This morning at around 3:00 a.m. or so the TV was on and it was tuned into the Fox News show Fox & Friends where they were talking about New York Representative Charles Rangel's "comedy routine...where he made a joke about President Bush and white supremacy." The anchor than went on to say, "So was New York Representative Charles Rangel wrong, or was he just razzing?" The anchor (a white female) than went on to a panel of two (white male) news analysts where she asked. "Is there a double-standard when it comes to who is allowed to poke fun and make jokes and who isn't and I don't see this going over as well with a white congressman making fun of and poking fun of Black power or something along those lines."
As soon as I heard this my ears perked up and I decided to watch to see what these two panelists had to say. Many whites tend to make an argument that all racism is the same and that all racism is, essentially, is thinking that one's race is superior to anther's and that other races are inferior. Yet many fail to realize that while racism does involve this much of racism (especially today) has to do with power and where those streams of power flow and whom holds power of whom. This especially comes in handy when looking at institutional racism and contemporary racism, especially in everyday life and how it effects people of color in everyday situations. We've especially seen this in previous posts with issues of the pervasiveness of "white beauty,", being singled out for higher scrutiny due to one's religious preference, and being singled out by law enforcement due to one's skin color.
Rich Galen, a GOP strategist, answered the question by stating that "Charlie Rangel is the Michael Richards of the Democratic Black Caucus and he can get away with it because, as you say, there is a double standard which everybody knows and you can either wring your hands...or work your way around it."
With that the other panelist, Ellis Henekin (I believe that is both their names because I don't have a transcript in front of me, I'm transcribing this while listening to audio), lets out a gasp of exasperation and stated that "when your approval ratings are at thirty and falling, people are gonna make some jokes about ya."
With that the other anchor (a Black male) states that they should go over what Rangel said, which was. "More than any other President that I can think of, you have really, truly shattered the myth of white supremacy."
Henekin states. "I can't believe that anybody could even be offended by this."
With this the anchor woman quipped back. "You can't believe it, really?"
"Are you shocked by this?" Henekin asks.
She than answers back. "I just think there seems to be a double standard both politically and racially because...didn't Trent Lott have to step down."
Henekin than blurted out, in disgust it seemed. "This is so far from Trent Lott." And he than goes onto say that it like if he was to make fun of his cousins and that it's OK for him to make fun of his own cousins but not anyone else. Which really didn't address the issue at hand.
Many whites seem to bring up the "double standard" argument when talking about race, whether it be the use of honky and nigger or affirmative action. Yet in a society where white privilege is built up upon the backs of people of color using the term double standard is very disingenuous, especially uttered from the mouths of white people, such as that anchor on Fox & Friends. For more on this you should read "Honky Want a Cracker?" by Tim Wise on our blog, which talks about this very issue of whites bringing up arguments such as "double standard" and "reverse racism." I'm only really going to touch on this issue very briefly since it will be touched on, no doubt, in more detail in latter blogs.
One can't equate Rangel to Richards and one can't equate his comment to Lott's because of many factors, including factors of white privilege and power. First off, Trent Lott was making a comment that if Senator Strom Thurman had been elected we wouldn't have had all of these problems in our country. What problems was Lott talking about? Well, to understand one has to look at Thurman, because when Thurman was running for president back in 1948 he was running on a platform of white supramacy and segregation. Secondly when Rangel was making a comment he was stating that, essentially, Bush was so dumb it undermines the argument by white supremacists (that is classic racist neo-Nazi types) that the white race is superior. In one Lott was arguing that if Blacks were segregating and had been "kept in check" there would have been no problems of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X and civil rights, etc. In another one Rangel was taking a jib at an unpopular president. Thirdly, to use the argument that white supremacy is the same as Black power is not only wrong but also racist. White supremacy is something that pervades our society to this day and privileges one group over another group through institutional racism and that was built off of the death and subjugation of people of color. Black power is in reaction to white supremacy (or white power) and is the complete opposite of white power. Black power is reclaiming one's humanity and identity as a Black woman or man in the face of a never ending onslaught of whiteness surrounding our society. Black power is making one feel proud of being a person of color instead of being ashamed. Lastly, white supremacy is propped up not only by ideology but also by the power structures of our society, corporate and government power, as well as in the media and everyday interactions with others.
The fact that Henekin didn't state this fact is quite disappointing. So while he was defending Rangel (in some parts strongly, in others weakly) he wasn't bringing up the real issues of why this was even being brought up in the first place and why that anchorwoman was even using the term "double standard" when in reality there is no such thing. Part of this had to do with time constraints, the whole conversation lasted no more than five minutes. Another part of this has to do with the fact that Henekin is white and a male and it would be safe to say he remains blind to his own white privilege and to white privilege in society. Again, I am not going into too much detail but there will be posts, especially an upcoming one by Carlo Montemayor on the differences between Pilipino pride and "white" pride (among others), in the future that will touch on this issue in more detail.