11 April 2006

Legislating While Black

“Legislating While Black” is Ruth Marcus’ piece to-day in the Washington Post. The lesson is simple, there is some racism behind the McKinney/Capital Hill Police fight. Marcus does dispel, albeit by agreeing with dispellers, the “overt” racism, but then qualifies the mess as caused by “deeply embedded” racism.

Please. The Washington Post is going the educate me about “deeply embedded” racism? This is not a new lesson. While at it why doesn’t Marcus teach me about not hitting police officers, oh wait, she does. I have no problem with what Marcus writes in this piece, except that it would be better served in my doctor’s copy of Highlights. This is elementary. That is why people are so pissed at McKinney, not because she was the victim of racism, but because she initially claimed it was “overt” when everyone knows it was not. People are also pissed because she struck a cop who was only doing his job, albeit arguably poorly.

Marcus should have done some more discussion about this “deeply embedded” racism. Maybe she or her editors don’t know where to look for this issue in the literature, here are some suggestions: search for the term “whiteness” and/or read some books by bel hooks (if for no other reason than to understand why she does not capitalize her name).

This is a serious issue and needs some more examination. Not only did Marcus not provide the necessary coverage, but she does not even lead people to think there is more out there, that there is not more “deeply embedded” thought to explore.

10 April 2006

Where is the radical position in debate?

Despite from the redundancy of the question (the radical is already a position, a space which is positioned opposite the non-radical, the normal) it is an important question to ask. Zizek’s latest book offers a clue as to where the radical is located:

[W]e should assert antinomy as irreducible, and conceive the point of radical critique not as a certain determinate position as opposed to another position, but as the irreducible gap between the positions itself, the purely structural interstice between them. (2006, 20)

Fair enough, I guess for that evaluation would require further reading of the book as well as some background reading that has yet to be done on my part, but where does this irreducible position lie in a debate? I argue it lies not with the negative but with the self-effacing move of non-affirmative. It is only with the self-effacing move that the move gains credibility, otherwise it is seen as self-serving in a strategic environment. See Jameson’s discussion of the self-effacing move as the one that can truly be utopian politics.

So, in the debate between Roe and Wade, the radical position lies not in Roe’s freedom now in Wade’s communitarianism, but in a place between, a non-participation in the debate. A call of bullshit, the voice against the War in Iraq (in some context’s also not a radical critique) becomes radical for its non-participation in the debate.

The problem though is best illustrated in Iran. The young radicals did not participate in the recent elections, because they wanted to stay in the radical place. But, the result was backwards. Instead of challenging the structure, those non-radicals did vote and the structure was reinforced. Now Iran is looking at a world that is anachronistic and antithetical to the young radicals’ wishes. Material conditions have worsened, but damn those radicals are now further empowered in their moralizing “We Told You So”. This is thrue desire of the radical, to be more credible in their moralizing. If an improvement of material conditions were the true desire then they would not occupy the radical position and instead adopt a reformist position.

Is this non-materialist stance not truly appropriate for a debate round however? The material conditions are not affected but only imagined, fantasized, regardless of the outcome of the ballot. Why then would debate not be the best forum for a “swing for the fences” mentality?