From time to time I (Dennis Maurice for those who don't know) will offer a social critique on issues that continue to face us in this word. I recently saw this video of Van Jones, a favorite of mine for a long time and someone I still look up to as a dynamic thought leader. This is the guy who called a thing a thing after the election (remember, he coined White-Lashing). However, because I believe his heart, head, and calculations are in the right place. When I saw the video of him saying that Dorito Chump "became President in that moment, period..." and that "it was one of the most extrodinary moments you've ever seen in American politics, period...", I was immediately repulsed and I felt almost inreconciliable. My first scream was YOU CAN NOT HAVE FAVORITES! I felt let down by Van, strangely enough. Here's why...
The way we fall for "what it look like..." troubles the fuck out of me. As I see it, white supremacy has succeeded for two reasons: Capital (money) and Optics. It is the way you get an agenda that continues to fortune white and wealthy folks through deceptive diplomacy that gets the rest of the world comfortable enough so they're able to ensure their rise while looking like they're helping others OR at the very least so they will not look racist, fascist, or phobic in anyway. So Van did something very intelligent in his critique of the Cheeto speech. He galvanized folks like me, who want no parts of Mango Musilini, with an alarm and disarmed folks who are supporters or have their toe in those bloody waters. At the end of the day, if one acts appropriate, they are appropriate, right? The problem; however, is that he gave no observation of the truly heinous nature of COTUS, the deceptive nature of white supremacy, and an answer to how truly horrible and alternatively accurate the rest of the speech was -- a lie for every state and Puerto Rico. Sad.
I am so surprised that Van Jones is even taking the smallest sip of this -- with this "he became President in that moment" foolishness. How did he deserve that flattery? Every President has brought the spirit of American hope and gratitude to their large state addresses. The bar is so low for this Tropicana jug that if he just acts decent, if he just doesn't bring the true him out and make a fool out of folks (and there are many) ready to give him a chance he can shine bright. The fascination and indebtedness the media and this country has with mediocre white men makes me light headed. However, digressing -- back to Van -- for him to say those profoundly beautiful and undeserved remarks about Trump without qualifying that when he noted that "...he became president in that moment..." he was referring to conservatives and white people that only needed a little to invest a lot in his presidency, because in that moment he became horribly more grotesque and the use of the bible to connect the dots from a man that doesn't stand in any way for Christ was probably one of the most disgusting displays I have ever seens. This embrace of the heroism of armed servants is an essential function of the work of a President and we want to support them and the families that gave so much, in fact, too much for their service. However, to be clear what we are acknowledging and not saying is that he has given more optics for white people to be able to feel comfortable coming back on board the normalization train without having to feel like horrible folks, publicly. As with 9/11, during a time when people opposed Bush with great vocality -- until that point it was unpopular to agree with anything Bush had to say, but when the attack happened everyone had to jump on board and embrace a unifying fear because of the President's inability to unifiy with hope, because fear of a thing, ANYTHING, imaginary or real, is bigger than race, misogyny, fascism, and more, to a great many.
The way we continue applaud whiteness even when it is mediocre for being a fair human will forever be a burden I carry and while I know I shouldn't, it is on me. It's on me because I look at Obama and I look I Trump (and I never say his name, but I want to be sure I am calling it out with no ambiguity like Remy taught me); I look at Nate Parker and I look at Casey Affleck; I look the characterization of Michelle Obama as an ape and Melania Trump's nude past as a point victimization; I look at Native folks at the Dakota Pipeline and I look at the white men at the Oregon Standoff; I look at Workers fighting Grapes with Chavez and I look White men Coal Miners fighting for healthcare (that their racism made them lose), I look at Colin Kaepernick on a knee and Tom Brady refusing to address the President. I continue to see a juxtaposition of human issues mitigated by race & optically reinforced by media that is literally getting paid to tell us what we are thinking... And very inefficiently so, which makes Van's comments and praise to Trump so harmful to the messaging and hurtful to the viewer, because it doesn't address how we continue to romanticize the deception and illusion of diplomacy. Being diplomatic or acting presidential does not solve issues, it calms the angst and allows us all to live in "the best place on earth," because we are all saying good things that do not connect to our actions. For me this is a prime example of the general distrust of white people, because they have the unique opportunity to present optics of uniformity and concern and go into their homes, in the safety of voting booths, to work, and a myriad of other spaces that hide their authenticity and always bet on their interests. I, as a black man, do not have that opportunity, I must show up in all spaces because the stakes are too high. I have not talked about Trump for a while on social media, because I, quite honestly, don't want to be confused or deter my mission by his antics and have made a conscious decision to keep the work I know will profit black folks, people of color, and others of marginalized difference in the long run safe and secure. I still got love for Van, but I want us to be smarter than this as we interpret news, current events, and our analysis of all these things, It is bigger than just providing analysis of the moment, we must advise of the complexity of these times and of the dangers we face. How do we accept a thank you and an ode of applause as a reconciliation for decades (go back to the ad he place for the death penalty of the Central Park Five & surely earlier incidents) of racism, misogyny, support of white supremacy, and his embrace of white male patriarchy as a tool to create systems to oppress all other? And if it's true that he became President in that moment, please also address to who that is true for and what that says about the American citizen who is that easily swayed. Don't say that and leave it there in the midst of your verklempt reaction -- open it up and approach this with the academic and socially conscious integrity you've got... and that's not just to Van, it's to everyone interfacing, whether directly, tangentially, or in some other indirect way, there's a need for us to commit to addressing how we got here in an effort to never come back, not how we can find a normal space and realizations of the moment while we're here.
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Van responds & Angela Rye retorts - with love in the video below.
I Said Chyyy... is a weekly podcast hosted by Dennis Maurice. Come here for the latest episodes and tidbits that keep the conversation going!