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Tilting at Windmills

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January 5, 2006
By: Debra Dickerson

Proof that a little knowledge is dangerous....Check this out from the New York Times:

Minister, a Bush Ally, Gives Church as Site for Alito Rally. The Rev. Herbert H. Lusk II is a maverick (emphasis added) black minister who took to his pulpit in Philadelphia in 2000 and pledged his support for a Bush presidency, a speech broadcast live at the Republican National Convention. Two years later, Mr. Lusk was criticized when he received a $1 million grant through the president's new religion-based initiative to run a housing program for the poor.

This Sunday, Mr. Lusk has offered his church in Philadelphia as the site for a major political rally intended to whip up support for the president's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., whose confirmation hearings begin on Monday.

OK. Now for the dangerous part. From The Negro Cowboys:

One of the early Negro cowboys has been forgotten, and his name will probably never be recovered. He was a slave and a rather poor cowboy, hardly worth a place in history. But because he was inefficient, even lazy, he made his master famous.

He and his family lived on the San Antonio River in Texas, and they were owned by a lawyer, not a cattleman. In 1847, when the lawyer received four hundred head of cattle in payment of a debt, he entrusted them to the Negro and continued his practice and his business of land speculation.

The Negro neglected to do much branding, and the cattle roamed free, growing and multiplying on the open Texas range and straying far from their home ranch. Consequently, the herd had scattered when the lawyer sold his land, cattle and brand in 1856.

the lawyer's name was Samuel A. Maverick, and the buyer of his ranch was A. Toutant Beauregard, an active and ambitious cattleman. Beauregard sent his men riding over several counties, searching for Maverick's cattle. Whenever they found an animal unbranded, they claimed it as Maverick's. Thanks to a Negro cowboy's carelessness and Beauregard's enterprise, every wandering animal, unbranded and unclaimed, soon came to be called a maverick, and hunting for such animals was called mavericking. Even men, for that matter, were called mavericks if they were free and independent and wore no man's brand.

Now for the even more dangerous part: poor cowboy? inefficient? lazy? neglected to? carelessness? How about this as an alternative explanation?

Debra Dickerson 9:28 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (38)

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I trust the IRS will be looking into the church's tax exemption.

Posted by: dca on January 5, 2006 at 9:36 PM | PERMALINK

And your point is?

Posted by: Steve on January 5, 2006 at 10:04 PM | PERMALINK

I think her point was that the Times should be careful what adjectives they use whenever they refer to a black person, because someone like Debra might come along behind the Times and dig up all kinds of Freudian messages?

But I could be wrong.

Posted by: Libby Sosume on January 5, 2006 at 10:08 PM | PERMALINK

was that racist?

Posted by: chris on January 5, 2006 at 10:14 PM | PERMALINK

I read the whole thing, even the silly link to the 1851 racist tome. What is your point?

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 5, 2006 at 10:16 PM | PERMALINK

please. if we race-baited every word's etymology used in today's lexicon, we'd never finish a sentence.

Posted by: funkia on January 5, 2006 at 10:22 PM | PERMALINK

Seriously -- point, please? Did *anyone* reading this know the origin of the word "maverick" beforehand? My impression is that "maverick" even has a positive connotation, like "brash iconoclast", and the OED more or less backs me up: "unorthodox or independent-minded." Give it a rest.

Posted by: sean on January 5, 2006 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

I posted this on the wrong thread. Had I not been so clumsy, I would have said here that the great-grandson, or maybe great-great-grandson of the the Lawyer Maverick, was Maury Maverick, also of San Antonio, also a lawyer, and one of the best damn liberal Democrats ever to hold office in the State of Texas. Strange what a few generations accomplished with the Mavericks, as compared to the Bushes, for instance.

Posted by: doran on January 5, 2006 at 10:28 PM | PERMALINK

Am I the only one that didn't understand a god damn bit of that?

Posted by: Confused on January 5, 2006 at 10:33 PM | PERMALINK

Debra, I think I get it, but would like to confirm...

Is your point that the NYT mis-applied the common meaning of the word 'maverick' (free and independent and wearing no man's brand) to Lusk?

Is your point that the right-wingers' strategy for dealing with recalcitrant minorities is to treat them like valued subordinates, of which Lusk is a prime example?

Are you trying to say that the use of the word 'maverick' possibly has some racist etymology?

Or is it something else?...Whatever your point is, it would be helpful if you just came out and said it, rather than writing a rather cryptic post.

Posted by: grape_crush on January 5, 2006 at 10:48 PM | PERMALINK

Yep, that post was the mother of all brainfarts. Race? "The Negro Cowboy"? Huh?

Maverick has immensely positive connotations.

Sheesh, you can't see John McCain's name in print without it lurking somewhere in the near distance.


Posted by: rmck1 on January 5, 2006 at 10:49 PM | PERMALINK

No one else got it?

OK I don't feel dumb.

But I did for a few seconds.

Posted by: Gary Sugar on January 5, 2006 at 10:49 PM | PERMALINK

Okay, in a larger context (but nowhere near the sense of the post), the whole thing makes sense.

The NYT would call the black preacher a "maverick" because he goes against the popular stereotype of being a Democrat, since most black preachers are.

But it's also tremendously ironic, because as grape noted, the guy's closer to a lackey than an independent-minded person.

Of course, the meta-irony here is that the "lazy" black cowboy coined a descriptor that would be the highest honor to a black person in that era: free, self-owned, unconstrained by any oppressing master, economic or otherwise.

So there. I think ...


Posted by: rmck1 on January 5, 2006 at 10:54 PM | PERMALINK

What we all seem to have missed in this is that Mr. Lusk has since 2000 been able to maintain his position as a preacher at a church in Philly. Even though he is a Bush boot-licker. Now that is kind of scary. What must be on the minds of those people who attend his church and give him money to buy groceries, health care, etc? What the heck are they doing, supporting a black minister who supports the Bush Juanta?

Posted by: doran on January 5, 2006 at 11:00 PM | PERMALINK

I've heard this story many times, since Samuel A. Maverick was my great-great-grandfather. Strangely (insert bitter smiley here) the involvement of a slave was always elided.

That said, I don't see anything wrong with the application of this term and its common meaning to Lusk....except perhaps that, as someone above suggested, the writers haven't thought through very carefully why they're calling him "independent". The fact that "mavericks" are so called because of the supposed laziness of a slave is strange, but irrelevant because it's so little known.

Posted by: Vance Maverick on January 5, 2006 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

The guy from Top Gun was supposed to be black?

Posted by: Al Candra on January 5, 2006 at 11:12 PM | PERMALINK

Al Candra on January 5, 2006 at 11:12 PM:

The guy from Top Gun was supposed to be black?

Okay, now I get it!

Posted by: grape_crush on January 5, 2006 at 11:21 PM | PERMALINK

Thank God.

I read Debra's post shortly after it went online. I didn't have a CLUE what she was talking about, but was too embarrassed to say so. I felt sure I was missing something fundamental.

I'm glad to see I'm not alone.

Posted by: 2.7182818 on January 5, 2006 at 11:29 PM | PERMALINK

Does this have anything to do with James Garner?

Posted by: Bernard Yomtov on January 5, 2006 at 11:43 PM | PERMALINK

That was.... a fine example of incoherent blithering on.

Posted by: collounsbury on January 6, 2006 at 12:14 AM | PERMALINK

I thought it was interesting. It didn't occur to me that it needed a point until I read the comments.

Posted by: Nancy on January 6, 2006 at 12:24 AM | PERMALINK

Typically one normally intends to have a fucking point when writing. And, given this blog is supposed to be about American politics one might expect a guest author would want to have something approaching a point.

Pointlessly relating tales about a word, its etymology as asserted, and the Bush allied black minister is something of a waste of time. Above all by the new poster with an annoying tendancy to write like a retarded semi-literate.

Posted by: collounsbury on January 6, 2006 at 12:34 AM | PERMALINK

I was hoping the comments could clarify this post for me.

Debra, please update this with a clarification.

Posted by: chris brandow on January 6, 2006 at 12:41 AM | PERMALINK

I liked Bart Maverick, or Bret.

Posted by: merlallen on January 6, 2006 at 1:04 AM | PERMALINK

That post has got to be the most obtuse thing I've ever read on PA.

Posted by: stranger on January 6, 2006 at 1:11 AM | PERMALINK

free association anyone?
This is absurd. Going off on wild tangents twice and ending up in a implied contridiction of the initial point is a rather complicated form of rhetorical suicide.

Posted by: joe on January 6, 2006 at 1:11 AM | PERMALINK

Get rid of this Dickerson person, and her incoherence. Haven't seen a sensible piece from her yet -- what the fuck, is she doing some kind of low wage, between-terms internship or something? Sheesh.

Posted by: sglover on January 6, 2006 at 1:24 AM | PERMALINK

Need an editor, stat!

Posted by: jefff on January 6, 2006 at 1:54 AM | PERMALINK

OK, some of the regulars are riled and our new foreign misogynist poster is in a snit.

However, Lusk was a maverick when he was a running back with the Eagles - After scoring a TD, he would kneel and pray. "Free and independent" might be a stretch as he obviously loves the new found money from the Repugs.

Perhaps T. O. of the Eagles would fit the "Dysaesthesia Aethiopica" or "rascality" provided by the overseers. Interesting link.

Samuel Maverick was a Yale educated man who moved to Texas, was against secession before he was for it. Interestingly enough, the county of Maverick named for him was one of seven that went for McGovern against Nixon.

Keep driving them nutzoid. I "spoze" it keeps the trolls away and drives the misogynists such as Collunbut bonkers.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on January 6, 2006 at 2:19 AM | PERMALINK

Misogynists? I suppose illiterate looney Left have to dig around for hackneyed smears, but my problem with this incoherent twit Dickerson has fuck all to do with her gender and everything to do with her inability to write coherently or even in an interesting manner.

Nor am I the only one.

However your blithering incoherence seems to suggest that you have found a soul mate. Stupid git.

Posted by: collounsbury on January 6, 2006 at 2:39 AM | PERMALINK

This is the foundation of corporate governance.Lincoln freed blacks and made us all slaves.

Posted by: j w booth on January 6, 2006 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

An interesting post. Despite the many complaints above, I did enjoy reading this.

Despite that, I don't think I made the full circle on the dangerous meme, but I'm not sure that's Ms. Dickerson's fault.

In addition to all of the obvious conclusions regarding each part, I felt that the connection was that knowing some of these things changes one's perspective as one reads the Times article or even the story about Mr. Maverick's legacy.

Personally, some of my own diverse knowledge often leads me on many tangential detours.

Posted by: Frank on January 6, 2006 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

Hello folks. Apparently a few of you like all of your blog posts to be written flat and straight, and that's fine. But don't pretend that's the only interesting way to blog. I thought this post was an ass-kickingly brilliant riff on the long history of majority/white observers confusing (a) blacks who act independently with (b) blacks who slavishly serve their masters. (And who should count as a "maverick"?)

My view of what the flat-and-straight version of this post would say? In the original story, perhaps the slave was acting more independently -- and subversively -- than the authors of The Negro Cowboy realized. In the case of Lusk, perhaps Lusk is acting far LESS independently -- and far more like the slave character in The Negro Cowboy's narrative -- than the New York Times writer realized.

Anyway, my vote to Kevin: next time you go on vacation, invite back Debra Dickerson!

Posted by: hello on January 6, 2006 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

Hello folks. Apparently a few of you like all of your blog posts to be written flat and straight, and that's fine. But don't pretend that's the only interesting way to blog.
If when writing flat and straight you meant, "coherent and having a point" then yes. Of course there are lots of ways to blog, any semi-literate can do so. It is, after all, an unedited medium.

Posted by: collounsbury on January 6, 2006 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK


Right on. Excellent points.


Go back to your Arab porn and enjoy your fantasies with young boys.

Posted by: stupid git on January 6, 2006 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

I can't believe I'm posting this, but it sorta needs to be said:

1) Lots of the infamous racial stereotypes historically applied to blacks, e.g., laziness and stupidity, look very different if you examine their origins. Plantation owners used to bitch that their slaves must be lazy when they couldn't get work done on time (instead of realizing that it was cuz they weren't getting paid for it?) and too dumb to bring tools in out of the rain (not THEIR tools, it was sabotage), is a transparent story if you have the sense to READ it.

It just helps to say such stuff in declarative sentences, rather than elliptical references. A good historical example is George Washington himself, who realized when he had to get a project done that he couldn't rely on his slaves: the Father of our Country figured out you get what you pay for. (Now, THERE's an historical parallel for this preacher in Texas.)

2) There is a peculiar dynamic with epithets. Connecticut is proud to be called the Nutmeg State, Oklahomans are "Sooners", but both denote cheating. The original version of the leprechaun logo for the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame was downright simian, done by Thomas Nast as a racist attack on Irish immigrants in NYC.

People tend to adopt epithets that started out as insults, and make 'em badges of honor and self-identification: look at the old Compton rappers NWA. (The late Richard Pryor's evolution with the word notwithstanding: he fell behind the times.)

But, Lordy, Debra: if you're gonna set up a straw man, like it's odd that a minister who supports Bush would be called a maverick cuz (why?).... KNOCK IT DOWN.


Posted by: theAmericanist on January 6, 2006 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

Holy crap! The Dallas Mavericks, the basketball team, there's black guys on there, right. Jeez, when they find out about this, they're going to totally kick Mark Cubans ass when they find out!

Posted by: G-man on January 6, 2006 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

Go back to your Arab porn and enjoy your fantasies with young boys.

Ah the looney left projecting simple minded stereotypes.

Posted by: collounsbury on January 6, 2006 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK



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