, and SuperSpade, and other boycotters would be for every American 18-34 to watch Fox News for just one night.
But there’s a bigger issue here than the quality of Fox News: this boycott is nothing but another game of follow-the-bouncing-ball. It’s a distraction, not unlike the John McCain “summer gas tax holiday.”
I have a dirty little secret: Fox News doesn’t need the viewership of the people who are boycotting; it never did and never will. Fox News isn’t intended for a center-Left audience. It isn’t watched by many people who frequent MoveOn.org. Boycotting Fox News will only martyr-ize it in the eyes of young conservatives who feel marginalized — the same kind of people who read The Michigan Review (or their respective Collegiate Network paper) when they were in college.
To put the focus on Fox News is to ignore the role of individuals would act to take the focus off of the individual and his role in improving his life. Crude example, but how many of the people “protesting” Fox News had missed a child support payment in the last year? Or didn’t have a job? I don’t have that answer, but any takers that the number was zero? Not having a job or not taking care of your children has a more tangible effect on the black community than what Fox News airs or doesn’t…especially if you never watched Fox News in the first place.
Aren’t there more serious issues on the docket — Gang violence in Chicago, or black-on-Hispanic violence in Los Angeles, or Superfund sites being stationed in poor, minority-majority areas, or, the most obvious one, getting Barack Obama elected president — than boycotting a cable network would suggest? Anyone who’s watching cable every night has probably overcome whatever “structural inequality” stood in their way.
Rather than discuss the real stuff, we’re supposed to believe that Fox News and “a conservative, racist mode of thinking about race in America that equates progress with individuals” is worth getting black people mobilized for.
No. This is the same type of stuff that passed for activism in college — boycotting Coke, or Nike, or The Michigan Daily, or some other “structural” element of “inequality” in America. “I’m boycotting Coke. How dare you drink Coke and support the racist/sexist/global Northist/etc-ist establishment?”
And before long our boycotter has the moral high ground without so much as lifting a finger.
I don’t have answers for every problem in the black community, but I do have a hint: they’re rooted in production, not consumption. Imagine if the story were that 600,000 people were going to donate an hour of their time every week to mentoring a young black person. That would have a real impact on real people. Kvetching about what a silly talking head on a cable news channel says is quite a…detached way to seek structural solutions, no?
— James David Dickson