07 Sep 2009

Van Jones Had to Resign Because He Was Black

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I can’t believe I am so naive that I didn’t see this coming. I guess that shows how deep-seated my bigotry is. Anyway Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, has now explained:

Thursday evening I got worried. Friday I put in a call to ask Van Jones how to help. Saturday I started writing a blog post, which would have appeared this morning…But on Saturday night, Van resigned, and this morning I was sick at heart. Collectively we — the environmental community, progressives, and the Obama administration — blew this, and we let our cause, our president, and Van Jones down.

This was a lynch mob and, when it started forming a month ago, we didn’t take it seriously enough. When I saw the first Glenn Beck piece on Van Jones and the Apollo Alliance as the new vast left-wing conspiracy, I could not take it seriously…I assumed it would blow over.

Well, that was a mistake. So was the decision by the White House to treat the initial attacks not as part of an assault on the president but, instead, to allow them to be viewed as being about Van Jones. What we underestimated was the power of the fact that both Jones and the Barack Obama are black. Yes, the hysteria was about politics — I don’t think Fox News really cares about Jones’s ethnicity — but it was enabled by race. Calling Bush a “crack-head” is seen by a large part of America as worse than calling him “addict-in-chief” because crack is not just a drug — it is a drug used largely by black people. It reminds those Americans who are still uncomfortable with Barack Obama that we have a black president.

This is really annoying. The same people who supposedly hate Obama (and Van Jones) because of their skin color, also adored Colin Powell (before he turned on the war) and Clarence Thomas. The same supposed bigots who blindly listen to Rush Limbaugh, also tuned in with great joy last Friday when the guest host was Walter Williams and he (as usual) had Thomas Sowell call in for an interview. And I think they like Condoleeza Rice a whole lot more than Joe Biden.

Oh, I know, that stuff doesn’t count because those people aren’t really black, since they are Republicans and/or libertarians. And come to think of it, it doesn’t count either if a corporate boss promotes somebody who was literally born in Africa and speaks with a British accent, and thinks Mozart is devil music.

Let’s make sure you understand, this isn’t about objective behavior (like cursing) this is about cultural imperialism:

What was the reactionary right up to on Friday? They sent operatives out to San Quentin prison to obtain videotapes of workshops that Van Jones conducted there while he was working to help prisoners transition back to society. (The inmates wouldn’t let them get their hands on them — they knew, before I did, how serious this was.) They were cuing up video clips from teenagers that Jones taught in the Oakland ghetto in 2000. If you watch the infamous “a**holes” video carefully, it’s clear that what Jones was saying was that Republicans play hardball better than Democrats, and that we need to start playing by their rules. He said it, though, in the language of his own community — and that, at the end of the day, was his crime. He spoke to and was of a part of an America that Fox and the reactionary right would like to put back on the plantation or pretend is not part of our nation.

Last point: I fully admit that if a white Democrat were in power and doing the exact same things as Obama, that many of Obama’s harshest critics would not be quite as scandalized. But that admission is a far cry from saying, “Van Jones had to resign because he and Obama are black.” Give me a break.

Middle-class white people like me obviously don’t really know what it’s like to have shopkeepers assume you’re a criminal, and to have to worry that a cop will shoot you for no reason. I grant that, and man that must suck. So when some loud mouth white guys say that black people should quit belly-aching all the time, those guys are idiots and don’t know what they’re talking about.

But it can swing the other way too. The furor over Van Jones was because he claimed he had become a communist. The mainstream media and politicians channeled the outrage into irrelevant a-hole remarks because that’s what they do, they make sure the American people don’t think too hard about what’s going on with the federal government. This has very very little to do with Van Jones’ skin color.

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