Spiritually Liberal, Socially Conservative, Part IICulture — By George Davis on January 18, 2010 at 12:30
I remember a while back film director Quentin Tarantino said he was blacker than Spike Lee, I assumed it was because he uses the term motherf–er in his movies more often than Spike Lee does in his movies. “With the aestheticized violence, the influence of African American culture is apparent in much of Tarantino’s work,” said one film critic.
I wanted to read more on the aestheticized violence. According to Wikipedia, “University of Georgia literature professor Joel Black stated that “(if) any human act evokes the aesthetic experience of the sublime, certainly it is the act of murder.” Black goes on to note that “…if murder can be experienced aesthetically, the murderer can in turn be regarded as a kind of artist.” What?!
And now deposed Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich says in an expletive-strewn interview in Esquire Magazine: “I’m blacker than Barack Obama. I shined shoes…” Tarantino and Blagojevich are both liberal, extremely liberal.
I recently heard the 12-year-old son of a white liberal family, living in a solidly middle class neighborhood, tell his mother to “f off.” I guess some political liberals would say he is just identifying with black culture. Wow!
Far too often, even today, black people represent nothing more than statistics, slums, rapes, injustices, remote violence and hip hop music; and black folk should be tolerated, forgiven, and helped. This seems to be the aesthetic that drives much of political liberalism still. Or we should be exploited for whatever we can be used for; then quarantined and suppressed. That seems to be the misguided aesthetic upon which much of American political conservatism is based.
The problem is that “we” in the above paragraph is not us. That “we” is a shadow, as the psychologist of the inner self, Carl Jung, called it. This shadow reflects everything in the American mind that is unconscious, repressed, undeveloped, and denied. Some of the aspects of the American mind that the shadow reflects are positive and some are negative.
The shadow reflects a need to redeem, to save, and to identify with the downtrodden or the “cool”, on the one hand; and a need to condemn, to look down on, to cast out, or to destroy truths about self, on the other.
For a million different reasons in a million different circumstances in America the “we” serves a function that has no direct relationship to black people. The shadow is usually amoral, freer, inferior, superior, bigger, better, worse, shameful, shameless, or more corrupt. It is a white invention.
In many ways, and for many reasons, black folk accept the shadow as if it is us while fighting to keep it from becoming us. Black folk accept the shadow as if it is us in order to get the benefits from our country that cannot be gained otherwise. Governor Blagojevich did appoint the only black person now serving in the United States Senate. Our boys who can rhyme and spew rhythmic profanity at the same time did manage to make a lot of money in hip hop while also giving powerful statements about the destruction of our communities.
Liberals voting for the shadow might have provided the margin of victory for Obama in the 2008 election? Does what the shadow earn from conservatives account for most of the post-election venom against our president?
As I said in the original post, both liberals and conservatives took Barack Obama to be a raging left-wing radical. I think that Obama is, like the core of the African American population, spiritually liberal.. all God’s children got wings, but they all have to straighten up and fly right, but socially conservative.
Listen closely to Obama. He doesn’t say it’s the best thing to do. Saying you know what is best can imply a kind of liberal intellectual superiority or knee-jerk sentimentality (which I am too often guilt of). He says it’s the right thing to do. What’s right comes from an almost ritualized wisdom of the ages, true conservatism. We can learn much about who our President really is by looking closely at the woman who accepted him in marriage, our First Lady, Michelle Robinson Obama… what a blessing. Barack could not have been vetted by the family and gotten her to marry him if he had been too loosely liberal. Are you kidding me?
I know families like the Robinsons. They have been the backbone of the black community for generations. I’ll bet that Sasha and Malia get their homework done every night. I bet they do not watch what they wish to watch on television, and they cannot stay up late at night. They do not have freedom to use profanity. It is unlikely that they are even permitted to call grownups by their first names.
I watched the First Lady closely on television once as she touched each child she ushered into a room in the White House for a Black History Month celebration. Spiritually liberal… Counting each one of them as if each child was her own. “Mother count your children don’t let one get lost by the side of the road.” But I kept waiting for her to thrust her hand out, as my mother would have, for a non-conformist, like I was, to spit his chewing gum into her palm.
I cannot tell you how many still-flavorful pieces of gum I lost to one of these stalwart women. At its core African American culture is so illiberal that it frowns on children chewing gum in the presence of adults… Honestly!
Author: George Davis (14 Articles)
George Davis’ nonfiction novel, Until We Got Here: From "We Shall Overcome” to "Yes We Can" will be published in 2010. He has taught at Columbia, Colgate and Yale universities and is professor emeritus in creative writing at the Newark Campus of Rutgers University. He is author of the bestseller, Black Life in Corporate America, and the novel, Coming Home, upon which the Jane Fonda Vietnam War film is loosely based. He has been a writer and editor for Essence and Black Enterprise magazines, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.
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