Saturday, April 19, 2008
It has been a while since we had any ghetto nerd related information to share. This weekend, I am going to make up for the lack of ghettonerdness as of late with both a Saturday and Sunday post.
Damn, can I say it again, damn, Battlestar Galactica is great television! As disappointed as I was that this indeed will be the last season of my beloved show, I am consistently impressed with how Ronald Moore and company are moving the story forward and are not afraid to make difficult choices regarding the plot and characters. Some thoughts and questions:
1. One of my friends has a theory that the humans and the Cylons are the same race and the differences are just artificial--we believe we are different species, so therefore we are. This theory would also give further support for the nonsense science underlying Baltar's "Cylon Detector" and the fact that it didn't work to begin with (his detecting a Number 5 was just blind luck). And do yourself a favor by reading this weekly column, hosted by the New Jersey Star Ledger newspaper, which analyzes the Battlestar Galactica television series.
2. If the humans and the Cylons are basically the same species (with some minor differences in terms of evolution) then the show speaks nicely to claims made by some observers that this show's narrative is deeply centered on questions of race, racial difference and racial passing (check out the new book Cylons in America for that argument, and congrats to the editors and contributors to the volume on their winning the Ray and Pat Browne Award for Best Edited Collection from the American Culture and Popular Culture Association). Again, if race is a social construction, then the animosity between, and belief that, we (humans) and they (Cylons) are different is based on an illusory sense of difference. Relevant and prescient.
3. Lee Adama and Zarek working together. "New" Apollo and "classic" Apollo face to face. I just love their dynamic. Zarek is one of my favorite characters and has been underutilized as of late. Zarek tells the truth (more often than not) and his radical politics only speak to the problematic leadership offered by Admiral Adama and President Roselyn. Hmmm....is Lee Adama going to lead a coup? In his commitment to "truth," will Lee further undermine Roselyn and lead the human fleet further astray from Earth?
4. I love Tory. I love Tory. I love Tory. One more time...I love Tory. In my fantasies, me, Tory, Six, and Dualla pursue my Mormonesque fantasies of a debauched, plural marriage. More seriously, if each Cylon embodies and/or channels a different aspect of our humanity, then what part of our humanity does Tory represent? One could perhaps argue that Tory, with her murder of Tyrol's wife has now been "activated." I would disagree. Tory is now free to be herself and to make the difficult choices necessary for her survival.
5. Related thought, so we have Sharon's half-human/half-Cylon baby, and ostensibly Tyrol's half-human/half-Cylon child as well. There have been critiques made that Tyrol's child is an after thought, i.e. why isn't this child also the focus of the Cylon's obsession? Narratively, why isn't this plot hole addressed? As an alternative, I would suggest that Tyrol is not the father of Cally's child and that at some point she was sleeping around. We shall see.
6. The Cylon Civil War has begun (and ended?) Some thoughts: You have to love the mechanical Cylons and their obvious disgust and anger at being ordered around by the "human" Cylons; Cavil's observations about the failures of democracy were priceless; Which Cylon models will be eliminated? And how will this impact their relationship to the human fleet? Think for a moment, there have been many moments where it was "check and mate" for the human fleet, and their salvation came not because of their smarts or heroism per se, but because the Cylons chose to keep the humans alive. Humanity is a laboratory. Humanity is the key to the Cylons' quest to understand their origins and destiny. Looking forward, if certain models are permanently "boxed" then how will the Cylon's decision-making towards the human fleet be changed?
7. Colonel Tigh now has visions and premonitions a la Baltar. Can we get this man some help? He is a one-eyed, alcoholic that now sees folks who (apparently) aren't really there? Random thought: I like the symbolism embodied by Colonel Tigh--the one eyed man who may very well be a visionary--nice touch in my opinion. In addition, I am very curious to see how Ronald Moore explains Tigh's relationship with Adama and the fact that Tigh seems to break all the rules governing who can or cannot be a Cylon (he ages, he has known Adama for years, and has many long standing relationships with people throughout the fleet). Perhaps, Tigh was replaced during the occupation on New Caprica? Maybe Tigh is the first of the Cylons, a progenitor model that combines all of the flaws and traits embodied by the other models?
8. Who is the final Cylon? My smart money is still on Gaeta. Why? We know little about him. Gaeta is either consistently involved in, or in close proximity to, major decisions and characters, respectively. Now, he is with Starbuck as she searches for Earth. All too convenient for me. Your thoughts?
Friday, April 18, 2008
Your choices are great, Chauncey, but they are all (w)hite inventions. I would like to highlight some (W)hite inventions:
1. Nuclear weapons
Those White people who believe that our “sacred Western Civilization” is under attack love nukes. Possessing nukes is a kind of White entry club--it’s shorthand for power and modernity. Any time a nation of swarthy, savage hordes has a disagreement, the “Nuke Said Country” t shirts and bumper stickers surface. Also, fear of brown and/or Muslim people (
2. War Crimes Tribunals
Nothing makes White people feel better than punishing evildoers. Whiteness allows them to define what people are designated as war criminals, and which acts are designated as war crimes. While there can be white victims of white criminals, and nonwhite victims of nonwhite criminals, never will White people be held accountable for war crimes committed against people of color.
What ingenuity White people have. Not only do White people get away from black people by fleeing from them, they get away from black people by fleeing toward them (and driving them out) as well.
But there’s one White invention that underlies the preceding ones and dwarfs all others:
5. White supremacy
White supremacy is the power to define what’s normal; the power to frame current debate; the power to forge history: the power to conveniently remember or forget; the power to make other people give public accounts to satiate White fears. White supremacy is elegant, self-perpetuating (and self-denying)--just a masterful work of social engineering. For my money, no form of ideological domination can fuck with White supremacy--not nobility/class, not gender, not even religion.
Instead of fighting White Supremacy, people who are neither black nor white, without fail aspire to Whiteness and by extension White Supremacy (and why wouldn’t they? The benefits are too great). Even if they aren’t accepted into the club of Whiteness; at least they aren’t black.
And, as many of us know, a whole lot of Black people accept White Supremacy too.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Invention Number 1: The Salad Spinner
White folks are great pioneers of inventing time saving devices--the cotton gin, chattel slavery, Tivo, the millisecond, morbid obesity, and premature ejaculation. The salad spinner is a must have kitchen appliance that is brilliant in its simplicity: you insert the salad into the bowl and then spin away...can it be made any easier? We no longer need to spend precious time pouring salad dressing into a bowl and then shaking and tossing those heavy, leafy greens. It took the genius of our White brothers and sisters to make this must have invention a reality. Do yourself a favor and go to Walmart, or alternatively stay up late at night for the infomercial, and buy one of these wonderful White inventions.
Invention Number 2: The Swiffer Wet Mop
Have you ever wanted to push dirt around on the floor with a huge maxipad? If so, then the Swifter Wet Mop is the perfect invention. College students, graduate students, and other urban dwellers with linoleum floors collectively laid awake at night in prayer: oh God, where is my Swiffer? How can I give the appearance of having a clean floor when guests and relatives come calling? Our prayers were answered by this now indispensable cleaning device. Oh White God, what other cleaning devices do you have in store for us in the future? Perhaps a robotic vacuum?
Invention Number 3: Lysol Disinfectant Spray
I love Lysol. It is one of my White vices. The antiseptic smell reminds me of the hospital, and when its scent hits my nose I know I am in a clean house. Me and Gordon have an ongoing debate in regards to this product where I contend that black people prefer room deodorizer, and old black women are especially fond on any cleaning product you can put on the rug and then vacuum up, while White people prefer Lysol. Random fact: did you know that Lysol was originally marketed as a feminine hygiene product?
Your thoughts my respectable negro allies? Lysol or room deodorizer? And how do inscents fit in? I would argue that inscents are the Esperanto of room/air fresheners because every group enjoys the wonderful scents of Vanilla, Passion, Roses, or Sandalwood--Mexicans, Indians, Black, Asian, White...Am I wrong? Are inscents a means to bring peace to our fractured world?
Invention Number 4: The Penis Pump
No, I am not going to recycle tired stereotypes that black men have large penises, nope wouldn't do it, and it ain't true. Interestingly, while stereotypes are usually labels which people run from, I don't see too many brothers running from this stereotype at all, if anything it is one embraced and held close, even if it may not be true. To clarify, I am not asserting that White people are the only ones to spend time worrying about the size of their organs (and spending time reflecting on how to make their penises grow larger). For example, Arabs have a technique called jelqing--a method which many folks swear by (I didn't have the discipline to keep up with my regimen):
Jelqing Pt.1 - Full Version - Click here for funny video clips
Both The Kama Sutra and The Perfumed Garden describe a technique in which a man puts his flaccid penis through a flat piece of wood and then proceeds to rub bee or wasp stingers on the now engorged organ (I was too scared). Apparently, the chemicals in the stingers promote blood circulation and the growth of one's penis. The penis pump is a uniquely White invention because it combines White civilization's particular gift for technical innovation with a refined appreciation for laziness. If it is good enough for Austin Powers, it is good enough for me. Respectable negroes, join me in praise as I give thanks to White civilization for all the gifts it has bestowed upon us.
Invention Number 4: S/M and Kink
Black folk don't like to be tied up. Black folk don't find being tied up by their lovers at all sexy. Only White, black folk get off on S/M and kink. Moreover, there are no black people who enjoy role playing, this is especially true where said person of color is the "bottom" (black Americans cannot be "bottoms" because of the ever present fear of said Negro having a slavery flashback and killing the person dominating them).
This is truly a White invention because there are no black people that enjoy kink or S/M. This is especially true of scenarios where their non-black partner calls them all manner of racial slurs in a sex ritual that makes such offensive language less powerful through a cathartic process of exposure, power play, and sexual release (this is actually the dynamic to which those ign'ts who argue about the relative merits of "nigger" versus "nigga" are really trying to speak). There are no black men, men such as Chauncey DeVega, who would gladly take a job as an S/M Dom if he could beat the hell out of rich, powerful, White men--and get paid lots of money to do it. Nah, not him, because he is too black and too strong. Yes, the Japanese are into erotic rope play, they call it Shibari, but they probably learned that from the White man. Kink and S/M are uniquely White inventions, inventions that White folks such as the Marquis De Sade and the owners of Formula One racing teams are both uniquely, and particularly, adept at.
Invention Number 5: Oral Sex
Black people, and people of color more generally, do not indulge in oral sex. From the Caribbean to Africa, and throughout the Diaspora, black people will readily tell you that oral sex is something unique to White people. Black women do not perform fellatio--you didn't know that it was demeaning and reminds them of sexual subordination and rape? Black men do not go down on women--in black vernacular speech it is called "bowing"--an Africanism which survived the Middle Passage. In fact, White folks have pioneered the introduction of oral sex, specifically, and the use of one's lips and mouth for erotic play, more generally, to the world. For example, the Japanese did not kiss (as the mouth was believed unclean) until Europeans introduced the practice in the 19th century. If that is the case for the Japanese, then Africans and Inuits were certainly not using their mouths for any unclean purposes until they encountered Europeans. Ohh praise cunnilingus and fellatio! Wonderful gifts to all, gifts made possible only through the Europeans' curiosity and willingness to eat anything! And I really, really, really, mean this most sincerest of thanks...
This month, The Atlantic Monthly is featuring the 'Cos in a must read article for all respectable negroes and our allies:
“Understand me,” Cosby said, his face contorted and clenched like a fist. “Men? Men? Men! Where are you, men?”
Audience: “Right here!”
Cosby had come to Detroit aiming to grab the city’s black men by their collars and shake them out of the torpor that has left so many of them—like so many of their peers across the country—undereducated, over-incarcerated, and underrepresented in the ranks of active fathers. No women were in the audience. No reporters were allowed, for fear that their presence might frighten off fathers behind on their child-support payments. But I was there, trading on race, gender, and a promise not to interview any of the allegedly skittish participants.
“Men, if you want to win, we can win,” Cosby said. “We are not a pitiful race of people. We are a bright race, who can move with the best. But we are in a new time, where people are behaving in abnormal ways and calling it normal … When they used to come into our neighborhoods, we put the kids in the basement, grabbed a rifle, and said, ‘By any means necessary.’
Click here for the rest of the piece.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Chauncey DeVega says: The World Really is Flat--Who Would Have Thought That Globalization Would Have Wrought This?
Globalization is exciting. The global confluence of cultures and income inequality has brought McDonald's to every part of the world, spread hip hop far and wide, made American popular culture a type of Lingua Franca, and helped to create common problems--like the housing bubble, credit card debt, and a generation of young folk around the world who are pissed off and displaced economically and socially (rioting African and Arab immigrants in France; would-be suicide bombers in the Middle East; angry pants saggin' ign'ts in the U.S.; middle class folks losing their homes in the "heartland"). Now in globalization's wake we can add New York City and Tokyo gropers to the list of signs and signals that our world is indeed quite a bit smaller than it used to be. These are indeed interesting times!
From Fox News:
Man Arrested 53 Times for Groping Women on New York Subway
NEW YORK — About two weeks after he was released from prison, Freddie Johnson boarded a crowded subway train during morning rush hour in Manhattan, squeezed in behind a woman and ground his pelvis into her backside, authorities said.
It is a fairly common crime on subways in New York. But this was no common criminal.
Johnson has been arrested a staggering 53 times — the majority for groping women on the subway, police and prosecutors said.
In the latest incident, Johnson was being followed by plainclothes officers who recognized him from police photos, authorities said. He was charged with persistent sexual abuse, and if convicted this time, he could be sent away for life. The district attorney's office branded him a "recidivist transit grinder" at a court hearing earlier this week.
But the fact that Johnson was roaming the subways in the first place has raised questions about how the state deals with the problem of repeat sex offenders. His case even drew the scorn of a newspaper editorial this week that labeled Johnson the "Subway Rat"...
In the spirit of learning lessons from abroad, the Japanese are ahead of the curve on this one. Japanese women can buy cell phone programs that tell groping, grinding, horned up Japanese men to stay away. Japanese men can buy subway straps, the use of which signal to women that these men's hands are otherwise occupied--and subsequently not a threat. Japan is experimenting with women-only subway cars to keep the straight, male gropers, or "chikan" away--the jury is out regarding this move as potentially creating a haven for female Japanese gropers and some hot lesbianism (just fantasizing). I don't know if these deterrents will work against garden variety American perverts given that we are not a polite society, but I am sure that American women are working up their own range of defenses against random, flashing, groping subway riders:
We must stop this plague of groping! Respectable negro sisters and our allies, unite to form Devastator--sorry I just always wanted to say that...
Sunday, April 13, 2008
As we earlier established, brother Obama is having difficulty reaching out to the common folk, you know, the red-state voter who runs to church, guns and God when things are going a little rough:
Apparently, Hillary has a special gift. You see, she isn't a Yale trained attorney from a monied family. Nah, she is a good ol' girl, cut from the same cloth as her good ol' boy husband Billy Bob. Hillary loves Guns. Hillary loves God. We can't go wrong with guns and God.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
It seems that Obama has now failed the white working class sacred cow test twice in a row.
First, a few weeks back Barack bowls a 37, yes a 37! how in the hell do you do that Obama?
That is little more than 3 pins a frame, and apparently he bowled one strike in the twelve frames, so that means there were quite a few empty frames. As a respectable Negro and long-time kegler, I am personally offended, but I can get over that.
More importantly, if you want to appeal to the white working class you got to bowl well. To Obama I would offer the following advice: visualize the constituency you are trying to win over in Pennsylvania--in this case imagine thousands of Archie Bunkers--bowling is integral to their lifestyles and if you can bowl well, maybe these Archie Bunkers will be generous enough to overlook the fact that you are a black man:
The first President Bush was also a horrible bowler, but then again he was also pretty liberal by Conservative standards:
Second, Obama dares to talk about white working class resentment, religion, and guns (and then promptly backpedals). Uh ooh, Barack was brazen enough to state that poor and working class white people may run to religion and guns out of anger and frustration. Maybe I am one of the effeminate intellectual types, but this sounds like one of those old school religion as the opiate of the masses types of arguments. Obama, didn't anyone tell you that Marxist analysis is so 1960s? You should certainly know better.
Again, here is where you can brush up on your political skills. Americans don't like to talk about race and class. White Americans, and poor whites in particular, don't want to reflect on their material self-interests and the fact that they have consistently supported political movements where racial interests (that is a polite term for white supremacy) trumped class interests. History provides a litany of examples: Populism; the Progressive movement; the rightward turn from Civil Rights and the Great Society; the Reagan Revolution; the New Democrats (i.e. Clinton and their bunch) all knew you can win big by running for the center (or right) on race and by not talking about poor and middle class white folk having lots in common with poor and middle class brown and black folk.
On religion, you committed a similar gaff. Again, a smart politician, especially a black Democrat where the label of "liberal" looms like the sword of Damocles over his head, better not hint or imply that religion, and the Right's co-optation of the white Church and God, is a function of fear, of an anxiety about a changing world, and an effort to run to the church instead of engaging in a deep and critical analysis of State, power, and leadership:
Remember, religion, and good, old fashioned, conservative, fundamentalist religion in particular, makes people strong! As Hillary said:
“Americans who believe in the Second Amendment believe it’s a constitutional right. Americans who believe in God believe it’s a matter of personal faith. Americans who believe in protecting good American jobs believe it’s a matter of the American dream,” she said. “People embrace faith not because they are materially poor but because they are spiritually rich.”
I am sure some do, but a hell of lot don't. Bro'Bama please be careful and don't commit a 3rd strike in the white working class sacred cow test. You are smart, and frankly in my opinion quite correct, but never underestimate the stupidity of the American people.
Friday, April 11, 2008
...Shortly before she moved to Hawaii, Stanley saw her first foreign film. Black Orpheus was an award-winning musical retelling of the myth of Orpheus, a tale of doomed love. The movie was considered exotic because it was filmed in Brazil, but it was written and directed by white Frenchmen. The result was sentimental and, to some modern eyes, patronizing. Years later Obama saw the film with his mother and thought about walking out. But looking at her in the theater, he glimpsed her 16-year-old self. "I suddenly realized," he wrote in his memoir, Dreams from My Father, "that the depiction of childlike blacks I was now seeing on the screen ... was what my mother had carried with her to Hawaii all those years before, a reflection of the simple fantasies that had been forbidden to a white middle-class girl from Kansas, the promise of another life, warm, sensual, exotic, different."
By college, Stanley had started introducing herself as Ann. She met Barack Obama Sr. in a Russian-language class. He was one of the first Africans to attend the University of Hawaii and a focus of great curiosity. He spoke at church groups and was interviewed for several local-newspaper stories. "He had this magnetic personality," remembers Neil Abercrombie, a member of Congress from Hawaii who was friends with Obama Sr. in college. "Everything was oratory from him, even the most commonplace observation."
I think the ATLAH church got this one wrong. Sorry Pastor Manning it wasn't Obama's daddy who was as you said "in heat," it was Momma Obama who loved that old black magic:
Who would have thought that a single viewing of the movie Black Orpheus would lead to a love of black folk and the (literal) creation of Brother O'Bama?
I think this calls for a Billie Ocean moment:
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
White History Month is here and I am so happy! in fact, I am tingling with delight as I think about my first entry for this auspicious event. First, we need to clarify some terms. "White" is different from white. The former speaks to the relationship between power and race--the unstated assumptions that those who are White are by definition normal, are privileged (but won't generally admit it nor confront it), and whose race is invisible, i.e. it just isn't something to be thought of and "race" is a category which by definition describes the Other, and not White people. Thus, the label/field/disciple/category of whiteness (and whiteness studies) when folk want to critically interrogate White racial identity.
white is a bit different. white is simply a factual observation as in "those are some white people." But, they often overlap, and yes race is "socially constructed" so there is malleability to the category. Ultimately, there are black, White people, there are White black people, and there are folk of all color that have white/White tastes--like Zora and me, but not Gordon, as he is an "authentic" negro.
As you read our White History posts every Wednesday keep these qualifiers in mind. You should also reflect on one of my favorite quotes: "Treason to Whiteness is loyalty to humanity."
Invention number 1. The Flowbee.
Some of you may be too young to remember the miracle that was the Flowbee. Before SuperCuts--that wonderful place where white people, as well as black folks who don't know to go to a barbershop (or were adopted by white parents) go to get their haircuts--white people invented an attachment that would turn a vacuum cleaner into a pair of barber clippers. You would place an attachment on the end of the vacuum cleaner hose, set the length which you wanted your hair cut, and vacuum away. The Flowbee was perfect for the quintessential white haircut, "the bowl." As a black person, and I guess this went for Jews as well, I was always jealous that I couldn't use the Flowbee. My hair was happy to be nappy and those tight little knots and curls of hair were incompatible with the original Flowbee. One couldn't contain my glee when the new and improved Flowbee was unleashed onto the marketplace. Its tagline: "the Flowbee now works on Afro Hair!" Damn, I was so excited because I could finally cut my hair like white people, and I was one step closer to "passing" because of it. The flowbee is so important to the lifestyles of white people that there are online communities devoted to it, and the flowbee has subsequently been the subject of much scholarly research and examination.
Invention number 2. Febreze
Febreze is one of the greatest gifts which white people have ever given the world because it allows you to wear dirty, smelly, stinky clothes over and over again. In fact, did you know that Febreze is so popular that many consider "febreze" to be a proper verb? Undoubtedly, this practical and inspired gift to mankind has roots in Europe where a whole continent committed itself to covering up their unclean ways, all around funkiness, and history of poor hygiene (random story: did you know that European travel narratives from the 18th and 19th centuries are full of erotic praise for the hygiene of those "heathen" "savage" women who unlike Europeans at the time, didn't have stinky punanies? Those white Imperialists loved getting with those nice smelling brown, black, red, and yellow women...and who can blame them?) Yes, I love me some Febreze. Did you know I once wore a sweater for a month and simply febrezed it everyday despite the fact that is smelled of smoke and sweat? Ahh, the wonders of white technology.
Invention Number 3. Marshmallow Fluff
I have never seen a non-white person eat this stuff. Growing up, and to this day, I have white friends who wax nostalgic about eating this foul marshmallow food substitute. I remember growing up and seeing white kids at lunch with Fluff sandwiches. As I reflect, perhaps it is a white version of the mustard or ketchup sandwich that many poor black people wax nostalgic about eating when they were kids? The curious should follow this link for a history of the foul, white substance. Apparently, Fluff is so prevalent as a staple of the white diet, that some public officials want to see it banned. From the Boston Globe: "The escalating war on junk food in schools has targeted a new enemy -- that gooey, sugary, and often irresistible sandwich spread known to children everywhere as Fluff. Outraged that his son was served peanut butter and Marshmallow Fluff sandwiches at a Cambridge elementary school, state Senator Jarrett T. Barrios, a Democrat, said he will offer an amendment to a junk-food bill this week that would severely limit the serving of marshmallow spreads in school lunch programs statewide." Thank goodness someone is taking steps to confront Fluff and its negative impact on white youth. Because frankly, for the same reasons I would never let my daughter play with a hula hoop, there is just something a bit wrong with all that white gooey stuff coming out of our children's mouths.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Chauncey DeVega says: Reflections on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 4,000 dead Americans, The Iraq War, and Black Patriotism
Dr. King was killed forty years ago last week. Of course, this "anniversary" was thoroughly covered, commented upon, and at the center of the public's consciousness for an obligatory few days of national remembrance, reflection, and celebrating of how far America has come (or perhaps not) towards resolving our national dilemma of racial inequality and white supremacy--a dilemma that is simultaneously both a national obsession and character flaw that resident Negress in the Bush regime, Condi Rice, quite surprisingly and incisively described as a "birth defect at America's founding." At moments such as these, I experience a bit of "two-ness." On one hand I am cynical and suspicious of America's willingness to deify King while also being quite proud of his heroism, patriotism, courage, and human imperfections. Yes, his imperfections, imperfections which made King all the more human to me, and perhaps to others of the post-Civil Rights generation, a cohort born a bit removed from the immediate glare of King, "The Movement," and those tumultuous 1960s.
I have asked myself repeatedly, which King do we celebrate? Do we celebrate the optimistic humanist who believed in the hopeful possibility of America's redemption? Or do we celebrate the King that criticized the Vietnam War? The man who moved the black freedom struggle Northward and became increasingly convinced of white society's inability to move past its racism? Do we celebrate a man that saw the struggle against poverty and human indignity as a cornerstone and prerequisite for justice, a justice for all people everywhere? I know the answer, as I suspect you do as well, but the question, despite toying with triteness, remains relevant, and is perhaps made more so, because of the simplicity of the question.
America is "blessed" with the ability to package any fact, event, or situation to fit its national needs. For example, because nationhood is about selective acts of remembrance and forgetting, America can reimagine its founding as untainted by the complexities of classism, racism, or sexism. Alternatively, one can craft a story in which these inconveniences are mere imperfections to be struggled against and that the American creed has been perfected precisely because of the malleability of our society and politics, a "consensus liberalism," that can account for all locations on the political spectrum and that can heal all wounds.
America, through the same process of remembering and forgetting, can remake its heroes and its struggles. We cannot forget that Dr. King, at the time of his death was one of the most unpopular people in the country, not a national hero, but rather a man reviled and scorned. Upon his death, and in the decades since, Dr. King has been transformed into an icon, a God among men, and a symbol of the best which America has to offer.
Accordingly, the radicalism of Dr. King's vision has been removed. King has been so thoroughly white-washed that the Right can disingenuously deploy King's name to both fight affirmative action, as well as to counter the efforts of ethically and fair minded Americans to correct a disadvantageous racial order; corporations can use Dr. King to sell McDonald's fast food, Apple Computers, and automobiles; and King's message is an antidote, a happy pill of sorts with the power to make everyone feel good about how far we have come:
Of course, as a respectable Negro, and as someone working to be a better "race man," I miss the latter Dr. King, not because his earlier work wasn't relevant or radical (I and others like me are the direct descendants of his dream and owe a debt that can never be repaid) but because his radical critique of power, militarism, and a State which fails its citizens, remains frighteningly relevant in 2008.
Today, we are bogged down in a civil war in Iraq that has claimed thousands of American dead, tens of thousands wounded, orders of magnitude more Iraqis killed, and which shows precious few signs of being resolved in the near-term. We have an administration which continues to lie about the Iraq War, its costs in both financial and human terms, and a political establishment that seems unwilling to confront the dire impact of the Iraq misadventure on America's social, economic, and political stability. The Iraq War has damaged the U.S. military to such a degree that generals, soldiers, and veterans are speaking out in protest.
Sadly, the Iraq War is a tar baby that can we can extricate ourselves from, much like the British did from the U.S. during the 18th and 19th centuries, an action which preserved British dominance and power, if we only had the political will. As he opposed the Vietnam War, Dr. King's vision would certainly condemn the madness of our misguided Middle East adventure(s). More troubling to me as a proud American (and that is one of the complexities of red, yellow, black and brown folk's relationship to this country isn't it? this pride and loyalty?), is how this righteous critique would be rejected as being treasonous:
Even relative hawks like myself, citizens that are not afraid of using both "soft" and "hard" power in the pursuit of America's preeminence in the World--which is a nicer way of saying the carrot and the stick, would likely be marked as traitors to the cause.
Certainly, the radical King, as we have seen in the attacks on Obama's patriotism and loyalty, would be greeted with condemnation by the Right and their (often manipulated) supporters in red-state America. As a function of "symbolic racism" blacks are always suspect as traitors, as likely "bad citizens," and our loyalty is questioned despite our repeated response to America's call to arms:
Here, and most relevant in this moment, is that the most sickening part of the Wright-Obama debacle is how Obama and Wright can be labeled as disloyal by the Right, when the shrill elite of the Conservative wing have either never served, had other things to do, were AWOL, or were otherwise far from the combat that they dared accuse others of either exaggerating or dissembling about. The base hypocrisy of these "chicken-hawks," and the unwillingness of the public to hold them accountable as they led, and continue to lead America down a path which leaves us weaker rather than stronger, is ominous for what is portends about the health of our civic culture.
In my reflections on Dr. King and his legacy, I close with the following: What is patriotism? What is "black patriotism?" Is there such a thing? Hell, is there such a thing as "white patriotism?" What does patriotism mean at present? And will we ever have a political space for the type of radical critique which Dr. King offered?
And yes, this most radical King is the one I miss the most...
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Tracy Morgan is a funny brother whether he be drunk or sober.
I have told anyone who will listen about how great Tracy Morgan's interview with Howard Stern was 2 weeks ago. In my opinion, this interview will rank up there with Chappelle's episode of Inside the Actor's Studio. In this interview Tracy shares his:
1. favorite movies to masturbate to (these films include Caligula, Private Parts, and Pam Anderson's sex tape);
2. we learn a new word for fellatio ("car wash");
3. discusses his spectacular endowment (it is like Darth Vader's helmet);
4. his 10,000 pairs of sneakers;
5. why black kids in the 'hood would shit in the public pool (it was an act of political resistance--that sounds like infrapolitics to me--I wonder what Robin Kelley or James Scott would say about pool-shitting?);
6. why he will vote for the "HNIC" Obama and how he would love to have sex with Hillary Clinton (he is gonna "stink up the room" when they finally get together).
Here are the clips, enjoy:
Friday, April 4, 2008
I know that we said that we are reserving Wednesdays to post on White History Month, but I just couldn't resist. Like most black people, I am very aware of race and language in popular culture. To kick of White History Month, I have decided to celebrate one of white people's rich cultural traditions, namely, white language. I've compiled a list of five terms that use “America” but are actually code for “white people.”
Any time this word is used as an adjective and it isn’t in the context of high school or college sports, you can rest assured that it’s describing a white person.
e.g. All-American girl, All-American boy, All-American family.
While it is supposed to signal beauty and innocence, it is reserved for young white women.
e.g. “Oh, Jennifer Aniston, we love you! You truly are
This and its cousin “The Heartland” (which brings to mind Nazi Vaterland), rests upon the idealization of such noble “middle American values” as maintaining peaceful towns, promoting family values, and educating children. These pathologies are not limited to white people or those in the Midwest, of course, but whiteness as ideological, practical purity is definitely a subtext of the term “
4.) Red-blooded American male
This one is supposed to signal fierce heterosexuality and manliness, but it almost always signals popular straight white male desire.
e.g. “What red-blooded American male doesn’t find the Olson Twins hot?” Uh, maybe ones who aren’t into the stick figure junkie troll look?
I have a handful of rules about cultural critics: never trust one who 1) attaches the prefix “post” to musical genres; 2) romanticizes “the golden age” of anything, or 3) uses the word “
If you hear white people chanting “
Thursday, April 3, 2008
White people kill themselves, Black people kill each other, and Chinese people don't die...
From the New York Times story Body Collector in Detroit Answers When Death Calls (for the full video click here).
I promised not to talk about black folks this week, but I am having a Bill Cosby moment.
They say you can tell alot about a society by how they treat their children, old people, and criminals. I would add one more category to this list--one can tell a great deal about a society by how they treat their dead.
I love a good story about funerals or funeral homes (Yes, I am a bit twisted, I know this and admit it). There is a certain pornography of death at play in these spaces, and this is especially true of funerals in the black community. At funerals for black folk I have seen photos of the body taken, video recordings made, and professional funeral attendees (well probably semi-professional actually) who make going to funerals and crying a second job. Apparently, anthropologists have argued that this is an Africanism that continues in Black America where these professional criers are said to help with the grieving process. One can also hypothesize that documenting the death ritual made sense given how geographically dispersed black folk have been during our 2 great migrations--it makes sense but that don't make it any less creepy. And of course we hold funerals for the "n-word" and for the "negative perceptions" of black people. We love funerals it seems.
I have also seen fights at funerals and bodies pulled out of caskets when the dozen or so baby mamas show up to mourn "their" man. But, nothing tops the following story for absolute shame and embarrassment. On the anniversary of King's death can't we do better?
Apparently, The Wall Street Journal has found space in its esteemed pages to cover the rising tide of violence at black funerals. It seems folks are getting shot at, armed guards are being hired, and general mayhem is on the rise. Apparently, some knuckleheads are inspired by the funeral drive by in the movie Colors. To quote the article, "funeral homes used to be the most respected places you could walk into beside the church," says Jeff Gardner, a co-owner of A.D. Porter & Sons in Louisville, Ky., and a third-generation undertaker. "Nobody respects life and the young folks nowadays don't mind dying." Maybe the ign'ts can stop wearing their white-tee's, maybe they can't help but man-share, and they can't help but love minstrel-hop, but can folks at least respect the dead? I wonder if Blacktown.net has anything to say about this?
Ooh well, it was worth a try.
I have a habit of bookmarking tragic, odd, and ridiculous stories, thus the impetus for this blog. From my personal collection, here are some other great funeral home related entries:
1. Wade funeral home in New Haven, CT cited for having decomposing bodies in its basement. Apparently, the owner "forgot" he had the bodies and put them in the basement. Oops.
2. Colonial funeral home in Hamden, CT is now using billboards to advertise its services. More interestingly, the owner of the funeral home, in a dispute with a client's family, threw the ashes of the deceased at the plaintiffs during a court hearing. Don't let this dissuade you from using their services because the owner is cool people (I know him quite well).
3. From The Village Voice, "A Harlem funeral home has been sued for losing bodies and filching corpses from nearby hospitals. Now it must answer charges that a dead man's body was chewed up by rats." Enough said, check out the article here.
4. The body collector speaks about life and death in Detroit. Watch the video, hear his wisdom, and share his thoughts with friends and family.
Brother Cosby I think you have another crusade.
Chauncey's World of Ghetto Nerds: Solomon Grundy is Very Very Angry! or Why the Hell does the TSA Mess with Respectable Negroes?
Yesterday, I was far more upset and I became Solomon Grundy angry. The latter is more of a personal rage, while the former is more of a you deserve to get hit upside the head with a sock full of quarters angry:
The source of my Solomon Grundy rage was the 2 rather unpleasant encounters I had with Transportation Safety Administration staff while traveling from my current headquarters back to my ancestral home.
During the first leg of my trip I was profiled. Yes, profiled. Now, folks who read this site and know me personally, know that I don't throw around such language easily or without care. Here, I fit a profile, a brown guy, with a one way ticket, traveling from the Midwest to the East Coast. I humored the brother interrogating me. He asked dumb questions but I smiled and answered them. Yes, I was tempted to tell the TSA officer that he was following a script and that these anti-terrorist measures are a joke that don't actually make us safer, but I let him earn his 13 dollars an hour without my intervention. I smiled, he defended democracy and felt good about himself, I didn't tell him how a smart person would actually bring a plane down, and I went along with my business.
Now folks, the story gets interesting. On the second leg of my trip, I flew out of a PWT airport--PWT meaning poor white trash where the TSA staff are happy to have benefits and are pleased to be one step above the "rest of us." Frankly, these are the same folks who often become police officers so that they can harass people and be the bullies they were in High School.
I got to the lane and of course I was in the middle of a conversation I would rather be apart from--an argument about race and history. I asked myself, "why? why God do I have to be around these people. Why do I have to hear these conversations?" An old, angry, balding white man was quite hostile and lecturing a black woman, his coworker, about race--I bit my tongue. He continued to tell her that, "race doesn't matter, race doesn't matter to me, get over it," and in that moment I had a list of books and research to share with him, but I knew it would not matter. I watched. I don't begrudge people being idiots. And frankly, I don't believe in mass democracy or the wisdom of the masses. I wanted to lecture him on white privilege and history, but realized it wouldn't matter. I even whispered to the sister that "he will never understand, so please stop trying." It fell on deaf ears as she ignored me.
Then it happened, I had my Solomon Grundy moment--the white ign't--yes, there are white ignt's--decided to tell a story about Rodney King, and that the cops did the right thing and that it wasn't racial. Damn, Damn, Damn..yes in capital letters, I became Solomon Grundy!
I called over the manager and I wanted names. Do you understand my rage? I don't care about ideological purity, or even that folks should agree with my politics. What enraged me was that a person with petty power, here meaning the power in that moment to determine who would get checked, who would be detained and their person inspected, and that would hold such retrograde attitudes could hurt the public, really sickened me. For the record, I think Rodney King was an asshole who deserved to get his ass kicked, but I am not a police officer, and I don't have rules to abide by. Moreover, that ign't had surrendered and any fair minded person would have to admit the show was over and that King was done with:
Ultimately, from my perspective, someone who couldn't see that fact shouldn't be in TSA, and he certainly shouldn't have that level of power or public trust.
Am I a bad person? Am I unreasonable because I am calling in favors to get him fired? Am I a hostile, mean person because I have called my congressman and senator and told them a person with this little level of discretion shouldn't be a TSA officer because they can't be trusted? Is it unfair that I believe that someone who is so indiscreet, and holds a prior that black people are criminals, shouldn't work for TSA,? Help a brother out, am I that wrong?
My respectable negro friends, white, black, brown, or other, please share some of your unfair, unreasonable, TSA moments, so we can heal together.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Monday, March 31, 2008
What did we learn? Well, from talking to friends and family who read the blog they were on the fence. On one hand they were like, "damn, that could happen," but that was mixed with, "well, if you write about it that isn't really cool." We expected that. But, what was really surprising was how the storyline was like one hand clapping in the wind (did you know that is how Buddhists describe the "sin" of masturbation?) in that there was lots of attention, but few posts. Even more interestingly, was not how the traffic was an obvious response to the keywords "Obama" and "assassinated"--it was "link-bait" which we expected--but that how many repeat, unique visitors came back to follow each installment, yet didn't post a comment. Now, we had some crazy anonymous posts which ironically said Obama would never be killed as "we" are past that (yeah right), but we also had a few that were very critical of Obama and which captured the real vitriol and hostility that is against him as a candidate. The final lesson learned, and the post that received the most traffic ironically, was that you don't mention conservative television or radio programs, or dare to broach the idea/fact/probability that they would find a way to spin the story such that Obama got what was coming to him...never, ever, do that.
Ultimately, the moral of the story is that folks like to read about their anxieties made real, but don't want to talk about it. The second moral is that one can write about a hypothetical plot against Obama all they want, but don't dare to ever, and I mean ever, speak ill of Fox News!
Alas, we will be back this week and next with our usual tomfoolery, satire, insight, and (relative) genius. This was an interesting and surprising exercise that we would repeat again if given the choice. A final thought: one of my best friends asked the pointed question, "what is the race of the assassin? Is he black?" I replied that I won't say, and does it matter? But, of course I do have an answer. What do you all think? What race was Mr. Roybock? And does it matter? Would the assassin's racial background shape how the public would respond to Obama's murder?
Friday, March 28, 2008
See our disclaimer here
Sean Hannity Interviews Ed Rendell
Hannity: New details have emerged about Obama’s alleged shooter, Jonathan Fernandes Roybock, including an apparent explanation for his behavior, in which he cites fears of Obama’s loyalty to
Rendell: Thank you, Sean.
Hannity: As we move forward with this story, some will wonder if Obama’s own chickens didn’t come home to roost. Obama lived the American Dream, his recently released tax records showed him to be a millionaire, and this great country allowed him to go to Harvard, but he continued to associate himself with Anti-American black radicals. And now they—some of these leftist, radical websites and blogs—are saying that Obama’s killing is proof that
Rendell: First, I would like to extend my deepest condolences to Michelle Obama, his beautiful daughters, uh…Malia and Sasha, and the rest of his family. This is a tragedy of the highest order. And…
Hannity: Governor Rendell, Do you believe this nonsense that
Rendell: Sean, No, I…We have some problems, but the focus should be on figuring out why this young man did this and making sure something like it doesn’t happen again.
Hannity: Well, I think we have an idea of why this happened—and this is my own personal belief here, but I speak for a lot of regular Americans, “typical white people,” as Obama said—hatred like that coming from Obama’s pastor Reverend Jeremiah Wright has the potential to stir up this kind of violence. We have a clip here of one of Reverend Wright’s most famous vicious, hate-filled tirades…
Wright: The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law, and then wants us to sing God Bless
Rendell: Certainly that kind of hate is unacceptable. Reverend Wright’s beliefs and words about
Hannity: The AP is reporting that this kid, Jonathan Fernandes Roybock, was a student of political philosophy, and had a number of classics of Western Thought, along with my own books. The liberal media is, predictably, trying to blame these great works for Obama’s shooting. Let me ask you this: If he had read those books in his study, especially my own, Let Freedom Ring and Deliver Us From Evil, wouldn’t he have seen that violence is not a cornerstone of conservative thought. I mean, you have the anarchists, the Communists, you have the Weathermen, the Black Panthers, Islamofascist terrorists. Isn’t political assassination a tactic of the radical left?
Rendell: Sean, This is not a time for that kind of divisive rhetoric.
Hannity: I’m not..This is not divisive rhetoric. All I’m saying is that history proves that conservative thinkers and regimes value order, not this kind of chaotic violence and murder.
Rendell: I don’t think it’s wise to argue that. That’s just patently false. There are all kinds of examples of right-wing regimes and individuals who resort to loathsome political violence.
Hannity: That’s not true, Name one…
Rendell: Tim McVeigh, all of those who bomb abortion clinics and assassinate doctors. There are…James Earl Ray, the man who killed Martin Luther King. Sean, it isn’t just …
Hannity: Those are isolated events, Governor Rendell. Those are nowhere near the kind of violence that comes from the left.
Rendell: Sean, honestly, what do…
Hannity: We have to wrap it up in a minute, but since you mentioned the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, some are looking at Obama’s legacy and comparing him to King. In my opinion, the politically correct media is too cowardly to tell the truth: that Obama was no King. First of all, Obama didn’t accomplish anything. He gave a speech in 2004. He was only in office for a brief period and introduced no legislation of note. King fought for a colorblind
Rendell: Sean, Sean. No. How can you…
Hannity: Although his actions were extreme and indefensible, Roybock’s basic point that Obama was not post-racial politician, but one with his feet squarely in the black radical community, was correct. This is a kid who obviously…I just don’t think we should be demonizing this kid, who clearly had some mental issues. Anyway, final word Governor…?
Rendell: Obama was not perfect. He made some unwise decisions as far as associations, but I don’t think we should let that take away from the fact that he was a truly remarkable human being. History will look upon him as a great American. What a tragic loss for his family, for this country, and for humanity. I’m a close friend and supporter of Hillary Clinton. She wants the American public to know that, as much as it pains her to go on in the face of this tragedy, as president, she will continue Barack Obama’s legacy.
Hannity: Thank you for joining us, Governor Rendell. Always a pleasure…Next up, more fallout from the Obama shooting and what the New Black Panther Party has to say about getting revenge on white Americans.