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I noticed a link on facebook tonight, and I thought it was refreshingly different from the usual fare on this blog: http://likeawhisper.wordpress.com/2010/09/04/on-feminism-liberals-black-folks-and-antione-dodson/

Now I don’t usually blog on issues of racism and discrimination. These are thorny moral issues that are not well-dealt with by my analytical and fact-based approach to issues. But just because I don’t comment on them doesn’t mean that I don’t think they’re of the utmost importance.

Basically, this guy called Antione Dodson lives in a poor, (black) neighbourhood called Lincoln Park. There has allegedly been a rapist doing the rounds in Lincoln Park and he allegedly attempted to rape Antione’s sister. Fortunately, Dodson scared off the rapist – but very unfortunately, the police took “hours” to arrive and the (publicly run) housing commission took no action, despite a similar attempted rape taking place the next night.

These facts, if true, really demonstrate the stunning disparities that exist between the rich and the poor in America and the utter inability of the authorities to do, or attempt to do anything. I have no doubt that theese facts reflect a broader picture of what is happening in many neighbourhoods.

The blogger then launches a scathing tirade upon the middle-class white, hipsters for remixing Dodson’s TV outburst as a song; the ‘black’ (as well as ‘white’) radio stations that played the song, as well as assorted media, feminist blogs and nationwide activist organisations.

And that is a point very well made. For these comedians to make light of this incredibly serious incident without criticism of any of the latter groups (and even the support of the ‘black’ radio stations) is absolutely abhorrent. It really says something about the state of our society that this can be allowed to happen.*  As the blog so correctly points out, they “failed to act on the tenets they claim to be central to their very beings, ie social justice, in the face of the opportunity to be “clever.”

*Whether this did happen (the media response) is not certain. A blog which has a major category dedicated to “African-American herstory” has a tenuous grip on reality at most. In this instance, I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

That said, I absolutely do not condone the description of the Gregory brothers as ‘middle-class white hipsters’, because referring to people by their race and by their class as though it means something is counter-productive and itself racist and classist. Nor do I approve of describing radio stations as ‘black’ and ‘white’ – though these stations undoubtedly cater towards one demographic, noone ever refers to 2GB as ‘old radio’. Referring to them as black radio entrenches permanently such stereotpes into our society.

I do think, however, the reactions to Dodson’s outburst is incredibly classist. (The jury is out on whether it is racist, as the blog points out, the audience is “multi-racial”, though how he can see a youtube viewer’s race is beyond me. I personally don’t detect any racist element in the lyrics to the song beside use of the word ‘homeboy’ but I’m not too au fait with African American stereotypes). A rape is a rape, and that is an atrocity no matter who it is committed against. And the fact that Dodson’s own tone and words seem to make light of his sister’s attempted rape is no excuse for supposedly better people to make fun of him in turn without highlighting the severity of this issue in Lincoln Park.

PS: I just realised that the neighbour is called Lincoln Park. lol. Is that where the band grew up? A great many things would make more sense to me then.

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6 Comments

  1. I’m curious, what exactly does writing posts about black women’s contributions to history have to do with one’s grasp on reality?

    You can fact check my post with a simple google search or a basic scan of major news outlets in the Lincoln Park area for the date of the incident.

  2. Actually, the fact that this situation was made light of is very much a fact. All of the media attention was focused on Antoine’s response, and people continuously find the segment funny in light of the subject matter. Often they forget that his sister barely escaped being raped.

    Also, you clearly have verly little or no understanding of American class and racial dynamics if you can’t understand why middle class white men capitalizing on the reactions of a lower class black man isn’t worth mentioning. It’s not classist or racist to note the power dynamics at play. Mentioning their race was indeed necessary and very relevant to the discussion because race and class in the US are tangled. Add to that prevailing racial sterotypes of the Angry Black Man that persist in the US (and in many other countries) and it’s a racist, classist clusterfuck.

    It plays on classist and racist tropes, and does so at the exspense of letting people completely forget the fact that a woman was almost raped.

    I’m also incredibly curious as to what makes you think Dodson was making light of the entire situation. He was captured on the news angrily yelling about how his sister was almost raped. There was nothing that indicated he did not take the situation seriously.

    • Oh, hi Professor, I didn’t realise that linking my blog to yours would send you a notice. As far as the basic facts of the incident (whether a rape occurred and the media reportage) I’m more than happy to accept you on your word. I use the language of “alleged” simply because as a law student I’m trained to do so.

      However, I am much more cautious about accepting your characterisation of all the media reports as being a particular way. I distinguish between facts and opinion and obviously the characterisation of reporting as ‘racist’ or ‘classist’ is heavily influenced by opinion and may be matters on which reasonable minds may differ. As someone who has not read the primary sources, who has not watched the cable news coverage or heard the radio coverage (which would not be available online), I’m not willing to fully endorse the opinion of a blog I’ve never read before. (And, I would say the same to you, Clarity).

      In particular, whilst I have no doubt that a lot of media coverage “made light of” the situation, I am not sure that all media coverage did. And I’m not going to make broad stereotypes based on someone else’s opinion. As I said, I dislike blogging on moral issues because they are not usually susceptible to objective analysis in quite the same way as economic issues.

      I don’t think writing posts on black women’s contributions to history in itself says much about you. What says something is your use of the word ‘herstory’. In my experience, those who use the word subscribe to the conspiracy theory that the dominant power structures in society have systematically repressed the stories of women throughout history. It is true that there have been many courageous women whose stories have been suppressed, but for every such woman there has been a Cleopatra, a Boudica or a Marie Curie. And as for the wider role that women played in making great civilisations stand up, I absolutely acknowledge that role. But equally the role of merchants in keeping Rome alive was equally ignored. The role of women in ancient civilisations, as we know, we to be subservient to men. So the role they played was a supporting role – a critical supporting role – but a supporting role nonetheless.

      I use the example of merchants advisedly, because obviously the role of merchants in that area was overlooked – just as the role of women was. But there’s no need to counteract the fact that it was overlooked by taking the exact opposite approach and over-emphasising the role women played. As for African-American womens’ history, that is a topic about which I know absolutely zilch, so I cannot comment on that. But I am going to treat the characterisations of facts by anyone who uses the word ‘herstory’ as suspect. Simply because I do not know you, and also because you would have a tendency to leap to a conclusion that a particular story is racist or classist (just as I’m sure a Republican would jump to the conclusion that a particular story is ‘overly PC’). I can trust neither person to be wholly objective in their assessment of facts.

  3. Clarity: Look, as I said in the original post, I’m not familiar with stereotypes of African Americans, so I’m not exactly an expert in this. But it seems to me that many events in America start with a comment taken out of context, then the left over-exaggerating its effects, then the right over-exaggerating the left’s reaction into an endless spiral of hate. That’s where I’m coming from when I say that we should be more measured in when we refer to someone’s race – especially when criticisng them. Accusing someone of having a particular point of view because of their race or because of their class is highly offensive to many people, and unnecessary in many instances.

    I think, it was entirely sufficient to say the Gregory brothers are hipsters who value social justice. They are being hypocrites. I don’t see how you add anything by calling them middle class or by calling them white.

    When I watch the Dodson video, I don’t see an Angry Black Man. His tone is sort of sing-song and lyrical. He hasn’t raised his voice. And that is obviously what the media was making fun of (at least in part). However, you know more about black stereotypes and black communication styles than I do, so I am completely willing to trust your superior judgment on that issue and say that I am wrong on that point.

  4. Oh and, I forgot to say, for every female like Cleopatra and Bodica who shines out. There is a male who, by complete chance, is drowned out – such as Liebnitz for his invention of calculus. Or any number of great conquerers who are not as famous as Julius Caesar or as Napoleon simply by how the toss of the dice.

  5. while we clearly disagree on many things surrounding this case, we do agree that gross generalizations are unsupportable, hence why my post actually makes clear that I was not referring to “all” people in any of the groups I discussed. I think your misrepresentation inadvertently proves your point about the import of fact checking sources.


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