Friday, December 19, 2008

The Bush Legacy, America as an Empire in Decline, and a Country Less Safe Rather Than More Safe

I imagine that President Bush is hoping that the hindsight of history and providence will judge him a great man. Perhaps, Bush wonders, if he has simply been misunderstood. I shudder to think of how he imagines his own legacy as Bush has always seemed incapable of critical self-reflection. It is this utter lack of consideration, an adherence to a binary world view of "evil doers" and "good guys," and a remarkable distance from the reality of events (see Hurricane Katrina) that for me, will forever typify his administration.

In these days of financial crisis and declining influence, I must join the chorus and ask myself, "are we Rome?" Did Bush/they/us fiddle while Rome burned? And to borrow a phrase, "I wonder if the emperor Honorius watching the Visigoths coming over the seventh hill truly realized that the Roman empire was about to fall. This is just another page of history, isn't it?"

On these questions, from the Wall Street Journal, a wonderful piece on America as an empire in decline--and the dirty handed culpability of the Left and the Right. In its entirety:

Bush Has Made Us Vulnerable
Two incompetently prosecuted wars have undermined our deterrent power.

by Mark Helprin

In his great Civil War history, "Decision in the West," Albert Castel describes the last Confederate hope of victory. If in 1864 the Confederate armies continue to exact a steep cost from the North, "the majority of Northerners will decide that going on with the war is not worth the financial and human cost and so will replace Lincoln and the Republicans with a Democratic president and Congress committed to stopping hostilities and instituting peace negotiations." He cites the resolution of the Confederate Congress that: "Brave and learned men in the North have spoken out against the usurpations and cruelties daily practiced. The success of these men over the radical and despotic faction which now rules the North may open the way to . . . a cessation of this bloody and unnecessary war." Plus ça change . . . .

The administrations of George W. Bush have virtually assured such a displacement by catastrophically throwing the country off balance, both politically and financially, while breaking the nation's sword in an inconclusive seven-year struggle against a ragtag enemy in two small bankrupt states. Their one great accomplishment -- no subsequent attacks on American soil thus far -- has been offset by the stunningly incompetent prosecution of the war. It could be no other way, with war aims that inexplicably danced up and down the scale, from "ending tyranny in the world," to reforging in a matter of months (with 130,000 troops) the political culture of the Arabs, to establishing a democracy in Iraq, to only reducing violence, to merely holding on in our cantonments until we withdraw.

This confusion has come at the price of transforming the military into a light and hollow semi-gendarmerie focused on irregular warfare and ill-equipped to deter the development and resurgence of the conventional and strategic forces of China and Russia, while begging challenges from rivals or enemies no longer constrained by our former reserves of strength. For seven years we failed to devise effective policy or make intelligent arguments for policies that were worth pursuing. Thus we capriciously forfeited the domestic and international political equilibrium without which alliances break apart and wars are seldom won.

The pity is that the war could have been successful and this equilibrium sustained had we struck immediately, preserving the link with September 11th; had we disciplined our objective to forcing upon regimes that nurture terrorism the choice of routing it out with their ruthless secret services or suffering the destruction of the means to power for which they live; had we husbanded our forces in the highly developed military areas of northern Saudi Arabia after deposing Saddam Hussein, where as a fleet in being they would suffer no casualties and remain at the ready to reach Baghdad, Damascus, or Riyadh in three days; and had we taken strong and effective measures for our domestic protection while striving to stay within constitutional limits and eloquently explaining the necessity -- as has always been the case in war -- for sometimes exceeding them. Today's progressives apologize to the world for America's treatment of terrorists (not a single one of whom has been executed). Franklin Roosevelt, when faced with German saboteurs (who had caused not a single casualty), had them electrocuted and buried in numbered graves next to a sewage plant.

The counterpart to Republican incompetence has been a Democratic opposition warped by sentiment. The deaths of thousands of Americans in attacks upon our embassies, warships, military barracks, civil aviation, capital, and largest city were not a criminal matter but an act of war made possible by governments and legions of enablers in the Arab world. Nothing short of war -- although not the war we have waged -- could have been sufficient in response. The opposition is embarrassed by patriotism and American self-interest, but above all it is blind to the gravity of the matter. Though scattered terrorists allied with militarily insignificant states are not, as some conservatives assert, closely analogous to Nazi Germany, the accessibility of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons makes the destructive capacity of these antagonists unfortunately similar -- a fact, especially in regard to Iran, that is persistently whistled away by the Left.

An existential threat of such magnitude cannot be averted by imagining that it is the work of one man and will disappear with his death; by mousefully pleasing the rest of the world; by hopefully excluding the tools of war; or by diplomacy without the potential of force, which is like a policeman without a gun, something that doesn't work anymore even in Britain. The Right should have labored to exhaustion to forge a coalition, and the Left should have been willing to proceed without one. The Right should have been more respectful of constitutional protections, and the Left should have joined in making temporary and clearly defined exceptions. In short, the Right should have had the wit to fight, and the Left should have had the will to fight.

Both failed. The country is exhausted, divided, and improperly protected, and will remain so if the new president and administration are merely another face of the same sterile duality. To avoid the costs of a stalled financial system, the two parties -- after an entire day of reflection -- committed to the expenditure of what with its trailing ends will probably be $1.5 trillion in this fiscal year alone.

But the costs of not reacting to China's military expansion, which could lead to its hegemony in the Pacific; or of ignoring a Russian resurgence, which could result in a new Cold War and Russian domination of Europe; or of suffering a nuclear detonation in New York, Washington, or any other major American city, would be so great as to be, apparently, unimaginable to us now. Which is why, perhaps, we have not even begun to think about marshaling the resources, concentration, deliberation, risk, sacrifice, and compromise necessary to avert them. This is the great decision to which the West is completely blind, and for neglect of which it will in the future grieve exceedingly.


Damning and precise.

Per tradition, some questions:

1. Is Helprin overstating his case? Is this just so much hysteria?
2. Empire's ebb and flow, is this simply a momentary glitch in an Imperial dynasty, one with many years ahead of it?
3. On America as an empire, is it? Or did we conquer the world with Hollywood, MTV and McDonalds as opposed to soldiers and guns? Does this distinction matter? Are we in fact Rome?
4. What has been the payoff for the poor, the working class, and the underclass for American Empire? Will they ironically do better as America reorients its priorities abroad and at home?
5. Betting pool: who does the U.S. fight next, China or Russia, and does she win?
6. Most damning observation: this once wonderful military capable of handling any conventional threat has been hollowed out and reduced to being a police force oriented towards fighting guerrillas and terrorists. Evolution? or Tragic Miscalculation?
7. What sort of mess is Obama inheriting? Does one in fact have to burn a village in order to liberate it? And how long until Obama is blamed for creating the chaos that he has been tasked with correcting?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: Andre Campbell, Comic Book Artist, is Our Personal Ghetto Nerd Hero of the Week, Month, and Year

I am not prone to sappy, overly demonstrative, hyper-emotional, displays of sentimentality. But, this story makes a ghetto nerd tear up. From the Washington Post, their story "Comic Book Hero," highlights Andre Campbell, a lover of comic books, entrepreneur, co-founder of Heritage Comics, and his journey to Pittsburgh's Comicon convention. This brother is living a dream. He also happens to be sight impaired. He also draws his own comics.

From the Washington Post:

Comic Book Hero

Andre Campbell's vision is severely limited, but that hasn't stopped him from pursuing his dream of making it as a comic book artist. Will he ever see success? Andre Campbell is legally blind, but has a vision of making it as a comic book artist.

By David Rowell Sunday, December 14, 2008;

Andre Campbell, who has been legally blind since birth, let his cane glide in front of him, as Tyran Eades stepped diligently by his side with the patience of an attentive brother. They were headed toward their designated table at the 15th annual Pittsburgh Comicon. All around them at the convention were eye-popping banners and saturated displays of superheroes both ubiquitous and obscure, all designed to celebrate the unbridled joy of comic books and to encourage generous spending during the next three days by the 7,000 or so attendees. Campbell -- who says you can approximate his vision by closing one eye and squinting through the other -- could make out very little. But he had a grand vision for himself, an inner faith that his own characters would some day take their place alongside Spider-Man, Batman and Wolverine at conventions like this one.

Having toiled for nearly 20 years, Campbell, 44, had produced -- with Eades's assistance -- one comic book and one graphic novel, both self-published, starring Campbell's Alpha Agents ("Earth's Mightiest Heroes"). Unlike the professional comic book artists, who had been invited to attend and who had made their names by working on some of the most beloved superhero titles of our time, Eades, 33, and Campbell had paid $150 out of their scarce resources to rent a table. But now they were focused on the significance of this day. For the first time, they had traveled to an out-of-state convention to promote their company, Heritage Comics HSQ (Heart, Soul, Quality). When they found their way to the corner of the convention center set up for small-press artists such as themselves, they settled in for eight hours of talking up characters that no one had yet heard of.

Campbell and Eades had published their first Alpha Agents comic in 2007, after Campbell had written and labored over it on and off for 10 years. The new graphic novel included the first Alpha Agents story, plus two new installments. They'd had 50 copies printed for $250, and were hoping to sell them for $10 each. They'd decided to forgo having their bios listed in the convention's extensive program, which would have cost another $150. They were too low on funds for that, Campbell said. The hotel room they were sharing would set them back $300, and then there was gas money for the trip from Baltimore.

the story continues here.


We ghetto nerds salute you Mr. Campbell. Why? Because one, how many of us have the courage to chase a dream? Two, how many of us have had to surpass the obstacles you have faced in pursuing your dream? You are an inspiration Mr. Campbell. Your friends and family are also an inspiration because they have not coddled you, had pity on you, or thought that you could not achieve success because of your "disability." Hell, you may lack sight Brother Campbell, but you don't lack creativity or vision--and you certainly don't lack drive or heart.

We wish you the best of luck. By proclamation, I decree that all ghetto nerds should demand that their local comic book spot stocks the Heritage line.

My ghetto nerd friends and family, let's follow Andre Campbell's example. Today, tomorrow, next week, or sometime in the future let's all pick one dream and chase it...even if it seems out of reach.

I am going to make my ghetto nerd dream come true, are you?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sadly, NPR's "News and Notes" has been Cancelled--In Its Place We Bring You "Conversations with Brother X-Squared"

National Public Radio has canceled News and Notes, its only African American themed news program. Farai Chideya, News and Notes' excellent host, will certainly go on to bigger and better things and we wish her the best. In an effort to fill the vacuum created by the cancellation of News and Notes, the We Are Respectable Negroes News Network (WARNNN) is inaugurating a new series, "Conversations with Brother X-Squared." This new program will dissect, analyze, and offer compelling commentary on breaking news events. We are both gracious and fortunate that Brother X-Squared has agreed to join the WARNNN staff. Brother X-Squared's initial appearance on WARNNN made clear his unique brand of incisive wit and penetrating commentary. Accordingly, we are proud to bring you the inaugural installment of our newest feature, Conservations with Brother X-Squared.

WARNNN: Brother X-Squared, this is an exciting moment. We are pleased that you have agreed to join us on a recurring basis.

Brother X-Squared: It is I who am blessed. Thank you. But, let's be clear the real beneficiaries of my presence on your esteemed website are all those damn foolish jiggin tom coons whose eyes are still not open to the realities of white supremacy.

WARNNN: You do hit the ground running Brother X-Squared...

Brother X-Squared: There is no time for rest. We have rested for too long, now we have to renew the struggle with more effort and determination now that you confused black Americans have had that nigger wool pulled over your eyes by Barack Obama's victory.

WARNNN: An appropriate segue Brother X-Squared. How did you feel at the moment of Obama's victory? As a black man you had to experience some small amount of pride in his victory, no?

Brother X-Squared: Come on, does a wet duck quack?


Brother X-Squared: You aren't up on your negro folkisms are you? The captive black Africans of America have really lost contact with their roots. The answer is no, an unequivocal no. As I predicted during my last appearance, of course he won! This is a trick that the white power structure has played on you foolish negroes. Remember, the greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing man that he didn't exist. The white man has tricked you fools into believing that because they gave you that half-rican as president, that white supremacy is dead in this country. Give me a your eyes black people. White supremacy is so twisted and complex that now white people and those tragic half-breed, mud babies are trying to claim Obama as well. This is laughable. Truly laughable. I was actually sickened watching all those fools cheering and jumping up and down after Obama won. They were like happy slaves on Christmas Eve cause massa gave them a little money and the day off. Shameful.

WARNNN: What do you think of his cabinet appointments?

Brother X-Squared: Same old same old. He appoints that old hag Hillary Clinton to be Secretary of State with that first "black" president Bill Clinton as her shadow. See how weak Obama is? He appoints that race baiter who ran against him to represent the United States abroad, typical. The white woman really is the black man's kryptonite--he can't resist having Miss Ann in his house. Moreover, they may put another white woman, a Kennedy, in Clinton's vacant seat. Again, a white woman being replaced by another. Predictable. Frankly, it's probably a carryover from loving his white momma. As for those other appointments, what has he done? He has put some light skinned mulattoes in charge. They didn't ask any strong black men like me to be in the cabinet, did they?


Brother X-Squared: Of course not! They are scared of my too strong, too proud, too unapologetic black truth. Next question.

WARNNN: We have had an interesting week. We have the Blagojevich scandal in Illinois and we have President Bush's surprise trip to Iraq, where he was "introduced" to the shoes of an Iraqi journalist. What is your take on these events?

Brother X-Squared: I am personally offended by what happened to Bush in Iraq.

WARNNN: That is surprising, you actually feel bad for him?

Brother X-Squared: Hell no, why would I, a new Black man and revolutionary leader, feel sorry for the head massa? I am offended that the Iraqi reporter compared Bush to a dog. I love dogs. They are smart, loyal, and kind. Bush is none of those things. As a dog lover I am offended by the comparison because Bush has no redeeming qualities. On that Blagojevich mess, I am laughing. You know why?

WARNNN: No, Brother X-Squared, please tell us.

Brother X-Squared: In America, a white ethnic can come to America and a generation later his child can be governor. He is an Eastern European. They weren't even considered white until the early 20th century in this country. And the first word immigrants learn when they come here is "nigger," that is how they earn their whiteness, by hating black people. Interestingly, this new white man is trying to auction, get the emphasis? AUCTION off Obama's seat. White folks are so deep in their science. Obama is president elect, but his position can still be auctioned off like he is a slave. This race science is deep black people. Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!

WARNNN: This is the part of the show where we ask you to make two predictions. What are some news stories we should be looking out for in the coming weeks?

Brother X-Squared: I will give you three things. First, on the economic crisis, there will be more pimps like that white man in NYC who swindled those rich white fools out of 50 billion dollars on a pyramid scheme. If a black man steals a television he gets locked up for twenty years. When these crooks steal all that money they get a slap on the wrist--and get the government to give them money. Predictable. Eventually, we will see those formerly rich devils down in Harlem applying for welfare and Section 8. Brother Marx was right, all of this capitalist wealth is all so much of an illusion and now it is disappearing into vapor. The white man will learn, he will learn.

Second, negroes need to watch the story about Sarah Palin's church burning down. They are going to say it is a hate crime and make her some sort of victim. There they go again, using laws designed to protect black people from the most extreme white devils, to protect that old ice queen. Third, and I love this one 'cause it didn't get much attention, Premier Bush is not letting Obama move into the presidential guest house. See that! although Obama is their chosen one, they are making sure Barack knows that he is still a house slave. They are telling him, "no boy! you best know your place until we tell you otherwise." Where is the protest and anger? Nowhere because you slaves are happy you got thrown a bone.

WARNNN: Final question, in the spirit of Meet the Press and the Chris Matthews show, tell us something we don't know?

Brother X-Squared: Anal sex. Yes, I said it. You featured a story on this site about what you call "booty love." That sex act, as depraved and dangerous as it is, was introduced to the black man and black woman by Europeans. They are experts and purveyors of the unnatural. Now they have disseminated their wickedness to our young black men and women. Black people, regardless of what misguided negroes like Chauncey DeVega say on this issue, you must resist this wickedness. Ultimately, this is just one more way that white supremacy is literally bringing black people to their knees. Stay on your feet and stay strong.

WARNNN: A great interview. Till next time?

Brother X-Squared: Of course, I am the voice of truth in these troubled times.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Obama's True Colors: Black, White ... or Neither? or Let's Paint the White House Black...or Beige...or Checkered...or Maybe Just Keep It White!

There have been a litany of these Obama as biracial, multiracial and something other than Black since his election. I have not found them worthy of comment because they are just so "meh," who cares? and predictable. However, the newest piece from the AP, Obama's true colors: Black, white...or neither? has peeked my interest. Some choice excerpts:


A perplexing new chapter is unfolding in Barack Obama's racial saga: Many people insist that "the first black president" is actually not black.

Debate over whether to call this son of a white Kansan and a black Kenyan biracial, African-American, mixed-race, half-and-half, multiracial — or, in Obama's own words, a "mutt" — has reached a crescendo since Obama's election shattered assumptions about race.

Obama has said, "I identify as African-American — that's how I'm treated and that's how I'm viewed. I'm proud of it." In other words, the world gave Obama no choice but to be black, and he was happy to oblige.

But the world has changed since the young Obama found his place in it.

Intermarriage and the decline of racism are dissolving ancient definitions. The candidate Obama, in achieving what many thought impossible, was treated differently from previous black generations. And many white and mixed-race people now view President-elect Obama as something other than black...

Rebecca Walker, a 38-year-old writer with light brown skin who is of Russian, African, Irish, Scottish and Native American descent, said she used to identify herself as "human," which upset people of all backgrounds. So she went back to multiracial or biracial, "but only because there has yet to be a way of breaking through the need to racially identify and be identified by the culture at large."

"Of course Obama is black. And he's not black, too," Walker said. "He's white, and he's not white, too. Obama is whatever people project onto him ... he's a lot of things, and neither of them necessarily exclude the other..."

A Doonesbury comic strip that ran the day after the election showed several soldiers celebrating.

"He's half-white, you know," says a white soldier.

"You must be so proud," responds another.

Pride is the center of racial identity, and some white people seem insulted by a perception that Obama is rejecting his white mother (even though her family was a centerpiece of his campaign image-making) or baffled by the notion that someone would choose to be black instead of half-white.

"He can't be African-American. With race, white claims 50 percent of him and black 50 percent of him. Half a loaf is better than no loaf at all," Ron Wilson of Plantation, Fla., wrote in a letter to the Sun-Sentinel newspaper.

the full piece is found here...


The self-identified, tragic mulatto chorus speaks again--folks are always trying to own someone it seems. We have dealt with this tragic mulatto business on this site before. We have concluded that race has messed all folks up and that tragic mulattoes are just messed up differently. Ultimately, the irony of these calls for re-branding Obama are in part rooted in one of the great ironies behind the self-identified multiracial/bi-racial movement. On one hand they want the freedom and agency to identify with whoever and whatever group they see fit, a reasonable premise. But, they want to deny that same agency to someone else (see our post, "Light-skinned Negroes Who Understand the Value in Being Black"). Barack Obama self-identifies as a black man. Simple fact. Now embrace it, celebrate it, and respect him for that choice...

Some other quick questions:

1. On this agency stuff, whose agency gets to trump Obama's agency? Stated differently, Obama has chosen his home team so to speak, why do others feel so compelled to have a racial draft in order to claim him?

2. When Obama and the end of black politics narrative became prominent during the campaign, we respectable negroes and others were very concerned about the creation of a colored class, a buffer race of nominally black leadership in this country. I have to worry, is this effort to claim Obama as something other than black the next step in the creation of a buffer race in America's racial order?

3. Since the tragic mulatto crowd and some white folks are so determined to find and claim Obama's hybridity, perhaps we should move towards a racial classification system akin to Brazil's where one can choose from some fifty or more "categorizations." I wonder which racial identity will remain at the top of the hierarchy?

4. On White folks claiming Barack Obama as "half-white." Can't folks just relax and let Obama be Black? One of the powers of whiteness, and why white supremacy is the greatest White invention, is because it/they can restructure reality to always keep whites as the center of the narrative. How about being proud that in a moment of enlightened self-interest, many White Americans chose a black man to be the next president of the United States--and celebrating this as progress? One doesn't need to throw a temper tantrum and be selfish...sort of like the kid at the birthday party who sulks and throws a fit to get all of the attention even though it is not his or her own birthday.

My White people, let's take one more step forward in our racial maturity and be happy that the best candidate won, and that yes he is a proud, unadulterated, undiluted, black man. Welcome to chocolate city:

Friday, December 12, 2008

ABC News Reports that Anal Sex is on the Rise Among Teens or A Reflection on the Joys of Booty Love

And we wonder why Al-Qaeda hates us? Sorry, I couldn't resist.

We do live in a wonderful day and age when ABC news finds the time and energy to devote five pages to the perils of anal sex--or as this respectable negro likes to call it--booty love.

I think booty love is getting a bad rap in this piece. Sure, you have sexually repressed, promise keeper, religiously afflicted young people who want to keep their "virginity," yet will do everything thing else under the sun (this same group of most pious and smart folk also think an orgasm will send them to hell, so their judgment is suspect anyway).

But, you also have folks who are sexually adventurous and simply like some butt sex. Where is their voice? Can booty love get some respect in this world? As a firm advocate of booty love, my motto is play safe, wrap it up, use lots of lube, up your sex IQ (Nina Hartley's Guide to Anal Sex is a good beginning) and have fun. If you don't take these precautions you could be in for some pain, a mess (santorum, I love that word and have wanted to use it in a sentence for years) and perhaps even some cooties.

But to be honest, this detour into the realm of public health and human sexuality is actually just an excuse for me to post some of my favorite videos on sex, love, and the butt.

I got to post it again. I can't resist. What do you love Fleece?

Remember, there is only one biblically correct way to have sex. Random thought number one: but isn't the Bible a pretty naughty book with lots of sex, hetero, homo, and bestial? According to former televangelist and religious demagogue Oral Roberts, you better not be putting the penis in the mouth or the anus. And you best not put it in the eye or the nose! Random thought number two: I always find it funny that these ultra-conservative religious types seem to so intensely hate sexuality, their own actually, that they develop unhealthy obsessions:

Be mindful. The best butt love comes from a careful, consensual, gentle, loving, trusting relationship. You never, and I mean never, want to have your first explorations of the booty pleasures to come from a bunch of ex-cons who have been hired to kill you:

Alexyss Tylor, my love, the object of my affection, what do you have to say about booty love? I knew she would have some wisdom to offer! Alexyss shares her thoughts on the dangers of Chinese buffets, cruising, and booty love:

Part Two: Alexyss Tylor on the new trend of "down low" men cutting holes in their underwear to facilitate anonymous sex in public bathrooms:

Not on booty love per se, but funny nonetheless. Do not forget that laughter is one of the keys to great lovemaking. From Man and Wife TV:

Be safe, have fun, and have a little afternoon delight:

A respectable negro bonus: Heather Hunter, the first crush of most young respectable negroes born in the 1970s on Man and Wife TV--

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Obama Dunk T-shirt: More Than Humiliation

Since I’m still in Thanksgiving leftover mode, I thought I’d take the chance to post this piece, which I’ve been tweaking since early September.


In general, I don’t care much for political T-shirts, and from the bootleg shirts on the corner to the Bro-bama shirts that fratboy douchebags and their hipster cousins love, I’d considered Obama shirts especially lame.

Then I spotted this brilliant Undrcrwn T-shirt, which features a seemingly routine caricature of Obama dunking on McCain. Spike Lee was wearing this shirt at the Democratic Convention in August. As is clear in the following video, he could barely contain his enthusiasm for the shirt.

Upon seeing the shirt on Spike, I had the same reaction. Since that day, I have been pondering why this shirt resonates with Spike, me, and so many other politically progressive basketball fans and negrophiles.

The Dunk:

In addition to being an amazing physical feat, Carter’s leapfrogging dunk over 7-foot 2 Frenchman Frederic Weis during the 2000 Sydney Olympics was an iconic moment: the ultimate manifestation of brazen, post-Jordan bluster.

The 2000 U.S. Basketball team was the last to win Gold prior to this year’s team. As with every one of the NBA-player led Olympic teams assembled after the Original 1992 Dream Team, the 2000 team was roundly criticized for its trash-talking and its lack of respect for opponents and the game of basketball. Traditional media types also slammed the 2000 Team for its failure to dominate, as exemplified by near losses to Lithuania and France. Despite the fact that many European fans and white American sportswriters accused the U.S. team of being "ugly Americans", the U.S. players left Sydney with Gold medals draped around their necks.

Many players, even the best, get smashed on. What Carter did to Weis, however, was arguably the greatest public basketball sonning ever (no disrespect to Shawn Kemp or Scottie Pippen). It’s not just that Carter’s actual dunk was incredible; it’s that Carter rendered Weis a public spectacle worthy of derision in the process. Most basketball fans scoffed at the suggestions that the W+K Nike ads were homophobic, but those who complained about the ads are right about one thing: getting a face full of nuts is widely considered the most humiliating fate a player can suffer on the court. Carter’s dunk proved that there is something even more humiliating: having your opponent clear you like an inconsequential hurdle.

Vince Carter and Obama: Respectable Negroes, “Bad Niggers”:

Vince Carter is a polarizing figure. He has a strong following among kids and highlight-centric fans, who elevate Carter’s style above all else. Yet, because he has a tendency to wilt in big games and is known for underachieving, Carter is frequently dismissed by basketball heads (myself included). For instance, in one of our email exchanges, freedarko’s Dr. Lawyer Indian Chief expressed concerns about the shirt linking Obama to Carter, given Carter’s poor reputation and failed promise.

Along with this legitimate criticism of Carter’s game, there has also been unjust criticism about Carter’s character. Carter is loathed by basketball purists, who insist that athletes “play the game the white right way.” Adherents of this view never miss an opportunity to complain about Carter’s lax attitude and his excessive celebration and preening. This criticism is often couched in language that evokes the “bad nigger” trope, e.g. “spoiled,” “punk,” “primadonna,” “ungrateful,” “disrespectful,” “quitter.”

When pressed, even Carter’s harshest critics would concede that he is a respectable negro outside of basketball. He bears none of the visual markers of black thuggery that have supposedly ruined the NBA: he has no visible tattoos and has never worn cornrows in public, and, more importantly, he has never been in trouble with the law. Carter hails from a two-parent middle-class household and is a committed father. He spent his high school years excelling at several sports as well as playing in the band. Though he left the University of North Carolina early, Carter eventually completed his degree in African American Studies. And to top it all off, he’s an Omega.

What’s more, Carter helped to promote a 12-year-old kid’s film about the importance of education for black males. When Carter decided to attend his graduation ceremony the day of an important playoff game 7 against the Sixers, he was criticized by the mainstream media and fans—yes, the same people who decry the cultural and academic failings of young black kids; the same people who lament the lack of famous black role models; the same people who believe that black celebrities and poor black people don’t value education.

The point is that Carter is the personification of black bougiedom. Only in our nation’s twisted racial logic is he a “bad nigger.” That critics would even go there is evidence that mainstream sports and political discourse has no language to reflect the nuance of black identity (any time Mike Tyson and young Muhammad Ali are lumped together, something is wrong).

Obama has been painted in these same broad, “bad nigger” tones, despite being the prototypical respectable negro in terms of education and achievement. This disconnect between borderline racist perceptions and reality, between each man’s public and private black identities, is why the Obama-Carter parallel works so well for me. Moreover, large numbers of black folks identify with Carter and Obama in part due to black people’s tendency to embrace the spirit of the “bad nigger” as a symbol of defiance in the face of white criticism (in public, however, black folks will refute the “bad nigger” characterization by pointing to the respectable negro private life of the accused).

The Shirt:

The first thing that stands out about the drawing is Obama’s big head. This image recalls the silly sports caricature shirts that just about every basketball fan owned about twenty years ago. Yet, unlike the caricatures on the 80s shirts, this Obama isn’t grinning goofily; he is wearing a solemn, presidential expression while looking off into the distance. Though Undrcrwn uses this same style to depict rappers and ballers, placing this style in a political context alters the meaning. So, while the tone of the shirt is playful, it also nods toward the gravity of Obama’s campaign.

Obama is not just striking Carter’s pose; he’s wearing Carter’s uniform, namely, that of the U.S. Basketball Team in 2000. Depicting Obama in basketball gear marks him as a baller; depicting him in the U.S. Olympic uniform marks him as a willing representative of the United States and a patriotic American according to the low bar set by mainstream, nationalist sports writers and fans (more on that later).

McCain, on the other hand, is depicted as no more than a suit…literally: his face isn’t shown, and he has to be identified by the name across his back. The fact that McCain is portrayed wearing a suit (with short pants no less!) singles him out him as an outsider, as one who doesn’t belong on the court—a notion supported by the fact that the “court” is Obama’s campaign logo.

The absence of a basketball court/hoop removes the dunk from its practical end: scoring. This has two important effects. First, it makes humiliating McCain an end in itself; and second, it gives the impression of a perpetual Obama ascent, suggesting his boundless future.

Obama’s caricature is palming a red, white, and blue ball. This ball was a signature of the American Basketball Association, the stylish, upstart 1970s professional basketball league that was often contrasted with the more traditional, stodgy NBA. The ABA eventually gained mainstream credibility and influence when the two leagues merged in 1976.

Given the dynamics of the 2008 presidential election—Obama, a young upstart vanquishing McCain, an old, out of touch insider—the ABA-NBA angle seems especially appropriate.

The heart of the shirt’s brilliance, however, lies in Undrcrwn’s decision to use American Carter’s dunk over the Frenchman Weis as the metaphor for the Obama vs. McCain contest. This choice represents a clever symbolic inversion that turns conservative stereotypes inside-out.

In popular conservative discourse, American conservative men are real men: brave, rational, and decisive. Conservatives always respect and honor national traditions and history and are unabashedly patriotic. By contrast, conservatives depict American liberal males are effete, spineless, unpatriotic losers. Aside from women, Europeans are the group conservatives most commonly associate with liberal men. Conservatives love to compare liberal American men to the French, in particular, owing not only to French men’s supposed lack of masculinity, but also to France’s anti-American attitudes and (unfair) reputation for surrendering during war.

By representing McCain as the ineffectual Frenchman Weis, the shirt turns the rhetorical tables on the “freedom fries” crowd, equating the Republican war hero with the hated French “cheese-eatin’ surrender monkeys” and even making the surrender explicit by having McCain wave a white flag. That leaves Obama, the liberal embodiment of multiculturalism, as the wearer of the “real, patriotic American” mantle. Such a reversal is a slap in the face to dyed-in-the-wool conservatives, which helps to explain their rage over the reality of an Obama presidency.


There should be no doubt that Undrcrwn made a deliberate choice to highlight the French connection. It’s certainly possible, though, that Undrcrwn didn’t think about the ABA ball beyond the fact that the red, white, and blue color scheme matched Obama’s uniform. And I’m almost positive that choosing Vince Carter as the model had nothing to do with Carter’s off-court respectability.

A young and virile Obama humiliating a disoriented, white-haired McCain on the basketball court is an apt metaphor for the generational clash borne out by the election. Humiliation is definitely a vital aspect of the shirt’s charm, but I see much more. To me, the shirt provides a visual representation of the layers of meaning bound up in the idea of Obama: Obama is simultaneously loved and hated; insider and outsider; respectful and brash; patriotic and rebellious; hero and anti-hero; respectable negro and “bad nigger.”

Because I see what I want to see in it, the shirt is a metaphor (meta-metaphor?) for President Obama.


1.) in the process of writing this, I came across several helpful pieces. Two in particular stand out: the Vince Carter entry in the new Freedarko book and blacksnob’s photo essay on the shirt.)

2.) I just realized that Undrcrwn also produces this Obama- as-Ali knocking out McCain-as-Sonny Liston shirt. Maybe I'll take another 3 months to write this one up.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Chauncey DeVega says: Not So Strange Bedfellows--of Middle School Slavery and College Blackface Parties

Last week, in a moment of enlightened and inspired teaching, a Social Studies teacher at Haverford Middle School in White Plains, New York decided to bind the hands and feet of two black students. She then placed these two young girls under a table in an effort to evoke the horrors of the Middle Passage. Quite predictably, this incident has been the focus of much outrage and anger. The parents of the two students are upset because their children were humiliated. The local chapter of the NAACP is urging action because this teacher's actions reek of racial insensitivity. Pundits, critics, and other observers are disturbed that the teacher has not been dismissed. Not surprisingly, to the school board and the teacher, what happened was a "simple misunderstanding."

In hindsight, the fact that a white teacher would feel empowered to bind the hands and feet of two black children in a reenactment of slavery is not surprising. Every year, at colleges and universities across the United States, we witness a predictable parade of "Crossing the Border," "Hip Hop Gangsta'," and "Ghetto Thuggin'" parties. In the latter two events, white college students perform a spectacle of "authentic" "blackness" where they don black face, drink from 40-ounce malt liquor bottles, and cathartically exercise, through a perverse type of wish fulfillment, their imagined understandings of "black" personhood—a range of humanity conveniently reduced to the stereotypical binaries of either being "ghetto," or "gangsta."

While at other events, these same often privileged and entitled white students crawl under barbed wire and "cross the border" to enter "Mexican" themed parties, where in costume these students drink tequila, dance to "Hispanic" music, and perform their own versions of brown face minstrelsy. Collectively, under the guise of celebration, these parties reflect the particular ugliness of a twisted white supremacy, mated with a deep racial bigotry. While the teacher at Haverford Middle School incident would reject any comparisons, she and the students who host and attend these nouveau minstrel parties share an important trait: a profound lack of empathy and sympathy for their fellow citizens, generally and for people of color, specifically.

As we reflect on these incidents, I would suggest that this collective lack of empathy and sympathy should be the primary focus of our shared offense (as opposed to some general sense of protest) because in an age of color-blind and ostensibly "post-racial" politics, racial inequality is given life through a politics of benign neglect and an unwillingness to relate in a deep and meaningful way to one's fellow citizens across the color line.

For example, the Social Studies teacher at Haverford Middle School who symbolically transformed her two students into chattel for the purposes of a teachable moment chose not to reflect on how her actions could damage the self-esteem and psychic well-being of the students in her class. She also chose not to ask herself how it would feel if her sons or daughters were placed in a similarly untenable situation. Likewise, the college students who participate in these 21st century minstrel parties also make a convenient choice that avoids critical self-reflection. Akin to the teacher above, the college students in question remain the subject. Accordingly, they do not imagine themselves as the object of these crude acts.

Because of their lack of empathy and sympathy, the parties to these incidents also shift responsibility to the victim. To them, the real evil is a hypersensitivity to racial offense on the part of the aggrieved parties. Predictably, this reversal will involve a common appeal to "playing the race card" where race and racial animus are injected into these incidents, as opposed to being present in the forefront as necessary and sufficient conditions. This transferal of responsibility to the victim, to the object of this bigoted behavior, is one of the primary ways that a lack of empathy and sympathy functions between individuals and across communities. In total, it immunizes individuals from responsibility and a sense of communal obligation.

As noted legal scholar Lani Guinier and others have argued, we need to move beyond a rationale where individuals see it as politically expedient to ignore the struggles and needs of their fellow citizens. Moreover, I would argue that to overcome the economic, social, and political challenges presently facing the United States we must, and in fact should, move beyond being strangers to one another. Ultimately, these trying times necessitate a sense of shared empathy and linked fate.

It is ironic that despite the poor judgment involved in the slavery reenactment at Haverford Middle School, this incident remains a teachable moment. Through forcing a reconsideration of our relationships to others, we can grow and ask ourselves, "What if those were my children? If so, how would I feel?" "If I were a child and treated so callously, what would be the effects on my emotions, heart, and mind?"

From this beginning, we can move forward to other questions: "How would I feel if those were my children struggling to achieve in a poor or under-resourced school?" "What would I do, if it were me, instead of my neighbor, who lost his or her job?" "How is the fight for a living wage, also a fight for my standard of living as well?" "What would I do if I were homeless? How would I help myself?" "Who would help me?" "How would I feel if the United States government prohibited me from loving and marrying whomever I so chose?" Some would likely object that power makes one immune to a sense of shared sympathy and empathy—that those who benefit from that en vogue, increasingly empty, catch-all phrase, "white privilege" cannot understand the racial Other. Maybe more generally, the powerful will not and cannot relate to the less powerful, the outsider. Indeed, perhaps we are in fact victims of historical myopia and are doomed by a limited capacity to empathize with our fellow citizens.

Certainly, we do not live in a post-racial moment where race no longer matters. Undoubtedly, race still does real work in structuring our life chances—and it will continue to do so long into, and after, Barack Obama's presidency. However, as Obama's victory demonstrated, economic self-interest trumped racial prejudice for some voters. If we are lucky, perhaps this "enlightened" self-interest will counter-intuitively push us closer to finding a set of collective solutions to shared problems.

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 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:

Star Wars

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

From Time Magazine: Laughter is Contagious--So Let's Spread Some Saturday Cheer

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:

Laugh and the World Laughs with You

by Alice Park

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.

That's the conclusion of researchers from Harvard and the University of California at San Diego, who report in the British Medical Journal online that happiness spreads among people like a salubrious disease. Dr. Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler studied nearly 5,000 people and their more than 50,000 social ties to family, friends and co-workers, and found that an individual's happiness is chiefly a collective affair, depending in large part on his or her friends' happiness — and the happiness of their friends' friends, and even the friends of their friends' friends. The merriment of one person, the researchers found, can ripple out and cause happiness in people up to three degrees away. So if you're happy, you increase the chance of joy in your close friend by 25%; a friend of that friend enjoys a 10% increased chance. And that friend's friend has a 5.6% higher chance...

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...