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The Van Jones Debacle: Race and Gender Intersect (Kind Of) September 7, 2009

Posted by FCM in gender roles, liberal dickwads, politics, pop culture, race.
Tags: , , ,

obama’s “green jobs czar” recently resigned in a “middle of the night email” over controversial comments he has made about 9/11 and columbine.  i have been interested in this as a spectator because of the issues of race and sex that haven been raised, and how they have been dealt with (and ignored).

here is fox news’s treatment of the issue.  notice the blatant race-baiting in the intro, when they go off on jones for being “radical” and then follow immediately with the introductory video for the next segment, “black football player punches a white guy in the face.”  see how it is deliberately tailored to evoke “these black guys are crazy and threatening to white people” sentiments from fox news’s audience, lets face it, old white men and racist republicans.

interestingly, fox news edits the van jones/columbine footage to make it sound as if he is calling out specifically “suburban white kids” for perpetrating the schoolyard massacres.  clearly, the audience is supposed to be outraged that a black man is calling attention to the problem of “white crime” when the fox news narrative is to speak to the problem of “black crime” and victimized whites, whether they are being “victimized” by crime or by affirmative action or whathaveyou.

this really pissed me off when i first saw it, because while the perpetrators of these crimes are clearly “white” they are not “white children.”  they are very notably, and exclusively, white BOYS.  while i am certain that the foxies werent going after feminist outrage with their commentary, there are very obvious problems with calling out the problem of race in these instances, but ignoring the gendered nature of these acts.  the truth is that its boys and men that are victimizing everyone across the board with violent and gendered crimes.  not women and girls.

now, here is a longer clip — of what van jones actually said.

notice how he rather effortlessly — and problematically — slips back and forth between calling out the perpetrators as white “kids” and white “boys” or “men.”  to his credit, he calls attention to the problem of violent and “brittle” masculinities.  to the detriment of the more salient point of white boys shooting up their schools, he addresses “masculinity” at the same time that he repeatedly misspeaks as to the gendered nature of the crimes. 

at the end, jones calls for a “universal social solution” to the problem of school shootings, and the masculitity that perpetuates personal male suffering and leads to its expression as violence.  a solution that will benefit both white and minority “men.”  but the use of “universal” here is problematic, isnt it?  a universal solution to the problem of gendered crime, and therefore of all violent crime, will be to address the problem of men, not of “people.”  jones seems to be inclusive here, when he uses the term “universal” but women do not seem to need a solution to their tendencies to shoot up their schools (or anyone for that matter).  women do not have those tendencies, so the problem lies with men and boys alone, of all races and belonging to all social “groups”. 

even more formal studies done on the matter of school shootings and school violence are troublingly gender-neutral, referring to the numbers of gun-toting “students” and the problem of “juvenile crime” instead of addressing the problem of boys bringing guns to school, and using them, far more frequently than girls. 

clearly its a problem of perception, and more specifically a problem of male privilege, and who is examining the data.  a male observer might look at the data and conclude that its a problem of “these kids today,” because they see themselves in that data.  but women and girls might easily look at the same data and realize that they arent represented there.  clearly, as a black man, van jones didnt see himself there, either: the columbine shooters and all school shooters to date have indeed been white.  but his male privilege kept him from seeing the other obvious fact, and caused him to mispeak to that fact over and over again.  that its white BOYS that are causing the problem, not white “kids.” 

so, kudos to van jones for calling out the racial component (and an extra point for pissing off fox news while doing it).  perhaps someday he will also consider moving beyond his own male privilege so that he might see the whole truth there, and address the decidedly gendered nature of all violent crime, and the problem of masculinities in general creating male criminals, and making victims of both boys and girls, alike.