Monday, December 29, 2008

Chauncey DeVega says: A Gift Giving Guide for Less than Respectable Children Everywhere



Christmas may have passed, but our love of gift giving continues. Last week, I highlighted gifts that should not be given to respectable young negro boys and girls this holiday season. Never wanting to be accused of favoritism, I also care deeply about our young ign't boys and girls and would never want those less than respectable negro boys and girls to be left out the holiday season. These young people have special needs. Their lifestyle and culture should be respected. Our children, all of them, be they 'hood, ign't, or "ghetto underclass" should have their unique values nourished and encouraged. In the spirit of the holidays, We are Respectable Negroes brings you the following guide:

Holiday Gifts for Less than Respectable Boys and Girls

1. Sitting on 22's or The Ghetto Dreidle

Hip hop has had a profound influence on American (black) popular culture. Wealth, women, violence, luxury goods, and consumerism are the core values on display in commercial hip hop. Because hip hop is a fantastical canvas for ghetto wish fulfillment, the absurd is the norm in a type of carnivalesque performance of black masculinity. Big things, be they big cars, big money, big houses, or big diamonds are signifiers of success in this imaginary. Because young ign'ts take commercial hip hop as THE barometer of life success, they should be socialized into this lifestyle as early in life as possible. Our solution: the ghetto dreidle. This toy will entertain young ign't children for hours on end. For preteens, spinning the ghetto dreidle implants a subliminal message of economic and social uplift at an early age. For older children, the ghetto dreidle is a literal symbol of, and encouragement towards, the good life. While they may have started out life with only one 22 inch ghetto dreidle, it will impress upon young ign't children an irrepressible drive to "earn" 3 more rims...and the luxury car to put them on.

2. Scarface

Many ign't communities are struggling because of an absence of morally responsible and economically productive men. Because of the prison industrial complex, poor life choices that see many young men of color murdered or otherwise removed from the labor market (and the domestic sphere), single parent, female headed homes are increasingly the norm. These strong women need help. It is a profound injustice that young ign't women, women who have already been victimized by the young ign't men of their communities, should have to raise children alone. Adding an additional layer of complexity to this problem is that a lack of male role models in these communities is synergistic: single parent, female headed households are more likely to be under the poverty line, and this lack of resources may lead young ign't men to join gangs or to otherwise participate in the "underground" economy. These young men are also significantly more likely to be incarcerated and to father children out of wedlock, thus perpetuating the baby mama drama to prison pipeline.

To interrupt this cruel cycle, I suggest that a DVD of the movie Scarface be placed in every young ign't boy's stocking this year because Tony Montana, the movie's lead character, is a perfect role model for the hyper competitive and often violent world that many young ign't boys will eventually find themselves in as adults. The movie's motto, "the world is yours" will encourage young people to be successful. If baby daddy isn't in your ign't child's life, simply place Scarface on perpetual repeat in the background of his room while he sleeps to ensure that your young ign't internalizes the sum total of wisdom offered by this classic film:



When used with older children, Scarface can function as a surrogate father where during difficult parenting moments ign't mothers can simply skip to the appropriate section of the movie for some of Tony Montana's wisdom--if mom is especially ambitious she can use the life size cardboard standup that can be purchased with the special edition of the DVD. In short, Tony Montana as Scarface is the perfect surrogate father for the holiday season--and for every day thereafter.

3. A Cell Phone with Unlimited Texting and 500 Ringtones

Young ign't boys and girls, as well as their suburban counterparts, love cell phones. This generation texts when it drives, they text when they are sad, they text when they are happy, they text in the toilet, they text helicopter parents after exams...you get the point. Ironically, young ign't boys and girls are amazingly proficient at text messaging yet continue to score poorly on standardized tests of writing and reading. Quite an irony me thinks. Random thought: apparently, this generation is confusing the abbreviated grammar of texting with the wording and explication required for proper essay and research paper writing. And yes, language does in fact evolve, but it would be really funny to see a sentence diagram that included text-speak. Would the grammar be the same? How would it change?

In addition to creating confusion and consternation among those who adhere to the rules of the king's English, the cell phone has brought another plague upon the land, the insufferable ringtone. It could be Soulja Boy, Lil Wayne, T.I., T-Pain, Shop Boyz, Flo Rida, Rick Ross, or some of other crapper, but the ringtone has become an invaluable revenue source for commercial crap rappers with some 270 million tones sold in 2007. The ring tone is the new arms race among ign't youth. As much a necessity as the latest overpriced NBA cross-branded sneakers, young ign'ts must have the latest, "greatest" ringtone to rep for their favorite artist, and to get the young female ign't whom they would like to win the baby mama jackpot with.

The perfect gift for the young ign't in your life? a cell phone loaded with 500 ringtones and an unlimited text package. All day and all night, the favorite ign't child (or manchild/baby boy) in your life, can walk around the house and/or hold down the block while playing his ringtones and texting to his "peeps" and "fam."

4. The Maury Povich Baby Mama and Baby Daddy Game of Life

Ign't young people face many perils on the road to adulthood. Unfortunately, one of the most common obstacles faced by young ign'ts is premarital sex and teenage pregnancy. The Maury Povich Baby Mama and Baby Daddy Game of Life will improve your child's decision making skills as they face this inevitable challenge. To accomplish this goal, the game integrates artistic, critical thinking, and strategy skills. To play, your child rolls a pair of 6 sided dice in order to move their game piece around the board. Designed for play by 2 boys and 2 girls, the goal of the game for young male ign'ts is to avoid responsibility while impregnating the female players--all the while pinning responsibility on the other male players. For young female ign'ts, the goal of the game is to place responsibility for your child on the baby daddy with the most resources. Young girls can also win by earning the trifecta--section 8; child support; and by drawing the rare, paternity test card that allows her to name one of the male players as the baby daddy. This innovative game is full of many exciting twists and turns such as:

1. the "Momma's Baby Boy" card which protects her little "angel" from responsibility card (the male player's mother grants her son several rounds of immunity from any "attacks" by the female player(s));
2. the "You're Going to Jail" card (pulling this card is actually a positive as it protects male players from responsibility for several rounds of play);
3. the "You Are a Guest on Maury" card where ign't girls do their best to convince the audience that baby daddy X is in fact the biological father of said baby:




If an ign't boy draws this card, he enters the "You Are Not the Baby's Father" round. Here, young ign't boys get a chance to shine as they dance to one of the pre-recorded songs included with the game:



The Maury Povich Baby Mama and Baby Daddy Game of Life is a must have for any young ign't boy or girl. It entertains, educates, and provides practical guidance for overcoming the challenges which ign't children and teens will be forced to confront as they grow into adulthood. The Maury Povich Baby Mama and Baby Daddy Game of Life is also an amazing value. In a limited time offer, this wonderful game includes a gift certificate for the newest Maury product, Fat Babies Everywhere!

Friday, December 26, 2008

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




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

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

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

1. Sun-Man

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

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

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



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

2. "Positive" Hip Hop

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

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



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

3. Serious Reading Material

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas To All of You



Although it isn't a Christmas standard, this song perfectly captures the holiday season of 2008:



Be thankful for what you got--friends, family, a warm home, food in the refrigerator, and your health...because so many of us can't say that this holiday season.

And of course:



Peace and Love.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Chauncey DeVega says: My Worst Christmas Gifts Ever or A Whole Lot of Crap Under the Christmas Tree



Let's continue with our Christmas glee--I seem like a bit of a Grinch this week with good reason (damn weather!), but trust me, things are going to take a positive turn in the next few days.

I have had some great Christmases. My parents always sacrificed in order to get me the things I wanted. As an only child I was a bit spoiled and a bit of a brat, but I never went without--and for that I am forever grateful to my parents. This qualifier aside, I have, like kids everywhere, been a victim of toy malpractice. Yes, it hurts. Yes, I have a great deal of pain because of this violation. Now, I am ready to take back my life by sharing my pain.

Behold my (much amended) list of worst gifts ever, in no particular order.

1. Imperial Attack Base/Hoth Base

I am a believer in the power of the Force. I have probably seen the Star Wars trilogies thousands of times. With great expectation and excitement I would watch USA Network's Star Wars marathon. While watching Luke, Leia, Han and the rest of my familiar Star Wars family, I would stage epic battles with my Star Wars toys. You see, I had planned out my Star Wars purchases months in advance with the help of my handy Sears catalog--oh the glee and excitement of the Sear's Wishbook cannot be put into words--and Christmas morning was the culmination of those dreams. But, sometimes these dreams went horribly array and became the stuff of epic disappointment. Hoth. Can I say it again? Hoth, the ice base, the planet where our erstwhile heroes constructed their secret rebel base. Hoth, or as Kenner Toys labeled it, "the Imperial Attack Base" was also one of the worst Star Wars toys ever made. It seems that in their greed the geniuses at Kenner toys convinced themselves that a piece of white plastic with an "exploding" wall should retail for 50 dollars. Oh yeah, it featured a "special" laser cannon that actually "fired." Sure. A piece of white plastic for 50 bucks. 'Nuff said, as my imagination and some white Styrofoam could do far better.

2. Photon Lazer



The idea of chasing your friends around with a laser pistol and shooting them was perfect in its simplicity: it was the maturation of tag, a way to shoot your friends, play soldier, and actually live the future in the present. Remember, this was before the rise in popularity of paintball, and Laser Tag was the closest you could get to the U.S. Army's MILES training system. Thus, its popularity assured among ghetto geeks like myself. It was bliss...in theory. The game was overpriced and rarely worked. There were additional complications. Laser Tag had a competitor named Photon Lazer. The rival product was more sophisticated technologically--and it also had the obligatory Saturday morning cartoon to sell its indispensability to we young ghetto nerds. I thought I was ahead of the curve. "Those dummies had Laser Tag," I thought to myself. "Behind the curve, fools they were ." Well, my friends got the last laugh on me.

You see, Photon Lazer, like Laser Tag, required that you had 1) more than one gun and 2) friends who were willing to play the game. Unfortunately, I had neither. Here is your visual: a young ghetto nerd shooting using his Photon Lazer for target practice in his mom's living room. And no, I never did convince anyone else to buy a Photon Lazer. Sad, so very, very, sad.

3. Cabbage Patch Preemies



No, I didn't play with dolls. I proudly preferred the Smurfs. Regardless of gender, the Cabbage Patch Kids were a fixture of the Reagan 80's with its unrepentant consumerism and capitalism run amok. The Cabbage Patch Kids were evil, foul creatures which drove their parents to all levels of madness. They were American Girl before American Girl, and without the bourgeois, new money faux manners on the part of the parents sent out to obtain these perfect little bits of Americana for their children. Blows would be rained down on rival parents, riots would erupt, and all manner of evil committed in order to obtain these scarce goods. George Costanza's father was indeed right, there has to be another way:



Not afraid to leverage the socio-political anxieties and energies of the moment, the manufacturers of the Cabbage Patch Kids felt no limit to their greed. To that end, in order to broaden their market share they inaugurated a new line of kids, "the Preemies." Yes, little crack babies who were designed with the intention of taking advantage of the fear generated by the crack epidemic and the Drug Wars of the 1980's. Yes, you too could have a crack baby right in your own home! But, one without the emotional and developmental issues a real crack baby may have. Random fact: did you know that crack babies have grown up to be functional adults? And that there is a journal/magazine dedicated to their particular issues and concerns?

The Cabbage Patch mongers were not content to leverage the crack market, their greed demanded that they deploy the allure of Satanism and New Age spirituality to fatten their wallets. Accordingly, the Cabbage Patch Kid doll line was expanded to included the Koosas, freakish, half-man, half-animal creatures, that would wag their tales to bring your children luck:



Hmmmm...sounds mighty suspicious to me. These Koosas seem more like familiars than pets. Random fact number 2: did you know that it was rumored that the Reagan administration and the Department of Defense were secretly behind the odd looking facial features common to the Cabbage Patch Kid dolls? Apparently, the Cabbage Patch Kids were designed to look like human mutants who had been exposed to the fallout from a nuclear war. Brilliant and efficient: use toys to desensitize children to what life would be like in the pale radioactive glow of an inevitable Mad Maxesque future. Cabbage Patch Kids were evil. Cabbage Patch Kids were frightening. Cabbage Patch Kids forever belong on any list of worst ever toys.

4. The Action Max "video game" Console



If there was a Hague Tribunal for crimes against childhood and toy humanity, the Action Max would receive the death penalty because never has the trust of so many children been taken advantage of for such nefarious purposes (you thought I was going to make a pedophile priest joke huh? I am not so crass). The Action Max used skillful marketing and the trusting innocence of young people to convince them that it was the second coming. The commercial pushed all of the right buttons-it was inspired by Top Gun; we could live out our jingoistic fantasies; it had amazing action and lifelike graphics; and one of the Action Max's new titles was based on the movie Blue Thunder. The realism of the graphics should have triggered our caveat emptor impulse, otherwise known as the buyer beware reflex:



If we were were brighter we would have asked ourselves, "How could such graphics be produced on a video game console of this era?" "Why does it look so real?" The answer: the graphics were produced by a videotape. You see, the Action Max was a glorified VCR. You would play a tape which featured "targets," i.e. overexposed sections of the picture that you would shoot with your light gun. Did I forget to tell you that there was a manual counter that you had to reset by hand, and the light gun required you to affix a bright red "sensor" on the television screen? Of course, the sensor would fall off after five minutes of play requiring you to reaffix it. The Action Max was the crown jewel of my Christmas for about thirty minutes. In the days to follow, I would occasionally take it out because I reasoned I must be doing something wrong as no company would produce such a piece of garbage. I was wrong. Action Max is my most craptastic Christmas gift ever.

What are some of your horror stories? Would you like to share so we can have some group therapy? What did Black Peter, or your otherwise well meaning parents, give you for Christmas that to this day leaves a sour taste in your mouth?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Chauncey DeVega says: Black Peter, Santa Claus, and Some Christmas Cheer for You Bad, Bad Grown-Ups Everywhere



The Black Israelites are always a source of great amusement--and their energy is oh so fitting for any reflection on Black Peter. Random thought: don't the Black Israelites in Time's Square look like Power Rangers?

Last week, moms and I were talking about the much discussed trampling death of a Walmart employee in Long Island, New York.

When I told her the details of this horrible incident, how folks were laughing at a dying man, and refusing to evacuate the ill fated store, she blurted out "Black Peter got 'em!"

"What?" I answered to my mother's observation. "Who the hell is Black Peter?" I replied. At the time, I thought she was just being silly.

Mom answered, "Black Peter is Santa's slave, and he makes black people act like damn fools."

Hmmmm, I thought to myself, me being the inquisitive type, and one always eager to add to my mental Rolodex of useless information, this could make for some interesting research.

It turns out that Black Peter exists...real in a manner akin to how Santa Claus is also "real."

Historically, Christmas is a pagan holiday, with little to do with Christ's birth. Accordingly, it incorporates many trappings taken from other belief systems, read: non-Christian, druid and animist traditions. These borrowed symbols and practices include the yule log, hanging Christmas stockings, the Christmas Tree, and December 25th itself (this date , originally a pagan high holiday, was chosen as Christ's "birthday" in order to improve the appeal of this "new" faith to converts). Santa Claus, or as the Dutch and Northern Europeans call him, Saint Nicholas, is also one of these borrowed traditions.

The original Saint Nicholas (as opposed to that red suit wearing character popularized by Coca-Cola in the 1930's) was a noble soul who hands out gifts and assorted goodies to children everywhere. And no, he wasn't like Bad Santa:



This tall, handsome, gentle, white man was an amalgamation of the original Saint Nicholas who was a Bishop in what is now the country of Turkey, as well as Germanic "gods" such as Odin. Black Peter appears in multiple configurations in these mythologies. For the "original" Saint Nicholas, Peter is a freed slave who is so grateful to the good Bishop for his manumission that he pledges his loyalty to Saint Nicholas for all times (think of Chewbacca's life debt to Han Solo). For the Northern European version of Saint Nicholas, and this is much more compelling and disturbing, Black Peter is a demon, or perhaps the devil himself. Saint Nicholas journeyed to the netherworld, and through the force of his goodness and belief in the Lord, beat and subdued the devil. Saint Nicholas then enslaved him. Fittingly, the devil's new duties would include carrying Nicholas's bag of toys, assisting in his workshop, and punishing boys and girls who were naughty as opposed to being nice.

As time progressed, the figure of Black Peter would take on new affects. Fittingly, as Europe encountered the Moors, Arabs, and Southern Europeans, the figure would morph into a "devious" Spanish pirate. Next, and one cannot forget the role of the Dutch in the Transatlantic/global institution of slavery and Imperialism, Black Peter would change again into either an "indian" or a black slave. In the latter depiction, Black Peter would don tattered rags, chains, and have a hunched over back from carrying Saint Nicholas's bag.

Black Peter is also tasked with punishing those children whom have not met Saint Nicholas's high standards of moral, upright behavior. Apparently, old Black Peter beats "naughty" children with a stick or throws coal at them. One more reason that I love classic children's fables: these stories speak to the often deeply violent, and punitive aspects of parent and child relationships, as well as to the perilous and unfair nature of life (read Humpty Dumpty again and tell me that there isn't something deeply disturbing about that story).

Of course, in these politically correct times some try to insist that Black Peter is just black and dark from all the soot he is inevitably covered with from going up and down the many chimneys on old Saint Nicholas's Chrismas Eve route. Others, predictably assail any comparison of Black Peter to race minstrelsy as the demonstrations and complaints of overly sensitive killjoys.

Maybe Black Peter doesn't literally make black people act like fools. Perhaps, he isn't even a slave. Hell, maybe Black Peter is just dirty from going up and down chimneys--but then again isn't chimney cleaning an example of the "nigger work" that White ethnics as "free labor" railed against on their way to earning whiteness? Black Peter and old Saint Nick are still with us because they can be fit and molded to the times; given the perilous economy which we are experiencing, and the callous behavior that inevitably accompanies the holidays, maybe Black Peter really did cause those black fools at Walmart to kill that poor man.

It would be both fitting and ironic if Black Peter in his 21st century incarnation is now tasked with making Americans trample and kill each other for an opportunity to buy discounted blu-ray DVD players and other imported crap made in Chinese factories and sold at Walmart. Black Peter may not need coal or a stick to punish little boys and girls because now he yields credit card debt, a devalued dollar, and evaporating 401ks while stoking our greed.

It seems that Black Peter doesn't want little boys and girls--he has moved up in the world, changed his game, and raised the stakes. Instead, Black Peter has decided to punish mommy and daddy because grown-up boys and girls make better sport.

Black Peter, old school slave with a bag of coal and a big stick whuppin' mom and dad's butts--quite a visual, and one that is actually quite fitting in these troubled times.

Respectable Negro bonus alert: the always incomparable Dallas Penn's post, "BLACK PETE IS THE O.G. CHRISTMAS NIGGA (Zwarte Piet ReMix)"

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Some Christmas Week Plans



Happy holidays respectable negroes and our friends. This week we are going to be doing a few different things in between our travels to, from, and across these frozen United States.
Our holiday posts will include a gift guide for respectable negro boys and girls (and for those somewhat less than respectable), some reflections on Black Peter aka Santa Claus's slave, a breakdown of the best and worst X-mas gifts from our childhoods, and an expose on the "dark side" of that new classic, A Christmas Story.

Enjoy and have a safe, fun holiday.

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 ├ža 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.

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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:
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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.

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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?

WARNNN: Huh?

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 break...open 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?

WARNNN: No.

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:

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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...

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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.


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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.


Conclusion:

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.


Post-script:

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.