Saturday, January 10, 2009

Saturday Night Snow Bound Fun: Popular Culture Week and Confessions of a Superhero

Next week we are featuring a series of posts on popular culture (some reviews for the movie the Wrestler, and Grand Torino, as well as the comic book series the Walking Dead; a guest post on the 10 best war films ever made; and Gordon Gartrelle's list of the worst black sitcoms) as a way of de-stressing prior to the election.

To start off pop culture week, we bring you the film Confessions of a Superhero. This work is a wonderful and fun documentary on 4 mere mortals who make their livings impersonating characters such as Superman, the Hulk, Batman, and Wonder Woman. And you get it in its entirety... something to pass the time on this snow filled weekend.

You can't say we never give you anything for free!

Chauncey Devega's World of Ghetto Nerds: Patrick Swayze You are Hereby Inducted as an Honorary Respectable Negro

Bless you, Patrick. We Respectable Negroes and ghetto nerds salute you, your courage, and your honor. You are one badass White man and we are fortunate to have known you through your movies and interviews. May you be victorious in battle:


Friday, January 9, 2009

For the first time in 40 years, Kryptonians of color

Respectable Negroes can thank either Will Smith or Barack Obama for this ...

For those keeping their eyes open, there was a welcome return in last week’s Superman #683 comic book (featuring 100,000 Kryptonians like Superman coming to earth) — non-white Kryptonians were clearly shown.

There had been some “squint and you can see them” individuals in group shots earlier in the storyline, but the Sergio Leone-style “showdown” page showed the Kryptonian-equivalent of Africans and Asians. (Preview of Superman #683 here.)
Big deal? Well, kind of. By and large, superheroes are still the domain of the idealized white man (and woman). For the character's first 30 years, Superman’s homeworld of Krypton was all-white. It was only in 1971 —33 years after Superman's debut in 1938 — that the first non-white Kryptonian was seen. A few months later, the idea of non-white Kryptonians was expanded upon.

“In issue #239, a two-page map showed that Kryptonians of color had an island all to themselves, which is pretty embarrassing,” says Mark Waid, Boom! Studios Editor-in-Chief, occasional DC Comics writer, and pretty much expert in all things Superman. “I cringe to tell you this, but the Kryptonians of Color were all on ‘Vathlo Island, Home of a Highly Advanced Black Race.’ It wasn't until the mid-70s, when more ‘World of Krypton’ back-up stories ran more regularly, that we really saw any ethnicity whatsoever on the planet.”

While he’s not sure of how exactly Krypton's population diversified, Waid figures that it had to do with E. Nelson Bridwell, the assistant on the Superman books at the time. “He took a special interest in ‘caretaking’ the history and fictional culture of Krypton,” Waid says. “More than anyone else who ever lived, Nelson knew that world.”

Much like other mono-cultural planets of the Golden Age of science fiction, Krypton was a product of its time. “A lack of ethnicity was an eror of omission, and I'm not sure given the time that it's fair to call that ‘racist,’” Waid says. Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, and all those who followed in crafting the Superman legend were, indeed, simply following the traditions of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, when one world always equaled one culture, maybe two if they were at war because the plot demanded it.

Remember, as absurd as this sounds in an America finally enlightened enough to elect a black man as President, the Civil Rights Act wasn't passed until 1964. The gradual recognition of all races and ethnicities across all of pop culture, comics included, really didn't start to blossom until the late 1960s.

Yes, Superman was weirdly late to that party — the first African-American even in a Superman story, and it's from the summer of 1970. But again, and not to make excuses, that delay was just creative inertia in action. After the start of a diverse Krypton in the early ‘70s, it was left up to creators and editors to make sure that Krypton was racially diverse, and it was occasionally shown to be — if the story allowed. Throughout its rather ignoble history, Vathlo Island remained undeveloped and unexplored by writers, which is both good and bad, probably. One interesting idea that was floated in the very brief mention of Vathlo in Krypton's history was that there was no slave trade on Krypton, which is why races didn't really mix — or at least why some of Jor-El's best friends weren't black.
More often than not though, the planet of Superman’s birth has been shown to be made up of just one race, even in crowd scenes. As a quick aside, "Smallville," an alternate retelling of Clark Kent's younger years on The WB/CW has shown Nam-Ek, a Kryptonian equivalent of African-American.

But with “New Krypton,” story architects Geoff Johns, James Robinson and Sterling Gates have been working to merge all aspects of Krypton that have been shown over the years, making all the visions and versions into a workable whole — including the fact that the planet was racially diverse — and hopefully without the segregation of Vathlo Island. Here's hoping for a more colorful Krypton.

Sarah Palin: A Wonderful Accident of History and a Gift to the American People

Sarah Palin, I would like to thank THE Lord (as well as the Lords of Kobol above) that your parents in a night of drunken Pabst Blue Ribbon, MGD, or Schlitz Malt Liquor induced love making conceived you on their shag carpet. The United States of America is blessed that you didn't leak down the side of your mother's leg after that night of coital bliss. Simply put: Sarah, you have done more for the people of America--by helping Barack Obama get elected--than almost any person in Obama's inner circle. Thank you.

My dear, you are an accident of history and we are blessed by this fact. You are political serendipity. You are a million dollars in the hand of a sleepy baby whose parents are drunk and unconscious in the corner of a casino.

Apparently, Sarah Palin explains in the new documentary How Obama Got Elected that the mainstream media was "biased" against her because she is of a "lower class." Also, Sarah believes that if she were a Democrat, that the mainstream media would have heaped praise upon her. Funny, as we posited in our alternative universe series of posts (what we playfully labeled "the Niggaro Universe") made during the summer, if Sarah were a Democrat, and God forbid, a Black woman (or either a Latina or Native American) the media's narrative would have been quite different.

Sarah, the reality which you misunderstand, is that you did get a pass from the mainstream press. Let's be clear, if you were Michelle Obama, given your life choices, the company you keep, and your grandmother status as a fortyish MILF, i.e. your grandmomma-baby mama-baby daddy drama, Alaskan secessionist husband and other assorted PWT attributes, you would have been skewered thrice over. Sarah, if you were a woman of color you would have been cast as Ronald Reagan's welfare queen version 2.0. You dodged a bullet. Revel in this truth.

Accordingly, I bring to you a well-timed We Are Respectable Negroes flashback:

The Niggaro Universe Proclaims: Sarah Palin--A Radical, Welfare Queen Who is Out-of-Touch with Mainstream America

****Because of the hole in the space time continuum created by the Large Hadron Collider, the Niggaro Universe has overwritten the universe of We Are Respectable Negroes. Scientists are diligently working to correct this problem, and it should be rectified in the next few days. For now, because of the influence of this alternate reality things are changed. Our Barack Obama is now "Barack O'Bama," a white Republican, Sarah Palin is a black Democrat, Joe Biden is Joe Biden but just a Republican, and John McCain is a maverick, Democratic populist. Zora, Gordon, and Chauncey have been replaced by their doppelgangers from the Niggaro Universe. They are the same, yet different. If you too have been changed by the disruption of the space time continuum do not feel obligated to resist. Instead, indulge your new self until this Crisis on Negro Earths is remedied****

The face of Sarah Palin has grinned from the cover of every major news publication since she was announced as the Democratic, vice-presidential nominee. That she is clearly supported by the liberal media shows once again how out of touch they are with mainstream American values. What is the basis of their support? Palin’s speech at the Democratic convention showed little more than that she is photogenic and adept with words. What do we really know about Sarah Palin?

While there is little known about Sarah Palin’s career before she formally entered politics, we do know that she spent significant time as a “community organizer” for an extremist, Christian fundamentalist sect. A former Catholic with a history of marijuana use and a record of dating strippers, Palin was converted to the evangelical perspective by a boyfriend when she was a teenager. Her academic records indicate that she was kicked out of four community colleges across several states for poor academic performance and for behavioral issues related to religious intolerance. She finally managed to get a degree in Communications from the University of Idaho through their fast-track, affirmative action program.

Those who are close to Palin share that she married her husband, Todd Palin, when she found herself pregnant with their first child. While Palin has consistently described herself as “a strong, black woman,” it seems that she had no problem turning to the state for welfare handouts while her husband demonstrated his own lack of ambition by spending his days fishing and playing basketball. Palin’s affirmative action education proved useless in helping her find meaningful employment.

Sarah Palin came to the attention of Democratic operatives in her home state of Alaska when her welfare benefits were eventually cut off. Outraged, she demanded that the state support her pro-choice perspective to have more babies than she and her husband were able to support. In asserting her sense of entitlement, she proved herself able to rally the support of others who shared her radical views. Democrats saw an opportunity in Wasilla’s growing evangelical community and tapped Palin to run in the town’s mayoral election. Even Democrats, however, were surprised when she won.

As mayor, Palin quickly found that the most lucrative welfare benefits to be had were in the form of government earmarks designed to circumvent the merit-based allocation process and curtail the ability of the Executive Branch to properly manage funds. Palin took the title of “Welfare Queen” to an all new level when she secured record level earmarks for her cronies. The Democratic leadership found her to be more useful than they had ever imagined and began making long-term plans for her. Leaders within her extremist, Christian sect also found Palin to be useful. Believing that he had a direct line of communication to God, Palin adopted Pastor Kalnins as both her religious counselor and her political adviser. Pastor Kalnins and other sect leaders were able to mobilize a voting block for Palin by preaching that their members would be condemned to” a lake of burning fire” if they did not cast their vote for her. (It is reported that one of Palin’s early election slogans was Cast Your Vote for Palin or Be Cast Into Hell!)

Sarah Palin made history on Dec. 4, 2006, when she took office as the first African-American woman to hold the position of state governor. Since taking office, her top priorities have been what she has termed “resource development.” It turns out that this is just a fancy phrase for milking the federal government and directing resources to her pet projects. Others like her include Marion Berry and Kwame Kilpatrick. While Berry and Kilpatrick were eventually exposed for the ghetto figure-heads that they were, Palin has been able to effectively fuse her minority status together with her gender to create a protective shroud against criticism. Comments pointing out the truth are rallied back as sexist and racist. This tactic is so successful that the Democratic presidential nominee is now using her as his personal mouth piece. In spite of her new status as a media darling, Sarah Palin is simply a fast talker who can’t be trusted.

Sarah Palin touts herself as a leader with “executive” experience. Even if we set aside the fact that she defers to a store-front preacher with no political background and that her rise in politics was the result of an affirmative action fast track, there is still the matter of her family. Throughout her personal pursuit of political gain, she has given birth to no less than five children. It seems that family planning and personal responsibility are basics that Palin has chosen to ignore.

Palin’s oldest son and daughter carry the sins of their mother – Hezekiah is addicted to crack and La’Shawnda is unmarried and pregnant. Not surprisingly, Palin has expressed not an ounce of shame about her children’s difficulties. Instead, she is parading her daughter’s “baby daddy” on the national stage with claims that marriage is imminent. (Insiders report that the “baby daddy” was actually threatened with physical violence by elders within Palin’s religious sect if he refused to participate in the current sham.) Unwilling to help her son through his addiction, Palin has made Hezekiah the government’s problem by forcing him to join the military.

The saddest and most shameful of all is Palin’s neglect of her youngest child, Pooty. Born with developmental disorders, Pooty Palin has been left to the care of his oldest sister while Palin selfishly pursues political power and her husband hangs out on the corner with his basketball “homeboys.” Palin’s short comings as a mother clearly reflect what we can expect from her as one of our nation’s top leaders.

Although we know painfully little about the real Sarah Palin, what we do know is enough to make us all tremble at the thought of her representing the American people. Sarah Palin is an extremist figure who does not reflect our values as a nation.

Sarah Palin? Welfare Queen, yes. American Vice-President, absolutely not!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Oscar Grant was Murdered by a BART Police Officer

Oscar Grant was murdered by a police officer on New Year's Day. Read it aloud, and do not use a "euphemism" such as: killed, shot, or an accidental victim of gun discharge. Say it with emphasis one more time, "Oscar Grant was murdered by a police officer on New Year's Day."

In the age of Obama, the more things change, more they stay the same.

I wonder how many excuses the Right Wing police fanboys and knee jerk reactionaries will make to explain the logic behind shooting a person who has surrendered and is already subdued.

Maybe it was magic? Perhaps, young black men have a special gene or mutant power that makes guns spontaneously activate and shoot them...some sort of suicide by cop evolutionary adaptation.

Sad, very sad.

Let's see how Fox News and the others spin this one. And let's see how fast this murderous cop, who has already resigned, has his trial moved to the suburbs, and a narrative is inevitably generated where the BART killer is valorized as some type of "victim."

Again, sad, so very very sad.

Random and final thought: I do hope the Grant family gets a better attorney--one who understands that it is not proper form to appear on television while wearing a hooded sweatshirt. Moreover, and that it is doubly inappropriate while wearing said attire to discuss the murder of a client.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

6 Year Old Boy Misses Bus Drives Mom's Car to School: I Must Ask, Is He a Black Ign't or Poor White Trash?

Yes, I said poor white trash. Laugh, don't be upset. I know what you are thinking, for our purposes of nomenclature, ign't is universally reserved for less than respectable negroes, while white ign'ts are referred to as PWT, i.e. poor white trash, or Caucasian sub-human.

Perhaps, this is the Latarian Milton plague run amok. I have two thoughts on the matter. One, it could be that the media is now primed to pay attention to stories about badass kids driving cars now that brother Latarian Milton has become popular. Two, the other possibility is that more children are now stealing cars and driving because of Latarian's example.

I have to ask: is this a white ign't or a black ign't? What do the clues tell us? I vote PWT aka Caucasian sub-human. Why? Let me share my inductive reasoning:

1. There was no interview or picture of the family. White folk tend to hide their shame, while ign'ts revel in it and grant interviews;

2. The child is driving a 2005 Taurus. This is a rather pedestrian vehicle. The fact that the car is only 3 years old implies it was purchased new. Ign'ts lease the most current SUV available and then have it repossessed within a year;

3. The child was desperate to go to school. He didn't drive around the 'hood. He knew that school was a good place because it had phys ed and breakfast. White ign't children know the value of an education;

4. The mother fell asleep and both kids were taken by child protective services. I propose that mom was tweaking on meth, the State found a house in utter disrepair, and it is in rural Virginia. These factors equal meth country. And, mom is white because ign'ts are not doing meth...yet;

5. Mom was named Jacqulyn and this could be a curve ball. Yes, the name is sufficiently ign't and "creative," but to my ear it screams more Caucasian cave dweller/PWT, i.e. sort of like Daisy or Tripp or Bristol, than black ign't. I could be wrong, perhaps this is a black ign't married to a PWT family? My, the progress brought by the age of Obama;

What do you, my respectable negro friends and allies, think? Is this an ign't family, a PWT family, or something all together different?
What is the logic governing your conclusion?

The story follows:

Boy, 6, Misses Bus, Takes Mom's Car Instead

10-Mile Trip to Va. School Ends With Crash but Without Injury

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 7, 2009; A01

The word "miracle" can be overused. But when a 6-year-old boy drives a Ford Taurus for more than 10 miles, weaving in and out of oncoming traffic, slams into a utility pole and no one gets hurt, well, maybe miracle is appropriate.

That's what happened on Virginia's Northern Neck on Monday morning, when the first-grader missed his school bus and decided to drive his mom's car to elementary school so he wouldn't miss breakfast and PE, authorities said yesterday.

"It's a miracle that somebody didn't get killed," said Northumberland County Sheriff Chuck Wilkins, of the boy's drive along Northumberland Highway. "We're a rural area, but if we do have a rush hour, that's it."

The boy's parents were later arrested and charged with felony child endangerment. Wilkins said the father, David E. Dodson, 40, was under court order not to leave the 6-year-old and his 4-year-old brother alone with their mother, Jacqulyn D. Waltman, 26, at their home in the town of Wicomico Church. But Dodson left for work at 6:30 a.m., and Waltman was still asleep when the 6-year-old missed the bus and then drove off at 7:40 a.m. for Northumberland Elementary School, Wilkins said.

Sgt. Thomas A. Cunningham Jr. of the Virginia State Police said the boy is not particularly tall for his age and was "possibly standing" while driving the Taurus. Wilkins said the child had an idea about how to start, propel and steer the car from playing video games.

Once he got going, the boy navigated his way along Route 200 (Dupont Highway), across a bridge spanning the Great Wicomico River, and then turned west on Northumberland Highway, which is about 140 miles from Washington. He made it through two intersections, Wilkins said, and then was "doing a pretty great rate of speed" as he passed cars on the two-lane road while not wearing a seat belt.

Other drivers noticed. Two people called the sheriff's office, one called the state police, and at least one motorist "shouted at him to get off the road when he came to an intersection," Cunningham said.

The boy had gone 10.4 miles, the sheriff said, and was about a mile and a half from his school in Heathsville when he decided to cross the double line and pass again. But this time, he saw a tractor-trailer coming toward him in the other lane.

He quickly whipped the car back into his lane, but, unlike in video games, the car swerved out of control, skidded into an embankment and then struck a utility pole on the rear passenger side. Wilkins said the force of the impact cracked a wooden beam on top of the utility pole. The Taurus was severely damaged, if not totaled, Cunningham said.

Northumberland deputies Jeff VanLandingham and Roger Briney arrived first. "He was crying, hysterical," Briney said, "not from any pain -- he was just adrenalined up on fright." Briney said another motorist said she was driving 60 mph when the boy zoomed past her.

Briney said he unzipped the boy's coat to check for injuries, found none and zipped it back up -- and the boy turned and walked away. "I said, 'Where are you going?' " Briney said. "He said: 'My school's right over there. I'm late.' I said, 'We'll get you to school.' "

"He was just bound and determined," Wilkins said, "he did not want to miss breakfast and PE." The meal "may have been his primary goal," the sheriff said. The sheriff said the boy told him that he had trained on video games such as Grand Theft Auto and Monster Truck Jam.

The boy was taken to Rappahannock General Hospital, was released and was back in school for PE that afternoon. He was not identified because he is, well, 6. The boy and his brother were placed in foster care; his mother was in jail, officials said.

"We were just very blessed that it ended the way it did," said Theresa Larsen, assistant principal at the boy's school. Larsen said the school's principal, Arnette Butler, asked the boy, "What were you thinking?" He looked up and told her, "I just had to get to school."

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: the World War Z NPR Interview, the Walking Dead, and Zombie Goodness

I have read the zombie opus World War Z several times--in fact I have a copy autographed by the author, Max Brooks--he also signed my first volume of the Walking Dead graphic novel...don't you envy me? I also recommend that anyone who has read the book also buy the audio book. Yes, the audio book is that good as I have listened to it many, many times and never bore of it.

NPR did a great interview with Max Brooks where the zombie war is taken to be a real event. This NPR segment is both frightening and amazingly entertaining as the show is opened up to the audience, callers who should be commended for how seriously and introspectively they formulated and asked their questions. As I posted before, I can't wait to see the World War Z movie which is slated to be released in 2010. Next week, we will have more zombie goodness as I finally get around to reviewing the comic book series the Walking Dead--I have been thinking about this one for a long time, so please chime in as I believe this post will be worth the wait. Who knows? maybe I will in fact start the zombie themed website which, I as a ghetto nerd, have been long pondering. If this find success I will finally write my zombie novel if, fingers crossed, I can get an early committal from a publisher. Send a ghetto nerd some positive energy please cause he needs it!

Until then, enjoy.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Gordon Gartrelle Says: Black NBA Players, Your Charities Are Raggedy.

The Salt Lake Tribune recently featured a disheartening article about the failure of most NBA players’ charities.

I’ve included the most cringe-worthy excerpts below:

Among the findings of The Tribune's analysis of 89 stand-alone NBA player charities: Together, they reported revenue of at least $31 million between 2005 and 2007, but only about 44 cents of every dollar raised -- or $14 million of that $31 million -- actually reached needy causes. The average NBA player foundation put just 51 cents of each dollar it spent toward charitable programs, well below the 65 cents most philanthropic watchdog groups view as acceptable. Tax records show budgets are quickly eaten up by poor planning and administrative costs.

The Tribune's analysis also found that players commonly rely on family members instead of independent experts to staff their boards, in many cases, violating IRS rules intended to ensure adequate oversight. More than two-thirds of player-run foundations filing IRS forms between 2005 and 2007 had family members, friends or past sports associates on their boards. In several cases, the boards were made up entirely of family members. ''They are all illegal,'' said Marc Pollick, of the Giving Back Fund. ''The IRS just doesn't have the arms to go after everybody.

Player charities often hold annual lavish fundraising events that lose money or barely break even. Pollick at the Giving Back Foundation said these galas can turn into "fun-raisers instead of fundraisers.'' NBA free agent Robert Horry's Big Shot Foundation reported $206,086 in fundraising expenses for 2005, its first year of operation, but, according to tax returns, the efforts raised nothing. The year's tab included $38,000 in artist's fees; a total of $38,120 in building and venue rental; a $27,486 expenditure on an unitemized "commission"; $23,005 in food; $25,000 in golf course fees; $17,368 on hotels; along with other four-figure expenditures on a disc jockey, sound and lighting, trophies, video rental, logo shirts and security.

Retired NBA power forward Chris Webber's Foundation holds an annual star-studded poker and golf extravaganza at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, called C-Webb's Bada Bling. Now in its fourth year, the party is billed as "a celebrity weekend'' with a 56-star guest list including comedian Jamie Foxx and singer Gladys Knight. In 2006, the first year the event was held, party organizers reported spending $243,000 on catering and $327,561 on event production. The foundation also reported losing $530,590 on special events for the same year, tax returns show.

Though shining examples of NBA charity work abound --including noteworthy efforts by the five Jazz players, all of whom run effective charities -- player foundations' noble motives often go awry, as even the league acknowledges.

Why do the charities run by the Utah Jazz players have to be the most professionally run ones? (For those who don’t watch basketball, the Jazz has the reputation for being the whitest team in the league).

It’s not even that these players’ charities are failing—that can happen to the noblest, best run charities; it’s that they’re failing in stereotypically ign’ant black folk fashion.

Throwing lavish, flashy celebrity-centered parties that cost more than they make? Hiring unqualified family members to run what could be multi-million dollar organizations?

It’s one thing for degenerate black people to be raggedy, but when those who claim to be uplifting their communities—those aspiring to or living respectable negro lives—are raggedy, it’s just depressing.

Black ballers, tighten the fuck up.

A Younger, Pre-presidential Barack Obama Appears on the TV Show, "Check, Please! "

Bro'bama, of all Hyde Park eateries, why would you give a positive review to Dixie Kitchen? This restaurant's food is neither tasty nor especially well presented. Plus, they water down their drinks--and charge you for a full priced drink if you want them to add more tequila to an already weak margarita.

I hope this isn't the first in a deluge of restaurant reviews in which our new president gives other, even more questionable endorsements...if a video is unearthed with Barack Obama giving a thumbs up to Cedar's of Lebanon, I may have to exit stage left.

Brother, I hope that you exercise better judgment in your policy making than in your taste in restaurants.

But, Barack Obama was right about the power of those Johnny Cakes:

A New Feature for We Are Respectable Negroes: You Too Can Join Our Tribe

We have lots of fun and excitement planned for the upcoming weeks...and something a bit devious in mind to coincide with Barack Obama's inauguration.

As we begin the new year, we have also added a new feature on our sidebar where you can join us as "Members of the Respectable Negro Tribe." So please, one and all, respectable negroes, our friends, and those aspiring to be more respectable, come join our extended virtual family.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Chauncey DeVega says: Some New Year's Predictions for 2009

Another year has come and gone. The truism that time speeds up as we grow older does indeed feel least to this 30 something negro. For many years, one of my favorite New Year's eve activities (in addition to drinking, revelry, and all around debauchery) has been listening to the turn of the year special edition of the radio show, Coast to Coast AM.

This show is notable because 1) Art Bell, the original host of the show, leaves retirement, returns to the mic, and proceeds to share his unique brand of wit, insight, and seemingly infinite patience with the Coast to Coast AM family; and 2) the audience, with Art Bell's gentle encouragement, makes a range of predictions that are frightening because they all too often turn out to be both true and entertaining, while simultaneously being for the most part utterly ridiculous--yet delivered with the weight and sincerity of a religious proclamation.

Taking a cue from Art Bell's Coast to Coast AM, I bring you my mix of predictions--ridiculous, serious, prophetic, and absurd as they may be. In 2009 I predict that:

1. The party ends for Barack Obama, as the Blagojevich scandal lays bare the corrupt core of Chicago politics. Obama is dirtied as being "guilty by association," and the mainstream media--prodded by Right Wing talk radio and Fox News--make this one of their dominant memes for the first part of 2009.
2. The "N-word" was buried in 2008. 2009 will see funerals for racism and Black politics. Funeral plans for poverty, heterosexism, and general stupidity have yet to be announced.
3. Tom Brady will be forced to sit out the 2009 NFL season. Matt Cassel and the New England Patriots, enraged by missing the 2008 playoffs, begin a reign of terror in the NFL that ends with them winning the 2009 Superbowl. Tom Brady is traded to the Detroit Lions the following season.
4. The economic crisis of 2008 could result in two radically different outcomes. In the first scenario, America takes the lead in evolving capitalism forward: the result is a new Pax Americana. In the second scenario, the economic crisis results in a global Depression that lasts for at least 3 years. Tens of millions of Americans are made homeless and tent cities become a common sight across the country.
5. Oprah Winfrey, long dogged by rumors that Gail King, her longtime friend, is actually her lover, finally comes out of the closet when Gail, upset over Oprah's close relationship with Michelle Obama, threatens to release incriminating photos of her and Oprah in a post-coital embrace. Stedman releases a tell all book, "My Life as Oprah's Beard." The book stays atop the New York Time's best seller list for 52 weeks.
6. Al-Qaeda activates its sleeper cells and unleashes a coordinated attack on mass transit systems across the United States. Always evolving, Al-Qaeda uses white European women, many of them Chechens, to carry out the attacks.
7. A South American country, quite likely Brazil, suffers a Mumbai style attack, which leaves hundreds dead, and thousands injured.
8. In its last major policy act, the Bush administration orders a massive air strike on Iran's nuclear program and military infrastructure. Iran retaliates by ordering its Al Quds forces in Iraq to destabilize the nascent civilian government. The United States is forced to halt its withdrawal of forces from Iraq. In a Tet Offensive style assault, the Taliban launch a nationwide offensive against NATO forces in Afghanistan. NATO forces, stung by mounting casualties, begin to plan an imminent withdrawal from the country.
9. In an effort to distract the public from the mounting economic crisis and his plummeting popularity among white, Obama Republicans and "Middle Americans," Barack Obama opens long-classified files which conclusively prove that life exists on other planets, and that UFO's have visited the Earth thousands of times. Riley Martin is appointed director of NASA's Human-Extraterrestrial First Contact Project:

10. China is emboldened by the success of its Navy's mission to counter piracy in the Gulf of Aden. The Chinese leadership, as students of history, decide to take a cue from what was a then rising power, the United States, and its mission to fight the Barbary pirates in North Africa. Accordingly, China leads an expeditionary force to stabilize Somalia and the surrounding region. They succeed fabulously. China begins to increase their power projection throughout Africa in an effort to secure key natural resources.
11. With the declining price of oil, the leadership of Arab petro-states find themselves increasingly unpopular among their citizens. Unable to provide subsidies and services to their people, the regimes of several OPEC countries are overthrown by Islamo-fascist political parties. The United States, China, and the EU convene a conference in response to this crisis but they cannot come to a consensus. The West braces for a series of inevitable terror attacks.
12. Bill Cosby wins a MacArthur genius grant for his work to improve the life chances of young people in underclass communities.
13. The movie Black Dynamite wins the Oscar for best picture:

14. The "healthy" eating zoning initiatives gain traction across the United States. Predictably, over the course of several months inner city communities see the mass closure of fast food restaurants. Unable to find food in their neighborhoods, these denizens begin traveling to the suburbs to shop for food and other necessities. In a domino effect, niche supermarkets such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe's are forced to accept Link cards and food stamps. They are also forced to carry sugar water and other ghetto sundries. The customer base of these stores demand immediate action to stop the intrusion of "ghetto interlopers." Obama, in one of the most controversial acts of his presidency, issues an executive order mandating equal access to fast food for all Americans as guaranteed by the equal protection clause of the Constitution.
15. With consumer confidence at all time low, and the retail sector in crisis, Obama, with the full support of Congress, signs a economic stimulus package that erases credit card debt, as well as all other types of unsecured debt held by the American public. This bill resuscitates the economy as Americans begin shopping and spending money at rates never before seen. Consequently, the economy grows at an unprecedented rate of 10 percent. Economists begin hand wringing over looming hyper-inflation.

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 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 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)"