September
27th 2011
Harris-Perry to Joan Walsh: we are so not friends!

Posted under: American history, Gender, Intersectionality, jobs, race, women's history

Via RealClearPolitics, Melissa Harris-Perry has responded to Joan Walsh’s response (“Are white liberals abandoning the president?”) to her “Black President, Double Standard:  Why White Liberals Are Abandoning Obama,” which we discussed here last weekend.  (H/t to thefrogprincess, who originally alerted me to the Joan Walsh response in the comments on that post.) 

Harris-Perry makes some really good points about the ways in which black scholars and pundits are challenged about their ideas when they dare to talk about racism.  In “The Epistemology of Race Talk,” she notes that (white) interlocutors meet conversations about racism with charges to “Prove it! . . .The implication is if one cannot produce irrefutable evidence of clear, blatant and intentional bias, then racism must be banned as a possibility,” and questions about her authority and expertise (“Who made you an expert? . . . It is as though my very identity as an African-American woman makes me unqualified to speak on issues of race and gender; as though I could only be arguing out of personal interest or opinion rather than from decades of research, publication and university teaching.”)  I’m very sympathetic to both of these issues, as they’re textbook ways to derail a blog conversation, as many of you probably already know!

But, I feel like Harris-Perry was unfair to Joan Walsh when in the same response she accused Walsh of using the “I have black friends” claim.  First of all, here’s what Walsh wrote in the first two paragraphs of her original response to Harris-Perry’s column (and I’m presenting them in full here):

The Nation’s most-read article this week is by my friend Melissa Harris-Perry, “Black President, Double Standard: Why White Liberals Are Abandoning Obama.” Perry doesn’t mention any white liberals by name, nor cite polls showing a decline in support for President Obama among white liberals (as opposed to white voters generally, where his approval rating has dropped sharply). But her piece touched a nerve because of the widespread perception that white liberals are, in fact, abandoning the president.

I’m not sure how to argue with a perception, which is by definition subjective, but I’m going to try, because this is becoming a prevalent and divisive belief. When I say Melissa Harris-Perry is my friend, I don’t say that rhetorically, or ironically; we are professional friends, we have socialized together; she has included me on political round tables; I like and respect her enormously. That’s why I think it’s important to engage her argument, and I’ve invited her to reply.

Harris-Perry writes about the “black friend” claim:

2. I have black friends

Which brings us to a second common strategy of argument about one’s racial innocence: the “I have black friends” claim. I was shocked and angered when Salon’s Joan Walsh used this strategy in her criticism of my piece. Although I disagree with her, I have no problem with Walsh’s decision to take on the claims in my piece. I consider it a sign of respect to publicly engage those with whom you disagree. I was taken aback that Walsh emphasized the extent of our friendship. Walsh and I have been professionally friendly. We’ve eaten a few meals. I invited her to speak at Princeton and I introduced her to my literary agent. We are not friends. Friendship is a deep and lasting relationship based on shared sacrifice and joys. We are not intimates in that way. Watching Walsh deploy our professional familiarity as a shield against claims of her own bias is very troubling. In fact, it is one of the very real barriers to true interracial friendship and intimacy.

(The emphasis above is mine.  There is more under this point that bears reading–I’m just singling out the paragraph that identified Walsh personally and discussed the extent of their acquaintance.)

I may well be a (nother) clueless white lady, but I read Walsh’s opening apologia not as an “I have a black friend, so I’m not a racist” strategy, but rather as “I like this person and usually agree with her, so I’m a little uncomfortable in registering my disagreement on this particular issue now.”  As a blogger, I’ve done this, and by indicating that I like and respect another blogger and yet disagree on a particular issue, I’m just trying to keep everything nice and friendly.  But, I also concede that this may not be the most appropriate or relevant lens through which to view this exchange.  What do you think?  Should Walsh have just written her response without the second paragraph at all?  Is it a girl thing anyway to reassure someone that you really like them before you disagree with them publicly?  Is Harris-Perry being unfair in reacting this way, or is this something that white people need to think about more carefully before they publish stuff?

What’s going on here?  I genuinely want to know.  (Am I just a little too conflict averse, and too invested in everyone being nice and getting along?)  I wonder if my discomfort with this dust-up has something to do with the fact that women are so underrepresented as political commentators and journalists.  If two lefty d00ds mixed it up, would I care so much?

38 Comments »

38 Responses to “Harris-Perry to Joan Walsh: we are so not friends!”

  1. shaz on 27 Sep 2011 at 8:06 pm #

    I do have trouble with those excerpts. I didn’t think Walsh was saying “I have black friends,” a la Stephen Colbert. But why choose that (gendered? raced?) mode of relating? It reminds me of people emphasizing how genial and warm female candidates are, and how brilliant and intellectual male candidates are.

    There are a world of ways to explain that you respect someone’s intellect and ideas. I’m curious why friendship (especially when Walsh is very aware of the racial implications) is the one she chose.

    PS. I don’t think you are conflict averse.

  2. LadyProf on 27 Sep 2011 at 8:20 pm #

    The first sentence of the second paragraph is fine but I’d vote for cutting the rest of it. These two writers are certainly not friends by my definition of the word, which leans more to Harris-Perry’s definition. And nothing in Walsh’s essay supports your “I … usually agree with her” spin, Historiann, though it’s probably true.

    What really infuriated me about Walsh’s piece was the sub-headline. “A Nation writer worries that an ‘insidious form of racism’ explains [liberals'] criticism of Obama. I don’t see evidence.”

    How nice that you don’t see racism, white person. Joan Walsh runs Salon: she might not have written this clueless swinery but she could have vetoed it. Evidence to support claims is important for a serious academic like Harris-Perry. On her list of objections she ranked “I have black friends” not quite so high as #1, “Prove it!” I’d have done the same.

  3. koshembos on 27 Sep 2011 at 8:34 pm #

    We had more than enough of the supposed intelligent liberal that have difficulty to find their sandwich in the brown bag. Obama is a terrible president. His health care reform is so minimal that it’s not worth calling it that. DADT was not Clinton’s idea of the solution despite most of the country believing. Clinton wanted a full integration of the military in the Truman sense. Democrats and military people through a road block. The Chief-of-Staff, Mullen, was the person who push the full integration; Obama joined (he never leads).

    The best solution is to scrap our faux liberal media, The Nation supported Obama big way despite knowing his Wall Street ties, and start from scratch.

    Let all those people just go away.

  4. New Kid on the Hallway on 27 Sep 2011 at 8:40 pm #

    Okay, here’s my response: I really liked Harris-Perry’s definition of “friend,” which I think is important and works to distinguish professional life from personal life. Walsh seems to elide professional and personal relationships, which I resist at a kind of gut level. I mean, yes, I have many friends who were/are also professional colleagues, but I also have a fundamental problem with the way academia demands that people elide the personal and professional (basically, by identifying almost exclusively with their work).

    Which is probably not what Harris-Perry was really getting at, I admit (so I’m pulling the undergrad “but this is what the text means to meeeeee” move), though I think it gets at very different approaches to feminism. But my solecism aside, I do think it’s really weird for Walsh to make such a point of the friendship in her answer, especially that last line. It’s important to engage H-P’s argument because Walsh “likes and respects her”? and that’s why Walsh encourages her to reply, because she “likes and respects” H-P? So, if they weren’t “professionally friendly”, H-P’s argument shouldn’t be engaged, and Walsh wouldn’t encourage her to reply? Wait, what?

    The “I don’t like to disagree with my friend” seems appropriate for social settings but not professional ones. Although the exchange in question is taking place on blogs, I’d call them professional, not social. And I think making it social rather than professional is profoundly discomforting and H-P has a point in calling her out. (I don’t think it’s malicious – but that’s kind of the point; racism/sexism/whatever-ism isn’t the result of someone simply being a bad person.)

    That said, I don’t think the exchange bothers me any differently than it would if it were 2 lefty doods. I don’t think they have to play nice with each other any more than any other 2 academics.

  5. Big Boss Lady on 27 Sep 2011 at 9:15 pm #

    I agree with Shaz that Walsh was not using “I have black friends” a la Stephen Colbert in that her black friends were supposed to be a shield to deflect charges of racial bias. I think she was using it in a way that unfortunately I have encountered numerous times with white feminists — the “we have an emotional connection, you are ruining it and I am trying so hard, why are you being a meanie by bringing up race stuff and disagreeing with me!” use of “we are friends.” Walsh never explains why their friendship can’t contain an episode of disagreement or that one of the benefits of their relationship could be that she learns things about race that she didn’t know ordinarily as a white woman. All of the disruption is put on H-P’s side of the ledger, and not on hers. I can see why H-P was so irked by it. And to note an interesting moment of how race and gender can be treated differently, Historiann, look at the comments to the 2 recent posts about Obama and Bill Maher. While everyone tried to distance themselves from race in the Obama post, there was mutual aggravation among the commenters in the Maher post that this was an example of sexism and everyone else didn’t get it :)

  6. Emma on 27 Sep 2011 at 9:25 pm #

    I don’t think it was the “I have Black friends” gambit. But it did lower Harris-Perry’s critique to the level of friendly disagreements about which there is no evidence to truly support either side. Which is bad.

    Having said that, I don’t see the problem with saying “prove it”. I’m not a big fan of the “I know it when I see it” school of argument. If you can see it, prove it. And Harris-Perry’s evidentiary claims are weak. She cherry-picked Clinton’s and Obama’s records, compared apples and oranges, and ignored the elephant in the room: the economy!! (Is that enough cliches?) Clinton won in ’92 against an incumbent Republican who hadn’t done anything remarkably awful except preside over a crappy economy. Bush I had even won a war! So compare those people.

    But, you know, Obama’s been pretty awful on most things liberals care about. When does one stop interposing race between Obama and his generally right-of-center actions?

  7. truffula on 27 Sep 2011 at 10:13 pm #

    I didn’t read Joan Walsh’s friendship claim as “I have black friends” but I did read it as an expression of privilege to mistake an acquaintance a friend. “LI’d like to introduce you to my friend…”

    Also, I stopped reading Walsh’s column after a while because it went on and on and on. She had a reasonable set of points to make but I wish she had been more thoughtful and concise about it.

  8. gxm17 on 28 Sep 2011 at 5:01 am #

    Oh good grief. Tempest meet teapot. Did Harris-Perry not actually read Walsh’s words? Walsh clearly qualified the word “friend” with the word “professional” and she didn’t just stop there, she went on to explain what she meant by “professional friend.” She didn’t say they were BFFs. IMO Harris-Perry really showed her behind by reading into Walsh’s words something that clearly wasn’t there.

    And, yes, you’re right. Walsh shouldn’t have mentioned their professional relationship. It sounds like she was trying to pull her punches with the ol’ “you know I like you, but” rejoinder.

  9. Historiann on 28 Sep 2011 at 6:43 am #

    I see what most of you are saying, which is that it was ill advised and more than a little clueless of Walsh to invoke “friendship” here. I don’t have as negative reaction to the word “friend” as Walsh uses it, though–there are people I’ve met professionally and with whom I’ve shared meals that I really like and expect to see more of that I would describe as “friends.” But I take your point about the politics of the maneuver of foregrounding friendship in Walsh’s article.

    This from Big Boss Lady is particularly interesting: “All of the disruption is put on H-P’s side of the ledger, and not on hers.” This is a really good way of describing how this disagreement unfolded. I need to think a little more about this. I completely take your point about how white feminists can cast disagreement as somehow a betrayal of sisterhood when black or brown women share a dissenting view, as though white women get to occupy and define feminism and others are only admitted provisionally.

  10. Historiann on 28 Sep 2011 at 6:47 am #

    And p.s. to Shaz: I am so conflict averse! Or rather, I’m averse to people bringing conflict to my attention! Maybe that’s why I thought Walsh was being treated unfairly here initially.

    I say/write things that p!ss people off, and I’m always surprised by their anger and have to fight the impulse to apologize and/or make nice when it’s not appropriate. Sometimes it’s the right thing to do, but other times I have to just let people be angry.

  11. anonymous on 28 Sep 2011 at 9:31 am #

    Women in my professional circle, including me, say the following things about women with whom they share a seemingly similar relationship as Walsh does to Harris-Perry:

    “I’m a big fan of ______”
    “Oh, I LOVE _____!”
    “She’s the best”
    “______ and I go way back”
    “I know _______ from _________”
    “She’s one of my heroes”
    “I am always so impressed by _______.”
    “__________ is great at __________.”

    Despite sometimes using the word “love,” it is recognized as hyperbolic, and no academic or professional woman I know uses “friend” like Walsh did. Certainly not when disagreeing with that woman.

    Note that the phrases above are all about the speaker and do not presume to imply any return feelings on the subject’s part. That is overly familiar…unless someone really is your FRIEND-friend. Not “professional friend,” as Walsh said.

    If I were Harris-Perry, part of my annoyance at Walsh’s raced presumptions would be her belief that it is her prerogative to state how *I* feel about *her.* No matter how clearly she explained what the phrase “friend”/”professional friend” meant (invitations to talk, shared events, etc.).

    Walsh could easily have praised Harris-Perry in another way. “I personally know and like/respect/appreciate H-P.” That would have been normal. Lots more normal than the “friend and by that I mean professional friend and by that I mean x, y, and z” bit, which frankly struck me as bizarre even before it became an issue.

  12. anonymous on 28 Sep 2011 at 9:37 am #

    Also, I have heard every one of those phrases (except “hero”) applied regardless of hierarchy — upward, downward, and to peers. Between professors and students, bosses and employees, among faculty peers, among graduate students, etc.

    “Friend of mine” even in these circles means something else. “I know/like ____, she’s in my cohort” is a much more common thing to say than friend.

  13. quixote on 28 Sep 2011 at 10:07 am #

    I second gxm17. Tempest meet teapot.

    Maybe it’s because I disagree with Harris-Perry’s idea that there couldn’t be any other criticism of Obama except a racist dislike of his race. That makes the whole argle-bargle look stupid. But I’ve tried to transpose the discussion to being about, say, Shirley Chisholm, and Harris-Perry’s latest still seems to be a variant of “I’m right and I want you to shut up.”

    As for whether Walsh should have carried on about professional friendship, sure, that can be construed as taking liberties. Ideally, people shouldn’t do that. But the loose usage of the term “friend” is so common that if Harris-Perry tries to set people straight each time it comes up, she must be a very busy woman.

    But, as I say, maybe my negativity comes from my anger at Obama’s endless betrayals and there’s more substance to Harris-Perry’s objections than I can see.

  14. anonymous on 28 Sep 2011 at 10:57 am #

    I disagree with Harris-Perry’s idea that there couldn’t be any other criticism of Obama except a racist dislike of his race.

    That’s not a very fair interpretation of her essay, is it?

    I’m not saying her facts and comparisons are equitable and fair. But I think her premise is correct.

    Maybe it’s because I agree with Harris-Perry’s idea that half of Obama’s white support disappearing (even in the face of some shockingly odious characters in opposition) is not solely about being sold out by Obama, but is likely also because his race makes it more difficult for him to get away with selling out white voters while still being perceived as on the same side as them.

    I mean, poor white voters who supported Obama but are now leaning toward Republican, libertarian, or Tea Party-type candidates will basically TELL you this, in so many words. “I thought he was going to do X for me but I don’t think he’s ‘for’ me at all.”

    They’re right that Obama doesn’t have their best interests at heart, of course, but for me the real “race factor” is that these lower-income white voters are turning around and identifying with openly plutocratic white candidates.

    That’s nothing new either, of course – look at how GWB did with poor whites. But even he didn’t have the gall feature pro-corporate rhetoric on the primary stump to the extent that the current field does. He talked about how Clinton didn’t have middle class values.

  15. gxm17 on 28 Sep 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    anonymous, Herman Cain seems to be doing just fine with voters “leaning toward Republican, libertarian, or Tea Party-type candidates.” Obama’s supporters need to realize that the reason he’s bleeding votes is because he’s done a lousy job. One could turn your argument right back around on itself and claim that Obama’s “race makes it (easier) for him to get away with selling out (black) voters while still being perceived as on the same side as them.”

    The biggest concerns for most voters in 2012 will most likely be jobs and the economy. They’ll be looking for a leader to get us out of this mess. And, unfortunately for his supporters, Obama will take the heat for making things worse, not better.

    And for heaven’s sake, Obama is about as openly plutocratic as it gets. Which leads one to wonder why people who denounce the right’s “openly plutocratic white candidates” don’t see that.

  16. Historiann on 28 Sep 2011 at 12:57 pm #

    I think there’s a conversation going on on two levels here: the one level is an analysis of what Obama has done wrong to have lost so much left/liberal support and what he can do to fix it, and the other is an analysis of the role that race plays in all of this. It’s very hard to separate the two, as they keep folding back into each other.

  17. Blame The Poor For EVERYTHING! on 28 Sep 2011 at 1:01 pm #

    We’s po’ white people sho iz stupid, anonymous. We’s so stupid we’s turning to dem Republicans. FYI, speaking as a life long poor white, my people are turning away from politics, not into the arms of Republicans.

    I get so sick of the poor being the blame. There are so many middle-class and higher racist white people. It is not the poor who yaks it up on the net. Hardly any of poor kinfolk can manager a computer muchless push rhetoric.

  18. Historiann on 28 Sep 2011 at 1:06 pm #

    Blame the Poor: You made a good point, but can you please can the dialect talk? It makes me very uncomfortable as the host of this blog.

  19. Blame The Poor For EVERYTHING! on 28 Sep 2011 at 2:22 pm #

    Of course, I should know my place. Will Anon, get the same censure?

  20. anonymous on 28 Sep 2011 at 2:41 pm #

    The first paragraphs of my comment weren’t about poor whites. Further, it wasn’t my intent to blame poor white people, and I definitely don’t think they’re more racist than anyone else.

    I singled them out as an example, perhaps inappropriately and unfairly, because

    a) in my experience lower-income whites have been much more forthcoming about their Obama opinions instead of hiding the exact same impulse behind a lot of slippery upper-class fauxgressive rhetoric (that still has a lot to do with race but is far more difficult to get at and aggressively denied when anyone tries to discuss it, see: Joan Walsh’s “prove it” ultimatum); and

    b) lower-income white support for GWB is an (unfairly) easy cultural touchstone to get across to the kind of wealthier liberals one might find reading Historiann’s blog;

    c) the fact that GWB talked about MIDDLE class values is indeed fairly shocking contrasted to how today’s Republican candidates laud of ultra-wealthy JOB-CREATORS.

    And yeah, Obama’s a plutocrat. That doesn’t mean that opposing him is only principled and never racist. So?

  21. anonymous on 28 Sep 2011 at 2:43 pm #

    That “dialect” isn’t poor white person dialect, by the way.

  22. Emma on 28 Sep 2011 at 5:13 pm #

    “I mean, poor white voters who supported Obama but are now leaning toward Republican, libertarian, or Tea Party-type candidates will basically TELL you this, in so many words. “I thought he was going to do X for me but I don’t think he’s ‘for’ me at all.”

    They’re right that Obama doesn’t have their best interests at heart, of course, but for me the real “race factor” is that these lower-income white voters are turning around and identifying with openly plutocratic white candidates.”

    Or, they’re siding with whoever talks the anti-government populist talk the best.

    The problems with these analyses is that race is all that’s ever looked at. They picked the white plutocrat over the Black plutocrat! It must be race!!

    At the end of the day, if Obama is a plutocrat just like all the other white plutocrats, does it *really* matter if he loses because of his race? Practically speaking, to those reviled “poor whites”, it hardly matters if it’s a Black guy or a white guy in the White House screwing them. The only people it matters to are those who don’t have any skin in the class wars currently being waged against poor and middle class people on a Gilded Age scale. At what point do those people have to stop using Obama’s race as a cover to avoid dealing with his class-based discrimination? At some point, you have to stop using identity politics to deflect substantive policy critiques.

    An analogous situation would be if upper-class progressives/liberals deflected criticism of Bill Clinton’s welfare reform by saying “Well, you just hate him because he’s a white cracker!” And that’s not what happened.

  23. Emma on 28 Sep 2011 at 5:29 pm #

    I mean, these critiques of “poor whites” basically come down to: “If you’re stupid enough to vote against your own interests, we insist you do it for the Black guy upon pain of being branded racists.” Why not just address their real interests and issues and stop deflecting away from them?

  24. anonymous on 29 Sep 2011 at 7:57 am #

    if Obama is a plutocrat just like all the other white plutocrats, does it *really* matter if he loses because of his race?

    If he were the only black American, a tree would fall in the forest and no one would care.

    Since he’s not, of course it matters.

  25. anonymous on 29 Sep 2011 at 8:39 am #

    Reassuringly, one can always leave it to the privileged white guy.

    http://www.salon.com/news/politics/feature/2011/09/28/obama_fights_republicans

    “…unless you’re black, you can’t possibly understand. Yada, yada, yada.”

    also mentioned in conjuntion with Harris-Perry: KKK, Michelle Bachmann

    Of note:

    “The professor actually wrote that. See, certain academics are prone to…”

    I guess more and more liberal Dems are interested in riding that wave of anti-intellectual sentiment. In Salon. Interesting.

  26. anonymous on 29 Sep 2011 at 8:42 am #

    Wait, I get it!

    From the article on Harris-Perry:

    “Furthermore, unless you’re black, you can’t possibly understand. Yada, yada, yada. This unfortunate obsession increasingly resembles a photo negative of KKK racial thought. It’s useful for intimidating tenure committees staffed by Ph.D.s trained to find racist symbols in the passing clouds.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_Lyons

    He taught at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Arkansas and University of Texas before becoming a full-time writer in 1976.

    Gene Lyons got denied tenure. LOL.

  27. Emma on 29 Sep 2011 at 1:28 pm #

    “If he were the only black American, a tree would fall in the forest and no one would care.

    Since he’s not, of course it matters.”

    But not to the people voting against him because he’s a plutocrat who’s in the process of deeply fucking them over. Again, all you’re doing is isolating out his race and then pointing at it and going “The only meaningful difference *I* can see is his race. Therefore it must mean something meaningful.”

    At the end of the day, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. A plutocrat in any color is going to fuck over the poor and middle class. And race analysis is cheap, easy and comes with the convenient class-based scapegoats of poor white racist trash and middlebrow middle-class drones blind to their own inherent racism.

    Race is a convenient class bludgeon, in other words. And you’re doing it quite well.

  28. Claire K. on 29 Sep 2011 at 10:00 pm #

    The friendship thing was weird all around. I was surprised when I read Walsh’s claim that she and Harris-Perry were friends and surprised when Harris-Perry responded by saying outright that they weren’t friends. Walsh shouldn’t have said it, because it was presumptuous, unnecessary and pressures Harris-Perry to either stay silent or respond in kind but Harris-Perry’s response would have been more graceful if she had left out the denial of friendship.

    Walsh provided some good evidence that racism is at least not the main cause of Obama’s dwindling support, but there was a troubling thread of “postracial” wistfulness running through her response that became obvious at the end when she claimed class was a more important issue than race. (I’m not getting into the race/class argument going on above, which is slightly different.) I think feminists of all races have seen privileged dudes derailing conversations on gender issues in a similar way: “Sure, maybe bad things happen to women sometimes but isn’t class the real issue here?” and so on. Any time someone asserts that one axis of oppression is more important than another it leads somewhere bad and class is a favorite of privilege-deniers because it’s much easier to imagine that one is or has been at some point in life poor than to imagine that one is a different sex or race.

  29. Historiann on 30 Sep 2011 at 6:09 am #

    Well said, Claire.

  30. anonymous on 30 Sep 2011 at 9:01 am #

    Very well said. “Class” is also a current favorite of privilege-deniers because they don’t have to use their imagination; 99% of the population get to point out that they’re not part of the 1% who really run everything — the implication being that if you’re not a billionaire, you’re not an oppressor.

  31. Perpetua on 30 Sep 2011 at 9:24 am #

    Going back to anon’s link to the Lyons response to Harris-Perry’s piece: It’s actually a genius response because exposes every single trope of sexist racist anti-intellectualism of lefty menz everywhere. In one article! Not an easy thing to accomplish, but there it is – whatever we might think of Harris-Perry’s claims regarding Obama’s dwindling support, the larger point of the prevalence of subtle racism among the left is demonstrated amply. It’s not often that my breath is taken away by the racism & sexism in a Salon piece.

  32. gxm17 on 30 Sep 2011 at 9:29 am #

    anonymous, let me remind you that you’re the one who brought up “poor white voters” and “openly plutocratic white candidates.” And you’re the one who appears to support the notion that a plutocrat’s skin color is meaningful. Or am I just imagining that you appear to be calling yourself out as a “privilege denier”?

    It seems to me that there are a lot of people trying to obscure the reality that the economy is in the toilet and people need work. This will not be lost on the people who are living the reality. Hard times will decide the next presidential election, not skin color. And folks who are colorstruck will need to just deal with it.

  33. anonymous on 30 Sep 2011 at 9:37 am #

    …whatever we might think of Harris-Perry’s claims regarding Obama’s dwindling support, the larger point of the prevalence of subtle racism among the left is demonstrated amply.

    Yes!

  34. schmandt on 30 Sep 2011 at 10:03 pm #

    “decades of research, publication and university teaching”

    MHP is BS’ing all the way in her first article. As political scientist she compares the obama presidency with the clinton presidency without even mentioning the economy? without comparing how clinton stood down house republicans and won huge victory when he called their bluff and let them shut down the government and stuck them with the blame, while Obama caved at every step?

    Her first article was miles away from a real professional level political argument where you are supposed to make valid comparisons and not just make stuff up at random.

    Her defense is even weaker. Many, many comments on Salon addressed the legitimate reasons that progressives are disgusted with Obama. So many things that are utterly obvious yet she ignored completely to claim race is involved. Instead of admitting that she was wrong she doubled down.

    Look, if you want to make that kind of argument as a random talking head, OK, it gets attention at least, and maybe you think you have a mission to raise consciousness on race. But her argument was so, so far away from serious political science that to bring up her academic credentials to defend that article in any way is amazingly ignorant.

    She goes on TV behind her academic credentials. These 2 articles expose her as completely unqualified. There is a certain professional level of argument, marshaling of facts and data and logic and a way that fellow professionals have to acknowledge. That was totally absent from these 2 articles.

  35. Historiann on 01 Oct 2011 at 8:55 am #

    I think it’s totally unfair to say that she’s “completely unqualified,” but you raise an interesting point about the conflicting demands of punditry versus academic discourse. This gap is why I’ve questioned the usefulness of historians to any particular political agenda, because we are drawn to nuance rather than the stark arguments that drive political discourse. My sense is that most academic Political Scientists are also a lot more nuanced and careful in the conclusions they draw than most political pundits. It may be an irreconcilable gulf.

    A hell of a lot of white pundits flaunt their academic credentials to appear as teevee historians and discuss things in ways that professional historians find laughable: e.g. Doris Kerns Goodwin, Michael Bechschloss, etc. They don’t do primary source-based research to come up with novel arguments in their snoozeriffic celebretory and historical celebrity-driven presidential histories–they’re essentially popularizers. And yet their dubious comparisons in presidential history don’t get the kind of flack that MHP is getting.

    (Gene Lyons’s article is a good example of the sneering condescention MHP has drawn. But then, Lyons is an old Arkansas journalist who knows very intimately the trashing of the Clintons, so while I think he makes some interesting points he surely could have done it without the personal trashing of MHP and her academic credentials.)

    So I would argue that race is everywhere in this whole dustup; I’m just not persuaded by Harris-Perry’s arguments with respect to white progressives’ evaluation of the Obama presidency. Who knows–she may be right, but we won’t know for at least another 13 months for sure.

  36. Comrade PhysioProf on 03 Oct 2011 at 6:34 pm #

    Other than Glenn Greenwald, Salon is complete utter swill designed to make people who consider themselves liberals to feel all good about themselves. It is nothing but a left-wing version of Parade Magazine.

  37. Ken on 23 Oct 2013 at 3:49 pm #

    “Friendship is a deep and lasting relationship based on shared sacrifice and joy”

    No wonder there is not a lot of friendships on this planet!

    Thank goodness for dog’s — canines all that and loyal!

    :-)

  38. Lanier Hunter on 16 Nov 2013 at 6:27 pm #

    Christian white america does not have the ability to look
    at how race haterd has affected all people of color in north america. Long before millions of blacks were brought here to work the land stolen from natives white
    america created an economic,social,educational and religious system that would support white racism.They have no reason to change and never will. Look at every aspect of black american society that white cristian america see as evil, centuries before it existed we had genocide against native americans, slavery every kind of evil and our white brothers and sister used the bible to
    justify the evil, GOD BLESS AMERICA, as they say. It is
    fun to watch the one percent screw over their own while
    while a bunch of stupid poor uneducated, lower middle class and middle class whites blame colored people for their trouble, I just love it.

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