Yesterday I asserted that Mehdi Hasan had written the most absurd article about the Charlie Hebdo attacks so far, which he had. After Wednesday, however, that designation is in serious jeopardy thanks to the efforts of Salon. How? Well, it turns out that if you’re a white liberal standing in solidarity with the slain staff of Charlie Hebdo, you’re engaged in an unconscionable act of white privilege.
Lest you think I exaggerate, allow me to serve you the many courses of the intersectionalist feast cooked up by Salon’s resident gender and race studies chef, Brittney Cooper.
At Sunday’s Golden Globes Awards, rapper Common and John Legend won Best Original Song for “Glory” from the movie Selma. Common gave a moving acceptance speech acknowledging America’s recent racial turmoil, and he struck an inclusive and galvanizing note before concluding, “We look to the future and we want to create a better world. Now is our time to change the world. Selma is now.”
But that’s not how Cooper heard Common’s speech. Unfortunately, I must quote her at length to convey her position, which can be expressed as, cynicism now, cynicism tomorrow, cynicism forever:
“Common, ever the spoken word artist, declared in his remarks, ‘I am the hopeful black woman who was denied her right to vote. I am the caring white supporter killed on the front lines of freedom. I am the unarmed black kid who maybe needed a hand, but was instead given a bullet. I am the two fallen police officers slain in the line of duty. … Selma has awakened my humanity. Selma is now.’
“Common clearly took a lesson from the book of Kanye West when he refused to say the words that felt as if they were hanging from the tip of his tongue: ‘Black lives matter.’ I was struck by the audacity of inclusion in Common’s remarks and reminded that this is precisely the kind of racial discourse that we don’t need. But it is the kind of racial discourse in which liberal black folks are forced to publicly engage in order that they might not seem antagonistic to white people.”
I’ll be damned. Brittney Cooper is a mind-reader.
Cooper simply cannot fathom the possibility that a popular liberal black entertainer such as Common might not wear the same Critical Race Theory goggles that are permanently affixed to her face. As far as she’s concerned, if Common meant what he said in his acceptance speech, he’s no better than Whitey, which is impossible. Therefore, goes Cooper’s logic, Common is “forced to publicly engage” in a “racial discourse we don’t need” because it reifies white people’s perceptions about race relations in the United States.
Thus, Cooper accuses Common of being disingenuous, cowardly, and denies him agency by insisting that what he said was different from what he was thinking because he didn’t want to make white people angry, as if that’s something he’s afraid of doing.
Hopefully, you have plenty of room left because that was just the bread. There are appetizers and entrées to be consumed. And I hope you like Cognac, as a digestif is highly recommended:
“As I watched multiple white celebrities don the stage and stand in solidarity with the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack and other innocent bystanders, I marveled at the privilege that they had of being specific. Even though some people of color were casualties of the attacks in Paris, by and large this was an attack on white French satirists whose bread and butter was the routine disrespect of the Muslim community. Attacks on largely white victims received a huge and committed show of solidarity, while the Black Lives Matter Movement that has consumed our news cycle for the last four months was apparently not even worthy of mention.”
Here again is a recurrence of the false narrative that satirizing a long-dead “prophet” is tantamount to a “routine disrespect of the Muslim community” as people. Cooper calls it the magazine’s “bread and butter,” proving she has no familiarity whatsoever with Charlie Hebdo, which is actually an anti-racist, left-wing publication.
But as a race studies expert, Cooper is uniquely trained to spot racism, even where none exists. Note how she acknowledges that the Black Lives Matter movement “has consumed our news cycle for the last four months,” which would seem to indicate the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in Staten Island (where Cooper erroneously thinks the Statue of Liberty is located), and Tamir Rice in Cleveland have in fact been at the forefront of the national discussion. Those killings, however, happened in July, August, and November, and the most recent major news related to them was the non-indictment of Garner’s killer and the massive protests in the days following. That was over a month ago — a century in terms of the news cycle. The attack on Charlie Hebdo, however, happened a mere five days before the Golden Globes, which is one reason why it was on those celebrities’ minds.
Another reason it was on those celebrities’ minds can be summed up in one word: art. The cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo were killed for practicing their profession as artists, which is what the actors, directors, musicians, writers, and others recognized at the Golden Globes are. Whether or not Cooper liked the work of Charb and the other murdered Hebdo cartoonists is irrelevant. They died because they drew pictures, and that’s an unsettling idea for any artist or performer. Hence the solidarity, about which Cooper proceeds to say,
“The attacks on Charlie Hebdo are absolutely devastating. But the Je Suis Charlie movement among white American liberals is nothing short of disingenuous. It represents an attempt to displace black people from the center of a political moment that has been about state-sanctioned terror against black people. The fervor of white celebrities to speak of their white counterparts abroad while managing not to say even one word about the movements for racial justice happening here at home strikes me as being part and parcel of liberal white dishonesty on questions of race.“
Brittney Cooper has never met me, but because I’m a “white American liberal” she again knows my thoughts because she’s been studying race for many years, which obviously entitles her to draw grand conclusions and make sweeping generalizations about me and other white people. And that’s why she knows that when I say, “Je suis Charlie,” that I am engaged in an attempt to “displace black people” like Brown, Garner, and Rice “from the center of a political moment.” It’s not because I want to stand up for the right to free speech; it’s not because I think cartoonists shouldn’t be killed for what they draw; it’s not because I think writers such as myself and Cooper shouldn’t be threatened with violence for what we write; it’s not because I resent the totalitarian nature of radical Islam; but it’s because I am a racist who wants to shunt black issues aside, out of the limelight so that I may help perpetuate the institutional oppression that my race has been perpetrating on people of color for centuries.
Still have room? Here’s the next course:
“White celebrities saw no issue with standing in solidarity with a newspaper that routinely antagonizes Islamic communities under the auspices of free speech. Freedom of speech is, of course, fundamental to creative practice, and defense of it is warranted. But failure to stand for freedom of speech, without also acknowledging the ways it has been used by Charlie Hebdo to antagonize Muslims is absolutely egregious.”
Cooper then says, “I’m not saying blame the victim,” but that is precisely what she’s doing here. It’s astounding that she reserves more vitriol for the slaughtered cartoonists and their defenders than she does the slaughterers. In fact, she mentions them not at all.
Room for more? Good:
“I am suggesting that the clear political recentering of whiteness that I witnessed at the Golden Globes, amid all the funny moments and deserved tributes to good work, give lie to the liberal assertion that ‘all lives matter.’ When Common, a black man, stands and acknowledges that all lives matter, but white people stand and only acknowledge themselves, there is no integrity to the assertion of inclusivity.”
Once again, Cooper displays her acumen as a mind-reader. When whites proclaim, “All lives matter,” they’re lying because they all speak with one loud, prevaricating white voice. And when they’re not lying, they’re ignoring:
“[W]hite people simply refuse to acknowledge the brutalities we have all witnessed over these last months. Given this refusal of public acknowledgment, I am unsure what it will take to raise white liberal consciousness to an extent that will make a political difference.”
I am truly sorry to hear that Cooper was in a coma for the last several months, because that is the only thing that could possibly explain the above statement. Either that, or she is rejoining us after spending some time in an alternate reality because she’s obviously unaware of the protests participated in by people of all colors — including white — in places like New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington, D.C., Oakland, and elsewhere, not to mention the massive media presence in Ferguson where familiar (mostly white) television personalities hosted their news programs. If this isn’t acknowledgment, nothing is.
And please, do have some dessert:
“But I do expect some quid pro quo. If I defend the right of white women to call out a black man for rape, despite their own history of complicity in acts of sexual violence and state-sanctioned terror against black men, then I expect white folks to do the far more basic work of simply acknowledging that their lives aren’t the only lives that matter.”
Apparently, when Cooper defends the right of white women to accuse black men of rape, she expects something in return: acknowledgement that the victims are part of the problem — cogs in a juggernaut of white discrimination and oppression.
Sadly I have no alcohol to serve you, but please enjoy this culturally appropriated Cognac GIF so that you may drink it vicariously through the stylish sippings of Jay-Z: