Take a tour with me of Salon.com?s four-part viral video festival of the ridiculosity of Cynthia McKinney, the soon to be ex-congresswoman from Georgia?s fourth congressional district (the fightin? fourth, as my good friend Steve Colbert would say). After it?s over, we?ll reconnoiter to consider the implications of making fun of obnoxious, narcissistic black women when they’re annoying in ways that have something to do with white people’s complicated, probably racist, but perhaps somewhat understandable resentments of obnoxious, narcissistic black women.
Video One: The Checkpoint Incident
The ?highlight reel? begins with ?Diary of a Mad Black Woman,? a long segment on The Daily Show in which Jon Stewart and Rob Corddry do their Daily Show thang with McKinney’s recent tussle with a Capitol security guard who didn?t recognize her as the congressperson-who-shall-not-be-asked-for-identification. ?This whole incident was instigated,? she says in a press conference, ?by the inappropriate touching and stopping of me, a female black congresswoman.?
Clip Two: The Checkpoint Incident: The Re-Mix
The highlight reel continues with a video "mash-up" of McKinney?s subsequent, ?awkward dust-up with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer,? in which she tells Blitzer that ?the issue is racial profiling,? and then, a few minutes later, tells Blitzer that she hadn?t said that the issue was racial profiling. The video cuts back and forth between McKinney saying that ?the issue is racial profiling? and then saying she didn?t say that. Throughout it all, she?s very condescending to Blitzer (which is understandable ? Blitzer being a enormous weenie ? but kind of icky to watch).
Destination Three: A Totally Unrelated Checkpoint Incident
This is a clip from a McKinney-friendly documentary in which yet another Capitol police officer, at another checkpoint, steps between McKinney and one of the Capitol office buildings. In this case the cop recognizes her in about four seconds, apologizes profusely, and allows her and the camera crew to proceed. ?That?s just the typical kind of treatment I receive,? says McKinney, ?So I?m not surprised, and I?m not offended. Some things never change. ? That?s what Tupac said.?
Destination Four: The Checkpoint Incident: The Aftershocks
The McKinney Film Festival concludes with a local news segment in which she forgets that her mic is still on, badmouths one of her aides, and then tries to bully the media — in a mesmerizing, authoritarian kind of way — into not reporting on her faux pas.
The Wrap-Up, In Which I Endeavor To Encapsulate Your Cultural Confusion in Eight Bullet Points
- We don?t like Cynthia McKinney. She?s only a national figure because she occasionally says dark, conspiratorial things about white people, and then blames the resulting hub-bub on white people and the media and their desire to diminish her because she?s a black woman/speaking truth to power/telling it like it is/etc.. She?s not a serious person. As of January of next year, when they inaugurate the next Congress, she won?t even be a congresswoman anymore, and good riddance.
- She?s absolutely right that she?s a target of mockery, condemnation and obloquy because she?s a black woman. There are at least 45 crazy old white guys in the House, and four or five in the Senate, who are saying crazy right-wing shit all the time, and we?ve never even heard of them because there?s no angle in it for the mainstream media, which is terrified that if they show some crazy cracker being crazy and cracker-ish they?ll be accused of condescending to the heartland. Show footage of an ineffectual black woman congresswoman from Georgia mau-mauing someone, however, and you’ve got low-risk ratings gold since there are always tens of millions of confused, self-loathing white people looking to get angry about black people without being labeled as racist.
- If it were just genu-wine racist white people who McKinney annoyed, it wouldn?t be very interesting. Hardcore racists, after all, aren?t presdisposed to like black women in the first place, so we expect them to resent McKinney. What?s interesting is the degree to which liberal white folk pro-actively delight in her public self-humiliation. Thus Salon?s ?highlight reel? of McKinney snafus. Thus Jon Stewart, responding to her ?racial profiling? press conference, saying, ?You know I hear you. I believe in judging people not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character ? and you seem batshit insane.?
- One of the consequences of living in an imperfectly integrated multi-cultural society — which is every multi-cultural society, now and forever — is that people will amass resentments of the cultures they?ve agreed to live side by side with because these other cultures, by the fact of being other cultures, don?t share all of their assumptions about the good life and therefore, by their very existence, represent an implicit questioning of the universality of their values.
- Furthermore, those resentments will tend to cohere around certain stereotypes of those other, somewhat alien cultures, and some of those stereotypes will have an element of truth to them (others will be complete fabrications and projections). There?s a black style of doing things, for instance, just like there?s a Jewish style of doing things and a Mexican style of doing things.
- Cynthia McKinney has a certain style of being narcissistic and obnoxious that inflects black. Joe Lieberman, who?s currently using Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to scare white Connecticut voters away from voting for Ned Lamont, has a style of being narcissistic and obnoxious that inflects Jewish. Dick Cheney inflects megalomaniacal old white man.
- Thus it’s hard to dislike Cynthia McKinney in a pure, non-racialized way.
- Thus when Cynthia McKinney violates the rules of polite public discourse, as she does with some frequency, she enables the media to offer her up as a sacrificial lamb to the white majority which is always looking for a way to vent some of its anti-black hostility without appearing racist.
The Wrap-Up Wrap-Up, In Which I Leave A Moral Dilemma Uncharacteristically Unresolved
So how do we process this? I don?t like McKinney. She?s not very likeable. Yet some of the character of my dislike is due to my general, free-floating resentment of a certain style of black womanhood which has a certain relationship to my insecure white ego. I should work to purge myself of this resentment, of course, but what should I do with it in the meantime? Is it possible that there?s something healthy about the way that Salon and Jon Stewart use comedy to give outlet to my (and presumably their) hostility without legitimizing racism? Or is that just an excuse?