Skip to main content

A note to readers:  This diary is a continuation of A Collective Statement of Opposition to Racist Labels Used by Kossacks to Criticize President Obama, posted yesterday.

Due to the extraordinary response from the Dkos community, we are reposting the content, while we labor to compile the long list of people who have indicated their support.

The original diary as of 9:30 AM EST today has 881 recommends and 2226 comments, making it impossible for many people to load and read. If you would like to support this, please add your comments to this diary.

We apologize for the delay in posting the updated list of signators. We hope to have it completed by as soon as is humanly possible.

"No One Else Should Define Your Self Identity (or your Pain): A Collective Statement of Opposition to Racist Labels Used by Kossacks to Criticize President Obama"

As the editors of Black Kos we (Dopper, Sephius, Denise Oliver Velez and Justice Putnam) bring the wider community a broad cross-section of news and views each week from multiple black perspectives. As an editorial group we have stayed out of taking "sides" on any of the many issues that confront us as we move forward. We present news and views from multi-opinioned parts of the internet and media.

We have decided today to suspend the usual offerings from Black Kos to make a statement, which we hope you will consider in the spirit with which it is proffered. This is a collective statement joined in by Black Kossacks who have signed their names and handles, effectively drawing a line in the sand against rhetorical practices which many of us individually have many times called out as the racism they are, but which we continue to encounter here far too often. We have also been joined in this statement by other Daily Kos members who represent segments of the Kos community who also deal with issues around race, racism and cultural survival on an ongoing basis.

For years, we have participated in Daily Kos in good faith. We represent many varied opinions, and come from many different walks of life. Some of us are political pragmatists; some of us are fierce progressives. Some of us are Democratic Party loyalists; some of us Democrats for practical reasons given the nature of the Republican party. Between us there are as many opinions, favorable and oppositional, about the Obama Administration and its policies as there are signatures to this open statement.  We signatories who are Black in no way claim to represent all of the opinions of all Black people in the US. We do not even claim to speak for other Black Kossacks who are not signatories, let alone the 40 million members of the US-based Black community or the hundreds of millions in the diaspora.

Daily Kos routinely holds itself as a thought leader in liberal and progressive politics. Kossacks, by and large, pat themselves on the back as "reality based" and "well educated" and regularly point with derision to the "ignorance" of others with whom they claim political disagreement, referring to them as "low information voters" and other similar insults. Collectively, Daily Kos members claim to be more enlightened, more reasoned, more informed, less trapped by false narratives and more open minded.  Especially when it comes to racism. Yet when it comes to the issue of racist rhetoric, and, in particular, the complex impact of well-known anti-Black racist rhetoric upon what might otherwise be legitimate discussions of President Obama and/or administration policy, this celebrated thought leadership is too often nowhere to be found. It is often not only absent, but the dialogue when its absence is noted too often becomes painful proof that unconscious racism is alive and well on the Left and at Daily Kos no matter how many Kossacks claim differently.

This statement is not about criticism of President Obama. Amongst the signatories to this statement you will find staunch defenders of the Administration. You will find those that have made clear their fierce disagreement with much Administration policy. Some of us have been regularly called "Obama haters". Others, "Obamabots." Our opinions run the gamut. What you will not find, however, is anyone who finds acceptable here on a Democratic Party, liberal and progressive blog the continued use of racial pejoratives wielded alongside of genuine critiques of Administration policy.

On one issue we are in complete unanimity: there are some rhetorical devices which are beyond the pale as inherently racist when used to criticize the President. All of these have been discussed ad infinitum in individual conversations here at Daily Kos for years, and called out for what they are by Black Kossacks and allies. Yet they continue to be used with impunity, even defiance at times, by those who appear to believe that they are entitled to ignore the voices of those who are offended and harmed by such behavior and in whom that behavior evokes painful reminders of how it used to be in terms of race relations and continues to be in many ways. These folks are too often encouraged/supported by upraters who lack the bravery of those Kossacks willing to directly employ them even after they have been educated as to the problematic nature of these arguments.

We also want to make it crystal clear, that we just as strongly oppose attacking ANY politician, or person using racist, homophobic, sexist, anti-semitic or any other discriminatory language. The issues that prompted this open letter may have been started based on comments directed specifically at the President, but they are equally unacceptable if they are directed towards any politician. As both members of the party and the ideology that best represents the diversity of America, it saddens us that we have to remind our community to uphold its own values. As more woman, ethnic, religious, and racial minorities, and people of who no religious affiliation rise to leadership positions in our progressive movement, our party, and our country, if this issue is not confronted head on, it will continue to rear its ugly head. That is not something we as a community should find tolerable or acceptable.

We realize that this post focuses on the President, but do not think we are unconcerned with how these issues play out in our society in general, and here at Daily Kos specifically. There is still much more work that needs to be done, and we need to continue that work right here in the liberal, progressive community.

Here are the arguments that in our view are unacceptable as patent racism in any context in which they are raised by those not part of the Black community.

(please continue reading below the fold)

The President is "Not Black"

We voted for Barack Hussein Obama to become President of the United States for a second term. It is no small fact that he is black. (Some of us capitalize this identity label, others do not, but it is a distinction without a difference here.)
President Obama is Black because he has chosen the identity "Black" for himself. It is his fundamental prerogative as a Black man to have done so. He is black, by self definition, African American, by self definition, and a man with a mixed racial ancestry, also by heritage and self-acknowledgement. Refusal to recognize and respect that prerogative of self-naming, and to honor it, is inherently racist.

Many of us as black, African Americans have similar ancestries or family members with the same lineage. Some of us define ourselves as black, others or as mixed, or biracial. That is a matter of choice, and personal prerogative.

President Obama is not "half-white" in the eyes of bigots. The extraordinary animus displayed in our country against the simple fact that a black man, with a black wife, and black kids is again occupying the White House via a second election has not abated, nor will it, any time soon.

In a hoodie and jeans, or trying to get a cab in Manhattan, his fate would be no different from any of our brethren. He knows that, and so do we.
(We do not appreciate some folks attempting to use as cover debates about President Obama's "blackness" in some segments of the Black community. Careful listening will disclose quite clearly that nobody who is actually Black is questioning President Obama's physical racial identity or his self-identification. They are debating, instead, about the foundation of his political views. This is a debate that we are entitled to have in our own community free from the opinions of those outside our community who lack the understanding of the historical context inherent in such discussions.)



The President of the United States, who is a Black man, is not a “boy”. Ever.
 

The use of the term"boy" to characterize any black man in America in any context reverts to the language of slavery and Jim Crow used to reduce and humiliate Black people in general and Black men in particular. This is not distant history—many of us have lived it. Some of us still live it. There is a reason that a core rallying cry of the Civil Rights Movement was "I am a MAN." Anyone who does not recognize that we are nowhere near a time of racial equality where Black men are concerned, and the harm that is caused by referring to the most powerful man in the "free world" as a "boy" is choosing not to—for reasons that are grounded in racist power play, conscious or otherwise.

References to President Obama's genitalia, or lack of same, are anathema.

 
Any reference to President Obama as lacking "balls", lacking a "dick", "having no nuts" or anything similar is deeply offensive to us as Black people. It harkens to a period of lynching and castration that ended only within many of our lifetimes.
It takes little study to learn about the nexus between Black male sexuality and virulent, violent, white racism and lynching in which Black men were literally at times forced to swallow their own castrated manhood. References to it are therefore anathema in any progressive space. It is not enough to say that these insults are hurled at other politicians without regard to race. That is not an excuse, because we are not so far from the days where those who engaged in violence to strip Black men, literally, of their manhood.
We are calling today for Kossacks from every community here to push-back against language we have seen too frequently which we find completely unacceptable coming from supposed allies.
This is not a limitation on anyone's "freedom of speech". We have no ability to determine policy here. We are guests of Markos, as are all of you. Some of us have been here a long time but that gives us no more or less clout than newly arrived users. We do think as longstanding community members that our voices have a right to be heard.
No one at this point in time has violated the small Black Kos space to use this type of racist language. That happened in the past, but has now stopped. We thank Markos' having clearly defined "dickishness" which ended it. But outside of the small confines of the Black Kos Front Porch it becomes increasingly difficult to even discuss racism—in its various forms and manifestations in this society. Some diarists have withdrawn from even addressing it. Often to discuss racism is to get hit with "reverse racism" plaints and accusations, and a litany of cries about the injury supposedly done to whites when their actions and words are called out by Black people and others as racist, whether or not the remarks were made unconsciously.

We are not linking to, nor delineating any specific remarks that have been made, now or in the past. That is unnecessary.

To those who have offended in the past, we ask for no apologies. We do ask that you think before posting, and temper your language accordingly.

To paraphrase Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer,“we are sick and tired of being sick and tired of fighting racism right here at Daily Kos." It has gone on for years here, and yet it continues despite our best efforts to engage with, and educate Kossacks, in good faith.
So, with this statement, we are telling Daily Kos—clearly—so there is no further possibility for any Kossack to pretend that it is not clear, what we collectively find painful and offensive. We are telling you that the rhetoric we've identified is racist and unacceptable from any Kossack, for any reason. Folks can choose to listen, or to ignore us (as is too often done when we legitimately ask Kossacks to stop and think about the rhetoric they choose to use when engaging in otherwise legitimate political debate.) Folks can choose to respect our views and the reasons behind them, or reject them.  What this statement eliminates, however, is anyone being able to hide behind innocence to engage in these racist behaviors anymore.

As individuals, each of us has different ways of dealing with unacceptably racist behavior and language when we see it. Some of us have the patience of Job when it comes to trying to educate Kossacks about their own unconsciously racist behavior. Some of us are out of patience, and behave accordingly. Some of us are willing to engage directly and call things out; others choose not to speak or feel silenced by the oppressiveness of being minority voices repeatedly trying to make the same point over and over again in an overwhelmingly wealthy, white male, space. As individuals, all of us will each continue to handle racism here at Daily Kos in our own way. Some of us believe that offenders should be banned; others do not believe in banning at all.

However, many of those signing this statement have decided that from here forward, when any of us as individuals encounter the use of the humiliating, racially offensive and demeaning language discussed above to challenge the selected identity of any person of color from the President on down, we will hide-rate it and/or report it. We will do the same with any remarks attacking the President's manhood, or making reference to his genitalia. That is our prerogative, in the face of the utter lack of respect and regard shown by those who simply will not accept that Black people, and people of color, are the only ones who get to determine what racism is and what is not. That is a privilege we have earned as the victims of it for centuries. It is not "fair", but it is fact and not a subject of rational debate.

We are also asking Markos to deal with these offenders and their enabler up-raters in particular when they are called to his attention. In our view, in many ways the up-raters are the greater harm. Too often they hide behind the words of others rather than own for themselves the legitimate approbation their opinions would otherwise directly receive, and then claim that they are not responsible for the resultant anger and dust-ups. This allows the perpetuation of that which is unacceptable behavior that might otherwise rightfully be hide-rated into oblivion.

We are freely stating what for us is deeply hurtful. We do have as Trusted Users the right to make our opinions clear. This statement could have discussed many other types of conduct which some of us believe is also grounded in racist thought, but as there is no universal agreement about those amongst us, it is not appropriate. Those debates about what is, and is not, legitimate criticism can continue as they have in the past.

This line in the sand as it relates to the specific conduct discussed in this statement is separate and apart from any critiques we as individuals hold against policies of the Obama Administration. On that we have no unanimity, nor should we. We will, as individuals, continue to vigorously express our opinions and make our cases in that regard (often, in opposition to each other, because there is no orthodoxy of thought on the Administration within the Black community or any other community of color, despite our overwhelming votes for his re-election. Nor should there be.)
We thank you for reading.

Black Kos.

Signed
The Editors of Black Kos
David Reid - founder and managing editor
Sephius 1 editor
Denise Oliver-Velez - editor
Justice Putnam - editor

Joined by:


Members of Native American Netroots:

Navajo
Meteor Blades
Aji
Ojibwa

Front Page featured writers

Shanikka
Armando (also founder of Discussing Race on Daily Kos)

Barriers and Bridges

Yasuragi - founder and editor

This is not the updated list of signators.  

Other members of the community who sign, and endorse this statement in comments will be added to the list of signatories as we update.

The process of updating the list is an onerous one.

It would be helpful, if you have decided to support this statement and would like your name included, that you state it clearly in comments.

Originally posted to Black Kos community on Wed Apr 17, 2013 at 06:45 AM PDT.

Also republished by White Privilege Working Group and Inherent Human Rights.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences