Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Winner of the Marion Barry Award: Governor Blagojevich Arrested by FBI for Being a Damn Dirty (and Stupid) Politician
In a year when a number of high profile, formerly respectable negroes have been arrested for political corruption, it is nice to end 2008 with the biggest fool of them all-Mr. "Auction off Obama's Senate Seat" Rod Blagojevich. Bribes, a job for his wife, and assorted goodies--it seems the governor wanted it all. And as they say, if you are gonna go for the gusto, you got's to go all in...it seemed that Rod was certainly listening.
In the grand tradition of Marion Barry, let's quickly highlight some of our favorite political scandals (the Teapot Dome scandal would have been on the list, but the 1920s was before the invention of Youtube and Wikipedia so it doesn't count--I must be hanging around my students too much):
Then mayor of Washington D.C., Marion Barry is caught using crack in a seedy hotel room with a prostitute. The surveillance video is great, but the in Living Color skit is even better:
William, "Cold Hard Cash" Jefferson, a congressman from Louisiana, is caught with 90 grand in his freezer. It seems he was going to bribe the Vice President of Nigeria--how random is that? Does one simply wake up one day and spontaneously decide to bribe an African leader, or is it something long thought out? Maybe, Jefferson wanted to buy into those "request for urgent business relationship" scam emails from Africa?
ABSCAM. I just love saying that word. During the early 1980s the FBI had an elaborate sting operation where they posed as Saudi oil barons who wanted to bribe some U.S. politicians. Featuring the one and only Fred Murtha:
The one and only Mayor of Love, Kwame Kilpatrick. Notice how the Billy D Williamsesque news commentator puts on his "cool" Mr. loverman voice to narrate the text messages:
Mr. Blagojevich we salute you! As the first recipient of the Marion Barry Award you have a high standard to live down to. As the details of your corrupt administration unfold over the coming days, we know that you will not disappoint us.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: It is a Geek Renaissance--the Comic Book Series Fables to be Made Into a TV Series
What is going on in the world? It seems that the stars have aligned. In short order we have:
1. Batman: the Dark Knight may well receive an Oscar nomination;
2. World War Z is being made into a film--and the script is penned by J. Michael Straczynski;
3. the Wrestler to be released next week;
4. A bonified, unapologetic nerd who loves Conan and Spiderman as president-elect;
5. the New Caprica series has been green lighted by Sci-fi;
6. And now we have Fables, one of the greatest comics in recent memory being made into a tv series on ABC!
Who should play Bigsby wolf? Let the casting rumors begin...
What strange days we live in? What is next? Hmmmm.....maybe we can get a Walking Dead movie or tv series as well...then again maybe that is wishing for too much.
This is such a great announcement that it almost, notice I said almost, wipes the foul taste of what will be JJ Abrams's craptacular reimaging of Star Trek out of my mouth.
Ghetto nerds unite! Wonder Twin powers activate:
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: Star Wars, Ralph McQuarrie and the Battlestar Galactica that Never Was
Some Sunday goodness.
A link to Aint it Cool News is de rigeur on this one. Apparently, Star Wars artist and legend of the graphic arts, Ralph McQuarrie was tasked with "imagining" Battlestar Galactica in the late 1970's. Isn't history full of lots of fun twists and turns as the artist most responsible for Star Wars was also tapped to do some conceptual drawings for its knockoff rival, the 1970's Battlestar Galactica?
I don't generally do photo essays, but this wonderful bit of random geek trivia, along with the New York Times piece on the new Battlestar Galactica Series--to be named "New Caprica"--demanded a departure from the norm.
Some classic McQuarrie:
I love this photo. The original Luke Skywalker, "Luke Starkiller" in action against the prototype Darth Vader. Also pay attention to (what would eventually become) some combination of Bespin and/or the interior of the Rebel blockade runner. Another important but minor detail--Luke is using the red lightsaber while Vader is using the blue lightsaber. This is an inversion of the color and light symbolism of the final films (blue and green represent the Jedi through life, growth, and learning; while red represents the Sith).
Classic: longing and destiny. Tatooine and a young man looking to his future and undeniable destiny. Simply a beautiful piece of work that truly conveys the scale of Lucas's vision.
One of my favorite aspects of McQuarrie's work, and of the book the Making of Star Wars: the Definitive Story Behind the Original Film, is how Star Wars evolved and grew from concept to final product. From Flash Gordon revisited we arrived at a grand space opera mixed with Saturday morning serial sensibilities. We can love, loathe, worship, or hate Lucas for his prequels, but there is no denying his wondrous creativity (and pragmatic mind). The Metropolis inspired, earlier renditions of the droids are another signaling to the science fiction, fantasy, and classic mythologies which are a rich source material for the Star Wars films.
Simply iconic. World War 2 dog fighting meets the space age.
This Galactica concept is very interesting. The early cylons certainly resemble the archetypal man meets machine model common to classic science fiction. Another clear carryover to the 1970s's series is the command center/elevated throne (?) that Baltar and the "Imperious Leader" would occupy in the original series.
McQuarrie was undoubtedly trying to satisfy his client's desire to be new, yet simultaneously evocative of the juggernaut that was Star Wars. But, this drawing could easily fit into both the Star Wars universe as well as Galactica's--moreover, this drawing almost looks like it could have found itself in the Star Wars prequels. Ultimately, the Viper is a great design in Battlestar Galactica, because like the X-Wing, it is familiar yet exotic. And most importantly, both designs suggest raw, brutal, speed.
McQuarrie is a master of scale. I imagine this comes from his background as an industrial and commercial concept/graphic artist. The prototype BaseStar pictured here is so ominous and powerful that is does not merely suggest raw power. Rather, it screams it. Here, I see the Death Star, and I know this suggestion is sacrilegious, I also see hints of the the Borg Cube. These designs "work" because they represent the perfection of function over style and aesthetics.
A Battlestar Galactica bookend:
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Respectable negroes love laughter--ultimately because sometimes one has to laugh to keep from crying. It seems our instincts have been right all along, as new research demonstrates the contagious and positive effects of humor. From Time Magazine:
Ever wonder whether happy people have something you" don't, something that keeps them cheerful, chipper and able to see the good in everything? It turns out they do — they have happy friends.
The story continues here.
As a public service some things that always make us laugh:
Chapelle in Knee High Park:
Sanford and Son go to jail on a porno rap:
Family Guy, sex, and the nonsense that is abstinence and ear sex:
Chef from South Park's Chocolate Salty Balls:
The Three Stooges--Damn ghost:
Richard Pryor on the illusions we men folk have about our "manhood":
Cleaveon Little and the Black man's kryptonite from Blazing Saddles:
Laughter is good for the soul!
Friday, December 5, 2008
Chauncey DeVega says: Come One, Come All--Practice The Lies That You Will Tell Your Children About Your Role In Barack Obama's Victory
They say journalism is the first draft of history. If so, then our memories are the final and perhaps most important draft.
For example, my mother and grandmother have multiple "we were marching with Dr. King" Civil Rights Movement stories. In one version, and I mean that politely because these "versions" are actually carelessly crafted lies, my mother was out in the forefront at Selma. In one of my grandmother's stories, she (meaning herself) often stared down the Klan and gave shelter to freedom riders on the family farm in North Carolina. As I got older and started to ask specific questions the truth became apparent: my mom and grandmother were telling tall tales to both amuse me, as well as to make themselves seem grand in the eyes of history.
One day I provoked my mother into telling me the whole, unadulterated truth. Inevitably, it was anti-climactic. It seems that my mom thought King and "those marchers" were crazy for letting white people beat on them and for not fighting back. She was more of a Black Panther and Malcolm X supporter, but she didn't want to go to jail, thus her non-participation in the local chapter. Ultimately, she stayed home and rooted from the sidelines. Typical, free-riding, behavior that would make Dennis Chong proud. My grandmother, trickster and griot that she was, never did give up the true story.
The age of Obama will surely generate its own set of fantastical stories. What lies will we tell? How will we exaggerate our roles in history? What creative fictions will we massage into being for our children and grandchildren? What "memories" will we come to actually believe ourselves?
As a public service, We are Respectable Negroes would like to invite you to practice your creative versions of the truth. As always we will offer a "no-prize" for the most fantastic--yet believable--fiction about your role in Barack Obama's victory.
I will lead with some of my own myths in progress. They range from the delicate and subtle, to the gross. Remember, the bigger the lie, the more people are likely to believe it.
1. Oh yes kids, I used to get my hair cut at the same barbershop as Barack Obama and we would routinely talk about politics. In fact, I was one of his unofficial confidantes and advisers...some of his best ideas were actually borrowed from me.
2. Damn right! his political career started in my friend's living room. I was there and it was an amazing moment.
3. Barack asked me to go to Washington with him as a senior adviser, but your mother wouldn't let me because she didn't want to move to D.C.
4. Back then, I was running a political website on what was called "the Internet" and we were instrumental in getting Barack Obama elected as president. We were lockstep with his campaign and Barack told me in private that he couldn't have won without my support.
Shall we begin? And remember, lying is a skill that is refined through practice.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Behold Our Patron Saint: The Truth is Now Known--Ol' Dirty Bastard's Biography Now Available for All Disciples of Shaolin
The late, great Wu-Tang clan member Ol' Dirty Bastard was a genius. He is also one of this site's patron saints (see my first post written for this blog). Now, he is the subject of a new book. I am excited because Dirt Dog/Big Baby Jesus/O.D.B. is most deserving of this honor. I am emboldened because if Ol' Dirty merits a book, I certainly am inspired to finish mine.
As a primer, let's take a walk down memory lane with the always inspiring, inspirational, and wondrous mind and personality that was Russell Jones (of note: NPR had a feature on Wu-Tang and an upcoming documentary on their origins, rise, and fall that can be found here) .
Random thought: doesn't Ol'Dirty sound a bit like Noam Chomsky mixed with Foucault, Homi Bhaba, and Slavoj Zizek?
Ol' Dirty Bastard cashing his welfare check while being interviewed by MTV (this was back when MTV actually showed music videos):
Old Dirty, drunk, high, and sharing his musings on life , the origins of hip hop culture, and the nature of the universe while on Yo! MTV Raps:
Wu-Tang is for the children!
Ol' Dirty Bastard on lovemaking and peppermint patties:
R.I.P. Old Dirty...
Random Goodness--I Don't Know How We Missed Dick Gregory Talking About Bill Clinton and Barack Obama
Dick Gregory is a national treasure:
From CNN: Is Bill Clinton the first Black president?
I don't know whether to laugh or to be a bit disturbed. One can only cringe as we imagine some of the inane questions that are inevitably going to be asked at President Obama's press conferences.
And you know what would have been comedy gold? If Obama turned to Hillary and said, "We would have to ask Hillary that question."
You got's to love these internets...
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
History is often made by regular people doing the right, dangerous, and inconvenient thing. In that spirit, we respectable negroes salute you our Indian brothers and sisters because courage under fire is to be revered. You have earned honor for your deeds.
From the New York Times:
MUMBAI, India — On any ordinary day, Vishnu Datta Ram Zende used the public-address system at Mumbai’s largest railway station to direct busy hordes of travelers to their trains.
But last Wednesday just before 10 p.m., when he heard a loud explosion and saw people running across the platform, he gripped his microphone and calmly directed a panicked crowd toward the safest exit. The station, Victoria Terminus, it turned out, was suddenly under attack, the beginning of a three-day siege by a handful of young, heavily armed gunmen.
“Walk to the back and leave the station through Gate No. 1,” he chanted alternately in Hindi and Marathi, barely stopping to take a breath until the platform was cleared. No sooner, gunmen located his announcement booth and fired, puncturing one of the windows. Mr. Zende was not hurt.
Overnight, Mr. Zende became one of Mumbai’s new heroes, their humanity all the more striking in the face of the inhumanity of the gunmen. As the city faced one of the most horrific terrorist attacks in the nation’s history, many ordinary citizens like Mr. Zende, 37, displayed extraordinary grace.
Many times, they did so at considerable personal risk, performing acts of heroism that were not part of their job descriptions. Without their quick thinking and common sense, the toll of the attacks would most likely have been even greater than the 173 confirmed dead on Monday...
The story continues here.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Chauncey DeVega says: Slaves Helped to Build the White House....What a Surprise! or Obvious Discovery, Non-News Story of the Week
Insert drum roll...CNN has discovered that the White House was built by slaves.
An excerpt of the story follows:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In January, President-elect Barack Obama and his family will make history, becoming the first African-American first family to move into the White House -- a house with a history of slavery. In fact, the legacy of American presidents owning slaves goes all the way back to George Washington.
Twelve American presidents owned slaves and eight of them, starting with Washington, owned slaves while they lived in the White House. Almost from the very start, slaves were a common sight in the executive mansion. A list of construction workers building the White House in 1795 includes five slaves - named Tom, Peter, Ben, Harry and Daniel -- all put to work as carpenters. Other slaves worked as masons in the government quarries, cutting the stone for early government buildings, including the White House and U.S. Capitol. According to records kept by the White House Historical Association, slaves often worked seven days a week -- even in the hot and humid Washington summers...
The story continues here.
As folks smarter than me have said, the United States was, and in many ways remains, a herrenvolk republic. At the risk of overstatement, with the potential for a new racial maturity as offered by Barack Obama's election, perhaps we can face this truth head-on and struggle to transcend it.
Ultimately, CNN's" discovery" of slavery in the heart of the republic (and trust there will be many more "discoveries" to come in these next four years--for example, see this wonderful radio program on the largest recorded mass slave escape in the U.S.) is an example of one of the real benefits and windfalls of Obama's election to the presidency. Perhaps, if we are lucky, Americans will take the moment of Obama's presidency to have a real dialogue about race and its meaning in American life. If we are really fortunate, this conversation will go beyond the tired tropes of white liberal guilt, feigned colorblindness, white racial resentment, benign neglect, black anger, black denial, and black rage. In total, what are a set of feelings which speak to a shared sense of reasonable frustration at the intractability of America's "race problem."
Notice, I am not suggesting that these feelings are illegitimate. Rather, I am suggesting that these frameworks have created a tired and moribund discourse surrounding the changing same that is race in America. And in an increasingly "diverse" present, Americans are being forced to face an increasingly complex racial terrain as we move beyond the black and white binary. Moreover, as the future creeps towards us, the Civil Rights, Generation X, Generation Y, and the Hip Hop Generation will have to come to terms with the rise of a generation to be known as the "Obama Kids," that cohort which will have grown up in a world where they have never known an America without a Black president. The worldview of the Obama Kids, and how they understand race as a social force and lived reality will (rightly or wrongly) be radically different from those generations which preceded them.
This discovery of black humanity and personhood in the literal and symbolic heart of American democracy has prompted me to think about about those brothers and sisters, those "troublemakers" who, often maligned as inconvenient and outside the mainstream, shared their "radical" histories of America through books, pamphlets, and speeches with whoever would listen. In Harlem, at small bookstores and cooperatives in Los Angeles and Chicago, these Third World Presses and Afrocentric scholars (folks like Ivan Van Sertima; Dr. Ben; Na'im Akbar; Haki Madhubuti; Dr. Diop; and Ron Karenga, etc.) were often dismissed as quacks or intellectual lightweights by scholars and the general public--black, white, and brown alike.
Folks didn't want to hear about America before the Pilgrims. Some turned their noses up at the thought of Africans in the New World before Columbus. Others, perhaps ashamed at the long history of inter-racial intimacy between slave and free, between black and white, bristled at the thought of American icons and presidents being linked by blood to their human chattel. Who would want to talk about the powerfully symbolic historical irony that slaves were sold at the foot of Wall Street?--human property representing a vast investment being auctioned off at what would eventually become the heart of America's financial empire. Why would anyone in this day an age fight to preserve a recently discovered mass burial site of 20,ooo slaves in the heart of New York, the then slave capital of the North? To the dismissive, those radical historians and activists are just anachronisms, out of touch with America of the present.
And you know? I must wonder with CNN's belated discovery of Black humanity, both free and bonded, in the White House and Washington D.C., if these radical historians will get a long overdue apology? Who knows? maybe they will even get an invitation to the White House. If they don't get that long overdue invitation, at least they can rest well knowing that knowledge is indeed power, and that their history may become our future.
Monday, December 1, 2008
I want to apologize to our readers for my extended absence. Every day Chauncey has been begging me to write something to balance out his…um, unique voice. I’ve been telling him that I’ve been busy with work and travel. In truth, even before November 4th, I’ve been suffering from a mystery affliction that’s sapping my desire to write about politics.
Consider the following juicy stories that I’ve ignored recently:
McCain’s “B” Girl hate crime hoax and white victimology.
White liberals laying Prop 8’s success at the feet of black (and Latino) voters.
This website and black satire.
Two months ago, I would have been all over these. Now, I’m just not moved.
The symptoms of my affliction include:
Diagnosis: The Obama itis/ Post-election fever
Does anyone else have it?
What is the cure?
Sunday, November 30, 2008
The other day I shared my love of Richard Bey. Today I share my love of plushies and furries--and no, I am not a plushy or furry--but this MTV special is one of the greatest things to ever air on the old television. Things to watch for: The confused mother who desperately tries to understand her son's "lifestyle" choice; the careful attention to detail in the costumes; the utter sadness/happiness of finding others who also share the furry/plushy value system.
One random thought. I did my cursory survey for black and brown folk in these videos and thankfully found none. But not to hate, I am sure there is an Asian brother somewhere in this video because many folks be into such things.
Now, in the interest of openness and transparency I have to ask myself, Who would I be if I were a furry? Upon reflection, I think my top choices would be Chewbacca, a Snork, or Ookla the Mok. These characters would most certainly capture my inner beast.
Grrr I am a bear. Just had to say it:
Other questions to ponder:
1. What is the formative furry experience? Was it a childhood trauma? Or was it a childhood love affair with a teddy bear or other stuffed animal a la Stewie and Rupert on Family Guy?
2. How many children staying at the hotel during the convention will forever remember this weekend as the one during which they were traumatized by the site of furries getting it on in the elevator?
3. Isn't it damn hot in those suits? Wouldn't that inhibit the lovemaking?
4. Is there an equivalent group to PFLAG? Is there a Parents and Friends of Plushies and Furries support group out there?
5. If one were to be a respectable negro plushy or furry, what character should one choose to be?
6. And the biggest question of them all: who would win if the furries were to compete against the Klingons in a bowling tournament?
Thursday, November 27, 2008
I am a connoisseur of trash television. Richard Bey, was one of the best television hosts of the 1990's. He was extremely smart, self-aware, and was "Maury Povich" before Maury Povich, that P.T. Barnum of fat babies and baby daddies, figured out his now winning formula for ever watchable daytime television. Richard Bey was also a bit crazy and paranoid as he would later argue that an elaborate conspiracy backed by the Clintons was responsible for the demise of his television show. If I get the money together one day, I will make a Confessions of a Dangerous Mind inspired docudrama about Richard Bey as he certainly deserves one.
Here are some choice clips.
The legendary Mr. Puniverse and Miss Thunderthighs competition:
I was used for sex! Damn, I wish someone would use me...over, and over, and over again:
Ohh, those long fingernails:
And those ginormous tig bitties (I love that phrase by the way):
And of course the wheel of torture:
Now, I can smile and relax.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Stanley Crouch Smears Malcolm X: Congratulations Mr. Crouch! With this Act You Have Now Earned a Shit-huffer Award
In this piece of claptrap, Mr. Crouch soundly separates Malcolm X from the successes and struggles that laid the foundation for Barack Obama's victory. In Mr. Crouch's eyes, Malcolm X is an anomaly of history, an outlier in the Black Freedom Struggle, a charlatan, a race huckster and a racial privateer.
In essence, Malcolm X represents the losing side of history. For Mr. Crouch, Malcolm X represents all that is wrong with those "radicals" and "nationalists" who led a failed struggle for black "separatism." And rather than be the fruit of those struggles, Barack Obama's triumph is the living repudiation of a belief that America is not a shining beacon on the hill--a slightly less than perfect democracy.
Yes, I am all for ideological diversity as there isn't one orthodoxy of approved Black thought to which we must all be beholden. However, the one rubric that we should all follow is a commitment to ethical truth, to moral truth, and to intellectual truth. We respectable negroes take this as our shining beacon: we too sometimes do not achieve these lofty heights, but we must always strive for them. In fact, those readers who have been here from the beginning know that we attack ignorance and stupidity wherever (and from whomever) we may find it. This is why Mr. Crouch is the third recipient of the We Are Respectable Negroes Shit-huffing Award for Stupidity Above and Beyond the Call of Duty or Reason.
Mr. Crouch, in his analysis of Malcolm X and his role in America's--notice I said America and not exclusively Black America's--struggle to live up to its creed and promise of democracy has committed errors in interpretation and context.
On the first point, Malcolm X was a deeply reflective critic of White supremacy, but he was also amazingly astute in his understanding of the damage done to black Americans by racism:
Malcolm was not a hate espousing demagogue as Mr. Crouch and others want to cast him, he was a critic who challenged Black Americans to do for themselves, to achieve full rights as human beings, and to demand that our rights as full citizens be acknowledged by the State.
Mr. Crouch's error of context is a failure to understand that Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., and by extension, the different approaches to Black liberation they embodied, were flip sides of the same coin. They complemented each other. They pushed each other forward. They as nationalists and radical humanists both represent the best part of the struggle for fully inclusive and expansive human rights in this country. They, Brother Martin and Brother Malcolm, were more alike than different...and in many ways they were both fierce patriots and iconoclasts in the best American tradition. Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. were not static figures. Rather, they were changing and dynamic. It is a failure to understand this range of thinking, reflection, and critical inquiry that underlies Mr. Crouch's deep misunderstanding of the historical context in which Malcolm X struggled.
Without Martin Luther King Jr. there would be no Barack Obama.
Without Malcolm X there would be no Barack Obama.
Malcolm X had a deep love for his people. He loved Black people even when many of them did not love themselves. Malcolm continued to love us even when some would rather see him dead:
This type of personal integrity, honor, and self-sacrifice is why so many of us, what Crouch basically calls, "out of touch academics" feel beholden to Malcolm X's legacy. Ultimately, Stanley Crouch has always tried to be the "special"one. Crouch has disdain for hip hop music and culture, he desperately yearns to be a gatekeeper for black arts and culture, and willingly takes unfashionable positions in order to get attention--a thrilling second of the limelight he "deserves" as a Black public intellectual.
I have had strong words for Mr. Crouch in the past. I have suggested that his visage would make for an ideal Halloween mask. I have even playfully joked that he looks like a Sambo crossed with Grimace from McDonald's. Today, Mr. Crouch is simply a shit-huffer--nothing more and nothing less.
Mr. Crouch, We Respectable Negroes congratulate you on this most auspicious achievement.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
How will Battlestar Galactica end? I cannot wait until January to see how the best show on television marches into the night...
2 choice clips.
One: Adama's speech before the rescue on New Caprica--
Two: Adama's jump into New Caprica's atmosphere--
I vote this sequence one of the greats in science fiction television history. BSG's rescue on New Caprica storyline is so epic, that I would go far as to suggest that it is on par with Earth Force's assault on Babylon 5 during the Earth Civil War/Shadow War. Sorry, just geeking out...
But you have to admit that Sheridan was the man!
Monday, November 24, 2008
"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in."
Never, has a phrase been so appropriate.
According to the Associated Press and the Southern Poverty Law Center, with Barack Obama's ascendancy to the White House there has come an inevitable and predictable backlash of racial hostility.
The sentiment against Barack Obama's victory--the fear, angst, and hate--points to the permanency of racism in this country. These deep rooted and familiar sentiments are what some have called "the changing same" of American history and culture. While social and political circumstances may be radically altered, these constructs remain veritable bogeymen. They are heavy, dark shadows that cloud our society’s present vision and future possibilities. Ironically, we reference progress and change against these forces, while they simultaneously hang heavy over our efforts to move forward.
I struggle to find the words to explain this moment, or to give advice as I think about Obama's victory and its repercussions for our society. To use a metaphor, race and racism are sound, strong, and lasting houses that remain fixed as reference points which structure the lived realities of race in America. Some will shiver at this statement, but I have always (and will) continue to say that race, as both a reality and fiction, is perpetuated as much because it has meaning for White Americans, as for how it offers a deep and striking familiarity and comfort for people of color.
I also suggest that in the moment of Barack Obama's presidency, we as young race men and young race women must broaden the lens that we use to critically engage the world. For better or for worse, we cannot exclusively appeal to a logic of exclusion: the fact that a Black man is now president will defuse explanations that seek to make sense of the limitations on our collective life chances by appealing to White racism. Sorry, those arguments will likely not work in the post-Obama moment. Notice, I did not say that White racism would no longer continue to affect our post November 4, 2008 world. Such a claim would be silly, asinine, thin, trite, and untrue. However, if the Black freedom struggle is a war, a battle, an encounter of position, we must acknowledge the shift in the battlefield that has occurred under our feet.
Young race men and young race women, as you grow intellectually, and as we all shift and broaden our awareness of what exactly this post-racial world means for us collectively, we must move beyond the given that Black Americans have a set of clear and obvious justice claims on American society generally, and on white Americans, in particular. We must ask ourselves, how do we respond to the "go to," in sports terms, the play of necessity, i.e. the hail Mary, or the rush down the middle when we are 4th and 1 on the goal line? In keeping with sports as a metaphor, in this moment a permanent claim to outsider status may not work, resonate, or score the points that we need to secure a win.
Ask yourself, how can Black Americans say that we are excluded from full citizenship when someone, a man who shares the color of our skin is president of these United States of America? Do not run from this question. Instead, run towards it because in working through an answer you will gain strength and clarity of mind and purpose.
You see, we young race men and young race women, those of us who reflect deeply on these questions, will always matter. Yes, this is a bold statement. Nevertheless, I argue, and am confident in the fact, that we will always be relevant. We are the conscience of those who suffer under the injustices of societies that are structured around racial inequality and racial dominance. We tell the truth when others do not want to hear it. We will always have a special burden to speak truth to power. We, those young race men and young race women who are true to the creed, will always bear the burden of this choice. The language and reference points that speak to our shared realities (in this moment, are they really in fact shared?) may have changed around us with Barack Obama's victory. However, we have a gifted insight. We have struggled towards a certain and particular awareness. This forward progress in our freedom struggle stands on the shoulders of our ancestors. We have little choice but to draw on them for strength.
Please, and do not for a moment, think that your insight does not still have purchase in this new world. The best of us are always a step ahead. Our role, in the face of the inevitable bigotry and hatred that Barack Obama will face, is to meet, and to neutralize, this hostility. We as young race men and young race women will not always be able to defuse this irrational anger and distrust. As history demonstrates, we will often be met by deaf ears. However, history also tells us that the grand narrative, the force of history—as made real by Barack Obama’s victory—is on our side. Our role is to intervene when America loses her way:
We are the miner's canary.
We have an obligation to shock American back to her senses when she loses her way, contrives unreasonable expectations, and places her first Black president in untenable situations.
We, you young race men and young race women, have never been more relevant. We have worked in the service of all peoples in these United States as a force for collective progress. Young race men and young race men, we must embrace this past, present, and future, as we move towards a “post-racial” America. To anticipate your objection: Yes, I would be lying if I stated that I believe that things are certain in this moment, or that our future is clear:
To us, the world made sense in a different way prior to November 4th. Now, the world still makes sense, just differently.
We must pursue this truth however problematic or difficult it may be. For young race men and young race women, this "new" America is our undiscovered country. The rules have changed, but the problem remains the same. The answer may have changed, but the question remains the same. Ultimately, we, you, and us, are in a unique position to solve the riddle offered by a post-racial present and future.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
I am working on a post related to Obama and the "post-racial" moment for next week. Until then, here is one of my favorite Cornel West speeches. As a rule I can be hard on Black public intellectuals, but Brother West is straight fire on this one. Truly, on top of his game.
One more, this time a discussion of the internalized White supremacy common to many people of color, as well as the sickness that is racism in White America:
Friday, November 21, 2008
As one reviewer said, "witness the resurrection of Mickey Rourke"--I think he is right.
I know Gordon doesn't get professional wrestling, but I am marking out for this film. Ghetto nerds everywhere are going to be at the Wrestler when it opens nationwide. Watching the trailer (over and over), I am trying to count how many folks Mickey Rourke is channeling. I see Steve (Hollywood blond era) Austin, Terry Funk, Jake Roberts, and the Freebirds. Who else am I missing?
Thursday, November 20, 2008
A sign of the permanency of race in the age of Obama is a fear, one that is alive and well, that the bad behavior of one will be ascribed as an attribute of the group. Speaking to this point I must ask, Lord, God above, why oh why do they have to be black?
Maybe, just one day, I won't have to ask this question or hold this fear...
I hear a buzzing in my ear and my fingers are a flutter. I do have the vapors it seems. And you know what that means don't you? It is time once again for a We Are Respectable Negroes flashback!
This post from April of 2008 features one of my favorite people in the world, "the body collector" from Detroit, Michigan. His interview also features one of the greatest quotes of all time: "White people kill themselves, Black people kill each other, and Chinese people don't die."
The post follows:
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 media's "negative depictions" 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.
I'm a black woman who never thought I'd see a powerful, beautiful female with a body like mine in the White House. Then I saw Michelle Obama -- and her booty!
By Erin Aubry KaplanNov. 18, 2008 | Free at last. I never thought that I -- a black girl who came of age in the utterly anticlimactic aftermath of the civil rights movement -- would say the phrase with any real sincerity in my lifetime. But ever since Nov. 4, I've been shouting it from every rooftop. I'm not excited for the most obvious reason. Yes, Obama's win was an extraordinary breakthrough and a huge relief, but I don't subscribe to the notion that his capturing the White House represents the end of American racial history. Far from it. There is a certain freedom in the moment -- as in, we are all now free from wondering when or if we'll ever get a black president. Congratulations to all of us for being around to settle the question.
But what really thrills me, what really feels liberating in a very personal way, is the official new prominence of Michelle Obama. Barack's better half not only has stature but is statuesque. She has coruscating intelligence, beauty, style and -- drumroll, please -- a butt. (Yes, you read that right: I'm going to talk about the first lady's butt.)
What a bonus! From the ocean of nastiness and confusion that defined this campaign from the beginning, Michelle rose up like Venus on the waves, keeping her coif above water and cruising the coattails of history to present us with a brand-new beauty norm before we knew it was even happening.Actually, it took me and a lot of other similarly configured black women by surprise.
The piece continues here.
1. Should we be at all disturbed or disgusted that a black woman is being reduced to the charms of her body parts? Is this made even more troubling by the facts of history and how raced bodies have been sexualized?
2. Why wasn't George Bush's wife sexualized in the same fashion? Are we overreacting?
3. Could it be that Michelle Obama is simply more attractive than many of our recent first ladies? Random thought: I do have to admit Carter's wife was pretty sexy.
4. What of Sarah Palin? Are the folks who are upset about Michelle's booty being a topic of conversation among journalists and the punditry hypocrites for not complaining about Sarah Palin's "MILF" status and the upcoming adult title, "Who's Nailin Palin"?
5. The Salon piece was actually praising and embracing Michelle's figure as one that women of color (and others can embrace). Apparently, Michelle Obama's endowment is empowering for some women. Perhaps, Michelle will usher in some type of gluteal feminism?
6. Maybe I just don't get "gender" and "body" politics? I am still working on this race stuff, so maybe I am just behind the curve with my thinking about intersectionality at the site of Michelle Obama's behind.
7. Do you all "get" the gender and race politics at work in the Salon piece on Michelle Obama's backside? I ask, because I need some help working this one out.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
They are going to give Obama a complex or something with all this "house negro" talk. First, we had Pastor Manning:
Then we had Ralph Nader:
You make the call! Listen to Malcolm, reflect on Obama's candidacy and promised agenda, and ask yourself, "Is Barack Obama a house negro or a field negro?" Be honest:
Funny thing, the Right-wing praised Bush when Al-Qaeda would criticize him. Among the O'Reilly-Limbaugh-Malkin-Hannity cabal (and their mouth breathing followers) these attacks by Al-Qaeda were taken as signs that "we" were winning the war on terror. I wonder if the same standard will apply to Barack Obama?
I do wonder though if the Right-wing echo chamber will take this as a positive sign that the American people made the correct choice on election day?
Monday, November 17, 2008
I have always been a fan of Brock Lesnar. His amazing speed, explosive strength, and awesome physicality are a near perfect combination. Now, Lesnar just needs to add some more experience and he will become the total package. I will forgive good old Brock for repeating the silly comment that some people think that he must be on steroids because "Brock has muscles like a black guy." I guess I didn't get the memo that black men are so powerful and naturally well muscled--this belief must be a cousin to the White racial psyche's fixation on "giant negroes" that Undercover Brother posted on sometime back.
Brock is going to do great in mixed martial arts. But, we would be in error if his impressive, and much missed, run in the World Wrestling Federation went unacknowledged. For the uninitiated, here are two classic bouts:
Brock versus the late, great, Eddie Guerrero (we miss you so much Eddie). Point: Brock lost, but in the world of professional wrestling, often the greatest performances come from putting over one's opponent:
Brock versus Kurt Angle. Three words: Brock Lesnar moonsault!
Random thought: For all that is good and just in the world, Kurt Angle should not transition into mixed martial arts. To do so, would be both dangerous and life threatening for the former Olympic gold medalist. And how long will it take until TNA's management, Kurt himself, and those sad marks out there (as opposed to smart marks like you and me) start clamoring for this "dream" match up?
Brock, We Respectable Negroes wish you the most enthusiastic of congratulations on your well earned victory!
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Chauncey DeVega says: Our Suggestions for Barack Obama's New Cabinet--Introducing the Bureau of Ign't Affairs Part 1
Barack Obama is mixing the old (established hands and experienced political operatives) with the new (a pledge to close Guantanamo Bay; a series of executive orders to role back Bush era fiats; and a review of the 750 billion dollar credit bailout plan). In keeping with his campaign slogan of "change," Obama's recently announced plan to create an Office of Urban Policy is of particular interest to respectable negroes everywhere. Hallelujah! So many of our central cities are virtual war zones, victims of a changing economy and a diminished tax base, that a sustained approach to renewing these communities has been long needed.
As supporters of Barack Obama, we are always willing to offer suggestions and guidance. Accordingly, we believe that the Office of Urban Policy represents an amazing opportunity to embrace a dynamic and forward thinking approach to helping American cities. In keeping with our commitment to fighting ignorance and stupidity wherever we may find it, we respectable negroes are officially launching The Victory at Home initiative. The cornerstone of the V.H.I. is the establishment of The Bureau of Ign't Affairs. We propose that this new government agency should be immediately created. Organizationally, we suggest that it be housed under the umbrella of Barack Obama's newly proposed Office of Urban Policy (or alternatively under the Department of Homeland Security).
The Bureau of Ign't Affairs will have as its mandate the elimination of ign't behavior, and where elimination of this behavior is impossible, to work towards the reduction and/or mitigation of ign't related negative externalities. We respectable negroes believe that effective leadership and agenda setting are inseparable from one another. In keeping with this core belief, we propose that the following person be named Secretary of Ign't Affairs:
The 'Cos. Was there any other option? He has longed struggled against ign't behavior. The 'Cos's recent and most valiant crusade against self-sabotaging behavior among the ghetto underclass was met with great resistance. Yet, the 'Cos persisted in this battle despite the formidable forces arrayed against him. From deft speeches on the dangers of pound cakes and teen sexuality, to impassioned pleas that ign't parents stop buying their children video games and expensive sneakers instead of Hooked on Phonics, the 'Cos has distinguished himself as a leader in this war. Moreover, for any leader to effectively lead and win in battle, he or she must understand the minds and hearts of the enemy. As the creator of the Cosby Kids, and a key innovator in the art and science that is black English, the 'Cos has a deep understanding of the struggles faced by the Bureau of Ign't Affairs. There is no other option: the 'Cos is the first and best choice to lead this most auspicious undertaking.
The Pull Up Your Pants Project. Saggin' must stop. It is an eyesore. It is embarrassing. It signals a callous disregard for one' s appearance and a marked lack of self-respect. Sagging pants have become such a plague that many communities have enacted local laws and ordinances to curb this threat. In an age of Obama, where a dignified, proud, Black American is now president, the cult of sagging is a direct stab at the heart of what Barack Obama represents. Sagging is also a public health issue. Studies have shown that sagging pants lead to back pain, an increase in accidental police shootings (because sagging pants have to be held up by the ign't offenders when they are arrested by local law enforcement), and injuries related to falling pants as ign't men run to catch the local bus. Those who sag also face unforeseen consequences. It is ironic that while many ign't men see incarceration as a right of passage into manhood, little do they realize that saggin' entices prison rapists. To deter this behavior, we now present a man who will most certainly become a key official in the Bureau of Ign't Affairs: Behold the Booty Bandit, Undersecretary of Booty Affairs!
The Pretty Ricky Initiative. Youtube is an untamed hinterland for ign't behavior. At any moment of any day ignt's are plying their craft and spreading their particular brand of teen (and adult) degeneracy to children--the most innocent and vulnerable members of our society. State's evidence number 1:
This outbreak of teenage grinding, booty poppin', and other miscellaneous, shameful behavior such as horrible freestyling and online hip hop battles, symbolizes a breakdown of family values and social order. Where are the parents? Where are the other responsible adults? The Bureau of Ign't affairs has correctly identified this public foolishness to be the direct result of an absence of fathers in the homes of young male ign'ts, as well as a total lack of shame by ign't communities. Young men need guidance. They need older responsible men to explain that respectable young men don't grind on ottomans or other household furniture (however, as Ghostface Killah and Jocelyn Elder have both explained, bed grinding is an acceptable outlet for the sexual urges of teens and young adults). Most important, the Pretty Ricky video (and others like it) are a clear indication that these young ign'ts don't seem to grasp the inherent homoeroticism of simulating group sex with defenseless furniture. Ottomans don't have the power to say "No!" And in what is an inevitable move from ottoman grinding to bathroom booty poppin', these young adults almost always escalate to other more dangerous, risky, and deviant sexual behaviors.
No Bottom Left Unbeaten. Many studies have condemned corporal punishment as damaging to the development and emotional well-being of children. However, many upright, virtuous parents believe that spanking is essential for the raising of disciplined and well-behaved children. Rather than stand against the wisdom of parents, the Bureau of Ign't Affairs supports caregivers in their struggle to raise healthy, strong, disciplined children. To that end, we propose that public schools offer weekly, government subsidized spankings to children in all grade levels. These beatings will motivate, encourage, and harden these young respectable negroes (and others) against the temptations of ign't culture. The "experts" are wrong. Rather than fewer beatings, the Bureau of Ign't Affairs firmly believes that we actually need more beatings in our most under-served and under-resourced schools.
Disrupting the Baby Mama to Prison Pipeline. Prison is a right of passage for many young ign't men. An equally frightening prospect, rather than be marginalized within the ign't community, these felons earn social prestige from "doing a bid." They become local "celebrities" whom are flocked to by young ign't women. Unfortunately, the criminal ign'ts imperil the health, safety, general welfare, and economic well-being of the communities in which they live. The Bureau of Ign't Affairs's solution: disrupt the source of this ign't wellspring at its source. To accomplish this goal, we need a comprehensive education program for the women who choose to lay with these young men. This proposed educational program will feature comprehensive access to birth control, life skills counseling, and training in critical thinking skills. These young women will be offered a simple decision making rule. If a young, ign't, ex-con wants to lay with said woman, she should apply the 3 point rule: no job, criminal record, and baby mamas equals no sex:
If a young woman must indulge, she should apply the 2 point rule--birth control pills and condoms are mandatory. The Bureau of Ign't Affairs also believes in the power of deterrence. In keeping with this, the bureau will offer an updated version of the infamous, Scared Straight Program. However, in lieu of tough, 1970s era thugs, the Bureau of Ign't Affairs will follow Chris Rock's brilliant suggestion and use the Tossed Salad Man as an ominous disincentive to criminality:
What is your pleasure? Syrup or jelly?
This is the first installment in the white paper that we are completing on suggested policy initiatives to be undertaken during the first 100 days of the Obama administration. What other initiatives should the Bureau of Ign't Affairs put into motion? What are some other bureaus that Barack Obama should create? Who should staff these new organs of government? Should the Office of Urban Policy be expanded to include the Bureau of Ign't Affairs? Or is this new government entity deserving of independent standing?