Tuesday, October 27, 2009
A Brief Moment of Pause: Part 2 of The Problem With These Rap Critics, Halloween Plans, and the Week Ahead
In the best spirit of Andrew Young I come bearing an olive branch in the civil war between the NYstalgists and Revanchists: I present Bill Cosby's "hip hop" group the Cosnerati--an abomination so great and offensive that both camps will certainly agree that Cosby's foray into hip hop possesses neither artistic brilliance or sophistication. But the question remains, is the Cosnerati better than either Lil Wayne or Gucci Mane?
Second question: who would win a battle between Cornel West and Bill Cosby? My money is on Cosby for creativity, use of polysyllabic words and phrases, meter, intensity, and his deft ability to code switch while signifying on race and place. Ultimately, West would be defeated because he is too "meta" as he meanders in a style somewhere between the worst of Organized Konfusion and the Boogie Monsters.
Oh yes, we are indeed born between urine and feces. Can I get an amen?
As we catch our breath a quick update seems appropriate. Gordon is finishing up part 2 of "The Problem with These Rap Critics Today," and it should be posted soon. Inspired by my photo essay on the Black Tribe of Lydon LaRouche, and Gordon's "What is the Best, Worst, or Strangest Thing You Have Seen on Public Transportation," I will be debuting the first installment in what I hope will be an ongoing series--with a little help from my respectable negro friends and allies--entitled, "Tales of an Armchair Sociologist."
In a spirit akin to the NY Times' "Only in New York" column, this series will focus on our day to day encounters with the bizarre, the inexplicable, and the fascinating culture that is the ign't peoples of America. Trust, these are on point.
And of course we respectable negroes haven't forgotten Halloween! In honor of the annual spooktacular (do you appreciate my Oscar Wilde like wordplay?), we are going to be hosting a Halloween Contest with prizes courtesy of Hyde Park's very own First Aid Comics. Details are forthcoming--I don't want to give too much away--but look out for your chance to win some swag later in the week. As a preview, are you ready to eat some brains?
Holla if you hear me! Scott Steiner, not Tupac. This is one of my favorite phrases and I so long to say it to the one and only goddess that is Rosario Dawson prior to an epic lovemaking session.
Till tomorrow folks...
Friday, October 23, 2009
Among mainstream and obscure music critics who review rap music, there’s been a concerted effort of late to champion the same positions: that hip hop is not dead and that the ubiquitous influence of hip hop’s “golden era” is hindering the advancement of the music by marginalizing its young talent and new directions (The Ashcan’s Jef Catapang penned a nice overview of this tired meme).
Pop music critic Jonah Weiner offers this inexcusably shallow caricature of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ assessment that the quality of rap has waned since the 90s: “[According to Coates,] Biggie died, sampling waned, lyrics got dumber, charisma trumped talent, the clock struck Y2K, the pumpkin turned into an Escalade.” Essentially, Weiner and other mainstream rap writers are accusing former fans like Coates of taking an approach to hip hop that mirrors Wynton Marsalis’ approach to jazz, as evidenced by the writers’ delightful pejoratives for former fans: “purists,” “nostalgists,” “revivalists,”
There seems to be a growing consensus among mainstream rap critics that older fans’ aversion to current rap springs strictly from these aging fans’ nostalgia, fear of change, cultural detachment, and overall out of touch-ness. That this simplistic, uncritical rendering of aging rap fans passes for insight is problematic; that it has become the default narrative among mainstream rap critics is ridiculous. How did things get to this point?
A little background is in order. Since around the late 90s, there’s been a fierce battle waged at the margins of rap fandom. This battle has pitted two small but annoying factions against one another. Members of the first faction—let’s call them NYstalgists— actually embody the aforementioned bitter old rap grouch stereotype: they typically (though not always) hail from NY or the East Coast, they elevate a thin, but influential slice of 90s New York rap above all else, and they mock anything deviating from that style. For years, NYstalgists have written off the entirety of Southern rap, save for a few tokens. The current waves of Southern and Southern-influenced rappers are, according to NYstalgists, untalented, unskilled, stupid, lyrically bankrupt, and sonically lazy. More recently, NYstalgists have extended their hatred to hipster-baiting beta male emo rap and its fans.
The second faction—let’s call them revanchists—is comprised of fans whose sole aim is to exact revenge on the smug NYstalgists who kicked dirt in the faces of those who happened to enjoy hip hop outside the 5 boroughs. Once New York artists’ record sales, influence, and critical favor waned—basically, once New York faded as the cultural epicenter of the popular rap—revanchists saw their opportunity to gloat. Over time, the revanchists’ numbers have been padded with younger and neophyte rap fans who weren’t really there to witness the NYstalgists’ ascendancy, but who resent the NYstalgist’s preferred music nonetheless.
Because they were subject to the NYstalgists’ unfair bullying, revanchists elicit a great deal of sympathy; however, they are just as small-minded and contemptible as NYstalgists. Instead of relishing the fact that NYstalgia is a flailing fringe phenomenon, revanchists cite a few marketing gimmicks by NY artists associated with the golden era to wildly exaggerate NYstalgists' influence. To revanchists, all golden age rap fans who bemoan the quality of today’s rap are bitter NYstalgists.
You may remember the NYstalgist-revanchist feud’s infamous older cousin: the East Coast- West Coast beef, the narrow, stupid, and destructive conflict whose coverage marked the nadir of rap journalism (up to that point, at least). The effects of this moronic feud still linger over rap discourse, which is why it’s so disappointing that rap writers are actually adopting the language and assumptions of the revanchists. One would expect such sloppy anachronism from the clueless hipsters at Pitchfork, but revanchist rhetoric seems to have ensnared even knowledgeable rap heads like Andrew Nosnitsky and Jeff Chang. Nosnitsky and Chang are clearly a cut above most rap writers, yet they still reproduce the flat portrait revanchists paint of disenchanted older rap fans.
I have some thoughts on why revanchists' uncritical reading of golden era fans’ might be appealing to even the better rap writers. Mainstream music critics generally come from a liberal arts background, which inclines them toward progressivism (in both a functional and a political sense). Modern critics’ livelihood and identities depend on their chosen music being dynamically relevant and creative right now, not 20 years ago. Their orientation toward progress in music tends to foster a suspicion of the canonical, the (traditionally) insular, and the authoritative. This orientation may thus lead to a heightened sensitivity to fans of older music criticizing newer music.
Moreover, rap critics’ socio-political progressivism leads them to sympathize with the underdog. Despite its global reach and the demographic diversity of its artists and fans, hip hop is still strongly identified with the downtrodden, especially poor, urban black youth. Progressive rap critics often see themselves as defending “authentic” black youth expression against the criticism of elitist, out-of touch blacks and racist whites—think Nosnitsky’s point about how poor urban areas around the country need hip hop more than New York does (because, apparently, there is no more poverty in New York).
These critics' misrepresentation of disenchanted golden era fans amounts to a dereliction of their job, which is to offer a nuanced analysis of the music, its legacy, and its fans. But if mainstream critics’ depiction of aging golden era fans is so off the mark, why is no one really challenging them on this?
First, consider the audience for today’s mainstream rap writing. This audience is largely comprised of outsiders who don’t know much about rap beyond the big names and events that occasionally draw their interest from their normal schedule of verbose, pretentious snooze rock and “exotic” world music. Though the critics in question write for such white liberal bastions as Slate, NPR, and Pitchfork, one senses in these critics a certain self-consciousness about the whiteness and non-hiphopness of their audiences (why else would some of them write for the root?).
Most of the people who read these critics don’t know that the golden era encompassed a broad range of styles outside of 90s NY golden era boom bap; they don’t know that artists from places such as LA, Oakland, Houston, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago actually made popular, critically acclaimed music during the golden era. However, these critics’ readers do know about the negative effects of Marsalis-style musical purism. They do know how grating parents can be when bragging about the superiority and authenticity of “classic” rock. In the absence of information, people gravitate toward existing narratives, even when these narratives are not relevant.
Furthermore, those most likely to challenge mainstream rap critics’ revanchist-influenced caricature of golden era fans—the disenchanted fans themselves—aren’t really represented in mainstream rap writing. There isn’t some grand plot to silence golden era fans’ opinions; these fans have virtually opted out of participating in the mainstream rap discourse. Why would anyone want to write about music that s/he doesn't really like anymore? Moreover, why would anyone hire such a person to critique music? Due to the absence of these golden era fans’ perspectives as well as to the ignorance of mainstream rap critics’ readers, today’s rap criticism has become a series of echo chambers.
Behind the seemingly minor issue of mainstream rap critics' denunciation of golden era fans’ tastes and hang-ups lies a broader, more significant concern: the deterioration of hip hop’s once robust (and ruthless) internal norms of criticism and tastemaking. As I will argue in Part 2, the dilution of these norms is most responsible for the decline in the overall quality of rap music since the golden era.
 I know that I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but I’ll state it anyway: distinctions between “rap” and “hip hop” are arbitrary, anachronistic, and just plain dumb.
 For my purposes, the golden era refers to roughly the early to mid’80s through the mid ‘90s.
 I am treating Ta-Nehisi Coates as representative of the generation of reflective older rap fans who no longer have an attachment to the music made by younger artists. I chose him not only because he has written eloquently about his gradual withdrawal from hip hop, but also because he defies the stereotype of the golden era fan as a narrow-minded, South-hating old coot. However, I want to make one thing clear: in no way am I suggesting that Coates shares my views; in fact, based on our previous exchanges, I’m pretty sure he will disagree with the bulk of the arguments I make here and in Part 2.
 According to mainstream critical norms, Marsalis is one of music’s biggest symbolic villains. Marsalis is charged with defining jazz so narrowly (predominantly black, spanning only hot jazz through bop), that he’s helped to trap the music behind metaphorical museum glass. His extremist jazz purism is a far greater sin than his “elitist” and “racist” (or at least, “racialized”) hatred of hip hop.
 Revanchists have a near-pathological fixation on artists such as Jay Z, Nas, The Roots, Common, Mos Def, KRS, DJ Premier, as these artists are often symbols of what NYstalgists foolishly define as “real hip hop.” Revanchists see it as their mission to bash these NYstalgist heroes’ current music, which, admittedly, pales in comparison to their best golden era work.
Part 2 here.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
To me. Funny. As. Hell. Plus, I know, and love the Rock...yes, he is my heteromancrush and was an occasional after school video game partner during High School (another hint as to my secret identity).
On this one, I think we should resist the prodding on the racism ambulance bus chasers. The President of the United States, is by definition, a target of humor and satire. Moreover, despite the tea party, Buchanan bigots, President Obama has had it comparatively easy...especially when put into the context of what was done to presidents such as Lincoln for example.
This begs the question: is all humor at the president's expense racist? Or, is our ability to laugh at President Obama--and to make jokes that sometimes fall flat--par for the course? Is this racial progress in action? Frankly, I do think that some folks need to develop tougher skins. If we, we meaning black folk, have survived (and flourished) despite White supremacy's best efforts to kill our will and spirit, I think we can survive a few laughs and barbs. Who knows? Maybe some of us will learn to laugh again...hell, we dreamed so long of having a Black man as President of the United States of America that we should just enjoy the ride while it lasts (ups and downs included).
Bonus laugh number one:
Bonus laugh number two:
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
And no, this isn't about my disrespect towards non-believers. Although, I do not know if religious belief should be respected by virtue of its mere existence. So, let's file this under unintentionally, funny, Wednesday afternoon follies.
I do feel so very proud of myself though. I am emboldened (and quite pleased) that I/we have this great power over the masses (insert maniacal laugh)...
Now to the "intentionally" humorous and spectacular--Al Sharpton versus "Brother" Hitchens:
From The Washington Post:
By Bill Donohue
President, Catholic League
There are many ways cultural nihilists are busy trying to sabotage America these days: multiculturalism is used as a club to beat down Western civilization in the classroom; sexual libertines seek to upend the cultural order by attacking religion; artists use their artistic freedoms to mock Christianity; Hollywood relentlessly insults people of faith; activist left-wing legal groups try to scrub society free of the public expression of religion; elements in the Democratic party demonstrate an animus against Catholicism; and secular-minded malcontents within Catholicism and Protestantism seek to sabotage their religion from the inside.
Yesterday's radicals wanted to tear down the economic structure of capitalism and replace it with socialism, and eventually communism. Today's radicals are intellectually spent: they want to annihilate American culture, having absolutely nothing to put in its place. In that regard, these moral anarchists are an even bigger menace than the Marxists who came before them.
If societal destruction is the goal, then it makes no sense to waste time by attacking the political or economic structure: the key to any society is its culture, and the heart of any culture is religion. In this society, that means Christianity, the big prize being Catholicism. Which explains why secular saboteurs are waging war against it.
When Jesse Jackson led students at Stanford University in the late 1980s screaming, "Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Western Culture's Got to Go," it was a way of undermining this nation's Judeo-Christian heritage. When Yale University returned $20 million to Lee Bass in the 1990s because the faculty objected to its being used to expand its Western civilization curriculum--they wanted multiculturalism--it showed the power of radical secularists.
Sexual libertines, from the Marquis de Sade to radical gay activists, have sought to pervert society by acting out on their own perversions. What motivates them most of all is a pathological hatred of Christianity. They know, deep down, that what they are doing is wrong, and they shudder at the dreaded words, "Thou Shalt Not." But they continue with their death-style anyway.
Secular saboteurs have often seized the arts to make a statement. That's why the blasphemous often tracks the obscene: if the goal is to put an artistic dagger into the heart of culture, then it makes sense to use all the ammo available by attacking the sacred. And they are certainly masters of that art. From scatological artistic exhibitions to the latest obscene installation, the charlatans have succeeded in politicizing the arts and denigrating Christianity.
There was a time when Hollywood made reverential movies about Christianity. But those days are long gone. Now they just insult. And when someone finally makes a film that makes Christians proud, he is run out of town. Were it not for Mel Gibson, there would have been no "Passion of the Christ." But for every Harvey Weinstein who likes to bash Catholics, there is always someone else waiting in the wings to do the same.
The ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State harbor an agenda to smash the last vestiges of Christianity in America. Lying about their real motives, they say their fidelity is to the Constitution. But there is nothing in the Constitution that sanctions the censorship of religious speech. From banning nativity scenes to punishing little kids for painting a picture of Jesus, the zealots give Fidel a good run for his money.
Catholics were once the mainstay of the Democratic Party; now the gay activists are in charge. Indeed, practicing Catholics are no longer welcome in leadership roles in the Party: the contempt that pro-life Catholics experience is palpable. The fact that Catholics for Choice, a notoriously anti-Catholic front group funded by the Ford Foundation, has a close relationship with the Democrats says it all.
Secularists within Catholicism and Protestantism are so out of control that it makes one wonder how any serious-minded person would ever accuse these religions of being oppressive. Insubordination of the most flagrant kind is routinely tolerated in a way that would never be countenanced at the New York Times, yet the bad rap always goes to Christians. We're not talking about those pushing for moderate reforms: we're talking about termites eating away from within.
The only way secular saboteurs can be stopped is by an alliance of religious conservatives across faith lines. The good news is that this is already happening. In the fight over gay marriage, the scorecard is 30-0: traditional Catholics, evangelical Protestants, Orthodox Jews, Orthodox Christians, Muslims, and Mormons, along with a big contribution from the Latino and African American communities, have succeeded in throwing a roadblock at this crazy idea.
The culture war is up for grabs. The good news is that religious conservatives continue to breed like rabbits, while secular saboteurs have shut down: they're too busy walking their dogs, going to bathhouses and aborting their kids. Time, it seems, is on the side of the angels.
Bill Donohue is President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. He is author of the new book "Secular Sabotage: How Liberals Are Destroying Religion and Culture in America," published by FaithWords.
My fellow Stern fans, enjoy this clip before the powers that be take it down. For those not in the know, Artie Lange, one of my favorite comedians, has been absent from the Howard Stern show for the last week (I keep endorsing it, but folks, please read his book because it is so heartfelt). Given that Artie has a history of drug use--and he has relapsed before (signaled by his absence from the show)--the smart money was on the fact that Stern's co-host had fallen off the wagon. Apparently not. It seems that Artie had a nervous breakdown precipitated by the anniversary of his father's death...yikes.
I have to ask: is Artie lying? Given the propensity of addicts to do anything, quite literally, to score while maintaining the appearance of normality, is he back on drugs and playing us all? Enter the nuclear option: should Howard let him go?
Monday, October 19, 2009
The GOP is Like Pookie in New Jack City with that Crack Rock or The Sick Republican Obsession with Adolf Hitler and Nazism
The Republican obsession with Hitler and Nazism is a particular brand of mental illness that requires specific, expert training to diagnose and treat. Thus, I bring you our friend Werner Herzog's Bear, Phd, Md., and the man with the plan when it comes to breaking down the GOP fixation on linking Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler.
Recently there’s been a lot of Nazi-talk in the air, the vast majority of it disseminated by hardcore conservatives, who have been known to display Obama-as-Hitler signs at Tea Party rallies. This week it seems to have taken a turn for the surreal. A few days ago someone at the NRCC posted a “tweet” with the much-used clip of Hitler ranting from the film Downfall, but this time with subtitles that had him speaking as if he was Obama. This week Glenn Beck also compared the White House’s recent tiff with Fox News to the persecution of Jews under Nazi rule. Most recently, Ann Coulter claimed that George Soros (a Holocaust survivor) was a “Nazi collaborator.” By now I’ve come to expect Beck and Coulter to spew this ridiculous stuff, but seeing it from an official GOP organ is something new.
How to explain this crap? Here are five reasons why the GOP seems obsessed with linking Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler.
Ignorant name calling
Actual historical knowledge about Hitler and the Nazis in this country is practically non-existent. Hitler has come to represent pure evil, and so calling one’s opponents Nazis is essentially a way of calling them evil. God knows that the Republican attacks have no basis in actual historical reality. As I’ve noted before, the whole notion of “liberal fascism” is a complete oxymoron and the opposite of the truth. Furthermore, the main ideological component of Nazism was racism. Hitler would have viewed Barack Obama, the product of an interracial marriage, as a subhuman. This is why representations of him as Hitler fill me with a blinding rage; not only are they hateful, they are a rapacious abuse of the past.
Calling someone a Commie doesn’t work anymore
Yes, Beck and co. still like to call Barack Obama a Marxist (this despite the fact that he won’t even consider single payer!), but the Hitler comparisons are made more often. Conservatives cried wolf so many times during the Cold War that most right-thinking people just stopped listening. The Cold War itself has been over for twenty years, so the charge just lacks power. It’s also patently ridiculous, since the Obama administration is willing to sign a health care bill without a public option, supports polluter-friendly “cap and trade” legislation, and basically sought the approval of Big Pharma before making a move on health care. Again, since the Nazis are shorthand for evil, rather than authoritarian, messianic, race-based nationalism, conservatives think they can get away with the analogy.
The Republicans’ actual ideas have been discredited
The GOP has to resort to name-calling because they have absolutely nothing positive to offer voters. Dubya put a hard Right agenda into action, and it turned out to be a disaster. Since the collapse of the financial markets, the praise of the free market as “rational” and the solution to all of our problems looks completely deluded (as it always should anyway.) Now, if the GOP was not a regional Southern party, but an actual national party, they would have started taking a more moderate tack by now. Unfortunately for them and for our public discourse, they have become as ideologically rigid and doctrinaire as a humanities department (yes, I can dig at my own kind too.) Since these ideas are extreme and unpopular, conservatives have instead resorted to name-calling and fear mongering.
Extreme Republicans can’t say what they really want to say
If you follow the political blogs, you know that every couple of weeks or so a GOP official gets in trouble for sending racist images over the internet. As someone who lives in the South I can tell you that the level of racial fear and loathing among Obama’s fiercest opponents has a great deal to do with the vehemence of their opposition. Basically, the NRCC can’t “tweet” the images of a White House watermelon patch that their operatives send to each other. Instead of being openly racist, they have sublimated their hatred into constructed images of Obama that make him out to be evil. I’m not saying that all or even most on the Right think this way, but a very substantial portion does.
This is all a smokescreen for fascistic behavior
What better way of covering up your own fascistic tendencies by screaming as loudly as possible that your opponents are fascists? When Ann Coulter called Soros a Nazi collaborator she was echoing the talking points of the LaRouche crowd, who are the closest thing we have in this country to a bona fide fascist party. Perhaps Glenn Beck keeps comparing Obama to Hitler because Beck’s own brand of messianic, “we surround them” nationalism constantly attacks shadowy internal enemies and has turned the tragedy of 9/11 into the 9/12 manifesto of national “re-birth.” (I’m not saying that Beck believes in an authoritarian government or is even a “fascist,” but that he talks about the nation in certain ways that are unmistakably reminiscent of fascism.) It’s not just a matter of rhetoric either, but of methods. This quotation from Nazi official Hermann Goering strikes me as particularly relevant to understanding what’s going on these days:
“Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the
bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them
they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of
patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in
When conservatives were in power that was their modus operandi. Now that they are on the sidelines, they have made the leader of our own country the threat, instead of terrorists. At the end of the day, that is what gives all this Nazi talk a kind of fearsome potential. If enough people buy into the idea that the president of the United States is the embodiment of pure evil, and that he is out to get them (a la death panels) the potential for redemptive violence is high indeed. For that reason responsible conservatives need to cut this shit out and disown those who engage in it
Sunday, October 18, 2009
RIP Captain Lou.
We have lost another legend this past week. Never to be replaced.
Captain Lou was such a great talker and an amazing character. As I have said many times about the product these days, there is still a space for managers in pro wrestling (and given that all things come full circle), perhaps the tried and true will become new again. Who knows? Maybe some enterprising young wrestler will have the courage to glue rubber bands onto their face, grab the mic, and seize glory.
Even so, Captain Lou was an original, never to be replaced.
May you rock and wrestle in eternity.
Here is a great road story from Paul Heyman reflecting on his early days with the Captain and the great Classy Freddy Blassie:
Lou could talk. Oh man, could he talk. There were no influences in the way he came across. The Captain had a style all of his own. "I just remember the point I wanna bring across," Lou once told me, "and then I just babble before, during, and after. Somehow, in the middle, I said the two or three sentences that sold tickets. Mostly, I just tried to make people want to see me get my ass kicked, and along the way, hopefully the guy I was managing would catch a beating too!"
So, here we are. It's October 14, 2009, and we're discussing the passing of someone who many could argue was truly the greatest manager of all time. It's hard to argue against the choice of Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, but if there's ever been someone to point to as "better than The Brain," the only choice in my mind was Albano. His impact on the way wrestling was and even to this day is presented cannot be understated. His mannerisms, his way of talking, his ability to draw heat were all unparalleled in his day. He was one of the major catalysts for Vincent Kennedy McMahon's national expansion, as his work with Cyndi Lauper begat The Rock n Wrestling Connection, which gave birth to the Hogan-Piper feud, which delivered The War To Settle The Score, and ultimately the very 1st Wrestlemania.
There are so many "Albano" stories to tell, from the time he ran in his shorts and flip flops up 8th Avenue in New York City when his car broke down during a snow storm, and had hundreds of people following him to what was then known as The Howard Johnson's Hotel where everyone stayed; to the time he got into a drinking contest with Andre The Giant at the hotel bar, took a Ric Flair-esque face bump into the top of a stool, cracked his head, and was knocked out cold ... only to wake up when Don Muraco and Greg Valentine helped peel Lou off the floor. Lou ran outside, threw up all over the sidewalk (with half the remnants of his dinner prominently remaining on his hairy chest), came back inside, ordered another 3 rounds, turned to Andre and said "I get a 3 drink handicap for that bump!"
As a 15 year old who bullshitted his way into getting All Access Photographer Passes for Madison Square Garden, I ran the fan clubs for all 3 Wise Men of the East. During the summertime, I would sometimes go to Allentown and Hamburg, and cover the WWWF television tapings. One time, I ended up catching a ride with Albano, who was driving Blassie (which was a great idea, because Blassie was partially blind and a menace behind the wheel even with perfect eyesight).
This trip was taking place after a great show at Madison Square Garden, and as always when it came to MSG, Lou was lit up beyond belief. "The Captain is hell when he's well," he'd say not only on tv, but also in person, "and The Captain is well when he's drinkin' ... and The Captain drinks a little ALL THE TIME!"
So we got out of Madison Square Garden, and we're flying through New Jersey heading towards Allentown. Lou reaches under his seat, and pulls out one of those big glass Tropicana grapefruit juice bottles. Of course, grapefruit juice was no longer the contents of this bottle. As a matter of fact, I can't even tell you that Lou was drinking Vodka AND grapefruit juice. It was more like vodka with a tiny little splash of grapefruit juice. Or, as Blassie used to tease The Captain, "methane with something to give it a little bit of color."
Now keep in mind, I'm in my mid-teens here, watching and listening to Blassie scream at Albano "you're going to get us killed! This kid's Father is a lawyer! He's going to sue our widows, and take our swimming pools, you (2 minutes of expletives) maniac!"
Lou would just laugh, with both feet on the gas pedal, and hanging onto the steering wheel for dear life.
All of a sudden, Lou goes into an insane coughing fit, and spits up some phlemmy-looking loogie that must have come from the deepest, darkest recesses of his digestive system. This frightening piece of intestinal backwash ends up all over the inside of the windshield, and Lou pulls a tissue out of his pocket, wipes it off the windshield ... we're still going 90 miles an hour, mind you... and proceeds to suck the loogie back down with a big mischievous smile on his face.
Blassie was going to hurl. "Did you see that?" he screamed, "what the (expletives abound) is wrong with you? That's the sickest thing I've ever seen ... and I've seen some sick things in my life! Albano, I'm never driving with you again!"
All of a sudden, Lou slams on the brakes, as the car slides sideways. He tries to open his door, but can't find the handle. He finally jumps out of the car, hangs onto the window as if he'll collapse without its support, and spits up about 10 of those revolting looking loogies.
Blassie was horrified. I, of course, being just a kid, thought this was the funniest thing I've ever seen in my life. Man, did I have a story to tell when I got home. Of course, I was going to leave the drinking and driving part out when I told my parents, but why quibble over small details?
Lou reaches into the car, grabs his Tropicana bottle (hey, you think they'll sponsor the Hustle after this story?), takes two swigs, gargles, and spits it out on the side of the road.
He gets back into the car, peels out, starts driving 90, with Blassie just screaming at him about how their estates will be sued by my grieving Father. Lou is just laughing his ass off, and finally turns to Blassie and says, "Brother, it's that grapefruit juice. I hate the taste of it!"
Blassie was apoplectic. What could he possibly say in response? So Classy Freddy did what any self-respecting legend would do. He passed the buck, "Hey kid," he barked at me, "say something to Albano!"
The Captain, driving 90 miles an hour while crossing over from New Jersey into Pennsylvania, was now staring at me in the rear view mirror, and said, "Paulie, that's your cue!"
"Hey Lou," I asked, shrugging my shoulders, "if you hate grapefruit juice so much, why do you put it in with your vodka?"
Lou looked over at Blassie ... he was always looking everywhere, it seemed, but the road ahead of us... and said "where did you find this kid? What's wrong with him? Is he retarded or something?"
Lou took another big swig of vodka (with the hint of grapefruit juice), and said "learn in life from this Paulie.
The Captain puts grapefruit juice in his grapefruit juice bottle because The Captain hates the taste of grapefruit juice. Hates it. Makes me gag. Ruins my drink. Makes me regret ever putting this bottle up to The Captain's lips. I hate myself just for putting in my body!"
Lou took one more swig, knowing I was hanging on his every word.
"Don't you get it?" Lou explained, "It's helping me quit drinking!"
Every trip with Lou was a similar adventure. He was loud, obnoxious, insane, and yet in many ways one of the most endearing human beings you'll ever meet. Lou related to people, and at heart was a giving, caring, compassionate man who just wanted to entertain people. He always picked up the tab,and never complained about anything except "Vince Junior." In the "wild and wooly" days of the 70's and 80's, he was a loyal, affectionate husband and a damn good man.
And as you can see, he was never boring, especially when traveling from one town to the next.
RIP Captain Lou. Have a wonderful trip.
With great appreciation and affection,
Friday, October 16, 2009
From the Mouths of Babes: A Child Asks, "Why do They Hate You Barack Obama?" or The Burden of Blackness Given to Our Children at All Too Young an Age
Another reason that I respect Barack Obama. I thought that Barack Obama's answer to this child's question was delicate, priceless, naked, and honest. Of course, naysayers and others across the partisan divide will cry "plant" or insert some other explanation. From the right-wing Populist and Palin wing of the GOP this child's question is one more data point, and by implication further proof of the indoctrination of our school children by "The Great Father" Obama as he maliciously crafts a photo op for his legions of adoring fans.
Given that I am a realist, this clip brought a little sadness to my eye. For me, the question offered by this child is the burden of race made real. It is not simply the curiosity of youth, but an understanding, even if you don't have the words to describe it, that something is amiss in how so many white Americans hold a deep, existential hatred towards Barack Obama--a hatred that goes beyond policy or politics. Quite frankly, the idea of a Black man as President frightens some to the deepest core of their being because to them the very fact of his existence constitutes a self-evident fact, one that Prima facie, is not quite right.
The young brother in this video already senses this reality, even if he does not yet have the words to describe it. He knows that he is alien to the body politic. To paraphrase Baldwin and Ellison, this young child is American while not quite being fully American...and this black journeyman senses this fact as he sees how his hero, the president of the United States of America is treated so badly--an understatement of sorts, as Obama is actually painted as a traitor against the common good--by his foes.
Sadly, it seems that our young friend has already discovered his blues sensibility. As brother Cornel West said, even at three years old black children ask, "Why am I hated so, mommy?"
Too bad, that as a matter of physical and psychic survival so many of us have to learn the answer to the above question as a rite of passage. So long for blissful childhood innocence--at least to the degree that we black and brown folks were every really allowed to indulge in it. Welcome one step closer to adulthood my young friend.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Brother X-Squared Speaks: On Barack Obama's Nobel Prize, Rush Limbaugh and the NFL, and "Black" Barbie
In keeping with our tradition of the We Are Respectable Negroes News Network's (WARNNN) bringing you exclusive news exposes such as our interview with Pat Buchanan, we bring you the third 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 explore Brother X-Squared's feelings on a range of topics including Barack Obama's Nobel Prize win, the health care debate, the economy, and current developments in popular culture.
WARNNN: How are you doing today Brother X-Squared.
Brother X-Squared: I am a steady ship, right as rain, and a rock in a time of turbulence and trouble.
Brother X-Squared: I am as happy as a Portuguese slaver off of the Guinea coast in the 1700s with a full load of human black gold.
WARNNN: You have a way with words that we certainly appreciate Brother X-Squared...we are truly blessed that you are a regular on our news network. Let's cut to the chase. The world was mesmerized and amazed that President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Prize on Friday of last week. What is your reaction to his win? Are you proud of his accomplishment? Will Obama's win help or hurt him with his opposition in the Republican party and among the Right-wing tea baggers?
Brother X-Squared: You have a dirty mouth brother Chauncey. I warned you last time about referencing that filthy degenerate sex act...that tea-bagging...what those white sex freaks, new age, klansmen use to describe themselves.
WARNNN: So sorry.
Brother X-Squared: Apology excepted. Remember, forgiveness is a virtue that the most High reserved for the most righteous black man. So, I am laughing like a black hyena at Barack Obama and his winning that wicked, evil, Nobel prize! That halfrican is the white man's dog again. The white man made him and now he will break him! You see, the white man's tricknology is so deep. As I have warned you many times before, the white man is a devious trickster who hides his wickedness in plain sight.
Why did they give Obama that prize? They gave it for their expectations for the future! Don't you see! They own him. He is betrothed to the white man! Those devils now control his destiny. That Nobel Prize is a slave collar, a bit in Obama's mouth, a whip for the white power structure to control him and to assess him. That poor mud baby Barack Obama is getting it on both ends from those racist liberals who control him by saying they are disappointed in him and then by holding his light tan butt to the proverbial fire. He gets it from the other end--again, another unnatural sex act spread across the world by the evil European--by those bigoted Republicans who say he is a socialist or some other nonsense.
Wake up sleeping captive Africans in America, the truth is right in front of you. Obama is weak, he is a pawn, and a slave for the White man. Do you know who Nobel was, the namesake for which the prize is named?
WARNNN: I know that he was a rich industrialist, who felt great guilt over earning his money through the manufacture of weapons of war. Beyond that, I know very little. Please enlighten me Brother X-Squared.
Brother X-Squared: You are a master of language brother Chauncey. I am indeed a source of light for you captive negro troglodytes living in the cave of white supremacy. Alfred Nobel was a bigoted white man--like all of them a devil, except for Jon Brown, Harry Connick Jr., and Tom Jones--who invented dynamite! Do you understand this evil. That wicked white man, just like the foul scientist Yakub who invented that mutant species of white cave dwellers--what we now call the caucasian--eons ago brought foulness into the universe. Do you know what else is funny?
WARNNN: What? Please share?
Brother X-Squared: Those white devils hate Obama and are saying that the Nobel Prize symbolizes that he is the anti-Christ. What a laugh. This is classic misdirection. The white man is the only Devil, yet he paints Obama, their boy, as the real Devil. So devious they are. Plus, to make it seem real, they use slave catchers like that GOP coon Michael Steele to attack Obama. Again a joke. Notice the name! Steele is equal to steel. But that slave catcher is weak: this reversal of meaning is a subliminal assault on your mindstate. The white man tricks you into making the strong now seem weak. Steel also sounds like "steal." Stealing is what the white man and his agents do by nature. Open your eyes Black man. We need to "steel" ourselves against Steele and other slave catcher's assaults on us.
WARNNN: How is dynamite evil? Please explain to our readers?
Brother X-Squared: Come now brother Chauncey, don't ever underestimate my mental mindstates because assumptions lead to your ultimate destruction. Nevertheless, I will take your bait. Dynamite allowed the white man to destroy the third world. He used those explosives to destroy our people. Dynamite is an implement of rape! Yes, rape and rapine behavior! Dynamite let the white devils rape mother Earth and take out the gold from Africa. Dynamite let the white man get riches that he used to buy our people and rape our women. Now, the heirs of that white supremacist wickedness, in fact every white person on Earth, are giving out awards for peace! Give me a break. I am not that stupid. The prize is illegitimate. The prize is covered in blood. Now, those war mongers are going to give that prize to poor Obama. He is guilty by association. And Obama is also a hypocrite for accepting the Nobel Prize. Moreover, why would a truly sanctified Black man ever take an award for peace from the white man? The white man has waged war on the world. True Black men are men of war, courage, and resistance. We will never--unlike many of these brainwashed negroes in America--take the white man's hand in friendship.
WARNNN: Damn, that was sharp Brother X-Squared, very incisive. But, how is Obama a hypocrite? Are you alluding to his war in Afghanistan and Iraq?
Brother X-Squared: Now you are getting me Chauncey. He is sending soldiers all over the world to fight for America's wickedness. The Trilateral Commission, the IMF, all those wicked white people are using him, and he smiles. Obama is an attorney. He is socialized into the white man's laws and evil: he knows what is going on as he lays up in that foul White House. How deep is that? A supposedly black man living in the White House, a building constructed by captive black labor, as he does the white man's bidding. That is so sick as to be inexplicable. Ain't no Iraqi or Afghan ever called me nigger, so I don't have a quarrel with them. Ultimately, Obama is sending young black and brown people to kill other black and brown people to do the white man's bidding. Sad, sick, disgusting, and more proof of Obama's weakness.
WARNNN: I referenced the Tea Party movement a few moments ago. What are your thoughts about the anti-health care movement, and their hatred of Barack Obama?
Brother X-Squared: Does a lion care about the age of the antelopes that he kills on the Serengeti after he has mated with dozens of lionesses during a hot summer's day?
WARNNN: I would imagine that he does not.
Brother X-Squared: That brave Nubian lion doesn't give a damn and doesn't care: that is exactly how I feel about that issue. Those tea party, Glenn Beck bigots and Oxycontin Rush Limbaugh hill billy supporters are the 21st century version of the John Birch society. Their grandparents were lynching black people. They are human debris. The joke is that they call Obama a "Black man" and complain about that "Black man" indoctrinating their kids in school. They would not know what to do if an original African Black man like me were president. Those devils would quite literally die! Obama has a millionth of my negritude. Actually, let me correct myself, Obama has none of my negritude because his mulatto genes, his white momma, cancels out his blackness. A joke, they go into histrionics over Obama trying to give those fools a few extra visits to the doctor.
WARNNN: Let me push back. Given the state of health care in this country poor folk, poor black and brown folk especially, would benefit the most from health care reform. How can you not support it?
Brother X-Squared: Every politician and media person in the health care debate is in bed with those rich corporations. Corporations don't see people. They see money: its color is green. Thus, so much of this debate is a smoke screen. Darwin, a smart White man--although still a devil--was right. It was survival of the fittest. I eat only fresh food...nothing cooked. I use black soap and Shea butter. I only drink seltzer water. I eat ginger root and ginseng. I have never been sick. Those fool negroes who are getting sick from the white man's food...especially his pig, deserve what they get--death. And those old white people at those town hall meetings who are on the government tit and getting welfare--what White folk conveniently don't call Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid--should die. They were standing in the school house door cursing beautiful Black children during the 1950s and 1960s. Those other Klansmen in suits at those tea bagger marches can just die too. As an Afro-Asiatic Black man I am protected from skin cancer and the other diseases the white man has brought to the Earth. Let them die. All of them. The Black man will (re)inherit the Earth once more.
WARNNN: What are your thoughts on the economy? Will we turn a corner? We have spent 800 billion dollars and nothing has seemingly changed?
Brother X-Squared: The chickens are coming home to roost! Oh yes! Oh yes! Oh yes! The white man built a house of cards on the exploitation of Black people. Slavery gave the white man a comparative economic advantage that he exploited to build an empire of evil. Now, that dirty money economy, an economy built on an illusion, a set of fetishes, exchange value, and lies, is coming to a head. So glorious. Consider brother Chauncey, the dollar is going to be replaced as the reserve currency for oil transactions. This is powerful. The white media isn't reporting this story enough. America is done! Dead! Gone! Those fool white people simply are too dumb and inbred and lazy to understand that is the nail in the coffin of American empire. The brown people of the world have said, "no more!" What whitey calls the 3rd and 2nd world is rising up. This is so deep. Our Afrocentric principles have triumphed. Gold was the basis of the African kingdoms of great such Kusch and Benin. Gold is tangible a real thing. Now, yes, finally, we are going to stand tall again. The white man will have to get on his knees and go back to Africa to beg for our resources. As Black Jesus said, "the meek shall inherit the Earth."
WARNNN: Let's change gears for a moment. What are your thoughts on Rush Limbaugh's efforts to buy the NFL team, the Rams?
Brother X-Squared: I applaud it. He is a bigot. He is a man, that fat, bloviating sack of human feces, who likely has a dead body hidden on his property, upon which he does drugs and molests children, that hates Black people. Professional sports is run by racists who pay a bunch of man-children black athletes millions of dollars to run around like baby monkeys. Most of those coaches in the NFL are Republican bigots anyway. Limbaugh can wear his white robes to the games to remind those humanzees--those human monkeys who lay with white women whenever they can--that they are nothing more than million dollar slaves. Who knows? Maybe those coons wearing the white man's nigger cotton--what you all call jerseys and uniforms--will stand up and say "No!" Unlikely, they will probably play along just like that ESPN commentator Stephen Smith said they would. Speaking of sports, did you see Mike Tyson on Oprah?
WARNNN: I did not. I am still waiting to see the new Tyson documentary. Zora, has it on Netflix, but hasn't received it yet.
Brother X-Squared: Brother Chauncey, I have been working with you now for months and you still are not saved. Again, you go to the white man when you could go to the Black African on the corner and get your DVD. So sad. The interview was pathetic. Tyson, that once great warrior God was reduced to tears by that mammy. Oprah is indeed the White man's whore in Babylon. She made that great man, just like an elephant in India stuck in a sinkhole, a pathetic beast. She killed him with a death of a thousand cuts. The white man brought down Tyson, and Oprah...who could have rehabilitated his public image...finally destroyed him. It was thoroughly disheartening. It was not surprising however, as it was one more example of how the white man wages perpetual mental warfare on the Black man's mindstate.
WARNNN: As per our tradition, please tell our readers something they don't know?
Brother X-Squared: That is an easy task given how weak the typical "respectable" negro is...still in the chains of White mental slavery! Black Barbie.
WARNNN: Excuse me? The new doll?
Brother X-Squared: Yes. Have you seen that little slut? A light complected, race mixed "toy" that is dressed like a "hip hop" artist. Sick. The white man's subliminal assault on us continues. Toys are the first agents of political socialization. That foul representation of black womanhood is teaching our young beautiful black queens that light is right. It is teaching young girls to be sluts. Her hair is piss colored! It is blond! What black women are born with blond hair? None of them...unless their momma or daddy laid with a dirty European. Our children in Obama's America are being taught that they are less than, that they are inferior little slaves. Factually, Chauncey did you know that little white girls were often given little black slave children as human dolls during slavery? Living dolls?
WARNNN: Yes, I am aware of that despicable history.
Brother X-Squared: Now, corporate America gives our little girls representations of that evil. Tricknology is omnipresent again. "black" Barbie comes with a key! A key of all things! Do you negroes know what a key does? It opens locked doors. It makes visible the hidden. It opens you to something new. That foul Barbie's key represents the white man's key to the Black man's mental mindstate! Yes, oh yes! That piss colored, Barbie slut doll is a symbol of how the black man has been socialized to hate black women and to see white women as his validation.
WARNNN: Always a pleasure Brother X-Squared. Always. We look forward to talking again.
Brother X-Squared: I am always on the j-o-b. Yes, I will be ready. It was a pleasure.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: Let's Go Behind the Scenes with Arnold's 1980's Classic, Commando
Why so serious?
Behold the curse that is the triumph of digital over analog. I don't miss my VCR. But, I do miss the fact that the director's cuts, extra features, and special attractions on that wonderful analog format felt special...as opposed to the dime a dozen refuse that we are subject to all too often at present.
With DVD's we witness footage that should never have seen the light of day--but these materials make wonderful stuff for late night drinking, faux mystery science theater goof-off sessions. Most importantly, bloated DVD's make this ghetto nerd smile.
I am still looking for an online compilation of the special features from Black Knight, thus, Commando will have to make do in the meantime. Plus, you get to see Rae Dawn Chong in her glory...do we even need another excuse to bring this goodness to you, my fellow ghetto nerds, as well as respectable negroes?
Random question number 1: Who was hotter and a more recurring feature in the humpin' the bed a la Ghostface style, masturbatory fantasy rotation? Rae Dawn Chong or Heather Hunter?
Random question number 2: Am I the only one who slowed down the movie during the hotel fight scene to get a little extra peek at the full frontal nudity--aka female glory--of that scene? Any other Commando onanists in the audience?
Part 1 of the Commando featurette:
Part 2 of the Commando featurette:
Part 3 of the Commando featurette:
Friday, October 9, 2009
Friday, October 2nd at 11:29AM EDT
I thought the world would love us more now that Bush was gone.
I thought if we whored ourselves out to our enemies, great things would happen.
So Obama’s pimped us to every two bit thug and dictator in the world, made promises to half the Olympic committee, and they did not even kiss him.
So much for improving America’s standing in the world, Barry O.
Got it. President Barack Hussein Obama is so narcissistic, he thought that he could sway the Olympic Committee (and by extension, the world) by repudiating Bush’s approach to foreign policy and bad mouthing America on an international stage and appeasing this country’s enemies. And the world rejected him anyway. What a loser.
Red State’s Erick Erickson in response to Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize today:
Friday, October 9th at 8:22AM EDT
I did not realize the Nobel Peace Prize had an affirmative action quota for it, but that is the only thing I can think of for this news. There is no way Barack Obama earned it in the nominations period.
Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize.
The deadline for nominations was two weeks after he was sworn in as President.
So in less than two weeks of entering office, Obama did something to qualify. What was it? Not closing Gitmo? Continuing the Bush administration’s policies in the War on Terror but no longer using the name? Or pronouncing a policy of abject American capitulation to our enemies?
The Peace Prize reaffirms it s a joke. But now a sad joke.
Wait a minute—ignore the affirmative action stuff for a minute—now Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize (from “the world”) because he is appeasing our enemies and because he is different from Bush (but only in name and color)? I thought the world rejected him?
And which one is it? Is Obama continuing Bush’s policies, or declaring a “policy of abject American capitulation?” I’m pretty sure that Bush was considered a steadfast, unabashed defender of American interests, values, and dominance.
My head hurts. I guess I’m just not smart enough to understand conservatives’ complex thought processes.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Congratulations Michelle Obama, You Have a White Rapist in the Family! or In First Lady’s Roots, a Complex Path From Slavery
We are all one people now. Did you know that black Americans have white ancestors? And shockingly, that white folks may have some chocolate in their cream? Although I enjoyed the NewYork Times piece on Michelle Obama for what it was: another contribution to the Roots 2.0, Henry Louis Gates Jr. enterprise of personal (re)discovery through genealogy, I generally respond to these types of stories with no small amount of consternation and head shaking.
To be blunt, what is the big deal? Yes, I understand the political moment and a need to re-inscribe our American narrative of racial togetherness as the Obama wave (now greatly diminished) settles across the land, but the fact of these stories--more specifically, the fact that black folk were forced to co-mingle with White people--holds no great appeal for me.
One, these stories are anti-climactic. Two, stories such as these are often uninteresting because they follow a standard narrative (black person or white person sends in DNA to a biomedical company or goes to a local historical society and finds out they have some "surprises" in the family tree). Three, the politics at work in the black and white folk discovering a common ancestor during slavery are unsettling because they quite literally apply a white wash to American history.
Consider Michelle Obama's genealogy. Her ancestor, Melvinia, was taken away from her family and bequeathed as a piece of property to the relatives of her original "owner." There she was "impregnated" and a family lineage began--a tale of strength and dignity that is far more compelling than the emphasis on the white slave owner at the beginning of the story. Not surprisingly, the foul treatment of this young child is glossed over by the Times' essay, because ultimately, Melvinia's life circumstances are taken for granted as being horrible. Thus, no real exposition or detail is apparently needed. The reasoning is as follows: "we" know slavery was cruel, violent, and denigrating to black personhood, so why focus on the specific details? Moreover, to highlight the barbarism of black enslavement at the hands of White Americans would take away from an otherwise compelling human interest story, a tale of race and reunion and the beating heart of the Times's essay.
For example, here is an original passage from "In First Lady's Roots a Complex Path from Slavery":
WASHINGTON — In 1850, the elderly master of a South Carolina estate took pen in hand and painstakingly divided up his possessions. Among the spinning wheels, scythes, tablecloths and cattle that he bequeathed to his far-flung heirs was a 6-year-old slave girl valued soon afterward at $475. In his will, she is described simply as the “negro girl Melvinia.” After his death, she was torn away from the people and places she knew and shipped to Georgia. While she was still a teenager, a white man would father her first-born son under circumstances lost in the passage of time...When her owner, David Patterson, died in 1852, Melvinia soon found herself on a 200-acre farm with new masters, Mr. Patterson’s daughter and son-in law, Christianne and Henry Shields. It was a strange and unfamiliar world...It is difficult to say who might have impregnated Melvinia, who gave birth to Dolphus around 1859, when she was perhaps as young as 15. At the time, Henry Shields was in his late 40s and had four sons ages 19 to 24, but other men may have spent time on the farm.
The story is a little bland for my taste. It lacks descriptive, evocative details. Now, let's correct that a bit.
In 1850, the elderly master of a South Carolina estate took pen in hand and painstakingly divided up his possessions. He saw nothing odd about including a human being among his property as this was the custom in a country where black people were counted as valuable commodities to be used, disposed of, and profited from as White people saw fit. Among the spinning wheels, scythes, tablecloths and cattle that he bequeathed to his far-flung heirs was a 6-year-old slave girl valued soon afterward at $475. In his will, treated as a piece of livestock and necessary equipment for the running of a plantation estate, this innocent child, described simply as the “negro girl Melvinia” was torn away from the people and places she knew and was shipped to Georgia.
Melvinia was transported to what was from her perspective a far away land. Moreover, she was ripped away from any sense of stability and relative freedom or security she had once known. This trip would have been terrifying under the best circumstances for any child. One can only imagine how frightening it must have been for a child in a country where her security and safety was often dependent upon the whims of people who saw her as less than human.
Years later, while Melvinia was still a teenager, a white man would father her first-born son. It is difficult to say who might have impregnated Melvinia. She gave birth to Dolphus around 1859, when perhaps as young as 15. At the time, Henry Shields was in his late 40s and had four sons ages 19 to 24, but other men may have spent time on the farm. Because white men had de facto access to the bodies of black women (ironic, given that during slavery and Jim Crow white women of means had their bodies policed as the private property of their white husbands, while black women's bodies were treated as the communal right of white men), it is hard to determine which of the men in the household (or among its visitors) parented Dolphus. Rape was extremely common and the violence visited upon young Melvinia could likely have been a daily occurrence at the hands of one, two, or many other white men on the plantation. Tragically, Melvinia would have had little recourse for her own protection.
The story reads a little bit different, does it not? When one highlights the brutal rape and exploitation of a child, the warm sentiments turn a little bit more sour, no? I must wonder, what would the public's reaction to these Roots 2.0 stories be if a little more truth and detail were included on the printed page?
My godmother, a very fair skinned black woman who could have easily passed for white summed up my sentiments quite well. She never understood why some black people wanted to pass. Pragmatically, her life would have been much easier if she had chosen this path. But on an existential, moral, and ethical level my godmother could not comprehend why one would turn their back on their own people to join a group (Whites in mass) who held black people in such utter low regard. As she would often say about those nominally black folks who wanted to qualify their ancestry as "mixed," were proud to be "high yellow," or "for having white relatives," why would a black person want to celebrate having the blood of a slave-holding rapist in their veins?
I know that sounds harsh. Nevertheless, is it not an accurate description of what lies at the heart of so much black and brown folks fetishizing of their white ancestry? What is there to celebrate or be proud of because a slave owner (or his family and/or friends) took their pleasure with one of your/our/mine ancestors? Certainly, some historians and others will appeal to the "complexity" of relationships between slaves and white slave owners. Perhaps, these same historians and others will make a heartfelt plea that there was some "love" between those many often nameless Melvinias and their white rapists. This is nonsense on two accounts. First, how can two people have true love for one another when one person has total power over the other? Second, how can there be true love when one agent has neither the reasonable nor realistic power to say no?
The rest of the NY Times piece can be found here, as well as responses to the piece from a range of scholars.
Per tradition, some questions.
1. Again, help me understand. Why do some black people feel compelled to reach out to the white descendants of the people who owned, exploited, and violated their kin? What is the appeal here? Now, if there were reparations involved or a claim to a just piece of an estate I would most certainly understand the motivation. Am I the only one who shakes his head at these black folks trying to claim some lineage to famous White families such as the Jeffersons of Monticello, when you have been summarily disavowed?
2. In fairness, what of these white folk who reach out to the descendants of the black people their people owned? Honestly, if I were a member of one of these white families I would quite frankly be ashamed. For example, did anyone else see this story about Senator Tony Rand and his reunion with his black "relatives?" Apparently, the Rands all get together and extol the greatness of their "family." I wonder what would happen if some of the black Rands did some research and asked the white Rands for a piece of the family estate with interest? Hmmm...I am sure that hilarity would immediately ensue.
3. Did anyone else smile when reading about how Dolphus and Melvinia maintained their dignity, strength, and pride as they built a family? Or how Dolphus became a respected member of the community? Or how men like him and his heirs, living symbols of those many thousands of men and women who struggled with quiet dignity as Pullman car porters, maids, nurses, and laborers, struggled for their full citizenship?
4. Did anyone else feel a bit of sadness seeing how the accomplishments of other men in that family were minimized and made more difficult because they had the misfortune of growing up in a profoundly racist society?
5. I wonder if any self-identified mulattoes, mixed-race negroes, "biracials," or Canablasians read stories such as these and see the tragedy of their own hypervaluation of whiteness?
6. If history is a process, a living narrative that is being written and (re)written to serve the political needs of the present, how will the story that is black slavery and the freedom struggle be conveyed in some 50, 100, or 200 years? How whitewashed will it become? What sort of history does a now and future post-racial America demand for its national mythology?