Thursday, April 16, 2009
Updated--Chauncey DeVega says: Sometimes White Folks Do Indeed Make Me Sad--America's Racial Id On Full Display at "Patriotic" Tea Bag Parties
Photo courtesy of the Huffington Post:
The present again demonstrates a historical truth that the not so hidden underbelly of Right-wing populism is indeed White supremacy.
Update: I guess the tea-baggers have the poor White trash vote sewn up!
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Updated--Let's Play the Conspicuous Negro Game! or One Black Fool Who Loves Him Some Tea Bagging...You Know There is Always One In Every Crowd
I was looking for the conspicuous negro--my own version of Where's Waldo--amongst the April 15th tea baggers (with a hope that I wouldn't find one). Alas, why must there always be one person of color willing to play poster child and pet for these Right Wing demagogues?
This lost soul was seen tea bagging outside the Bristol, County Courthouse in Bristol, Tennessee...Tennessee? one would think that being from the South he would know better.
Quick thought: doesn't he look like Apollo Creed from Rocky IV? Second thought: how many times will Fox News show this mascot as a way of insulating the April 15th "protesters" from the charge of being a group of right-wing, populist, racists?
Update: We have a second conspicuous negro amongst the sea of tea baggers. Doesn't he look like Tiger Woods' doppleganger? Are the tragic mulatto Canablasians actually fluffers for the tea baggers. And notice the smiling white guy in the background who feels like a good person because the crowd is "integrated"...thus alleviating his guilt.
Two bonus pics:
Why did they have to bring Homey the Clown into their xenophobia and racism? Don't these people have any decency? Aren't some things just off limits? Where will this end? Who's next, Mr. T?
Social science in action--the masses are indeed asses it seems--two irreconcilable issue positions held at one time (increasing spending, while cutting taxes).
It is a Tea Bagging April 15th! But When Are We Going to Have a Hot Carl for Glenn Beck Festivus for the Rest of Us?
It is tea bagging day! Are you celebrating this most wonderful of holidays by attending a tea bagging rally in your hometown or are you instead tea bagging at home with a loved one?
I must ask, what is next? A Cleveland steamer protest? A hotbox for Obama day? A give Congress a Dutch rudder march on Washington? A Cincinnati Bow tie for freedom? Maybe what the Right-Wing crowd really wants is for Obama to donkey punch them? Are the April the 15th tea baggers also playing their rusty trombones at the protests?
Sorry, I just couldn't resist...
I propose that as a counter protest all sensible folks sign a petition in order to inaugurate a new holiday--A Hot Carl for Glenn Beck Festivus for the Rest of Us. Has a ring to it, does it not?
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
The Anti-Barack Obama Threat Pyramid: Homeland Security on Increased Alert for Right Wing Domestic Terrorists in the Age of Obama
Just because you are paranoid, doesn't mean someone isn't actually after you...
When the government itself is releasing this information--an unclassified report no less--it does make one wonder what threats against Obama, our national security, and the common good that we are not privy to.
A quick question: If the unthinkable were to occur, would the Right-Wing media take ownership and admit any level of culpability or responsibility?
A choice excerpt from the Washington Time's piece "Federal Agency Warns of Radicals on Right"--
The Department of Homeland Security is warning law enforcement officials about a rise in "rightwing extremist activity," saying the economic recession, the election of America's first black president and the return of a few disgruntled war veterans could swell the ranks of white-power militias.
A footnote attached to the report by the Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis defines "rightwing extremism in the United States" as including not just racist or hate groups, but also groups that reject federal authority in favor of state or local authority.
"It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single-issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration," the warning says.
The White House has distanced itself from the analysis. When asked for comment on its contents, White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said, "The President is focused not on politics but rather taking the steps necessary to protect all Americans from the threat of violence and terrorism regardless of its origins. He also believes those who serve represent the best of this country, and he will continue to ensure that our veterans receive the respect and benefits they have earned."
The story continues here.
Monday, April 13, 2009
In this case, my call: you got my back? The response: hell yeah. The resolution: perfect.
Thus, I bring forth a guest post from one of our respectable negro allies, Wernor Herzog's Bear--someone who you all should be paying much closer attention to (if I do say so myself).
As we used to say re: Golden Age hip hop, this one is highly quotable:
In this installment of my series on the recent abuses of history in the right wing media, I'd like to address Glenn Beck's recent conflation of the American Progressive movement with fascism. The word "fascism" has long been rendered bereft of meaning due to its abuse by ideologues on both the Right and on the Left, but Beck and the far Right are now taking this abuse to another level. As I've already discussed in terms of Jonah Goldberg's atrocity of a book, the conservative attempt to call modern liberalism "fascist" rests on a giant raft of lies, distortions, and laughably facile connections. The moronic chain of reasoning usually works like this: Hitler wanted to limit smoking and so do liberals, and thus liberals are fascists. (Goldberg actually makes this connection in his book, believe it or not.) According to this logic, the American Lung Association must be staffed by a bunch of monocled, jack booted SS men.
We can take a similar example of distorted, willfully misleading reasoning in Beck's program last week. He tries to connect public anger towards the banking CEOs who ruined our financial sector with the situation in Russia before the Bolshevik Revolution, as if resentment and criticism of the wealthy is inherently Communist. Really Glenn? Here's a quick quiz, and try to guess who wrote or said the following quotations, answers provided below.
1. "The money power preys on the nation in times of peace, and conspires against it in times of adversity. It is more despotic than monarchy, more insolent than autocracy, more selfish than bureaucracy."
2. "All accumulation, therefore, of personal property, beyond what a man's own hands produce, is derived to him by living in society; and he owes on every principle of justice, of gratitude, and of civilization, a part of that accumulation back again to society from whence the whole came."
3. "It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their own selfish purposes.”
1. Abe Lincoln 2. Tom Paine 3. Andrew Jackson
I am most upset, however, at Beck's smearing of the Progressive movement and associating it and FDR with fascism because they expanded the role of government, contradicting Beck's "strict constructionist" worldview. (Although I'm not sure how waging an unprovoked war to change another nation's system of government fits into a limited view of the government's role.) Yes, what a bunch of horrible people those Progressives were, advocating things like child labor legislation, the ability for workers to organize, clean food and drug laws, lessening the power of political machines, the direct election of Senators, a more equitable taxation system, breaking up monopolies, and giving women the right to vote. How awful for them to respond to tragedies like the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire, where 146 women perished when they couldn't escape, by making factories provide unlocked fire exits. How dare these fascist Progressives put such onerous restrictions on a business' right to make money! Shouldn't women like Jane Addams have just stayed home and made babies instead of providing education to the poor of Chicago and helping to found troublesome organizations like the NAACP? That's what Glenn Beck's intellectual godfathers would have told her to do. They also opposed all of the political causes that I mentioned above.
Now, I would be the first to admit that the Progressive movement had its flaws. It could take an elitist attitude towards the people it claimed to help, it did relatively little to address the oppressive racism of the early twentieth century, and some prominent Progressives like Margaret Sanger subscribed to eugenics. Beck tries to use this latter fact to make one his many facile connections between fascism and Progressivism, since Hitler believed in eugenics as well. I don't want to excuse eugenicists of any political stripe, but all the same, eugenics was a complex and multifaceted phenomenon, and Hitler represented a particularly extreme and racist understanding of it. Most eugenicists wanted to limit the ability for certain "undesirables" to reproduce, but did not want to euthenize the mentally and physically ill (a ala Hitler), nor did they believe in the propagation of a "master race." Based on Beck's reasoning, Eisenhower would be a fascist for building the Interstate Highway System, because he was inspired by the German Autobahn.
Furthermore, when Beck tries to make "judicial activism" a Progressive tactic, he forgets that the courts in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era continually gave corporations the rights of individuals under the Fourteenth Amendment. Using a "strict constructionist" interpretation of contract law, they struck down all kinds of legislation regulating work hours (which could be 12-14 hours a day at that time) and child labor as limits on the "right of contract." At least "judicial activists" like Earl Warren used their power to overturn segregation rather than endorse it (as turn of the century jurists had in the infamous Plessey decision.)
Of course, through all of his rantings, Beck and his minions use the word "fascism" without understanding what it actually means. Fascism is a very particular political ideology, it is NOT merely a system with an authoritarian leader or a single political party. Here is a useful definition from historian of fascism Robert Paxton:
"a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion."
Other historians have crafted their own definitions of "generic fascism," but all point to extreme nationalism as the key ingredient. That being the case, labelling the avowed internationalist Woodrow Wilson a "fascist" actually calls him the OPPOSITE of what he really was. And is there anyone on the American scene these days pushing an "obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimbhood" more than Beck, who keeps telling his audience that they need to "take their country back" from shadowy elements? Beck's show is a veritable cavalcade of militant nationalism, singling out an amorphous "them" that is to blame for America's problems, a "them" that somehow includes America's enemies in World War II, modern day terrorists, and supporters of Barack Obama's agenda. Is there no more obnoxious cult of unity than the anti-immigrant monoculturalism spouted by his fake, distorted Tom Paine actor? I wouldn't call Beck a fascist, but his paranoid style, messianic nationalism, villification of "them," and implicit endorsement of extralegal violence makes me very uneasy.
And as long as Beck is playing the game of political genealogy, I think it's time to put his intellectual forbears under the microscope. He likes to connect his worldview to that of the "Founders," abusing the image of men like Thomas Paine in the process, but his brand of conservatism had many supporters in the 1930s. Even though he likes to compare FDR and his supporters to Nazis, they actually wanted to get involved with World War II in order to arrest fascism's spread. (Hence Woody Guthrie's famous "This Machine Kills Fascists" sticker and leftist Charlie Chaplin's satire of Hitler in The Great Dictator.)
The radical Right of that time, however, shared fascism's obsessive hatred of Communism, rampant paranoia, and even its noxious anti-Semitism. Henry Ford, that captain of industry and entrenched opponent of organized labor, was an avid reader of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion who maintained his business in Nazi Germany even after World War II began. The Beck of that era's radio waves, Father Coughlin, mixed "we surround them" populism with praise for Hitler and Mussolini and a healthy dose of anti-Semitism. In fact, FDR's most virulent opponents hatched a secret plot to overthrow him in a military coup, which begs the question, who are the fascists here?
Beck wants us to "learn from the past," but he spews forth an ideology that calls for America to return to the very Gilded Age miseries that the Progressive movement rescued us from. We've tried radical free market ideology in the past: it failed in the nineteenth century, it failed during the Roaring Twenties, and it failed more recently in the form of a financial collapse brought on by irresponsible deregulation. Like Plessey, unregulated slaughterhouses, "trusts," and male-only suffrage, Beck and his misbegotten ideas ought to be swept into the dustbin of history.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Glenn Beck, the April 15th "Tea Party", and Other Nonsense that Makes Me Want to Throw Up in My Mouth
We have something special planned regarding this Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, Right-Wing, April 15th tea bagging, militia, seditious, race baiting nonsense in the near future.
For now, I am rendered speechless and I just may throw up in my own mouth:
Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: The Thrilla in Manila, Ali and Frazier, and the Politics of Memory
HBO is airing a great special this weekend on the rivalry between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. This documentary, Thrilla in Manila, is exciting and noteworthy because it presents the epic battles between these two men from the under appreciated, and little spoken to point of view of Joe Frazier.
As I have noted many times, Muhammad Ali is one of my personal heroes. But, many forget how complicated and conflicted Ali the man, as opposed to the myth, actually was.
As the great book Ghosts of Manila details, Ali could be cruel, selfish, and mercurial. Thus, Ali-Frasier was so powerful a rivalry precisely because it was so intensely personal. To that point, Ali (as he also did with Foreman and Liston) was able to present himself as the "authentic" black man, while he portrayed his opponents as "Uncle Toms." Ironically, Ali trafficked in some of the worst racial stereotypes to demean his opponents, when in fact, Ali was much more privileged in his childhood and upbringing, and in this imaginary more "White", than either Liston, Foreman, or Frazier.
Not surprisingly, given that his show routinely features some of the most honest and real conversations about race in this country, this past week Howard Stern had a great discussion about the politics of black authenticity in the Ali-Frazier rivalry.
Some quick thoughts. One, while funny at the time, I would suggest in hindsight that there was indeed something pernicious and foul in Ali's calling Frazier a "gorilla" and a "monkey." Two, did you know that Ali spoke to a KKK rally where he reiterated their shared commitment to racial separatism? So, was Ali a hero or a villain? Or was he a little of both? Who was the real hero of the Ali-Frazier rivalry? Joe Frazier or Muhammad Ali?
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Sent to us by a loyal reader (a respectable white ally who braved the cold to attend Obama's inauguration), here are the first contributions to our online exhibit, Barack Obama: the Man, the Myth, and the Product.
Got to love the Barack Obama cardboard standup:
Tasting is indeed believing...I guess?
Shaka Zulu meets Barack Obama:
Friday, April 10, 2009
We Are Respectable Negroes Flashback--the Color Matching Game Revisited: What’s Up With Waxy Michelle? Is She café-au-lait?
Hat tip to the Root:
What’s Up With Waxy Michelle?
No doubt about it, Michelle Obama’s on a roll right now, coming fresh off her triumphant G-20 It Girl World Tour: Hugging the Queen. Swarmed by schoolgirls in London. Air-kissing Carla Bruni Sarkozy. The Daily Beast’s Tina Brown asks, “Is Michelle the New Oprah?” and compares her to Princess Di. She’s been dubbed the hugger in chief, Mighty Michelle, a first lady whose popularity soars with a 72 percent approval rating. And now, she’s been immortalized in wax, standing right alongside her husband at Madame Tussauds in Washington, D.C.
The basic details of her face, though not quite pretty enough, are there: the curve of her nose, the almond tilt of the eyes, the radiant smile. Her normally bouncing bob is a little stiff, not surprising, since it’s a statue. The pearls are there, along with the trademark sleeveless dress and cardigan. All in all, it’s Michelle Obama.
But what’s up with the café-au-lait shading? The wax first lady looks a good couple of shades lighter than her biracial husband. She’s immortalized in a honey hue that has absolutely, positively, nothing to do with her richly mahogany reality...
The story continues here.
Our very own Gordon Gartrelle provides a helpful guide to answering this question (one far more handy than walking around all day with a paper bag against which to test one's hue).
I recently had my place painted, so I’ve been looking at nothing but color samples for weeks. As I pored over the bizarre but creative color names (lazy afternoon?), I had a stroke of inspiration.Brilliant minds have wrestled with the implications of colorism in
Now that we have our color categories, I want to invite our readers to play The Matching Game. To play, simply choose a few black people who best represent each color and post them in your comments. We’ve suggested some prominent black people below. Of course, feel free to choose your own color representatives or create your own color categories. Early next week, we will reveal our lists (including where each of us falls on the color spectrum).
**Clarence Thomas**Morgan Freeman**Gwen Ifill**Biggie**Jasmine Guy** Jay Z **Soledad Obrien**Ben Jealous**Angela Bassett**Jesse Jackson**Reverend Wright** **Julian Bond** Don Cheadle**Lena Horne**Denzel Washington**50 Cent**Vin Diesel **Beyonce**Miles Davis **Harold Ford**Wesley Snipes**Muhammad Ali** Oprah **John McWhorter**Malcolm X**Nia Long**Angela Davis**Common**Will Smith **Stanley Crouch**Flava Flav** Michael Eric Dyson**OJ**Whoopie Goldberg/Lil Wayne (has anyone ever seen them both in the same room?)** Halle Berry**Michelle Obama **Barack Obama**
I have to hand it to the makers of "Obsessed," the upcoming movie in which Beyonce plays a wife whose husband is stalked by a white coworker with whom he flirted. The creators of this movie certainly have their fingers on the pulse of black women’s anxieties…circa 1992.
What I learned from this trailer: black men cannot be trusted; the white woman is the black man’s kryptonite; white women are scheming and crazy.
I want to offer some odds on whether certain things will happen in this movie.
Odds that the phrase “strong black woman” appears in the movie: 50 to 1
Odds that Beyonce calls the white woman “bitch”: 5 to 4
Odds that Beyonce calls the white woman “white bitch”: 1000 to 1 (they don’t want to make this too overtly racial).
Odds that the black husband actually ends up sleeping with the white coworker: 15 to 1
Odds that Beyonce’s best friend (probably black) will tell her to drop her man: 35 to 1
Odds that one of the black characters says something like “I’m a successful exec; I’ve fought hard to make it”: 3 to 1
Odds that Beyonce has to offer the obligatory “this isn’t about race; it’s about respect” speech in an attempt to absolve the creators of charges of stoking the flames of racial hatred: 7 to 5
Odds that Beyonce says “don’t mess with my man” before she ends up killing or knocking out the white woman: 3 to 2
Odds that the police won’t do anything because the woman is white, blonde and attractive: 2 to 1
Odds that the sequel will be about a DL brotha stalking her man: 10 to 1
Odds that “Obsessed” will be any good: 200,000 to 1
Anybody else want to offer some odds?
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Laid Off Corporate Types Discover That They Too Can Help Kill Hip Hop a Little Bit More or Instead of Falling Into a Rut, Busting Out a New Groove
As detailed by the New York Times story, "Instead of Falling Into a Rut, Busting Out a New Groove," it seems some laid off New Yorkers are paying money to "learn" how to become "Dee Jays."
"You don't get into the game to make money, you do it because you love music." This is the advice I received from a well known dj (who later became my mentor) when I talked to him about buying my first set of 1200's (I also had a really hard time at first and he told me that you have to get past being scared about doing badly because once you get over that fear you will grow, and eventually if you are lucky, you'll be good).
The other great bit of wisdom he shared was that you have to get over the fear of being embarrassed by doing badly at a show. Not all folks are going to dance, or even acknowledge your work. It can have nothing at all to do with you. Again, once you get this behind you, or as I did with a radio show I was not at all experienced enough to perform live on--I hope those tapes are lost to the ages--you won't have anything else to fear. Well, this is only a half-truth, as I once had a fader go wrong on me at a show that was being recorded for broadcast and I had to improvise by using the line inputs instead...talk about embarrassing and nerve wracking.
Things have really changed it seems. The counter-culture will always become popular culture, and then eventually kitsch, as it descends into self-self-parody. The fact that these poor souls are paying money to get into the game is even more so troubling. Now, I don' t bemoan the fact that new arrivals want to pick up a "hobby" that is sacred to me. But, please don't cheapen it by comparing the ability to work as a mobile dj (i.e. a walking jukebox or human Ipod) with someone who has a real set of skills and can deploy them to tell a story musically, who "has paid their dues" in more ways than one, and has taken mastery of the craft that is musical storyteller seriously enough to understand that you are taking your audience on an emotional journey.
On the point of paying dues, how many of you literally remember paying dues by carrying dozens of heavy records (doubles when you could afford them) in your backpack or a cardboard box as you went from Downstairs Records to Rock and Soul to Beat Street to VP Records--help me out, what the hell was the name of the spot in the Bronx that had all of the exclusive gear from Nervous Records? And does anyone else remember Distributor's Records in Hamden, Connecticut? RIP "Rodge," the coolest 70ish year old, white, hip hop head I ever met. On that point, I can't hate on Cutlers as the staff there in the late 1980s and 1990s really knew their music, especially their classic house.
Please do not be mistaken, I am not a Luddite. Yes, I do understand the irony of traditionalists like myself complaining about the innovation of PC based DJ equipment, but the photo of two, fiftyish year old, former corporate types standing behind a MAC while they learn how to "scratch" and beatmatch (FYI you aren't blending if the computer is doing it for you) is a wonderful testimony to how technology can ruin the art and science of musical and expressive creativity.
One final thought: this story made me think of a great week I experienced in the summer of 2008 during which I had the chance to see Grandmaster Flash on a Monday, and DJ Kool Herc on a Friday. Being in the presence of these godfathers of hip hop was both exciting and depressing. To the former, the chance to just breath the same air and watch them at work was meaningful in a way common to any student who is reverential towards a master. To the latter, it was saddening to see Flash's opening act using PC based DJ equipment--seeing this was laden with symbolism as analog has given way to what is on average a far less rich, not as talented, nor as gifted cadre of digitally devoted, new upstarts.
In reflecting on Herc, while he used the standard tools of the trade, it hurt--yes hurt is the appropriate word--as he worked through the classics and tried to educate his audience about what hip hop was before hip hop was a genre called "hip hop":
Why? Herc's audience stood mute and totally disinterested in the lesson that they were receiving. Yet, when Herc bowed to the inevitable and played some Southern influenced, minstrelesque, crap hop the audience (comprised of mostly 20 year olds and teenagers) behaved as though it was the second coming. That night, hip hop died just a little bit more, a slow death of a thousand cuts, this once vibrant thing that the keepers of its flame cannot even keep alight.
The New York Times piece follows:
Channing Sanchez, who lost his job in January, has found a way to mix business with pleasure.
Mr. Sanchez, 51, was a jewelry salesman at Tiffany & Co., on Fifth Avenue, for 23 years. After hearing what has become a familiar phrase — “You’re being laid off” — he put himself on a different sort of track to future employment: he is training to become a D.J.
“I used to spin records 30 years ago,” Mr. Sanchez, headset in hand, said the other day just before he began another session at a turntable. “Now that the stress of losing my job is gone, this a fun and creative way to make some extra money.”
Within minutes, Mr. Sanchez and several other aspiring D.J.’s were sliding into their stations to scratch records and mix songs at dubspot, an electronic music production and D.J. school in Manhattan, where enrollment — now 300 — has doubled since it opened last year, largely because of the economic downturn.
“I’m getting a lot of calls from people who are saying, ‘I just got my severance package, and this is something I have wanted to do my whole life,’ ” said Kelly Webb, dubspot’s director of operations. “In the midst of this economic crisis, some people have simply decided to go out and do what really makes them happy.”
“I used to D.J. at parties when I was 16, and I’m still young enough to get back in the business,” he said. “I used to mix records and CDs, but now most D.J.’s are downloading songs from computers, which is why I needed to take this course.”
Rob Principe, the founder and chief executive of Scratch DJ Academy in Manhattan, said that his company had also seen an increase in enrollment.
“This year as opposed to last, we are up 18 percent,” Mr. Principe said. “When the going gets tough, people tend to go back to things that they are really interested in doing, whether that is to pursue something like this as a hobby or as an alternate means of income.”
Dan Giove, the president and founder of dubspot, where a five-month course costs $1,695.00, said that a D.J., depending on experience and venue, can make anywhere from $50 to $1,000 an event.
“You can absolutely make a living as a D.J.,” he said. “In fact, we are seeing some of our students going out there and finding themselves decent-paying gigs.”
Mr. Giove pointed to April White, a 30-year-old account supervisor at a public relations firm in Manhattan who is so worried about losing her job that she has already put Plan B in motion.
“I’ve been gigging like mad,” said Ms. White, who has been working at bars and other event spaces around the city, including at a bar called Mr. West, where she was spinning her vinyl one evening.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Zora, our own respectable negress got some shine from The New York Times on Tuesday with her post, "What America Really Wants is a National Mammy."
Some choice comments from the readers of said journal of record (Eric, we do appreciate you giving us some love...it is much appreciated)--Zora knows how to rile folks up it seems!
I liked this article a lot. Although I don’t follow fashion much, I’m one of those 70some percent who adore Michelle Obama, which makes me wonder why in god’s name Zora would assume that the mainstream is uncomfortable because of Michelle’s “negritude.” And what’s with all the “WASP,” and “mammy” lingo? I realize racism still exists, but sheesh…some people just don’t realize how out of touch this embattled perspective is. America loves their new president and his beautiful, intelligent wife and yes, some Americans are having to redefine their view of black women, but I’d also like to think that in turn some black women could redefine their view of America.— colortheory
Well, I guess I’m in the “good, middle-class Negress,” category according to Zora, but what a condescending way to refer to people whose lives helped make Michelle Obama’s First Ladyship possible. I arrived in Baden-Baden, London, Paris, etc. as a representative of the U.S. nearly 30 years before Barack and Michelle did and, yes, I was wearing something by a mainstream designer. I had to give a damn what people thought because there were no E.E.O. requirements for international jobs back then and probably still aren’t. Fortunately for me, my field — international technical standards — was inclined to make appointments based on merit, since it mattered. However, well aware I was a first in every way, you betcha I covered my arms and kept to mainstream fashions (which I also happen to like). Because of those who paved the way, Michelle Obama is now in a position to wear whatever she chooses. As long as her heart and mind remain as open, kind and honorable as they are, I could care less what she has on. The rest of us will just have to keep Vera and Donna and Calvin and Oscar busy for her.— JRL
I enjoyed this article save for the last few paragraphs. Who pray tell is looking for a “national mammy”? We’ve elected an African American president, let it be over!! The first couple is hugely popular, why would anyone revert to these stereotypes? The country has indicated they are ready to move on, are you with us Zora or are you going to hold everyone back?— kate dimmock
Isn’t it kinda racist to call Oprah a “mammy”?— yo
Uh. Michelle doesn’t look like a middle class black with her conservative sheathes and straightened hair? She looks very corporate to me.
I’m not complaining. I think she looks great and certainly don’t think major labels represent anything interesting but please, let’s not act like she’s breaking any new fashion ground.
And frankly, I think she looks like a lot of first ladies, very corporate. She’s just taller than most of them. Height does not make you a more powerful person.
Also, to suggest that one of the most powerful women, most powerful people really in media today is a mammy figure.
Other than a shared weight problem, exactly how? The problem all first ladies share is clearly the problem all women share, we confuse physical appearance with personal worthiness.
And as a final aside, I don’t think most Americans share the impressions of the bloggers either way of Michelle Obama.— nSH
amazing this michelle. all her pretty dresses, husband president living in the white house. maybe finally this woman can really say she is proud to be an american, and we really arent all that mean!!!! give me laura any day.
I recently served as a judged for the History Fair city finals. The experience was both rewarding and depressing. Here are a few observations and reflections about the experience:
1.) I was disappointed that very few black kids made it the finals, but was happy that the handful of black kids who did make it had the most family members and supporters in attendance.
2.) Had my office not come to represent, there wouldn’t have been any black judges.
Why don’t/can’t more black kids and adults participate in this enriching experience?
3.) It was great to see young people so passionate about history that they would spend months researching their topics.
4.) A surprising number of the entries offered little to no evidence and contained claims that were flat out wrong. Not just wrong in a “they’ll learn a more complicated version when they get to college” way, but inexcusably wrong.
How in the hell did these projects make it to the finals?
What kind of teachers would allow their students to submit these claims?
5.) One of the entries was so raggedy, I was embarrassed for the students. In addition to the history being wildly inaccurate and there being unacceptable typos, the project presented the life and death of an iconic black figure with Tiger Beat style lettering and designs (it wouldn’t have been out of place for the “i”s to be dotted with hearts). I had hoped that the students who made it were not black, but part of me just knew that they were. I was wrong. They were white girls—negrophiles, but white girls nonetheless.
What does it say about my perception of the state of black urban education that I assumed these students were black?
6.) 80% of the entries I judged were about black historical figures, but none of these entries were created by black students. Several of the entries made problematic assumptions about black people. When the students turned out to be white, these assumptions became even more pernicious in my eyes.
Was I wrong for judging these white kids’ assumptions about black people more harshly than I would had these kids been black?
Monday, April 6, 2009
She's statuesque, confident, self-defined, beautiful and black. Pobrecita. What an unfortunate combination of qualities for Michelle Obama to carry, for they seem to stand in the way of the mainstream's ability to feel completely comfortable with her as America's first lady. Folks are still struggling to understand her (and to define her) because she is so unlike any other Black woman on the national and international stage. One "tired" and superficial way of managing this is by focusing on her appearance.
If Michelle were overweight and outwardly insecure about her Negritude (ala Oprah Winfrey), America would likely embrace her more affectionately as our own. She would be heralded as our national Mammy. Yes, she would still get some digs; but the scrutiny of her appearance wouldn't be nearly as great. We've seen mammies before and we are comfortable with them. Instead, we don't quite know what to do with Michelle Obama. The problem is that she does not confirm the WASP woman as an ideal -- neither by fitting into the stereotype of the loud, overweight black woman nor by being the good, middle-class Negress who conforms to the norms of white women.
The issue with Michelle Obama is that she is not only comfortable with her body, but she also seems to like it. Michelle dresses to accentuate a body that she is obviously proud of. Her clothing is cut to show off toned arms, shapely legs and womanly hips. She wears bold colors that complement her dark skin and make her stand out in a crowd. She favors designers who are American but who are not necessarily designing for a white elite. From the beginning, it has been clear that Michelle Obama asks herself two questions when she gets dressed: What do I like? and What looks good on me?
Our first lady doesn't wear dowdy pantsuits to cover her hips or mid-section. She doesn't don black, brown or grey ensembles to facilitate her disappearance into the background. She passes up non-threatening pastels. She doesn't seem to concern herself with what others might be wearing. She seems to give a damn about what others might find proper.
A recent Women's Wear Daily article criticized Michelle Obama for not patronizing the major American designers. The author deemed her unpatriotic: "Save for a recent digression to Michael Kors, Obama continues to show zero interest in the big guns of American fashion, those whose names resonate around the world, and who collectively employ thousands of people." If you consider the style and advertising of the "big guns," it should not be surprising that Obama isn't flocking to them. Designers such as Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Oscar De La Renta and even Carolina Herrera have centered their aesthetic on a WASP ideal. (The biggest irony has always been that none of those major designers are even remotely Anglo-Saxon or protestant.) Their preferred base of consumers is located within eight or nine blocks on the upper-East side of New York City. Other than stylized conformity, what do they have to offer our first lady?
The truth is that Michelle Obama isn't particularly daring in her fashion choices. If you move past the colors, prints, and independent labels, her clothing is actually conservative. Thus, her preference for J.Crew. The hemlines are low and the cuts are classic. Stylistically, the comparison to Jackie O. is more than fair.
While Michelle Obama clearly owns her own image and makes her own choices (for better or for worse), observers are quick to credit fashionista Ikram Goldman with the first lady's style. Of course, our worldly, educated first lady has no means of knowing on her own about designers like Watanabe, Alaia, Thakoon and Toledo. The thought seems to be that she is, after all, only a black girl from the south-side of Chicago. One writer argues in response to a New York Times blog posting, "It is oddly , and you guys will go up in arms when I say this, as though everyone knows better what this unsophisticated (in the fashion sense of sophistry) woman of color should do and wear. The CFDA and it’s senior members feel it’s their domain to teach Michelle the ropes. You never heard them doing the same with the other non women of color who inhabited the White House. There was a bit of nagging Hillary to clean herself up, but nothing to this degree. It smacks of a very insidious form of racism." Another writes, "This idea that THEY know best and Mrs. O can’t figure this out on her own is silly. The attitude underlying this is a general one about BLACK WOMEN in the fashion industry (note, I didn’t say women of color)."
I have always said that racism is about the power to define and to other. The focus on Michelle Obama's appearance is a last ditch effort on the part of some to assert power over her, to sum up her worthiness on the basis of her looks. It is taboo to openly talk about her race, so they resort to focusing on the loud colors, the "big Butt," the "massive arms," etc. Give it up folks! It's not working. Michelle Obama and millions of other black women around the world could give a damn about what you think. Your norms are not ours. It is your problem if you can't engage us based on what is in our minds rather than what is on our behinds. What is unfortunate is that the more Obama resists the criticism, the greater the efforts will be to tear her down. Her appearance should not be on her list of battles.
Here are some quick thoughts on the event.
1. CM Punk? No comment. The Money in the Bank Match was a great opener. It had a good workrate among all its participants and it featured some great--if not obligatory--high spots. I do wish Christian had won because he has been great since his arrival from TNA and has gone underappreciated. Second thought: Shelton Benjamin is amazing, if only because his physical gifts are outweighed only by the fact that he is crippled verbally. Third thought: imagine Shelton Benjamin in another era, one with great managers so that they could be his mouthpiece and Benjamin could just go out and work...that would have been awesome. Final thought: Kofi Kingston is so sincere and gifted. He reminds me of an early version of the Rock. In keeping with that parallel, Kofi needs to drop this gimmick and just find himself. Once he does so, Kingston will find greatness.
2. The Diva Battle Royal. For a real battle royal read Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man.
3. Jericho versus the Legends. Ricky the Dragon Steamboat can still go. Jericho is this year's MVP. Unfortunately, Mickey Rourke didn't do the "Ram Jam." All in all, a fun match despite its limitations.
4. Rey Misterio versus JBL. Rey looks like the Goppledy Gooker had a baby with Heath Ledger's version of the Joker. Yuck. SD Jones versus Bundy was the quickest to pinfall match in Wrestlemania History. Thank god, this was a close second. Oh, I guess JBL is going to Smackdown to replace Tazz.
5. Matt Hardy versus Jeff Hardy. Damn. After this match one could reasonably expect Jeff to violate the WWE's "third strike you're out" substance abuse policy. In conclusion, Matt went over Jeff as expected. This is a good move because it gets more mileage out of the feud, and it harkens back to the Owen versus Bret Hart match where the former won over the latter in the first match. But, I am of mixed feelings on these unnecessary high spots--what Jeff did was just crazy and risked ending his career. Again, sometimes too much is just too much.
6. Sean Michaels versus the Undertaker. As predicted, this was the highlight of the evening. Moreover, I pity the participants in the final two matches because while their matches were "good" they were diminished by the clinic put on by Sean and Mark. I will confess, that I need to rewatch this watch a few times to rank it in the annals of WWE history, but at present I feel confident that it is one of the best matches in WWE history. And no, this isn't some recency effect where because it is hours old one exaggerates the wonder that was witnessed in this match. I would also suggest that it would not be an exaggeration to state that Michaels versus Taker may be Frasier versus Ali in its greatness. I offer two thoughts that may be a bit different from what one would expect in the logic behind my assessing how wonderful this match was.
First, a mastery of subtlety distinguishes the good from the great. To that point, watch the facial expressions of Michaels and the Undertaker in this match as they convey volumes--professional wrestling is physical storytelling...epics wrought with emotion and physicality. Both of these workers display this reason for being in abundance.
Second, great matches are easy to call. Consequently, they bring out the best in the commentators. Listen to JR, the King, and Michael Cole on this match. As mediocre as the latter is, he sounds competent calling this match. JR, as the heir to Gordon Solie is truly in his element calling this match. Yes, Taker and Michaels gave all of them something special to call, and they stepped up. But, one final thought. I love a match that is predictable in its finish. I know this is counter-intuitive. Consider nevertheless: what is more satisfying than a story that ends the only way it can (i.e. with the Undertaker winning), but you are transfixed by how it happens? Wrestlemania 25 proved the genius of the convention of inevitability as an indispensable storytelling device.
7. The Hall of Fame Inductees: Stone Cold! Stone Cold! Stone Cold!
8. Big Show versus Cena versus Edge. Big show can't work--this isn't a surprise. Cena sells merchandise so he can't lose. Moreover, Cena has the best entrance of the three competitors so doubly so there is no way he can be defeated. Edge should win, so he can't. Guess what? Cena is drafted to Smackdown next week and Edge and Big Show go to Raw. Reset. By the way, please turn Cena heel...pretty, pretty, pretty, please.
9. HHH versus Randy Orton. This feud has been salvaged from the dustbin of WWE history only because of the sincerity of its participants. Hunter undoubtedly played politics backstage to go over. This is a given. But, the match was well planned and the story worked to a point. Here, we had an unnecessary ending because it betrayed one of the central tensions of the Orton-HHH feud: does Hunter care more about the title or about Stephanie. Apparently, the former matters more than the latter. Yes, this is in keeping with the character, but I have an alternate ending: imagine if instead of Trip's winning, we make the no DQ/countout finish mean something? HHH hovers over Orton with the sledgehammer (a gimmick that I absolutely loathe, and the ref tells him, "if you hit Orton you lose the belt!" HHH looks at the referee and hits Orton anyway, delivering the coup de gras. HHH throws the belt at Orton and says, "here, you can have the belt...until tomorrow night."
Your thoughts? How would you have booked Wrestlemania? And what grade would you have given it?
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Ghetto Nerds Wrestlemania 25 Countdown: Random Goodness--the Iron Sheik Loses It, Andre the Giant's Penis, the Megapowers, and Austin versus Bret Hart
The Iron Sheik goes crazy on Howard Stern:
Jim Ross, Andre the Giant's penis, and 100 dollars?
Hogan versus the Ultimate Warrior--never have two wrestlers with such horrible work rates put on such a great match:
One of my favorite matches of all time--the 2001 TLC match with Edge and Christian versus the Dudley Boys versus Matt and Jeff Hardy:
Just because it's so funny, King Kong Bundy crushing SD Jones:
Austin versus Bret Hart--an instant classic:
Simple. To the point. Tomorrow is Wrestlemania. Stone Cold you are the man! We are ready for the annual spectacle and bacchanal.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
Ghetto Nerds Wrestlemania 25 Countdown: Legends of Wrestling Roundtable--African Americans in Professional Wrestling
Wrestlemania 25 is tomorrow night. This evening will feature the Hall of Fame Ceremony with the one and only Stone Cold Steve Austin as the featured inductee. On the "undercard" longtime fan favorite, Koko B. Ware will be inducted as well. This is a controversial choice among smart marks because Koko was a novelty act whose career in WWE was rather undistinguished (although he did wrestle for many years in the regional territories prior to arriving in McMahon's company). Of similar controversy, is the induction of legendary wrestling promoter Cowboy Bill Watts--a man noted by many to be "a good old boy," an unrepentant racist. I have heard these stories, but until this interview remained undecided. Based on this interview, my instincts tell me that Cowboy Bill Watts has been unfairly maligned.
Well-timed, the great television series Legends of Wrestling recently had a feature for Black History Monthly called "Soul of Wrestling" that covered just these issues, as well as the experiences of African Americans in professional wrestling, more generally. This is really great stuff:
Teddy Long, the territories, and Ron Simmons becoming the first Black Heavyweight Wrestling Champion:
Who knew that Harley Race wanted Tony Atlas to be champion? And that Olie Anderson was against it because Atlas was a Black man? Or that Dusty Rhodes had such strong feelings about the Nation of Domination?
It is all about the green isn't it? Is it any surprise that Olie Anderson was such a bigot? Most importantly, this clip features Bill Watts on running wrestling events in Texas--and his fear that Whites would riot if African American wrestlers were featured on the card:
The panel reflects on the rise of the Rock:
Friday, April 3, 2009
The Curious Case of Gay-Porn Star Identical Twins
by Richard Rys
The flashbulbs were oddly silent as the four models sat inside a photography studio, waiting for their moment to arrive. Never mind that the studio was in Delaware; this was high fashion meets old money. The models had been carefully selected by casting agents representing the London-based bank Barclays to star in a print campaign pitching the Barclays-branded Visa and MasterCard to a prospective corporate client—Ralph Lauren. For the models, it was a chance to be seen by the Ralph Lauren tastemakers, perhaps even the patriarch himself, a possible stepping-stone to becoming a face of the prestigious fashion company. Yet well past the scheduled start time, Barclays' creative director was calling a casting agent in a panic. "Keyon isn't here!"
Keyontyli Goffney is striking in a way that makes both women and men take notice—he's black with a trace of Thai, and has brown eyes, angular cheekbones, and a lean, chiseled body. At 26, he had the portfolio of an up-and-comer, including a Nike ad. He had also done extra work on television: as a lifeguard in a Lifetime miniseries starring Rob Lowe, on Law & Order, and as a dancer next to Tom Brady in a Saturday Night Live sketch. But Keyon wasn't content to be a backdrop for Gisele's quarterback husband; he wanted to be the next Tyson Beckford, to achieve his own stardom by doing Polo ads. The Barclays campaign could be that elusive big break, and he was missing.
The casting agent phoned Keyon's talent rep, who was stunned to hear her client was a no-show. Soft-spoken and polite, he was generally punctual. The rep tried every number she had for him and got only voice mail. Days passed before Keyon finally called to apologize. His grandmother had fallen ill, he said, and he had to take care of her. It was hard to argue with putting family first, but was there really no one else who could tend to his grandmother so he didn't miss the biggest job of his career?...the story continues here.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
The Bruno Trailer is Finally Here!! or Thank God Sacha Baron Cohen Didn't Finish his Phd on Blacks and Jews in the Civil Rights Movement
Who says you can't be ABD (for those not in the misery clique, that is the abbreviation assigned to folks who haven't finished their dissertations) and still be fabulous...and a genius.
How can you not laugh at Bruno collecting his (presumed, as it seems an obvious dig at Madonna) African adopted child at the airport baggage check? And of course said child would have to have an "African" name like "OJ."
Sacha you be the man.
A bonus: some classic Borat clips:
Late to the Party Part 1: Racism While Shopping in an Upscale Store or My Dear Crying, Young, Well-Intentioned, White Liberal, There is No Santa Claus
Seeing that I was traveling last week, I was late to the party on the ABC News series, "What Would You Do?" and its feature, "Shopping while Black."
These types of exposes are underwhelming to me (you didn't know that folks are conflict averse--except perhaps the Brits in this video--and will choose to ignore racism rather than confront it?). Racism is not new. Racism is not going away any time soon. And we certainly are not living in a post-racial moment (as some on both the Left and the Right--for very different reasons--would like us to believe).
Sure, I could entertain you with my stories of being followed by clerks and salespeople around department stores. I could get a rise by conveying my experiences of being seated by the bathroom, also known as the black and brown section, in high-end restaurants--and the consternation when I complain and demand to be moved. Or, I could raise an eyebrow with my story of how I protested to the management of Urban Outfitters when I was singled out by a clerk who demanded my identification before allowing me to use my debit card to make a 2o dollar purchase.
Well, this latter story is actually worth retelling because when I asked said clerk why would they want my ID for such a small purchase (and not coincidentally why they did not ask for identification from the white customers in line ahead of me) she replied "for your protection sir, of course." I smiled and replied, "well, if I was going to use a stolen credit card and risk going to jail, why wouldn't I spend 100 or a 1,000 dollars as opposed to 20 dollars on a cheap throw for my couch?" Predictable response: "uhh, hmm, I am not sure." Her coworker's response: "This is odd, I never saw her ask anyone else for ID before." My response: "exactly."
I could cap it off with a story about being stopped for driving while black, or how my cousin, a very prominent DC area politician and attorney, was stopped and threatened with a loaded shotgun by a state trooper on the beltway because his car was "too expensive, and he had to be a drug dealer." Needless to say, being a respectable negro is hard work and all this stress can be detrimental to one's health. Ultimately, to me at least, these stories are anti-climactic, blah, tiresome, and oh so 'meh.
In my opinion, what is actually noteworthy and striking about the ABC News vignette is how the young white woman begins to cry when she witnesses the racist treatment of the black female shopper/victim. This is the real power of the "Shopping While Black" featurette. Here, the truth is not in the great reveal that black and brown folks are racially profiled. Rather, for those raised to believe in post-racial and colorblind politics, the cult that is multicultural America (where race no longer matters because hip hop is now "youth culture" and White kids can say "nigga" or that United Colors of Benetton ushered in the "cool" that is the marketing and corporatization of racial diversity in the 1990s), to actually see the ugliness of white supremacy is utterly shocking and painful. I smirk at these moments because in a perfect world someone would shake this young woman out of her Utopian, racially tinged halcyon dream and ask her, "how would you feel if you had to deal with this racist garbage--passive, secret, and often active, day in and day out?" I wonder what she would actually say? Would she deny this impulse as one born of paranoia and hypersensitivity, or would she simply stand mute?
Funny, in this instance our oh so upset young female protagonist somehow manages to become the "victim." White privilege wins again, no?
In short, her crying reminds me of the moment when one realizes that Santa Claus is not real, or that their parents still have sex, or even worse, that a teenage boy will tell any half-truth, at any time, to sleep with any given young woman (I call this one, the "I love you" lie or the "You told me you loved me!" tale).
My disgust is not limited to this crying, blubbering, sad, young woman as this is not a narrative only about race and white racial privilege per se. It is a broader critique. In this woman's histrionics I can imagine that many young people of color would act in much the same way. Why? because their parents have protected and sheltered them from the realities of a racialized world. This sickness is often more endemic among those folks of color where class privilege has allowed them to insulate (or is that protect?) their children from the ugliness that is racism. For this reason, I am an advocate of telling your children the truth, the whole truth, because the sacred burden of all parents is to equip their progeny with the necessary skills to successfully navigate a complex, and often unfair, world.
Am I cruel because one of my favorite moments is telling the most bourgeois and sheltered students born of the colored class about either the bloody summer of 1919 or the Tulsa Race Riots where material prosperity was no protection against White terror? Where Black success attracted White violence? Am I foul for smiling at these students in their moment of cognitive dissonance when the ugly truth, often denied or conveniently ignored, comes rushing towards them like a locomotive?
Moreover, the fact that is racial life in America is why I raise an eyebrow at those multiculturals, biracials, and others who want to raise their children to "decide their own race" because this "noble" choice leaves these young people without the necessary protective screen that comes with an understanding of the particular challenges that come with living life in a raced body.
Maybe I am mean. Or perhaps, I am cruel. But, I would like to believe that I am just committed to the truth.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
The CNN feature on the Los Angeles based serial killer known as "the Grim Sleeper" is frightening on any number of levels. First, that this story has gone under reported. Second, that there are at least 20 to 100 serial killers operating in the United States at any given moment. Third, that one of these human predators may be living right next door.
This is some Tales from the 'Hood madness:
When I came upon this feature I immediately thought of Dr. Park Dietz. He is a noted forensic psychologist and one of the world's foremost authorities on serial killers. Dietz is a master of his craft: he becomes a confidante to the serial killers, earns their trust, and these serial killers in turn give him "privileged" insight into their twisted psyches.
Be afraid, very afraid...and be forearmed with knowledge:
Dietz with Jeffrey Dahmer--
The hitman, Richard Kuklinski also known as "The Iceman"--
Andrei Chikatilo, "the Butcher"--
How killers rationalize their deeds--
Now, I am going to lock my doors and stay inside the rest of the day.