MSNBC host and cultural critic Touré is under fire this Memorial Day Weekend for, as down-the-middle website Mediaite puts it, "Chalk(ing) Up Holocaust Survival to ‘The Power of Whiteness’" in a Twitter exchange with an alleged descendant of Holocaust survivors. The right-wing blogosphere is up in arms over what "Black Nazi" Touré said, and if he really said that, maybe they'd have a point. It's what these websites aren't saying, though, that's particularly telling.
Influential conservative website The Right Scoop characterized Touré's remark as "Touré Thinks Being In A Concentration Camp Is NBD For Whitey," Gateway Pundit said the "racist, anti--Semitic comment" came from "Black Nazi" Touré, while National Review Onlinedescribed Touré's exchange this way:
Early Saturday morning, the MSNBC host/hyperventilating philosopher Touré again enlightened the world. Facing a tweeter who mentioned that his parents had survived the Holocaust and then found the American dream, Touré responded, “The power of whiteness.”
Wow, what a horrible person that Touré is, if he really did engage in the "trivialization of 6 million Jews killed for being Jewish," as NRO goes on to say. What's missing from all of this outrage are a few key points, like what Touré actually said, and to whom he actually said it. Here's the exchange in question:
The first thing you might notice is that none of these conservative sites bothered to include the cleverly meta-racist name on the guy's Twitter feed and blog (Mediaite did mention it in passing). The banner on the DatsRacis.com site even goes it one better, blaring "Yo, Dat's Racis'!!"
If you look at that Twitter feed, aside from racist garbage like this (or this since-deleted retweet), or classy shots at First Lady Michelle Obama that aren't at all racist, you'll find that Dat's
Racis' grandfather was a POW who was imprisoned at Dachau. It's impossible to say this for sure, but I doubt very much that anyone who survived imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp ever did so in the hopes that their descendants might one day harness the experience to try and score a cheap point on a racist Twitter feed. That bit of family history never comes up once on Dat's Racis' blog, despite some other fairly detailed info on his ancestors, but he launches it like a spitball to slag Touré in a Twitter fight. Trivialization, indeed.
I won't defend Touré's response, because regardless of the racist troll context, it was definitely too flippant, but if people are going to be offended, they ought to be offended by what he actually said, not by the lies that are being told about what he said. Clearly, he was not referring to the survival of a concentration camp as the product of "The Power of Whiteness," but rather the effect of white privilege in America after the fact. It is a lie to say that "MSNBC’s Touré Chalks Up Holocaust Survival to ‘The Power of Whiteness’", plain and simple.
That said, it is grotesque, to borrow a word from Caleb Howe, to run a scorecard between the horrors of the Nazi holocaust and the horrors of American racism, but it is a grotesquerie that was posited by Dat's Racis', not Touré. As was the case with Martin Bashir's response to Sarah Palin's racism, those taking offense in this case are ignoring, and even obscuring, the provocation.
There's also the extremely inconvenient fact that, however flippant and unworthy, Touré's response is true. Dat's Racis' mistakes the concept of white privilege for the taking of handouts, but in his own Twitter feed, he talks about how his grandfather got a job, and saved up to buy a house in Brooklyn. The employment and housing discrimination that persist to this day were much more pronounced, and even state-sponsored, in those days. The jobs and housing that were being denied to black people were being given, instead, to white people. Whether he wanted to or not, Dat's Racis' grandfather benefited from that system.
The entire point of white privilege is that things which we find so negligible that we don't even notice them are devastating when you don't have them. One of the most common attacks
on Touré is to point out his relative affluence (they definitely don't mean uppity, though), as if this renders him unqualified to speak on matters of race and privilege, but it doesn't matter if you're Touré, or pre-President Barack Obama, or the second coming of Jesus: if you're black, you are one bad traffic stop or Skittles purchase or music-too-loud-for-a-white-guy or standing-in your-own-driveway-looking-for-a-cigarette away from being just another dead black person for Dat's Racis' to blog about. Being able to stand in your own driveway without getting shot doesn't sound like a privilege, and it shouldn't be.
Ironically, despite the lies being told to fuel outrage at Touré, even Dat's Racis' acknowledges the truth in his response, even if he didn't like the way Touré said it:
Before you go giving Dat's Racis' too much credit, though, check out what he chalks those hardships up to. Before his Twitter feed was the subject of white-hot attention (pun intended), he retweeted a fellow traveler with some advice for black people: "If you got a job, went to work, married the mother of your children, you too could be #Whiteness."
Now that's racist. As fuck.
Update: Dat's Racis' responds in our comments section. My absolute favorite part is his explanation of the Michelle Obama tweet that I specifically said was not racist: "thinking she's not good looking is NOT racist. I happen to think she just looks angry all the time."
Here's the rest of it:
Ugh, lots of bad assumptions here. Of course I understand that eloquence isn't always best preserved when you're limited to 140 characters, but I would like to clarify some things for you since clearly I've touched a nerve:
1- The website name is meant to be ironic/witty/comedic...or whatever. I do this gig as a hobby, for no payment. You don't get noticed by being boring. The name is derived from the punchlines/jokes from various skits, movies, etc. that often take steroetypes and turn them into things we can laugh about. Stuff like Lisa Lampanelli standup acts, or some videos you might see on Youtube by searching "dats racist!".
2- I stand by my tweet about post 1964-Democrats since I feel like their "enslavement" of people (of course, and obviously, not literaly enslavement) is lauded and cheered as if its existence is automatically good. Meanwhile, we witness the suffocation of liberty, various freedoms (choice being just one of them) and the perpetual decline in the quality of life of those in poverty. With as many chances the Democrats have had to use their magic wands to erase poverty, you would think people would consider at this point that maybe the *intent* of their social policy is to keep people exactly where they are-- stuck at the bottom, dependent, and voting Democrat. While my tone in the tweet is far from "nice", it wasn't meant to be. I take great offense to politicians who demagogue people in need of actual help, while tossing pennies at them to show how much they "care". When Democrat-led initiatives (these same inititiatives are ones that Republicans would never even dare to question for risk of starting a war) begin to improve the lives of those in need...when they begin to promote small business growth...when they begin to tax people less and create an environment where people are able to give more to those in needs than taxing the hell out of them ever will...then maybe I'll lighten up on the comparisons between things like the ACA and slavery. Until then, deal with it.
3- The details on my website about my grandfather, and my family in general, are kept to a minimum because in writing about liberty issues-- a topic often tied to discussions about race-- it isn't about "me, me, me". It is this same "me me me" atmosphere that creates an environment where politicians literally guilt us into believing we have some kind of duty to right past wrong through tax dollars. The killer part about that is if these wrongs were actually being righted by our tax dollars, we'd be much happier to see those same dollars going to such initiatives. The bottom line is they don't. But to get back to my family-- omitting details about it on my site is a personal choice, nothing more. In responding to Toure about support for a reparation program (and it doesn't matter what kind of program that is), mentioning our family's ordeal-- which is evidence to how my family has absolutely zero connection to slavery and the wrongs that came in its wake-- felt necessary. One thing that people don't realize is that Toure takes similar positions on things almost always, and my attention to his words was not secluded to this one incident. We have had exchanges in the past, though the topic was obviously less hostile and didn't take off like it did. Finally, I do not mention my family because I am entirely against using their experience to "score a few points" (or whatever Christopher said in the article) for my website. That's not how I roll.
4- As for the thing I retweeted, consider I was seeing 100+ notifications on Twitter every five minutes. That retweet, if I recall, came right at the beginning of the barrage and I retweeted it in haste. The joke on the part of the original Tweeter was a bit crude and in hindsight I wouldn't have given it my "support" via retweet, but whatever. My fault, I guess. Fact is I just didn't really read it, and the concept of Twitter kind of confuses me in general. I'm not a big fan of it.
5- As for my tweet, which was sarcastic, about the FLOTUS. One, thinking she's not good looking is NOT racist. I happen to think she just looks angry all the time. The point of my tweet, which was made during one of the hashtag wars which sprout up once in awhile (which is a way to generate views on my site by participating in them), was to act as a counterpoint to those who state the FLOTUS is good looking simply because she is in fact black-- as if one cannot be pretty/not pretty simply because of the color of her skin. I do not like to stoop to such silly levels-- a discussion about someone's looks shouldn't factor into an equation such as this-- but at the time it did. I may not have tweeted that responses as a reply to someone, but the hashtag sprung up as a way of hating on right wingers (and the funny thing is I'm not a Republican), and I had to throw some snark into the mix to light some fires. That's really it.
In closing, the point of my site is to condemn racism, and to consider that racism exists in many forms-- and some of those forms might happen to be the things that many progressives actually support, or laud for their attentiveness to civil rights, race/cultural issues, matter of poverty, etc. In other words, I think that many of the things that progressive politicians support, or push, are inherently racist and detrimental to the cause.
I make no apologies for any of my positions and stand by my word, but wanted to clarify the passion behind them.
Update 2: Touré addressed the controversy on his Twitter feed today, offering an apology: