Friday, May 15, 2009

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: Deadliest Warrior--Green Berets versus Spetsnaz

A quick debriefing:

Here is the result of Tuesday night's match up. The show has had some high points as I pointed out earlier, but again, the outcome is a bit problematic. Now, I am not a gung-ho American type who thinks that all things U.S.A. are by definition better than anything offered from abroad. My problem here is the vagueness of the match-up.

For example, Spetsnaz are a broad designation within the Russian/Soviet military (and they are fierce warriors, some of their exploits in Afghanistan were legendary). As a qualifier, all Spetsnaz are "elite." But, some are more "elite" than others. And as was demonstrated during the Chechen seige at the Beslan Middle School, as well as the infamous "poison gas raid" in Moscow, some of their tactics are clumsy and imprecise--so much so that they border on the unprofessional. Thus I must ask, which types of "Spetsnaz" are fighting the Green Berets? The generic special forces or the ultra-elite anti-terrorism units?

Second thought: mission and orientation. The Green Berets are extremely well-trained and versatile. Yes, they are quite capable of what is called "direct action," i.e. killing the bad guys and bringing the pain. But, since their formal inception in the 1960s by President Kennedy, they are more oriented towards training insurgents and foreign militaries. Sure, they can eat things that would make a billy goat puke or break the enemy's will through sheer attrition, but would you want to waste these mature, superbly trained, multilingual warriors on such an adventure?

The Spetsnaz featured in this episode of Deadliest Warrior seem more oriented towards killing people and breaking things. Sure, the Green Berets will give the Spetsnaz operators all they can handle (and maybe more), but my gut tells me that another U.S. unit would be a better pairing. I think that Delta Force or SEAL Team 6 would have been an overmatch. But, the Rangers or U.S. Marine Recon would have seemed a better fit. Your thoughts? What do you think the outcome should have been?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Social Science in Action: Rush Limbaugh is so Old School or Obama Wants Welfare, Unemployment Checks, and Food Stamps for the Blacks!

What's next, an interview on Limbaugh, O'Reilly, or Glenn Beck with a "welfare queen?"

More seriously, Rush Limbaugh needs to up his game because these "coded" appeals are so 1984. I also find it ironic that we continue to use said phrase (or its more sophisticated pairing of "dog whistle" politics) when referring to what is in fact a very obvious and clumsy ploy intended to stoke the fires of the most base racial animus.

If Limbaugh wants to go really old school, he should just cut to the chase and make an advertisement with President Obama's face superimposed over Nosferatu's with the following caption: "Barack Obama, socialist husband of America hater Michelle Obama, and follower of the most evil Reverend Wright, is coming to get you real Americans!"

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Why do Some White Women Prefer Black Men? Pat Buchanan Under Siege Part 2

Pat Buchanan may in fact be justified in his recent feelings of paranoia, angst, and disempowerment because if the following video is any indication, the new Jim Crow against White men may in fact be a global phenomenon.

I have not done one of my video annotations in a long time. But, this show on interracial dating demands my careful attention. Enter: Why white women prefer black men. Question: how many stereotypes about interracial dating between black men and white women can you identify in the following video clip?

A handy viewing guide to: Mmmm! Yummy Chocolate Black Men...say White Women!

:13--I cry foul! What an unfair setup...

:27--Am I crazy, or does her desire for the black flesh make you think of Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. You know that she is hungry for that is so lovely, tasty, and irresistible. This one is unapologetic in her need to gobble up some sexy mocha chocolate love. Is this a new Hershey's flavor? Mandingo mocha? Or maybe given that she is a Brit, perhaps she wants to turn her negro lover into a human pork rind, one floured, battered and fried?

:33--Black skin on white skin. So sexy, kind of like a sexual version of Backgammon or Go.

:57--Oh yeah, we make you feel safe and lovely! Bow before the black opposed to the dog in the man (bonus points if you get the reference).

1:21--Is that Maxi Priest's long lost brother in the frame?

1:28--Hold on now! I thought Black men didn't take their women out, didn't treat them well, and used black women like mules? These Brits are setting the bar too high for us brothers here in the U.S.

2:00--Has she seen the movie Baby Boy?

3:07--Poor white man. He is under siege!

3:27--Uh oh, more high standards. On the lovemaking, I prefer the soft bigotry of low expectations.

4:10--Five minutes? Short? Damn, I can make love 10 times in five minutes. Am I doing something wrong?

4:21--Backgammon and lovemaking. Now that is an evening. But, which one is the foreplay?

4:33--Is that Erykah Badu?

4:51--Melanin wins again! Melanin's power to metabolize the sun's rays in order to create gyrations and movements in its owners translates directly into an ability to work the middle and hit the G-spot. Each time, every time. Remember, work those hips and use the C.A.T. technique to bring your queen to ecstasy.

4:57--The way black men move in general.... is this the "swagger" that the folks on CNN were talking about in respect to President Obama?

5:02--I thought Plastic Man was white? I guess not.

5:13--Thought number 1: Shabba! Thought number 2: Was this woman in the movie Heading South? Thought number 3: Did you know that I once saw Shabba leap across a concert stage in three mighty bounds? The brother was magical.

5:23--Poor white man. He may be one of Pat Buchanan's allies. Suggestion: if you are white and confronted by these stereotypes of black sexual prowess simply repeat the following phrase--"You ain't had it right till you had it white!"

6:24--Sexual geometry: Q.E.D. Rhythm, length, size, the whole job EQUALS satisfaction.

6:44--No comment.

7:22--Look at her hair, old girl knows she got some colored folk in the family and she best stop trying to pass (badly).

7:41--I tell all of my white friends about the power of cocoa butter. Question: is Shea butter sexier? Random disclosure: before I take a woman on a trip to space mountain I finish off my pre-lovemaking routine with a nice swathing of CVS brand cocoa butter lotion on all of my energy centers. Trust me, my natural pheromones and CVS brand cocoa butter lotion are a combination that queens across the globe find irresistible.

8:45--Wouldn't be interested in some of us "colored" people? This one doesn't pass the b.s. test as Lord knows she was bringing those brothers into her tent late at night (for purposes of ethnographic research of course) while she was working for some NGO in Africa.

8:51--You know the brother wants to "convert" her to the "dark side."

9:36--Race mixing is the only path to a post-racial future. Dr. King, Bob Marley, Terrence Howard, and Wesley Snipes all prophesied this immutable truth, why then has it fallen on deaf ears?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Pat Buchanan I Feel Your Pain: We are Made Brothers in the Struggle as White Men Are Now Experiencing their Own Version of Jim Crow

I am an advocate for the power of empathy, the idea that if we can learn to imagine ourselves in the place of others (and the Other) that we can make forward progress as a society. This is a two way street. I try to challenge Whiteness by exposing privilege. Reflexively, I have been working to increase my empathy for the likes of Pat Buchanan--to imagine what it must be like to be one of the "greatest" generation in the midst of their twilight. More specifically, I have been asking myself what it must be like to be a conservative White man of that generation, now witness to a political realignment (of sorts) and a Black president.

When coupled with increased immigration and the "browning of America," Buchanan's world has been turned topsy turvy. Up is now down, down is now up. For Pat Buchanan, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, and others of that stripe, the now is a moment where their racial heliocentrism has been turned inside out. While the church condemned Copernicus for shattering the belief that the Earth was the center of the solar system, Buchanan's only permitted sanction is a bully pulpit from which to scream and rant in frustration against the tide of history.

To Buchanan, it must seem as though no one is listening. He is like a man swimming in syrup--desperate, angry, exhausted, and plagued by a type of racial, existential vertigo. In keeping with my call for empathy across the color line (and the generational divide), I would like Pat, and those like him whose privilege is now under siege, to know that I am listening.

What must it be like to be unloved, under constant criticism, (dis)empowered, denied your full humanity and citizenship? To always be deemed inadequate and a second class citizen? To have your competence questioned both regardless of, and despite, your training and qualifications? I will never know what you are feeling in this moment, the depth of your pain and insecurity. I concede that. Pat Buchanan and his kin have been victimized. And I will never know what that must feel like. But, I am here to listen, to understand, and to empathize. Pat Buchanan, I feel your pain.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The "I Voted for Obama" Effect

New Hampshire Public Radio's "Word of Mouth" recently reported on the research of a doctoral student in the department of Psychology at Stanford University:

"See if this scenario sounds familiar. You’re sitting around with a bunch of friends – generally white people – and someone says something that sounds racist, or at least racially insensitive. There’s an awkward pause and then the offending party comes back with a variation on “I have a lot of black friends who would make that joke.” It kind of makes you cringe. Now that America has elected its first black president, research suggests that scenarios like this may be happening more frequently."

Here's an abstract of the actual article, "Endorsing Obama licenses favoring Whites" by Daniel A. Effron, Jessica S. Cameron and Benoît Monin:

Three studies tested whether the opportunity to endorse Barack Obama made individuals subsequently more likely to favor Whites over Blacks.
  • In Study 1, participants were more willing to describe a job as better suited for Whites than for Blacks after expressing support for Obama.

  • Study 2 replicated this effect and ruled out alternative explanations: participants favored Whites for the job after endorsing Obama, but not after endorsing a White Democrat, nor after seeing Obama’s photo without having an opportunity to endorse him.

  • Study 3 demonstrated that racial attitudes moderated this effect: endorsing Obama increased the amount of money allocated to an organization serving Whites at the expense of an organization serving Blacks only for participants high in a measure of racial prejudice.

These three studies suggest that expressing support for Obama grants people moral credentials, thus reducing their concern with appearing prejudiced.

Journal of Experimental Social PsychologyVolume 45, Issue 3, May 2009, Pages 590-593.

Remember, Zora said it first ...

Impossible and Absurd: Alan Keyes Meets Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

Another day and another laugh as Alan Keyes is arrested at Notre Dame University for trespassing during an anti-abortion "protest" that featured baby strollers, fake blood, and no small amount of political theater. Who would have thunk it? Alan Keyes indeed fashions himself as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. redux. We do indeed live in strange times...

Courtesy of

Alan Keyes' letter from Notre Dame jail

Over the last few years, Alan Keyes' life has become intertwined with Barack Obama's. In 2004, after the original Republican nominee dropped out of the race, Keyes ran against Obama, who was then seeking a Senate seat in Illinois. In 2008, Keyes ran against Obama again -- after he failed to secure either a presidential nomination from either the Republican Party or the Constitution Party, he founded his own party for the general election.

Even after Obama's victory, Keyes didn't give up. He's the plaintiff in one of the Birther lawsuits, and is challenging the results of the election, saying Obama hasn't proven that he was born in the U.S. and is eligible to be president. (He was, and he has.)

On Friday, a different battle against the president led to Keyes' arrest.

Keyes was arrested during a protest on Notre Dame's campus against the university's decision to invite Obama to speak at its commencement, and to award him an honorary degree. According to, he and 25 others, "some of them pushing baby carriages with dolls covered in fake blood," entered campus Friday morning. They were met by university police, who handed them notices informing them that the school bans all protests not organized by members of the university community and given advance approval, and that they would be arrested if they remained. (The university is probably acutely sensitive to protests these days, as Catholics nationwide are organizing against Obama's appearance over his position on abortion.)

But the politician and former talk show host had come to Notre Dame specifically to be arrested, something he announced in a letter he'd written and released beforehand. So he and 21 of his fellow protesters were detained on misdemeanor trespassing charges. As of Friday afternoon, they were being held in jail in lieu of $250 bond, and will be appearing in court on Monday if they don't post the bond.

If that letter Keyes sent (which can be downloaded in PDF form here) is any indication, he's probably not going to post bond. In it, he announces, "I will go to South Bend. I will step foot on the Notre Dame campus to lift up the standard that protects the life of the innocent children of this and every generation. I will do it all day and every day from now until the Master comes if need be, though it mean I shall be housed every day in the prison house of lies and injustice that Obama, Jenkins and their minions now mean to construct for those who will never be still and silent in the face of their mockery of God and justice, their celebration of evil."

The letter reads as if Keyes meant it to be received as the successor to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's "Letter from Birmingham Jail." Ultimately, though, he turns it into something far more reminiscent of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," full of pain and blood. An excerpt:

With the arrest of [Operation Rescue founder] Randall Terry, Father Jenkins and the University administration at Notre Dame take their advocacy of evil to a new level of spiritual atrocity.

In a little less than two weeks they will welcome to the university campus a man who represents the most abominable and extreme commitment ever known in US politics to destroying the God given right to life of innocent human offspring...

Every time abortionists rip a child limb from limb within the womb; every time they crush the fragile head; every time they scorch the life from its body with a death dealing solution; every time they scrape its nascent cells of life from the walls of a womb -- Jesus is savagely beaten again; his skull pressed down with thorns; his limbs pulled savagely in their sockets; his hands and feet pierced through with nails; his breath drawn with fiery pain; his life finally extinguished; every time.

And every time there stands vociferous in the crowd, the ambitious man of blood, Barack Obama. He is justifying the torture, forcing bystanders to aid in the atrocity, assuring that the nails are paid for and the henchmen of evil well fed and rewarded for their role in the daily crucifixion. Even the garments of the innocent children (their little organs or stem cells), like the vesture of Christ, he prepares for division among those who perpetrate the slaughter...

[T]hrough the years Randall Terry, and those who share his lion's heart for justice, have stood with the Mother of our Lord at the foot of the Cross. They have been sprayed with the blood and water that gushed from his wounded side. They have received from the pierced and bleeding hand of our Dying Lord, the Blessed Gift by which he made his Mother the mother of all the faithful ones who endure with Him to the end, receiving His crown of pain, which is also the crown of life.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: Sunday Evening Fun--District 9 Will Own You This Summer, But First Watch the Original Short Film

District 9 is the thinking person's science fiction alternative of summer 2009. I had heard rumors about this project, but until seeing the trailer before Abrams' new Star Trek, knew little about it. Aliens, a not so thin Apartheid allegory, and black and brown folks as the bigoted xenophobes is a great dramatic mix. But before you see District 9, be sure to watch the original short film that spawned the feature and check out the viral marketing campaign:

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: Sunday Afternoon Fun--Now Witness G.I. Joe Resolute

G.I. Joe Resolute is a prequel of sorts to the new feature film. When I saw the original footage that was screened at ComiCon San Diego I really "popped." After watching the final episode of the miniseries which has recently finished airing on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, I am sold. This series is a license to print money and I do hope that the powers that be are listening. Yo Joe! And yes...Snake Eyes is (literally) cutting necks.

Here are the first few episodes of the series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

It is a good time to be a ghetto nerd, is it not?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: J.J. Abrams' New Star Trek Ain't Your Daddy's Star Trek...And That Just May Be Okay

The verdict: J.J. Abrams' Star Trek is Star Trek while simultaneously not being Star Trek.

Yes, this is an intentionally obtuse statement--one that captures my very confused and almost schizophrenic feelings about this film.

Yes, it has our favorite heroes in Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Yes, our good old USS Enterprise is in the new Trek and she has never looked better. Yes, all the right "notes" are hit, but oddly the sum total of the song they are playing sounds like Roddenberry's classic, without ever having its gravitas.

Perhaps, this is the key dilemma, one upon which a generational divide surrounding Abrams' Trek will revolve: Roddenberry's Star Trek was about something. It had moral vision, complexity and weight. Born of the Cold War and Roddenberry's belief that a science fiction television series could both entertain while also grappling with compelling and challenging social issues. In short, Roddenberry's Star Trek in keeping with what the best of speculative fiction has to offer, provided a stage upon which to act out the core dilemmas of our shared human condition.

J.J. Abrams reboot of the Star Trek universe has no such lofty ideals. It is unapologetic in this regard. Abrams' Trek is Dawson Creek in space, made for an Ipod generation that no longer has a sense of wonder or an attention span longer than 3 minutes. For those children of the original Trek, here I mean those who came of age during the 1960s, Star Trek was the future: a multicultural, peaceful, space faring Federation, led by an American golden boy who practiced soft-diplomacy while always getting the girl--human and alien alike.

The technology and hopeful future of Star Trek was part of its appeal, and quite understandably for a generation that has come to take the fantastic as commonplace, the future is the now. For those children of the 1980s and 1990s--a generation that grew up with the Internet--all wonder about technology seems to have been replaced by basic, uninspired familiarity.

And you know what? Maybe this is okay. Why? Because the movie is still fun and exciting when taken on its own terms. Despite the unmitigated disaster that was Cloverfield (a movie that I eviscerated here) Abrams has crafted a beautiful homage to Roddenberry's Star Trek. As we in fandom are fond of saying, Abrams "didn't rape our childhood." In keeping with theme of Star Trek as an homage to its storied roots, Abrams' vision is not, "a wax museum come to life." Oh no, this film has a heart, a big beating one, and there is lots to enjoy in the interplay of its protagonists.

Christopher Pine is Kirk. I know that many fans will nitpick certain aspects of the character, but to my eyes, Pine has that Kirk intangible free-spiritedness and confidence that makes him a living legend. While I found the Kobayashi Maru scenario a bit trite (this is a much storied event in the mythos surrounding Kirk), the other moments, especially Kirk's time in Iowa as a child and his casually throwing the keys to his prized motorcycle to its new owner, are quintessential James Tiberius Kirk. This Kirk is centered differently than the Kirk of Roddenberry's Trek, but again, somehow it fits the world that Abrams' James T. Kirk has been inserted into:

The other foundations of the triad are similarly well-suited to their roles. Zack Quinto's Spock is Spock: in this iteration emphasizing the human over the alien--

Again, this isn't necessarily bad, it is just different. Karl Urban is McCoy. Be forewarned, at first Urban appears to be giving an over the top performance, but it quickly grows on you as pitch perfect.

Our stalwart auxiliaries are all serviceable. Zoe Saldana as Uhura is beautiful, yet she doesn't have the smoldering sensuality of Nichelle Nichols (but then again, who could?). Scotty played by Simon Pegg is passable: he isn't given much to do, but will certainly grow in the role. By contrast, Chekov (played by Anton Yelchin) and Sulu (portrayed by Harold and Kumar's John Cho) are in some ways more substantial than their originals. Of course, Walter Koenig and George Takei will always be those characters and are a given as the yardsticks and standard for the roles. But perhaps in Abrams' Trek, they will be more central to the adventures of the new USS Enterprise.

As Nero, Eric Bana is more than an adequate villain (and at this point Bana seems destined to be a character actor who appears in many films, but never receives much acclaim).

But in fairness, one must acknowledge that Bana's Nero is truly hamstrung in his role as a place holder until Abrams' Star Trek finds its Khan:

Abrams has a clear reverence for Star Trek. There are a few necessary shortcuts, yet nevertheless, the film manages to reconcile canon. To that point, Abrams' embrace of Leonard Nimoy as Spock Prime is a master stroke that succeeds in earning the trust of fans. Abrams clearly understands that fandom is critical to the success of this newest Trek. He should succeed with the core audience, because instead of insulting them, Abrams gives the true believers a wealth of Easter eggs. For example (and if you want to stay "spoiler free" skip this section):

1. Kirk as a hell raising kid in Iowa--priceless!
2. The mentions of such locales as Delta Vega; the Klingon Prison Planet, Rura Penthe; the moon of Titan famous for "Titan's Turn"; and a nice reference to William Riker's tactic of holding a ship steady over a magnetic field in order to create a natural cloak.
3. Admiral Archer and his beagle; an Orion "slave girl" at the academy; and Sulu's skill at fencing.
4. The relationship between Spock and Uhura is a nice acknowledgment of the slash fiction that has been written about the series...and what do we now do with the "relationship" between Spock and Kirk?
5. Kirk grabbing a bottle of Saurian brandy in his bar fight with the Starfleet cadets.
6. Red shirts must die. Repeat after me, red shirts must die.
7. Pike in a wheelchair is not as tragic as Pike in a rolling box equipped with a blinking light. Pike receiving a Wrath of Khan like interrogation. Pike as captain of the Enterprise.
8. Scotty has a tribble on his desk. Scotty also has a Jem'hadar/Ugnaught assistant.
9. The USS Hood (a storied ship in all of Star Trek) gets a mention, as does the USS Farragut (which was Kirk's first posting).
10. Why must Tyler Perry appear in this movie? Why lord why?
11. This is indeed the Abramsverse. Yes my people, Star Trek 2009 does indeed feature both a Slusho reference and the monster from Cloverfield.

Roddenberry's Star Trek is about friendship and chemistry. It is not necessarily the well-acted scripts, amazing special effects, or potent and pathos filled episodes that keep fans returning to Roddenberry's Star Trek or its many spin offs. In this regard, Star Trek is wildly uneven where for every City on the Edge of Forever we have many more episodes like Spock's Brain. Even given how indescribably horrible the latter is, we still watch Star Trek because of the chemistry of Spock, McCoy, and Kirk.

As one of my dear mentors put it, he only needs to watch Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan until the point when Spock tells Kirk that he has been and always will be his friend. This is one of the primary reasons that Star Trek endures: the friendships of the characters, and the many ways that audiences see Star Trek as a familiar and rich accompaniment to their lives.

Ultimately, J.J. Abrams Star Trek is great fun. But, it is escapist entertainment that carries neither moral weight nor vision. For me, this is one of those generation defining moments where one realizes they are truly an adult because the world seems to have come full circle. Ironically, born of the tumultuous 1960s the original Star Trek "mattered" because "it was about something." Its contemporary, Battlestar Galactica, was in contrast, about nothing. It was a wagon train in space, a thrill ride for the masses:

In the Obama era, we are witness to a moment when Star Trek is about nothing, a summer popcorn movie at its finest, while the reimagined Battlestar Galactica is/was about the heavy weight of a world at war, in crisis, and an American empire in decline.

Who knows? Maybe in the world in which we live, a little escapism is a good thing, an antidote to our anxieties and fears. And in that context, I may just be able to accept this newest Star Trek after all.

Some Questions:

1. Where are the auxiliaries and reserves in the Federation starfleet? Are things so bad that they have to put 20 year olds in charge of their vessels?

2. Spock and Uhura: aliens have long been a proxy for the racial Other in science fiction. Now we have a mulatto (in Spock) getting it on with a black woman. Predictable choice? Or unexpected?

3. Will this cast mesh and create the type of chemistry which the original cast enjoyed? Or, will it be impossible given that the new crew doesn't have a television series as a platform from which to launch?

4. Who is next? Can this franchise find its Khan? Should Abrams even dare to revisit the Wrath of Khan storyline in the sequel?

5. Where is McCoy's mint julep?

6. Abrams clearly has an eye for swashbuckling adventure. What would he do in a Knights of the Old Republic centered Star Wars universe? Would Abrams be a perfect fit for it, or would he be a perfect disaster?

7. What do you ghetto nerds give Abrams' Trek? Good or bad? A thumbs up or a thumbs down?

8. Lest I forget, where was our classic Star Trek theme?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Black Backdraft Backlash!: John McWhorter’s Playing with Confederate Money

John McWhorter is a brilliant linguist; but he can also be a piss-poor public commentator on black popular culture and race-related social policy. As evidence of the latter McWhorter’s M.O., check out his recent piece on Ricci vs. DeStefano. This Supreme Court case concerns the constitutionality of the city of New Haven’s decision not to certify the result of their city’s written firefighters’ promotion test lest black and Latino firefighters, who scored poorly on such tests, sue the city for discrimination. For white male victimologists, this case is more proof that the rights of white men are under assault from the liberal tyranny of political correctness and affirmative action.

Not surprisingly, McWhorter defends Ricci, the dyslexic white plaintiff, who is said to have aced the written firefighters’ test by studying 13 hours a day, only to have the test results thrown out because no minorities did well enough to qualify for promotion. (By emphasizing Ricci’s dyslexia and intense study regimen, McWhorter tries to contrast hard-working whites from lazy blacks).

McWhorter quotes the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF) as opposing written firefighter employment exams because “cognitive examinations have an adverse effect upon blacks and other minorities.” He then uses this quote as a springboard to distort the main arguments against Ricci. In McWhorter’s hands, the IABPFF’s argument that the tests have a racially discriminatory effect becomes the argument that the firefighters’ tests—indeed, written tests in general—are racially biased.

Just read the IABPFF’s Brief of Amici Curiae from which McWhorter draws the aforementioned quote. The brief does not, in fact, argue that written exams are racially biased. Here’s what it does argue:

1.) that there is a compelling state interest in a diverse firefighters force, especially so given the long documented history of severe racism discrimination toward black firefighters;

2.) that the written tests are not an accurate measure of firefighters’ qualifications, practical abilities, and future success;

and 3.) that research shows that black test-takers often underperform because of the stress of the test-taking process, which is exacerbated by their self-conscious knowledge of stereotypes and the expectations of failure.

All of these claims are debatable, and 3.) is especially problematic, but it’s clear that McWhorter has intentionally misrepresented the IABPFF’s argument. Also notice how McWhorter conveniently minimizes the loathsome, racist history that serves as the context for the IABPFF’s concern.

McWhorter continues,

The claim that such tests are biased is heard regularly--for example, one quick way to set heads black and white nodding at a forum on education is to toss off that the SAT is "racially biased."

Not only is this sleight of hand dishonest, the supporting example is bunk. Who are the people at these education discussions? Teachers? Education policymakers? Sociologists?

I’ve been party to more of these education discussions than I can count. Furthermore, part of my job is to follow national discussions concerning how to diminish the “achievement gap” between white students and minority students. At these discussions, participants talk about ways to provide practical support to black and Latino students as well as their teachers and parents. Though there is often talk about the artificiality of tests and the failure of these tests to accurately measure true understanding and higher order thinking skills, there is no black/white left consensus that the tests are racially biased. This meme isn’t part of any major education debate—not the school level, not at the district-level, not at the national level.

But it gets worse! Consider the payoff of McWhorter’s article:

we justify the rhetorical contortions that excuse black people from challenging examinations; in the end, it is based on a tacit sense that such things are antithetical to black authenticity, that it is somehow untoward to require this kind of concentrated scholarly exertion on black people. It is the grown-up version of what Barack Obama termed in his speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention "the slander that says that if a black youth walks around with a book in his hand he's acting white."

By insisting that black left elites and the poor black ghetto residents routinely treat academic achievement as the province of whites, McWhorter is announcing that he has lost all touch with the reality of black life.

The funny thing about all of this is that I share McWhorter’s knee-jerk aversion to some black folks’ shameless willingness to tolerate lower standards and to the idea that black folks should not air our dirty laundry before the eyes of whites. My issue with McWhorter and his compatriots is that even when they’re right in terms of instinct, they’re insufferably wrong in terms of rationale and/or policy.

So McWhorter is playing with Confederate money, and he’s using that money to buy pitiful, flimsy straw men. When terrible thinkers erect straw men, it’s annoying; when people who are smart enough to know better erect straw men, it’s infuriating.


Johnny Mac strikes again!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I'm Funky Fresh Yo! or Michael Steele Knows that You Got's to Rock Your Hat Backwards in the Northeast

Patrick Buchanan's facial expressions are priceless. Buchanan may be a bigot, but at least (in his defense) he is an honest one...and I wish I knew what Buchanan was thinking as he listened to Steele further embarrass himself and the GOP.

Lord, why couldn't the GOP look under a different rock to find a more credible "leader" for their party? Random thought: doesn't Michael Steele remind you of your old uncle who is trying to remain "hip" but is twenty years off with his clothing and slang? Second random thought: when I watch Michael Steele I can't help but think of John Witherspoon in Boomerang talking about "you got's to coordinate":

Any excuse to play some Paul Mooney is right by me:

Why not? We miss you Bernie:

Monday, May 4, 2009

Chauncey DeVega says--Not So Post-Racial: the True Colors of Whiteness as a Twenty-First Century Racial Candid Camera

Humor is subjective. What one finds funny another may find tasteless or despicable.

For example, I have always been partial to the Three Stooges and find their humor to be pure genius. My love of Redd Foxx and Cleavon Little is well-known. I also think that Woody Allen's Match Point is one of the greatest movies of the last two decades with its darkly comic and tragic sensibilities where a foul harpy ruins the well-ordered life of our cavalier protagonist. By comparison, some think that the Honeymooners is a tour de force of comedic genius, a standard in television yet to be matched. By comparison, I think that the Honeymooners is grating and tacky: I simply cannot watch Ralph Kramden, a boorish lout, verbally and emotionally abuse his wife, Alice. Simply, I find no humor in it. Of course, when we add in the complexities of race in a racialized society that is struggling with its efforts, however deformed and half-conceived, to move towards being "post-racial," the question of humor, and what exactly should or ought to be laughed at, falls into sharper relief.

The brewing controversy over True Colors, where race as the ultimate circumstance of both social unease and the source of American obsession meets the classic television show Candid Camera, speaks to this tension in rare form.

Should we laugh at mammy figures such as Tyler Perry's Madea, figures who channel no more than the most basic stereotypes and coonery? Historically, were Black elites correct to condemn such shows as Amos N' Andy, when the masses found the show funny and in many ways surprisingly empowering? Is it so wrong to laugh at J.J. Walker's character in Good Times? Is it shameful to laugh at black folks throwing a fit over Popeye's running out of fried chicken? Do we lose our "progressive" card when we enjoy "regressive" or "un-PC" popular culture? Is it so problematic that we sometimes find humor in those things, be it music, art, literature, movies, or the like that do not serve the best and highest standards of what we imagine ourselves as good, respectable citizens to be? And if we do so, should we heed the words of Mao ZeDong and pause for a moment of critical self-reflection?

Because humor and comedy are so normative and subjective, I prefer not to emphasize the how in these matters--I am less concerned with why something is funny to a given person, as opposed to why a person (or a society) finds some things, events, or circumstances worthy of humor (or not). This is a subtle but important distinction. Moreover, I ask myself, what does the fact that it is okay to laugh at certain things--and do not forget that this criteria is itself socially constructed and contingent on certain arrangements and understandings of what is "natural" or "normal"--tell us about a community's values?

In watching
True Colors, I laughed. I will admit it. I laughed with great reservation and unease. I laughed with sympathy. I also laughed with surprise akin to "the didn't just do that, did they?" I also laughed knowing that what I was watching was utterly lacking in wit because of its obviousness. Nevertheless, some of the funniest things are in fact the most uncomfortable.

Consider the following clip:

Okay, a funny sight gag. Yes, the reactions are "entertaining." But just as in the first clip, why would they (the producers/the writers of True Colors) find it appropriate to use this comedic setup? What boundaries of decency do they dare not cross? Where is their internal self-censor, that little voice that says one should not cross a given line of propriety? That perhaps, it is not appropriate to stage a gag that plays on racial terrorism and murder.

Here is one of the dividing lines of race, one that remains (and will continue to) long past the post-racial halcyon days of Obama's first 100 days as president. Racism and white supremacy in this country have centered upon inflicting trauma on those deemed by convention, law, and practice to be outside of Whiteness. This exercise of power on the body and mind has also traumatized--psychologically, spiritually, and emotionally its victims--and yes, Whiteness has also profoundly damaged White people as well.

Of course, a victimized mass of undifferentiated blackness and browness is not all that we are, because to hold such a belief both erases our individuality as well as robs us of agency. For me, the fact that we have overcome so much speaks to our glorious struggle and steel-willed drive and perseverance. It also explains why I shudder with disdain and disgust when so many black Americans, young and old alike, display what is at times a chronic lack of race pride.

With this qualifier noted, the fact that the trauma afflicted on Black Americans can be used for comedic fodder says much about how the full range of our humanity goes unacknowledged in America and the West, and that there is a particular type of historical myopia at work in the heart of Whiteness:

The provincialism of the Whiteness on display in True Colors is one that is incapable of putting oneself in the place of the object of humor, i.e. perhaps, why wouldn't a black person find it funny to see a KKK robe in their doctor's office? The Whiteness on display in True Colors is also a demonstration of an almost pathological narcissism. Here, the world revolves around an unnamed, universal "I". The "I" of Whiteness need not empathize or sympathize with the Other because to not have to do so is the practical advantage that is White privilege.

In total, this may be the unbridgeable divide. For Whiteness, the idea that a Klan robe in a doctor's office may be terrifying because of the complicity of doctors in racist medical experiments on black people, is unacknowledged. Moreover, that there is strong evidence of systematic racism in the medical community which negatively impacts the quality of care that people of color receive by their health providers is ignored. Or that to show a black woman images of "beautiful" White women, and then to have her "boyfriend" consistently pick them over pictures of comparable black women may in fact be speaking to dominant, narrow, and exclusive norms of Eurocentric beauty?

In teasing out how these standards surrounding what is, or is not, fair game and terrain for humor, let us consider the following (not so) True Colors inspired scenarios. Ask yourself: is this funny? why or why not?

1. Instead of two black women discovering that their doctor is a member of the KKK, 2 aged Jewish Holocaust survivors look into their doctor's closet and see a German SS uniform. Funny or not?

2. At a mall, a black pollster asks a white couple if they wouldn't mind sharing their opinions about which men in a selection of pictures were handsome (or not). The wife in the duo is shown photos of naked, muscular, well-endowed black men, all the while indicating how she prefers those men to the comparatively scrawny and more "modestly" endowed white men she is shown in the companion photos. The husband is deeply hurt and offended. Funny or not?

3. Two parents with a son in Afghanistan are visited by an actor posing as an Army chaplain. Said person then informs the parents that their son was killed in a roadside bombing. The big reveal: their son is actually alive and safe. Funny or not?

4. A person applies for life insurance and gives blood to a nurse practitioner as part of the exam. After drawing the blood, the nurse tells the patient that the needle was previously used and that he may have been exposed to HIV. Funny or not?

What scenarios would you add to the list? And what does this experiment tell us about the Whiteness of humor?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: Professional Wrestling Memories--Playboy Buddy Rose has Passed Away

Playboy Buddy Rose has left us for that wonderful squared circle in the sky. Playboy, you will be missed as you were a great hand worthy of much respect.

The old school is always the true school, be it in the arts, sports, politics, or any other of our human endeavors. While it is true that "I remember when" is the most banal of human conversations, but there is something to be said for the good old days in professional wrestling.

A random bonus clip that proves my point: Bruiser Brody, Ricky the Dragon Steamboat, Stan Hansen, and Youngblood in a classic match. Who cares if the match is called in Japanese as this is one hot crowd as their enthusiasm is a Lingua Franca and Esperanto for fans of professional wrestling in all corners of the globe:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Respectable Negroes Beware! The Popeye's Fried Chicken Shortage Has Unleashed the Proletariat Against their Social Betters!

Do you now see what the pent up energy that was released by Barack Obama's presidential campaign has wrought? To my eyes, it appears that these folks have had a transformational experience which has increased their sense of political efficacy. At present, the Popeye's crusaders don't have a proper outlet for their (now) activated sense of group consciousness. We as elites best be concerned as the masses rise up against us...a series of events ironically begun by a shortage of fried chicken.

Who would have ever predicted such a thing would come to pass? I say let them eat cake!...Or in this case, a Popeye's biscuit.

A bonus clip: more evidence that Popeye's chicken does indeed bring out the worst in people--

Chauncey DeVega says: Don't Get Between Black Folks and Their Fried Chicken or the Popeye's Fried Chicken Debacle

This clips speaks for itself. Some thoughts: how do all these Black folks afford huge SUV's in this economy? Are they leased or owned? What other items do said people lease instead of own outright? Televisions? Couches? Refrigerators? Do these parents show this much enthusiasm and drive in attending to the education of their children? Are they picketing and protesting outside of the local board of education in order to improve the woefully inadequate public schools in their communities?

Being provocative: are all stereotypes based in some degree of truth?

Being really provocative: where is Operation Push, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton? Is this a civil rights issue?

Ultimately, is fried chicken THE solution to game theory's coordination game/collective action problem, i.e. give black folks the prospect of some cheap Popeye's fried chicken and they will organize and work together towards achieving a given goal?

Update--An official response from the television station which aired this story:


Rachel's Take
Rachel Barnhart (13WHAM-TV)

I was a little concerned tonight about the Popeye’s story.

Not because I don’t think it was a legitimate story. Customers called our newsroom wanting us to do the story about the chain running out of chicken after promoting a big special. They said the Lake Ave. location had long lines of cars.

When we went to the Lake Ave. Popeye’s, there were indeed long lines of cars. Some people took it in stride. Other people were downright angry. A few people made jokes.

The idea of people up in arms over chicken was pretty funny. I think saying the word “chicken” over and over again was funny, too. Some of the things the customers were saying were hilarious, especially the woman who said the store should have had a trailer out back filled with “chicken on ice.”

What concerned me about the story was the stereotype of black people liking fried chicken. Everyone in our story was black. We interviewed a dozen people. Even though the suburban Penfield location also ran out of chicken, and even though a whole lot of white people also like fried chicken, I was worried some viewers would think we were doing the story because of the stereotype. I was worried we were reinforcing or making fun of the stereotype.

I think the story was a story because it was a consumer issue, customers were upset, and some customers were even laughing. The conflict was just so – human. Would I have felt better about it if we talked to white people, too? Yes. Should we have gone to the Penfield store, too? Maybe. On the other hand, do we ever pause when our stories are filled with only white people? Not often - and that's sad.

I was comfortable with running the story. It accurately reflected what happened on Lake Ave. tonight. When I get upset at a business, I am the first person to express righteous outrage. That said, I wish I hadn’t put the story together at such a late hour, because I would have loved to make a bunch of calls to get more opinions on the stereotype issue.

The video of the story we ran is linked to this blog post. We took it down for a time as our newsroom debated this issue, but you probably need to watch it in order to have an opinion.

I'd really like to hear your thoughts. Be honest. Be thoughtful. Be respectful. Any hate language will be removed.

Norma's Take

Criticism is often leveled at 13WHAM that we do not feature Black people or other people of color in our stories unless they are criminals. As a person of color myself, I am sensitive to this.

So, you can imagine my thoughts when I saw our report last night about two local Popeye’s running out of chicken and the mayhem that ensued. My gut reaction was that the story--although a legitimate consumer complaint—seemed to reinforce a cultural stereotype about Black people and chicken. I know for a fact that no one on our staff meant for that to be the point of the story, but the fear that we would be accused of this sounded an alarm to me. It’s sad that I even had to worry about this.

The story was what it was: customers, who happened to be Black, expressing anger about a heavily advertised special that ran out. Our job as journalists is not to “whitewash (sorry, no pun intended)” the news. We aren’t here to manufacture, make up, or tamper with what exists so we ran the story. In hindsight, I’m glad we did. Race aside, it is a perfect consumer story…and consumers have a right to be angry.

However, the report sparked a discussion in our newsroom about the way we portray people of color. I have to admit, we tend to overlook the importance of being inclusive in some of our reporting. Gay, Lesbian, Hispanic, Senior, and Physically Disabled people have opinions on any number of topics, yet we tend to only interview them in relation to stories that affect their specific groups. What’s the sense in that?

This conversation is ongoing and I’m so proud that we are able to have it.

What Would a Black Militant Say About Barack Obama's First 100 Days? An Interview with Brother X-Squared

In keeping with our tradition of the We Are Respectable Negroes News Network's (WARNNN) bringing you exclusive news exposes such as our interviews with Jesse Jackson and our White in America series, we bring you the second installment in our ongoing series of interviews with Brother X-Squared, president of the North American Chapter of the Renewed Black Panther Party. In this newest interview we explored Brother X-Squared's feelings on the first 100 days of Barack Obama's presidency.

WARNNN: Hello, it has been a long time since we last spoke. Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed again.

Brother X-Squared: As always Brother Chauncey, I am here to bring the light to all those negroes who remain lost in the wilderness.

WARNNN: When we last spoke, you offered some powerful observations and predictions regarding Barack Obama's campaign. There you expressed your feelings that it wouldn't matter if a Black man were to be elected president, and you expressed great doubt that Obama would in fact win.

Brother X-Squared: That is correct.

WARNNN: As we approach the first 100 days of Obama's presidency, have you changed your feelings about Obama, and do you not think that his election is an amazing milestone for America?

Brother X-Squared: Does a wet dog bark loudly when he is woken up at night by a pigeon outside his master's window?

WARNNN: Excuse me Brother X-Squared? I am confused.

Brother X-Squared: You are always confused Brother Chauncey because the White man's tricknology has gotten your mindstate upset and out of balance. The answer is no and no! This is just part of the White man's master plan as I told you in October--elect a halfrican negro as quote unquote "president" and then you can say that White supremacy is dead. They played you Tom negroes, dumb White liberals, and Obamazombies. They are already doing it, did you not see that the Supreme court is poised to outlaw affirmative action--that little bone that massa threw you negroes--and that a recent survey says that you black fools don't think America is a racist country anymore? Damn, you all don't know how deep the White man's game is. The Tom Negro Coconut lapdogs for massa are playing 1 dimensional chess while the White man is playing that Star Trek, Mr. Spock 3-D chess. You foolish negroes can't possibly win.

WARNNN: I respect your points Brother X-Squared, but you don't think that given American's history that Obama's victory is not in fact a watershed event, an amazing event of Earth shattering proportions?

Brother X-Squared: Watershed? Lord, Brother Chauncey we need to get your mind detoxed. Watershed? How dare you use such a phrase. Water equals the oceans of the Middle Passage. Shed equals where slaves were brought to be tortured by the overseers. The Renewed Black Panther Party has so much work to do in order to free you mental slaves. Furthermore, you keep asking about these 100 days of his presidency? Don't you see how the White man is manipulating you again? 100 Brother Chauncey, 100! don't you get it?

WARNNN: No, I am sorry I don't.

Brother X-Squared: 100 million of us dead and gone in the Middle Passage! Every time the mainstream media talks about 100 they are dishonoring the Black man and mocking our suffering! This is deep, deep, deep, the levels of tricknology that are being deployed to subjugate the captive Black man in America. Minstrel-hop, Tyler Perry, BET, high fructose corn syrup, these Internets, saggin' pants, we the original Black man are in a war for our souls.

WARNNN: I will rephrase the question. Did you as a Black man not feel a little pride is seeing Obama's inauguration? Did that event open you to the thought that there is some hope for American democracy to make amends for its original sin of slavery, discrimination, and racism?

Brother X-Squared: Let me ask you a question?

WARNNN: Of course.

Brother X-Squared: Which president was Obama channeling during his speech and inauguration?

WARNNN: It was pretty clear that Obama was signaling to Abraham Lincoln.

Brother X-Squared: Exactly. This is political theater of the worst sort. Obama is really channeling Franz Fanon, his inauguration was on some Black Skin, White Mask nonsense. Here, we have a halfrican, "Black" man channeling the "Great Emancipator," a man who would have kept us in chains in order to preserve the Union, and who advocated sending us, the Black man who built this country back to Africa after we were "freed." Lincoln didn't love Black people, he tolerated us--barely. And, you have a President using that symbolism...along with "Southern Belles" marching in the parade? A bunch of getting Black folk lynched heifers and sluts, who loved to take a slave to bed and then throw him to the wolves because she wanted to get some of that Sycamore tree that her melanin challenged man couldn't give her, being "honored" in the inaugural parade. Damn, give me a break. Barack Obama as Abraham Lincoln is like tits on a bull--utter and total nonsense, an oxymoron. This is laughable, a not real Black man living in the White House, a house that itself was built by African slave labor.

WARNNN: Changing topics, how would you assess his first 100 days in office?

Brother X-Squared: Are you still Black and broke?

Chauncey DeVega: Yes, and?

Brother X-Squared: I told you that halfrican wouldn't do anything for you and that he wasn't some messiah, but you all fools drank the Kool-Aid nonetheless. Fools, fools, fools.

Chauncey DeVega: Please, answer the original question.

Brother X-Squared: You are always provoking me Brother Chauncey, but I will answer the question anyway. If Obama doesn't fix this economic mess he inherited, then Obama will be the first and last Black president. Again, the White man left this mess. Little Bush, Redneck Clinton, and Daddy Bush created this crisis. Now, Obama is left to clean it up. Those devils at the Federal Reserve, the IMF, and their peeps in the Illuminati, the Bilderbergs, and those other villains played Obama. They gave a Black man the job to further their ends...and to create a Black scapegoat for these problems.

Turn on your television, what do you see? Tea Parties. And we all know what tea parties really are, but that is a convo for another time. You have these dumb working and middle class White folk wanting to overthrow the government and denouncing Obama because a multinational, fascist company, Fox News, is telling them to do so. Dumb, stupid, White folk. They need to read some history to understand how the White working class has been played by rich White men. Again, if Obama don't fix this mess he inherited then he is going to be the last Black man ever in that White House. If he fails spectacularly, then they may round up us Black people and put us in camps. But of course, the pigs know not to confront Brother X-Squared and his Nubian warriors or they will lose--in grand fashion.

WARNNN: Brother X-Squared, I know that you have found at least one thing about the Obama presidency heartwarming. How about their cute puppy, Bo, that charming little dog that the Obama's kids love so much? You said that you love dogs in your first interview, you must be happy with cute, charming, Bo?

Brother X-Squared: Don't bring my four legged friends into this Brother Chauncey, cause you know you are on thin ice with that one.

WARNNN: No offense intended, but please answer the question.

Brother X-Squared: Understood. They even played you with that dog. Look at that canine: he is black and white. Bo is a mongrel! What about his name? Bo? A good old boy, racist name! Why didn't they call the dog Omar, or Shaka? hmmm...makes one think doesn't it?

Ultimately, Bo is mixed race and weak, just like his human daddy. And, they are socializing those beautiful children to accept race mixing. So sickening. To boot, Bo is a Portuguese Water Dog! Damn, again, the White man--the Kennedys gave the Obamas that dog--the Kennedys, those drunken, racist, Irish, rum runners who earned their Whiteness by hating Black people. This is so deep. Don't you see it, Brother Chauncey?

WARNNN: I am not sure.

Brother X-Squared: Think about it--Portuguese and Water. The former were one of the foremost slave traders. Water is how they killed us. The White man gave Obama a living symbol of the ways that White supremacy enacted power on the body of the Afro-Asiatic Black man. Everyday in the White House a slave catching dog that symbolizes AmeriKKKa's hatred of the Black man is sitting at the feet of a "Black" president. Lord above, help my people.

WARNNN: Per our tradition, at the end of our interviews we ask you to tell us something we don't know. What would you like to share.

Brother X-Squared: Swine Flu.

WARNNN: Huh? Please clarify.

Brother X-Squared: The Swine Flu is proof of my prophetic vision. This pandemic encapsulates everything I have warned you about. It was unleashed by the White man onto a Black president. I will even bet you that it was made in some laboratory by an evil White scientist--you will see. And to boot, damn this is so so so deep, the Swine flu, that dirty pig--we can never forget the role of that beast in all of this--is a result of race mixing, just like Obama! The Swine Flu is a combination of human, avian, and pig flu strains. You see, God above didn't want all this race mixing, and now it will be your undoing! I mock your stupidity, those of you who have not had your eyes opened by the knowledge that I am bringing you.

WARNNN: You are always an amazing guest Brother X-Squared. Will we be hearing from you again?

Brother X-Squared: Absolutely.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Great Leadership or Horrible Harangue: U.S. Army Trainer "Motivates" Iraqi Police

Random thought: do any of you who are teachers or professors secretly wish that you could talk to/motivate your students this way?

Second random thought: should this soldier be given the title of honorary respectable negro?

A bonus: a "motivational" clip from the criminally underrated Boys from Company C:

Saturday, April 25, 2009

12 Monkeys in 2009--Enter the Great Swine Flu Pandemic

From Reuters:

WASHINGTON, April 25 (Reuters) - An unusual new flu virus has spread widely and cannot be contained, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed on Saturday.

"It is clear that this is widespread. And that is why we have let you know that we cannot contain the spread of this virus," the CDC's Dr. Anne Schuchat told reporters on a conference call.

The strain of swine flu is suspected of killing as many as 68 people in Mexico and infecting more than 1,000 more, including eight in the United States. (Reporting by Maggie Fox, editing by Patricia Zengerle)

Ominous. No?

Am I the only one who has been thinking about the movie 12 Monkeys as the swine flu outbreak seems to be taking on the markers of a global pandemic?

Is this life imitating art imitating life?