Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Chauncey Devega Says: Yes Virginia, there is a White Church



When I was a younger respectable negro I served as the commentary editor for my college newspaper. There, I had the chance to write all manner of provocative articles in an effort to (and I just learned the phrase at the time) "speak truth to power." I took particular pleasure in upsetting the white students at my small liberal arts institution. I would make them cry, enrage them to the point where I received death threats, and play on their liberal guilt--it was there that I learned about the many erotic possibilities which would potentially come to a racial messiah from the hot and flustered college co-eds who loved their local black radical. Ultimately, I simply enjoyed being the center of attention every Friday when the school paper was published...and attention would indeed come, and it often came when I least expected it.

In one of my more tame pieces I made a simple allusion, a throwaway really, to the fact that Jesus was "black." Here, I meant Jesus was "black" politically--he fought for the little guy, challenged State power, was politically progressive, and defended the weak against the strong. I also meant the historical Jesus, the man, was certainly not white. These were simple facts, written without much preamble or embellishment. Predictably, the reaction to these claims was so powerful and so immediate one would think that I had publicly lambasted the Pope and then killed his dog. I was threatened, verbally abused, and greeted by tears. Even my allies, my sincere supporters didn't understand why I would bring "race" into it. I responded with confusion. How did I bring race into anything? Race and racism are simple facts of life in America, I didn't introduce race to a situation where it wasn't already meaningful and relevant. The "anything" in this case was religion. The anything was the mere idea that I would state a fact in contrary to a fantasy, a deeply held fantasy that religion and faith are somehow immune from these questions of race and justice. I was befuddled, these normally rational, smart, reflective people lost all capacity for common sense when I dared to bring up an inconvenient truth.

It was then that I adopted my mantra to not mix religion and politics, never in my personal life, not in my relationships, and certainly never in my academic work because matters of religion often make rational, intelligent people act like total fools.

Now the Barack-Wright affair--and yes, this is how I believe history books will refer to this most untidy matter--has forced me to break my rule.

During the last week Fox News has transformed itself into the 24 Hour Black Religion Network where every second of every day offers some new morsel of information about Obama and Reverend Wright. Fox News has become so fixated on this issue that I am soon expecting TD Jakes, Reverend Ike, or Creflo Dollar to appear accompanied by praise dancers and interludes from Mahalia Jackson. However, if they could play some of this brother from the ATLAH Church I would be particularly pleased:



What is troubling, but hardly surprising in this matter, is how black folks are once more marked as the "other." The subtext (isn't it even a subtext anymore?) is that the black church is the center for some type of radical politics, that black people are bad citizens and ultimately, Obama is really one of "those blacks" and his mainstream appeal was the result of a sham, an effort to pull the proverbial negro wool over the eyes of "mainstream," i.e. good, white, patriotic Americans. Also, and the black church bears responsibility here as well, this fascination with black churches (which is cultivated by "cultural tours" of black churches like those offered by Trinity in Chicago) reeks of a type of racial voyeurism where black people are the subject of a particularly pernicious type of white spectatorship: look at the black people? Aren't they interesting? How they pray is so "animated"? Isn't the music amazing?...Maybe they will get the spirit and speak in tongues!

This effort by the right-wing to "blacken" Obama ignores some key facts and proceeds from a number of false assumptions. First, we must ask just how unpatriotic, disloyal, out of the "mainstream," or "crazy" are Pastor Wright's positions? Here, this divide speaks to the ways how (some) black people and (many) white people view the world through profoundly different lenses. While we may no longer exist in two worlds "separate, hostile, and unequal," we certainly are often worlds apart.

Let's offer a quick summary:



Not too much crazy there, no? The U.S. has supported authoritarian regimes which committed acts of terror and atrocities against their own people. Why is the idea of "blowback" or as Malcolm X said, "of the chickens coming home to roost" so troubling? On this point, I am reminded of Oprah Winfrey's 9-11 episode where experts explained to soccer moms everywhere that America has enemies, and that America often behaves like an international gangster who is long overdue for retaliation from elements abroad (I guess this is news to some). America has been stained by slavery, Jim Crow, support for state sponsored racial inequality, and continues to have an atrocious record in regards to the justice claims of poor people and people of color. Why is this so controversial? Katrina was a national embarrassment and from a religiously informed perspective that looks to the Bible as providing examples for how righteous societies ought to treat its citizens, and how societies which fail to do so will be punished by God, what is so unsettling or unpatriotic about the idea of divine retribution? How frightening is it that God may "damn" America? How absurd is this notion when one seeks, from a religiously informed perspective, to explain our declining position in the world?

This controversy also speaks to how the black church is a deeply political space, and that black liberation theology is an effort to speak to the particular needs of black people in America. We are not all the same, and any effort to mask how race informs our varied life experiences is naive at best and disingenuous at worst. Moreover, it is a perspective often advanced by those who do not have to deal with the "inconvenience" of racism. The irony in this debacle is that the black church is deeply conservative and supports positions that most political Conservatives, if they were actually honest about their own racial politics and deep animus towards black people, would support. The proposition that black folk can do for ourselves, or perhaps see value in black spaces of community and support, spaces that are not prefaced on assimilation and integration, troubles the Right:



These efforts at self-reliance are then translated into racial separatism. By extension and association, Obama is tarred and feathered--stained by his association with these "radicals," when in reality the positions held by Pastor Wright (and others) are not all too radical. Moreover, why isn't truth seeking the cornerstone of patriotism? Must we lie to ourselves and our children about America and our shared history lest we be castigated as traitors and subversives?

As much as the black church is made the object of spectacle, it is also an opportunity to turn the table. As has often been observed, the hour of prayer remains the most segregated time of the week. If the black church is "political" or "separatist" to any degree, the "white church" exhibits those same traits, and does so in a far more negative fashion. This is scary to some white folk, this challenge to the assumption that "normal" equals "white" and that "whiteness" ought not to be interrogated. But, it is one of the basic perks of white privilege, a type of convenient myopia where one does not have to see the painful or inconvenient.

For example, in America the white church has supported slavery, Jim Crow, the KKK, racial violence, and the political disempowerment of people of color. Yet, we tremble at speaking this truth. At present, the white Church is deeply political. The alliance of the Republican Party and Christian Evangelicals has given us the Bush administration and the Iraq War. The white church, with its Christian Fascism, conflates love of country and God with love of the regime and patriotism:



As further evidence of the political double standard present in the Barack-Wright affair, where is the clarion call against McCain and his affiliation with Pastor John Hagee who called Catholicism a cult?



Why hasn't Bush been called to task for speaking at Bob Jones university, a racist institution that prohibited inter-racial dating?

And black preachers don't have a monopoly on "incendiary" or "crazy" speech as Pat Robertson provides ample evidence:



Along with (reformed racist) Jerry Falwell:



As a secularist, and as a respectable negro American, I am deeply disturbed by this perilous turn in the presidential campaign. Obama, in his stirring speech today didn't throw Pastor Wright under the proverbial bus, but he did do some necessary dancing around the issue. The right-wing will predictably stay on message with attacks on Obama's character and loyalty. Predictably,their loyal sheep will march in lockstep behind these conservative demagogues. Some critics and observers have echoed my concerns about the hypocrisy surrounding the Wright-Obama affair, but unfortunately it has not (yet) become a groundswell.

Sadly, this moment reminds me of Winston Churchill's quote, "
never was so much owed by so many to so few." But unfortunately, it is a vocal few on conservative talk radio and Fox News who in their unbridled vitriol, prejudice, and political hostility, have through their attacks on Obama further poisoned our political discourse and potentially hurt so many.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Chauncey's World of Ghetto Nerds: Gnarls Barkley's new video--Run!

I was going to post a follow-up to my earlier Star Wars post, fully equipped with a Gnarls Barkley performance of "Crazy" in full Star Wars regalia, but I had to post this bit of goodness:

I saw these 2 in Vegas, with Kanye, and that horrible Lupe Fiasco, and it was amazing.

First, Gnarls Barkley's new video:



Second, a personal favorite:



Sometimes pop music is okay, it really is.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Chauncey's World of Ghetto Nerds: Damn it! Star Wars is Sexy!!

from The Best of Craigslist:

Original URL: http://www.craigslist.org/about/best/nyc/550913075.html

Dear Star Wars ex-boyfriend, my vag is sore
Reply to:
Date: 2008-01-25, 3:56AM

Dear Star Wars obsessed ex-boyfriend,
A few things as of late have come to light. The fact that you had an entire room dedicated to Star Wars should have been enough to make any sane girl run in the opposite direction, I somehow found it endearing...Your sexual inadequacies should have made me run to seek orgasm from another penis, instead I quietly masturbated in the bathroom after your pathetic attempts at coitus. When you told me that you slept with someone else, I must admit that I was mildly relieved as at last this was my way out. But Star Wars obsessed ex- boyfriend, you just had to go and one-up yourself in stupidity. Just when I thought that your stupidity had reached its crescendo a perfect symphony of ignorance, you surprised me. You said something that will forever go down as the worst phrase to ever utter to a girlfriend. You said: “Yeah I slept with someone else, but I had to think about you to get off.” Seriously? Really? Am I supposed to be honored by this? ...Well, Star Wars obsessed ex-boyfriend, let me tell you this. I won. First off, I am not going to let you ruin Star Wars for me. I will still giggle with delight at Chewbacca’s noises. I will still find humor in Jabba’s fat face. More importantly, I won because I used my inner rage to go out and fuck the ever living shit out of someone else...And you know what Star Wars obsessed ex-boyfriend? I fucked this guy on real sheets. Sheets that didn’t have R2D2 and C3P0 and Tie fighters. Big boy sheets. When I arched my back and looked up I didn’t see any Sith infiltrators on the ceiling. No Death Star. For the first time in a long time I got off without feeling like I should be on “To Catch a Predator” because you, Star Wars obsessed ex-boyfriend, made me feel dirty for fucking in what looked like a little kid’s room...

* Location: not Alderaan
* it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

***
I get riled up whenever someone disparages Star Wars as simply being the exclusive province of loser, unromantic, male virgins whom still live at mom and dad's house. Frankly, it isn't fair and it ignores the sexiness that is the Force. I should know, because I have used the Star Wars lounge music album as mood music for one of my epic love sessions...in fact it is right between my Teddy P and R. Kelly in the booty music rotation. I have also made love to a woman while wearing my Jedi Knight costume. And trust me, that was mighty sexy.

Let's take the sexy back fellow Star Wars fans. Brother Lando are you with me?



You are so cool I may just have me a Colt 45:



Stars Wars fans and ghetto nerds we are gonna take sexy back in the '08.

May the Force be with you, always.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

This is a High-Tech Lynching! Well no it really isn't...



Mayor Text o'love Kwame is at it again. Now, those are some mean words, but given your behavior you have lost all credibility with me and I can't help but see a race-baiting, desperate, tacky politician--and one who exploits his child and wife to boot. Brother Kwame, why can't you just be contrite, resign, disappear from public life, and drink a big bowl of shut-up juice?

From Newsweek magazine:

You might think the resignation of New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer would put more pressure on Detroit's embattled mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, to do the same. But Kilpatrick, seven weeks into his own text sex scandal, shows no signs of giving up the fight. In fact, with a prosecutor contemplating perjury charges and his city council in revolt, Kilpatrick has chosen the nuclear option in this deeply divided city. At the end of an otherwise routine state-of-the-city speech Tuesday night, Kilpatrick went off on a racially explosive tirade against his critics and the media.

"In the past 30 days I've been called a n----- more than any time in my entire life," he told a cheering, invitation-only crowd of 1,500 at Detroit's gilded Orchestra Hall. "In the past three days I've received more death threats than I have in my entire administration. I've heard these words, but I've never heard people say them about my wife and children. I have to say this, because it's very personal to me." He stole a glance at his wife and twin 12-year-old sons standing at attention in a luxury box above the stage. "I don't believe a Nielsen rating is worth the life of my children or your children. This unethical, illegal lynch-mob mentality has to stop."

Wow, we have enough content to recycle! But here at We are Respectable Negroes we call this a "flashback" rather than a lazy, respectable negro moment.

From a few months back, still relevant and still funny:

Kwame Kilpatrick, the mayor of Detroit, is in big trouble. Apparently, he has been running his administration like a cross between Flavor of Love, 106 and Park, and We can do Better. Kwame's the "hip hop" mayor. He has strippers, parties, and security guards covering up his mess. Now, Kwame is caught creeping with his senior aid. It seems that Kilpatrick and his lover have exchanged 14,000 text messages over the course of a year, yes, 14,000. The rub of the story is that few of the text messages that have been released to the public are any good. I want some steamy, I am cheating on my wife, nasty and dirty text messages. For example, how about a few, "I am gonna come over and put you in the chicken wing girl;" "I want to put you in the camel clutch later tonight;" or "I am going to wear you out like a pair of shoes from Payless." In honor of our first hip hop mayor, a mayor by the name of Kwame, I present a classic cut from the original Kwame (see it makes sense in the end):




It seems Kwame thought he was a smooth operator:



But, Kwame may have just played himself:

One-fourth of teen girls (and half of black teen girls!) have this in their drawers; teen boys, R Kelly undaunted.


I’m sorry, this is just gross. Just once, I’d like for black people to not be atop the Raggedy Rankings.

And I’m sure many will blame the predatory, manipulative boys for infecting innocent girls, but if you’ve spent any time around teens, you’ll see that these girls want it just as much as the boys.

This is a failure of black parenting at every imaginable level—a failure to provide decent male role models so that girls won’t go looking for male love and acceptance in chubbies; a failure to provide strong female role models who don’t make a habit of letting random dudes run up in them raw dog; a failure to make kids realize the seriousness and permanence of some STDs and the importance of safe sex; a failure to instill character and independent thought so that kids don’t take their behavioral norms from mass media and their fucked up peers.

Young people are going to have sex—that’s a given. But they don’t have to turn this bitch into 12 Monkeys in the process.

How’s that for racial id, Chauncey?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Hillary Clinton's Red Phone Ad and the Birth of a Nation

From the New York Time's editorial, "The Red Phone in Black and White":

ON first watching Hillary Clinton’s recent “It’s 3 a.m.” advertisement, I was left with an uneasy feeling that something was not quite right — something that went beyond my disappointment that she had decided to go negative. Repeated watching of the ad on YouTube increased my unease. I realized that I had only too often in my study of America’s racial history seen images much like these, and the sentiments to which they allude...

I have spent my life studying the pictures and symbols of racism and slavery, and when I saw the Clinton ad’s central image — innocent sleeping children and a mother in the middle of the night at risk of mortal danger — it brought to my mind scenes from the past. I couldn’t help but think of D. W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” the racist movie epic that helped revive the Ku Klux Klan, with its portrayal of black men lurking in the bushes around white society. The danger implicit in the phone ad — as I see it — is that the person answering the phone might be a black man, someone who could not be trusted to protect us from this threat.

The ad could easily have removed its racist sub-message by including images of a black child, mother or father — or by stating that the danger was external terrorism. Instead, the child on whom the camera first focuses is blond. Two other sleeping children, presumably in another bed, are not blond, but they are dimly lighted, leaving them ambiguous. Still it is obvious that they are not black — both, in fact, seem vaguely Latino.

***

I am not a fan of Hillary Clinton. Nor, have I drunk the Obama Kool-Aid and become a true believer. However, I must admit that the ugliness of her campaign has pushed me, and I imagine many others, to vote for Obama in order to teach Billary a lesson about taking black folks for granted, and as punishment for how Bill Clinton disingenuously pimped the label of being "America's first black president."

With this qualification noted, I have mixed feelings about the interpretations that some have offered regarding Hillary Clinton's red phone campaign ad where Obama is skewered as being unprepared to lead the country in a crisis:



Here, some critics have offered an analysis that argues these ads are "racist" and "racially coded" because they hint at black incompetence and Hillary as the protector of white families. Hmmmm...now, we all know that I beat up on white racism (and black stupidity) but I ain't buying this one. Historically, the parallel falls flat, and the commercial lacks the insidiousness, crude intelligence, and overt appeal to be "elevated" in this fashion. Frankly, Hillary Clinton's ad doesn't possess a bit of the "genius" (yes I said "genius"), offered by Birth of a Nation.

In fact, Hillary's campaign ad has more in common with the fear mongering offered by the Johnson campaign in its classic "Daisy Girl" commercial:



While noting the power of negative campaign commercials to impact voting behavior (or not), my gut doesn't tell me that the white viewers whom are ostensibly targeted by this ad would "get" the appeal. Am I wrong? And does it matter? (I am open to being swayed on this point)

My other measuring stick for determining the racism of Hillary's red phone campaign commercial is the question, "how does it compare to past campaign ads which were rightly labeled as being racist?"

For example,

The implication made by this commercial that then gubernatorial candidate Harold Ford chases white women and parties at the Playboy mansion:



Those Democrats love letting out black rapists and murderers--Premier Bush Number One's notorious Willie Horton ad:



They took our jobs! The unqualified blacks took our jobs!--The "black hands, white hands" ad from Jesse Helms:



Ultimately, Hillary's call to leadership is to my eyes, more evocative of Underdog than anything else:



Let's skewer Hillary for the racially provocative speech of her campaign officials, the clumsiness of her campaign, and how Hillary in her willingness to fight until the convention may destroy the Democratic Party and hand the election to McCain. Moreover, commentators and voters need to attack Hillary on her claims to experience, because frankly, in these matters of State how experienced is she? Ultimately, we don't need to grab at proverbial straws in an effort to burn a racial straw man. Why? Because the facts offered by Hillary Clinton's campaign provide more than enough fodder to undo her.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Negro History Week is Pre-empted by our Racial Id's

We desperately tried and wanted to share our "respectable origins." Unfortunately, because Zora our resident voice of reason is AWOL, Brother Gordon and I are reverting to our normal semi-respectable ways. With our voice of reason temporarily absent, our racial ids have run amok once more. You see, Zora would intervene and beg us not to proceed, but without her civilizing and compassionate influence we are left to our own devices--our own inner Bill Cosby's.

We have had these photos for some time but decided not to post them. They were gathered during one of our trips to the local ghetto mall, you know the one with the dress codes, the security guards, and hoards of ignt's engaged in their local mating rituals. Our compassionate souls restrained us, but our racial ids have compelled us forward. Part of my psyche said, "they know not the evil the do," but the other part said, "these folks just want to be 'hood celebrities." You, our respectable negro patrons can decide if these photos are 1) sad; 2) depressing; 3) funny as hell; or 4) tragic.



We are Respectable Negro's exhibit number 1

This picture represents a number of troubling possibilities. From least worrisome to most...

1. This is a picture for grandma. Here, grandma is much older. The kids in the photo, and the mother, are just a little young but we will let it pass.
2. Maybe grandma is in her 30s and the folks in the picture are her "grands" and her daughter. This is troubling because the daughter was in her teens when she got knocked up and the kids are damn too young.
3. The kids and mom are in the same cohort as noted above, but they are dressed like "little men" and "little women." You know that pathology where among the ingnt's children are made adults. That is a bit disgusting and sad. Moreover, little kids are not adults. And little boys made into "little men" become medium sized men whom grow up to be prison inmates. Finally, toddlers should not be dressed like junior gang bangers--sorry for being insensitive.
4. Troubling, maybe this is mom and these are her kids? So, mom had her kids in her mid-teens? I don't like that.
5. Most troubling, maybe this is grandma, and these are her grandkids. As Chris Rock said, "if you call momma Pam, and grandma mom, you are going to prison."

We are Respectable Negro's exhibits 2 and 3






1. I am speechless.
2. Could this be an effort to simply find acceptance amongst one's peers? However sad? Among some social classes maybe showing pregnant bellies is cute?
3. Maybe distended pregnant belly buttons are sexy? Am I a prude?
4. Maybe among some ignt's (and others) to be pregnant is to be proud, and to be pregnant and to display one's body on tacky posters, in photos, and on inexpensive t-shirts is praiseworthy?
5. Baby Phat? Yikes...

I will play devil's advocate. Are these photos any more or less tacky than this magazine cover?



Or this sculpture?




You all tell us...

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Negro History Week: Chauncey DeVega’s Pre-History Part 2

In part one of my pre-history we explored my father's life stories. We now turn our attention to mother Chauncey...

Did you know that Chauncey DeVega's mother:

...Learned how to drive at 10 years old. Apparently, she was too short to see over the dashboard of the 55 Buick her uncle would let her drive in exchange for doing errands. Chauncey's mother, a petite woman, would have to sit on a pillow in order to navigate the back country roads where she lived.

...Once tried to run over the neighborhood meth-head. This woman was riding a bicycle and dared to call Chauncey's mother out of her name. In retaliation mother Chauncey pursued this "fat bitch"--my mothers language not mine--with her car and pushed the back wheel of the bicycle with the front bumper of our Plymouth Grand Fury until the PWT careened out of control. We had a running feud with this family which involved numerous fights, general chaos, and episodes of random violence over the course of several decades.

... Is the first cousin of the boxer Floyd Patterson. This is ironic because Muhammad Ali is one of my personal heroes and the great Ali whooped Floyd Patterson's butt.

...Firmly believes that the actor Philip Michael Thomas (the light skinned guy from the TV series Miami Vice) is a relative. She, like black people everywhere, are obsessed with having "Indian" blood and has concocted a story where one of our family ran away from the South to be famous in Hollywood. This fictive relative was never seen again, but Mr. Thomas bears an incredibly strong resemblance to this man. Thus, my mother has claimed Miami Vice's Philip Michael Thomas as a relative.

...When asked about Doctor King and The Civil Rights movement said that King was "half-crazy and half-brave." When pressed about her participation in the Civil Rights Movement my mother said that she didn't want someone putting hoses on her, isn't capable of turning the other cheek, and that if some racist cop put his hands on her that she would kill him. So much for non-violence in my family.

...Has an eccentric first cousin who is a millionaire that owns 500 acres of land. This cousin also does not believe in the necessity of indoor plumbing and still maintains (and uses) an outhouse.

...Has a family with interesting and tragic roots. One of the patriarchs of our family was the product of a taboo relationship between a white, Jewish woman and a black man. Apparently, they were getting their groove on and this woman came up pregnant. The white people in town didn't take kindly to this crossing of the racial divide (even with a questionably "white" Jewish person) and formed a lynch mob to kill this woman and her lover. Unfortunately, these hate mongers were successful and killed the couple. Their love child was secretly taken in by my mother's clan and raised as one of the family.

...Like Gordon Gartrelle's family, we too have a black male relative who couldn't resist the temptations of white women and subsequently paid a high price for sharing his black love. Apparently, sometime around the turn of the 20th century one of my mom's people was philandering with a white man's wife in the Southern town where they lived. Said woman's husband found out and confronted my cousin who in turn killed this white man. In telling the story my mother observed that, "u know that's what black men do" meaning they can't resist sleeping with white women. I said that isn't fair. She replied, "it is the truth"--



At least there was a good outcome as my white woman seducing cousin ran up North and disappeared never to be seen again...as opposed to running further down South.

...Aunt raised 13 children, most of which were not her own. My great Aunt, a woman with a 3rd grade education and without the aid of the State, i.e. welfare, social workers, and all that other mess which the undeserving breeding ignt's receive today (as opposed to the "deserving poor," i.e. people who have been laid off, downsized, are ill, elderly etc. and do not live in a cycle of dependency and ghetto underclass culture) mentored, encouraged, and raised a group of people whom would go on to be doctors, lawyers, and ministers.



Chauncey's World of Ghetto Nerds: Dungeons and Dragons Creator Passes Away

We now interrupt Negro History Week to bring you a special announcement:

Dungeons and Dragons was lots of fun, especially for socially awkward black kids in the semi-suburbs. You could hang out with your friends, and if you had a cool person running the campaign you could easily pass the time every Friday and most Saturdays of your middle school and High School years. Better yet, (and yes the games with its "high fantasy" setting could be a bit too European and Nordic for my taste) it was a world where race didn't matter and you could play a Moor (or its equivalent) paladin who was neutrally aligned--it added a little bit of mystery to my character. Anticipating your questions, no, I do not know what character class Marlon Wayans was supposed to represent in the horrible film adaptation:



My parents thought D and D was a cult because of the Tom Hanks movie, Mazes and Monsters:




But, they let me play it anyway because it kept me off the streets and my friends were good "middle class" kids.

Gary Gygax, Dungeons & Dragons creator, dies

MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin (AP) -- Gary Gygax, who co-created the fantasy game Dungeons & Dragons and helped start the role-playing phenomenon, died Tuesday morning at his home in Lake Geneva. He was 69.

He had been suffering from health problems for several years, including an abdominal aneurysm, said his wife, Gail Gygax.

Gygax and Dave Arneson developed Dungeons & Dragons in 1974 using medieval characters and mythical creatures. The game known for its oddly shaped dice became a hit, particularly among teenage boys, and eventually was turned into video games, books and movies.

Gygax always enjoyed hearing from the game's legion of devoted fans, many of whom would stop by the family's home in Lake Geneva, about 55 miles southwest of Milwaukee, his wife said. Despite his declining health, he hosted weekly games of Dungeons & Dragons as recently as January, she said.

"It really meant a lot to him to hear from people from over the years about how he helped them become a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman, what he gave them," Gygax said. "He really enjoyed that."

Dungeons & Dragons players create fictional characters and carry out their adventures with the help of complicated rules. The quintessential geek pastime, it spawned a wealth of copycat games and later inspired a whole genre of computer games that's still growing in popularity.

Funeral arrangements are pending. Besides his wife, Gygax is survived by six children.

***

We chocolate nerds will miss you...rest in peace Mr. Gygax

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Negro History Week: Chauncey DeVega’s Pre-History



I believe that history is as much about forgetting as it is about remembering. This is especially true for black Americans, and other members of the Diaspora, who had so much of their history torn asunder from them and forced into re-imagining what we cannot reclaim. For my first installment I talked to my mom and also reflected on some of my father's stories. As will be made clear by my future posts on this subject, history is as much about getting in the way of things, as of knowing when to get the hell out of the way. Ultimately, I think history has necessitated an ironic sense of humor among black folks because we have to laugh to keep from crying--I guess that may be true of Jews as well (and maybe the Irish, Native Americans, and a few others). Moreover, race and racism messes people up and is so absurd in how it impacts people that these stories, and how we tell them, speak volumes for how people negotiate power.

My people are from North Carolina, Boston and Rhode Island. From these experiences, we (meaning my parents and their 2 branches, had 2 mottoes. The first was, "we don't run from poor white trash." The second was, "we come from Boston and North Carolina and we ain't no Africans because those Africans sold us into slavery!" Now, if you know me and my people in real life there are some facts which complicate that story. But, as a fiction it was simultaneously a truth which helped structure my life. In the following stories that fact becomes quite evident:

Did You Know that Chauncey’s father…

...Was much older than his mother and played semi-pro football with questionably "white"people during the 1930s and 1940s. These good white ethnics included the Irish, Italians, and Greeks. These "white" people liked my father because he was really fast and had great hands so they wanted to draft him. As pops would say, "I was a shorter version of Randy Moss, and if pro-football drafted black people he would have tried out and and made it."My dad was a hell of a bullshit artist, but when he was serious he was serious, and this story was verified by many different people so I take it to be true. Before I shattered my wrist, I too was damn good with that pigskin. I remember having a shoulder cast on my arm for six months and pops told me how it was a good thing I couldn't play football anymore. I asked him, "why?" He said that when he played football he ran fast because the Irish, Greeks, and Italians would yell, "get that nigger!" My dad was tall and sort of mean so I wouldn't have wanted to cross him, but he said it made him run really really fast because these white guys would tackle him and try to hit him in the groin. To add insult to injury, in the pile after the tackle they would whisper in his ear that the next time he put his "nigger hands" on the football they were going to kill him. I said, "dad, is that true?" He replied, "damn right...that is why I ran so fast!"

...Ex-wife put voodoo on him. My mom and I would tell him this was non-sense. But, he stood by it and wouldn't be budged. Apparently, when pops was leaving his ex she would heckle him. My dad being a playboy tried to shrug it off. At some point he went back to their/his house to pick up his old records and clothes and his ex-wife appeared in the doorway with 2 voodoo dolls. One doll was my father and the other his ex. The ex-wife had placed pins in the doll and said "this doll is you" and you will never leave me. The next day my father was deathly ill with food poisoning and explosive diarrhea. He swore it was voodoo. My mom (and I) disagreed. My mom told him it was some bad undercooked goat that he ate the day before...pops didn't believe her and swore it was the dark arts. Till the day he died, my father believed voodoo and not food poisoning put him on his death bed.

...Had fictive kin relationships because our families were broken and recreated by 400 years of slavery and we sort of had to make family where we could find it. My father's two best friends were my "uncles." This was strictly enforced. I could ask them anything and if anything happened to my parents they would have fought to take care of me. One of my uncles was/is a very talented musician who played with James Brown all over Africa during his tours there:



This uncle is very dear to me but is a bit of a pot head. I mean for a 70ish year old man he smokes too much weed and has had his share of young women. He apparently, while high or sober, mastered the art of driving across the East Coast with my father and peeing in beer bottles and soda cans. Yes, my uncle would drive his expensive car, smoke weed, and pee in bottles...this was his gift.

...Had a second "brother," my other," who loved to travel all over the world and spoke a bunch of languages. He smoked hashish on the Nile, fought Afrikaners in a bar in South Africa (true story), and in his later years would go to the Dominican Republican and sleep with prostitutes. The uncle in the above reflection looked liked Grady from Sanford and Son. This uncle looked like Bubba. Before my 2nd uncle would fly to the Dominican Republic he would watch the Home Shopping Network and QVC and buy cheap trinkets for the women there. He was a rich skinflint and traveled with either my father's luggage or with garbage bags. In these receptacles he would put all his trinkets and share them with those poor prostitutes. Yes, this is sad as he was fat and old and rich, but they were poor and had no choice. This uncle also hated his wife and kept 2 different refrigerators in his house. One was his wife's. The second was my uncle's which he would keep padlocked and chained shut lest his wife eat his food. Yes, he was a bit odd.

...And my second uncle were fascinated by women's vaginas...especially foreign women's vaginas. You see I used to date a Chinese woman while in college and afterwards before finding my black queen. My uncle called up one day and said he had a question. I said, "what do you want to know?" He replied, "me and your dad were wondering what Asian women's parts look like? Are they sideways?" I laughed and said, "No, women's plumbing is all generally the same." Yes, I felt dirty but wanted to satisfy the curiosity of 2 old black men--we are the fruit of the Civil Rights Movement after all and they couldn't have imagined that their kids would get to sleep with an Asian woman.

...Fought in World War 2. He could sort of "pass," but he had to wear a stocking cap to hide his nappy head when he woke up in the morning. He was also a Sergeant and couldn't stand, as he put it, "lazy negroes and white trash:"



...Was stationed abroad all the white guys knew he was black, but they were from his neighborhood (that is how the draft worked) and conspired to hide the fact he was black. They were his friends and wanted him to stay safe, but they didn't like black folks too much. Apparently, these white folk would wake him up before the sun came out and tell him to, "take off his stocking cap and comb his kinky nigger head" lest the officers find out he was really black and send him home.

...And his friend would get drunk while off duty in the Army. One day they resented having to sit in the black part of the movie theater--what was then called the buzzard's nest--it wasn't because they were black, but because they really wanted to see the movie, the screen was blocked, the seats were dirty, and my dad and his friend reasoned it wasn't fair that they would have to sit there and still pay the same amount of money as white people. Dad and his friend decided to pull out their pistols and shoot up the movie screen as an act of protest against the white theater owners. They never did get to see another movie at that theater.

...And his unit were tasked with bringing prisoners to Leavenworth military prison. Some of these prisoners were Germans and were being brought to work camps throughout the Midwest. My dad had nothing but praise for these soldiers. At length he would describe how well read these Nazis were, how they had good hygiene, weren't racist against black people, and were very well behaved. In fact, they would let these Germans out of their handcuffs for the long ride and would talk about history, politics, philosophy and such. The American GI's would even let these Germans use the toilet (as opposed to peeing and pooping on themselves) during the train ride from Texas. By comparison, my father and his unit had to guard prisoners and detainees going to the prison at Leavenworth. Many of these men were white and resented having black troops guard them. Apparently, these good ol'boys would curse black people and use all variety of racist profanities. Generally, they would just gag these idiots and ignore them. But on one occasion, there was (as my dad described him), "a cracker" from the South who wouldn't shut up. My father and the men under his command beat the hell out of this man. As my father relayed, they would beat him into unconsciousness and this white guy would just keep talking. They would knock him out and he would wake up and keep going. My father concluded that they could have killed him and gotten away with it, but it wasn't worth the trouble. They decided to just marvel at how hardheaded those white Southerners were as they beat this knucklehead into unconsciousness over and over and over again.

Wednesday: Some reflections from Chauncey's mother

Monday, March 3, 2008

Negro History Week: Gordon Gartrelle’s Pre-History

In light of the Baldwin quote Chauncey posted last week, we would like to kick off Negro History Week by exploring our personal histories. Today I will provide a context for my respectable negro-ness by offering up this Did You Know? installment about each of my parents.

Did You Know that Gordon’s father…

…Was told that his own father, a sharecropper, was caught with a white landowner’s daughter, and rather than submit to being whipped, buried an ax in the white man Jack Nicholson style? And that according to family legend, Grandfather Gartrelle changed the family name to evade the authorities?

…Was sent to work on his grandmothers’ farm as a small boy, but got out of doing farm labor by reading (the Bible) voraciously?

…Overcame white employers’ attempts to discriminate against him, which included scheduling his multiple physicals in two different states on the same day?

…Was terrified after hearing rebel yells when he first went to work in a cannery, where he was later told he had to eat in the “executive lunchroom” apart from the other white workers and was reprimanded for bringing a knife to work (it was a boxcutter that all employees used to open boxes)?

…Became the first black person to work for his city’s unemployment office (as a minority rep), but only received the job because there was an “audit” of the local office and they needed to have a black person on staff?

…Worked payroll at a shipyard, where he drew the ire of white employees because he didn’t need a calculator to do his job, and where he made sure to “lose” the paychecks of any white men who called him out of his name?

…Played in and led a series of successful bands that allowed him to befriend The Allman Bros and War, among others?

…Accompanied his middle aged mother when she voted for the first time after passing a ridiculously difficult “literacy test” that was only given to black voters?

…Graduated from a black college and received a Masters from a respected “white” school after moving to the West Coast?


Did You Know that Gordon’s mother…

…Trumpets our family’s Indian lineage and says that her grandmother had an Indian name?

…Claims that one line of her maternal ancestors passed for white, but helped their darker relatives?

…Was told that her family worked for a landed New Orleans family for several generations, and eventually owned a great deal of property themselves?

…Had a father who played in the Negro Leagues?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Hillary Clinton's Sex Face and Obama's Magical Hands

Just a quick thought...

We love being right here at We are Respectable Negroes. We are like negro Nostradamuses...we do in fact "see" the future and know all. So tell me, doesn't bro'Bama look like he is coming to lay hands on the true believers in this picture taken last week?



bro'Bama also looks like he is going to throw a fireball a la Ken or Ryu from the video game Street Fighter 2.

But this photo of ol'Hillary is even more disturbing:



Maybe this is ol'Hillary's war face?




Unfortunately, we now know what Hillary looks like at the moment of orgasm--I think she is a screamer. I must confess that the thought of Hillary at the moment of nervous release makes me feel dirty (yet oddly aroused).

Yes, more dirty than excited. I think I will go take a shower after getting a glimpse of ol'Hillary's sex face.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Chauncey's World of Ghetto Nerds: Semi-Pro is "Positive" Black Cinema that You can't Help but Love

I always complain about bad movies. I want to right that habit with a ringing endorsement for Will Ferrell's new flick, Semi-Pro.

Plus, and to give away too much, the character he plays turns out to be a brother after all, and not in a heavy handed, preachy sort of way. Jackie Moon has soul, he has heart, and there is a reason he looks so comfortable wearing that 'fro. How can you not love a movie where one of the main characters is named "Coffee Black" and which features a surprisingly good soundtrack? This is the type of "positive" black cinema critics have been clamoring for!

In Semi-pro we have a wonderful homage to the good ol' days of the ABA, Will Ferrell, some great, likely improvised scenes, and a wonderful antidote to the cumbersome weight of the Oscars last weekend.

A bonus, Jackie Moon is a great lover and Renaissance man with the gravitas of Barry White:



After seeing this video I was reminded of another great singing performance by an actor, Will Shatner's "Rocketman:"



Funny, these two professional artists are as "bad" (in a good way) as Jackie Moon and William "James T. Kirk" Shatner.

Snoop's great, "bad" song, "Sensual Seduction:"



And my boy R. Kelly's, "The Zoo:"



I was thinking Leonard Nimoy's, "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins" should also make my informal list of actors performing "great" bad music:



Who else should be added to this list of talented artists?

Friday, February 29, 2008

Obama Swears: "I have never been a Muslim"

Negro history week is still coming up...remember we procrastinate by nature.

The pressure on Obama in regards to religion is bordering on absurd isn't it? So, in the spirit of the "I have never" game (you all have played that one, right?), I have decided to share some of my favorite "I have nevers":

1. From the movie Conan the Barbarian: "Crom, I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you, will remember if we were good men or bad. Why we fought, or why we died. All that matters is that two stood against many. That's what's important! Valor pleases you, Crom... so grant me one request. Grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, then to HELL with you!"--



2. On Iraq, Donald Rumsfeld's observation that: "I Have Never Painted A Rosy Picture’ About Iraq."

3. Ted Haggard on his liaisons with hot, sexy, gay escorts: "I, I've never had a gay relationship with anybody and I, I'm steady with my wife. I'm faithful to my wife":



4. The famous (and damn fine) actress Hedy Lamarr once said: "I have never liked bargains when it came to sex."

5. The great Winston Churchill: Never hold discussions with the monkey when the organ grinder is in the room:



6. Mark Twain: "I have never let my schooling interfere with my education." And a clip from Black Knight, the classic adaptation of Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court:



7. And our first black president, Bill Clinton on his affair with that cochina Monica Lewinsky: "I never had sex with that woman."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Negro History Week Reborn

"Negro History Week" reprinted from the Journal of Negro History (vol.11, no.2)

The following is an excerpt from the minutes of the Proceedings of Spring Conference of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, Petersburg, Virginia, March 30-31, 1926, detailing the first observance of Negro History Week.

The observance of Negro History Week proved to be one of the most fortunate steps taken ever taken by the Association. The celebration made a deep impression. The literature was early prepared and it was distributed in time throughout the country. Easily understood, the idea was readily taken up at centers where some thought is given to social amelioration and wherever special efforts are being made to elevate the Negro. Ministers, teachers, social workers, and business men rallied to the support of the movement and made it a national success.

You didn't think we respectable negroes would let Black History Month go by without comment did you?

Yes, we were a little late. Yes, we are defying the white man's conventions of time and space through our radical action of inserting Black History Month at the end of February and running through to a little into March. Yes, we procrastinated.

Starting Thursday keep your eyes open for our personal reflections on just what is Black history. Next week we will be sharing our own version of the PBS series, African American Lives.

For now, reflect on James Baldwin's observation that:

"History is not a procession of illustrious people. It's about what happens to a people. Millions of anonymous people is what history is about."


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Obama the Racial Healer--Lay Hands Upon Him and You too will be Healed

"Many dismiss the Obama phenomenon as a mere "cult of personality." It is in some ways a cult, but not one of personality -- it's a cult of racial healing, of racial transcendence. For many whites, voting for Obama is a kind of appeal to one's better self, and the better self of the country. It is, in a way, a promise. It could even be seen as a kind of prayer." from Gary Kamiya, at Salon.



We have commented on Obama, race, and his "black magic" a number of times on this blog. In some ways, we and others, have been ahead of the curve--and yes, it is gratifying because it validates that we can be some smart, respectable Negroes when we want to.

The thesis that Obama represents racial healing is compelling to many. Why wouldn't a reasonable person support moving past our country's racial divide? Why wouldn't a good and decent person want to see Obama elected, a man who could quite possibly hail a future where race is lessened as a determining factor for our life chances? If we as a country are afflicted with a racial sickness, wouldn't we all want to be healed?




I have to ask, what sort of healing does Obama offer? I still argue, and will continue to do so, that Obama is popular precisely because of the particular "type" of "black" candidate he is. Obama is the child of immigrants and is not heir to that nasty lineage of slavery, white racism, and racial violence which animates the anxiety (and guilt) many white Americans feel about racism. Simply stated, to them, Obama isn't one of those "angry" blacks who will "play the race card" (note: isn't that one of the most imprecise and moronic phrases to enter our language in recent memory? It is almost as bad as "reverse racism" as a turn of speech best delegated to the trash bin of the English language).

Obama, the mixed race, black man (who to his credit self identifies as African-American) is to many observers the literal embodiment of racial reconciliation--the product of "black" and "white" love. He is a magical fetish of sorts, a healer who washes away pain. Maybe, Obama will induce a moment of racial transcendence akin to a religious revelation of sorts where the "gifted" speak in tongues:




If Obama is elected he points to an opportunity to heal wounds--not because we as a country will have one more occasion to have some very difficult conversations about race, power, and justice (The Civil Rights Era representing one such moment), but instead because we will be able to forget. Perhaps for some, this "Racial Alzheimer's" will be a path to healing:




I am one of those difficult respectable negroes who is still caught up in remembering. As I have said previously, I hold no positive anticipation towards a post-racial future. Why? because a post-racial future is one where the foundation of the house is rotten, where "we" move forward, not because we as a country have confronted the present, past, and future consequences of this house that race has built, but because we have in an ironic fashion chosen to continue forward with our case of national amnesia.

There are lots of good reasons to vote for Obama. There are lots of good reasons for white people to vote for Obama. But, the very premise that a white vote for Obama equals a moment of good feeling, of racial catharsis, of racial healing, is so distasteful and troubling not because of its truth, but rather because a "racial" vote for Obama is (to my taste at least), too close to being an elixir-like moment, a halcyon induced daze that does not engage some painful truths about race and society:




I am a grumpy respectable negro and I ask hard questions:

For example, if Obama held the same policy positions and were not black would you vote for him? If not, why? When in the privacy of your own thoughts, what category of "black" person is he assigned to? Is he one of those "nice" ones, or is Obama one of those "angry ones? How would you respond if Obama supported reparations? What would your response be if Obama wanted to reform the prison industrial complex? Would you be nervous and full of angst if Obama wanted to expand affirmative action? What if Obama pledged to use the force of the State to challenge the type of conservative colorblindness which has made it all but impossible to integrate public schools, universities, and colleges? What if Obama stated without fear or qualification that the United States still owed an unpaid debt to its black citizens? How would you feel then?

Don't be afraid to ask these difficult questions, because asking doesn't make you a bad person, it just makes you an honest one.



Friday, February 22, 2008

The Word is in! On the Genetic Superiority of Respectable Negroes Everywhere--Well, Maybe Just Black People More Generally

From Fox News (of all places):

"White Americans are both genetically weaker and less diverse than their black compatriots, a Cornell University-led study finds.
Analyzing the genetic makeup of 20 Americans of European ancestry and 15 African-Americans, researchers found that the former showed much less variation among 10,000 tested genes than did the latter, which was expected.
They also found that Europeans had many more possibly harmful mutations than did African, which was a surprise."

All who know me take this to be a self-evident fact. These white queens have known it for a long time:



Plus, Blacktown.net has been up on this from day one..just say it with me "Black Town dot net"--it rolls of the tongue doesn't it? Say it once a day, it helps keep your teeth clean.

And of course Louis Farrakhan, Leonard Jeffries, and the Black Israelites have been preaching this for years.

But, I am of two minds on this one. Maybe YouTube can help me sort this one out?

Right side of brain says, "how cool! look at all the evidence for the genetic superiority of black people. Here are some prime examples:"

Muhammad Ali, the black superman:


Rampage Jackson beatin' down Chuck Liddell:



The awesomeness of Mr. T:



The Rock as a god among men:



The beauty of Halle Berry:



Oops, these two are "mixed race." Ohh, I mean "mocha babies." Nah, they pass the "one drop" test and are heretofore black.

The incisive wisdom of Harry Belafonte:



The dignity of Malcolm:



The genius of Octavia Butler:



The "weight" of Commander Adama, aka our honorary brother and respectable negro, Edward James Olmos on Battlestar Galactica:



Left side of brain says, "wait a minute...how do we reconcile our genetic superiority with these other examples?"

Flavor Flav:



A generation of bathin apes (the spoof is great):



Fat babies:



The impenetrable stupidity of Larry Elders and the awe inspiring Uncle Tom that is Alan Keyes:



Baby daddies on Maury Povich:



And, what about the well-grounded science which strongly argues that any talk of "race" as it relates to genes is relative foolishness, and that biological notions of race are all so much dookee?



My brain hurts. Does yours?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Chauncey's World of Ghetto Nerds: The Toxic Satellite has been Shot Down, but the Zombie Outbreak has Already Begun

As depicted in this picture, Obama was attacked by a zombie earlier today. Unfortunately, he is already displaying the early cold and flu like symptoms that are commonly associated with a bite from the infected undead. Given Obama's cult like following, the zombie plague will spread rapidly following his public appearances. Readers are advised to exercise extreme caution at these Obama related events, lest they too become infected with the zombie virus. While the U.S. military is reporting a successful missile intercept, we must treat this information with a high level of suspicion. Remember, the U.S. government wants to prevent a panic during the initial stages of the zombie plague. It is likely that Delta Force has already been sent to the site of the outbreak under the guise of securing fissile materials. Hopefully, Delta Force (and the other special forces operatives that will accompany them) will be successful in containing the zombie outbreak. Folks, this is going to be a hell of a fight. May God have mercy on our souls.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Exploring our Racial Subconscious: Dark May be King, but Milk Chocolate is Making a Comeback

In the spirit of my impetuous and impulsive post on Flash Gordon and bad movies let's see where this one goes...

I am a firm believer in the existence of a collective consciousness. No, I don't mean an energy field that binds us together and penetrates us (a la The Force), but more of a collective spirit of sorts. This is something less than zeitgeist, but more than a political unconscious. When we add in the particular ways that systems of racial superiority and inequality have impacted all Americans --yes, white folks too--we are left with a collective set of symbols, images, as well as a language, which speaks both to our racial (in)securities and how we choose to think about (or not) our interactions with others.

[And if you really want to test how race, prejudice, and racialism(s) (yes, that is a word) have impacted your decision-making and subconscious mind, take one of these online tests for implicit racial bias]

I stumbled upon the following article last week and it continues to speak to me. My thought: Is this about chocolate or about something else? Is there something in our collective racial subconscious which is being spoken to in this dialog regarding the merits of white chocolate versus dark chocolate? Or is a cigar sometimes just a cigar? Accordingly, here is your assignment:

The Great Chocolate Test

The exercise: substitute Obama/black people wherever there is a reference to dark chocolate. Likewise, substitute Hillary/white people wherever there is a reference to milk chocolate.

Please share your findings with your classmates at the end of the exercise.

The entire article,"Dark May Be King, but Milk Chocolate Makes a Move" from the New York Times, is found here.

Here are some choice excerpts (my emphasis added):

CHOCOLATE’S dark mood is lightening at last. Until recently, midnight-black, bittersweet bars with punishing percentages of cacao were, like coffee and wine, on a quest for brooding intensity. Milk chocolate was left behind, dismissed as child’s play, an indulgence in sweetness and nostalgia.

Now, some chocolatiers are fighting back, with expensive, suave “dark milk” chocolates that reinvent milk chocolate by increasing its cacao content, reducing its sweetness and carefully refining it to give it the snap and velvet of dark.

“Personally, if I had to choose one or the other, I prefer dark chocolate,” said Joseph Whinney, founder of Theo Chocolate, a small producer based in Seattle. “But there is no product on the planet that can match that lush, melted-chocolate mouth-feel of milk chocolate.”

“Producing milk chocolate,” said Andrea Slitti, a chocolate maker in Tuscany, “is much more complicated than producing dark chocolate, as you can see in the marketplace: there are far more good dark chocolates available. At each step, we have to work to keep the clean taste of milk and not overwhelm it with the strength of the cocoa mass, then balance them both with sweetness.”

“These pure origins are because we chocolatiers want people to think that chocolate is serious and adult like wine, but underneath it is not,” said Stéphane Bonnat, whose family began making chocolate in 1884. “The first thing we have when we close our eyes and taste must be the pleasure we remember from being 10 years old.And that pleasure, almost invariably, was from milk chocolate.

“Fundamentally, the problem is that milk chocolate does not have the respect it deserves,” Mr. Whinney said. “When you have a brown, sweet commodity that people expect to buy for cheap, you are not automatically going to find interest in flavor nuances.”

Your final thoughts?