Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Victimology Blues Part 1: What About Our Daughters?


I like Gina McCauley, the creator of What About Our Daughters (WAOD). She is smart, and she comes across as poised, even in the face of unjust criticism. I applaud her success at promoting her cause and her site, which attracts scores of intelligent, passionate readers. I am especially thrilled that she calls attention to the double standards of so-called black leaders who are quick to jump in front of a camera and protest when a black person is victimized by a white person, but who aren’t nearly as interested in bringing attention to the insane levels of black on black crime. So even though I am usually suspicious of activists who frame their issues as matters of “protecting our children,” I had very high hopes for WAOD before I ever visited the site.

McCauley’s stated goal is to combat negative images of black women in popular culture. Now there’s a goal this respectable negro can support! I am always looking for resources to which I can direct young black girls and boys (yes, young men need positive depictions of women too). But given this professed goal, what sense does it make that most of the site’s posts are dedicated to publicizing and valorizing black female victims? These include victims of serious, violent crimes, as well as the “victims” of Don Imus’ “assault on black women.” But what about the women forced at gunpoint to gyrate half-naked in videos, while various rappers douse them with champagne and charge their services via American Ass-press…or is it American Expr-Ass)?

Now, I certainly don’t mean to trivialize the horrific crimes committed against the first group, and I understand that such cases can never go national via the mainstream media because the victims aren’t white women, but how is this focus supposed to combat popular negative images of black women? What does the current emphasis say to black girls: you too can one day attract the attention of and be exploited by a handful of journalists and media hustlers…but only if you’re brutalized by a (black) man? Keep those fingers crossed, girls!!!

McCauley and her supporters claim that WAOD is at the vanguard of a new activist revolution. The black bloggers on board cast themselves opposite the old guard Civil Rights establishment, which, these bloggers argue, does not stand up for black women. Yet WAOD’s strategy consists largely of appealing to (or shaming) old establishment leaders and organizations into taking up particular causes. I’m sorry to disappoint y’all, but that doesn’t sound like a revolution to me; that sounds like the same-ol’ same-ol’. In two major respects, those behind WAOD are considerably similar to the media circus-driven race crusaders they criticize:

1. They share the same M.O. of victim-based rallying. WAOD merely seeks to replace one victim (black people vis-à-vis white people) with another (black women vis-à-vis black men, white men, men in general, the “entertainment industrial complex”*). But why not dispense with the victim framework altogether and adopt one that prizes agency, one that lauds black women who make great things happen rather than black women who have terrible things happen to them?

2. They also share the same superficial, almost childish focus on the entertainment industry as a primary site of political and social activism. The NAACP, for instance, is concerned with defending Mike Vick, celebrating sociopaths like R Kelly and Isaiah Washington, and castigating Imus, KKKramer, and The Academy Awards; WAOD focuses on BET, Imus (plus black comedians who have the audacity to defend his right to free speech), and various rappers.

When you press these “activists” on why so much of their effort revolves around athletes, musicians, actors, TV personalities, etc., they answer that it’s because many look up to these celebrities and that the images propagated by the entertainment industry have an adverse effect on the perception of black people generally, or black women specifically. They usually fall into one of two camps, though sometimes they have a foot in both. The first is concerned about these images influencing black children, especially those with absentee parents; the second is worried about how these images make black people look to outsiders. Not one of these “activists” addresses why mothers and fathers (regardless of race) are not raising children with enough common sense to know that what is depicted on TV, movie screens, radio stations, albums, and the Internet is not reality. If McCauley and co. were truly interested in combating the negative effects of popular culture, the site would be called What About Their Parents?

Furthermore, if people are so impressionable and/or dim-witted that they allow entertainment to govern their behavior, how on earth will simply removing a few stimuli solve their problems? The sheep who reproduce what they absorb from entertainment (as opposed to exercising critical thought and free will) exhibit serious cognitive and social deficiencies. These issues cannot be addressed with microwave measures. And this is not even taking into account the loathsome policy of censorship, soft or hard.

At times, I look at WAOD and think, “What a colossal waste of creative energy and resources.” But it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that McCauley and co. know that their “victories” have no real practical value.

Since WAOD is not about practical results, one can only assume that its purpose is symbolic in nature. Underlying WAOD’s stated goal is the idea that strengthening the self-esteem of black girls should be a top priority because our society does not love or respect them. Again, this is a noble cause. We do need to encourage among young black women forms of self-esteem that do not rely on boys or sex. This implicit idea is the key to explaining WAOD’s main strategies: publicizing black women who are victims of violent crimes and leading meaningless crusades against entertainers who say or do things that some black women find offensive.

In short, WAOD is driven by these black women’s desire to be loved and valued. By emphasizing black women as victims, McCauley and co. hope to elicit sympathy and love. By boycotting entertainers who degrade black women, they wish to signal that black women’s feelings are hurt and that they do not feel desired, respected, and loved. Thus, those behind WAOD are not political activists; they’re participants in a self-esteem building therapy session writ large. In addition, the self-esteem of the contributors seems to be more important than the self-esteem of the website’s titular daughters. These things aren’t inherently bad. I can anticipate the argument that, because of all they have to endure, black women need and deserve this type of collective affirmation. From this perspective, the misleading nature of the site is harmless at worst, cathartic and therapeutic at best.

Fine.

But I have a huge problem with WAOD using the victim narrative to fuel its self-esteem building efforts and supposed “political activism.” As I will detail in the next installment of this series, there are formidable political and psychological drawbacks to over-emphasizing victimhood, especially for historically disenfranchised, less privileged people.

If McCauley ever decides to try to realize WAOD’s stated goal, I have a very simple suggestion: feature more professional black women who defy stereotypes by excelling in medicine, art, academia, business, government, etc. (a few “good news” links at the end of the year aren’t enough). I can think of at least one successful lawyer/networker who would be perfect for such a feature.

It’s time for folks to throw the question back at McCauley and WAOD**: When it comes to offering positive images of black women, what about our daughters (and sons), indeed?

Next—Victimology Blues Part 2: Privileged White Men as the New England Patriots…

----------

*I am a product of left academia, where prison riots are often dubbed “rebellions,” and irresponsible, risky sexual behavior is fashioned as political resistance, but I wasn’t aware that activists were employing this bit of rhetorical claptrap in an attempt to elevate popular music, sports, film, and TV to the level of importance of the military and prison industrial complexes. Part of me thinks this shit is satire. TAN, are you reading?

**I wonder if criticizing WAOD makes me an “Internet Ike Turner.”

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Enduring Impact of OJ on American Racial Politics

... As Democratic presidential contender John Edwards fielded questions from a crowd of about 100 people in Elkader, Iowa (population 1,374) Friday night, he got one of those out-of-left-field queries for which a candidate needs his sharpest wits.

An elderly man told Edwards that “
something has been sticking in my craw” and explained that “a certain fella committed two murders in California and the jury found him not guilty. And all they said was ‘It’s payback time.’ How are you going have that come out in this election to combat one of your competitors?


Edwards seemed puzzled, as most people in the audience seemed to be. “The black jury in Los Angeles, the reason they found O.J. not guilty was ‘payback,’” the older gent explained.

Payback for what?” Edwards asked.

For mistreatment by white America, the man said.

“What do you want the president to do about that?” Edwards asked.

How are you going to get that brought out in your campaign? Will the same thing happen? If he should become elected, you think Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Oprah Winfrey are going to let him forget about that and their obligation?” the man said, not identifying who he meant by “he” and “him.”

“I’m still not sure what it is that you’re asking,” Edwards said, a bit uneasily.

Obama,” the man said. “Has never said anything about payback for the problems the blacks have had getting their foothold in society.”


It wasn’t exactly clear, but the man seemed to want Barack Obama to denounce the “not guilty” verdict in Simpson’s 1995 trial. Where a presidential contender stood on O.J. had apparently become this voter’s litmus test. There was also the implication in his question that if you vote for Obama, you get Sharpton and Jackson in the bargain.

Respectable Negroes of the Week

Rep. Julia Carson dies of lung cancer
Rep. Julia Carson, the first black and first woman to represent Indianapolis in Congress, died Saturday, a family spokeswoman said. She was 69. Carson was first elected to Congress in 1996. She championed children's issues, women's rights and efforts to reduce homelessness and was a staunch opponent of the war in Iraq. She began her political career in the 1960s when then-Rep. Andy Jacobs Jr. hired her to work in his office. Jacobs encouraged Carson to run for the Indiana Legislature in 1972 — the first of more than two dozen victories in local, legislative and congressional elections. She ran for Congress in 1996 after Jacobs retired.

Parents Force Charter Takeover of L.A. High School
Locke High School is, by all accounts, among the worst high schools in Los Angeles. It's in Watts, one of the city's most treacherous, gang-infested neighborhoods. The school is overcrowded and on the brink of an academic melt-down. Earlier this year, parents and half of the school's faculty revolted, forcing the school district to do something it has never done before: turn over Locke High to a private group of reformers. When that takeover happens next summer some teachers know they won't be rehired.

Kenya slum dweller gets UK degree
Sammy Gitau was initially refused a visa to attend the UK university as he had only two years of formal education. He grew up in crime-ridden Mathare slum in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, where from the age of 13 he was the family breadwinner after his father's murder. Mr Gitau, 35, once came close to death after a drugs overdose and said it changed his life. "After the drugs put me in a coma, I remember hearing hospital staff telling me I was going to die and when you are dying, you make a deal with God," he said. Mathare is crime-ridden slum in the centre of the Kenyan capital. "You just say, 'Get me out of here and I will do anything. I will go back and stop children going through the same kind of life as me.'" Once out of hospital he started a community resource centre which used donated containers as classrooms and with three volunteers taught children skills like carpentry, tailoring, computer skills and baking. His work brought him to the attention of European Union officials working in Kenya, who, on hearing of his dream, helped him apply to the University of Manchester. Mr Gitau says he will continue to direct his education and his energies at improving life for others in Mathare slum.

Ike Turner, For Better or for Worse,...
... dead at age 76. After arguing with Chauncey for days, I had to admit that Ike did have a huge impact on American music.



And all this time I thought Flava Flav was the Dark Knight..



The trailer for the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight. Enjoy:


video

Friday, December 14, 2007

Friday Five: 5 black male hairstyles and what they say about those who wear them

This Friday Five was inspired by Billy Sunday’s classic “Guide to Black Women’s Hair.”

You know the old adage—women assess a man’s status by examining his shoes? That bit of advice isn’t as useful as it used to be. Grad school has made me broke as a joke, yet I own pairs of Gucci and Prada shoes (they were gifts); a guy in baby blue gators once begged me for money on the street; and I know a few guys who are pulling down six figures, but wear busted Pro Keds. Plus, the popularity of throwback kicks has leveled the field, so it’s more difficult than ever to gauge a man’s personality and life chances by looking at what he wears on his feet. Thus, many women have shifted their focus from toe to head. As a public service to the few black women who don’t already know this stuff, I will relay what I’ve learned about what certain hairstyles reveal about the black men who rock them. This knowledge comes from observing brothers 1st hand as well as from “conversating” with black women.

1.) Box


Look, I understand that our African brothers and American negroes from age 45 on tend to be a little behind fashion-wise, so I cut them a little slack. But if you are a black man in America and you are relatively young, there’s absolutely no excuse to have a box.

Says:
a. I am square…literally;
b. I do not know many young black people;
c. I do not date young black women (or, more likely, they don’t date me).


2.) Curl

Here’s my question: Do chefs with jheri curls need extra thick hats to prevent the paper from becoming transparent, disintegrating, and catching on fire?

Says:
a. I have a weak sense of smell;
b. I own several extra pillowcases.



3. Shag



Ah, the Shag(adelic). Though the shag and the mullet are brothers from another mother, the former doesn’t quite have the ironic appeal for black people as the latter has for white folks. But the shag is an enduring negro hairstyle that’ll be around 50 years from now. I’m not sure we can say the same for the mullet.

Says:
a. I can’t stand to have a cold neck;
b. I own all of the Commodores’ albums.



4.) Process

I can understand why black women spend a fortune to chemically scorch their scalps and go bald by 40. Few are happy to be nappy, and they need that promotion at work, right? What on earth would possess a man to fry his wig, though?

Says:
a. I am somewhat effeminate;
b. I will try to sell my woman to my friends before I get a job.



5.) Unkempt cornrows

Not a fan of cornrows, but if you’re gonna wear em, keep em tight.

Says:
a. my woman is busy servicing another guy;
b. my cell mate is busy servicing another guy.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Chauncey DeVega says: We are a Nation of Liars, Crooks, Fools, Thieves, and Idiots

This is gonna be a long one...

A few months back, a story circulated regarding a drug called, "jenkem." Apparently, this "new" drug, a product of Africa of course--where those poor natives do nothing but fight famine, suffer under genocide, live in failed States, and huff shit--consists of human feces and urine in a bong. Here, the "user" would take a "hit" by inhaling the noxious fumes generated by this ungodly concoction:



Apparently, jenkem has now been debunked. But, the idea rang true for a basic reason--people are lazy, stupid, and will try anything once. Moreover, this idea of huffing shit stuck with me because it seemed the perfect metaphor for these good ol' United States.

We are a nation of among other things, former slaves, tax evaders, and cast-off immigrants. More or less, all of us, myself included, have drunk the Kool-Aid, eaten that shit sandwich, and smelled those fumes generated by the American mythos of freedom, equality, and opportunity (or at least the hope that the American creed can one day be made real). More broadly, human beings believe what we want to believe, in a way, and at a time, that is most convenient to us.

As a respectable negro, I focus much of my attention on those black and white shit-huffers who hit that jenkem bong, and spend their time on high-profile issues, issues that are ultimately of little concern, but that nevertheless cause harm to our life-long crusade for human justice, dignity, and black progress. Now to offer a qualifier, shit-huffers are not restricted to those purveyors of race-based hysteria and other nonsense. Those Bill O'Reilly-Rush Limbaugh neo-cons who supported premier Bush in his Iraq misadventures, despite all evidence to the contrary, are a bunch of shit-huffers. Those idiots who follow good ol' Al Sharpton and Shakedown Jesse around on any damn fool idealistic crusade are also shit-huffers.

The shit-huffers of the moment are those knuckleheads in Pasadena, Florida who are defending the white homeowner (a gentleman by the name of Mr. Joe Horn) that shot dead those ignt's robbing his neighbors. These idiots are joined by The New Black Panther Party and other victomologists who are dedicated to valorizing stupidity in the search of a black "hero" (Brother Gartrelle has one percolating on this issue as we speak). Interestingly, this case reminds me of the Duke rape case where everyone involved is an asshole, but where outside forces make the participants emblematic of all the fissures and tensions in our society.

The Horn case, and the one in California where a white homeowner blasted two criminals who beat his son into a coma, are lightening rods for victomologists, right-wingers, and shit-huffers of all stripes because it is great political theater. As depicted by the following video of the Pasadena protest where The New Black Panthers clashed with those white "defenders" of "justice" and "responsible" home ownership, everyone involved is an idiot (thank God there isn't a token negro in the background supporting the protesters...there is always one, and if you find him, please point the fool out..it's sort of like a game of "Where's Waldo"):



It is instructive to watch the above video with the help of my handy viewing guide.

1. 0.01: "that's it?"---sort of sums it up
2. .09: the New Black Panthers make their appearance. Doesn't their leadership look like something out of Reverend Slick's, "Jive Soul Bro' Video?"
3. .11: "You are a disgrace to your race, get a job"--white symbolic racism in action
4. 1:02: "U.S.A., U.S.A."--Uhh ohh, the "White Power," oops I mean "U.S.A." chants have begun. Frankly, I prefer the honesty of Seig Heil and those honest skinhead types who advertise their bigotry and don't hide behind slogans of "equality" or "freedom"
5. 1:17 to 3:07: motorcycle's revving their engines and more U.S.A. chants--You know motorcycles scare off black radicals. Note to any white racists reading this post: motorcycles are more effective than water when it comes to scaring away black people.
6. 3:56-7:40: More U.S.A. chants
7. 8;37-8:51: More rebel yells, motorcycles revving, and The New Black Panthers beat a hasty retreat

As documented by the following footage (doesn't Fox News seem to be everywhere folks are acting stupid?) The New Black Panthers return in full force with the "victims," i.e the family members of those ignt's shot dead by Mr. Horn. Here, we have some wonderfully articulate white meth-heads and angry, marching, black fools. Plus, we all know that whenever someone says it isn't about race, it always is:



This is shit-huffing at its finest. On one side we have the New Black Panthers and Quanell X (you know that was the name of our ancestors and it was stolen from us). Of note, Quanell comes equipped with his own G.I. Joe bodyguard. Be honest, doesn't "Bro Joe," the character in the red beret and black camouflage, look like one of those horrible G.I. Joe figures from the early 1990's?

The data card on the back of his action figure would have probably read:

Member of Cobra
Code Name: Revolution
Real Name: Ty Jackson
Bio: Recruited from the legendary rap group Public Enemy's cadre of elite bodyguards, The S1W's, Revolution is an expert in political theater and all manner of clowning and cooning. Although only 5 feet tall, Revolution has spent time in the Army National Guard where he received a dishonorable discharge for drug use and insubordination. Revolution, later went to prison where he was recruited by Cobra. Following his formal training on Cobra Island, Revolution was tasked with corrupting black radical organizations. As a member of the "Ebony Guards," Revolution worked in parallel with The Crimson Guard. While the latter was tasked with infiltrating suburban communities, corporations, and industry, the Ebony Guards were tasked with urban "renewal" and ghetto "pacification."
Weapon specialties: Saturday night specials; zip guns; Molotov cocktails; spoken word poetry; bad fashion; revolutionary fury; instant recall of conspiracy theories; and knowledge of self.

Regardless, one cannot deny the amazing greatness that was G.I. Joe The Movie:



I could care less about the toothless wonders and the PWT opposing the New Black Panthers. But, I really suggest that The New Black Panthers, if they are going to claim that honorable lineage, at least try to live up to it:



Hell, I would be happy if Quannel and his posse read some classic G.I. Joe comic books (or even the new GI Joe comics where Destro has a child by a black woman--he was creepin' on the Baroness) . At least, this would have improved their strategy and tactics--rushing into the heart of your enemy with insufficient forces to exploit any gap you may create in their lines is a no-no because it inevitably leads to encirclement and the destruction of your forces.

So many shit-huffers, so little time. Here is a thought experiment for you: imagine if instead of The New Black Panthers, that Ghostface, Styles P, and Beanie Siegel stepped up and through that group of white "defenders" of "justice?"..Now that would have been a protest worthy of Fox News:



Yo Joe!!!!!

Postscript: Now, I would of course be Snake-Eyes, Zora would be Scarlett, but Gordon who would you be? Maybe Doc, or perhaps Alpine?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Respectable Negroes of the Week

Brad Pitt, In a Move that Makes Me Want to Consider him for Honorary Negro Status
Actor Brad Pitt, who moved with his family to New Orleans a year ago, is spearheading a project to start rebuilding affordable, safe and sustainable homes in the city's Lower Ninth Ward. He has committed $5 million of his own money to get the Make It Right project going. Pitt's project has unveiled 13 designs for houses — each about 1,000 square feet — all with front porches, built off the ground and with environmentally friendly features including solar panels. The goal is to start off with 150 homes, even though he acknowledges that number is just "a drop in the bucket." "There are 5,000 [homes] just in this neighborhood, and I don't want to be contained to just this neighborhood. This place needs help everywhere; every district needs help along the Gulf Coast still," Pitt says.

Denzel Washington & Oprah Winfrey for Bringing Attention to Historically Black Colleges
On Dec. 25, “The Great Debaters" will appear in theaters with Denzel Washington as its director and star, and Oprah Winfrey as producer. The film depicts Wiley’s most glorious chapter: 1935, when the black poet and professor Melvin B. Tolson coached his debating team to a national championship. In many respects, Wiley’s story is the larger narrative of historically black institutions whose graduates lived to see landmark achievements in the 1960s, including passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. But after securing the opportunity for bright young students to attend any institution they wanted, many black colleges stalled. Texas had 11 black colleges in 1954. Three are now gone, another is on probation for academic and other problems, and a fifth operated during most of the 1990s without accreditation.

ACLU's King Downing for Challenging Racial Profiling in U.S. Airports
In a case of "messing with the wrong negro": King Downing said he was stopped and questioned by state police in October 2003 after arriving on a flight to attend a meeting on racial profiling. Downing sued the Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates the airport, and Massachusetts State Police, alleging they violated his constitutional right against unreasonable search. A trial in the case began Monday in U.S. District Court. Downing, who is black and wears a short beard, said in his lawsuit that he was stopped by a state trooper and asked to show identification. When he declined, Downing said, he was told to leave the airport, but was then stopped again. He was surrounded by four state troopers and told that he was under arrest for failing to produce identification. Downing, an attorney who serves as national coordinator of the ACLU's Campaign Against Racial Profiling, said after he agreed to show his driver's license, the troopers asked to see his airline ticket. He was then allowed to leave, and no charges were filed against him. In 2002, about a year after terrorists launched the Sept. 11 attacks by hijacking two planes from Logan, the airport began a program called "Behavior Assessment Screening System," which allows police to question passengers whose behavior appears suspicious. Logan was the first airport in the country to use the system.

Barack Obama & Oprah (again) for Proving that Negroes Can Stick Together
...When Ms. Winfrey strode onto a stage in Iowa Saturday, imploring voters to support the presidential candidacy of Senator Barack Obama, she acknowledged not knowing whether her endorsement would matter. And as she waded into American politics deeper than ever before, she declared: “It feels like I’m out of my pew.” as she explained her rationale for supporting Mr. Obama, of Illinois, she stood behind a lectern, reading from prepared remarks. She paused for a moment, saying: “Backstage, somebody said, ‘Are you nervous?’ I said, ‘Damn right I’m nervous.’” But for 17 minutes, Ms. Winfrey delivered a testimonial for Mr. Obama arguing the nation was at a critical moment in its history that required a candidate who could heal divisions and chart a new direction. “If we continue to do the same things over and over again, I believe we get the same results,” Ms. Winfrey said. Later, she added: “When you listen to Barack Obama, when you really hear him, you witness a very rare thing. You witness a politician who has an ear for eloquence and a tongue dipped in the unvarnished truth.”

Hugo Chavez for Challenging the IMF
Leaders of several South American nations have signed a founding document to create a new body, the Banco del Sur, as an alternative to multilateral credit organisations such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. President Chavez sees the IMF and World Bank as tools of the US. The idea was first put forward by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in December 2006 as part of his battle against the influence of the US and the international financial institutions, which he has decried as "tools of Washington".

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.

and

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.

Sincerely,

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.