Clarence X?

Malcolm X:

 The white conservatives aren’t friends of the Negro either, but they at least don’t try to hide it. They are like wolves; they show their teeth in a snarl that keeps the Negro always aware of where he stands with them. But the white liberals are foxes, who also show their teeth to the Negro but pretend that they are smiling. The white liberals are more dangerous than the conservatives; they lure the Negro, and as the Negro runs from the growling wolf, he flees into the open jaws of the “smiling” fox.

Clarence Thomas:

I was bitter toward the white bigots whom I held responsible for the unjust treatment of blacks, but even more bitter toward those ostensibly unprejudiced whites who pretended to side with black people while using them to further their own political and social ends, turning against them when it suited their purposes. At least southerners were up front about their bigotry; you knew exactly where they were coming from, just like the Georgia rattlesnakes that always let you know when they were ready to strike. Not so the paternalistic big-city whites who offered you a helpful hand so long as you were careful to agree with them, but slapped you down if you started acting as if you didn’t know your place. Like the water moccasin, they struck without warning—and now I had stepped within striking distance.



  1. Roquentin April 30, 2014 at 1:51 pm | #

    Among people who take radical positions there’s a strong psychological need for those they oppose to be as bad as possible. This is roughly similar to the defense mechanism of splitting. Their world view starts to fall apart if the people they oppose are no longer personified evil, and in some cases will support those who are directly harmful to them in the interest of sustaining an identity and worldview. This is certainly not limited to questions of race. In the era before the Russian revolution, there was a saying “the worse, the better” (alleged to be said by Cherneshevsky). For the above the circuit is simple. Either a white person is a bigot or if not so publicly, a closet bigot. All roads lead to the same conclusion, and that’s the entire point. If the goal is to play a Quixotic hero, this picture of the world works quite well. I won’t deny that there is some justification for this outlook, that racial conflict is not unlike class conflict and is an unavoidable fact of life.

    Lastly, former radicals becoming diehard reactionaries is also very common. Eldridge Cleaver and David Horowitz are two prime examples.

    • Benjamin David Steele April 30, 2014 at 2:24 pm | #

      Good point. Identity politics can be dangerous territory.

      There is the tendency to reify social constructs as permanent identities. The threat to identity politics is always the other. If your identity politics is about a black movement, then all whites are at least potentially a threat by definition and those who claim to be allies can be seen as the greatest threat of all.

      I was just reading an article that discussed some of these issues, specifically as they have worsened with the internet. The author focuses on how most people who use identity politics don’t understand its historical and ideological background. Instead, they just use it as simplistic rhetoric and to create solidarity, and also as a way to attack those deemed the out-group. It also leads to shallow understanding of issues.

      He isn’t talking about race in the following, but it’s the same basic issue no matter which identity politics are involved.

      “So much of what makes Social Justice Warriorism that is making up an increasing amount of Slate, Atlantic, and the New Yorker vapid is not that it is concerned with social justice, it is that is reflecting the inability of people to understand the actual assumptions of the jargon they use

      “[ . . . ] the dangers of this kind of reification, but even most of the so-called “SJWers” do not know the intellectual background [ . . .] They simply use them because they have been given simple activist definitions without the knowledge of the implied epistemological assumptions.

      “This is normal, but the use of the terms as click-bait increase the danger of both reification of these ideas counter to the claimed purpose of ending the “social construction” of such identities, and the endangering more subtle and sound arguments through vulgar jargonizing. While this was always a problem–way before the internet–the click bait culture of social media dramatically increases both the spread and superficiality of analysis.”

  2. jonnybutter April 30, 2014 at 2:21 pm | #

    I think Malcolm (in this particular passage) and Clarence are full of shit. Of course the white liberal boss Malcolm describes is dangerous to the ‘negro’, and it was a very dangerous and racist atmosphere in the north – but *more* dangerous? No. You know what they say: resentment is suicide.

    I think Malcolm got deeper about this stuff as he got older, no? Clarence, obviously not.

  3. Joel April 30, 2014 at 2:27 pm | #

    Perhaps no place more blatant than Chicago, where the Dems deserted to the GOP en masse after Harold Washington, loyal party rep for the black community, pulled off a coup and became the first black mayor by going over the party bosses’ heads to the electorate. Former Dem alderman Edward “Fast Eddie” Vrdolyak, who later did jail time – like so many other IL pols, and despicable weasel that he was – led the ship jumpers, whipping up as much backlash as possible in that festering cauldron of tribalism.

    Eventually, out of all this, a decade or so later, came one Barack Obama, who apparently believed he knew how to pull off compromises with vicious, powerful, white bigots. Sadly…

    • jonnybutter April 30, 2014 at 2:39 pm | #

      Everything you say is true – but is that worse than in the South in the 50s, 60s (when Malcolm is talking about)? Sorry, I think Malcolm was being rhetorical there.

      • nillionaire April 30, 2014 at 3:10 pm | #

        I think X’s comments should be read in the context of a white liberal establishment that had generally tolerated outright bigotry even when they didn’t exercise it themselves. The Dixicrats were part of the FDR coalition, and the left hadn’t truly rallied around the issue of civil rights until the civil rights movement was well underway.

      • jonnybutter April 30, 2014 at 3:33 pm | #

        agree Nillionaire. Rhetorical.

      • Joel April 30, 2014 at 5:16 pm | #

        I couldn’t say which is “worse”, but I agree Malcolm & Thomas seem to have been taking a rhetorical stance. That said, it’s not a bad stance if your goal is to administer shock and to position yourself as contrarian – not to be pigeon-holed.

  4. Jim Brash April 30, 2014 at 4:03 pm | #

    I don’t think it’s a completely rhetorical in hindsight. The riots and the response to them by whites were generally the same, north and south. Busing in northern cities were vehemently attacked by whites whom considered themselves conservatives and liberals alike. Today, you get similar responses to police brutality. Actually southern whites whom are generally more conservative are seemingly more appalled by it while northern liberals are seemingly indifferent.

    • Benjamin David Steele April 30, 2014 at 4:17 pm | #

      You could also consider the response by middle class and upper class blacks to working class or unemployed blacks, especially those with criminal records or who failed some social norm. The civil rights of prisoners was not taken as seriously, even among many blacks in the civil rights movement. It could be that a major difference here is simply class, which usually correlates to race, but not always.

  5. Jim Brash April 30, 2014 at 4:14 pm | #

    Also, Malcolm X is correct and not full of shit if we look at from a psychological perspective. Is it easier to defend or prepare for the frontal assault, than one from the rear. We all find the guy who puts the knife in your back while hugging you more dangerous than the guy running straight at you.

    • Benjamin David Steele April 30, 2014 at 4:21 pm | #

      But if you knife someone standing behind you out of fear he might knife you, it probably won’t lead to behavior that is beneficial. Instead, it likely would lead to self-destructive tendencies of paranoia and in-fighting. The federal government used something similar to this against the Black Panthers with COINTELPRO. It’s divide and conquer. Get people to attack their own allies and you can lwait for them destroy themselves.

  6. Russell Scott Day April 30, 2014 at 4:17 pm | #

    The thing to fight now is where all this still comes from and continues to hobble working people naive and sincere. The world got Sterling while on the campus of UNC-CH another Confederate monument stands everyday to teach the good while boy to fight for the white as his duty to his white mother.

  7. jonnybutter April 30, 2014 at 4:54 pm | #

    Is it easier to defend or prepare for the frontal assault, than one from the rear. We all find the guy who puts the knife in your back while hugging you more dangerous than the guy running straight at you.

    Is having no rights whatsoever comparable to being manipulated and used as a political interest group (however despised) by a white city boss? OK, *I’m* being a little rhetorical there. My bottom line: life might have been only marginally better in Northern cities like Chicago than in Slackjaw Mississippi, but ‘marginally’ counts. Easy to forget how bad it really was not very long ago in the South.

    BTW, I call BS on this: “Actually southern whites whom are generally more conservative are seemingly more appalled by [police brutality] while northern liberals are seemingly indifferent.” That is a very vague claim. A northern liberal just won as mayor of NYC running partially on ending stop+frisk. Are his betrayals – and they are sure to come – worse than the attitudes of a Ted Cruz or Louis Gomert (the gomer with a ‘T’)? And do you really believe nice white folks who started to vote for the GOP when Saint Ronnie ran, could care any less than they do about police brutality in Houston, Jackson, Birmingham, et. al? They don’t care at all. Talk about ‘indifferent’.

    And I notice Malcolm preferred NYC and Boston, not a city in the south.

    Just saying – sometimes stinking hypocrisy is a step *forward*, even if it’s tiny

  8. Jim Brash May 1, 2014 at 1:12 am | #

    I agree that a lil bit better trumps a whole lot worse. But a lot of black people came north looking for more than a lil bit better. A great life of opportunities and possibilities quickly proved to a mirage for many as the 60s became the 70s. Nobody new the new housing projects would become a nightmare. That all those industrial jobs would disappear. That the whites who could afford to leave the cities would. Funny thing about the times, I’ve seen many friends and relatives return to the south lately for many of the same reasons my grandparents left SC and GA for.
    As far as divide and conquer are concerned, the same BS continues. In one Malcolm’s later speeches, he talks about blacks from uptown connecting with whites from downtown creating an alliance that’ll transform America. Hopefully that wont be just rhetoric in our lifetimes.

    • jonnybutter May 1, 2014 at 7:08 am | #

      , I’ve seen many friends and relatives return to the south lately for many of the same reasons my grandparents left SC and GA for.

      I know that is happening a lot these days. But they’re different reasons, aren’t they? I guess you did say ‘many of the same reasons’.

      In one Malcolm’s later speeches, he talks about blacks from uptown connecting with whites from downtown creating an alliance that’ll transform America. Hopefully that wont be just rhetoric in our lifetimes.

      Malcolm was a greater person than I could ever dream of being – I don’t criticize him in a flippant way. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t make any major mistakes. Malcolm famously said so himself. Thomas seems to have just stuck with the resentment.

  9. BillR May 1, 2014 at 1:30 am | #

    It’s no great bother findind articulate Palestinians if anyone is interested in listening to them:

    Walid Khalidi:

    Joseph Massad:

    Haneen Zoabi:

    Edward Said:

  10. Diana May 1, 2014 at 4:00 pm | #

    I suspect sheer intellectual laziness, especially on the part of Thomas. After all, if you’re sure your enemy is so evil that even when he behaves the way you claim you want him to behave, that’s just more proof that he’s a lying evil enemy, then… never need pay attention to anything. Because if nothing can ever change, why bother learning anything new?

    And that can be an exceedingly convenient philosophy if you’re really rather not have to learn anything new.

  11. Joey Giraud May 2, 2014 at 9:26 am | #

    Here’s a white from the era that agrees with X.

    • jonnybutter May 2, 2014 at 10:08 pm | #

      ‘A white’?

      How does Ochs suggest that white liberals are more dangerous than southern conservatives? Yeah, he doesn’t.

      FWIW, I wish I hadn’t call this a ‘major mistake’ upthread. I do think it all that ‘white devlis’ stuff was a mistake, but it was an understandable one. I don’t understand Thomas, however.

  12. Glenn May 5, 2014 at 11:45 pm | #

    Democrats are worse than Republicans for working people because they say one thing to get votes but then do the opposite to get corporate funding.

    There was an anti-war movement while a Republican was president that ended with the election of a Democratic president. How can one organize to oppose a policy while those who verbally agree with you will consistently materially oppose you?

    Republicans overtly hate working people and Democrats proclaim their love for them while beating them with the same stick.

    Malcolm X and Thomas did not need to fabricate a rhetorical offering when it was presented to them as ready made factual reality for those who cared to see it.

  13. Claude Horvath May 15, 2014 at 12:17 pm | #

    Not having an email address for you, and just now coming across a ‘debate’ on climate change between Bill Nye and S.E. Cupp (whose interview of you brought you to my attention), I’m responding quite off-topic. Herewith, the link:

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