Political Pornography

A few decades ago in the Black South, it was not uncommon for black women who did domestic work to speak of “our white folks” as if they actually owned those people. Such womanist talk involved subtle, racial codes. It was easy to misinterpret what they were saying, to think they were speaking in terms of affection and intimacy about members of the family. Their observations were based on proximity rather than endearment. Love was not a part of the conversation. When it is alleged that Donald Trump said “look at my African American,” is it reasonable to think he was talking like a domestic worker? Hell, no. His utterance was informed by the codes of the slave auction not those of the kitchen. “Donald, did you buy the dude at a discount?”

Unfortunately, we seem to lack reliable conservative voices to explain what Trump is saying about the opening of the American mind. There is dead silence when it comes to discriminating between what Trump is selling and what Allan Bloom tried to market in The Closing of the American Mind (1987). Yes, the neoliberal voices babble endlessly about Trump, but the attention they give him is informed by perverse blindness. They seem not to see what Ralph Ellison inscribed about politics and the sociology of race in his beloved novel Invisible Man (1952), especially in the battle royal episode. Those who are not visually challenged seem to have taken a vow of silence. It is unfortunate that William Bennett, once one of the more important white conservative voices in America, loss his moral compass and can now say nothing that has credibility.

If you have read Invisible Man, you may recall that in the battle royal episode, “the most important men of the town” —“bankers, lawyers, judges, doctors, fire chiefs, teachers, merchants…[e]ven one of the more fashionable pastors” were enthralled by “a magnificent blonde –stark naked, “a sex object who danced “a slow sensuous movement.” The representative male citizens salivate, gazing upon her body “where below the small American flag tattooed upon her belly her thighs formed a capital V.” Trump is not a character in fiction, but he slobbers with alacrity in the presence of an immaculate, fictional symbol of the United States of America.

Our current political story is more gender-bent and intriguing than the one Ellison’s narrator told. As the great white Republican hope, Donald Trump is the narrative voice of the visible man poised to engaged in a bloodless battle royal with the visible woman, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic champion. Perhaps as we move toward Election Day, American voters will confess that politics can be kinky, sublimely vulgar, and erotic.

Jerry W. Ward, Jr. June 11, 2016