The Fish
for 11 June 1998. Updated every WEEKDAY.
 
 
Suck Staff
 

Joey Anuff
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[the fixin' pixie... ]
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Production Manager

& Ass Kicker

 

[yes, it's a plunger. i'll l
eave the rest up to your imagination ... ]
Erin Coull
Production Manager

 

Matt Beer
Matt Beer
Development Manager

White Man's Bulworth

Dear Ambrose:

Without in any way
disagreeing with your main
points, may I suggest that
much of what you dislike
about the way pink people
relate to nonpink people has
nothing whatsoever to do with
nonpink people or even to the
way pink people think about
nonpink people?

We define ourselves by
creating "the other." Sure,
this is dumb, but we seem
pretty much hardwired into
that kind of Aristotelian
logic - I am A, therefore I
am not not-A, and so on. The
problem only comes about when
we for some reason confuse
the totally imaginary Other
that we create for our own
uses with something real. If
I perceive myself as an
uptight overintellectualized
bookworm (which - despite
what my dear darling daughter
may think - I don't ... much)
I may imagine a hedonistic
uninhibited opposite, just to
better understand myself. I
only get into trouble when I
start thinking that this
construct is real and that
Joe down the street is really
the counter-me.

This doesn't mean that race
relations in this society
aren't totally screwed up,
nor that it sometimes seems a
toss-up as to what to dislike
more - liberal patronizing or
conservative demonizing. It
does mean that a lot of our
troubles aren't fixable in
the ways we might think
they're fixable.

Alan S. Kornheiser
<ASKORNHEISER@prodigy.net>

This idea of The Other is an
important one, but in more
ways than you imply.

Imagine the idea of The Other
through a poor black person's
eyes - all the wealth and
power that you don't have is
had by The Other, and for no
logical, discernible reason.
Imagine the anger and
resentment that might well up
from such a construct.

Like so many of the other
readers who've contributed
their 2 cents, you're quick
to point out how difficult
the problem of inequality in
this country is to fix. If
you had an appreciation of
the stakes involved in this
equation for "The Other,"
however, you'd realize that
discussing solutions, no
matter how seemingly
unrealistic, is inherently
more valuable than naysaying
or complicating the issue
without positing the remotest
possibility of effecting
change.

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Warren consulted with
credible representatives of
the black community for this
movie; he deserves your
respect, young man.

<Alastronut@aol.com>

We're credible, too, young
man.

Kind of.

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

First of all, I think the bit
about the ice cream was
supposed to be satire: that
this is the white
politician's fantasy of
patronage over easily bribed,
naive black America (swap
"crack" for "ice cream" and
it makes the same point in a
more telling way).

Other than that, though, your
critique is right on.

However, you did duck the
question: Why are there no
great black leaders around?

It's easy to blame the (still
white as ever) media and
industrial powers that be for
various and sundry evils -
some real, some imagined -
and whine that King was
killed by the FBI and bore
everyone to tears.

Or maybe it's up to the
black community to produce
its own leadership.

Which was your point, right?

And if you judge by, say,
record sales, black America
isn't interested in great
leadership forging a path
toward a brighter future of
political equity and economic
parity - it's into sex, drugs
and killing each other by any
means available (if not
necessary).

And you can't blame all those
records on Warner Bros. and
Sony. If no one bought it,
they'd make something else.

So, why rag on Warren Beatty?
Is the state of race
relations in the United States his
fault? Hardly. He's just
another soggy-headed liberal
who mistakes good intentions
for good politics. He didn't
invent gangsta rap - he's
just trying to take all the
fun out of it. And ain't that
just like us white guys?

Keep fightin' the power, bro.

Rob Seulowitz
<rss2@idt.net>

Wonderful points. It's always
wise to make judgments about
subsets of Americans based on
record sales.

Of course, you're assuming
that black people are the
ones buying those records.
There's other evidence, too,
albeit not nearly as
compelling as yours. Judging
from things as silly as
demographic breakdowns of who
buys the records (mostly,
white kids) and as
preposterous as who's
currently killing each other
by any means possible, most
notably using automatic
weapons in schoolyards (white
kids), we've got a whole
different story on our hands.

And by the way, what's
happened, in the past, when
the black community produced
its own leadership?

Whitey either ignored,
discounted, or discredited
him,
-OR-
Whitey popped a cap in their
ass.

Not your bro,
Sucksters

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

I saw Bulworth yesterday, and
I think you missed the point
of the "no black leaders"
scene. Halle Berry's analysis
was not that a "helping hand"
from white folks encourages
black activism, but that the
new found proletarian
consciousness that arose
after World War II in the
black community was a
prerequisite for effective
movement building. Bulworth
is full of examples of black
men who might have been great
leaders under different
circumstances, but are
stymied by the economic
reality of a vicious cycle of
poverty and violence. You're
right in the broader sense
though, that Beatty trots out
the same old liberalism as a
panacea for the problems of
urban blacks. And you're
right that this is foolish.
If liberalism was going to
work, why hasn't it yet? The
Great Society plunged
billions into a "helping-
hand" strategy, where did
that get anyone? The
contradictions in American
society are deep - a hell of
a lot deeper than a few
million factory jobs or a few
billion dollars of welfare
money. Emma Goldman had it
down a century ago: "The
government can do nothing for
you."

Niels Strandskov
<NStrandskov@DainRauscher.com>

That may be true, but it damn
well better try.

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

White Man's Bulworth

Ambrose,

Your excellent deconstruction
of the (il)logic of the
Warren Beatty Old Guard,
white liberalism-inspired
Bulworth leaves me perplexed
(as usual) about what
solutions a European (don't
call me white) progressive
(don't call me liberal)
should argue for with regard
to the age-old question of
race in America.

I certainly don't see the
right-of-center people
offering anything new on race
relations, aside from the
equally old "just ignore it -
we're all (English-speaking)
Americans first" line. Nor
does the New Democrat-Bill
Clinton approach offer much,
however genuine it may be.
It's mostly a Southern
white-black church revival,
helpful if you are running
for president and you need
votes, not so useful for the
rest of us.

I'm left dreaming about a day
when we drop all the old
monikers of White and Black
and Other in favor of
investigating, celebrating,
and respecting people by the
various and diverse
combinations of ethnicity and
regions they represent: i.e.
the Native Americans of New
Mexico, the Somali Americans
of Omaha, Nebraska, the
Central American Mestizo
Americans living in Southern
California, the Laotian
Americans in San Francisco,
etc.?

But that wouldn't make for
good Hollywood movies now,
would it ?

David Maurer
<dmaurer@worldbank.org>

Why not? It's all about
story, Dave, and a good
pitch. A Native American of
New Mexico falls hopelessly
in love with a ne'er-do-well
Somali American of Omaha,
creating a compellingly
conflict-ridden situation.

But then again, once you
involve minorities in
scripts, everybody's jumping
out of their skins to take
your "stereotypes" to task.

So just keep 'em white. It's
much simpler that way ... for
us whites, that is.

Tongue in Cheek,
Simple Sucksters

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

"... a question: If the civil
rights movement happened
because of World War II and
the jobs given - and perhaps
"given" should be in italics,
too - to blacks by whites,
what would the United States look like
if there had been no war?"

I think a related question
would be, why did it take
South Africa so long to
eliminate apartheid? I have a
sneaking suspicion that
without the grand
mobilization of women and
minorities into positions
that ... pre-war were highly
segregated by Jim Crow and
even unions (?!), life in the
United States of America
would have gone on even
more differently than you let
on. Of course, we'll never
know, because our history
relies on World War II to get
us out of the Depression.

I, however, firmly believe
that World War II and the
pressure of "there's a war
on" forced white racists to
turn the other cheek and
allow black men and women
into factory jobs where they
would have the feeling of
accomplishment seeing those
ships, planes, and tanks
leave the factory. As a kid, I
heard the stories of how
black people felt liberated
to move to Detroit and work
in a grimy old factory, just
because they weren't doing
the same agri-labor jobs that
kept them in chains down
South. I know the change in
my outlook when I stopped
being a temp and got a career
- even if it was just from
lame to less-lame. While it's
fine and good to suggest that
factory jobs and other blue-
collar jobs aren't the poor
black person's hope out of
long-term poverty, I ask you,
what jobs are on a bus line
from the ghetto?

I don't know ... my white
girlfriend has a job
interview today at Howard
University. They are
interested in offering her a
job to teach in the medical
school there. The job has
been open for weeks, and her
lab chief (a black chemist)
said they were desperate.
That's right, there's an
opening for a black medical-
school professorship that one
of the nation's top black
colleges can't fill. If only
one more parent in the '60s
had a high-paying factory job
instead of driving a cab.

Maybe a couple more
generations of factory jobs
(my grandfather sent my
mother and aunt to the
University of Chicago, an
uncle to Harvard, and an
uncle to Stanford on a
steelworker's salary with
some union scholarships
thrown in) would help those
people who don't have college
degrees today.

Don Smith
<dsmith@health.org>

Very good points, Don. Women
who took factory jobs during
World War II certainly
emerged with a completely
transformed view of
themselves and their
possibilities.

That is, until the boys came
back from the war and wanted
their jobs back. The
propaganda films from that
time period are hilarious.
"Go back home girls - your
big daddy needs you doing
dishes, not riveting
battleships!"

You can say a factory job's
an insult. Until you can't
get a job, and then the only
insult is hunger.

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Where might the great leaders
of black America be? Hmmm,
how about the great leaders
of white America? Or the
great leaders of yellow, red,
or brown America?

Maybe they're all enjoying a
long vacation in Cape
Hatteras or Hollywood?
There's a thought: If
politics is incidental to how
this country really operates,
perhaps all these leaders are
engaged in other endeavors
such as making money or
becoming cultural icons. Or
both.

If you had couched your
argument in terms of class
struggles (e.g. Where are the
leaders of the poor and
disenfranchised?), it would
have been a bit more
entertaining than reflecting
on a Warren Beatty movie.

Simon Adkins
<sadkins@roanoke.edu>

All our arguments are couched
in popular culture, Simon,
you know that perfectly well.

Of course, we could abandon
this format and go straight
to a textbook format, sans
illustrations, replete with a
"Drawing Conclusions" review
section at the end. Does that
sound more fun?

One thing's for sure, even
the great leaders of America
need a sugary pop-cultural
tie-in to keep 'em
interested. And who's to say
Warren Beatty movies aren't
about 100 times more
effective at spreading
ideologies than C-SPAN and
the network news and all the
newspapers combined?

Only the big screen speaks to
a confederacy of dunces,
Simon, ourselves included.

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

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