The American Identity #8: Progressives pt 1

“Why is it so often true that when critics confront the American as Negro they suddenly drop their advanced critical armament and revert with an air of confident superiority to quite primitive modes of analysis?”
Ralph Ellison

I think the excerpt (below) from Debra Dickerson frames my complaint about progressives. For this post I’m referring to White Progressives and I distinguish from Black Progressives because after you get past the racial layer you’ll see, for the most part, a conservative  towards many of our contemporary issues.  And the demarcation for where Black Americans fall on these issues is very interesting, but that’s a whole discussion on its on. So for now indulge me.

Debra Dickerson on Obama’s narrative.  Clip from BloggingheadsTV (Full conversation)

First my brief comment about how I believe progressive evolved or was born.  It’s basically liberals who didn’t want to be associated with 60’s & 70’s liberalism, those who scurried away from the label because Reagan had them shaking in their boots. The progressive designation, to those slightly to the right of the more radical left, is a happy medium.  There are some things they need to work through, which I’m sure comes as a shock to them.
In Frederick Haynes fashion, let me hang out here and make an interesting observation: To the extent they get it wrong, (it, being assumptions about race/black people) and if you’re into these sorts of distinctions,  I’ve found liberals are at least willing to accept how they might be getting it wrong in a sort of “oops that was so white of me” way.  Progressives aren’t as open to hearing they get it wrong.   They’ve got it all figured out and to suggest otherwise is to take a risk.

More from John McWhorter. Clip from BloggingheadsTV (Full conversation)

We’ll champion your cause but don’t go thinking you’re equal

One day in Oakland, I watched as the young activist types, typical of this area, posted up on a corner, handing out Socialist literature. I refused and asked, “how come you guys never go to (mentioning an affluent White community in the area)”; he got indignant and as took an insulting shot at me as I walked pass. An hour later as I was walking back, they were packing up and loading their stuff into a shiny Audio with ski racks.   I said with a chuckle: “so you headed up to the slops to hand out literature at the ski lodge”? No response.

I’m amazed at how easy it is (for Black) to get ostracized; not for holding a conservative view-point BUT for simply thinking independently.
(This is bad from an organizational
standpoint because you want different kind of thinkers and change agents. I went off on a tangent, but I digress.)
It seems, in the area,  you’re less predictable and going off script throws them off.   They don’t seem to know how to act because the engagement or relationship is void of the bargain that’s typically in play.  I also think there’s a desired narrative-how they produced you.
This whole notion, a weird bargain, began to show itself to me when I started working in the nonprofit community. I worked with a nonprofit that partnered with the local school district. On many occasions  I sat and listened to people talk about black people in ways I didn’t appreciate: nothing mean-spirited, just extremely reductive. Its the way they were considering Black people (as political abstractions not real people), otherwise smart nuanced thinking people relying on too many assumptions, taking too many short cuts.  I would sit in those meetings, knowing that Black life was more complex, ambiguous and richer that what I was hearing. Also, the irony of having to listen to those with Masters in Sociology from elite private colleges ask how I handled, approached or dealt with diversity became a bit too glaring. This began to annoy me; my narrative has way more textured that your understanding and secondly, please, I know my reality.

continue to Part 2

It’s what I’m puttin’ down for now, what say you?

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