Gordon, you are a bad person--and, you ruined the climax of my post for next week. Shame on you!
Saturday, January 5, 2008
Chauncey Devega says: Gordon Gartrelle this is All Your Fault!--Making Me Put this Lap Dog, Ass Kisser, Uncle Tom, Shelby Steele on This Site
Gordon, you are a bad person--and, you ruined the climax of my post for next week. Shame on you!
Friday, January 4, 2008
The presidential primary season has just begun and Barack Obama has surprised a lot of pundits by surpassing Hillary Clinton at the polls. Already, the "yes, but" folks have begun to raise their voices: "It's still early in the race;" "Iowa isn't reflective of the rest of the nation;" "Primary votes only reflect the sentiments of true believers;" "Obama will never secure broad support in the general election"... Yes, Obama may be both popular and qualified, but he'll never get elected -- is what it boils down to.
A lot of African-Americans are still reluctant to throw their vote behind Obama not because of any particular policy issues or concerns, but simply because they doubt his electability. The old guard of black leaders voiced their doubts early on expressing "concerns" about his experience and authenticity. We all know that their real concerns have to do with losing their place in the line for white patronage. They didn't/don't like Obama because they feel that he is an upstart and that it isn't his turn. Many younger African-Americans, and those who are not as invested in the leaders of the civil rights era, are less concerned with Obama as an upstart and are unwilling to play the black authenticity game. Still, they do express concerns about Obama's ability to actually get elected. For them, Hillary Clinton represents a safer choice.
Back in 2005, Al Sharpton challenged black folks to think more critically about their support for the Clintons. While I am certainly not a fan of Al Sharpton, I have to admit that he does a good job of putting shit out on the table. Given the rise in "yes, but" voices and the inclination to go with a "safer choice," I'll raise again Sharpton's challenge: Why do we support Hillary and Bill to the degree that we do? Is Hillary really a safer choice than Obama in this election?
I never really understood the joke that Bill Clinton was America's first black president. I don't know who first said it, but be they black or white, it was a terribly racist statement. The Clinton's are clearly comfortable around African-Americans and it is true that they have appointed a fair number of black faces in high places (they do like symbolic Negroes). Does this make them black? (Given this criteria, we could then say that George Bush, Jr. is America's second black president.) Believe it or not, Bill Clinton was even inducted into the Black Hall of Fame. I didn't even know that such a thing existed.
The Clinton's both have been very good at strategically playing the wigger role. Bill Clinton won many over when he pulled out his saxophone and began wiggling his hips during his first bid for the presidency. Both Bill and Hillary have expressed their appreciation for soul food. At every opportunity they jump into our pulpits and give speeches with accents and mannerisms so affected that they would have made Norman Lear proud.
The Clinton initiative on race, begun in 1997, never went anywhere:
- *Creation of a permanent body, which would be known as the President's Council for One America, to promote harmony and dialogue among the nation's racial and ethnic groups;
- *The Government's development of an education program to keep the public informed about race in America;
- A Presidential ''call to arms'' to leaders of government and the private sector to ''make racial reconciliation a reality;''
- Engagement of youth leaders in an effort to build bridges among the races.
Bill Clinton promised in his first campaign that he would end welfare "as we know it." In endorsing the Republican agenda, he participated in "the most sweeping reversal of social policy since the New Deal." He did exactly what he promised, but not what he led voters to believe. (We've witnessed the same kind of 3-card Molly, double-talk in Hillary's presidential debate responses.) Bill's early rhetoric rang of education and resources that would allow the poor to escape the cycle of dependency on government programs. Somehow the practical translation of this was an increase in the numbers of women and children in homeless shelters. Added to the Clinton list of shame should be failed health-care reform, Operation Gatekeeper and NAFTA.
If the Clinton treatment of Lani Guinier and Marion Wright Edelman is at all representative of how they value and relate to African-Americans, we're in trouble. Guinier was a long-time friend of the Clintons and perceived them as comrades-in-arms in the ongoing fight for civil rights. Bill Clinton nominated her as assistant attorney general for civil rights and promptly sold her down the river when opponents began to challenge and distort her work. The friendship was tossed aside as soon as Guinier represented an impediment to Clinton political ambition. Marion Wright Edelman, too, became persona non grata in the struggle between politics and integrity. She was at first touted as a mentor and role model to Hillary Clinton in her legal training. When Edelman challenged them to live up to their rhetoric and professed ideals, the Clintons distanced themselves. One dear friend that the Clintons decided to keep close was Sheriff Harry Lee of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. Yes, this is the same Sheriff Lee that ordered his officers to prevent Katrina evacuees from crossing the Crescent City bridge to safety. Apparently, he was a committed fundraiser for the Hillary for President campaign.
Respectable Negroes, ask yourselves why Hillary Clinton deserves your support. What will you gain from her election to the presidency? Is she really a safe choice? As self-interested as he may have been when he made the statement, we have to wonder if Senator Joeseph Lieberman was right when he said that the Clinton's have used African-Americans like Kleenex.
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
- We resolve that as a nation we need to stop saggin'. Stated differently, these United States of America need to stop showing their collective asses and looking raggedy to the rest of the world;
- We resolve to ask ourselves if they are laughing with us, as opposed to at us? Do "they" really get our jokes?
- We resolve never to support authors and pundits who profit from positioning black men and women as enemies.
- We resolve to elect our leaders rather than have them either appointed by the media or be self-appointed. Relevant question: how in the hell does one earn the title of "black leader?"
- Like the rest of the world, we resolve to get some Euros and to use them as our benchmark currency;
- As black men and black women, we resolve to work harder to understand each other and to address our problems as a collective issue in our community;
- We resolve to condemn all efforts to paint black folks as a monolithic ideological group;
- We resolve to be more sympathetic to tragic mulattos (qualifier: this only refers to those who are truly tragic, and not to all mulattoes);
- We resolve to be less sympathetic to self-destructive black athletes and entertainers;
- We resolve to follow the example set by of our nation's leaders and to never, ever snitch;
- We resolve to not frame our decisions and actions in response to white expectations;
- We resolve to always keep in mind that, in spite of the success and power we might attain as individuals, we as Black people have yet to see success as a group in the promised land (A Luta Continua!);
- We resolve to critique adolescent-minded music made by people pushing 40, but we also resolve not to praise mediocre music simply because it's "positive."
- We resolve to complain to the management at local bookstores about their conflation of "niggerlit" with African American literature. (Candy Licker shouldn't be shelved next to Their Eyes were Watching God);
- We resolve to learn Mandarin and/or Cantonese;
- We resolve to do more for each other.
Sophomore year Oscar’s weight stabilized at about two-ten (two-twenty when he was depressed, which was often), and it had become clear to everybody, especially his family, that he’d become the neighborhood pariguayo. He wore his semikink hair in a Puerto Rican Afro, had enormous Section-8 glasses (his anti-pussy devices, his boys Al and Miggs called them), sported an unappealing trace of mustache, and possessed a pair of close-set eyes that made him look somewhat retarded. The Eyes of Mingus (a comparison he made himself one day, going through his mother’s record collection; she was the only old-school Dominicana he knew who loved jazz; she’d arrived in the States in the early sixties and shacked up with morenos for years until she met Oscar’s father, who put an end to that particular chapter of the All-African World Party). Throughout high school he did the usual ghettonerd things: he collected comic books, he played role-playing games, he worked at a hardware store to save money for an outdated Apple IIe. He was an introvert who trembled with fear every time gym class rolled around. He watched nerd shows like “Doctor Who” and “Blake’s 7,” could tell you the difference between a Veritech fighter and a Zentraedi battle pod, and he used a lot of huge-sounding nerd words like “indefatigable” and “ubiquitous” when talking to niggers who would barely graduate from high school. He read Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman novels (his favorite character was, of course, Raistlin) and became an early devotee of the End of the World. He devoured every book he could find that dealt with the End Times, from John Christopher’s “Empty World” to Hal Lindsey’s “The Late Great Planet Earth.” He didn’t date no one. Didn’t even come close. Inside, he was a passionate person who fell in love easily and deeply. His affection—that gravitational mass of love, fear, longing, desire, and lust that he directed at any and every girl in the vicinity—roamed across all Paterson, affixed itself everywhere without regard to looks, age, or availability. Despite the fact that he considered his affection this tremendous, sputtering force, it was actually more like a ghost because no girl ever seemed to notice it...
Oscar’s sister Lola (who I’d start dating in college) was a lot more practical. She was one of those tough Jersey Latinas, a girl soccer star who drove her own car, had her own checkbook, called men bitches, and would eat a fat cat in front of you without a speck of vergüenza. When she was in sixth grade, she was raped by an older acquaintance, and surviving that urikán of pain, judgment, and bochinche had stripped her of cowardice. She’d say anything to anybody and she cut her hair short (anathema to late-eighties Jersey Dominicans) partially, I think, because when she’d been little her family had let it grow down past her ass—a source of pride, something I’m sure her rapist noticed and admired.
Oscar, Lola warned repeatedly, you’re going to die a virgin.
Don’t you think I know that? Another five years of this and I’ll bet you somebody tries to name a church after me.
Cut the hair, lose the glasses, exercise. And get rid of those porn magazines. They’re disgusting, they bother Mami, and they’ll never get you a date.
Sound counsel, which he did not adopt. He was one of those niggers who didn’t have any kind of hope. It wouldn’t have been half bad if Paterson and its surrounding precincts had been, like Don Bosco, all male. Paterson, however, was girls the way N.Y.C. was girls. And if that wasn’t guapas enough for you, well, then, head south, and there’d be Newark, Elizabeth, Jersey City, the Oranges, Union City, West New York, Weehawken—an urban swath known to niggers everywhere as Negrapolis One. He wasn’t even safe in his own house; his sister’s girlfriends were always hanging out, and when they were around he didn’t need no Penthouses. Her girls were the sort of hot-as-balls Latinas who dated only weight-lifting morenos or Latino cats with guns in their cribs. (His sister was the anomaly—she dated the same dude all four years of high school, a failed Golden Gloves welterweight who was excruciatingly courteous and fucked her like he was playing connect the dots, a pretty boy she’d eventually dump after he dirty-dicked her with some Pompton Lakes Irish bitch.) His sister’s friends were the Bergen County All-Stars, New Jersey’s very own Ciguapas: primera was Gladys, who complained constantly about her chest being too big; Marisol, who’d end up in M.I.T. and could out-salsa even the Goya dancers; Leticia, just off the boat, half Haitian, half Dominican, that special blend the Dominican government swears no existe, who spoke with the deepest accent, a girl so good she refused to sleep with three consecutive boyfriends! It wouldn’t have been so bad if these girls hadn’t treated Oscar like some deaf-mute harem guard; they blithely went on about the particulars of their sex lives while he sat in the kitchen clutching the latest issue of Dragon. Hey, he would yell, in case you’re wondering, there’s a male unit in here. Where? Marisol would say blandly. I don’t see one...
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Please God and all that is merciful in life let this not be true--Tyler Perry to be in the new Star Trek franchise
courtesy of UGO.com
I heard some reeeeaallly interesting things today about J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie. I’ll share all the details eventually but for the moment let’s break a piece of exclusive info: that writer/director Tyler Perry has a role in the new Star Trek movie. If you want to know who Perry is playing and how his character impacts the lives of young Kirk and Spock, beware of spoilers and click on through to read about it. And I mean that: SPOILERS ARE AHEAD!
It looks like Perry is playing the head of Starfleet Academy. Before you go asking if the character is going to be a human being or one of those funky aliens with a dozen more nostrils, it looks like Perry’s character is a plain old fashioned human.
Here’s some background on the dude: Tyler Perry is one of the bigger breakthrough success stories that Hollywood has had recently. He began his career and won acclaim as a playwright before moving into film. He’s directed and written the screen stories for Madea’s Family Reunion, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Daddy’s Little Girls and his latest hit which came out earlier in the year, Why Did I Get Married?. If the man’s a Trekkie he’s kept it quiet or maybe J.J. is just a fan of Madea.
My informant tells me about a big scene that was filmed a couple of weeks back that involved Perry, Chris Pine (the young James T. Kirk), Zachary Quinto (young Spock) and dozens of other extras. Now really, if you’re here then you already decided that you wanted to be spoiled, but here comes the bigger spoilers…
...Tyler’s character is overseeing some kind of Starfleet courtroom/assembly event where young Kirk is facing expulsion from Starfleet. It turns out that the Starfleet prez didn’t look too favorably on Cadet Kirk for “cheating” on one of his critical tests. And all you Trekkies out there know exactly what it is Kirk did: he rigged the Kobayashi Maru test so he could win it.
(For those that don’t know their Tribbles from Andorians, the Kobayashi Maru is a piece of Trek lore introduced in Star Trek II. Starfleet cadets are placed inside a starship simulator and given a no-win scenario: either try and rescue the survivors of a stranded space freighter trapped behind the Klingon Neutral Zone and thus in enemy space or listen to them die when they are found by the Klingons. The test is designed that there is no possible outcome where you save the Maru survivors and beat the Klingons; it’s supposed to give cadets a taste of what it’s like to be working under pressure as you face probably death. Kirk won the Kobayashi Maru test by reprogramming the scenario so he could actually win it because, as the dude himself said, “I don’t like to lose.")
So young Kirk is standing in front of his peers (human and alien Starfleet cadets and officers) and facing immediate expulsion from the Academy. After hearing the charge from Perry’s character, Chris Pine-as-Kirk delivers a speech in the same vein as some of the classic Kirk speeches from the TV series. He wants to know how his cheating was found out, and it’s revealed that there was a witness to Kirk’s act. Kirk immediately demands to know who the witness was so he can face his accuser.
And that’s when Zachary Quinto-as-Spock stands up. Yup, he’s the one that ratted on Kirk reprogramming the Kobayashi Maru test and he’s the reason why Kirk is about to be expelled from Starfleet. And then…
I’m going to cut it short there for now because I want to follow up with my source and ask some more questions about what happens next. Yeah, I’m leaving you hanging here but it can’t be helped. Besides, it’s the holidays and breaking news is practically non-existent so if I can stretch this out and come back with more spoilers from Star Trek, why not? Plus I want to be able to explain how the new costumes fit into Trek continuity and what they look like…
I promise to be back tomorrow with more. But before I close hailing frequencies I’ve got one final story detail to relate to you: at the start of that day’s filming J.J. addressed the assembled cast and told them that he was extremely happy to have Tyler Perry being a part of his Star Trek movie for many reasons, but one of the biggest was that this would mark the first time
that Perry has appeared in a movie outside of his own projects...
We go from Uhura (random factoid: MLK himself asked her to remain on the show because of her impact as a role model for young black people) to one more minstrelesque, mammy-evoking, carnival of black transvestism. Now introducing Star Trek, The New Adventures: Jigs in Space
Some additional casting suggestions.
Maybe we could add Eddie Murphy's character Norbit as The Head of Starfleet Security:
Nell Carter as The Head of Starfleet's diplomatic corps:
And of course Monique as Sarak's wife and Spock's mother:
Finally, Chris Tucker's character Ruby Rhod as the alien hottie that Kirk inevitably seduces:
Who else should we add to our cast?
Post-script: One of my friends made the good point that everybody doesn't know who Tyler Perry is, and thus, why would one find this scenario problematic? Tyler Perry is a man who has made a career of playing black, female, mammy characters. For example, see this article which describes Perry's crusade to spread and reinforce these disgusting portrayals of black people (as if Japan doesn't need more reinforcement for its cultural embrace of notions such as Sambo).
Why is this troublesome? The idea of the overweight, black female character (here: the mammy) is rooted in very problematic, and pejorative notions of black personhood. Moreover, the black mammy is a manifestation of a tension wherein black females in popular culture are oftentimes either the 1) overweight, harmless, emotional surrogate for white women and a caregiver for whites (see: "Ohh boss our house be burnin down," aka "The Gone With the Wind Syndrome" or better yet, Miss Oprah) or; the 2) the hypersexualized black female mandigo ("I can't repress my libidinous black sexuality, it must be the melanin" figure). Either way, both are deeply problematic stereotypes that have framed, in a profound manner, the ways wherein some black folk often see ourselves, and how some whites see us as a people. In the case of Star Trek, and sci-fi more generally, I term this the "Jar Jar Binks syndrome" where a poor casting decision distracts the viewer from the overall story through both an appeal to, and/or use of, (either intentionally or unintentionally) actors and/or characters that are laden by problematic racial or ethnic stereotypes.
Now I can exhale. Get me?
Saturday, December 29, 2007
This is for you Tom Brady:
Now all we need is one more Superbowl ring....
Friday, December 28, 2007
reductio ad impossibile, is one that proves a proposition by showing that its denial conjoined with other propositions previously…
These conversations about gender and race make me really nervous. I know I can't win. I know I can't help but lose. As a man, I benefit from sexism by default, in much the same way that white people, regardless of their personal politics and ethics, benefit from white privilege.
As a black man that loves black women, I often feel that I am damned if I do, and damned if I don't. This is an immutable truth that transcends race, national boundaries, language, ethnicity, and class. We men folk want to say the "right" thing, and by doing so affirm the women we love in our lives, and to offer support to those women who have mentored and guided us. I for one know that if not for the black women in my life, and those loving, interested, and caring white, brown, and yellow women that have shared wisdom, love, and guidance with me, that I wouldn't be the sexual tyrannosaurus that I am today...Ha ha! had you going for a second with that black male feminist crap didn't I?
Seriously, when men and women talk about gender, and specifically, when I talk about gender as a man who happens to be black, I feel like the character Moleman on the Simpsons: I just keep getting hit in the balls regardless of what I say, and I keep getting hit over and over and over again. I know I can't win, but hell, I will keep trying:
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
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?
Thursday, December 20, 2007
-- Sojourner Truth at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio 1851
What is more difficult for us to identify as a community are the privileges of masculinity. For decades and decades, African-American women have been asked to set aside gender issues in order not to detract from the “larger” struggles of race. Those who have not have been labeled as self-centered, as race traitors, as pawns of white women … From our earliest history in this country, our bodies and our sexuality have never been broadly accepted as our own. As a result, not only are African-American women not respected by mainstream society, we are also not fully respected within our own communities.
Over our history, African-American women have been molested, raped, beaten and kidnapped without so much as a whisper in the mainstream newspapers. There have been several recent cases where accomplished young, African-American women have disappeared with no public alerts. Only God knows if, given adequate news coverage and police man power, they could have been returned home to their families. Even mainstream journalists acknowledge this problem. One of the reasons why we fail to receive the coverage that white women receive is that we don’t have the privilege of being victims. Whatever happens to us as African-American women is our own damn fault: If one of our little sisters is molested, how often is she accused of being “fast?” If one of us is date-raped and reports the crime, how likely will we be charged with being “stupid in the first place” or, if the man is rich and famous, a “gold-digging whore?” If someone raises a hand to us, how often do others wonder what we did to deserve it? No, in America, only white, virtuous maidens have the privilege of being victims. For African-American women, we simply need to “get over it;” for we are not worthy of the same outrage and respect.
I know that you know all of this Gordon, and that you have thought about it. For this reason, I cannot understand why you are so quick to dismiss how negative images can and do affect the lived experiences of African-American women – especially when there is very little positive balance. African-American women constantly have to battle the idea that they are whores and that their bodies are accessible to everyone (that is when they are not perceived as sexless maids). It is already terrible that whites often perceive us this way, but it is even more terrible that increasingly black men are seeing us this way.
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?
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
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.
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.”
Monday, December 17, 2007
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.
Ike Turner, For Better or for Worse,...
Friday, December 14, 2007
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.
5.) Unkempt cornrows
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.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
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:
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
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.
Postscript: Now, I would of course be Snake-Eyes, Zora would be Scarlett, but Gordon who would you be? Maybe Doc, or perhaps Alpine?