Donald Trump the Fascist – Part II

Donald Trump the Fascist – Part II

by

Howard Adelman

Conrad Black in his biography Richard M. Nixon (2007) informed us that, in the 1950 California Senate race, Helen Gahagan Douglas accused her opponent, Richard Nixon, of advocating “nice, unadulterated fascism.” In this morning’s blog, I implied that few of Donald Trump’s American critics had suggested an identification of Donald Trump with fascism. A reader commented that a Google search in 38 seconds revealed 559,000 results connecting Donald Trump with fascism. However, very few Americans claim that DT is a fascist. They generally equivocate in the endless stream of commentary and analysis of Donald Trump. The analogy hangs in the air, but generally does not land on his head.

Trump has been called a proto-fascist and his post-truth is labeled as pre-fascism. Few Americans label him outright as a fascist.  For some, such as Sheri Berman, a political science professor at Barnard College and an expert on the rise of fascism in 1930s Europe, this is because he is a populist, but not one that conforms to four basic characteristics of fascism. (See her article, “Donald Trump isn’t a fascist,” (www.vox.com/…/1/3/14154300/fascist-populist-trump-democracy.) For her, Trump was not an ardent pro-nationalist, wherein the individual is in service to the nation; he does not view the nation as an “organic entity”. Trump does not possess a suspicion of capitalism. He may to some degree be overtly anti-liberal, but he is not anti-democratic rooted in the belief that the people must be led by a strong leader since American democracy as inefficient, unresponsive and weak. Finally, although Trump fails to reject violence unequivocally and will even urge police officers not to protect the heads of those arrested when throwing them in the back seat of a squad car, he does not advocate the use of violence as both a means and an end. In any case, fascism comes to power through revolutionary conquest not the ballot. In the rise of populism, there is a gradual erosion of democratic norms and institutions rather than undermining them through radical revolution.

But this is to confuse the rhetoric of fascism at a particular time with its core tenets. Such a definition gives pre-eminence to the tumultuous environment of hopelessness that gave rise to fascism in the 1930s. Berman argues that, although Trump bears a similarity to fascism in promising to protect Americans from the pernicious effects of foreigners and the disruptions of globalization and free trade that have, in his eyes, decimated America as a manufacturing centre, these are populist appeals common to both fascism and populism. But a populist does not a fascist make. Nor are the conditions – such as military defeat and economic depression – ripe for the rise of fascism.

A Toronto Star (2 April 2016) article by Olivia Ward asked, “Is Donald Trump a fascist?” and opined that “Donald Trump’s strong-armed call to keep Mexicans and Muslims out of America echoes last century’s fascist governments.” Ward cited young historian, Fedja Buric, from Bellarmine University in Kentucky, a specialist on the rise of fascism as the successor to Tito’s communism in Yugoslavia. Buric insisted that Trump was merely the face of fascism in America. He even compared DT with Benito Mussolini. New Republic editor Jamil Smith declared unequivocally that, “yes, Donald Trump is a fascist.” But Buric and Smith were foils for Ward who insisted that, “the jaw-jutting reality star doesn’t quite squeeze into the classic 20th-century mold.”

Even earlier than 2016, on 3 December 2015, Ross Douthat in The New York Times had asked, “Is Donald Trump a fascist?” based on his illiberal musings about Muslims and his blatant lying? Douthat even cited Jamelle Bouie in Slate who, referring to Umberto Eco in turn, “argued that Trumpism, however ideologically inchoate, manifests at least seven of the hallmarks of fascism…a cult of action, a celebration of aggressive masculinity, an intolerance of criticism, a fear of difference and outsiders, a pitch to the frustrations of the lower middle class, an intense nationalism and resentment at national humiliation, and a ‘popular elitism’ that promises every citizen that they’re part of ‘the best people of the world’.” Bouie was born in Virginia and I should have qualified my words about most Americans being reluctant to label Trump as a fascist, for Boule is a Black Virginian and Black Americans seem to disproportionately recognize fascism when they see it.

For those who eschew applying the fascist label to Donald Trump, America historically provided poor soil for fascism given the American conservative tradition of “a libertarian skepticism of state power, a stress on localism and states’ rights, a religious and particularly Protestant emphasis on the conscience of an individual over the power of the collective — that inoculated our politics against fascism’s appeal.” However, DT lacked the inoculation against that contagion because he was not an ideological conservative. In spite of the similarities of DT to Eco’s seven identification markers, and in spite of the fact that DT resisted any vaccination against the pox, neither religion, which for him is purely instrumental, nor Perot’s economic nationalist libertarianism and love of small government, nor, finally, Wallace’s deep racism and local and regional chauvinism, were available to save him from infection, for like a fascist, l’état c’est moi, Trump clearly is not averse to centralization as long as he is at that centre. Nevertheless, Douthat concluded that DT was at best a proto-fascist at one end of the conservative spectrum. “Trump may indeed be a little fascistic, but that sinister resemblance is just one part of his reality-television meets WWE-heel-turn campaign style. He isn’t actually building a fascist mass movement.”

Ishaan Tharoor in The Washington Post (28 March 2017) wrote that, “nobody invoking the ‘analogy’ seriously believes the hideous slaughters of another era are imminent.” Not much comfort. Tharoor went on to identify DT’s “reactionary platform in sync with xenophobic rhetoric and the extremist far right politics of Europe. But this just meant that, “The shadow of an earlier moment of demagoguery seems to unavoidably loom over the national conversation.”

The issue is not that there are no American commentators that called DT a fascist, but that the vast majority avoid, for very different reasons, labeling him with the fascist designation and draw back even at the last minute from knighting him as such. Douthat thought that, although DT had not been inoculated against fascism, conservatives in the Republican Party were and would refuse to embrace him if he overtly takes on those traits.

How wrong he was. Further, as my blog tomorrow will indicate, I want to insist that DT’s fascism goes much deeper than the above merely superficial resemblances to fascist performers.  Trump is philosophically a fascist and it is as a philosophical fascist that he is able to wrap conservatives around his little fat pinky.

I am aware that scholars of Italian fascism, such as historian Enzo Traverso, the Susan and Barton Winokur Professor in the Humanities in the Department of Romance Studies at Cornell University, argue that identifying Trump “through the old category of fascism” is not only misleading but useless (World Policy Journal “Trump’s Savage Capitalism: The Nightmare is Real,” 34:1, Spring 2017, 13-17). This scholar insisted that, despite Trump defining himself as the charismatic leader and despite his speeches and meetings having “an incontestably fascist taste,” the fascist analogy remains superficial involving only Trump’s personality. “Fascism is reducible neither to the temperament of a political leader nor to the psychological predispositions of his followers. The fact is that Trump does not lead a mass movement; he is a TV star.”

Isabel Hull, the John Stambaugh Professor of History and colleague of Traverso at Cornell, pointed out that some of the things that paved the way for fascism in Germany are repeated now, such as a weak government that was intentionally undermined by its elites, and “a highly stove-piped national press, such that people only heard and saw what they already thought, and that should sound familiar though it now comes in a different mode.” Another similarity, Isabel Hull pointed to at the Cornell symposium on “Trump and Fascism,” was that Hitler, like Trump, “had no regard for bureaucracy or law or regularity or policies. Under National Socialism, that system of government made it flexible, adaptable, but also self-radicalizing and ultimately completely self-destructive.”

However, for these thinkers, although there are significant analogies, the identification is just not there. Trump is not an imperialist. Rather than arguing for military expansionism, DT is an isolationist. What drives him is his personal business interests and his family. Xenophobic and reactionary, yes; fascist, no. Populism, not fascism, explains DT.

Without denigrating the role of populism and without insisting that DT exhibits all the expressions of fascism in the 1930s. I suggest that DT is at his core a philosophical fascist and not simply a behavioural one or even that some of his behavioural traits share a kinship with fascism.

I make this assertion, not as a scholar of philosophical fascism, but because of knowledge by acquaintance. When I co-taught the graduate course on Hegel at York University, my colleague was the late Professor Henry Silton Harris, H.S. Harris or simply Harris as he was called by his colleagues and friends. He was and remains the foremost Hegelian scholar in the world. What few seem to know was that his PhD thesis was on Giovanni Gentile, subsequently published as, The Social Philosophy of Giovanni Gentile: with a bibliography (1962).

Gentile, already a widely recognized philosopher in Palermo and then Pisa, Italy, before Benito Mussolini came to power in 1922, became Minister of Education in the first Mussolini government of 1923 and ghost wrote Mussolini’s A Doctrine of Fascism (1930). His own philosophic identification with fascism and the characterization of its essential precepts were inscribed in his volume, The Origins of the Doctrine of Fascism. The fascist themes were also indicated in his break with Croce, the intellectual founder of positivism, the doctrine that science provides the model for all thought and explanation, more fundamentally, that all thought is rooted in sense experience.

With the help of Alex Zisman

 

Rachel Dolezal and Racism Redux

Rachel Dolezal and Racism Redux

by

Howard Adelman

In response to my article on Rachel Dolezal and Racism, I received two important items in response. One by Cecil Foster is reprinted below and repeated as an attachment. The other goes to the heart of the issue of deception, the letter from the Executive Producer of KXLY News explaining their role in the affair. The letter of explanation can be found at:

http://www.kxly.com/news/spokane-news/rachel-dolezal-the-story-behind-the-story/33608002

Rather than clearing up the matter, the open letter indicates that the local media station approached the matter within two frames, that of somatic Blackness that I described, which is a matter of philosophical analysis and not just given facts, and suspicion that Rachel was dissembling about allegations of racial harassment. With regard to the first issue, the news outlet noted that, “we and other journalists heard rumblings that Dolezal was not being truthful about her race.” In other words, to be truthful is to publicly display that you are not genetically Black when your whole point and belief is that Blackness is NOT about race, but rather that race as a biological construct is a prime source of the problem. The issue for the news outlet was that the anonymous callers had no proof that Rachel was not biologically Black when a simple check of her records at Howard University would have established that she considered herself to be a genetically and biologically white woman when she had been a student and had not yet come to see that this way of categorizing the issue was part of the problem.

On the second matter of whether Rachel was lying or telling the truth to police about racial harassment complaints, the letter points to evidence that does not substantiate their suspicions, but that there was no proof of Rachel lying. So why is this part of the account except to provide additional ammunition on the main story line, that Rachel Dolezal was a dissembler.

On the first issue, the Executive Producer of News at the station wrote, “Humphrey [Jeff Humphrey, a senior reporter at the station] heard from a trusted source that there was more to Dolezal’s story. Specifically, that Dolezal had been lying about her race and misleading her employers, the city of Spokane, her students and the community.” In other words, the story focus became whether Rachel Dolezal was being open and honest about her race, even if she questioned the very framework of the question. It is clear that this News Media either did not wish to or was incapable of raising that issue about its own query.

That is when, so to speak, the “shit hit the fan.” “Humphrey reached out to her parents in Montana – on a phone number found through a simple search – and, they confirmed what the source had said: Dolezal is a white woman, born to white parents, with childhood photos and the birth certificate to prove it.” This simply confirmed that, contrary to the difficulty they claimed about ascertaining Rachel’s genetic roots, the answer could easily be found. What they did not do was ask why that was an important question and, even further, what was behind asking such a question. Then they might have confirmed that Rachel Dolezal believed that genetics was irrelevant to being Black and they could have written a much more interesting though more difficult to grasp story on that subject. The story that Rachel was simply a liar is far easier to convey. In my view and in my categories, if we are to reject the “one drop rule” and the premise of racism altogether, then depicting Rachel as a white woman is the source of the misrepresentation.

Now wait a minute, you might insist, are you saying she is not White? Yes. I am saying three things: 1) that she is certainly not White culturally; 2) she rejects being White as an aspiration; 3) the very premise of someone being genetically White is itself a fraud. It is the failure of the media outlet to question its own framework and premises that is far more important than whether Rachel Dolezal was trying either to disguise or to avoid the question of whether her parents were white.

Just read the triumphalist tone of the Executive Producer’s account of what took place. “As the world has now seen, Jeff confronted Dolezal and she stumbled, saying she didn’t ‘understand the question’ about whether or not she was black. She walked off the interview and we knew we had the next piece of our story.” How does one handle an interviewer who, stricken with mindblindness, refuses even to consider that his frame for asking his question may be misguided. Rachel was not and is not a philosopher, though she is very articulate. But she does stumble when trying to cut through the racial framing of one reporter after another. I am surprised, given how frustrating it must be for her, that she does not blow up and tell them how dogmatic and misguided they are. Instead, she retains her cool.

The Executive Producer then concluded, “At that point, it was shocking and confirmed our source’s information (and her parents’ information), but we needed to put it in context, prove why it mattered.” Did they ever establish why it was shocking, except to anyone steeply rooted in obsolete somatic racial stereotyping? No. Did the news station ever establish why it mattered, except to insist repeatedly that not openly owning up to one’s supposed genetic roots was deception. But what if you deeply believe that genetics is irrelevant to the issue? What if you get tired and frustrated that the reporters fail to open up to the fact that the way they ask the question is misguided and reinforces racism?

The account then goes on. “By the time we were ready to put Dolezal’s interview out to the world, Spokane Mayor David Condon issued a statement, saying the city was investigating Dolezal’s ethics in relation to the police oversight committee and we had a solid news hook.” Why was the news hook not an inquiry why Mayor Condon was investigating the issue in the first place? Had Rachel committed a crime? Was she even guilty of moral turpitude? She refused to engage in a discussion in terms of her identity based on racial stereotyping. I find that perfectly understandable, though it would not be a tactic I would personally choose.

“Our story – his interview – blew up. At once, this once-respected teacher, leader and advocate became a national punchline.” The fact that this Executive Producer was never able to conceive of a frame that rose above racial stereotyping is the real story. The fact that this was another case of using the media to create mass hysteria over something totally irrelevant to bring down someone whom the Executive Producer agrees was a respected teacher, leader and advocate, is the real story.

The mindblindness of KXLY News and most of the media coverage in the United States, including very highly regarded journalists, is the real story.

The account concludes as follows:

“So, why does it matter? Our community was misled. We trusted this voice to speak for those without a voice. We trusted her to teach our students. We stood by her when she said she and her family were targeted and afraid. We rallied alongside Dolezal and her family in front of city hall, with community members carrying signs of support. We’re a trusting community and she broke that trust.” But where did she break that trust? In her performance? In her refusal to accept the categories of racism fostered by the station’s own questions? And the fall out of the media failure is terrible, not only for Rachel, but for the community which will have learned little except to encourage people to be less trusting of what others say and not being able to ask questions about the presumptions behind their own questions. And it is very troubling for the role of journalists. “What did we, as journalists, learn from this? Trust your gut.In my interpretation, this means that you should surrender to the prejudices you carry with you in your mind and mental framework rather than learning how to analyze and question them. According to the Executive Producer, if you cannot trust your gut, you will never be able “to put news in context for the people you serve.”

That erroneous conviction is the story, and the Executive Producer missed it.

Now for Cecil Foster’s Response to My Essay on Rachel Dolezal

He first note I received was very brief:

“Thanks for sharing this interesting piece.  It is (by far) the most illuminating thing I’ve read about this case. It deserves a WIDE readership.  Has it been loaded onto any of the customary social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn)?  I’d like to forward/tweet it if possible.”
Cecil then sent a much longer and even better take on the story than I provided as follows:

Dear Howard,

I think you are justified in holding fast to your views on Rachel Dolezal. You might not be in the majority—and neither am I even among some black friends and academic contemporaries—but you are reasoned and justified. Of course being in my company might not be much of a consolation.

The two main events of the past week that caught our attention in a big way—Rachel Dolezal and the Mother Emanuel Church massacre/terrorism—are cut from the same cloth. Rachel Dolezal and Dylann Roof make us confront the meaning of an identity like black and blackness and what it means in the modern world.

1) Rachel Dolezal came into the black community, got to know it well, indeed, intimately. She willingly became a daughter of the community through marriage and produced for the community—not mixed race, transracial, postracial, half white, half black—but two black sons. She took on the mannerisms of black culture, spoke the lingo and even put a kink in her hair—and as every man of any colour or ethnicity knows, you don’t mess with a black woman and her hair. She joined the cause of the black community for social justice and took on a leadership role, ultimately heading up a local chapter of NAACP. When she had a choice of identity, she always said I am black. She lived black at a time when even some who were supposedly born black and never had to worry about this ascription were moving away from blackness. She fully embraced blackness. Like a modern woman joining a family through marriage or a profession of love, Dolezal became one with the community, took its name/identity, and out of her own body produced the fruits that would carry on the name and identity—not of her former affiliates—but of her preferred community and family. Her past might have been with others, and over that she had no say, but her future was/is with the black community. She sought to give the black community life from generation to generation and in a world of social justice.

Dylann Roof came into the black community. He was welcomed, as relatives of the slaughtered testified, with opened arms. He entered the inner sanctuary of blackness in America: the black church, choosing one of the most historic in the nation. He sat with those poring over the finer points of the community’s most holy text. They exposed him to their thinking and reasoning. He was taken into the heart of the faith that supposedly is the bedrock of black culture. They invited him to stay and share and to learn—to know and understand liturgical things that even many authentic members of the black community do not know or have forgotten. He was allowed to drink deep from this inner well. He endured it for almost an hour. He was distilled in the faith that was instilled in him. He was being initiated. The experience was so good, for he was treated so well by everyone, that he almost changed his mind from completing his “mission.” My belief is that they would have even offered him an altar-call, or would have invited him to come again for further preparation, so that eventually, when such a call came, he would accept and in the twinkling of an eye be transformed into a full member of the black church and community. They were all so nice to him, he said. But he pulled out his gun and slaughtered nine of them, hoping this would be the beginning of a reign of death on blackness. He did not transform—he remained a somatically white man with mythologically the most deadly of weapons “a black heart—evil.” That is the story of one type of the “other” who comes among the people (the initiated) in any known human, and sometimes, animal form, but who is only Evil. Only the heart makes the Other different from the people. In every black community there are stories about black-hearted men. Check out August Wilson’s play Joe Turner Come and Gone and those who stole the black men of the community. Remember the founders of the first black republic in the Americas. Those Haitians said based on the purity of their heart and their good works that the Poles and Germans among them, though somatically white, were black because they fought for the revolution and freedom from slavery for all. They said all slave owners—and some were black— regardless of somatic colour, were white. Roof wanted death for the black community. He was blackhearted. In this case it is clear who is black and who is white here.

2) Let us shift to an ethno-racial register where we try to make sense of this identity issue based on “hard facts” of genes and nature and biology rather than mythology. Perhaps Dolezal is teaching her parents—and by extension much of white America as historians as early as Van Woodward told them—that they aren’t what they think they are. So Dolezal’s parents outed her: they claimed the ancestry they gave her is a mixture of various eastern European bloods with some Native American added in. We know that for a long time much of Eastern, and even parts of Western Europe, were ethnically and racially black. In an Anglo-Saxon dominant world, which was the early North American formation, all but Anglo-Saxon Protestants were black. Indeed, the Hungarians, Italians and Irish—as well as the wandering Jew of any complexion—only recently escaped into whiteness from being black. If the KKK, Skinheads and the likes of Roof were to have their way, some of them would be kicked right out of whiteness pronto. But the parents say more—that there is a commingling of Caucasian and Native American. So after they were brought into whiteness as Caucasians there was degeneration: the Native American. Which means that somewhere in Dolezal’s past there would have been a “Half-breed,” and by the one-drop rule of Modernity, all “half-breeds” were black and so black that, as the unnatural product of superior and inferior races, the product had to be for evermore of the inferior identity. The family could, genetically, never be white/Caucasian again. Not only are Rachel and her sons black by Modernity’s miscegenation rules, but so are her parents. But that would not surprise us since the southern historians have long told us that technically almost all (southern in particular) whites in the U.S. are really black genetically.

3) This leads to the question of who is “authentically” black. And for some time we have acknowledged that there is no objective proof or that authenticity truths are not self-evident. So we moved to the solution of self-identification. You are who you tell me you are as only you can know yourself genuinely and I take your word for it until proven otherwise. Authenticity is proven analogously. We are all innocent until proven guilty—the guilt coming from our actions to portray the black heart within; or our innocence is proven by our personality of producing actions that could only flow analogous from a pure heart. Dolezal says she is black. What is the evidence against her to prove otherwise: that she “deceptively” acted to further blackness acting as if she were black and that she was so good at it that she darn well fooled everyone for so long. Why analogously her action would make us believe that she is what she said she was!!! Go figure. Roof identified as a white racist intent on destroying black people. He had the opportunity to change and walk away: he chose to be authentic to his whiteness. His actions confirmed the person he self-identified as truly Dylann Roof. No doubt here—he said he was what his actions proved; she said she was what her actions proved.

Modern society treasures, and is organized around, the ideal of freedom, especially freedom of choice. Ultimately, we are who we choose to be. Choice is at the heart of self-determination and particularly progressive freedom. As a modern being I can choose not to die the person I was born. I can change, and change as many times as I want, while searching for the ideal me. A truly free modern man/woman is a self-made. As creatures of a culture of freedom Dolezal and Roof made choices; they made themselves: Dolezal’s to be black and kind hearted; Roof to be white and blackhearted.

Finally,  black/blackness are in the end mere identities—empty signifiers. We are constantly emptying out old content and putting in new. Gay no longer simply means happy, and neither does fairy, or slut have negative connotations. The transgendered are who they know they are in their head regardless of how they look, smell, taste or appear to us. Barack Hussein Obama, the child of white and black parents, might never be black enough because he never lived in the projects and did not live the deep social inequalities of that lifestyle; nobly in his ancestry, he never lived on the “real” plantation. But then for those saying Obama is not black enough, neither are West Indians, even though their ancestors were on the plantations, for they have English, French, Spanish and other European mannerisms that make them less than American. Modernity is constantly killing off the old signified and refilling with new to give new meaning, or to argue a perspective. So is the case of black/blackness.

To my reasoning Dolezal is black even if she is not African-American. But then again, someone like me is deemed unquestionably black even though I am not African-American. African-American is a totally different social construction from black and perhaps that is the problem here: that too many people are conflating the two terms and thereby mishearing Dolezal when she says she is black.

Cecil Foster, PhD

Professor and Interim Chair

Department of Transnational Studies

732 Clemens Hall

SUNY at Buffalo

Buffalo

New York 14260

United States

Tel: (716) 645-2082 & 716-645-0786

Fax: (716) 645-5976

Website: www.cecilfoster.ca

Recent books:

http://www.mqup.ca/genuine-multiculturalism-products-9780773542563.php

http://www.harpercollins.ca/books/Independence-Cecil-Foster/?isbn=9781443415057

Obama 24: Obama in Black and White 10.03.13

This is the culmination of my Obama series. It is an easy, shorter and hopefully enjoyable read. You can read it to your kids. I`d love your feedback. Howard

Obama 24: Obama in Black and White 10.03.13

by

Howard Adelman

Morgan Freeman famously said that, “America’s first black president hasn’t arisen yet. Obama’s not America’s first black president — he’s America’s first mixed-race president.” People "just conveniently forget that Barack had a mama, and she was white – very white, American, Kansas, middle of America. There was no argument about who he is or what he is." (Quoted by Kristen A. Lee, New York Daily News, 11 July 2012) Somatically, Freeman is perfectly correct. However, in terms of character, Obama may not be black at all or he may be black and white in a very different sense than Freeman meant it.

Recall that it was widely held that Bill Clinton was America’s first black president. Not somatically, of course. Nor even in the way that Toni Morrison meant it when she famously wrote her 1998 (October) New Yorker essay, "Clinton as the first black president". For, as she later clarified, "I was deploring the way in which President Clinton was being treated, vis-à-vis the sex scandal that was surrounding him. I said he was being treated like a black on the street, already guilty, already a perp." (Quoted in Justin Dews, "Toni Morrison On Calling Bill Clinton The First Black President And Endorsing Obama," (05/16/08)

Clinton was America’s first black president in far more than the way he was treated. "White skin notwithstanding, this is our first black President. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime. After all, Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas. And when virtually all the African-American Clinton appointees began, one by one, to disappear, when the President’s body, his privacy, his unpoliced sexuality became the focus of the persecution, when he was metaphorically seized and bodysearched, who could gainsay these black men who knew whereof they spoke? The message was clear ‘No matter how smart you are, how hard you work, how much coin you earn for us, we will put you in your place or put you out of the place you have somehow, albeit with our permission, achieved. You will be fired from your job, sent away in disgrace, and–who knows?–maybe sentenced and jailed to boot. In short, unless you do as we say (i.e., assimilate at once), your expletives belong to us.’" (Toni Morrison)

This view of Clinton as America’s first black president was initially regarded as clever but condescending and almost insulting, certainly of those who treated Clinton so shabbily. However, the truth of the assertion came to be recognized at a much deeper level. First, Blacks responded to Bill Clinton as if he were Black, Second, Clinton’s treatment of and relationship to Blacks was unprecedented in American history that went well beyond his being born as a member of a poor family in Arkansas (see Suzy Hansen, "Why blacks love Bill Clinton," Salon, 20 February 2012):

· Quoting Toni Morrison, "Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas"

· Though FDR and LBJ passed the most important legislation that benefitted African Americans, Clinton appointed far more Blacks to senior policy positions than any previous president – this went well beyond appointments such as Ron Brown as Secretary of Commerce to include his most intimate staff: his budget director, his director of public outreach, his deputy chief of staff, his liaison between the White House and Congress

· Clinton, unlike Obama, grew up hanging out with black kids when he grew up in Hope, Arkansas

· Clinton identified with black music and black culture

· Most important, he connected personally and up close with African Americans and even as President would drive across town to a Black restaurant to eat soul food, chitlins and hang out with Blacks with whom he felt totally at home

· Alexis Herman who headed the Women’s Bureau in the Labor Department tells the story of her visiting Little Rock with Ernie Green who was an assistant secretary of labor when Bill Clinton was Governor on the occasion of Clinton`s honouring the Little Rock Nine who led the integration of Little Rock High School; afterwards Clinton invited them both to hang out in the Governor’s mansion, ordered ribs from a black take-out, picked up some six packs and they all talked well into the night about music, growing up, family and friends (cf. DeWayne Wickham (ed.) Bill Clinton and Black America)

· In Passage to India, E. M. Forster wrote "only connect" and Bill Clinton connected on a personal and intimate level with African Americans

· With the exception of Black academics, social and political activists, the vast majority of Black Americans supported his efforts at welfare reform and attempts to cut out fraud

· The most important issue to Blacks is probably education, and Bill Clinton as Governor of Arkansas oversaw the total reform of the educational system in that state so that it went from one of the worst to the very best system

· Blacks even recognized his sexual peccadilloes as Black and radically other than the high level white collar crimes of corrupt defence contractors, of bilking banks of billions in quasi-fraudulent mortgage lending and even in overseas wars that kill hundreds of thousands but make fortunes for those in what Eisenhower dubbed the military-industrial complex

· When he left the presidency, the Clintons settled in Harlem

Let me expand on the second last point. Whitewater just showed African Americans that Blacks, including the Clintons, could not compete with Whites in their realm of high-level trickery. Clinton`s deceit was Black. Toni Morrison noted that the root of the word, adulterare, means "to defile," and, at its core, in the white dominant culture it is indentified with treachery, something cloaked in deception and secrecy, that is more than a sin. When Bill Clinton was trapped by his evasions and misrepresentations over his sexual peccadilloes, he was not viewed by African Americans as a traitor guilty of an act equivalent to treason. Rather, he was viewed as a rascally trickster beloved in Black folklore going back to the Bantus in Africa. Clinton was the mischievous Br`er Rabbit, relatively small and vulnerable with only his cunning intelligence to escape a life and death situation when trapped by the enormous white power of the establishment.

If Bill Clinton is the Black American equivalent to Bre`r rabbit in high level American politics, Barack Hussein Obama is a trickster of a very different kind — Anansi, the trickster spider of West Africa even though his father was a Kenyan where tales of tricky hares are more prevalent. The American fringe right regard Obama as a deceiver of the first order in stories about his birth, in his pretence at being a Christian. The American right regard him as dissembler who pretends he is sympathetic to Israel and Zionism but is committed to dismantling Israel as a Jewish state. Obama says he supports free enterprise but the political right regard him as the leading socialist in America. In this respect, they impose their own sense of dissembling, a white sense of hypocrisy and misrepresentation. But Obama tells it as it is. He says what he means and means what he says.

That does not mean he is not a trickster. Like Clinton, he is a Black trickster, but he is no Bre`r Rabbit. He cannot cry out to Bre`r Fox after he escaped one more time: I was born and bred in the Briar Patch. Born and bred! For Obama was born in Hawaii. If Obama is indeed a trickster, why is he not identified with Maui, the Hawaian trickster fathered by a stranger? Because, although Obama`s father was a stranger, there is no version of the Obama story that presents him as a heavenly stranger. Obama`s mother never denied he had a father. In contrast, when Maui asked who was his father, Hina denied that he had a father and insisted that the loincloth (malo) of Kalana was his father. Nor is Obama a Promethean figure who steals fire from the gods (or the hens in this case) and can slow the sun`s rotation down. Obama is neither the downtrodden escapist trickster of Bre`r Rabbit nor the powerful godlike magician like Maui. Obama is an Anansi, or Aunt Nancy as colloquially known in the south.

Anansi is synonymous with skill and wisdom in speech. "No one goes to the house of the spider Ananse to teach him wisdom." Bre`r Rabbit is clever. Anansi the spider is wise. Rhetorically, he is brilliant. Like all trickster figures in literature, Anansi emerges from the fringes, from the sidelines, and uses his intelligence to defend the oppressed and gain the upper-hand over those with military and economic power. Though trapped within an existing power structure, Anansi beats the establishment at their own game though he does not usually transform the game itself. Unlike Bre`r Rabbit who has his own unique bag of tricks, Anansi uses the rules of the system against itself just as a clever judo expert uses the strength of the other to defeat his opponent. Anansi goes further for he inspires long term strategies of resistance that enable those who are deprived to transform their situation and to assert their identity within the system that has entrapped them.

Anansi works by trapping others of much superior strength. Four sample tales will give you the idea. These are drawn from the story of how Anansi was able to get Nyame (God) to release his store of tales to the world. Nyame demanded a tribute in return for the stories – a python, leopard, hornets and a dwarf. Anansi captured Onini, the Python, by allowing the Python to overhear him in an argument being sceptical about the python`s reputed great length. Onini wriggled forth and said he could prove his length and would allow Anansi to measure him. Since Onini had trouble lying straight, he agreed to let Anansi tie him up at either end to take his measure at his most extended. Once tied up, Anansi was able to deliver Onini to Nyame.

Anansi trapped Osebo, the leopard, by digging a hole, covering it up and luring the leopard over it so the leopard fell in. Anansi offered to help Osebo get out of the hole. He said he would wrap Osebo in his webs and pull him out. Anansi did wrap him in his web and pull him out but only to deliver Osebo all wrapped up to Nyame. Anansi trapped the Mmoboro Hornets by pretending it was raining into their nest and inviting the hornets to take shelter in an empty calabash which, when they did, Anansi closed up to deliver the calabash to Nyame. Anansi caught the dwarf in the same way that Bre`r Fox caught Bre`r Rabbit by making the equivalent of a tar baby, but this time it was a doll covered with sticky gum and set under the Tree Of Life with a bowl of yams in front. Mmoatia, the dwarf, came to eat the yams and then thanked the doll for the meal. The doll just sat there and din` say nothin`. The dwarf became incensed at the doll`s rudeness for not acknowledging the thanks. Still the doll sat there and din` say nothin`. Finally, incensed at such rudeness, the dwarf struck the doll and his arm got stuck. `Let go o`me or I`ll hit you with my other hand.` Of course the doll sat there and don` say nothin`. The dwarf struck with the other hand and that hand became stuck. Then he lashed out with each foot in turn and then finally butted with his head until he was entirely stuck and Anansi delivered the entrapped dwarf to Nyame. Nyame kept his side of the bargain and released his store of tales to the world.

In the story of "Opondo’s Children" released by Nyame, the wife of Opondo kept giving birth to monitor lizards instead of regular human babies. The parents, repulsed by their hideous children, destroyed each in turn just after childbirth. Finally, desperate to have a child of their own, they decided not to destroy the child that looked like a monitor lizard and raise the child as if he were a normal human baby even though he was rejected by the children of all their friends and neighbours. When the child was an adolescent, a neighbour followed the child to his secret river where the neighbour watched the child swim. The neighbour immediately went to tell the parents who then accompanied the neighbour to hide among the reeds beside the river and watch their child go the river to swim the next day. To their surprise, they watched their child take off his monitor skin and plunge into the river as a normal human being. They destroyed his skin and the child had to return looking like everyone else but, as compensation, he was accepted and loved by the entire community.

Obama was raised as a white child and allowed to grow up wearing his darker skin. In Harvard, but especially in Chicago, he learned that it could be of great advantage to him to acquire and wear another coat of an African woven out of the fine silk spider threads of Anansi. Thus, Obama became the oreo cookie of American politics wearing a black skin to cover his white ass while he used the rhetorical skills and practiced the wisdom of Anansi, his newly acquired black coat of words and wisdom.

Obama24.Obama in Black and White.10.03.13.doc