The Liberal Racism of The Wire

In the opening of Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, the now discredited Chris Kyle is sitting on a roof with his gun trained on a woman and a young boy who are approaching a group of American soldiers in Iraq. He has to make a decision. Should he shoot a child? It’s racist propaganda of the worst kind. By dwelling on the question of whether or not the boy has a grenade, Eastwood forces us to make the same decision as Kyle. If it meant saving American lives, would we kill a (Muslim) child?

American Sniper is widely considered to be reactionary propaganda. I do not know if many African Americans are fans of David Simon’s police procedural The Wire, which ran from 2002 to 2008, but Jacob Weisberg, the white, liberal critic at Slate.com thinks it’s the best show ever broadcast on American television. Ishamel Reed, the black poet and playwrite thinks very differently, not only labeling The Wire racist, but comparing its depiction of African Americans to the depiction of Jews in Nazi propaganda.

Simon, Price and Pelecanos’ Black characters speak like the cartoon crows in those old racist cartoons [“Heckle and Jeckle.”] Henry Louis Gates knows this about “The Wire,” yet his right wing blog, The Root, carries an ad for “The Wire” today and a glowing article about this piece of crap. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is an intellectual entrepreneur all right. He condemns my work as misogynist yet supports Simon’s Neo-Nazi portrait of Black people. “The Wire” and novels by Price and Pelecanos should be submitted to the Jim Crow museum at Ferris State University– this is the website: http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/, where they can have a honored place alongside of some of Robert Crumb’s Nazi cartoons.

When he labels The Wire as Nazi propaganda, Ishamel Reed is provocative and simplistic, but he’s basically right. The Wire is liberal, racist propaganda. If American Sniper forced us to dwell on the question of whether or not we’d kill a child to save the lives of American soldiers, The Wire dispenses with the question altogether. Some children, it baldy asserts, need to be killed. In the show’s fourth season, we are introduced to Chris Partlow, a very frightening enforcer for a drug gang, and his sidekick “Snoop.” While Snoop is played by the 26-year-old Felicia Pearson, to all appearances she is a teenage girl. She and Chris Partlow are as terrifying as any Al Qaeda operative in Iraq, perhaps even more. Taking advantage of Baltimore’s high vacancy rate, the lure the rivals of their boss, drug lord Marlo Stanfield, into empty buildings, wrap them in plastic, put a bullet in their head, then nail the door of the building shut.

David Simon almost certainly believes he is an advocate for the African American community of Baltimore. After the Baltimore police – because of a lack of funds — drop the investigation into the murders that are being committed by Chris Partlow and Snoop, Simon certainly asks a legitimate question. Why do twenty two dead black men entombed in vacant row houses will barely attract as much attention as one missing white girl? When the white Baltimore detective Jimmy McNulty tricks the newspapers into writing that a sexually motivated serial killer is preying on homeless men, the Baltimore police finally get the budget they need to solve the murders committed by Partlow and Snoop, which can be diverted from the fantasy of a sexual serial killer preying on the homeless to the very real pair of serial killers preying on Baltimore “corner boys” (low level drug peddlers). Do you see, Simon seems to be asking, how little the media and the typical big city government care about black lives?

But David Simon’s liberalism is deceptive. First of all, he actually seems to believe that society cares more about the homeless – man of whom are black – then it does about black men in general. It’s divide and conquer at its worst. More important is the dark shadow Partlow and Snoop cast over the whole series. They are demons coughed up by a white man’s racist fantasies. By the end of Season 4 we are hoping that someone, anyone, will kill them both. Partlow is captured and sent to jail for life, where he’ll undoubtedly dominate his fellow prisoners as completely as he dominated rival drug dealers. Marlow Stanfield cuts a deal with the Baltimore Police – who used an illegal wire trap to solve the mystery of the 22 bodies in the vacant raw houses, and does no jail time at all. Snoop, however, is finally shot in the head by Michael, another one of Chris Partlow’s protégées, after he correctly expects that she’s trying to lure him into a vacant building where he too be wrapped in plastic, and shot in the head. Finally, we think, someone killed the little monster. As much as Felicia Pearson looks like a 14-year-old girl instead of a 26-year-old woman, we are happy to see her murdered.

American Sniper, in other words, is racism for Donald Trump’s America. It makes no pretense of giving us any good Muslims as tokens. They’re all savages, it confidently asserts. Just kill them all and let God sort them out later. The Wire is racism for the Hillary Clinton voter. As long as there are enough token blacks in high positions in the city government and the police department, you can portray the majority of black people any way you want. The Wire has an apparently rich variety of black characters, from low level drug dealers, to organized crime lords, to corrupt politicians, to noble, honest police officers. The first word that comes to mind for Snoop, however, is the label Clinton, in her 1990s incarnation, used to label black teenagers who slip threw the cracks into a life of crime, “super predator.”

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2 comments

  1. Do I want to know if Chris Kyle killed that boy? I didn’t see the movie and I won’t.

  2. We are happy to see someone kill Chris and Snoop? We were happy to see Snoop murdered? Speak for yourself. I haven’t seen anyone ever saying that. They were great characters. Yes, they did bad things but people still enjoyed them on screen. Demons coughed up by a white man’s racist fantasies? You’re the racist one here.

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