Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

We love Halloween. Perhaps, it is our favorite holiday of them all, in large part because it gives us a chance to stretch out our imaginations and pretend to be kids again--cause you know we respectable negroes have done grown up and don't go trick or treating anymore.

In honor of our first Halloween online we are having a costume "spooktacular" where over the next few days we will each post our favorite Halloween costume ideas.

Today: Chauncey DeVega posts his Halloween in the hood suggestions

Friday: Zora posts her Halloween guide to dressing for success

Now THIS is a Halloween mask, but unfortunately it is already taken:

Zora says: The Politics of Respectability? or, the Politics of Responsibility?

Gordon, I consider both you and Chauncey to be friends. As such, I presume that you are intelligent and deliberative, that you think about the impact of your words and that you are capable of giving context to phenomena in our community. Above all else, I presume that in fact you love black people (I hope so, at least). I do not presume that you are both progressives -- that remains to be seen.

I will never waste my time defending "black degenerates," or any other kind of degenerate. They simply are not worth it. But neither will I waste my time highlighting and publicizing degenerate black behavior. Why? Again, they are not worth it. I only wish that the American media, white conservatives and black "progressives(?)conservatives" like Chauncey and Bill Cosby would share my perspective. Oprah Winfrey, for example, disappointed me greatly when she defended her choice to build a school in South Africa by saying that inner-city children in the U.S. wouldn't value a free education. Apparently, she asked a couple of kids in Chicago what they would want from her and they answered gym shoes. She took those few responses to represent the values of an entire class of children in our community. In spite of her own self and her own history, she bought into what the media consistently sells regarding our people. (I do wonder if Oprah now will be as quick to make generalizations about South Africans given that her new school is at the center of controversy). Please let us not forget that from the very time we arrived in the U.S., we have been putting our lives at risk in pursuit of education. Those values are still kicking in our community.

Why not use our voices and resources to discuss the black working poor who are struggling to get ahead? to discuss cutbacks in American public schools? to discuss the lack of police protection in urban neighborhoods? ... Let's address the root causes of disfunction where it exists rather than just mocking those who are disfunctional. This is not about making excuses, it is about taking responsibility.

Gordon and Chauncey, here's to performing the politics of responsibility! My brothers, are you with me?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Gordon Gartrelle says: Respectable to Ourselves!

Sister Zora,

Buffoons of all stripes are made to be clowned. Don’t you laugh at tacky rednecks or homoerotic white frat boys? Why does it become a matter of racial elitism when the buffoons are poor and black?

Shouldn’t we, progressive thinkers concerned about black well-being, be given the benefit of the doubt? We don’t hate black people. We aren’t ashamed of our blackness. We don’t believe that racism has been eradicated from our society. We don’t believe that all poor black people are hopeless degenerates. We do, however, believe that some poor black people are degenerates, and that those of us who should know better continue to enable and make excuses for them. Clearly, the black underclass doesn’t have a monopoly on dysfunction, but we delude ourselves by pretending that the problems aren’t acute among this population.

What’s more discouraging is that “respectable” black people jump to publicly defend black degenerates—I emphasize “publicly.” I’ve spent a lot of time with brothers and sisters like yourself: educated defenders of the black underclass, performing all manners of excuse-making and victimology to anyone who will listen in public, but who behind closed doors spew the most callous vitriol about the very people they defend. The harshest comments I’ve heard about the black underclass have come from educated black progressives (as well as the respectable members of the underclass itself). As Brother Chauncey often jokes, Michael Eric Dysonbrilliant, pandering flimflam artist that he is—probably looks at the loud, vulgar, disrespectful horde of black kids in ghetto neighborhoods and says to himself, “What a bunch of ign’ant ass niggas.”

The politics of respectability used to be performed primarily for white people. Since courting white approval is pathological, it’s time for the politics of respectability to be performed for black people, especially the worse off among us.

Zora says: Respectable to Whom?

What does it mean to be a "respectable negro?" Does it mean that you take all of the opportunities that you've been blessed with just to throw stones at those of your brethren who have not been as blessed? Does it mean that you can use the antics of a few to represent the behavior of an entire class?

I really don't understand the obvious joy you take in highlighting buffoons -- people who do not represent our brothers, our cousins, our mothers, our friends... You seem to be endorsing the white, mainstream practice of only giving black folks attention when they do something to support a stereotype.

Does the black underclass only serve to make you respectable, Mr. DeVega? "See, boss! I ain't like dem der negroes. I be respectabul!"

Chauncey DeVega says: Sometimes when all is lost

When the moon is bright I think of old dirty. He really was the Pablo Neruda of Hip Hop, and damn he was so ugly he was almost beautiful. Plus, while the crack made dirt mcgirt a genius it took his life, but odb's real weakness was white women--why couldn't the god odb have a queen on his arm for this heretofore classic video? That really hurts our sistas given the shortage of "marriageable" black men in our communities, and the way that the prison industrial complex has taken black men out of our homes (see here, here, here, and here). Like I always say, please black people if you are on a jury, DO NOT convict our young black men, it is snitchin' in the service of power, a 3rd face type of false consciousness, an I caught Stockholm syndrome type of mental illness.

As Bro' Cos' has been saying, and as Patrick Moynihan and Billy Wilson have said in years past, if more black men were in the home the underclass would right itself. Well maybe that is an overstatement, but at the very least a generation of young black men wouldn't think there is anything remotely straight, manly, or cool about running a train on an ottoman--oops I did it again, that was a very heterosexist, chauvinistic sort of comment--cause we all know there is nothing wrong with this:

Uncle Ruckus would be very upset (and how can you not love Jabba the Hutt's musical cue which accompanies Uncle Ruckus this season?):

Monday, October 29, 2007

Well hello there...

Our mission is to confront stupidity every day--or at least 3 times a week--be it from black, brown, white, yellow, (or hell) even red people. We will be looking to the present, towards the future, and looking back at things that have made us either say a collective, "Damn!", shake our heads in frustration, or maybe even just be a little bit sad (yes..we do have a heart).

We are an eclectic lot, while we may offer news analysis and commentary one day, we may simply chronicle our adventures the following day, or debate what is the best way to fry chicken, or how to make homemade barbecue sauce the day after that. We respectable negroes are also unabashed critics of popular culture, and thus, have quite a bit to say about what in the present moment passes as "culture" and/or "the popular".