This is for you Tom Brady:
Now all we need is one more Superbowl ring....
Thank you for this passionate, intelligent reply, Sister Zora.
I will respond to a few of your most relevant points, but I will address the bulk of them in the next installments of the Victimology Blues posts.
First, I never suggested that Civil Rights injustices be fought primarily with positive images. WAOD’s explicit goal is to combat negative media depictions of black women. If McCauley and her supporters believe that media and popular culture are the main battlegrounds, then their chief strategy should be publicizing as many stories of positive black women as possible, not publicizing crimes in which black women are victimized.
Moreover, I don’t think that McCauley is really framing these crimes and their handling as Civil Rights issues, which is surprising given that she’s a lawyer. If McCauley and co. had decided to highlight the policing and legal ramifications of these crimes, I might feel differently about WAOD. McCauley makes clear, though, that WAOD is mainly a matter of cleaning up a poisonous culture.
Some lip service notwithstanding, the thrust of the site is not, “Let’s do everything we can to 1) help the police locate and arrest the perpetrators, 2) support these black women victims financially and legally, and 3) mobilize political change to our corrupt law enforcement and judicial systems.” It’s “see, black women are victims too!” WAOD is treating the crimes themselves, not the surrounding legal issues, as newsworthy. Without question, these crimes are significant to the victims and the communities where they occur; however, I don’t see how they are significant beyond their local contexts, and it’s not because the victims are black women. Frankly, I don’t think that any such cases deserve attention from national media. For instance, why spend airtime on stories about JonBenet Ramsey and Natalie Hollaway, who have been dead for years? And what about the current media fixation on Stacy Peterson? The mainstream media is disingenuously stating that their coverage might bring Peterson home, but that’s nonsense: they are assuming that she’s already dead. I’m sorry, I just don’t see why this case has merit as a national news story.
You are right to note the importance of publicizing injustice, and yes, I think that all symbolic victim-based activism is exploitative in a sense. But some forms of exploitation are more defensible than others: it all comes down to the wider implications. In the iconic Civil Rights era crimes you mention, law enforcement and the state was supportive of (and often involved in) the crimes and the legal cover ups. That state governments engaged in total disenfranchisement and the federal government looked the other way meant that black residents had no legal way to remedy the systemic injustices. The entire political, social, legal, economic, system was rotten. Wells, King, etc. worked to fight systemic collective injustice. These missing or brutalized woman cases are matters of personal, localized injustice. The notion that these crimes occur because our popular culture devalues black women is nonsense. Allow me to revert back to Social Science mode for a moment: correlation does not = causation.
Violence has been a fundamental reality throughout recorded human history. Rape and physical abuse were around long before the advent of mass media. I don’t deny that negative images have an adverse affect on the perception of certain groups, but removing these images from public and commercial spaces will not get at the heart of the problem. Entertainment isn’t really the relevant battleground. The problem is that consumer-citizens are treating songs, movies, and TV shows as a valid source of information about groups of people. That has almost nothing to do with the “negative” content; that has to do with short-circuits in peoples’ social interaction and perhaps in their cognitive ability. Don’t those of us interested in progressive social and political change always say that we need to attack the roots of problems? It’s easy to point a finger at the big corporations for spreading trash; it’s not as satisfying to shift responsibility toward families and other social institutions that should prevent and/or correct these short-circuits.
It’s true that I defend people’s right to disrespect black women, but that’s somewhat misleading. I defend people’s right to disrespect anyone—that’s the very essence of freedom of speech. Still, I’m less concerned with defending bigots than I am with fighting the effects of censorship. Black people from previous generations endured far worse in terms of public vilification and were stronger for it. I believe that we’re breeding a society of psychological weaklings whose first impulse is not to engage and defeat offending voices, but to silence them. Just to clear up any confusion, this is a problem throughout societies, not one limited to any specific identity group.
I’m glad you mentioned “Girls, Girls, Girls” because it not only highlights our disagreements, it also recalls my issue with TAN. In the song, Jay-Z frequently conflates Indian (from India) and Native American stereotypes; he attributes french braids, french kissing, and french fries to France; the part about the African woman is lifted directly from Ed Murph’s stand-up comedy special Raw, which is, I’ll admit, one of the most misogynistic screeds from a man who clearly has issues with women …unless they have penises.
I don’t take from the song that Jay-Z disparages black women in comparison to other women across the world; I take from it that Jay-Z works with dominant cultural stereotypes to reveal their inherent ridiculousness. As such, “Girls, Girls, Girls” is one of Jay-Z’s most clever songs. But it wasn’t popular because people understood its satirical bent; it was popular because listeners like to revel in stereotypes and the beat was catchy as hell. The problems with the song’s reception are the same problems that led to Chappelle’s crisis: people don’t like to acknowledge that popular cultural texts can mean different things to different audiences, and the base meaning normally overshadows every other meaning. I don’t think Jay-Z cares; after all, no one outside of Dyson-types really considered him a social critic. Chappelle definitely cares, though, which is why he was never meant for long-term stratospheric popularity.
Sister Zora, yes, you are a woman, but I think black women’s desire to be treated like white women is unhealthy. Sojourner Truth was speaking in the middle of the 19th Century. Much has changed since then. Your call for black men to defend black women’s honor and your wish for black women victims to receive the kind of national media attention reserved for (usually young, blonde, middle-to-upper class, and relatively attractive) white women shows a surprising attachment to gender orthodoxy. It’s accepted wisdom in our line of work that when men talk about defending female honor, they are usually providing a justification for controlling not only women’s bodies but also ideas about gender roles in society. The history of the rhetoric surrounding lynching and war is all the evidence one needs to confirm this.
I understand that black women don’t even have the luxury of being “overprotected” and that the concern about having ones honor exploited underscores the privilege of upper class white feminists. But let’s say that you get your wish and black women are afforded the same victim value that white women receive. Better to be a victim than a ho, right? Well, yeah, of course, but you’re still a victim. You’re still an abstraction. You’re still an archetype. You’ll never be a woman, a human being with inherent worth and agency, as long as you’re only important as a victim, a caretaker, or a Jezebel (all in the service of men).Finally, you can say that this isn’t about hurt feelings, but that’s hard to believe. How else do you explain the popularity of the tired “Why don’t black men love us?” topic cluttering magazine racks, bookshelves, TV, and the net?
I got this African chick with Eddie Murphy on her skull
She like, "Jigga Man, why you treat me like animal?
"I'm like excuse me Ms. Fufu, but when I met your ass
you was dead broke and naked, and now you want half
I got this ho that after twelve million sold
Mami's a narcolyptic, always sleepin on Hov'
Gotta tie the back of her head like Deuce Bigalow...
What is going on in the head of Jay-Z and others like him? Isn't it a sign of sickness that he sees African-American women (his sisters, his mother, his aunts) so negatively? I don't argue that he doesn't have the right to say whatever he wants, but let's not pretend that what he says does not impact others.
Please know that this is not about the low self-esteem or hurt feelings of African-American women. Perceptions and treatment of African-American women are inseperable from the growth of the African-American community as a whole. The value of a segment impacts the value of the whole. Oh, if only the Black Panther leadership could have understood this. What is going on in our communities that we so freely disparaged and disrespect black women? Why are some African-American men so quick to defend the rights of their brothers to disrespect the sisters? Why are they not as quick to protect and defend the honor of African-American women?
Have we progressed so much that we no longer have to think about the community as a whole? As long as my children know better, as long as my wife is not gang-raped, as long as I am empowered enough to take advantage of opportunities, as long as I live in a community where positive African-American role models abound ... What happened to taking pride in ourselves as a community? What happened to our sense of linked fate?
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.
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?
*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.”
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.
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
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).
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?
a. I have a weak sense of smell;
b. I own several extra pillowcases.
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.
a. I can’t stand to have a cold neck;
b. I own all of the Commodores’ albums.
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?
a. I am somewhat effeminate;
b. I will try to sell my woman to my friends before I get a job.
Not a fan of cornrows, but if you’re gonna wear em, keep em tight.
a. my woman is busy servicing another guy;
b. my cell mate is busy servicing another guy.
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.
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.
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!
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 field populated by black folks is unimportant unless a white person does it? Aren t there like 12 Rocky movies?
Fuck Eminem and 8 Mile, by the way. Did white people really need anothermovie in which a
field populated by black folks is unimportant unless a white person does it? Aren’
t 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?
Et tu, Cube?
Bonus “Stop Snitching” song (only this one’s satirical):
5.) Baby Daddy / Baby Mama
Who dat ee-uh?
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.
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.
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 We don’t bite