David Matthews is a writer whose work has appeared in The Sunday Times, The Mail on Sunday and the Observer, and on the BBC and Channel 4. He is the author of several books, including Voices of the Windrush Generation. Follow him on Twitter @mrdavematthews.
The Washington Post’s effort to ‘make sense’ of the existence of black Trump supporters is just more specious nonsense that compounds the insulting myth that black people can only be defined by their relationship to ‘whiteness’.
IT’S TOUGH being a black reactionary these days. Not that I am one. But I almost feel sorry for anyone who is. Almost.
Take African-American social commentator, right-wing poster chick and Trump fangirl Candace Owens. She’s been lambasted by black radicals and white liberals alike for going MIA ever since Donald lost his marbles – sorry, the election. The suspicion is that Trump’s impeachable role in the Capitol “coup attempt” has shamed Owens into silence. Never mind that her absence may have something to do with the fact she’s about to give birth – she’s a Trumpster and she’s married to a white man for Christ’s sake. So she’s ‘obviously’ a sell out!
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Cut to Britain, and Tory Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.
In the UK, where contrarianism and ass-about-face thinking reigns supreme, being an old Etonian, a Cambridge grad (he got a double first in classics and history) and a cabinet minister makes Kwarteng, ironically, a failure in the eyes of the Left. In fact, he’s held in such contempt by ‘progressives’ that he’s been called a “house slave” by their ‘house poet’, Benjamin Zephaniah, a Rastafarian scribe who noisily declined an OBE, which, in the general scheme of radicalism, is about as edgy as ordering salad instead of chips.
Clutching his dog whistle, former Labour leader Ed Miliband this week accused Kwarteng of “taking a wrecking ball to the hard-won rights of working people and families.” In extended code, “working people” of course means “white people.” The implication is: ‘Here’s a posh black man with a funny name who speaks with an orange in his gob; he’s not like you; he’s not like us. Loser.’
Campaigning last May, Uncle Joe Biden eschewed a dog whistle and went full trombone. During a tense radio interview with African-American radio host Charlamagne tha God, the future president remarked: “Well I tell you what, if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”
As my 14-year-old would say: “Black people got told.”
While Biden took some heat for this ‘gaffe’, it did make me chuckle, reminiscent as it was of Michael Rapaport’s ‘wigger’ TV executive, Thomas Dunwitty in Spike Lee’s satire Bamboozled.
‘Whitesplaining’ to his subordinate – producer, Harvard graduate and ‘sell-out’ Pierre Delacroix (played by Daman Wayans) – Dunwitty exclaims that his underling’s black shows are “too white,” before adding: “I have a black wife and two biracial kids. Brother man – I’m blacker than you!”
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Whether it’s whitesplaining, cultural appropriation or simply putting us in chains, whites ‘owning’ blacks – literally and metaphorically – is nothing new. Call it ‘white privilege’, ‘entitlement’ or just plain old racism, 213 years on from the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in Britain and 158 years after Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, white people are still lecturing black people on what’s good for us.
Which leads us to this week’s hip new whitesplaining mind dump – the theory of “multiracial whiteness.”
Multiracial whiteness, as posited by New York University’s “associate professor of social and cultural analysis,” Cristina Beltrán, assumes that “a few” African-American or Latinos were among the estimated 3,000-20,000 yobbos who overran the Capitol. As such, they have bought into “the promise that they, too, can lay claim to the politics of aggression, exclusion and domination.”
Writing in the Washington Post, Professor Beltrán says, “One of the organizers of the ‘Stop the Steal’ movement is Ali Alexander, a Trump supporter who identifies as Black and Arab. The chairman of the neo-fascist Proud Boys is Enrique Tarrio, a Latino raised in Miami’s Little Havana who identifies as Afro-Cuban; when he arrived in Washington for the Jan. 6 march, he was arrested for allegedly burning a Black Lives Matter banner taken from a Black church the month before.”
So far, so intriguing.
But in her attempt to whitesplain why this observable yet uninterrogated minority of blacks and Latinos have joined the outer branches of America’s right-wing cuckoo’s nest, Professor Beltrán’s argument betrays a liberal obsession with whitesplaining racism, which is dangerously close to a social scientific racism in itself. Her theory, however, is just that – a theory. Having neither interviewed Alexander nor Tarrio, or reported any psychological account of their complex backgrounds, Ms Beltrán has no idea who these people really are, what motivates them, what others think of them, and so on. Academically, her argument is not only speculative, given the lack of any supporting literature, it’s also specious.
For one, the “discriminatory worldview” she ascribes to her subjects, along with the desire to “engage in the wild freedom of unbridled rage and conspiracy theories” and indulge in the “politics of exclusion, violence and demonization” suggests a tiny minority who, at best, are suffering from Stockholm syndrome, and at worst, are the sort of mindless hooligans I’ve witnessed during 40 years of watching English football. The only difference is these idiots have guns. And bigger flags.
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The Capitol insurrection Beltrán describes can be seen through a racial lens insofar as America, period, can be seen through one. Having sacrificed 600,000-850,000 lives to the American Civil War – a war predicated on the still unprosecuted crime against humanity known as ‘slavery’ and the genocide of untold and obscene numbers of Native Americans – the US lives in the constant shadow of race. But it seems like a stretch to suggest that, by Prof. Beltrán’s own admission, the miniscule number of Trump’s contentious 12 percent of the black vote who are extremists are anything other than a deeply troubled tiny minority of reactionary voters, especially as numerous Republican candidates have performed better than Trump among black voters over the last century. Richard Nixon received 15 percent of the vote in 1968, Gerald Ford got 17 percent in 1976 and Ronald Reagan won 14 percent in 1980.
As 44-year-old Republican voter Wayne Bradley from Southfield, Michigan told USA Today, black Trump supporters “often look at issues such as gun control, judicial appointees, personal wealth and anti-abortion sentiment when casting their ballots.”
When asked how he could overlook Trump’s racist rhetoric, Bradley said: “As a Black man I’m not comfortable with that, but I’m a results-orientated kind of person. If you’re providing opportunities to people, I’m OK with that. I can live with talk. I need to see action. And the action and the results were speaking for itself. If it wasn’t for COVID, I think he would have won again.”
The folly of whitesplaining, and now multiracial whiteness, is the supercilious way it leads all roads back to a self-aggrandising, bourgeois, Eurocentric starting point. The idea that black people can be ill-informed, batty, middle of the road, mediocre or, as in the case of Mr Bradley, pragmatic – on our own terms – is high treason to a white liberal hegemony whose narrative of the black experience is solely defined by our relationship to whiteness. Even the notion of ‘white supremacy’ is really about ‘white attention seeking’.
Most black people, Candace Owens included, have more important things to think about than a bunch of homoerotic Proud Boys, GI Joe clones and lumberjack loons going buck wild because The Donald isn’t on TV anymore. So, before the liberal intelligentsia starts channelling multiracial whiteness as a way to create yet another race myth, it’d do well to check its privilege and feel the pain of a genuine black reactionary:
“Black isn’t what I’m trying to be, it’s what I am. I’m running the same race and jumping the same hurdles so why are you tripping me up? You said we need to stick together, but you don’t even know what that means. If you ask me, you’re the real sell-out.”
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