Much to my surprise, I’m with Benjamin Jealous of the NAACP on this Tea Party business this week. Jealous has called on the Tea Partiers to officially disavow the racists, such as there are, in the movement. I am pleased to see that he has been on good behavior—no melodrama, no exaggeration, no pretending it’s 1962 (which I read as one more sign that that style of race discussion is on the ropes). Complementing his call for the Tea Partiers to be explicit, he has been explicit in saying—admitting!
Jesse Jackson has never interested me much. I’m a little late out of the gate in commenting about Jackson’s latest diversion, analogizing LeBron James to a runaway slave in light of Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert’s sputtering about James’ departure to Miami. I’ve always been a little laggard in dogpiling on Jesse. When I first started writing about race, I quickly noted a certain cognitive dissonance: everybody expected the new cranky black “conservative” to have a Jesse obsession. I never did, and don’t now. He shouldn’t be news, really.
Most of the mainline reviews of Robert McCrum’s Globish – of which there have been so many so fast that I am in awe of his publicity people -- are missing what is fundamentally wrong with the book. Herewith one linguist’s take on this peculiar book, within which all evaluators seem to perceive a certain fuzziness, but few are catching that it is based on an outright error of reasoning and analysis – as well as an infelicitous volume of downright flubs. McCrum starts with the well-known fact that English is now the world’s de facto universal language.
I have held off on writing about Rand Paul’s take on the Civil Rights Act. Partly because I am finishing a book. But also because his idea that it shouldn’t have been made illegal for businesses, as private institutions, to discriminate strikes me as, oddly, both too interesting to sound off on without long-term reflection and too uninteresting to get excited about in the moment. Uninteresting because who among us really thinks that there will be a move any time soon to legalize segregation for American businesses?
For Richard Blumenthal to claim that he has been “misspeaking” in implying that he fought in Vietnam rather than obtaining multiple deferments and finally waiting things out in the Marine Reserves right here at home is repulsive. I am not exactly the first one out of the gate on that. However, he is also using language in the same way a great many Americans do when doing what they think of as The Right Thing. And as speakers of English always have – as well as speakers of any human language.
On Wednesday, TNR senior editor Ruth Franklin explored the way authenticity is played with in David Simon’s new HBO show, “Treme.” Here, John McWhorter offers his own, markedly different opinion on the subject. People can get irritating about their authenticity.
Why does Sarah Palin talk the way she does? Just what is this sort of thing below? We realize that more and more Americans are starting to see the light there and understand the contrast.
Not long ago, Tavis Smiley did something I would not have expected, which is rare. He announced that he was discontinuing his annual State of the Black Union conferences. These have been powwows where the Usual Suspects are invited to make the usual points: roughly decrying racism while genuflecting to the radical idea that people are responsible for repairing their own culture too.