Friday, December 7, 2007

Friday Five: 5 terms and phrases that respectable negroes have never used

Last week, I posted 5 phrases respectable negroes need to stop using; this week, I’m featuring 5 terms and phrases that respectable negroes have never used (sincerely). Just for fun, I’ve decided to illustrate all of them using rap songs.

1.) Conversate
I thank EbonyJet for the suggestion, but I wrote this one years ago. My problem with “conversate,” aside from the obvious, is that, if people didn’t try to put on airs, it would never leave their mouths. Think about it. You only hear “conversate” when people are attempting to sound sophisticated, when they think the word “talk” needs to be classed up. Folks use it most often when trying to spit or receive game. So a word that’s intended to signal class signals exactly the opposite. Ever see some tacky soul decked out from head to toe in Louis Vuitton? “Conversate” is the word equivalent of that.

Say it aint so, Biggie!

2.) Chinky eyes
Every time I hear some ign’ant ass fool say this, I just have to shake my head. This is bad on so many levels. First, there’s the silly racialized fetishization of the “exotic” Asian. Then there’s that little thing about it containing A RACIAL SLUR! Imagine if Angelina Jolie were to answer a question about her lips, “I used to hate them when I was a kid, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve embraced the beauty of my Nigger Lips.”

3.) (Poor) white trash
Also problematic for many reasons. First, it ties white dysfunction to poverty. More important for our purposes, though, is that using the adjective “white” to describe the degraded “trash” amounts to a subtle reinforcement of white supremacy. The “white” is not just for the sake of specificity; the fact that you have to qualify trash implies that it is not usually white. Take a wild guess as to what it usually is.

Fuck Eminem and 8 Mile, by the way. Did white people really need another movie in which a field populated by black folks is unimportant unless a white person does it? Arent there like 12 Rocky movies?

4.) Stop snitching
In American culture at large, there has long been a stigma attached to snitching (look at the connotations of the words “snitch,” “tattletale,” “rat,” “stool pigeon,” “fink”); however, since we all know that hip hop music is responsible for every evil in America, we’re lucky that credible journalists have sought out knowledgeable people to discuss this “alarming new trend” that’s localized to black hip hop fans. But the absurdity of the media doesn’t excuse the “Stop Snitching” thing, which is the dumbest craze since people started treating the movie Scarface as an inspirational guide to life (ignore that insignificant part at the end where he’s swiss cheesed up). I’m sympathetic to those who choose not to go to the police out of fear of reprisal. We all know that certain neighborhoods don’t receive an adequate level of protection. But these fools act like “Stop Snitching” is some code of honor, when they just don’t want to get caught…and they will snitch on somebody in a second if it means avoiding some time behind bars. Please, start snitching on these clowns.

Et tu, Cube?

Bonus “Stop Snitching” song (only this one’s satirical):

5.) Baby Daddy / Baby Mama
Who dat ee-uh?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Zora Says: "It's Hammer Time," Again?

He's back! The Bo Jangles of the early 90s has returned. After making millions of dollars (and losing all of it) consuming hip-hop and gospel and regurgitating it into a pulp that could be easily marketed and digested by mainstream audiences, MC Hammer has begun a new venture. Apparently, he is launching a a new internet site that focuses exclusively on dance videos. The idea behind DanceJam is to provide a space for dancers around the world to share their moves and for others to presumably learn the basics. "From end-to-end, dancing goes so far," he says. "You know, from street dancing to Broadway dancing to modern to jazz to tap to cheerleading ...." MC Hammer is looking for a global audience, citing the popularity of India's Bollywood films. "Dance drives every movie — so imagine the international implications there. So it's just a great opportunity for a language that is global to do really well ... and also for me to make a buck" ...

... yet another tool for negrophiles around the world: How to be a Negro in 5 Simple Dance Steps.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

An Open Letter to The Assimilated Negro (TAN)

Dear TAN,

I read your site religiously. I follow almost all of your work, even the stuff you do for the unbearable white New Yorkers who patronize you (Nigger Heaven, represent!). I’m also jealous of your gig at Ebony/Jet because I like to imagine that all of their writers still work at their headquarters and that the Beauties of the Week strut around the office in swimsuits and high heels. But in your recent piece, “The Dearth of Black Satire,” you really show your ass, and not even those giant neon bikini bottoms the Beauties wore back in the ‘80s can cover it. As a fan, and as a fellow respectable negro, I feel compelled to call you out on this one.

In short, your article laments the lack of mainstream black satire, then attributes this lack to black people’s broken (more like underdeveloped) funny bone. As I was reading the article, I gave you the benefit of the doubt, hoping that it was some clever piece of meta-satire. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. This article’s assumptions and implications are so rotten, they cast a negative light on everything else you’ve written.

The bulk of this letter will be my responses to a few quotes from your article, but first things first— the central point of your piece, namely, that black people in general don’t do or “get” satire, is utter horseshit. Black humor has always been shot through with satirical black humor. And it isn’t the exclusive province of the giants. Even the hackiest BET Comedy routines and the lamest rap skits often show a familiarity with the language of satire. Also, the average black person engages in “elevated humor” (including satire) quite frequently. The fact that this is news to you is problematic on many levels, as you are not only a black man, but a humorist whose hook is his blackness. More on that later.

You offer three aspects of satire that might stymie black folks:

1. Critical: Criticism is a complicated game. On one side, it's the only way one can improve. On the other, it's a slap in the face. In general, we still don't like being slapped in the face, even if there's "noble intent" behind it.

Not true. We love being slapped in the face, just not in public, and certainly not by those who we think don’t like black people. The black contingent you describe (and any other group that makes a stink about stereotypical media images) is analogous to a freaky sadomasochist behind closed doors who wants to maintain a prim and proper public façade. What these black people laugh at in public—before the gaze of the white media and the black Civil Rights establishment—and what they laugh at absent that gaze are two different things.

You suggest that it’s unfair that we aren’t free to joke about ourselves in public, when white people make fun of themselves so readily. Since when has life been fair for anyone, especially black folks? The main benefit (and irony) of whiteness is that it allows its owners to be treated as individuals, while regarding individual white expression as universal. The rest of us don’t have that luxury. Given that the mainstream media warps the images of black people, and that many treat these images as truth, it’s no wonder that certain respectable negroes would like to silence them. I’m with you, though: I can’t support this new wave of soft black censorship because I think that it’s childish and counterproductive. But, you see, this over-sensitive humorlessness results from bad strategy among the loudest black voices, not an inherent deficiency of black people, black culture, or black political “struggle.”

2. Literary: Satire comes from a literary tradition, and it's not to say black people don't read, but ... well maybe that is what I'm trying to say. We're not educated enough to appreciate the history of satire.

That’s an elite education for you. Most people, regardless of race or level of education, know jack shit about the history of satire (or the history of anything for that matter!) because most people haven’t studied literature intensively. You act as if someone needs to have read A Modest Proposal or Candide to appreciate a good satirical skewering. It’s easy to blame a lack of fancy book learnin’ for the push to ban Huck Finn from classrooms or remove “Read a Book” from the airwaves, but this opposition has very little to do with people not understanding the satire on a literary level; it’s more a matter of public performance: these opponents are trying to put what they believe to be the best public face on their in-group. Though their actions are stupid, the people behind them aren’t necessarily stupid or uneducated.

3. Detatched: Satire these days consists of people playing characters/roles, basically trying to lie and give off an impression. But what's lost in translation is the point. Black people are too caught up in the grind to appreciate this sort of "detached observational" humor. Especially if the joke's on us.

TAN, if this were true, there would be no such thing as black parody.

You forgot one, though, and it’s kind of a big deal:

4. Black people don’t control media outlets, so the mainstream black comedy that is produced does not show the range of what black people want to see or have to offer. By most accounts, those in charge of green lighting projects believe that anything that eschews black stereotypes is unprofitable, hence the increasing LCD character of popular black culture. This is not to absolve black audiences, who support a whole lot of garbage, and often fail to support quality black projects. Black folks almost always support great black comedy, however. When the stars align every 5 or 10 years and a black person with enough power gets a mainstream outlet to back “sophisticated” black satire, the product is popular with white and black audiences, e.g. In Living Color, The Chris Rock Show, Chappelle’s Show (The Richard Pryor Show is the only notable exception, and Fear of a Black Hat, The Boondocks, and the Ego Trip material on VH1 are/were too niche to have mass appeal). Undercover Brother and Bamboozled are the only mainstream movies to have utilized satirical black voices this century. The former wasn’t really marketed properly, but has still found a cult audience; the latter, despite its terrible execution, has scores of black defenders based simply on its premise.

When asking why the 21st Century has seen so few examples of popular black satire, perhaps you should ask why there are exactly nan black shows on network TV, and why the only black comedy films that are financed by majors nowadays have to include pimps, hos, crackheads, flaming gay caricatures, sistagirl neckrolling sassiness, and black men in mammy drag. Here’s a hint: it’s not because that’s all black people want. Because you completely miss the boat on institutionalized discrimination in the creative entertainment industry, this is, by far, my favorite line of your article:

Are there no satirists because of the lack of demand? It can't be for lack of opportunity.

But by “opportunity,” you mean current events that lend themselves to satirical treatment by black folks; you don’t mean opportunity, as in the means and clout to produce smart black satire in the mainstream. The ironing is delicious.

I’m worried about you, TAN. I’m worried that such a smart and talented respectable negro would accept mainstream media’s representations of black people as an accurate depiction of black folks’ character and behavior. It concerns me that your first instinct was to attribute the absence of mainstream black satire to a problem with black people’s collective sense of humor. This is the same reasoning used by people who see that most mainstream black art is representational and thus deduce that black culture isn’t capable of producing abstract expression.

“The Dearth of Black Satire,” more than anything else I’ve read from you, lays bare your problematic relationship with black people (and obviously, with yourself). You distance yourself from “common” black people when you suggest that they aren’t educated enough to understand satire. After all, you aren’t too uneducated or sensitive to understand or appreciate satire. I know that it was drilled into your head that you are young, gifted, and black, but get over it. You aren’t special. When you so readily dismiss black people’s intelligence, that goes beyond being assimilated, negro; that’s perilously close to accepting white supremacy.

At the same time that you implicitly distinguish yourself from black people, you try to include yourself among their lot (“We just don’t get it…,” “until we stop taking ourselves so seriously…,” etc.). This isn’t surprising, considering that a large part of your success stems from your role as a “designated negro” who seeks to make black people intelligible for white hipsters. Yet it doesn’t seem to trouble you that you are acting as white people’s guide to black people, despite, apparently, not knowing all that much about black people who aren’t like yourself; it doesn’t seem to cause you concern that your role as “negro tour guide” is based on your knowledge of the tourists, and not that of the “natives.”

Sure, assimilated negroes are defined by such identity conflicts. Before this article, however, I never had cause to question your concern for black people. In psychological terms, you might need “those other” black people to convince yourself of your uniqueness; in practical terms, you might need them because they are a subject of great interest to clueless white people, who, instead of talking to “those other” black people, would rather rely on one educated, “articulate” black spokesperson. It’s possible that you don’t really have a use for “those other” black people, otherwise. Politics aside, you may be John McWhorter in essence (though perhaps I’m being swayed by the high yella complexion and the booty chin). TAN, I don’t want to believe any of this about you, but, again, after reading your article, I don’t know what to believe.

I can see John Stewart riffing now on “we tried to make some jokes about black people, because, you know, that's how we party these days. But all they did was want to protest everything we said. So now we'll just ignore them.”

So you look at the absence of black voices and subjects on The Daily Show and think, “it’s too bad that the fear of Sharpton and company is preventing the writers from discussing black people,” huh? That’s interesting, because I look at The Daily Show and see that it is like every other white institution: it assumes that its voice is the default. It doesn’t matter that its creators are liberal; they’re still wearing the blinders of white privilege. The straight news analogy is when CNN or ABC parrots the notion that Republicans are the party of the very religious (I guess black churches didn’t get that memo). White liberals neither hate us nor consciously ignore us; we just don’t factor into their everyday vision of the normal.

I recommend that you re-visit the In Living Color sketch “The Black People’s Awards.” It’s not only a hilarious piece of popular satirical black comedy, but its underlying target, black folks’ limited opportunities in cinema and TV, is one you need to study if you hope to carve out a profitable career as a popular, self-consciously black humorist (and not lose your mind in the process). You’ll find solace in that sketch when you’re rejected by an editor or a producer because they “already have a black writer” or when you run into trouble finding a publisher for your book because it’s not “black” enough.

The following quotes are telling:

But even aside from the opportunity to make a buck off a joke, the cachet value we place on satire -- the relation of satire to "highbrow" and "intelligence" -- makes this an imperative issue for black people. We risk classifying ourselves as too slow or dense for elevated humor if we choose to blindly ignore our faults and foibles in the interest of protecting our pride.


until we loosen up and stop taking ourselves so seriously on everything, I fear we won't be taken seriously about anything.

Like the stuffy black establishment leaders you mention in your article, you seem to have internalized the need for white approval.

Based on the arguments you offer in this article, I am fairly certain of one thing: you must not talk to many black people on a regular basis. Fortunately, there’s hope for you yet. You can be rehabilitated. All you need to do is pry yourself away from your white girls comfort zone for a little while and hang out with some black people! We don’t bite. Regular contact with black folks will not only lead you to abandon your flawed premises and conclusions about black humor, it will ultimately make you an even better comedy writer.


Gordon Gartrelle,
Respectable Negro

Monday, December 3, 2007

The New England Patriots beat the Baltimore Ravens!

Here is some respectable negro geek love for my favorite football team, and their win, in one of the most exciting football games in recent memory.

We march on....

Chauncey DeVega says: You, my friend, are an asshole

When I was in elementary school I was an expert in the art of skipping school. I knew how to produce a cough that would echo with perfect pitch and cadence, how to miss the school bus, how to make my mom pity me, just how long to put the thermometer near the light bulb to heat it up (and no it wasn't a rectal thermometer). I even escalated so far as to pretend to throw myself down the stairs of the duplex we lived in--but, my dad was too smart to fall for that ploy (being a slip and fall expert himself), so he didn't buy it.

In college, my black nationalist friends and I had a plan we called "operation hamhock." In operation hamhock, my black, latino, and sympathetic white radical compatriots would stage our own series of racist graffiti incidents and wear Klan robes and jump upon designated Tom Negroes and beat some sense into them. We would have been agent-provocateurs, the spooks who sat by the door who pushed our conservative, insular, white college to change for the better. Guess what? we had the good sense not to do it. Apparently, the idiot who "lynched" himself didn't have the good sense to not pursue this foolishness.

The hulk is very, very, angry right now because you lied and by doing so undermined all people of color who legitimately suffer under and are impacted by white racism. If the hulk could get you in a phone booth, and sodomize you with a hot curling iron, he would:

Respectable Negroes of the Week

Black & Brown Voters In Iowa
Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), former Sen. John Edwards (from left) were among the participants in Saturday's Brown and Black Forum in Des Moines, Iowa, which focused on issues affecting black and Latino voters in the state. The forum was open to all the candidates — but none of the Republicans showed up. So the evening was a chance for the Democrats to reach out to some important audiences — African-American and Hispanic voters. The event also had a twist — each candidate had a chance to pose a question to someone else on stage. Among the audience-pleasing moments of the two-hour event was the response of Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich to his chance to question a candidate. The often puckish Kucinich proceeded to question himself. "Congressman Kucinich, is it true that you're the only one sitting up here … who advocates a universal, single-payer, not-for-profit health care system, which would result in all 46 million Americans who are not insured, and another 50 million Americans who are under-insured … being covered? And the answer to that question is, it is true," he said.
Respectable Negroes, we really need to amp up our questions and demands in this race.

Black Soldiers Exonerated in WWII Lynching Incident
Forty-three soldiers, all African Americans, were court-martialed and convicted of lynching an Italian prisoner of war during World War II. The Defense Department recently exonerated the men and sent at least one of the two survivors a check for $725 in back pay. Yes, $725.

Black Women Shine in This Year's Poetry Prizes
Four of the most prestigious poetry prizes went to African-American women this year. Some say the accolades are well overdue. Fueling this trend are a growing number of literary organizations that nurture the work specifically of black writers. A new Renaissance?

Washington Redskins
Let's acknowledge the Washington Redskins for doing a play with only 10 players to show love for their loss ... and giving up a 20 yard play on it to boot.
(They still need to get rid of that fucked-up, antiquated name, however; how would we react to the Atlanta Blackfaces or the New Orleans Negroes or the Oakland Coloreds?)

Akon, Kanye West, and ...
... and a few others for being on the Thriller re-release and for showing love for MJ. You know, of course, we can't help but to love Thriller. 'Thriller' is re-released to celebrate its 25th anniversary since its original release in 1982. It will be attached with a DVD containing Michael Jackson's notable music videos for 'Billie Jean', 'Beat It' and title track, 'Thriller' as well as a 1983 performance of Jackson in a TV special 'Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever'. If only we could recapture those days...
If you hear about any Respectable Negroes who are worthy of attention over the week, feel free to nominate them!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday Five: 5 phrases respectable negroes need to retire

New feature time. In "Friday Five," we will post a themed list of five things relevant to respectable negroes.

This week's theme is 5 phrases respectable negroes need to retire immediately.

1.) “Dr. King didn’t die so we could…”
Enough with this shit, people.

2.) “Oh, but when white people do it, it’s OK?”
The stock response from those who break their necks defending black criminality and irresponsibility…by noting that white people are also criminal and irresponsible. What a compelling defense!

3.) This is a “(modern day) lynching.”
James Byrd was lynched. Tookie Williams did not suffer a "legal lynching." "Uncle" Clarence Thomas was not subjected to a "high-tech lynching." Moreko Griggs, the black valedictorian who had to share the honor with a couple of white kids due to his school’s sketchy rule-changes, was not the victim of an "academic lynching." Referring to some minor offense as a lynching is insulting and highly disrespectful to actual lynching victims. Speaking of being lynched…

4.) “It’s just like Willie Lynch said...”
I don’t want to go into great detail about this because we plan to write pieces on black myths and conspiracy theories in the future. But I’m sick of hearing black folks bring up this fabricated, though masterful piece of victimology.

5.)“We use ‘nigger’ as a term of endearment among ourselves to remove the power from the word.
Nonsense. First of all, it's not only used as a term of endearment; many black folks use the word in a derogatory fashion, often to distinguish themselves (supposedly respectable) from classless, ignorant, degenerate black people. Second, you’d have to be an imbecile to argue that we have become any less sensitive to white people calling us “niggers.” While we're at it, please stop with this nigga/nigger foolishness--it's the same damn word! In most black and white Southern dialects, words that end in "er" are pronounced with an "a" ending. Can you name any other "er" word with a corresponding (though somehow completely different) "a" word? Gangster/gangsta? Nope. Give it up.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I couldn't resist...Beware the attack of the nooses!!!!

I cower as I write this. My Zombie Survival Guide, and my SAS Survival Handbook have some valuable tips for dealing with this type of calamity. But, I fear the information they impart may not help me survive the attack.

As the Southern Poverty Law Center reported in The New York Times, the nooses are on the march and they are unstoppable. Run black people, run as far, and as fast, as you can.

They are coming and they are unstoppable:

May God have mercy on our souls.

Chauncey DeVega Says: So divine and heavenly is the Joy of Sex with Bea Arthur

I have a checkered employment history. In no chronological order, I have worked as: a convenience store clerk (a quite dangerous job); as a radio personality and club dj; a janitor; a party promoter; a gigolo to the stars...just wishful thinking; and finally as a public relation's account executive for travel and tourism.

For those of you not in the know, public relations, because it is a client based enterprise, is akin to being a prostitute. You are at the beck and call of your Johns (here: the client). You are rented out to the client by your pimp (here: your employer). And ultimately, you have to pretend to enjoy servicing your John, and to enjoy it so much that your John will keep coming back for more---so much more, that your pimp/p.r. firm can continue to rent you out over, and over, and over, again. The noted public intellectual, Ice-T, eloquently summarized this relationship in the documentary, Pimps Up, Ho's Down, when with great aplomb he said, "we are all someone's ho. it is just a matter of picking the right pimp":

In public relations you aren't the high end prostitute booked out at a few grand an hour. No, you are a Hunt's Point hooker, walking the stroll, and peeing up against a garbage can type of Ho.

However, my position in public relations did have its perks. While I was never "lucky" enough to take a trip to the Caribbean, a trip during which I would be forced to whore myself at some all inclusive resort for the benefit of my client, I was however privy to pictures, videos, and salacious anecdotes about what goes on at resorts in Jamaica, Haiti, and other resort destinations. I have seen videos of little suburban princesses having random sex with both island boys, as well as frat boys, to win a pair of cheap beads. I have been scarred by pictures of drunken, bloated, fat, cellulite marked, alabaster bodies rutting on the dance floor of resorts such as Hedonism 2 and 3 in Jamaica:

I have seen video footage of little miss precious, on her trust fund financed spring break, going down on some dreaded, Bob Marley wanna be, as her friends cheer her on in the background. In short, I have witnessed all manner of human depravity--and you know what? this respectable negro kinda liked it.

Accordingly, I was not at all surprised by the recent "revelation" that older white women go to the islands to get their groove on. First, we all know how the Caribbean heat makes Americans and Canadians behave. The sun, the beach, the semi-nude black bodies, the alcohol, and the indulgence of an all inclusive resort frees people to be their true, primitive selves. As Bill O'Reilly famously said, "once people get into that hot weather they shed their inhibitions, you know they drink during the day, they lay there and lazy, they have dinner and then they come back and fool around...that's basically the modus operandi." Hell, they can't help ourselves.

And to clarify, the allure of the islands isn't limited to old white women and their horned up daughters. The appeal of Africa, of the Caribbean, and of Latin America is part of an American and European fascination with the "exotic" other. In Brazil, we have professional black men attracted to the allure of the bunda. Increasingly, black men are going to Cape Verde off the coast of Africa to live out their (literal) jungle fever. And of course, we have those poor sods who have been going to Thailand in search of poor women and easy "love".

This is a perceptual framework, deeply rooted in colonialism, which is equally seductive to our black and brown sisters. Case in point, Miss Terry McMillan got so turned out by the island heat, and presumably the shortage of marriageable black men (I call bullshit---oops that is a topic for another post), that she married an obviously gay man, wrote a book and made a movie, and then took her "I got played by my island lover routine, and now please have pity for me show" onto that mammy, Oprah Winfrey's, nationally televised, pity party.

Here, my position has always been that people, across time, and in any circumstance or situation, like to have sex. Moreover, some socio-biologists and others have suggested that we "naked apes" are hard wired to pursue sexual liasons with members of different racial groups because it encourages genetic diversity and human evolution. Perhaps, this intrinsic urge explains mandigo parties, inter-racial dating services, First Fridays (you know those Indian girls love a professional black man, but only for sport, not marriage), and half priced drink nights where "suburban" girls can get pawed at by "urban" men while grinding to minstrel-hop and taking them home (or to the backseat of an Escalade), for a little taboo love.

For me, this "new" phenomenon of old white women looking for some sycamore tree comes down to agency and willpower--attributes which both parties have, but in differing amounts. Restated, "who is playing who?" Is the "victim" the young black man who gets money, attention, perks, and access to the all inclusive resort? Is the "victim" the old woman who believes that this diggler will love her? I strongly suggest, that perhaps, they are playing each other.

However, this does not mean one task is equal to the other. For me, it comes down to one question. Could I fuck Bea Arthur? Now, I don't mean just a mechanical, in and out for five minutes and your done type of intercourse. No, I mean actually ravish, enjoy, and make her believe she was the greatest thing since sliced bread, and that her old distended labia, saggy breasts, and liver spotted buttocks were as as pristine as when the world was new. A young man in this situation has to bring his "client" to space mountain in order to protect his name brand and to get repeat business, because nothing less will put food on the island boy's plate, and new kicks, on his feet:

As lascivious and hedonistic as this respectable negro is, I don't think I could do it. And it is for that reason, and that reason alone, that I have pity for our young brothers being rutted on, and ruttin with, those Bea Arthurs and Terry McMillans.

It is hard out there for a pimp. But, it is harder out there for a mangina:

Chauncey DeVega says: What those old white women are really looking for in Kenya

The theme of the week is undoubtedly going to be interracial sex. Zora, this is your fault, because you know this respectable negro can't resist being discursive on any topic dealing with that ohh so tasty melange of race and sex.

Tomorrow, I have something more substantial to post. But for now, here is what those European and American women who go to the Islands, or to Africa, are really looking for:

And remember, Mr. T don't believe in Race Mixing. Plus, he beat cancer. I pity the fool!!!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Zora on Film: "Heading South" – White Women as Consumers of Black Flesh

An article on MSNBC about older, white women traveling to Kenya for sex tourism made me recall a film I watched a little more than a year ago. I remember that I stood in a long, movie line waiting in the humid heat of summer. I was surrounded by middle-aged, white women who chatted gaily while eagerly anticipating the film. On observing them, I knew that I was not going to enjoy myself that afternoon.

You see, I suffer from a phenomenon termed by sociologist Charles Horton Cooley as “the looking glass self.” This is essentially the interaction between how we see ourselves and how others see us. Because respectable negroes so often find themselves in white dominated spaces, we all experience this phenomenon at some point or another: we may adore Jay-Z, but we groan when we see our white colleagues grab their crotches and attempt to sing Girls, Girls, Girls; we may love fried chicken, but we pass on it at the company picnic; we may love to dance, but we’ll be damned if we are the first to get out on the dance floor at the firm’s holiday party… Why? Because we know that what they see is not what we see. In reacting to others perceptions of us, we both alter our behavior and our own perceptions of ourselves.

As I stood in the line to see Heading South, and later as I watched both the audience and the film, I knew that those women would not see what I was seeing. I was there to see a film about the terrible exploitation of the developing world by the West. They were there to see what they imagined as the white woman's version of How Stella Got Her Groove Back. A New York Times report on one screening described, "Some bought tickets in groups for a kind of middle-aged girls’ night out. Interviews indicated the movie has hit home with this audience because it affirms the sexual reality of women of a certain age, that even as they pass the prime of their desirability to men, libidos smolder. More than a few said they came seeking a hot night out."

Heading South takes place in Papa Doc's Haiti -- one of many terrifying chapters in the island's history. The central male characters are all poor, Haitian men who are struggling to get by. The central female characters are all elite, middle-aged women from the U.S., Canada & Europe. The women are there to purchase the attentions of young men (in one case very young, thirteen). The story focuses on the relationship between Ellen and Legba, her favorite, young lover. Early in the film, Ellen confesses, "I always told myself that when I'm old I'd pay young men to love me. I just didn't think it would happen so fast." Like the women in the audience that night, she could care less about the vulnerability and desperation of the young man she embraces. The violence and poverty of the island she enjoys is held at bay by security guards, leaving her free to exploit her fantasy. She doesn't care to know more. When tragedy inevitably raises its head, Ellen foolishly and selfishly sees herself at the center of it all.

The fact that the male protagonist is named Legba should have been the first clue to both the audience and to Ellen that all was not as it appeared, that there was a truth to take away. Legba, aka Eshu, Elegba or Elegua, is a Yoruba deity found in the practices of Orisha-ifa, Candomble, Santeria and Vodou. He is known as a playful, "trickster" god who plays pranks on mortals in order to teach them hard lessons. Somehow this key fact was lost on the female characters, on the audience members and on movie reviewers alike. They completely missed a major part of the story line and reduced the film to a hot story about sexy mandingos and the white women they crave. Of course, I left the film angry and with an attitude. And, of course, my fellow movie-goers assumed that my anger was tied to a resentment of their desirability. My entire movie experience, my entire night, was altered by what I imagined a bunch of old, white women were thinking.

At this point, I know that you are wondering why I let myself get so worked up about a film. The problem was that I knew that this film was based in fact, that it wasn't entirely fiction, that many of those women in the audience ran to book vacations to Haiti, to Cape Verde, to the Dominican Republic, to Jamaica, to Kenya ... As a frequent traveler, I can't tell you how many times I have gone to the Caribbean and witnessed wrinkled, flaccid women from Europe waiving dollars, Euros and gifts in front of young men who, in stronger economies, would be employed or in school. I try to hide the surprise and disgust on my face, but the men see it and either react with aggression ("Who the hell do you think you are?") or turn their heads in shame. When I was traveling in upper-Egypt, I witnessed the same phenomenon: beautiful, Nubian men in traditional kufis and gallabiyyas walking along the shores of the Nile with frumpy, old women immodestly dressed. Anyone who has ever visited a man in jail or prison has witnessed similar dynamics. There, you very often see young, black men in their prime attached at the hip to older, white women, those who presumably could not afford plane tickets abroad.

In all of the popular discussions of this growing phenonemon, the narrative is always about white women rediscovering their sexuality. The women are always haughty and self-righteous about their arrangements, asserting a dynamic of equal exchange. Rarely do we hear the voices of the men and young boys, for this isn't their story. They are merely part of the supporting cast. They are black bodies for purchase. They are what white women perceive them to be. The suffering economies and violent societies are mere backdrops for a neo-colonial love fest. This is the story of Miss Ann being "served, serviced and pampered" by her over-sexed mandingo.

Respectable Negroes of the Week

Condoleezza Rice (Conservative, but still Respectable)
“There was absolutely no prospect of a Middle East peace process that was going to lead to anything,” she said in an interview in May about her thinking in 2001. “I just didn’t see it.” Nearly seven tumultuous years later, Ms. Rice, as secretary of state, has led the Bush administration to a startling turnaround and is now thrusting the United States as forcefully as Mr. Clinton once did into the role of mediator between the Israelis and Palestinians. The culmination of her efforts occurs this week in Annapolis, Md., as Mr. Bush, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, meet to set the outlines of a final peace agreement before the end of Mr. Bush’s term.

Augustus Hawkins
Augustus Hawkins, who was California's first black congressman and helped form the Congressional Black Caucus, has died. He was 100. Hawkins died Saturday at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Md., of symptoms related to old age, his niece, Susan Jefferson, said Monday. Hawkins, a Democrat, represented south Los Angeles for more than half a century, first starting off in the state Legislature in 1935 and then getting elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1962. Hawkins sponsored the equal employment section of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act that created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He helped create the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971. Hawkins also co-wrote the Humphrey-Hawkins Act of 1978 that was designed to reduce unemployment and inflation.

...its been a slow week for respectable negroes.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

We have lots in store next week from Zora, Gordon and Chauncey. But today, we are thankful for friends, family, health, and all that assorted goodness.

We respectable negroes are also thankful for Paul Mooney.

Accordingly, here is some Thanksgiving's day Paul Mooney love:




Happy Thanksgiving, May The Force be with You, Peace, and Salaam, from us respectable negroes to all of you.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Baby I'm Black (but only from the waist down)

Hip hop comedy albums are dead because the music itself is approaching self-parody (see Little Brother's comments on their Percy Miracles character). However, one has to admit this is pretty damn funny:

Plus, it is certified 100% minstrel-hop free by our board of directors (but, are two white guys performing as minstrels, but without the cork, not actually minstrels?...And yes, we confuse ourselves sometimes).

An African Poet in England Curses his English Head of Department

Below is an example of what happens when you cross a respectable negro -- we have truly special ways of venting our anger...

An African Poet in England Curses his English Head of Department

My dear HOD, i.e., Head of a Donkey,
I just want you to know, you dumb ass,
that in the culture I come from, it is okay
for a poet to curse, provided it is in verse!

As you leave Hope Place, tonight, staggering
homewards like a drunken miner rehearsing
how to beat up his wife and strangle his children,
may the bright light at the end of your tunnel
Be the headlamp of an approaching diesel train.

As you hiccup forward, hoping to find in Freshfields
some respite from the razorblades and penknives
flourishing, like cactus flowers, in your rancorous
and cantankerous heart, may you reach home only
to find out that your wife has run away to your best friend.

May your two daughters elope to Africa
with the fuzzy wuzzy who bangs bongo-bongo drums
with callused palms to stay the seasons
of his abused self and exiled soul in your corruscating
Caucasian department along Hope Street.

May they impale their pear-shaped buttocks
on his delicious penis, lowering themselves
ecstatically on his gorgeous Zulu dick, like
headless, barbarqued chicken and keep rotating
round and round frenetically until they are bronzed
by the heat and power of his copper-hot rod and brown libido.

When they return to England, as they kiss you
at the airport, may they empty what remains of his semen
and the other juices of his body they swallowed
through their pussies into your own mouth and down your throat.
May you never be able to digest those juices of their love.

May your next wife mistake you for her clitoris
And play with you as often she did with herself
before she married you and you became her clitoris.

May your students mistake you for Caligula
or Grendel or the Cyclops or Nero or Nebuchadnezzar
Or Jack the Ripper or Richard West or Jeffrey
Dahmer and deal with you accordingly.

May your colleagues see you in a new and progressive light
As the twenty-first century reincarnation
of Julius Caesar, Coriolanus, Richard III, Narcissus,
Goliath, Pentheus and deal with you accordingly.

When you bid the earth adieu, preferably
by stoning or public strangling, may you
be buried in the belly of a thousand wolves
and foxes and hyenas and other scavengers.
May vultures share your flesh shred by shred
As they sing their national anthem in German.

In your next reincarnation, may you come back
rearranged like the petals of a hibiscus flower,
or the feathers of a crippled, impotent peacock.
And when you do come again, may you never
harbour the dim and blighted illusion that you are
the only flower in the graveyard called Hope Place.

If anything I have spoken tonight is false,
If my speech is slander, if what I have uttered
here is the soot from the bottom of my mother’s pot,
meant for an innocent face, may all the curses
I have uttered on this page fall upon my own head.

--Esiaba Irobi

Monday, November 19, 2007

Chauncey Devega says: Priceless!

When the sisters speak their own language:

Plus victomology:

Equals priceless!!!

Just being provocative....any takers?

Here is some Cloverfield love for you

Respectable negroes everywhere are excited about J.J. Abrams's upcoming movie, Cloverfield. I wonder if the monster (clearly not Godzilla, but probably somehow related to the Cthulhu mythos) is getting a kickback for prepping the New York real estate market for some major urban redevelopment:

Prominent Black Athletes: Public Enemy #1

Barry Bonds' gigantic dome was indicted on federal perjury and obstruction of justice charges last week. Ignore for a second that the indictment is bullshit, and just think about the fact that, in the last few years, the biggest individual draws in professional football , basketball, track, and now baseball (all of them black), have been brought up on serious legal charges.

I guess that the daily barrage of stories about athletes’ legal problems makes it hard to see how truly remarkable this is.

According to supporters of stale organizations like the NAACP, these indictments are evidence of a racist witch hunt by white folks looking to take down influential black people. These shakedown clowns give respectable negroes a bad name.

...But I digress. Based on the events of the last couple of years, all bets are off. We may see black athletes charged with all kinds of crazy shit. If I were a black athlete, I’d retire immediately, hire a driver (but never show that driver my shotgun), refuse to set foot in a strip club, and avoid white women like the plague.

My predictions:

March 2008: Freddy Adu is charged with identity theft for trying to impersonate Don Cheadle (I know they don’t really look alike, but there are very few dark-skinned celebrities these days. It’s like an El-Debarge/Al B. Sure revival).

August 2009: Venus and Serena get pinched for bootlegging moonshine on some Uncle Jesse shit (the one from “DuKKKes of Hazzard,” not the one from “Full House”).

February 2010: The black half of Tiger Woods is found to be behind an international Asian sex slavery ring.

November 2010: Whoever the token black NASCAR driver will be is arrested on the track and charged with DWB.

Is Another Respectable Negro About to Fall? Whispers in the Clinton Camp ...

... Agents of Sen. Hillary Clinton are spreading the word in Democratic circles that she has scandalous information about her principal opponent for the party's presidential nomination, Sen. Barack Obama, but has decided not to use it. The nature of the alleged scandal was not disclosed.This word-of-mouth among Democrats makes Obama look vulnerable and Clinton look prudent.
Robert Novak

...“everyone knows” the LA Times was sitting on a story, all wrapped up and ready to go about what is a potentially devastating sexual scandal involving a leading Presidential candidate. “Everyone knows” meaning everyone in the DC mainstream media political reporting world. “Sitting on it” because the paper couldn’t decide the complex ethics of whether and when to run it.

troubling inside scuttlebutt. There's no way to know if it's legit, bluff or just another attempt by Clinton to intimidate her way to the nomination. But if I were Hillary Clinton, I don't think I'd be eager to start a media war over the details of people's personal lives, if that's what this is about. When you are married to Bill Clinton, and when the world has decided to ignore, for now at least, the details of his personal life since he left office, best to leave the dirt alone, don't you think?
Andrew Sullivan

...Maybe the Obama response to an alleged Obama story is not a function, pace
Larison, of "flailing" and inexperience, but a calculated bid to force Clinton's biggest liability out into the open before she gets the nomination? I have no inside information on this, and no solid evidence of either an Obama "scandal" or a Clinton one, but the stakes are very high for all the reasons I've speculated on. I guess we'll find out soon enough.
The Atlantic Monthly

Politicos everywhere are placing bets on this one. Respectable Negroes are hoping that the rumors are unfounded. More later...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Respectable Negroes of the Week

Cynthia Fitzgerald
When Cynthia Fitzgerald started out in pharmaceutical sales 20 years ago, she received ample training on the right and wrong ways to sell medical products. Right was selling on the merits. Wrong was luring customers with perks and freebies. It was O.K. to buy doctors lunch or dinner, for example, but tempting them with lavish gifts was taboo...
But she says those early lessons didn’t serve her so well when she went to work on the other side of the table in 1998, in health care purchasing. Going by the book, and expecting her colleagues and employer to do the same, cost her a job, most of her friendships and several years of her life, she says.
Eventually, Ms. Fitzgerald decided to file what could become one of the largest whistle-blower lawsuits on record...

Hugo Chavez (yes, he's a Negro)
In two weeks, Venezuela seems likely to start an extraordinary experiment in centralized, oil-fueled socialism. By law, the workday would be cut to six hours. Street vendors, homemakers and maids would have state-mandated pensions. And President Hugo Chávez would have significantly enhanced powers and be eligible for re-election for the rest of his life...
Chávez loyalists already control the National Assembly, the Supreme Court, almost every state government, the entire federal bureaucracy and newly nationalized companies in the telephone, electricity and oil industries. Soon they could control even more...
“We are witnessing a seizure and redirection of power through legitimate means,” said Alberto Barrera Tyszka, co-author of a best-selling biography of Mr. Chávez. “This is not a dictatorship but something more complex: the tyranny of popularity.”

Wads of dollar bills are usually as much a part of rap videos as fast cars, diamond-encrusted jewellery and scantily-clad models. But in an apparent nod to the low value of the dollar, rapper Jay-Z's new video Blue Magic features another currency...
The US currency has been ticking off historic lows over the past few months as falling US interest rates make other currencies more attractive. It recently passed $2.10 to the pound, reached parity with the Canadian dollar and set an all-time record of $1.4752 to the euro. Other more conventional market-watchers have also been snubbing the dollar, including the billionaire investor Warren Buffett.
There have been no suggestions that Jay-Z's fellow rapper 50 Cent could be considering a move into a different currency.

(Kidding aside, respectable negroes paying attention to money markets should know that the dollar is in a steep decline. START INVESTING IN EUROS!!)

Chauncey DeVega says: Those damn dirty apes

This is the second post of my weekend "double header". My friends and I have a running argument in which we handicap various man versus animal fights. For several years, I have asserted (and still believe), that I could beat a monkey in a street fight. Lately, this seems to be an increasingly likely scenario, one that most respectable negroes will face in their lifetimes.

It seems that apes have run amok. In India, there have been several incidents in which monkeys have killed innocent people. Apparently, these little rapscallions have overrun an entire city. As noted in this article---those dirty apes are "wreaking havoc in my constituency by taking away mobile phones, toothpastes, sipping coke after opening the refrigerators". Hmmm...sounds like my neighborhood. Plus, to make matters worse, we have turkeys running wild in one American city.

My friends say I can't beat a monkey in a street fight. They argue that the ape has too much strength, too much speed, and I wouldn't be able to score any damaging blows:

I disagree. As long as I have my trusty belt, a la Pootie Tang, I can whoop any ape, anywhere, and anytime:

Fighting an angry ape does require training. Here, I suggest that all prospective man versus ape competitors study Pootie Tang because it features one of the most impressive man versus ape fight scenes in movie history. I implore you, please rent the movie and deconstruct it, lest you suffer the same fate as Pootie Tang's father ("only the third time a man had been mauled by a gorilla at that steel mill"). Now "experts" say you should avert eye contact, avoid sudden movements, and be docile if faced with a monkey attack. To this, I say, hell nah! Simply take your belt off, use your superior intelligence, and proceed to whoop that monkey's ass.

Addendum: I have been told by several people that monkeys, apes, chimps, and gorillas are not the same. Again, regardless of the label or moniker attached to those 2 legged beasts, I believe I could whoop any of said primates with my belt. And I certainly could defeat a turkey in man versus beast combat.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Chauncey DeVega says: May you live in interesting times

Today, we are inaugurating a new feature entitled, the "we are respectable negroes news roundup". Each week, one of us respectable negroes will offer a unique interpretation of the weekly news. Since I am held up in a hotel, and have a modest surplus of time, I get to go first.

This week there is something in the air that gives me, us, real concern regarding our nation's stability, long term prosperity, and frankly, speaks volumes to our collective sanity (or lack thereof).

Perhaps, it is because I am in D.C. Maybe I am experiencing a "Tyler Durden" moment because I am off my meds? Quite possibly, it could be that I am picking up on our body politic's collective exhaustion at the thought of 1.6 trillion dollars being flushed down the shitter on a wasted, unnecessary military adventure which has left us weaker rather than stronger. Who knows? maybe it is just hanging out in D.C. and seeing all these homeless brothers and sisters, many of whom got to play G.I. Joe and G.I. Jane and were conveniently forgotten and abandoned when they came home--damaged and broken people who are an unpleasant reminder that these military escapades have a very real, and very human, cost.

In other news, this week's news events included:

1. Chaos in a nuclear armed Pakistan. This is a nightmare scenario. In the worst case scenario, Musharraf's clique is deposed and we could lose a crucial ally against Al-Queda and The Taliban. Or in the worst, worst, Freddy Krueger is coming to get you scenario, we would see Pakistan's nuclear weapons come under the control of folks who would like nothing more than to Fedex a warhead to NYC. By the way, there is no reasonable or viable scenario for securing those nukes. Where is Chuck Norris and Delta Force when we need them?;

2. Indian Women are "renting" their wombs to rich Europeans and Americans. I don't need to describe how many levels of twisted this is;

3. I won't go for the obvious and mention how delightfully cute the 8 limbed Indian child is, or speculate about what these increasingly common birth defects reveal about the state of the environment and how polluted it is. Nor, will I mention this story about the disturbingly high levels of industrial toxins in the average American's body;

4. In Nigeria, researchers released findings about a region of that country which I affectionately refer to as, "The Land of Magical Yams". Here, everyone is a twin, it must be those magical yams. Hmmmm...that sounds like the beginnings of a folk melody, any takers?;

5. Researchers have announced that they have successfully cloned monkeys. In other news, researchers have experimented with fusing animal and human DNA, as well as cloning organs for human transplant. Oh yeah, with the mapping of the human genome there has been serious discussion regarding the viability/inevitability of biological weapons which can target specific ethnic and racial subgroups. I am not a fan of too much unnecessary rising action in my fiction. Nor, am I a fan of too much teasing in my erotic life (which explains why I don't generally like lap dances, let me rephrase, I like lap dances at Spearmint Rhino, but I don't like paying for lap dances anywhere else). So, can we please just get around to the big reveal that scientists have been cloning humans for decades.

6. The dollar has sunk to such lows that Jay-Z is flashing Euros in his videos. Likewise, the supermodel Giselle, an exemplar of financial wisdom and acumen, is divesting herself of American dollars. By the way, America now rank's 15th in average worker income.

These events, and many others I didn't list, hint at a future that resembles Soylent Green or Omega Man (excluding his politics and his present state of decrepitude, Charlton Heston was the man back in the day). Prudently, I am going to dust off my Aldous Huxley, Ayn Rand, and George Orwell just to get a refresher on what may be coming.

In lieu of that heavy reading, I will wait for "Mr. Happy Rapper's" take on Richard Matheson's prescient apocalyptic vision:

And yes, I will checking out Southland Tales as well:

And no, I won't have be writing any movie reviews because my girl Zora would stick me with that rusty shiv she carries if I squatted on her turf....

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Zora Says: Another Respectable Negro ‘Bites the Dust’ – the tale of Dr. Jan Adams

I was already saddened when I heard that the mother of rap-star Kanye West died tragically this past weekend. I am at the age where the loss of my parents is becoming more and more tangible. I get nervous whenever they are sick and any mention of their having to undergo major surgery scares me to death. My heart really goes out to Brother Kanye. Unfortunately, I realized days later that the death of Donda West was accompanied by another tragic loss -- that of her doctor, Jan Adams.

On the scale of “respectable negroes,” Dr. Adams was uber respectable. As a graduate from Harvard College, a medical resident at the University of Michigan, a television personality and a renowned plastic surgeon, he was a model for little black girls and boys across America. Dr. Adams was committed to making sure that women of color be able to alter their bodies at the same rate as white women. For him, plastic surgery was about providing us with “a new path to self-discovery and self-esteem." With our civil rights affirmed and economic security in place, Dr Adams was taking us to a new frontier. He was part of the vanguard of individuals who were breaking new ground for us black folks. His fame and influence had even led me to consider plastic surgery. (Could he have been the one to deliver me from the tag of having a "white girl's bootie?")

All of this is in the past tense, of course, for Dr. Adams has now lost all respectability. Whether or not he is found responsible for the death of Kanye’s mother, he will never again be seen as a good, non-threatening negro. He has fallen from our ranks. With allegations of driving under the influence, medical malpractice, spousal abuse and rape, he will now evoke and confirm every known stereotype attached to negro men in America.

Why? How did Dr. Adams allow himself to fall so far? I don't know him, of course, but I will conjecture: with all of his fame and achievements, Dr. Adams allowed himself to forget his very basic status of being a negro in America. He forgot the words of our elders cautioning us that "you have to be twice as good." He saw his white colleagues getting sloppy in the operating room and thought, "If they can get away with it, so can I." He saw other high-profile figures in Hollywood getting slaps on the wrist for drunk-driving, for assault, for rape, even for murder and thought, "If there are no consequences for them, why should there be for me?" The more Dr. Adams got away with, the more emboldened he became with his carelessness. I imagine that Dr. Adams got caught up in a lifestyle and lost his head. With bills mounting and over a half million dollars in malpractice settlements, he said yes to a surgery that he should have declined. The conclusion of this cautionary tale has yet to be written, but I think that we all know the ending already.

I write this not to suggest that the burden of having to be twice as good, of always having to be squeaky clean is fair. It is not. The level of scrutiny and judgement that goes along with being a respectable negro is almost impossible to bear. But the moment when we delude ourselves into thinking that we have "arrived," that we are somehow not like "the other negroes" is when we begin to stumble on that steep incline toward success and equality.