Last Friday, December 9, 2022, in Detroit, in the midst of a performance by Cyrus Chestnut and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra of selections from the Vince Guaraldi score of the cartoon Christmas special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” someone shouted a slur that either was the N-word or included the N-word. None of the news outlets are saying. The orchestra maintained their focus. Audience members interviewed afterwards expressed disgust with whoever shouted the slur. WXYZ, Channel 7 news in Detroit, reported the story, as did the newspaper—whatever newspaper means these days—The Detroit News.
Cyrus Chestnut is black, as are some members of the DSO, as are people who were in the audience that night. Charlie Brown, a fictional figure, is, despite his surname, white. In the Lieber and Stoller song, “Charlie Brown,” written for and recorded by The Coasters, all members of which were black, Charlie Brown was probably black. But the N-word slur-slinger most likely targeted the players rather than the subject of the music.
Vince Guaraldi, the composer, was white, although his mustache was black. Nevertheless, it seems clear that the slur was aimed at the black instrumentalists on Friday.
I should add that I’m only assuming it was the N-word based on the way all the news outlets have skirted around what exactly was shouted. It was definitely an anti-black term of derogation, but it could have been the Coo-word or the Sp-word. Those possibilities seem doubtful, especially the latter, given the reported reaction of the audience.
But it’s odd no one’s reporting that it was the N-word. As a euphemism, it’s the most easily communicated via the press. Maybe there’s an unwritten AP-style rule whereby an outlet is supposed to give the N-word the least amount of publicity possible, even in its euphemistic form.
The article in The Detroit News has a comment section. If you can imagine, the comments section is inhabited by a grotesque menagerie of primates throwing feces. There are comments denying that the occurrence ever took place, despite the vast number of witnesses and the fact that the Orchestra announced on its Facebook page its sadness in regards to the incident.
“The DSO is deeply disappointed by an incident that took place towards the end of Friday night’s concert when an audience member shouted a racial slur. Racism and bigotry have no place in Orchestra Hall, and behavior like this is unacceptable. We are currently investigating and will enact a permanent ban once we identify the ticketholder.
“Live music is a profoundly human experience that taps into our emotions and provides us all with a sacred space for listening. We apologize that this space was violated. We appreciate our audiences so much and hope to see you back at Orchestra Hall soon.”
Still, the naysayers said “nay,” accused The Detroit News of ginning up a racially divisive story, and asserted it was a leftist strategy to draw attention away from all the black-on-black violence in the city.
I have a theory about all that rightwing concern for the black community and how often black people hurt each other. My belief is that there’s a contest going on in the racist imagination between white violence and black violence. The right wants black violence to be seen as proportionally worse than violence by white people. Further, they want leftist violence, which they tellingly lump in with black violence, to be recognized as worse, more erratic, and more incidentally numerous.
There is a widespread rightwing stance that the BLM protests of 2020 and the January 6 white supremacist assault on the election and the Capitol should be compared, and that the BLM protests should be considered the more destructive. Rightwingers whine that not enough black and like-minded non-black protesters were prosecuted, injured, or killed for protesting.
Further, they tend not to detect a pattern of red-pilled mass-murders when tallying up the kills by rightwing gunmen but seem able to detect antifa everywhere a gun goes off or a building burns. They always bring up Steve Scalise, the one verifiably anti-Republican shooting, which didn’t end in any fatalities except for the shooter himself, 66-year-old James Thomas Hodgkinson.
Their oddly lopsided tally of leftwing violence, to which they add incidents in their imagination similar to the Bowling Green Massacre and the adrenochrome-drinking Democratic vampire cabal, becomes all the more cockeyed when they fob off all rightwing rifle-rabid mass-shooter incidents as “false-flag” operations perpetrated by the secret government, which is of course kept alive by consuming child adrenochrome.
It is impossible to have a rational discussion about the subject with a Republican, especially one who leans toward the Trumpian end of the spectrum. I have tried. If you point out that the BLM protests were provoked by police killings of black men and women in situations where killing was not an appropriate option, they will defend the police. Some will tell you that black Americans invite police violence because of their behavior, due to a culture of distrust and disrespect for authority. They basically force the police to kill them. And then when they succeed, they get angry at the police, who are only doing what the black people forced them to do! It’s a Catch-22 for cops! Not only are they violent, black people are irrational and unfair! What makes them loot and burn buildings in their own neighborhoods? Irrationality! Slavery ended over a hundred fifty years ago! They live in America, the greatest country in the world except for all the gay pedophile communist Jews controlling everything.
To show they aren’t racist, rightwingers will pivot to blaming white liberals for perpetuating black poverty and stoking black resentment. It’s really the left’s fault. The black population in the USA are really just the poorly-raised children of liberals! This twisted analysis penetrates deep into the resentment of the white male supremacist who believes that liberals are feminizing the men of our society, making them helpless whiners, deferential to the desires of women and minorities but who suppress their own, who only want a handout and are jealous of the real heroes like Donald and Elon.
Not only that, but, according to careful historical analysis by Fox News entertainers, the left itself is stoking the ammo-drunk rightwing backlash. Even though, according to them, rightwing violence isn’t actually happening, during the moments when it’s rhetorically convenient to acknowledge that it is, it’s all the left’s fault. “Another day in Weimar,” squeaks a Fox News smarm excreter, which is their way of saying, “The left is provoking the right to be violent against the left once again.”
The rightwing white male Christian supremacist reaction is comparable to one of Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s mythical “five stages of grief,” the stage of anger. They’re stuck in the “anger” stage. What are the reactionaries grieving? Something that never existed: a world wherein they could busy themselves through the days without ever being reminded that there were concerns and needs different from their own. A time when nothing stood in the way of their expression. No social considerations blocked the striving for the satisfaction of their wholesome desires.
They resent being reminded that the world isn’t made up only of them, living as they want to live in their parochial ways, and they mourn the time when those reminders didn’t exist. It’s not a good grief. It’s a bad grief, because it is based on the loss of something they never had. They grieve the loss of an imaginary condition, a singularly pure state. A peculiar institution, if you will.
Thus we found ourselves last Friday evening being assaulted by a resentful racist who went to the symphony expecting to enjoy some blue-eyed jazz from one of his beloved childhood holiday cartoons only to lay eyes on a stage filled with players led by a musician of color.
Of course, my interpretation could be entirely wrong from beginning to end. Whatever happened, though, it’s a symptom, and not a symptom of anything good.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Happy holidays!