Friday, December 26, 2008

What to Buy Your Children on Black Friday? A Christmas Gift Guide for Respectable Negro Boys and Girls

The holiday season continues. Today, the new Black Friday, retailers will be offering unheard of discounts to shoppers. It is a given that Negroes tend to be late with things. This year, our lateness in giving gifts to friends and family may actually result in a net financial gain for all involved: the gift givers get more bang for the buck, in theory the gift recipients get more goodies, and the retailers get to move some of their overstock, which in turn keeps good people employed.

But, things are never easy for we respectable negroes. You see, the upwardly mobile negro striver (as well as those others who are trying to positively mold and influence the young folks in their lives) puts a great deal of energy and thought into their gift giving. The nouveau respectable negro wants to give their children "positive" gifts that reinforce self-esteem. They also want to give their kids gifts that improve critical thinking, reasoning, and problem solving skills. For kids who just want to have some fun on Christmas Day, and lose themselves in the pleasures and bliss of the season, this ethic of "meaningful" gifting often equals no more than a great deal of disappointment. As a public service to children and parents, we are providing a handy guide which details the gifts that should be avoided this Black Friday:

Respectable Gifts for Young Respectable Negroes (Gifts that Should in Fact be Avoided at All Costs)

1. Sun-Man

Until recently, it was very difficult to find "diverse" action figures (or dolls for that matter)--for the uninformed, "diverse" is politically correct speak for everyone who is not white. This lack of racial diversity in the world of action figures does great psychological harm to respectable negro children. As a child, you didn't see yourself represented in your playtime adventures, or your options were so limited as to give you an identity complex. On this point, the black doll/white doll test has been long cited for how it deftly demonstrates the relationship between play, race, and self-esteem for young black children. The triangle of toys, self-esteem, and racial identity applies to boys as well. For example, in GI Joe, a young respectable negro could pretend to be Doc or Road Block--choices reduced to a painful binary of the geeky medic who was an emasculated pacifist or a stereotypical big black buck with a machine gun. And yes, in theory, if they really reached he/she could pretend that Snake Eyes was a brother (but, to pull this off you had to be part of a clique that didn't read the comic book).

During the Afrocentric resurgence in the 1980's and 1990's, an enterprising sister by the name of Yia Eason founded the company Olmec Toys with the stated mission of breaking Eurocentrism's hold on the action figure market. Her invention's name: Sun-Man. His origin myth and special power: Sun-Man's melanin could harness the power of the sun's rays, therefore making our hero impervious to injury. His closest relative: He-Man, as Sun-Man was basically a sculpt of He-Man painted brown. Random thought: maybe He-Man's daddy liked a little coffee with his sugar?

In hindsight, Sun-Man's powers are a bit problematic on their own as they are eerily close to Leonard Jeffries' hypotheses about ice-people and sun-people. Consequently, and with no small amount of irony, Sun-Man actually reinforces the very race essentialism that his creators were trying to subvert. Sun-Man also led an alliance of multicultural heroes (my favorites are the token White character Dupligo and the Black Dr. Mindbender, Hypno) . Sun Man and his heroes would face the villain to end all villains--PigHead! Yes, Sun-Man is fighting a swine, that half-dog, half-rat beast that is the enemy of all black folks (as well as vegetarians, vegans, Jews, Sunnis, Shiites, and Black Muslims) everywhere:

Sun-Man had his moment in the sun before fading into obscurity (Get it? Do you like my Oscar Wilde-like wordplay?). Some Sun-Man devotees are keeping his adventures and proud lineage alive. But, he is doomed by two basic and irrefutable facts. First, the toy market has evolved to include those children not White-never forget the overriding power of money and greed as motivating factors for "progress." Second, Sun-Man basically sucked. He was the segregated school of action figures. Sun-Man was under-resourced, yet he bravely and honorably did his job. Times change, thus Sun-Man being tossed into the dust bin of toy history.

2. "Positive" Hip Hop

Respectable negro parents, friends, and relatives often have good intentions that go awfully wrong when they try to give their favorite young ones music as a holiday gift. The instinct is correct: so much of Black popular culture is a bunch of cooning, race minstrel, crap-hoppers. However, the response, to give the young one's "positive" music is misdirected. The problem: a generation gap that isn't easily traversed. Yes, the kids may want the latest Lil Wayne, Young Jeezy, Soulja Boy, T-Pain Southern craptastic rap/RnB under the tree. Yes, you are right to not poison their minds with this trash (or spend your hard earned money on it). But, please don't give your kid some gospel/holy/praise hip-hop, or its basic equivalent in suckdom, "educational" hip hop. Just say no!

If you have to reach, go to your local independent music store (where folks may know something) and ask for some "golden age hip hop." If you are feeling brave you may even get your teenage respectable negro some halfway decent contemporary hip hop--the Roots, Talib, MadLib, Jay Dee, Ghostface, Little Brother, Jay-Z, Kanye (yes, Kanye), Oh No, etc. etc. Perhaps, this is an opportunity to broaden the musical horizons of the younger ones by gifting them with some classic soul, funk, rock, jazz, or house. If you want to immunize your child against niggetry, buy them the Boondocks Season 1 or 2 on Dvd or even the Chappelle Show:

Your kids may be pleasantly surprised, and you, as a respectable negro gift giver, will be spared from embarrassment.

3. Serious Reading Material

I believe that knowledge is power. I love to read. As an adult, I don't mind a book, or two, or three as Christmas gifts. But, in reflecting on my childhood, I had an Aunt who I loved dearly. She made it her life mission to ensure that I would develop a love of reading. Yes, it worked. But, Christmas isn't the time for pushing the literati agenda! Indulge me for a moment as I walk down memory lane.

Every year I would be so excited to receive my X-Mas gifts, and without fail there would be a book from my Aunt. These books were heavy reading that covered such topics as the Black Holocaust, the Middle Passage, slavery in the Americas and the like. Work through the visual with me: a young child is full of bliss as he or she opens their gifts. They come upon a box, rip off its wrapping paper, and rummage through its contents. What is inside? A copy of Many Thousands Gone and How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America. Damn. Tell me that isn't a downer. Fast forward to the present. As we speak, and at this very moment, I know that there is some respectable negro child or teenager whose Aunt or Uncle has purchased a copy of Toni Morrison's newest masterwork, A Mercy, for their favorite niece or nephew. For all that is good in the world, do that child a favor and save it for another day. If you must give them a book, get something light or funny. If he or she is a young ghetto nerd get them a collection of graphic novels or a gift certificate to the local Borders or Barnes and Noble. Trust me, your young respectable negro will be happier for it.

What are some other suggested gifts to be avoided? What horrible gifts did you receive in a parent's misguided effort to encourage you to be a scientist, doctor, lawyer, teacher, accountant or astronaut? What are some other perennial respectable negro holiday gifts?


Anonymous said...

Good stuff, as always.

Kit (Keep It Trill) said...

Chauncey, that first video was heartbreaking. That kid got some gifts that he'll carry with him like a bag of cement for the rest of this life. In that moment, he learned:

1. People you love cannot be trusted. He trusted that he was getting an X-box, and instead got clothes in box. His family should have prepared him before Christmas to not expect one.

2. People you love are cruel. His family laughed at his disappointment and tears, and kept right on filming his moment of sorrow.

3. People you love don't console you when you need to be consoled. No one reached out to hug him.

4. People you love don't apologize immediately when they've hurt you.

Those were the unfortunate lessons given to him. Since he wanted this X-Box so much and was set up to think he'd get it, he'll possibly want one even more. Because of the way it was done, he's more likely to grow up insensitive and a materialistic person who tries to fill that emptiness with possessions, and jealous of others who have what he hasn't.

And it all could have been avoided if his folks said weeks ago, "Hey kid, we really love you but all we can afford is necessities this year, so lets celebrate our love for one another and the birth of Christ." I did this with my family, and my kids amazingly accepted it with grace and ease.

Lady Zora, Chauncey DeVega, and Gordon Gartrelle said...

It was a bit rough. I wonder what will come of him later in life? Serial killer? Mean school bus driver? A job at the DMV? But seriously, I was disturbed that someone would record that video and post it online--I guess folks are desperate to be internet celebrities.


Anonymous said...

I just wanted you to know that finding this site was one of the best things to happen to me in 2008. Also don't forget to warn against the big purchase guilt trip. When I was 14 my mom got me a disk drive for my Commodore 64. She basically told me she had to sell booty on the street and pawn her soul to buy it. I wanted to cry and take my life. She then told me to shut up and smile for the camera. I felt that boy's pain!