Go Tell Mama, I’m for Obama


This post, which had taken a certain amount of work and thought, got too baroque. I was trying therefore to break it into three posts. In the process of that I destroyed it, and it is the weekend, and there are things I want to do IRL, so despite all the interesting perceptions and links I could recover, we will just unapologetically dance and sing.

I am voting Democratic this November, without claiming it is a solution.


(World, world, vast world, if my name were Burl, it would be a rhyme, it would not be a solution. –Manuel Bandeira.)


Amusing news from the last post was on the popularity of Barack Obama in Brazil. I noted that the Afro-Brazilian admiration of Barack for “overcoming racism” is a common trope there: the Afro-types are the ones who must overcome it by proving their worthiness.

Amazing contortions were made by me to justify voting for Obama despite his conservatism. I know everything that is wrong with him – it is just that McCain is so much worse – he really is.

I also discussed the ways in which ABUSIVE speech is used by white Brazilian elites to disable critiques of race hierarchies and racist behavior there. Abusers always start out by saying a version of:

I know who you are and what you think, or what your motivations are – or what they must be, based on the category in which I have placed you and meaning I have assigned it. I know you are deficient and need my help. Your disbelief in this only proves me right.

The post was interesting but too involved, and I spent too much time playing with it, and I am not willing to reconstruct it. These were the key points and perhaps in this form they are clearer.


11 thoughts on “Go Tell Mama, I’m for Obama

  1. AHA! This was a version of the post – not the full original post, but a recovered fragment.


    In this post we will dance and sing but first, I have something to say about, I suppose, vulgar cultural relativism. Consider these sentences. They are a caricature, but still:

    You are an American, and that is the country of Yankee Imperialism, so you could not understand that our culture is different from yours, and that our Negroes/Arabs/Turks are culturally different from ourselves. It is out of imperialism that you have a negative opinion of our behavior toward our workers.

    If you were more enlightened you would be more tolerant of us, and less critical of the hierarchies we maintain. You only IMAGINE that these hierarchies resemble the reprehensible ones enforced in and by your own country because you, like all of your countrymen, universalize your experience and project it everywhere else.

    I have heard this statement directly and in person from entities emanating from fiefs including but not limited to: Alabama (A.K.A. the CSA, not Yankee territory), 1967 ; Ex-Rhodesia, 1981; Bahia, 1985; South Africa, 1986. I have heard it on television and in print from entities emanating from other locations as well, including various countries in Europe, from the seventies to the present day.

    Notice what a clever abusive strategy it is. The kernel of it is: what you just saw happen, did not happen. You only imagined it happened because you are visually or otherwise impaired and you cannot see this because of what your ancestry is. I know better than you what you think and what you see. And, as Jennifer suggests, look at how mystifying this defense strategy is.

    I regret to inform that I have at least as much authority to speak as any of these entities, precisely because I am from a colonialist, imperialist country and I am very familiar with colonialism and imperialism. I have heard the argument the aforementioned entities are making before and no, these discourses are not softer and more nuanced just because they are not being pronounced by an American.

    OH HYPOCRITE ÉCRIVAIN, MON SEMBLABLE, MON FRÈRE. I am still plugging for the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and if we could get a President who would implement that, it would be a kind of Yankee imperialism I could really get behind. In the meantime, I am for Obama.


    I am sorry Obama distanced himself from the politics of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, and I wish he would had more faith in the secular world and less in the churches. I cannot fail to express my reservations by drawing attention to Ridwan’s lucid post on the upcoming election. Still, in the current circumstances I am for Obama. Obama/Biden in my view a much better option than McCain/Palin. And I like funk, so this is fun, and it is the weekend, so we will sing.


    Everyone should register to vote now, and if they are already registered, double check their registration. Then they should vote. And vote Democratic thinking of labor. And vote Democratic thinking WE ARE THE DEMOCRATS. THE CLINTONITE SEMI-REPUBLICANS WHO HAVE TAKEN OVER THE PARTY ARE NOT THE DEMOCRATS. WE ARE THE DEMOCRATS. And if they sell us out one more time, dump them en masse.

    VOTE DEMOCRATIC ACROSS THE BOARD (unless, of course, you have a local race in which someone more progressive can really win). Yes, I’m Green and a Socialist. I am for Cynthia McKinney. I am voting for her next time. But I am convinced that the first step toward righting the floundering dinghy of state now is a step toward a marginal degree of decency.

    I am afraid that if we wait until things “bottom out” what we will experience is not revolution. We will enter the space of death due to water shortages and war over basic resources. I am voting Democratic, without claiming it is a solution.


    (World, world, vast world, if my name were Burl, it would be a rhyme, it would not be a solution. –Manuel Bandeira.)


  2. The problem is that you doubted your authority to speak — whereas I never doubted you authority to speak. However, your projection formulated me as a monster which was preventing you from speaking.

    Anyway, I DO think that Americans, Australians, etc. tend not to see the abuses that take place within their own culture (along the lines of racism, classism, sexism and so on). But this is another point. The speak very harshly out of ignorance and defensiveness, concerning what they believe happened in the colonies. But a lot of their own analyses could be, and should be, applied to their own countries and what is wrong there.

    But that point (above) has nothing to do with your own perspective or your right to speak.

  3. Jennifer that is precisely what these Brazilian academics say to disable and discount the speech of *experts* and *Brazilophiles* not of the lumpen Republican. What I wonder about that paper is can one ever be heard, given the nature of the din. I note how much overuse of the word “although” there is by people whose peer reviewers don’t trust them, etc. If I were the kind of lumpen American you describe, which is what defenders of the Brazilian racial status quo assume Americans critical of it and of ours are, I wouldn’t even be able to read the books and articles to which I refer, or have an interest in my topic. If I needed elementary lessons on cultural difference I wouldn’t be able to have the perspective I have. Talking about those things at such an exhaustingly low level is just not germane.

  4. I’m not sure why you’re so upset with me, unless you are simply not reading (unable to read?) what I am saying.

    Or you think that I am capable of speaking on something/anything at a low level? (That is even odder to my mind.)

    AS I keep telling you, you are attributing a kind of critique of your stance to me that I am simply not making.

    I know, from experience, though, that many people said many facetious things to me, upon my arrival in Australia (and later, too), which they could easily have said about themselves, given that the culture they live in is far from perfect in all sorts of ways. However, they say, “No, I am not the evil one! I just live in this culture. The evil is in those Christian groups over there/those nazi-facsists in power over me/etc. There is nothing evil about me. But there is certainly something evil about you.”

    So, you are walking in an area that is fraught with primary defence mechanisms.

    However, this is not my fault.

  5. I am upset because you won’t drop it. I’ve said from the beginning that this was not a useful conversation at this time or one I was willing to get into.

    Low level: basic lessons on the fact of the existence of American imperialism. In the field, as a way to deflect discussion of the issue at hand.

    DROP IT.

  6. I’m not sure which iceberg you mean, but ah well – I’m the one who has said drop it.

    My pissed offness was totally meta. I didn’t want to get into the discussion and felt pushed when you didn’t back off. That was where my primary defense mechanisms kicked in … and that’s my issue, they’ll kick in in those situations. If roles had been reversed I’d have said: sorry, I touched a sore point, and backed off.

    Iceberg: of my visceral reactions to that northern Brazilian social system, which strongly resembled slavery (see work of Carlos Aguirre on this) and its attempts to interpellate one into it, I have a lot of material on this which I would really like to write a different essay on to sort out but that is outside the scope of the paper and for professional reasons I really hope I don’t have to write it first – and also, I suspect that in fact this paper is the one that needs to come first for purposes of sorting that material out.

    Iceberg of the evil of American policy and ideology in general and so on, intellectual imperialism and what not, believe me I am well aware of what these people are up to and very tired of hearing basic lessons on it – which may not have been what you meant although it sure sounded like it to me.

    What bothers me about this paper is that there are so many complicated arguments around comparative U.S./Brazilian studies of race that especially after reading through them – and some of them are also very viscerally motivated and somewhat distorted – that I really do end up doubting. I think: it is fashionable to see differences where I see continuities but to see continuities is now considered to be projecting. Am I in fact doing this, or am I seeing what are really Louisiana-Brazil continuities, or what? Given all the rhetorical volleys there are and all the ad hominems (there’s an article by Bourdieu and Wacquant that is famous in this way) it becomes very hard to sort out and easy for people who just disagree to say you can’t be right because you’re American and all Americans project their realities here. That is sometimes used as a way to deflect attention from inconvenient truths. It all becomes very labyrinthine and heady, and there’s a lot of mystification and as I say, lobbing of what amount to ad hominems. I am trying to figure it out but the more I read the more confusing it becomes except in certain articles which are not the most popular. I do not feel I have a full grasp of this but I think I have to push ahead and write beccause reading only makes it worse. I have many beginnings to this piece and have not yet fully glimpsed which is the best frame.

    (If it were creative writing one would want a set of characters with desires, and a set of conflicts or obstacles, and discuss from there – no preplanned plot. But I would still need to decide about the frame.)

    I think I almost have the frame and it HAS to be one that gets out of the discussion of whether the U.S. is like Brazil or not. I really think I’m talking about a hemisphere wide phenomenon that has variations.

    The stance I am against: Brazil is mixed and it should not have a Black Movement, that is not the way to fight discrimination here. It is Brazilian to negotiate, not to confront, and the Black Movement is confrontational, which is the American way, and is therefore inauthentic here. Emphasizing mixture is the way to end discrimination.

    What I say: the whole hemisphere is mixed, including the U.S., and while only the U.S. had formal segregation, other countries have also oppressed non whites by legal and policy means. The ideology of mixing as an end to discrimination is old and has never worked very well, and it is imbricated with the ideology of whitening. And who are white academics to say that the Black Movement should not exist?

    Then I am trying to reframe the whole question: I think the transnational frame is key, and I do not believe in Brazilian uniqueness, although I do believe in Brazilian (and other) specificity / specificities.

    Hah! Easy enough when I am not reading these people’s words at the same time … hmmm … we’ll have to see.

  7. And: I am totally visceral about this because I feel as though I am fighting for existence among the authors of these papers, somehow. Lots is going on.

    Remember remember: I do have power. I easily forget it and Reeducation thought I shouldn’t use it. I have a bad habit of forgetting it. I second guess too much. Say/do as I see fit. Who am I to speak? is something I have thought too much.

  8. I may vote for McKinney. But maybe I’ll vote for Obama, because he needs a mandate. My sister is working on the Sheehan campaign, because she feels that Pelosi must go.
    We have to keep thinking, power. Nasty bullies have pushed us around too long.

  9. Power – yes. A turning of energy. I really think it could work. Some are saying Louisiana will vote 62% for McCain, but I don’t see how: 30% or so of registered voters are Black.

    So if they all vote and vote Democratic, which they may, we need another 21%. Suppose 30% of the electorate votes for Obama for sure, and another 49% for McCain. That leaves the 21% of the electorate, and all of that 21% has to be from the white 70% so it is 21/70 of the white voters, or 3/10, call it 4/10 to be safe. Even if the majority of the white voters are Republican, don’t you think we could get 3 or 4 in 10 to vote for Barack?

    This is why I can’t vote McKinney – I don’t think the Democratic cause is really lost. I should post all this as a post.

  10. Notes on this whole thing – Jennifer if you’re there – it just occurred to me, did you think I was drawing a parallel between Brazilian elites and ex-Rhodesians? It suddenly hit me that that would explain why you were going on about Americans and Australians who don’t know what really goes on in the colonies. It only occurred to me now – I hadn’t the faintest, still don’t actually, but it would explain a lot. If you thought I was drawing that parallel I’m sorry – it didn’t occur to me at the time that what I was saying could be read that way.

    (Note to self: For me this whole thing was about treading on boundaries, and I do think mine were tread upon. I do not know that I will ever entirely get over the tendency to go ballistic if my requests to not continue a certain line of conversation go ignored – “hints” you said – but do claim your right to barrel right along. And then say it was all projection, and my responsibility to stop you, you had nothing to do with it. This is eerily familiar, which makes me uneasy.)

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