Sunday, January 13, 2008
Friday, January 11, 2008
However, I do have to admit that while I correctly predicted an Obama defeat, a big part of me, the proud, respectable negro part of me, really wanted to see him win. While political scientists, pundits, and other analysts are conducting a New Hampshire postmortem, we will not know for some time if Obama was defeated because of the "Bradley effect," i.e. white respondents reporting to pollsters that they will vote for the black candidate, when in the privacy of the voting booth these respondents then vote for the white candidate (and in an interesting twist, a white, female candidate). Alternatively, predictions of an Obama victory may have been a function of a sampling error, where as Andrew Kohut in The New York Times points out, the preferences of white respondents in New Hampshire making less than 50k a year were not "captured" by surveys. These voters disproportionately did not vote for Obama, what I affectionately call the PWT effect, and the pundits and analysts were blindsided by the subsequent failure to predict a Hillary victory (click here for a thorough list of possible explanations for Obama's defeat). Ultimately, Obama, his supporters, and the pundits, were caught in a "Damn!" moment by Hillary's victory--whatever the causal variables which may explain it:
First, Obama is in a crusade for hope. While not a problematic theme (who can disagree with "hope"?) it has transformed Obama into a vessel for the dreams and desires of others. This is an important, yet simultaneously almost banal observation that demands reiteration. Obama is a vessel for the hopes and dreams of others, but who are these others? What do they imagine? In their eyes, what is he a vessel for?
Here, Obama's candidacy has been positioned, and has quite skillfully positioned itself, as a force for "racial healing." For the Right, the Left, and for the tragic mulatto crowd, a vote for Obama ushers in a "post-racial future." For the Right, Obama is the embodiment of a "color-blind" America. But, as part of their racial project the mere mention of race, or racial difference, or for that matter racism, is itself "racist." For the "color-blind" Right/neo-liberal Left, to speak truth to power, is itself a racist act. For them (and quite disingenuously in my opinion given Bush 1 and 2, Reagan, et al's assault on black people's sanity), Obama's race is irrelevant. Further, Obama's candidacy hints at a reality where race does not "matter," and to bring forth questions of race as they relate to Obama borders on being impolitic at worse, and impolite, at best.
For the tragic mulatto and self-consciously bi-racial crowd, Obama is a mascot. He signals a future where self-identified bi-racial folk will be accepted in a wonderful, post-racial world where one can be all things to all people, and where the fact of race will have no burdens, no consequences, and no obligations:
For the Left, an Obama candidacy signals the arrival of a type of political humanism where all citizens manage to forget the past (and exercise selective memory regarding the present) and to live in a world which appreciates "difference." But, this is a post-racial future where race, and its inconvenient baggage, neither has purchase nor power. As articulated by Gary Kamiya on Salon.com, if we could all just move forward, if we as a society could find a racial "healer" as opposed to a "divider" (those troublemakers who talk about discrimination, racism, and white supremacy), we as a society could transcend racial difference. More pointedly, the Left in its vision for a post-racial future wants a safe, conciliatory, black leader who privileges the good will which ostensibly underlies the intentions of white liberals.
Again, no plain speakers need apply to the cult of "multiculturalism" and "diversity" because race is an unfortunate "social construction," a social construction which is only skin deep. For the post-racial Left, we are all human, and no troublesome folk (be they black, brown, yellow, red or white) need apply. Collectively, these post-racial knuckleheads (or PRK's as I label them) embrace Obama as a "magical negro." Although their agendas are different, these factions see in Obama their hope for a post-racial future, and he becomes the site for a type of magical, racial catharsis. Ultimately PRK's look to a future in which race is magically transcended. However, I suspect their understanding of the magical negro is closer to this one:
Don't misunderstand my position. I believe that one of the ironies of Obama's candidacy is that these necessary conversations regarding black American's support for his campaign (or lack thereof) highlight our political sophistication. While we are proud of Obama, our cynicism, suspicion, and deep seeded reservations point to a profound understanding of power, race, privilege, and politics. While the Right has long lamented that black support for the Democrats is evidence of a plantation mentality--disregarding the fact that there are many rational, self-interested reasons for our being "behind the mule"--we have been ahead of the curve on many issues (for example, black folk saw through Bush 2 long before white people).
I am proud of both our insight and our caution. For example, as The Washington Post recently highlighted, there are many reasons for black Americans to approach the Obama campaign with caution. Quite logically, many black Americans are concerned about the reasons underlying white support for Obama. What are his allegiances? Who is he beholden to? Why would white voters support a black candidate? How sincere is their interest? In addition, many black Americans, myself included, are deeply concerned about how Obama has positioned himself as a post-racial black man, a new "New Negro" of sorts, who is emphasizing his immigrant roots in a way that distances himself from his domestic, black brethren. Strategically, Obama's appropriation of the Horatio Alger, American-immigrant narrative sends a signal to whites that: "He is sort of like us"; "He and his people came here and made it with nothing..just like our ancestors!"; "Obama isn't angry like those other black folk who always throw slavery up in our faces!" It is Obama's skillful triangulation between whites and "regular" black folk, that give us regular respectable negroes much to think about.
The next few months will be exciting. Brother Obama, do not doubt for a second that we respectable negroes have your back--a fact that will be demonstrated in South Carolina. You will probably benefit from the calls of politicians, black activists, scholars, and public intellectuals to support your campaign. Moreover, how can we not be happy that a member of our proverbial tribe is competitive for the highest position in the land and is representing himself with such confidence, skill, and political deftness? The next few months will also be challenging. "They" will remind you of your blackness. "They" will test you. It may get so bad that you may have to do an Eddie Murphy to conduct some reconnaissance:
"Well, I think it's -- and again, a wonder of America here, a remarkable breakthrough, this year, as the other group said -- 97 percent, in fact, Iowa, rural, white farming state. Barack Hussein Obama, a black man, wins this for the Democrats...I have been watching him. I watched him on Meet the Press. I watched him on your show, watched him on all the CNN shows -- he never brings race into it. He never plays the race card. Talk about the black community -- he has taught the black community you don't have to act like Jesse Jackson; you don't have to act like Al Sharpton. You can talk about the issues. Great dignity. And this is a breakthrough, and good for the people of Iowa."
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
I differ from Chauncey in that I think that Obama has a chance to beat whomever the Republicans nominate. I also differ from him because I would never even joke about eating chitlins. However, we agree that, in general, the Democrats are poor strategists compared to the Republicans, and that the Democrats are absolutely clueless when it comes to choosing their presidential candidates. Take a look at this list of losing Democratic Nominees from 1984 to the present:
Gore (don’t give me that “But he won the popular vote and they stole
Just look at that list for a second. Is it even possible to imagine a more lifeless, uninspiring group of Democratic politicians? What this list tells me, though, is that the Democrats do not learn from their mistakes, and that Hillary will most likely be their nominee. Why? Because they believe that she is the “safe” choice (though she is anything but). Because she is an insider with “relevant experience” (though she has little).
Let’s revisit 2004 for a moment. Republicans’ charge them with being antipatriotic, so what do the Democrats do? They get all giddy about Wesley Clark running, and they ultimately nominate a
We live in interesting political times. Due to an odd convergence of circumstances, the three potential democratic presidential nominees are an economic populist, a woman, and a (kind of) black man, and the last one is the most electable candidate of the three! To see why Obama is the best bet for the Dems right now, let’s examine his main rivals:
Edwards, a white male and a Southerner, may seem like a good choice given that the last few Democratic presidents have been white men from the South. But Democrats got extremely lucky with Clinton and Carter: not only were they white male Southerners, they were up against Republicans whose loser-dom was too great for even the Democrats to fuck up. Most important, though, was that they came off as regular guys, despite their high levels of formal education. Edwards, on the other hand, is an effete pretty boy. Independents, especially male ones, will never vote for him in large numbers; he’s too “queer.” They can’t imagine having a brew with Edwards. Though these criteria are idiotic, they certainly explain Gore and Kerry’s failure to mop the floor with a man who, while just north of functionally retarded, appears to be a regular guy despite his privileged upbringing. Edwards can “man up” and criticize Hillary’s crying all he wants, this country will not elect a Southern dandy. The mainstream media will make sure of that. And I haven’t even gotten to the fact that Edwards’ platform is populist, poverty-centered, and critical of big business. Do you think that’s gonna fly in our current political climate, where any critique of the institutions that foster poverty earns one the socialist label?
It’s bad enough that Hillary represents boring “politics as usual.” The fact that she is a
So Obama’s the man…except that he isn’t and probably won’t be. The Democrats embody all four of the pre-Wizard Oz pilgrims combined: no brain, no heart, no home,
no balls no noyve. Obama is the magical Wizard poised to restore to the Democratic Party its squandered mojo. For the Democratic establishment, though, Obama’s campaign is too much like a fairy tale, and nominating him would be too much like right.
Chauncey DeVega says: New Hampshire Primary Reaction Part 1--Hillary Clinton and the Power of White Women's Tears
Hillary has now used her secret powers to breath life back into her campaign. Despite her husband's comments questioning Obama's experience, and electability; his observations that Obama's handlers (and by implication his supporters) are living in a fairy tale; or Hillary's jabs that Obama is no MLK--comments which undoubtedly turned off many voters and pushed them into Obama's camp--Hillary survives to fight another day. Representatives from the Hillary camp even went so far as to speculate aloud that if Obama continues to win and to fashion himself in the mold of MLK or Bobby Kennedy, he may very well be killed. But, even that tasteless comment (if not a reasonable concern), didn't prevent Hillary from capturing victory.
The media loves a horse race, the American public loves a close (but fair) election because it encourages their belief that the electoral system "works." And ultimately, we can only hope that these competitive primaries may improve the health of our body politic. But for now, I say kudos to you Miss Hillary because your victory has pushed me one step farther away from that chitlin' sandwich I promised to eat come November if Obama won the election.
To close, here is some secret footage of the celebration at Hillary Clinton's headquarters on Tuesday, January 8th at 11pm. Many Bothans died to bring you this information:
Monday, January 7, 2008
With the New Hampshire primary a day away, Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama is edging out Hillary Clinton. A USA Today-Gallup poll taken over the weekend has her trailing Barack Obama by 13 points.
“For those of you who have already decided that you are voting for me, do not take this race for granted,” Mr. Obama told voters at a morning rally in New Hampshire. “I know we had a nice boost over the last couple of days, but elections are a funny business. You actually have to wait until people have voted and counted the votes before you know what’s happening.”
Advisers to Mrs. Clinton and former Senator John Edwards played down any effects from Mr. Obama’s victory in Iowa. But one prominent black supporter of Mr. Obama, Representative Artur Davis of Alabama, called this moment “a very precarious time for the Clinton campaign.”
“For black elected officials who either stayed out of this race or have supported Senator Clinton, they’re in a very dicey position right now,” Mr. Davis said, “because their black constituents are about to move overwhelmingly toward Barack Obama.” Outright defections may be unlikely, he said, but he predicted some black Clinton supporters would become “magically unavailable when the Clinton campaign calls them.”
... and one Negro Deserves an Honorable Mention
in the Face of Strong Black Women
Our own Gordon Gartrelle is nominated this week for rethinking his position on how his sisters are portrayed in the media and pledging to be more thoughtful when he engages this topic in the future. He will be a strong ally in our struggle for respect and consideration.
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?