Thursday, May 19, 2011

Michael Eric Dyson nobly struggles to take on the legendary homophobia and sectarianism of Amiri Baraka...

It's definitely worth watching this segment on Democracy Now, where Amiri Baraka, Herb Boyd and Michael Eric Dyson are allegedly discussing Manning Marable's new biography of Malcolm X, but Baraka can't keep himself from expressing disgust at the "charges" that Malcolm may have engaged in homosexual acts (oh, no, any degradation but that!). Hosts Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez seem unable to directly confront Baraka's (and Boyd's) homophobia, but, brilliantly, Michael Eric Dyson intervenes – thank you thank you thank you! Here's an excerpt:

AMIRI BARAKA: Are you going to talk about dead white people again? Are you going to talk about dead white people again?
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: I’m talking about living black people who are—I’m talking about living black—
AMIRI BARAKA: Because I didn’t know you were a racist. I didn’t know you were a racist.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Right, right. Let me—
HERB BOYD: But Michael, Michael—
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: When I talk about dead white guys—that the construction of dead white men is a well-known formulation that refers to the classics and the degree to which the Western canon—
AMIRI BARAKA: But don’t you teach at a university full of dead white men?
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: Let me—let me finish. That the canon has an impact upon the construction of consciousness. But let me get to the point here. First of all, the deep and profound homophobia and the resistance of certain sectarian interests within African-American culture that refuse to acknowledge the full humanity wants to talk about black unity, but always wants to exclude—oh, my god. You don’t have a problem with Malcolm being a hustler, don’t have a problem. You haven’t asked no evidence of that, or the pimp. And it was exaggerated in the autobiography, with his amanuensis Alex Haley. Malcolm exaggerates his hustling itinerary to prove the redemptive power—
AMIRI BARAKA: You got that from Marable. You got that from Marable.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON:—of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. None of that is being questioned. But when we talk about same-sex activity—and Manning Marable was talking about him as Malcolm Little, not as Malcolm X. He was speaking about what happened before the point of redemption from the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
AMIRI BARAKA: How does he know that? What is facts?
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: And he’s talking about another extension of his practice as a hustler. The fact—Rodnell Collins, the nephew of Malcolm X, in his letter. You see the citation that Manning Marable makes there. And by the way, Manning Marable was not the first scholar to suggest that. We know Bruce Perry, in his 1991 book, which is very problematic—
AMIRI BARAKA: You’re not going to quote that book.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: But Malcolm—very problematic. But Manning Marable does the footwork and the spade work. And it’s two pages in a multi—
AMIRI BARAKA: Perry says Malcolm was white [inaudible]—
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON:—a huge tome that engages in a serious analysis of who Malcolm X is. So if we’re going to sit up here, and with—Mr. Baraka, with all due respect—of trying to see Manning Marable through a narrow ideological lens and to see Malcolm X through an equally problematic lens—
AMIRI BARAKA: No, no, no. It’s quite the contrary. He sees Malcolm through a narrow ideological lens.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON:—it distorts the entire understanding of who Manning Marable is and who Malcolm X was.
AMIRI BARAKA: Well, I know Manning.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: And we’re talking about ideological apparatuses, as opposed to the facts at hand and how we can best interpret them.


citrusse said...

You can really feel by his whole body language that Amiri Baraka sees homosexuality as counter-revolutionary...

I also wanted to add that Amiri Baraka's glorification of Fidel Castro as "revolutionary" is homophobic because it denies the homophobic repression targeting faggots of Cuba: police harassement in cruising places, compulsory military enlistment, queer books being pulped, emprisonment (and rape) and threats toward faggots...

And I'm not even talking of other human rights abuses by Castro or Chairman Mao!

Ah! Hard-core Leninists!

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Yes, Amiri Baraka, in spite of his brilliance in some areas, has been virulently homophobic for at least four decades - and, oh my, the quotes from Lenin, you're right! And, when Herb Boyd quoted Mao to argue for a vigorous debate and free speech, now that was simply stunning!!!

Love –

vale said...

Oh yes, it's so homophobic to recognize the achievement of the Cuban revolution in overthrowing the CIA radical capitalist Battista dictatorship and winning economic equality or it's people. Let's all jump on the bandwagon of the white house and talk about all the human rights abuses of people like Castro and oh how could I leave out Chavez? Those early revolutions undoubtedly didn't have a social-left persuasion, and that was wrong, but taking it farther is ridiculous.

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Vale, I agree that, while there's little that I would see as "revolutionary" on the part of Castro, certainly here in the US there could be nothing more counter-revolutionary than the current regime we're living under. Of course, there is no government more responsible for terrorizing the whole world (in the present moment) than the lovely Obama administration, oh my!

But wait, how did we get to talking about Castro? Oh, I see, from the earlier comment... Sorry, I'm getting tired again…

Love –

theszak said...