this is a collection of meandering thoughts regarding the newest aspects of the CW/MHP controversy … personal, political, mean-spirited. some of this was said in private emails, others on facebook. i’ve tried to collect it and give it some semblance of coherence but i don’t pretend to have achieved it. so yeah…just some thoughts…
last year when the CW truthdig article was first released and MHP responded in The Nation with an attack of the character of CW, saying he was self-aggrandizing and whatnot. his truthdig piece said nothing about her at all, so i wondered then, as now, what the necessity of attacking his character was all about. it made possible an a priori dismissal of his critique of BHO because he talked about his “personal” .. because he lamented not getting tickets to the inauguration, because he stumped but felt stumped after the fact of BHO’s election. personal ish is never pretty…it’s always complex. so i’m ok with that. so though i found MHP’s critique of CW’s personal — without engaging the overtly political — to be strange, and “mean,” i then, as now, i defended her right to say ish about him that could be construed as “mean” … what intrigued me was how folks said that “the personal is political” and that though her piece in The Nation might’ve been animated by her personal, that it did not make her critiques unwarranted.
i do not wince at the personal nature of the argumentation…i think it is rather refreshing for someone to show that they were “hurt” by someone else’s actions, words, thoughts. so like, a genealogy of he CW/MHP thingy would take us back to 2011 when the truthdig article with CW was published. and it was cool because it held on to the personal aspect of his hurt while, at no time i think, letting go of the larger claims about the state of poverty and BHO’s refusal to do anything about it. it was on some “he disrespects me both on a personal and political level…” as evinced by the refusal of tickets to the inauguration and whatnot … the cool thing about personal lament is that they do not lend themselves to facticity, they cannot be examined as true or false, one has to enact a different modality of analysis.
i honestly feel that MHP’s critique did not engage with CW’s words about BHO in the truthdig article; it was a personal send-up of why no one should even engage with his critique in the main: because he’s privileged, because he’s classist. but i don’t agree. i don’t agree that this is about his privilege in the academe or on television, for example. i don’t think dude has been trying to get his own television show and it’s rather speculative and specious to reduce this to jealousy. when folks argued “ivy league privilege” last year, dude went to union theological seminary, pay cut and all. so it doesn’t appear that he’s simply tryna maintain some privileged position in academe, particularly given the fact that Michelle Obama is an alum of princeton…can’t have dude badmouthing BHO from the place they celebrate so much. it is important that we keep very readily in front of us the fact that CW might be the most well-known black leftist that is attempting to have a loud and sustained critique of BHO’s education, economic and jobs policies. the bus tour was lampooned by people, though it raised all sorts of awareness and was very successful.
so i wonder: why the personal is no longer political. why is it possible for MHP to be mean and for it to be championed but when he is mean [and yes, i do believe he was mean…i believe it was an attack to say she’s a "fraud" and "fake" and a "liar"], it is only sexism, it is chafing because he no longer sets “the black agenda” [as if he ever did, or ever claimed to do so]. it becomes this very weird sorta biologically determined understanding of feminism and sexism…that ones with bodies constructed in certain ways can only speak from the place of sexism and others with bodies constructed other ways are only speaking from necessary critique. it’s weird. and i just don’t agree.
the queer of color critique would really problematize the ways in which biological determinism allows for certain politics to be animated by personal claims while other politics cannot. if the personal is political only has utility for cis-gendered straight women, then it becomes impossible for others to ever engage in critique that is necessary and yes, sometimes mean-spirited. [this is not, however, a defense of meanness … but a desire for its utility to be applied equally or to be taken off the table as a possible modality of critique].
and then there’s the very quiet and accepted ageism that’s also foundational to a bunch of claims about CW being irrelevant, which i just find hella off-putting. he’s old. he’s done this for a long time. like, i’m unwilling to dismiss Bill Cosby because of his age even though i RADICALLY am opposed to his ideas about poor [black] folks, pudding and naming conventions. but somehow, these things get reduced to old men’s jealousies of some new generation. and is just feels…odd.
[i’m cool on Boyce Watkins because, well, i don’t really get down with him for a bunch of reasons; and i think he posted portions of the article for personal publicity. which is whatever. i *do* think folks saying that he’s “non-tenured” as some sorta reason he should be dismissed is rather … weird and is grounded in some sorta desire to be validated by a university, tenure-track that often is hella problematic. but that’s neither here nor there.]