(I promise, this will be the last post on Don Imus. Unless something further develops, of course.)
This past Sunday on This Week, George Will, as always, was at the round table. I don't have transcript or video, because you have to pay ABC for those, but I did watch, and during the discussion of Don Imus, George Will tried to change the subject by saying that this ignored the biggest problem facing Black America. For several seconds, since George Will is such a slow talker, I wondered what exactly is the biggest problem facing Black people in America today. Employment discrimination? Local funding of public education that perpetuates income inequality? The nastiness that's still going on post-Katrina in New Orleans? Constant, subtle racism?
Not being Black myself, I waited for George Will's answer. While he's a slow talker, he's not so slow that I had enough time to realize that my lack of certainty stemmed from my not being Black and that it would not be assuaged by George Will, because he's not Black either. In fact, on top of being a white country club conservative, he's also a total douchebag. But that's neither here nor there.
The biggest problem facing Black America today, according to George Will, is the massive numbers of Black children being born out of wedlock.
You read that correctly. George Will said that Don Imus calling the Rutgers women's basketball team hoes is distracting America from the fact that they really are hoes. (continued)
Now, I know a thing or two about being called slutty. It seems that that's the insult that the establishment lobs at Blacks, Asians, and Latinos, as well as uppity women, gay men, lesbian women, and transfolk. But especially gay men. But especially transfolk. But especially Black people. But especially....
And what it harks back to for me is my childhood, growing up in a nearly all white community as a first generation Latino kid. And I remember a few differences in family structure. I had a Waspy friend who hated his little brother with a passion. I thought it was a long-running joke, but now that we've all grown up, those two won't speak to each other. I had another white friend who couldn't stand his brother and sister, and now as adults, they still don't get along.
Now I'm absolutely not saying that white people can't get along with people in their families. What I am saying is that Waspy white families tend to have more distant relationships between siblings in order to make them stake it out on their own as adults to have their own families that will eventually do the same. Talk about a difference from a Latino family! Even though I grew up far away from my mother's extended family, we call every week, and they all get together several times a week down in Argentina. It's a lot more common down there to live in the same town as the rest of the extended family when you grow up. Family ties extend beyond the nuclear family providing a complex social and financial support network.
So I'm not surprised to have read in Elmer Martin's The Black Extended Family that the same thing occurs for African Americans as well. Fatherless for a white, middle-class American family has a far different meaning in other cultures.
Especially for lesbian parents. Remember when James Dobson complained in Time about Mary Cheney having a baby without a father and lying about how absolutely necessary a male parent is to have the kid grow up to be a productive member of society? It just seems like everyone who doesn't make for themselves a little McFamily - one father who works, one mother who doesn't, several children, all self-sufficient and happily separated from yet polite to the extended family - has something wrong with them, despite the fact that only 25% of American households fit that mold. I wonder if it's just that sort of post-industrial mass production mentality that made McDonald's what it is today that's also involved in the normalization that George Will, James Dobson, etc., are trying to foist upon the rest of us with this image of a standard nuclear family.
So, no, George Will. Let's think a little deeper here than jumping to blame the victim, if we can. But let's also start to think about how the same stereotypes, the same disapproval of difference, and the same normalization of one legitimate model for the family all lead to the oppression of lots of groups of people. Even if it's most obvious for us when the establishment is talking about queer people, they use the same imagery against all difference.
(And that's probably why I think George Will is a douchebag. He's always presenting himself as the center of America, the normal opinion, the quiet scholar that when we get down to it, we can all agree with. While the content of his opinions is far from mainstream, he uses his style as a weapon to silence disagreement with him. Plus I've never been a fan of normal.)