Friday, July 8, 2011

Three Tremés by Adolph Reed Jr.

In Three Tremés | nonsite.org, Reed nails what's wrong with Treme the show, which I felt but couldn't identify. He gives me a new word to exploit, "identitarianism." And he says smart things like this:

"Simon was thus primed to lap up the touristic narrative of cultural authenticity. Since Katrina, that narrative has swirled together with the powerful imagery of an impoverished and abandoned black New Orleans, victimized by racialized inequality and injustice. Despite its symbolic power, that imagery was in some ways more apparent than real. For example, blacks were displaced by the flood at only a slightly higher rate than whites.11 And it was poor people of every race who were disproportionately stranded on overpasses and at the Superdome or convention center and who have had greatest difficulty in returning to the city, restoring losses and reconstructing a normal life. Although news footage of stranded black New Orleanians immediately called forth a familiar narrative of racial injustice, the immediacy and certainty with which perception of those images linked to this narrative contrasted with an utter vagueness concerning causal processes through which the inequalities are reproduced and why, therefore, they are most accurately or effectively characterized as specifically racial.12 Easy pieties like “black and poor victims of neglect” conveyed a generic sense of injustice but provided no clue as to its nature or sources, much less possible remedies. The dramatic imagery of the stranded and displaced, and the apparent urgency of the moment, overwhelmed capacity for sober reflection or interrogation of the pietistic declarations. Analogies to clearer, explicit forms of racial oppression like slavery or Jim Crow segregation commonly stood in for examinations of causes of manifest inequalities and strategic responses to them. That rhetorical move is not restricted to application of the discourse of racial oppression to post-Katrina New Orleans but is a conventional feature of black political discourse, across the ideological spectrum. A widely touted recent book attempts to understand mass incarceration as the “new Jim Crow,”13 and anachronistic allusion is the essential trope of reparations talk. In general its function and appeal lie in asserting continuity with regimes of explicit racial subordination in the past to support claims – in the absence of direct causal argument – that manifest racial disparities in the distribution of social and economic costs and benefits are best understood and addressed through the discourse of anti-racism."