anthony asadullah samad

Anthony Asadullah Samad

*Those of you expecting a “Battle Royale” response to Betty Pleasant’s column last week will be disappointed.

Betty is my 25 year friend and is entitled to disagree with my opinion any time she wants to. I certainly disagree with hers as much as I agree. The love I have for her won’t dissipate because she calls an argument stupid, though she’s been in her share of stupid arguments over the years, and it could be disturbing that one who writes the most impolitic commentary west of the Mississippi would be shocked over someone’s else’s impolitic commentary.

Nevertheless…I’m never confused about what I’m going get from Betty—whatever it is, I know it’s going to be provocative. And it is the reason that I love her, and her commentary, because it is so impolitic. That’s the reason both of us are widely read, because one never knows what they’re going to get next. We are not alone. It’s the way of the world now, but Betty was impolitic before it became popular to be impolitic, and that’s I love most about her.

So, sorry to let you down…but she’s really not the enemy. Plus, she got it like that.

I choose, instead, to write about how impolitic we all have become, as a country and as a culture, and the realities it creates for us all. For America is an impolitic nation now.

“Keeping it real,” whether it is keeping it crude, or rude, or irrational, or stupid, is what the culture has become about. People watch the person that says what others won’t say, or writes what others won’t write, or sings what others won’t sing and it drives the culture to where a day doesn’t pass where we’re not confronted, or affronted, with some sort of impoliteness or crudeness or irrationality—it’s all now under the guise of being “authentic.”

The most popular shows on television; Two and a Half Man, Modern Family, Scandal, the Simpsons and the most offensive of them all, Family Guy, are impolitic that is entertaining to some, irrational to others and just plain stupid to many, but all draw high ratings. People watch these programs. The most impolitic program on cable is Real Time with Bill Maher. It is also one of the highest rated. One of the most flawed individuals in the country, gets on cable each week with the harshest, most honest, most “real” (vulgar) commentary on television and much of the nation watches it—and many agree with him. World leaders, mainstream journalists and scholars appear on his show, every week, knowing he’s going to be rude, vulgar and downright impolitic.

Talk radio, both “shock” talk and ideologue talk, is the most incendiary, outrageous, irrational—even ignorant programming on the radio, with the most down right stupefying logic one can fathom, yet they all have the highest ratings and the highest ad rates. Because they’re so impolitic and they operate on the assumption that this is the way some segment of the population thinks.

And they do.

There are risks to being impolitic, the least of which is that somebody is going to disagree with you, or call your perspective “lame or stupid.” America has some real scars on its conscience that impolitic statements can reopen, as the Serena crip walk demonstrated. It overshadowed the subtle racism that was occurring. My poor analogy may not have helped but it was a provocative reach in a regularly impolitic commentary. The impolitic are never alone.

Journalist Roland Martin was suspended from his post at CNN for tweeting an impolitic “homophobic” comment. Charlie Screen was fired from a two million dollar a week gig for taking his impolitic behavior beyond his show fantasies into the real world, bringing prostitutes (his angels) around his children. Child and Family Services showed at his door the next day.

That was stupid.

The stupidest thing on television today is “reality television,” and it is most disturbing affront to African American imagery. Reality television promotes radical impolitic behavior, and as NFL star, Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, and his 41 day reality star wife, Evelyn Lozada, found out—impolitic behavior on television can get you arrested in real life. Johnson was cut from the Miami Dolphins, lost an endorsement deal and a second reality show—for a woman he met on Twitter, didn’t really know, who pressed his buttons causing him to act out—head-butting her.

Now who’s really stupid?

“Keeping it real,” he couldn’t possibly think that this was okay? It is never okay to hit a woman, though there are some people out there that think its okay to hit a woman, but that’s how twisted we’ve become in our impolitic behavior. The problem is that we don’t know what’s stupid any more. Being smart has nothing to do with being educated, though one does enhance the other. But being stupid has everything to do with a propensity to do stupid stuff. Stuff like driving without a license then running from the police when caught. That’s just stupid…

One can be uneducated and still be smart. Malcolm X, Fannie Lou Hamer and Jay Z are all examples of people who had little or no formal education but were(are) as intelligent as they come—and all of them would be considered, impolitic. And one can be educated and dumb too. My mother used to call them, “Educated fools.” The most prominent example of which, of course, was the 43rd President of the United States. The most impolitic (and cruel) example is when one is uneducated and not smart. The cruelest joke one can play on a community, or a nation, is to promote such people be followed, but we witness this cruelness being played out everyday, in a very crude and impolitic way—to shame the non-action of those who should be leading by virtue of their positions in the society. It doesn’t make the impolitic-ness of the joke any less problematic. Or any less cruel. To be stupid and impolitic is a problem for everybody. Now that’s disturbing…that’s long term disturbing…but I guess we’re all disturbed these days.

Sometimes, people don’t intend to be impolitic—disturbing stuff just happens, even to smart people. It was quite an impolitic week for America last week. Vice President, Joe Biden, had an impolitic moment when he suggested that the Republicans were “trying to put you back in chains” when he suggesting the Republicans call to “unshackle the economy” was an attack on the middle class (his explanation). But he was speaking to a largely African American audience, which gave the inference to slavery—something the whole nation is sensitive to 157 years after it has ended. Some (particularly Rudy Gulliani) said Biden was just “not very bright” in his intellectual capacity, translation: stupid, to regularly gaffe like he does. Being provocative in your speeches on the campaign trail is risky. Biden is a loose cannon but he has the common touch Obama needs to get elected in the battleground states. He just misanalogized the situation.

Poor analogy.

MSNBC journalist, Toure, was forced to apologize, after he assessed Mitt Romney invoking President Obama as “angry” was racializing the campaign by putting the “Angry Black Man” jacket on him. Everybody knows what that means…but Toure put a term on it. He said that Romney’s strategy was “Ni**erization.”  Now, Toure was absolutely correct in pointing out Romney’s racially coded language, but MSNBC made him apologize 24 hours later for using “N-word” on television, because “some viewers” were offended. Like they don’t use it anymore. Toure, author of Who’s Afraid of Post Racial Blackness, found out who’s afraid of such candor.

Poor choice of words…I guess.

Bill Maher assessed a RNC commercial, shot in black and white, as pandering to the racial sensibilities of whites by saying that Obama had failed, “he tried,” “we tried,” and its okay to make another choice, as subtle racism. A lot of people took offense and thought it was a lame attempt on Maher’s part to invoke race. Maher was right, only saying what some of us should be saying—if we were paying attention—or won’t say for fear of being accused of playing a race card. Maher, just being his usual impolitic self, saw something that nobody (around him) saw.

Still, a lame analysis…and a reach, for some. And just when you think you’ve heard the stupidest, dumbest and most outrageous stuff you’ve ever heard, GOP Senatorial Candidate, Todd Akin, comes with a ring winged leap even the craziest ideologues didn’t agree with. Something called “legitimate rape” that causes a woman’s body to “shut down,” reject pregnancy and thus is no reason for him to support abortion under any circumstance. I know…Crazy, huh?

He too has since “backtracked,” and he’s alone on this one.

Like I said, the impolitic are never alone….except Akin-now the most impolitic of us all.

Provocative conversation often invokes impolitic analysis. It’s supposed to. That’s what people tune in for, to hear outrageous, lame, even stupid rationale to the things people notice but won’t talk about. And what people talk about is often impolitic, whether one agrees or not.

We’re an impolitic nation. It’s so sad that what’s outrageous in our pop culture society gains more attention than the things that should really outrage us… some people prefer “small ball” because that’s all they can play, distracted by a small point that always misses the larger point. Serena has moved on, the Olympics are over-none of it changed the world. Being impolitic knows no boundaries. Only selective objection to what we might be selectively offended by.

We object to what we want to object to and let ride what we want to let ride. The Democrats do it. The Republicans do it. The smart do it. The dumb do it. But we can’t have it both ways. Either we hold the line on impolitic behavior or we don’t. We can’t choose when we want to call out impolitic-ness and when we don’t want to call it out. Particularly, when we’re impolitic ourselves and pride ourselves for being impolitic in our views. Caution to the wind?

That’s not the way of the world anymore.

Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., is a national columnist, managing director of the Urban Issues Forum (www.urbanissuesforum.com) and author of the upcoming book, REAL EYEZ: Race, Reality and Politics in 21st  Century Popular Culture. He can be reached at www.AnthonySamad.com or on Twitter at @dranthonysamad.