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Some conservatives are not too happy with the new movie The Butler. As I wrote here, The Butler is an extremely "conservative" and "American" movie that the Right should love. Nonetheless, their complaints are expected.

The Butler features a predominantly African-American cast. The docudrama's storyline also dares to culminate with the election of Barack Obama. These are two immediate strikes against its popularity among white conservatives.

Given that Barack Obama is the Right's version of Satan, The Butler is a logical focal point for Obama Derangement Syndrome.

Moreover, as Fox News guest Erik Rush suggested last week Obama is apparently organizing gangs of black people to attack whites with the movie being a pretext that is:  

...part of a plan “to initiate widespread civil unrest at the president’s push of a button” and add to the “instances of black-on-white violent crime since Obama came into office.”

"Winfrey is promoting a new film, “The Butler,” which chronicles a black butler’s years of service in the White House during the Civil Rights Movement.

While the subject matter should make for interesting fare, given Winfrey’s sensibilities and associates (like the Obamas, for example) there is little doubt that the film will be used in the ongoing effort to rile black Americans. As I’ve said in the past, racial tension is one of the many circuits the administration has constructed that, when completed, may be used to initiate widespread civil unrest at the president’s push of a button."

The Butler also depicts historical events which suggest that the Republicans are not in fact "the party of civil rights" as their propagandists have taught the party faithful.

Such a belief is laughable and sad: populist conservatives drunk on Fox News, Glenn Beck, and the other toxic emissions of the Right-wing echo chamber actually believe that Dr. King would be a Tea Party member even while the Southern Democrats are now Republicans, and the Tea Party GOP, who are channeling the demons of Jim and Jane Crow, are working hard to overturn the voting rights won with blood by the Black Freedom Struggle.

If anything, the White Identity politics of the Republican Party are consistent in their talking points and revisions of history and empirical reality even if their fictions are dissonant with the truth.

And of course, The Butler shows Ronald Reagan--the "saint" that he was--supporting Apartheid South Africa. Reagan was on the wrong side of history on that (and many other) issue(s). Again, The Butler is "unfair" to depict such facts.

None of these products of the White Right's grievance and victimology industry are surprising.

But even by the low standards of the Right-wing echo chamber, the following complaint about The Butler by John Boot of PJ Media was uncommon in its racist ugliness:

1. It casts the term “house slave” as something to be ashamed of.

“House slave,” “house negro,” or sometimes the even more vile term “House n—-r” has become a widely used insult deployed by blacks against other blacks for supposedly being too willing to go along with an unjust system (as opposed to “keeping it real” by participating in riots or going to prison).

Channeling Malcolm X, self-styled radicals like Spike Lee throw the term at, for instance, Samuel L. Jackson, whom Lee once called a “House negro defending Massa” for working with the far more talented filmmaker Quentin Tarantino.  

Whitaker’s butler character is portrayed as the ultimate house negro, and is denounced as such several times. Though the butler is the hero of the film and is given excellent reasons in his back story for not wishing to be a troublemaker, The Butler isn’t subtle about pushing the audience to think there is something pathetic about a man who simply kept his head down and did his job for many years instead of agitating for change.

In fact, distaste for being lumped in with such so-called house slaves can be a destructive idea for youngsters just starting out on the economic ladder. Everyone who isn’t born rich has to take orders when they’re just starting out.

Conservatism and white racism feed off of one another in post civil rights America through the deployment of ostensibly "race neutral" language and the presumption of "good intent" by white folks.

I would suggest that Boot's defense of black servitude and "wearing the mask" for the comfort of the White Gaze is akin to the racial chauvinism of the Ku Klux Klan or Stormfront. John Boot's defense of black servitude in the face of white racism is in some ways even more dangerous because of how superficially harmless it appears.

Boot's use of the white racial frame makes equivalent "paying one's dues" as a young or new worker with a system of white supremacy that robbed people of their labor and rights. PJ Media and John Boot also equates the Black Freedom Struggle and wanting equal rights with being a trouble-making "criminal".

A question: how could one not want to be a criminal, when for most of American history both seeking and acting on black and brown freedom, and our full human rights under the Constitution, were themselves considered a criminal act?

Boot clearly did not pay close attention to The Butler as these "subservient" black maids and butlers were actually very subversive and resistant to White Supremacy (quite literally in many cases as they helped to fund civil rights organizations).

Boot may not know that during slavery "house negroes" were also key in providing information to other slaves, ran away, resisted, and fought back against their "owners" just like the other human chattel who worked in the fields.

He is not alone in misunderstanding Malcolm X's rhetorical flourish as historical fact.

"House negroes" had a special intimacy with white people. In addition, those slaves who worked closely in "the big house" were usually subjected to more surveillance, threats of rape, and denied the sense of community and opportunities for relative freedom that those who lived in the slave quarters were afforded.

No black human chattel had it easy during America's slaveocracy; "house negroes" and "field negroes" just lived differently while sharing much suffering in common.

Gone with the Wind depicts a world of loving black maids and servants. This is a lie. Those black "house negroes" despised and hated their white owners because familiarity breeds contempt. Black house slaves--and later on, domestics, butlers, and maids under Jim and Jane Crow--were subjected to many cruelties by those white folks, who despite the intimacy and close proximity, refused to see people of color as fully human.

It is a disruption of the many fantasies of Whiteness to acknowledge that those doting black maids, servants, and butlers, had little use for their "white families" except as a way to earn a paycheck in a racial economy that denied black and brown folks full upward mobility and opportunity.

Black conservatives are a fantasy projection for White conservatives. As I have repeatedly written about on We Are Respectable Negroes and elsewhere, black conservatives are participating in a political minstrel show which features harmless darkies who know their place and are submissive to "Real (White) America" and the White Right.

That so many black conservatives agree (and find affirmation) with John Boot's and PJ Media's declaration of support for White fantasies of black subservience and submission is sickening. Such distaste is overcome by the reality of how playing the black conservative is a lucrative role in American politics.

The Butler is a study in the many forms that resistance to White Supremacy took in the United States; it is not an endorsement of black and brown submission to white racism--however much that conservatives in search of "good" blacks and "model minorities" would like it to be.

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Comment Preferences

  •  IMHO....the black conservative pundits are (7+ / 0-)

    particularly sickening, offering weak words of twisted logic to support idiocy and racism. Every once in a while one of the white blowhards on the right will cross even those pundits' line of tolerance and hate, and they will speak out as if they are a regular ol' progressive....this sickens me even more, as they are seemingly blind to every bit of ugliness and obvious racism on the right, until they are positively outraged I tell you, at one extra nasty comment some racist sack of shit on their side utters.

    Ayn sucks. Please know I am not rude. I cannot rec anything from this browser. When I rec or post diaries I am a guest at some exotic locale's computer.

    by Floyd Blue on Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 11:20:49 AM PDT

  •  Erik Rush's racism is particularly ugly and (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomP, surfbird007, Aunt Pat, a2nite

    ignorant.  His fear-mongering is rooted in an obvious vision that black folks are not smart enough to think for themselves.  I doubt he would ever fear that a huge swath of white folks could be so easily brainwashed into action.

    My god, I grew up in white PA suburbs, in the 60s and 70s.  I heard over and over that all black folks are related and how they will all attack you if you have a problem with one. I WAS A CHILD.  DECADES AGO.

    This asshole is ignorant and hateful and backwards....and he doesn't even know enough to be embarrassed.

    Ayn sucks. Please know I am not rude. I cannot rec anything from this browser. When I rec or post diaries I am a guest at some exotic locale's computer.

    by Floyd Blue on Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 11:23:45 AM PDT

  •   (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DefendOurConstitution, Aunt Pat

    Wonder what Clarence Thomas thinks.  Bet he won't say a word.

    "Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor liberty to purchase power." B. Franklin

    by istari5th on Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 11:30:35 AM PDT

  •  Another excellent post. (6+ / 0-)

    I have not seen the movie yet, but hope to do so.  My impression was that this was one of the points, and I'm glad it is:

    The Butler is a study in the many forms that resistance to White Supremacy took in the United States; it is not an endorsement of black and brown submission to white racism--however much that conservatives in search of "good" blacks and "model minorities" would like it to be.


    My understanding is there are debates/arguments between the father (the butler) and the son, who joins the BPP.  Both sought ways of resisiting, I think, although I'll have to see the movie.  

    As for how racist conservatives see the film, screw them.  

    Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

    by TomP on Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 11:36:50 AM PDT

  •  Whitaker's Grimes (8+ / 0-)

    was a quiet and apolitical character. He was raised in a time and part of the country where speaking out got you killed. He worked hard, bought a nice home, married, raised two sons whom he sent to Fisk and Howard Universities. These sons carried on the fight for equality (well, one).

    His real courage, in my opinion, was in staying alive and employed.

    Conservatives today can't see that they would have been the ones killing and beating African Americans who fought back. The ones with their faces twisted in hate as they shouted down those kids in Little Rock.

    I wonder what Markos thought when he started this blog? Sure, come for the politics, but stay for the friendship and cat pics!

    by The Pollster on Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 11:39:04 AM PDT

  •  Speaking of "the mask", at the school where I (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    howabout, Aunt Pat

    last taught, we had to tell the kids (5th and 6th graders) that they had to wear a different kind of mask at school.  Because where they lived outside of school, if they acted like we wanted them to behave--conflict resolution, walking away, not engaging, that sort of thing--that was the kind of behavior that would peg them as weak and subject to getting beaten up or worse on the street.

    But you can't use street survival in school. Not conducive to a safe learning environment.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 11:41:44 AM PDT

  •  "The Butler." Great Movie! Go See It! (n/t) (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "The Butler." Great Movie! Go see it.

    by TriangleNC on Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 11:49:22 AM PDT

  •  I linked over to "PJ Media" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    howabout, Aunt Pat, Wee Mama

    Unprofessional web design, messy posting formats, and all the intellectual capacity of an emotionally stunted child. It was pretty much what I'd expect from a white supremacist forum.

    Have you ever noticed that those who espouse the superiority of their own race over others almost always serve as perfect anecdotal evidence for the very lack of said racial superiority? Low quality people looking for self esteem in all the wrong places...

    "Nach dem Spiel ist vor dem Spiel." -Sepp Herberger

    by surfbird007 on Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 12:15:38 PM PDT

  •  I can't believe Danny Strong wrote 'The Butler' (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Aunt Pat, a2nite

    He played Jonathan on 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer' (TV series of course). One of the 'Nemesises'.

    I'm no philosopher, I am no poet, I'm just trying to help you out - Gomez (from the song Hamoa Beach)

    by jhecht on Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 12:40:24 PM PDT

  •  The Butler (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Potrayed the lives of the way Black people live at the times, i have saw clips of it  , i do not think  Mr Whitaker would do any too degrad blacks ,if it is an  actual  life of how the Butler lived , so be it ,i am not one to condemn it,

  •  A comment on Gone with the Wind (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wee Mama

    This was actually a very subversive novel, although it was more a commentary on woman's roles than race.

    The key thing to understand is the entire book has an unreliable narrator - Scarlett.   The way blacks are presented in the book are how she saw them, period, full stop.  Unsurprisingly, she's pretty much completely wrong, just as she was wrong about many other things in the book.   One of the more fascinating things about rereading it as a more politically aware adult is that Rhett is essentially an older, male version of her.

    His attraction to her is in a significant degree a recognition of himself, except much younger and thus stupider about people, plus saddled with all the handicaps women have to put up with..even the most privileged among them.

    Their story isn't over.  He's gonna wait for her to grow up some, then let her chase him down.

    But yeah.  I didn't know about Unreliable Narrator when I read the book before, and if you think the author was trying to present all blacks as the "Good Negro", you're not looking deep enough.  Scarlett had all kinds of labor trouble with the real blacks, her only "success" involved a fierce, inhuman taskmaster who drove them hard and used them up, and she was in physical danger from them in at least one occasion, although she was largely oblivious (the people around her...not so much)

    •  the book is very problematic, not racially... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:


      the book supports the race and reunion narrative, which is white supremacist, and passive happy black is part of that until the pastoral happy plantation became later post civil war reimagined as one with barbarous negroes wanting white women's flesh and revenge against whites.

      Gale's book Making Whiteness and Blight's Race and Reunion talk about the book too.

      This is from the Atlantic's piece on the making of the film:

      But some readers had found Mitchell's treatment of race less a cartoon than a nightmare. She had, for example, depicted her leading black characters as content with slavery, uninterested in freedom. They often seemed more like pets than people. When Scarlett and Big Sam were reunited after the war, "his watermelon-pink tongue lapped out, his whole body wiggled, and his joyful contortions were as ludicrous as the gambolings of a mastiff." The "good" black characters both loved and needed the whites. Though Mammy was one of the strongest characters in the novel, she could not manage Tara after the war without the guidance of her white masters. Her mind was too simple, not yet fully evolved, as readers could infer from a description of her as she looked at the once-grand plantation, her face "sad with the uncomprehending sadness of a monkey's face."

      Lacking the protection and moral schooling of whites, the "bad" blacks were an unruly lot. Mammy and Big Sam called them "niggers." Mitchell called them "black apes" who committed "outrages on women." Reconstruction brought out the worst in these characters. Passing through Shantytown one evening, Scarlett was attacked by "a squat black negro with shoulders and chest like a gorilla." He was "so close that she could smell the rank odor of him" as he ripped open her bodice and "fumbled between her breasts." The Ku Klux Klan, according to Gone With the Wind, was a "tragic necessity."

      The Black Press saw the book and film as racist too:

      By the spring of 1937, spurred by memories of racism in The Birth of a Nation, black organizations on both coasts had written to Selznick International about Gone With the Wind. "We consider this work to be a glorification of the old rotten system of slavery, propaganda for race-hatreds and bigotry, and incitement of lynching," members of a Pittsburgh group wrote in a letter that, like other such correspondence, has rarely been cited, much less discussed, in popular histories of the picture. One studio official called such opinions "ridiculous," yet many blacks were convinced otherwise; they genuinely feared that what they saw as an "anti-Negro" novel would become an "anti-Negro" film. Selznick International meanwhile hastened to assure them that no movie company "intends to offer to the public material that is offensive or conducive to race prejudice."

      •  Fair enough (0+ / 0-)

        I can't speak to how the book was used, or how it perceived and the movie isn't the book.  I honestly don't remember it well, but it probably didn't have the subtexts of the book (it certainly didn't with respect to the women's role limitations presented all through the book).

        Given though that in actuality, the only people that stayed with Scarlett were her nurse and one of the house slaves (everybody else on the plantation left), the fact that her attempts to use black labor failed entirely when she let her heartthrob aristocrat try to run it and succeeded only when she hired a ruthless "use them up" overseer and the undercurrents all through the reformation period of how everybody else around her worried about the blacks, it looked much more to me like a privilege bubble around Scarlett done deliberately by the author than an attempt to glorify slavery.

        I'm pretty sure if you talked to a southern belle of that period, the view of blacks presented in the book would be pretty close to what we saw.  That's if she thought she was "fair minded" about them.

        All that said...the author was clearly saying a lot more about women than race, and probably didn't consider how the work might be used to validate racism.  The author was a white women probably with her own privilege bubble too, just not as virulent as Scarlett.

        Anybody who is racist can find plenty in Scarlett's opinions to validate their own beliefs.  I'm just not convinced that the author intended the reader to agree with Scarlett on anything.  She's a deeply unsympathetic character, except where you feel bad about her wasted potential because she was a woman of a certain class in a certain time.

        •  sorry, can't cosign (0+ / 0-)

          the author wrote about black folks and big pink lips looking like black man apes.

          "I'm just not convinced that the author intended the reader to agree with Scarlett on anything".

          The author is a white racist. No complicated. Not surprising. From what I understand the tone of the text is not intended to be subversive or to undercut narrator's bigotry.

          •  We're talking past each other (0+ / 0-)

            I respect  your opinion.  I think you're correct that Margaret Mitchell is racist  - she's a white woman from Georgia born in 1900.  She's going to carry with her the attitudes of most people who fit that demographic.  What I disagree on is that the book was about racism.  I think the author didn't see how her own writing looked to others, while she was actually writing about something else (the limitations and strictures put on women by society).

            That's privilege.   I know that's not any comfort to those it harms, hell it's hugely frustrating, but there is a difference between pushing an agenda and simply being oblivious to how your words and descriptions hurt others.  It would have been shocking if a woman of her class, upbringing and location was NOT casually racist.

            Her work is actually less virulently racist than most of the pulp novels of the 20s-30s, but again, most of those weren't pushing racial theories.  They were a reflection of common attitudes in the author's class/culture, not advocacy.   Unlike most books of that period, Gone with The Wind was actually not a sexist book too, which surprised me when I re-read it.

            •  i just can't parse this (0+ / 0-)

              "I think you're correct that Margaret Mitchell is racist  - she's a white woman from Georgia born in 1900.  She's going to carry with her the attitudes of most people who fit that demographic.  What I disagree on is that the book was about racism."

              please flesh that one out please, the logic is a bit confusing. i am not claiming she sat down to write a racist tract, but as a white supremacist in a society where white supremacy was/is the dominant racial ideology, I don't split such details.

              maybe you can help me see what I am missing.

              •  Gone With the Wind is racist, but not a racist (0+ / 0-)

                tract.  That's the essential argument.

                The book is not about race.  Race is just there, as part of the setting and all of the POV characters are racist because they're Antebellum and Reconstruction whites in Atlanta Georgia, written about by a early 20th century white female author from Georgia.

                Likely because this is not as visceral an issue for me (as I'm in my own white privilege bubble), I can read the book the same way I'd read a work by Cicero, without getting hung up on his attitudes toward Roman slaves, non-Roman peoples and Plebians.

                And reading it again, I was surprised.  This wasn't a James Michener saga of American families, and it wasn't an Ayn Rand style cartoon pushing an idealized society.

                It was a subtle and witty exploration of the limitations of the roles of women in Southern society, both in the time period listed and in "modern" times.  Scarlett has a lot of attributes admirable in a male protagonist, indeed she'd do just fine in the Atlas Shrugged world, but because she is a woman, her life is a constant struggle and the dickishness of how she behaves is much more obvious because of her gender.   Meanwhile her Frenemy (the weak feminine friend) is an idealized version of southern female ideals - admired but ineffectual and sickly.     Her main romantic foil is herself, but male and 20 years older.  His youth was easier because the same behaviors are tolerated in men, even admired.

                But yeah.  The racial language is really ugly, and the treatment of lower class individuals of any race isn't much better.   I can see how it would be hard to get past that to see anything else in the book.

      •  Yeah, it was a white washed version of (0+ / 0-)

        "Birth of a nation". It is unfortunate that the love story and the story of human resiliency is overshadowed by lionizing the evil traitorous white supremacist evil Confederates.

        nosotros no somos estúpidos

        by a2nite on Wed Aug 21, 2013 at 08:47:59 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Many of the "house slaves" were related (0+ / 0-)

    To the owners by blood, since the ones that were the offspring of the rape of the black female slaves by the white men.

    That sets up a horrible situation for both the slave and the white women, who know what the men did. The slave is treated badly, as slaves are, while knowing that it's their father and his white family that's treating them badly. The white women resent the physical manifestation of the way the white men acted, so they take that out on the house slave.

    It's not a good thing, no matter how you look at it.

    Women create the entire labor force.
    Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

    by splashy on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 12:10:04 PM PDT

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