On Bluffing

In the first place, Wilbert Rideau and many other former prisoners and wardens, as well as a Federal judge or two, all deserve more credit for the reforms at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola there than does the dishonest and incredibly self serving current warden, Burl Cain.

I am amazed at how Cain has managed to take credit for former reforms while at the same time rolling these back. I am amazed that people have actually fallen for this, but they have — largely because they fall for claims of Christianity, so far as I can tell.

I am awarding Cain this blog’s very first BLUFFER OF THE DAY AWARD, similar to the House Negro of the Day award on Field Negro. There are a lot of obvious candidates for BLUFFER OF THE DAY — Dominique Strauss-Kahn comes to mind. I will try to use the award to highlight lesser known, but deserving bluffers.


Meanwhile I reiterate: I am for (non corporate) welfare and for more of it than you can probably imagine, and I realize the true bluffers are far above us. Yet in daily life I note —

1. The students who are the most descarados about academic dishonesty, and also the most convinced that whining, pressure and manipulation is the best way to improve their grades, tend to be either, and often both of the following:

a. former or current welfare recipients (including of that form of welfare which is TOPS, in which case the word former and the phrase soon to be former are key)
born-again Christians, often of a Pentecostal stripe.

This is to say that NCLB and the faith based society seem to foster corruption. Is this just my experience? I note as well that —

2. The painters and construction workers who are the most descarados about attempts to cheat on bills or get away with shoddy work, and also the most convinced that whining, pressure and manipulation is the best way to maintain their customer base, also tend to be either, but more often both of the following:

a. former welfare recipients, or former project or rehabilitation center dwellers
born-again Christians, often of a Pentecostal or Quiverfull stripe.

It is really indiscreet of me to notice these things, but I do, and there must be some sociological explanation of the behavior — perhaps the combination of the servility that comes with (a) and the entitlement that comes with (b).

I also wonder sometimes, and this is very indiscreet, whether it has to do with the legacy of slavery, the authoritarian system par excellence, where you get things, people and services by grabbing them and/or forcing them out of others — and get out of scrapes by having a friend in the big house.

(And I am often perceived to be nonwhite. And I am a woman with no family here, so I am not legitimate — a suspicion my own non authoritarian attitude only confirms. Being non authoritarian I am confusing, disorienting, and being illegitimate, I am abusable. This combination is lethal.)

To wit: I have what they want — money or a grade — and the objective is to get these items from me and not by working, because my possession of these is illegitimate in the first place. Consider my characteristics: ambiguously (non)hegemonic, yet devilishly intellectual. It just ain’t right.

I dislike the condescension both groups, students and manual workers, employ in their attempts to intimidate me; their manipulative ways exhaust me.


Speaking of the Quiverfull movement: I fired a painter earlier this year for poor work. The next one started out much better but is ending less well, so I am not hiring him for the next job. Each painter had fourteen children.

Speaking of whining, conniving, and Warden Burl Cain (BLUFFER OF THE DAY): the first time I saw as much of these as I do now among students was among the more machista residents of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola who imagined I was there as part of a pious, charitable mission, and that I might be moved to give them presents if I could be convinced they were good Christians now.

The similarity in behavior and tactics among the prisoners, the students, and the painters leads me to wonder how many of the latter two groups may have done time — although I think the operating framework may be patriarchy and authoritarianism in general.


My manifesto is this: I do not enjoy being (mis)treated like a servant or exploited. I dislike being condescended to. Most of all, I resent having people try to bluff me. Da Whiteman does this and so do the people who have learned from him that there is no other way for them to get ahead.

When you add all of this to the fact that I cannot reliably walk down to my local mailbox after 4 PM without the police stopping me because, they allege, a woman walking is a woman hooking, you can see why I want to move out of this rural suburb and into town.



Filed under Banes, Da Whiteman, Questions, Theories

14 responses to “On Bluffing

  1. Stringer Bell

    I’ve wondered about that, too. In Europe, you have Catholic countries like Italy and Spain where corruption is rampant and is accepted as a way of life. Then look at northern European countries with the Lutheran Church as the state religion, and you see arguably the most morally upstanding people on the planet.

    Obviously there’s a lot more going on than just the difference in religion, and this could be mere coincidence for all I know but it’s worth noting.

    • Z

      Well, but the phenomenon I am noticing is of the born-agains, not of the Catholics or traditional Protestants.

      • Z

        (Although I have a colleague who does think all of this is caused by Catholicism, and a Brazilian friend who envies my not having been baptized because it means I don’t have Catholic superstitions and fears, haven’t been hailed and hobbled by the saints.)

  2. Wow. I don’t know how you can stand it. Of course we’re seeing more and more of this around here, too. Yesterday a guy stuck his head inside my screen door and asked me if the owner of the house was home. I snarled, “I’m the owner of the house. What do you want?” And he said, “You’re not renting?” Now this was some pipsqueek of a kid in his early twenties, addressing me in this fashion. He was selling security systems. Well, if you want to get robbed, have a security system! So I am not ashamed to say that I was happy that Terry came out of his office and told to buzz off. He also intercepted him as he was going next door to bug our renters and made him leave.

    Then there is the guy who is so proud. He said he had not had any pot for two months. Well I haven’t either. Where’s my praise? He’s moved in on an old guy neighbor of ours and is helping himself to free room and board and the pantry and he is a total pain in the ass and we can’t get rid of him.

    I really hate these people. It’s not my fault they have made such a mess of their lives. It’s this idea of how cute they are and how entitled that just drives me mad.

    • Z

      If they’re former alcoholics or drug addicts, then they’re denizens of rehabilitation and have been exposed to 12 step problems, which are fundamentalist Christianity warmed over and yes, you are supposed to utterly admire them because they haven’t had any dope in two months and so on.

  3. I’ve never thought of bluffing in that way before. I was always taught the opposite as a person of color in this society and in the process have probably paid more and seen less than I should. N is always telling me I need to “act more white.” My experience with students has definitely been different than yours though. I seem to get the privileged students challenging my grading and wanting a better grade by whining.

    • Z

      P.S. But my analysis of the phenom is more about Christianity and also class and gender than it is race / ethnicity / nationality — it’s lightly edited now to try to be clearer, and also funnier (the Bluffer of the Day Award wasn’t there when you read).

  4. Z

    You’re at a more elite school, where that happens, I know by experience. It’s the worst at private SLACs, in my experience, where you are by definition a servant of the rich. Also, you’re a TA right, – and the privileged students know it, right? Here, same deal, except that it’s women faculty who get it regardless of rank.

    Students, I am not necessarily talking about persons of color unless you take the descendants of Irish / Mediterranean / Eastern European nationalities to be nonwhite. I’m talking about recent products of our community college system, some slums both urban and rural in LA and TX, and some NCLB public schools. Some people say it’s a Louisiana thing – gaming the system.

    I think it’s an abusive behavior and I’ve noticed abusive people do it — try to mess with the mind of the victim (i.e. me – the professor or the employer, who if pushed around enough will dispense money or a grade in return for less work than was requested), give them an emotional workout of some kind, exhaust them. Manipulate and bully and act as though you think the victim is not smart enough to notice (this adds insult to injury).

    I wouldn’t advise trying to act “more white” if that means to act more entitled. This is part of what these people are doing and it is really unpleasant. There are persons of color of both genders and also white women who have figured out, in situations much worse than mine and I suspect thine, how to maintain self respect, confidence, grace. I’d rather emulate them.

  5. Z

    But, ABD and Hattie, remember the first bluffer mentioned in this piece and the biggest one (literally) is Burl Cain. He’s white and his life isn’t in a mess that I know of — in fact, he’s very successful. Here are some pictures: http://www.google.com/search?q=burl+cain&hl=en&client=firefox-a&hs=11W&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&prmd=ivnso&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=gQrvTamdJZCFtgeq35yyCQ&ved=0CIkBELAE&biw=1484&bih=644

  6. Really a cute guy.

  7. Z

    Ain’t he just, though? One of the pictures even has him posed with the lethal injection gurney – he seems to be inspecting the restraints (of which there are many). What a man.

  8. Z

    And in general — is this actually one of those Latin American type situations, with the rich living by figuring out how to plunder the national treasury and the poor trying to figure out how to lay their hands on the leavings? YES, most likely.

  9. N G

    I would like to nominate Conrad Black for the “Bluffer of the Day” award. Lord Black whose official title is Baron Black of Crossharbour, OC, PC (Can.), KCSG was incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution Low, Coleman in Florida a.k.a. Club Fed for looting his companies of tens of millions of dollars. While he was in the correctional institute as prisoner #18330-424 beginning in July 13, 2007, he had both a personal butler and chef. Rank has its privileges. He referred to his fellow inmates as the “ostracized, voiceless legion of the walking dead” (Wikipedia) and complained about the quality of the wine. As you said in your post the true bluffers are far above us. He did help inspire the inmates by giving lectures on American history which I gather were well attended. This is the best example of which I am aware that applies to your comment:

    “I also wonder sometimes, and this is very indiscreet, whether it has to do with the legacy of slavery, the authoritarian system par excellence, where you get things, people and services by grabbing them and/or forcing them out of others — and get out of scrapes by having a friend in the big house. “

    • Z

      My God, yes, I’ll have to post about him. He fits the criteria for the award perfectly since he is not well enough known (unlike today’s awardee, the White House).

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