Ni**a Moments & Ma***a Moments
Check it - we've been watching, with peaked interest, the ugly public demise of incumbent Virginia Senator George Allen (R), once seen by many in his party as a serious Presidential contender for 2008. Just when he thought he recovered from that "Macaca Moment" (yeah, yeah - hahaha. Go ahead and keep laughing, 'cause we about to crack heads in a minute about this), here comes this roadside bomb from Salon.com:
Three former college football teammates of Sen. George Allen say that the Virginia Republican repeatedly used an inflammatory racial epithet and demonstrated racist attitudes toward blacks during the early 1970s. "Allen said he came to Virginia because he wanted to play football in a place where 'blacks knew their place,'" said Dr. Ken Shelton, a white radiologist in North Carolina who played tight end for the University of Virginia football team when Allen was quarterback. "He used the N-word on a regular basis back then."
Not certain how Allen can respond to this. He's now saying he can't "recall" using it. That's a safe way of saying "Yeah, I used it. Damn - I shouldn't have used it if I had known these n****s was gonna use it against me" And it gets even deeper with a Salon.com follow up today:
In a separate event, Larry Sabato, one of the most quoted political scientists in the country, appeared on MSNBC's "Hardball With Chris Matthews," where he claimed to know that Allen had used the racial epithet. "I'm simply going to stay with what I know is the case, and the fact is, he did use the N-word, whether he's denying it or not," said Sabato, who was Allen's classmate at the University of Virginia, where he now runs the Center for Politics. Sabato did not initially elaborate on the source of his knowledge. But when contacted by Salon Monday night, Sabato said the source was distinct from Taylor and Shelton, a North Carolina radiologist.
With the highly regarded Sabato in the mix, this will be hard to shake. Still, that says something about Sabato if he knew this all along, but didn't say anything - nor have we seen this in the Center for Politics' "Crystal Ball," which has been eyeing the VA Senate race closely, especially since it's centered at the state's flagship University. Funny how most White people don't snitch on the racial attitudes of their colleagues until they make a headline ...
Not to digress, but wonder how it would look if, say, Ford (D) in TN, or Steele (R) in MD, or Blackwell (R) in OH and Fleming (D) in MS each got spots blown for once using or still using the "N" word. Not to say that they do or have ... in the privacy of their homes or during those heated moments of rather colored exasperation. But, a lot of brothers still use it, some privately ... some very publicly on mass transit or in the local mall for all to hear. Some as a joke or ... "term of endearment;" some in the pit of anger. Some of us educated professionals use it; some of us not-so-educated (on paper) making-ends-meet relish it. A Black law professor might not write it in her book; but a battling hip hop emcee will use it to no end in a lyric. Come on - we know we do it. Collectively, we're not proud of it. But, it's certainly become a stalwart expression in our cultural identity. But, the bottom line is that you won't find a headline like Salon.com's on one of the Black people above - or some high profile others we're not going to mention since we really like writing this blog and aren't about to have it shut down. Besides, that's what shows like HBO's The Wire are for. You see where we're going with this ... yeah - that's another discussion.
Back to VA. Words define the VA Senate race. This now very racially-charged race - between two very White contenders - is shaped by the racially/religiously/ethnically-charged past (and present) of the incumbent. How does this play out? First: Democratic challenger (and former Republican Navy Secretary to President Ronald Reagan) James Webb remains to be one of the most stoic, reserved and unpassionate political candidates we've seen in quite some time. He's as stone-faced as Jackson is Stonewall. So, Democratic operatives (or a rather liberal Salon.com) got to find a way to keep Democratic chances in this sudden battleground state alive and churning. The ever struggling Salon.com (a survivor of the Internet boom) must also find a way to pay its bills by putting out some sensationlistic headline that catches readers that, ultimately, translates into advertising revenue.
Hence, Allen's N***a Moment.
We're wondering how the African American electorate might react to this, of course. And, will the senior African American State Senator Benny Lambert (D), jumping party ship to endorse Allen for his support of Black colleges & universities in Virginia (which translated into federal dollars), suddenly rescind that endorsement? We expect him to at least re-evaluate it. The endorsement seemed strategically smart at the moment it happened, since Allen & Webb's poll numbers are neck and neck, signalling a possible Webb loss. If that happened, at least a segment of the Black political establishment in Virginia could leverage a relationship with Allen, regardless of how he felt about them. In the end, he'd owe them some political favors. But, now?
This latest revelation might not be all that bad for Allen, who should expect his numbers to remain solid in the mostly White and very "redneck" Southern and Southwestern parts of the state. Anxious that he might lose support from that demographic after his Jewish ancestry was leaked, he can at least point to this as a show of Confederate solidarity(lol).
But, the fact of the matter is that most White people have those moments. And not just conservatives either. Yeah, we've come a long way since We Shall Overcome, but that's just because most don't do it out in the open as much as they use to. It's not fashionable to do so anymore. Ideological leanings and partisan affiliations do not make you immune to this contagion. For some, it's as clearly voiced as an anti-war protester mooning the White House. For others, they quietly think "n***az" to themselves when interacting with Black folks they don't like simply because they fit the profile of what they think (or have been raised) to believe what or who Black is. For some, they are more than happy to spill it when spitting mounds of chewing tobacco out the window of their rifle-racked pick-up truck. For others, they claim compassion in their views, yet they daily oppress brothers and sisters in the workplace, passing us over for promotions, relegating us to glorified grunt work, and tripping us up at every moment in a continuing effort to prove that we are, indeed, inferior. For some, they beat us with a nightstick when they think no one is watching or gun us down for mistakenly believing we had a firearm; for others, they stop us on the side of a road and issue erroneous citations after illegal searches.
You know who you are.
Which brings us to the enthusiastic looseness with which commentators, pundits and election year hacks refer to these moments. We watch closely as the talking heads, week after week, continue to gleefully reference "The Ma***a Moment" as if the word was never a derogatory term in the first place. As if it was something as trivial as Clinton's "Monica Moment" - hey, this sounds funny, dude. Let's call it a Ma***a Moment. Like it's some corny television commercial or one of countless billboard ads you might find along the highway. As if it's comical that millions of people were subjected to racist colonial tyranny through the use of this word and so many creative others like it. So, what do we do with Allen's new moment? Do we wake up every Sunday or every episode of Hardball and hear about his "Ni***r Moment"? Which makes us wonder: do you report on this because it's news or do you report on it because it satisfies some deep seated urge to let us know our place?