Thursday, September 17, 2009

We Have Our First Brave Entrant in Our Contest to Win a Copy of Hill Harper's "The Conversation"

My respectable negro friends and allies, I do apologize for my recent hiatus. I have finally finished moving into my new apartment (twice in 2 weeks folks)--silence is bliss. And the first week of classes are behind me. Zora should be returning soon, and Gordon has some things in mind as well, so business should be picking up.

We began a contest to win a free copy of Hill Harper's book The Conversation a few weeks back. Much to my surprise, folks didn't seem to want a free book (maybe they were scared to talk about black love--does anyone get my Whitney Houston/Bobby Brown joke? or am I just being self-congratulatory?)

Now, we finally have a first, brave entrant in our contest. Who will join him in sharing their diagnosis of what ails the black relationship?

Here is a (re)introduction to our contest:

In the spirit of the Church of James Brown (wasn't that a fun contest?), we bring you the chance to play ...insert drum roll...

Doctor For a Day: How Would You Diagnose the Problems that Plague Black Male and Female Relationships in the 21st century?

Each of the submissions should have the following format.

1. Tell us what the symptoms are of the patient (i.e. if the Black Male/Female relationship was a patient, what would he/she come to you as the doctor complaining about?)

2. What condition is the patient in? Please use this helpful guide:
Undetermined: Patient awaiting physician and assessment.
Good: Vital signs are stable and within normal limits. Patient is conscious and comfortable. Indicators are excellent.
Fair: Vital signs are stable and within normal limits. Patient is conscious, but may be uncomfortable. Indicators are favorable.
Serious: Vital signs may be unstable and not within normal limits. Patient is acutely ill. Indicators are questionable.
Critical: Vital signs are unstable and not within normal limits. Patient may be unconscious. Indicators are unfavorable.
3. How would you cure this patient? And yes, euthanasia is a fair answer.

Our first entry courtesy of Vee (Scratch):

I usually tend to get 10 - 20 walk-ins, but I only take 5 - 7 appointments a day at the Center for Black Relationships Health & Research Studies. I'll tell you about one recent appointment, names will be withheld as per the center's policy.

This couple was particularly odd. The male subject appeared to be intoxicated, possibly on marijuana. His female counterpart was very agitated and could not wait for our session to end, repeatedly stating that she needed a strong drink. Normally I would write off their relationship as being critically unstable but they’ve been able to endure each other for several years, seven to be exact. One time during a heated argument, I noticed the male cringe as if he expected to be hit by the female. This was odd because he exuded many alpha-male qualities except when relating to her. He has been between jobs while pursuing a career in music. The female was working full time, assuming all the financial responsibilities of the household. She complained that although he kept the house clean, organized and cooked great meals, he did not have any real ambitions or plans.

I noted all the complaints and frustrations then I asked them what made their relationship work. She quickly stated that the sexual relationship was great and they have a great time only when they go out together. The male subject simply nodded in his stupor. After pushing him for a reply he stated that he loves her but wishes she was more sympathetic towards his dreams. The male subject offered that the relationship was fine when he was financial supporting her through grad school, but then things changed. Before their back and forth, tit-for-tat argument began to escalate again I decided to stop them in their tracks.

Their relationship is as fairly normal as it gets but they can make it great. They have their highs and lows. No real expectations are explicitly declared and they obviously share different values and morals. I told the male subject that I strongly suggest he begins to learn how to open up emotionally, find a Plan B and to reduce his marijuana intake. I let the female subject know that she needed to respect the man she fell in love with, learn to listen effectively, and reduce her alcohol consumption. Then I told them to quietly list the roles of a man and woman, indicating which were cultural or universal. For the next session, we will discuss the roles and expectation of men and women in intimate relationships. I explained that like many relationships, the repair and growth requires understanding and education. Prior to the next appointment, I insisted that they participate in our Communication 101 workshop. I let them know that I thought they had hope for a great rewarding relationship; it all depended on how much time and work they invested in making it flourish.

Please note that this is one example, not indicative of the majority of Black Relationships. I’ve had many cases that informed me that despite what the statistics, surveys and op-ed pieces in major media outlets say about this subject, our relationships are not monolithic and are determined by a variety of factors like education, religion, culture, socio-economic and educational backgrounds. I must admit, while there’s a cause for concern, through focus, education everything will be fine.

Questions About Race and the Media Coverage of Annie Le's Murder

Based on reports from national media outlets, the only people who ever go missing seem to be:

a. White
b. Female
c. Thin and relatively attractive
d. Upper class (by virtue of income or education)

What, then, do we make of the case of Annie Le, the Asian American Yale grad student who was reported missing last week and, unfortunately, found dead earlier this week? From what I can recall, Le is the first Asian American woman to have received national attention in a missing person’s case.

Some quick questions:

1. Does the fact that an Asian American woman got national attention normally reserved for white women count as progress? Is this an indication that a racial barrier has been broken? Can we expect more national coverage on missing women of color (not immediately, of course, but perhaps in the future)?

2. Does Le’s case going national say something about how far Asian Americans have been assimilated? Have Asian Americans, like Irish-Americans in the early 20th Century, been granted a pass into the hallowed hall of Whiteness? Did the fact that Le was going to marry a white/Jewish man make her more worthy of coverage?

3. What does it say about corporate media and its vision of America that a missing person must possess characteristics b. through d. in order for their disappearance to be deemed newsworthy?

By the way, there were still issues with how the police handled the situation, and some wonder whether her race had something to do with it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Weekend Laughs: Which is Funnier? Pastor Manning? The Coffin Preacher? Or the Casket Practical Joke?

Pastor Manning is at it again! You got's to love him. I think that some enterprising video game developer should make a first person shooter or role playing game featuring Pastor Manning--now I would buy that for a dollar!

Behold the coffin preacher:

As the blog Oh Hell Nawl put it, this video damn near made me poop myself:

So which of these is funniest? I vote for Pastor Manning as my default, because as you all know he is my personal happiness pill.

Question: Is Pastor Manning putting some sort of Christian science hoodoo curse on Barack Obama? We know that prayer is purported to be able heal the sick, but can a "reverse prayer" make sick the healthy?

Not casket related, but a worthy bonus. Question: if the following happened to you, would you not just go ahead and simply "bless" the fool?

Chauncey DeVega says: Don't Say We Don't Give Equal Time To Our Enemies or Pat Buchanan Says "America is Coming Apart"

Seeing that we got a great deal of mileage off of our faux interview with Pat Buchanan, it seems only fair to give him equal time and the chance to speak in his own words. Even more priceless is the fact that his latest editorial on WorldNetDaily is a real gem that even we could not parody-- lest we diminish its inherent schizophrenic, paranoid, xenophobic, madness. It seems there is indeed a culture war afoot...and folks like Buchanan are leading their foot soldiers straight through the gates of Hell.


Is America Coming Apart?
By Patrick J. Buchanan

Flying home from London, where the subject of formal debate on the 70th anniversary of World War II had been whether Winston Churchill was a liability or asset to the Free World, one arrives in the middle of a far more acrimonious national debate right here in the United States.

At issue: Should Barack Obama be allowed to address tens of millions of American children, inside their classrooms, during school hours?

Conservative talk-show hosts saw a White House scheme to turn public schools into indoctrination centers where the socialist ideology of Obama would be spoon-fed to captive audiences of children forced to listen to Big Brother -- and then do assignments on his sermon.

The liberal commentariat raged about right-wing paranoia.

Yet Byron York of the Washington Examiner dug back to 1991 to discover that, when George H.W. Bush went to Alice Deal Junior High to speak to America's school kids, the left lost it.

"The White House turned a Northwest Washington junior high classroom into a television studio and its students into props," railed the Washington Post. Education Secretary Lamar Alexander was called before a House committee. The National Education Association denounced Bush. And Congress ordered the General Accounting Office to investigate.

Obama's actual speech proved about as controversial as a Nancy Reagan appeal to eighth-graders to "Just say no!" to drugs.

Yet, the episode reveals the poisoned character of our politics.

We saw it earlier on display in August, when the crowds that came out for town hall meetings to oppose Obama's health-care plans were called "thugs," "fascists," "racists" and "evil-mongers" by national Democrats.

We see it as Rep. Joe Wilson shouts, "You lie!" at the president during his address to a joint session of Congress.

We seem not only to disagree with each other more than ever, but to have come almost to detest one another. Politically, culturally, racially, we seem ever ready to go for each others' throats.

One half of America sees abortion as the annual slaughter of a million unborn. The other half regards the right-to-life movement as tyrannical and sexist.

Proponents of gay marriage see its adversaries as homophobic bigots. Opponents see its champions as seeking to elevate unnatural and immoral relationships to the sacred state of traditional marriage.

The question invites itself. In what sense are we one nation and one people anymore? For what is a nation if not a people of a common ancestry, faith, culture and language, who worship the same God, revere the same heroes, cherish the same history, celebrate the same holidays and share the same music, poetry, art and literature?

Yet, today, Mexican-Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo, a skirmish in a French-Mexican war about which most Americans know nothing, which took place the same year as two of the bloodiest battles of our own Civil War: Antietam and Fredericksburg.

Christmas and Easter, the great holidays of Christendom, once united Americans in joy. Now we fight over whether they should even be mentioned, let alone celebrated, in our public schools.

Where we used to have classical, pop, country & Western and jazz music, now we have varieties tailored to specific generations, races and ethnic groups. Even our music seems designed to subdivide us.

One part of America loves her history, another reviles it as racist, imperialist and genocidal. Old heroes like Columbus, Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee are replaced by Dr. King and Cesar Chavez.

But the old holidays, heroes and icons endure, as the new have yet to put down roots in a recalcitrant Middle America.

We are not only more divided than ever on politics, faith and morality, but along the lines of class and ethnicity. Those who opposed Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court and stood by Sgt. Crowley in the face-off with Harvard's Henry Louis Gates were called racists. But this time they did not back down. They threw the same vile word right back in the face of their accusers, and Barack Obama.

Consider but a few issues on which Americans have lately been bitterly divided: school prayer, the Ten Commandments, evolution, the death penalty, abortion, homosexuality, assisted suicide, affirmative action, busing, the Confederate battle flag, the Duke rape case, Terri Schiavo, Iraq, amnesty, torture.

Now it is death panels, global warming, "birthers" and socialism. If a married couple disagreed as broadly and deeply as Americans do on such basic issues, they would have divorced and gone their separate ways long ago. What is it that still holds us together?

The European-Christian core of the country that once defined us is shrinking, as Christianity fades, the birth rate falls and Third World immigration surges. Globalism dissolves the economic bonds, while the cacophony of multiculturalism displaces the old American culture.

"E pluribus unum" – out of many, one - was the national motto the men of '76 settled upon. One sees the pluribus. But where is the unum? One sees the diversity. But where is the unity?

Is America, too, breaking up?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: Is Barack Obama a Zombie Who Wants to Eat Representative Joe Wilson's Brains?

We are going to do a more serious, incisive, and analytical post on President Obama's health care speech to Congress in a few hours, but because I am a ghetto nerd who loves Bro'Bama, and I will ride or die with the man, I feel that I can make the following observation.

Have any of you have seen the photo of President Obama on CNN's homepage?

Does he not look like one of the undead? Do you remember during the campaign when that kindly looking, black elder was trying to kiss him, a moment that many (including me) joked that she was a zombie trying to bite him? Could Bro'Bama be infected with the z-virus?

For your inspection, here is Barack Obama side by side with THE Romero zombie Bub from Day of the Dead, a little Black Zombie obligatorily thrown in from Land of the Dead--and Romero's cemetery zombie from Night of the Living Dead:

Do we have something to worry about? And after Congressman Joe Wilson's impolitic outburst, doesn't President Obama look like he wants to eat said offender's brains? Are we in the beginning stages of a full scale zombie apocalypse--a trickle down, brain eating, end of the world, scenario?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Do You Want to Win a Free Copy of Hill Harper's New Book "The Conversation?"

Another day, another set of prizes to give away.

Courtesy of Gotham Books, we are hosting a contest featuring Hill Harper's (the actor of CSI fame) new book "The Conversation." Hill's work, I just got my copy today and will be reading it on the bus to and from work, presents a light, insightful, and accessible user's manual for African American men and women to better understand that which keeps us apart (and hopefully what can bring us closer together). I am not a big fan of self-help books, but The Conversation is fun reading and I do recommend it.

Now, we respectable negroes have always talked around the dynamics surrounding gender relationships, but this contest seems like a great entry point into this impassioned conversation.

We respectable negroes also have a biting sense of humor-- so of course we can't just give copies of this book away. You all need to work to get this swag. In the spirit of the Church of James Brown (wasn't that a fun contest?), we bring you the chance to play ...insert drum roll...

Doctor For a Day: How Would You Diagnose the Problems that Plague Black Male and Female Relationships in the 21st century?

Each of the submissions should have the following format.

1. Tell us what the symptoms are of the patient (i.e. if the Black Male/Female relationship was a patient, what would he/she come to you as the doctor complaining about?)

2. What condition is the patient in? Please use this helpful guide:
Undetermined: Patient awaiting physician and assessment.
Good: Vital signs are stable and within normal limits. Patient is conscious and comfortable. Indicators are excellent.
Fair: Vital signs are stable and within normal limits. Patient is conscious, but may be uncomfortable. Indicators are favorable.
Serious: Vital signs may be unstable and not within normal limits. Patient is acutely ill. Indicators are questionable.
Critical: Vital signs are unstable and not within normal limits. Patient may be unconscious. Indicators are unfavorable.
3. How would you cure this patient? And yes, euthanasia is a fair answer.


As an example, if I were to submit a response, here is what mine would likely be.

I was the attending physician for the Black Relationship's visit to the emergency room on September 8, 2009. The patient arrived complaining of shortness of breath, headaches, and swollen joints. There were suspicious marks on the forearms and chest that would suggest defensive injuries from an attack, cutting, or a history of domestic violence. The patient's neck also displayed scarring consistent with being burned by hot grits or cooking oil.

In addition, the patient described acute conditions that are associated with a generalized anxiety disorder. I ran a standard exam and the vitals were within a normal range. However, said patient's blood pressure was extremely high (both systolic and diastolic) . When questioned about its lifestyle habits, the Black Relationship became upset, confused, and belligerent. He/she was paranoid and fixated on a deep internal schism around love and acceptance. There was also a repeated reference to "interracial dating," "white people stealing our good women and men," something called "BMW," as well as to "Angry Black Women." I suggested that the Black Relationship consult a mental health professional. At first resistant because of cultural norms, the patient quite wisely and lucidly agreed to do so in the future.

Physically the patient is in FAIR condition. However, the mental and emotional state of the patient is SERIOUS.

My PRESCRIPTION for the Black Relationship is intensive psychotherapy, a series of in depth physicals, as well as a consultation with a nutritionist.


Be as creative as you would like. Yes, the topic of the book is black male and female love relationships, but all folk can participate. If you are one of our gay/lesbian/bi/trans family share your thoughts. If you are one of our white allies and think that bad relationships (especially the "struggle" of upwardly mobile women to find "comparable" mates) are a pandemic and not isolated to any one group please be creative and send in your story as well. But again, all submissions have to link back to the central focus of the contest.

In short have fun. We are giving away 3 copies of the book. But, I will probably have some additional prizes for the runners-up.

Monday, September 7, 2009

You Make the Call: George Clinton's Maggot Brain versus Metallica's Unforgiven

Totally random. I just got back from seeing the one and only George Clinton (can you smell the p-funk on me?) at the Africafest in Chicago. Gordon and his queen were also in attendance. At the climax of the show--one song before "Flashlight"--George Clinton's boy Michael Hampton played "Maggot Brain." Am I just that late to the party, but did Metallica borrow some of "Unforgiven's" chord progressions from Parliament's "Maggot Brain?"

In union, Gordon, his queen, and I noticed the similarities between the two songs. Are we crazy? What are some other funk-rock-metal borrowings/samplings/collaborations that are so obvious they have subsequently gone under the radar for most listeners? Enlighten me please as I enjoy adding those selections to my music rotation.

I am still waiting for the mothership!

I wonder if Riley Martin will get me a seat on the next outbound shuttle to Alpha Centauri?

When We Countenance Evil Anywhere, It Diminishes All of Us Everywhere: Father Wants Son's Beating Treated as Hate Crime

As we discussed earlier this week. Where is the outrage? And where is the "social justice" community? Remember, when we countenance evil anywhere, it diminishes all of us everywhere...

from CNN:

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Brian Milligan Sr. believes his son's race triggered a brutal attack on the streets of Buffalo, New York.

Armed with a chunk of concrete, several assailants beat Brian Milligan Jr. on the back of the head on August 18, leaving a 3-inch gash. They kicked him in the face, breaking his jaw.

Bloodied and bruised, the 18-year-old managed to walk five blocks to his grandmother's house before being rushed to the hospital.

Milligan's father believes several African-Americans beat his son, who is white, because he is dating an African-American woman. He wants police to treat the beating as a hate crime. He also has criticized what he calls a deafening silence from the community, police and the national media.

"If this was a black guy who was beaten by a group of white guys for dating a white girl, people would be up in arms," he said. "There's a double standard."

Buffalo police believe a group of about 10 to 15 African-American men attacked Milligan late at night, police spokesman Mike DeGeorge said. Police have made no arrests and are still investigating the motive, he said.

Milligan Sr. says he believes the attackers are the same "neighborhood guys" who threatened his son and his African-American girlfriend because of their interracial relationship.

The younger Milligan and his girlfriend, Nicola Fletcher, who is also 18, had recently complained of an increase in insults and threats in east Buffalo, where Fletcher lives and where Milligan was staying with his grandmother, Fletcher said.

"Every time they walk the streets, people stop him and call him 'cracker' and ask her why she's not with a black guy," Milligan Sr. said.

Two days before the attack, Fletcher said she was shot with paintball pellets by the same group of neighborhood aggressors.

"I'm afraid to walk the streets," she said. "Those guys are still out there."

Police "are making good progress in the case," said DeGeorge, the police spokesman. Investigators are still trying to determine if it should be declared a hate crime.

They have asked members of the community to call police if they have any information.

When Milligan was taken to Erie County Medical Center, he was unconscious and suffered blood on the brain and brain swelling as a result of the beating. He will see a neurosurgeon on September 10 to be evaluated, said his father.

He is now recovering at home and remembers nothing about the attack, which has made the police investigation even more difficult.

The story has touched a nerve with several members of Buffalo's African-American community, including a local pastor who leads a predominantly black church in Buffalo.

"At first, it didn't affect me the way that it would have if I heard it was a black teen attacked," said the Rev. Darius Pridgen, who spent years fighting for civil rights for African-Americans.

"But after I saw his father on TV pleading with the community to find the assailants, I decided I had to go after the people who beat this kid."

Pridgen said he felt that the community has turned a collective blind eye to the beating. So he gave a fire-and-brimstone sermon at the True Baptist Church on a Sunday after the attack, appealing to his congregation to help find the culprits.

"He didn't deserve to be beaten this way," Pridgen recalled saying at the service. "If you believe this, put your hands together."

If it was a black teen, Pridgen said, "We would have been protesting with flags and everything else."

Rod Watson also addressed the issue in his column in the Buffalo News. Watson, who is black, pointed out that interracial marriages are nearly 10 times higher than they were in 1960, according to U.S. Census data, but still those couples have a tough time being accepted by society.

"If blacks in Buffalo in 2009 are acting like whites in Selma in 1959, this society has big problems, despite electing a president who is himself the product of an interracial union," Watson said.

Judy Milligan, a community activist and Brian Milligan Jr.'s great-aunt, said she has been overwhelmed with support from her friends, both black and white.

Mary Woods, a member of Buffalo's African-American community, reached out to Milligan to offer her support.

"I don't care what color you are, when something like this happens, justice must be served," Woods said. "There had to be someone who saw something, and they should come forward."

Milligan Sr. has criticized the Buffalo Police Department for spending too much time "trying to prove this crime wasn't a hate crime instead of performing a solid investigation."

But DeGeorge said the department is pursuing the attackers with the same vigor as it would any crime.

"People tend to want crimes solved yesterday," DeGeorge said. "We are performing a thorough investigation and that takes time."

He expressed optimism that Buffalo residents would come forward to help bring the perpetrators to justice.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Power of White Women's Tears (Redux) or Right Wing Mother Cries over Barack Obama's Speech to School Children

A colleague who forwarded the above clip to me summed it up best with his email that:


Let's be honest. These people are straight up racist fucks. If Obama weren't black, they'd be half-way okay with things. They believe "their world" is under some sort of assault from "socialism" and other concepts they are literally too stupid to understand (or appreciate). They didn't mind or protest those ridiculous "red/orange/yellow alerts" at the airport or all the other BS from Bush. There are a lot of lunatics out there. Nearly all are Republicans. I hope they die. Or I wish I could trade them for some endangered species like polar bears...

I must point out the obvious mouth-breathing, Joe Q. Public, 50th percentile, the masses are indeed asses observation that, "politics is totally up to the family." Huh? Again, where, and in how many ways, has the educational system failed us? Sure, family is a primary location of political socialization, but THE only one? Come on.

This woman's tears has inspired me to start a new feature: every time a Conservative (of if appropriate a Liberal) becomes histrionic about Barack Obama--and their only real motivation for said complaining and panic is the fact that the President of the United States is a Black man--I will play an appropriate video clip.

Today's installment of "we are really upset that a Black man is President but we don't have the courage to tell you is"...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Chauncey DeVega says: A Mugging On Lake Street or Let's Talk Honestly About Ignt's, Black on White Violence, and Liberal (or Not) Guilt

Hat tip to Ta-Nehisi Coates for this one. I was a victim of an attempted robbery at gunpoint (by a young black ign't) and am thus a bit too close to this story to offer a traditional essay.

Consequently, I have more questions than answers and will share accordingly.

I must applaud John Conroy's honesty in sharing the complex mix of feelings he experienced in the aftermath of his attack by a group of black hoodlums. For the uninitiated, Conroy is a local Chicago journalist who is good people and has worked diligently to highlight injustices wherever he has found them. In total, Conroy is a sincere defender of the "powerless" and the "disadvantaged"--how ironic then, when a member of said group viciously attacks him.

In reading "A Mugging on Lake Street" I must ask: what happens when you are one of the good guys (in this case a self-avowed, white progressive) and you are betrayed by those folks who you are invested in helping? Do you give up the fight? Should you? Or is this betrayal a litmus test for how deep one's commitment to a cause really is?

For example, if a person is invested in rehabilitating pitbulls, and one of those poor abused souls does not return the generosity of your deeds--except for a sudden and painful much just rewards for your hard work--are you a fool for continuing with that cause? How do we reconcile the moment of praxis that occurs when theory meets practice?

Did these ign'ts attack Conroy because he was white? Or did they attack him because he happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time? Are these predators so utterly unreflective, and controlled by their base impulses, that to assign any amount of premeditation to their deeds functions as an ironic, backhanded "complement"--one which they are not worthy of receiving?

When you hear about instances such as Conroy's attack, does your mind wander to the inevitable question, "what if a group of white kids had attacked a local black journalist? Wouldn't there be protests?" More generally, what of our common humanity? I bring hell down on white folks when they don't stand up for justice, and I try to bring the same rain down upon black and brown folk as well: Where were/are Sharpton et al. when hate crimes are committed against White people?

Or is this is a story of power, where "the powerful" i.e. White people, have enough advocates already? Thus, those who speak for the "weak" cannot and must not divert their attention from that cause? Or is the reluctance on the part of the media, public intellectuals, and activists to turn a bright light on hate crimes against whites a function of how these violent incidents are often taken as a cause de celebre by White Nationalists and other hate mongers, and thus there exists a natural aversion to giving said groups any additional ammunition?

Finally, what is more disturbing? "Larry's" behavior? Or that of the "responsible" adults around him? Is it not at all surprising that so many young black men end up in prison as much because of poor choices, as because of how those around them act as enablers? What is the over/under on how long until this young ign't, piece of human debris ends up in prison? I say 2 years, 5 on the outside. What is your bet?

Am I too callous, when after reading these stories I shake my head and say incidents such as these aren't about race at all? That instead these happenings are more precisely a commentary on the thin dividing line which separates the civilized and the savage--and that Conroy is actually lucky because if he were black those young ign'ts might have just as soon killed him?

Some choice excerpts:

I was willing to believe that this was just an example of the inexplicable teenage mind at work. Carolyn Frazier, a Northwestern law professor who often represents juveniles facing criminal charges, told me recently that her clients sometimes use the phrase “going on dummy” to describe doing something stupid, something bad, offering “a big ‘fuck you’ to society. . . . It’s that whole frontal cortex issue: They are just incredibly impulsive; they are not thinking about the higher consequences.” Of course, not every kid behaves that way, so there’s obviously more at work. “It’s peer pressure; it’s what you see in your neighborhood, what values you are being raised with; it’s all sorts of things.” Maybe, she said, “you got dummied.”

“Some people are just thugs,” an African American friend of mine said. And I thought there might be something to that. I just had the bad luck to run into one—they come in all colors—and perhaps mine was an equal opportunity thug. Maybe if I’d been black, I’d have hit the same piece of pavement.


Larry sat still for all of this, his eyes downcast. Aaronson asked him to reply. “Wasn’t no motive,” he said quietly, his voice hardly carrying to Aaronson’s end of the table. “Nothin’ like that.” He was hesitant, didn’t seem to be able to look at me directly, and there was no trace of cockiness or street toughness. “We was playing basketball at school, and then we got off the train, and one of the guys said, ‘Let’s do somethin’.’ ‘Like what?’ ‘Like beat up somebody.’ Thirty seconds later you came riding by on your bike.”

Larry maintained that he wasn’t the guy who’d hit me. He said that he hadn’t objected to the plan, and that afterward he had just run away with the others. “Seeing the way it happened, I had no feeling. Didn’t know what to feel.” The whole thing had nothing to do with race, he said. “If it was any other person in that state of mind we was in as a group, it would have happened to anyone. . . . Really wasn’t no reason. Just kids doing kids.”

“Why didn’t you steal anything?” I asked.

Wasn’t part of the plan.”


I left feeling somewhat whole. During the session, Larry had yawned, stretched, and cleaned his fingernails with a pen, but he’d also said he regretted being part of the incident. I thought he had learned something. When his mother had asked him how he’d feel in my shoes, he’d said, “I’d be filled with hate.” I’d asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. “I want to play in the NBA,” he said. I later learned that in his two years of high school he’d passed a total of one class. Clearly I was better off, even unemployed, than he was or might ever be.


I called seven more times, trying at hours when I thought I might catch Larry but not his aunt, but had no success. Finally, I called on Memorial Day. Larry’s aunt answered and said her husband wanted to talk to me. “I don’t see what it is that you want to know,” he said. “You got mugged, he got in trouble. So what is it that you want to know?”

“I’d just like to know what is behind it, what happened that day.”

“So, what you writing—a book, a movie, or what?”

“No, I’m just trying to write a magazine article. I’m not using—”

He interrupted before I could explain I wasn’t going to use Larry’s name. “Oh, you just writing a magazine article? That means you gonna get paid.”

“That’s right.”

“So is he gonna get paid?”


“Okay, then he ain’t gonna do the interview. I am his uncle, and that’s the end of that. Thank you. Have a nice day.” He hung up.

Dan Savage on Beck, Malkin, Bachmann, Palin et al.--They Basically Want to See the President Assassinated

I have completed my move back into Chicago--and will be moving again in a week--I thought I would be able to live comfortably next to the subway but I ain't that strong (I think the CIA should just take suspected terrorists and put them in an overpriced apartment next to the CTA or Metra and wait the obligatory 3 days until said terrorist begs for mercy).

Until I get settled in, here is a quickie to tide you over--my boy Dan Savage, yes Dan Savage of "Savage Love" fame--offering some analysis of the death cult that is Beck, Limbaugh, et al.

Who would have thought that the father of "santorum" and one of my favorite advocates of booty love would be so sharp.

Kudos to you Mr. Savage.

Here is a bonus:

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What Would Should a Respectable Negro Do?

I work with a white guy I’ve known for years. We are somewhere in between good friends and casual acquaintances. He is a stand up guy and a raging liberal (he has all the symptoms of liberal overcompensation syndrome: he is from a small, lily white suburban town; his parents are super-conservative). We talk politics and race frequently, and we both employ sarcasm and humor when talking about these things.

So, this guy and I were in a meeting, and he wrote a bunch of things on the whiteboard. When we were finished, he smiled, tossed me the eraser, and said, “Here you go, clean this up for me” (I’ve made similar jokes to him in the past). I shot back “Oh, so the black man has to clean up after you?” We both laughed.

As I stood up to leave the room, I saw the black janitor emptying the trash. I’m fairly positive that he heard us even though he gave no indication that he did. As I’m one of the few men in our office, the janitor and I end up talking a lot every afternoon. He’s never mentioned anything about this, and there’s been no change in the tone of our discussions.

I feel terrible, even though I don’t think the joke is really offensive. Should I feel bad about the joke? Should I apologize to the janitor?

What would should a respectable negro do?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Jayson Blair & the 2 Rules of Judging Black Screw-Ups

Disgraced negro Jayson Blair is in the news again. It seems that the black Leprechaun former New York Times journalist and plagiarist has reinvented himself as a life coach (notice how all the pics on his homepage are of white people). In all seriousness, if Blair is indeed on the path back to respectable negrodom, I have to applaud him.

Reading the many news reports on Blair’s new career made me remember how thoroughly he screwed up his last career. These reports also remind me how mainstream media depict Blair’s blackness as central to his deceit and his shoddy work.

The predictable way in which the Blair case played out in the media gives us an opportunity to illustrate the two broad rules governing how black screw-ups are perceived (and therefore judged) in mainstream American public discourse. These rules also shape how black folks respond to black screw-ups.

A version of the first rule is stated at around the 5 minute mark of this snippet from Chris Rock’s 2004 stand-up special Never Scared:

Rule 1: A black person who screws up is attacked more severely than is a white person who screws up.

In Rock’s corollary, “only the white man can profit from pain.” The words “wrongdoing” and “incompetence” can often replace “pain,” but the point stands. Rule 1 is what responsible black parents instill in their children when they state, “you have to be x times as good as a white person in order to succeed” (whether x is 2 or 5 or 10 depends on the parent, the place, and the year).

In popular discourse, Jayson Blair has become the poster boy for plagiarism. When I see this yoke placed on the lone black writer among the dozens of contemporary mainstream writers busted for plagiarism, my antennae go up (think also of high profile black offenders becoming the poster children for corruption and racial discrimination in the criminal justice system).

The journalistic fraud of former New Republic associate editor Stephen Glass was arguably as impressive as Blair’s; nevertheless, the public was more sympathetic to Glass’ fictionalized (auto)biographical novel The Fabulist as well as the movie it spawned, Shattered Glass than they were to Blair’s opportunistic literary cash grab, Burning Down My Master’s House. Glass certainly received his fair share of loathing, but, as evidenced by the sneering undertones pervading the reports of Blair’s new career, there is a little something extra in the condemnation of Blair.

Those who point out Rule 1 are often accused of “playing the race card,” which is supposed to imply a refusal to hold black people personally accountable for their self-inflicted woes. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Rule 2: The misdeeds of any black screw-up are attributed not just to that lone screw-up, but to black people as a whole.

Rule 2 is significantly more pernicious than the first. One of the biggest advantages of being white is having the luxury of being treated as an individual—for people who aren’t white, the sins of any become the sins of all, while the good deeds of any are exceptional and are used to denounce the masses (“you’re one of the good ones;” “why can’t the rest of you be like so-and-so?”).

Mainstream media framing the Blair affair as a black mark against affirmative action is an example of Rule 2 in action. This framing is hardly surprising coming from conservative opponents of affirmative action, but the affirmative action meme has also featured heavily in liberals’ accounts of the scandal, though sometimes merely as a foil. Such an interpretation calls into question the qualifications and character of all people of color and, most insidiously, undermines formal attempts to address systemic exclusion.

Rule 2 can also bolster the notion that the failures of a black screw-up can be attributed to some inherently flawed aspect of black culture (e.g. homophobia, misogyny, violence, anti-intellectualism).

Contrary to popular opinion, black people are the harshest critics of black screw-ups. Even though black people know the rules are unfair, the attitude seems to be that if you’re too reckless or stupid to ignore the rules, you get what you deserve. It should be noted that this attitude is not borne of defeatism or internalized self-hatred, but of individual and collective self interest: black screw-ups make us all look bad.

There is often black pushback against both rules, however. Black people may relent in their criticism of a black screw-up when it appears that whites are giving the knife in the back of that black screw-up an extra twist. Since explicit, anti-black animus has been driven from public discourse, these impulses must be either coded or channeled into publicly acceptable outlets. Black people can usually sense when white folks are criticizing a black screw-up in order to vent their anger toward black people in general.

I am willing to forgive Blair’s past screw-ups, and I wish him much success in his new endeavor, but since the rest of us are penalized for his missteps, he’d better not screw up again.

A Limerick for a Hoe, a hoe, and a Hoe's Grandma or You All Are Going to Jail--15 and 17 Year Old Girls Caught Working at Strip Clubs

Here's a tongue twisting kind of sort of limerick for you: so a Hoe's grandma attempts to beat a reporter with a hoe for reporting on her granddaughter's Hoeish behavior, a Hoe who is working at a local strip club--where said Hoe is a hard working Hoe and hoe. Hoes a plenty it seems!

Grandma was going to work over that reporter with her very own Shaolin spade--and I am impressed. But I must ask: is "grandma save a hoe" actually more akin to being an expert at Filipino stick fighting than the Shaolin martial arts?

Who says the black family isn't strong?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Keep on Keepin' On Edward Kennedy or Senator Edward Kennedy Passes Away at 77

Some Black/White dap from me to you. And Bro'Bama will be speaking at your homegoing ceremony. The torch passes? I hope so...

Travel well most honorable Senator Kennedy. You weren't a respectable negro, but you simultaneously WERE a respectable negro.

Senator Kennedy, can you please do me a favor? When you get to your destination have a drink with your brothers Bobby and John, and make sure one of my faves, President LBJ, gets a sip of the good stuff as well.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Gordon Gartrelle says: Which Part of Michelle Obama's Body Will They Debate Next?

Chauncey and I often discuss Michelle Obama’s booty. It’s not what you think. Well before her backyard became a news story, Chauncey and I had tried to unpack the fixation on the body of Michelle Obama (the fixation on President Obama’s body is related, but distinct).

The treatment of Mrs. Obama’s figure goes beyond the typical, inane, sexist reduction of First Ladies to their bodies and clothes. With Mrs. Obama, there is a fixation on her perceived or imagined nudity. There is also an unreasonable expectation that she uphold stodgy norms of decorum (e.g. hugging the Queen, dressing conservatively and formally at all times). These hangups signal the persistence of race and class stereotypes about black women’s behavior while recalling the historical public uneasiness about the black female body.

Peep the slow creep of the debates surrounding Mrs. Obama’s body parts:

*September, 2008: Her boobs
This one didn’t really make a splash.

*Nov, 2008: Her butt
This one did make a splash, and it’s not surprising why: black women are more commonly associated with their butts than with any other body part. Even we got into the action a bit. I think that media folks were so uncomfortable with the sexual connotations of this discussion that they abstained from overt discussions of Mrs. Obama’s body…but only for a short while.

*February, 2009. Her hair
This moved us away from her lower half altogether, but it’s really a black thing; I’m not sure that everyone else gets the class and cultural implications of this one.

*March, 2009: Her arms
Now they’ve moved back down her body. Though stupid, this discussion seems safe because womens’ arms aren’t commonly sexualized or racialized.

*August, 2009: Her legs
Is it appropriate for a distinguished woman to wear active/vacation wear when she goes on vacation? Because of this dumb (non)story, I’ve probably sworn off TV news for good.

And believe me, it’s not over. So, we ask our readers--which of Michelle Obama's body parts will be the next subject of debate? Where will it end?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Jon Voight, Why are You Making Me Boycott Karate Dog? or Proceed to Vomit as Jon Voight Speaks at Sean Hannity's "Freedom" Concert

From my cold dead hands! Oh sorry, wrong confused Hollywood celebrity.

In looking through my bedside copy of the DSM IV, I have finally made my official diagnosis: Jon Voight and the GOP are manifesting a classic case of Freudian projection where they attribute all of their own worst traits to Barack Obama and the Democratic Party.

In a previous piece, I lambasted Jon Voight and promised to never again watch Rosewood. That was really difficult for me because I love the Ving Rhames school of method acting, and Voight's nuanced portrayal of the stereotypically greedy Jewish store owner was an Oscar winning performance. Now, after his appearance at Sean Hannity's "Freedom" Concert, I am forced to boycott other Jon Voight classics such as: Anaconda, Bratz, Four Christmases, and Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2.

And for the record, Jon Voight can show up at a Klan rally and I would still keep U-Turn in my film rotation--tell me that Jen Lopez's sex scenes in that movie are not something to behold, go ahead...I dare you!

A few random thoughts. One, Sarah Palin is a great American who will lead the GOP to glory? Lord, I hope they nominate her in 2012. Two, am I the only one who gets the sad irony that a rich man with access to health care (Jon Voight) is pandering to the masses with another corporatist (Sean Hannity) while a senior citizen who is likely covered by Medicare cheers on their Rightist, political, circle jerk? Three, "if we let Obama have his way he will create a civil war in this country." Huh? I didn't know that progressives, centrists, and liberals were showing up at health care rallies with pistols and assault rifles. And my conservative friends, wasn't Timothy McVeigh one of you folks? Four, am I alone in being disturbed that the CIA was praised as though they are a bunch of superheroes? The CIA is a necessary evil, but a citizenry cheering on the National Security Apparatus is a bit too fascist for this respectable negro.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Tim Wise is a Bad White Man or Tim Wise on Barack Obama, How Race is a Factor, and Health Care Reform

Tim Wise is a bad white man. You get me, no? We have picked on Tim Wise a few times on this site, but this a White man who is on point--especially here.

Brother, we have met before, next time I will offer you a Sapporo beer and a sit down--one of my highest complements. We respectable negroes got some allies in the struggle and Tim Wise is (likely) one of them.

Yes or no?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

My Personal Happiness Pill of the Day: Pastor Manning Sings, Jukes, and Jives as He Proclaims his Support for a White Uprising Against Barack Obama

Pastor Manning is at it again. Now he is siding with white racist Right-wing militia members who want to depose President Barack Obama. In the immortal words of my avatar Fred Sandford, this nigga's crazy!

But you know what? This respectable negro still loves him some Pastor Manning. Can I have an amen?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Historian's Reflections on the Political Use of Racial Fear by the American Right Wing

I think I may have to put Werner Herzog's Bear on a semi-permanent retainer. His measured voice...such a historian isn't a nice balance for my often histrionic bombast. Courtesy of the blog, I Used to be Disgusted Now I Try to be Amused:


This article is less about the abuse of history than the history that much of our current political debate (if it can be called such) developed from. That hidden history (for the layperson, at least) is the political use of racial fear.

Some of these moments are pretty obvious, like the rhetoric of white supremacy used by Democrats in the 1870s to roll back Reconstruction. Campaign posters of the time unabashadly announced that "this is a white man's country" and that the Democratic party was for the "white man" and the Republican side was for the "negro" with stereotypical images thrown in to make the point.

Since the 1960s the use of racial fear has necessarily become more subtle and veiled, but remained just as potent and effective. The 1968 election is a case in point. Ardent segregationist George Wallace's ads alluded to law and order, school busing, and "local control of schools" without needing to explain that white fear and prejudice towards blacks was a major factor in his policy stances. During that same election Nixon used Wallace's split of the Southern Democrat vote and a less inflammatory version of his rhetoric to take the White House (and gave the Republicans their biggest success in the South to that point.)

Ronald Reagan, that canonized pole star of the modern day Right, learned these lessons well. His infamous 1980 campaign speech in Neshoba County, Mississippi, is case in point. Standing in the place where Goodman, Cheney, and Schwerner were murdered in one of the most well-known violent attacks on the civil rights movement, he attacked welfare programs and claimed that he would stand for "states rights." At this moment, and others in his campaign, he implicitly associated welfare with African-Americans. States rights" had been the language of Wallace and other Southern governors in response to federal integration measures, certainly contrasted with the fight for equal rights that Goodman, Shwerner, and Cheney were martyred for.

His apologists like to pretend that Reagan's comments were entirely innocent, but at the very least they show a staggering inattention to the issue of racial inequality. Imagine if he had gone to Wounded Knee, and given a speech praising "frontier pioneers" without mentioning Native Americans, or had gone to a Waffen SS cemetery and called Nazi Germany's foot soldiers "victims" of Nazism. (He actually did the latter.)

Reagan's successor, George H.W. Bush, managed to make a comeback against Michael Dukakis and take the White House largely due to the Willie Horton ad, which nakedly played on white fears of black men. Like the Swift Boat ads in 2004, it was not produced officially by the Bush campaign, meaning that it could benefit politically from the fears it stoked while being able to plausibly deny any connection with its sentiment. This ugly tactic was so obvious that it was roundly denounced at the time, which may have lead to an overall reduction in the use of the racial fear card during the 1990s. (In 2004 homophobia was used intead, to great effect.)

These days the racial fear mongers have been active, with Glenn Beck ridiculously claiming that Barack Obama is a racist who "hates white culture," and the likes of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III turning the Sotomayor hearings into a circus of alleged white male victimization. Already during the election the birthers ginned up their crazy assault on reality, buoyed by the notion that Barack Obama's race and background made him alien to "real America," in the words of Sarah Palin. (Notice Wallace's similar use of "America" in his ad.)

The feverish inability to accept a black man as the leader of "America," which is most certainly coded white in their minds as much as it was in the 1870s, has made the expressions of fear and hate less guarded and more public. Witness the distrubing uptick in death threats against the president (including out in broad daylight by sign holding protesters) and the insane claims of the "deathers." The whole "death panel" rumor has absolutely no basis in reality whatsoever, but has a whole lot of basis in the perpetual white racial fears, which easily slide into the realm of the fantastical. I seriously doubt that this rumor would have been nearly as public, or would even be in existence, if it the current health care reform had been proposed by a white president. Clinton had Harry and Louise, but nothing like this. (This fear has always been gendered, too. Notice that deathers talk of "Grandma" getting killed by president Obama, not "Grandpa.")

If anything, the ability for that long-standing fear to still drive our public discourse, the same fear that made The Birth of a Nation the first movie blockbuster and gave the South to the Republican Party, shows that it's not going away any time soon. As I will explore soon, it is by no means the only factor, or even the most important, in the current backlash, but it should put to rest the ridiculous claims about America being a "post-racial" society.