Monday, December 15, 2014

Defending a False Meme...With FEEEELING!

I read Lawrence Otis Graham’s tear-jerking account of his prep school son’s first encounter with anti-black racism…and I came away as unconvinced as I was by some of Mr. Graham’s other accounts, like his 2009 memoir, A Member of the Club (, or his earlier work chronicling his “undercover” work as a caddy in a wealthy Country Club, Our Kind of People (

Lawrence Otis Graham

The prevailing social meme remains that white males maintain “privilege,” merely by being white that even wealthy, well-connected, Ivy educated African-Americans do not.

It’s not only a ridiculous and indefensible meme, but it’s pernicious in that its goal is to mask very real privilege (the kind Mr. Graham was born into) and to configure actual “victims,” like poor, rural whites from Appalachia and elsewhere (people who truly have neither any privilege nor connections) as “oppressors.”

There can be a no more dishonest, disingenuous and destructive social construct as that, but it benefits the likes of Mr. Graham to perpetuate it and so many of them do so with gusto!

You see, the kind of blatant bigotry he writes about his son encountering (being asked if he was “the only nigger” at his prep school) is so exceedingly rare, as to be virtually non-existent today, while sadly other forms of racial bigotry are much more common...and at least partly because of the meme that Mr. Graham among others defend...more accepted.

Those (more socially accepted bigotries) don’t have to be “fictionalized” (The name of the boarding school has been fictionalized. This essay is adapted from a story in the Oct. 8 edition of the Princeton Alumni Weekly) as Mr. Graham’s “story” was.

Just this past week, a New York Lawyer and Chair of the BAR Association’s Medical Malpractice Division, Andrew Barovick, was forced to apologize and then resign (AFTER the BAR Association initially defended him) for tweeting “inappropriate” and “racist” comments about Chemung County Sheriff Christopher Moss, a black Republican who ran for lieutenant governor this year. (

One inane tweet read; “In light of election loss, [Sheriff Moss] mulling offers to be new spokes model for either Cream of Wheat or Uncle Ben’s rice.”

Upon his resignation he apologized, “As you know, I made a grave mistake by attempting to use humor to personally convey my frustration with the New York Republican Party through a tweet that upset a great number of people.”


That’s not at all clear. What, exactly, is Mr. Barovick frustrated over? The NYS GOP running a black man for Lieutenant Governor, or that a black man would be a Conservative, or a Republican to begin with?

It becomes a LOT LESS clear when Mr. Barovick’s history of such bigoted comments comes to light;

Whoops! Say it ain’t so Andy;

Then there was Rep Charlie Rangel who derided Tea Party members as “white crackers,” and later steadfastly defending it as “a term of endearment.”

Enough said, apparently Rep. Rangel would rather people be convinced he’s an idiot, rather than a racist. Well, OK. (

Then there was Vinita Hegwood, the Texas schoolteacher who was fired over inflammatory tweets relative to the Ferguson, Mo situation and her racially offensive, “Crackers...Kill yourselves.” (

Interestingly enough, I didn’t have to fictionalize anything, nor resort to anecdotal accounts, the way Lawrence Otis Graham did with his “story.” In fact, I didn’t even need to look further back than the past week’s news feeds to come up with these few examples of the much more socially accepted bigotries we ALL live with today.

I think that pretty much proves my point.

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