Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sarah Palin's Run-in with "Sexism" on the Cover of Newsweek Magazine or The Sexual Awakening of the Wasilla Wonder, Sarah Palin



If you make your bed you best lie in it. Sarah Palin, leader of the teabag wing of the Republican Party (and nominal leader of "Real America") is plying her new found role as a victim. I thought it was only "liberals" and "minorities" who played the "victim" card?

From Palin's fitting interview with Oprah Winfrey (a professional confessor and emotional surrogate to soccer mom's everywhere), to her new book--a project closer to historical fiction than political autobiography--Palin has been rewriting months old history. Apparently, confused, manipulated, and possessed of the best intentions, Palin was actually used for political gain by the McCain campaign, horribly treated by the evil mainstream media (damn those questions about magazines and reading habits!), and tarred as a scapegoat for the failed Republican 2008 presidential bid. Now it seems that Sarah has been made a victim of sexism. Right Wing Populist People's Evidence number one: the cover of Newsweek.

I will not wade into the muddy and murky waters of defining "sexism" as either deed, act, thought, ethical system, or belief. For my purposes, what is irony heaped upon irony is that Palin, the standard bearer for Conservative Feminism (read: by most definitions her policy positions are anathema to the interests of women as most commonly understood) has now discovered "victimhood." Doubly ironic that Michelle Maulkin, noted defender of women's interests that she is, has stepped up to the plate to defend Palin with the late discovery that unlike the Yeti, gender discrimination against women may in fact exist...but only when Republicans are "victimized." Contrary to this position, I would suggest that Palin's picture on the cover of Newsweek is not sexist precisely because the sexualization of Sarah Palin is ultimately of her own doing.

In much the same way that Palin decried the politicalization of her family after she herself used them as a campaign prop, Palin's all-American shtick was certainly based on her "beauty" as there is no realm of reason within which Palin's appeal could be based on intelligence, experience, or gravitas.

As many have noted, the Leave it Beaver, soccer mom narrative that Palin fulfilled as a culture warrior for Red State America is based on a type of perverse balance between female submission and male domination. Within this imagination, the traditional, obedient wife knows her rightful place in the home. She is to obey her husband and follow his lead while fulfilling his emotional and physical desires. With a 21st century feminist twist, Palin is also a superwoman--she supports her family financially all the while never usurping a husband's authority as rightful head of the family unit. Contrary to many a song, verse, and story that comprise black popular culture, it isn't black women who are the "strong" ones. Oh no, it is conservative wonder moms everywhere, the Sarah Palins of America who bring home the bacon from Walmart, take care of the kids and grandkids, and still manage to look sexy for their husbands when they come home after a long day of hunting and mudding.

The sexualization of Sarah Palin fits perfectly within the Right, neo-fascist Populism to which she is heir. As we saw in Nazi Germany, the Lost Cause/Redemptionist fantasies of the Post-Civil War South, and fascist Italy, women are symbols of the state to be protected while always being subservient to men. Here, women have agency as long as it serves the goals of men. Women and their sexuality belong to their husbands. By implication, in the conservative imagination, the sexuality of women is something that all men are obligated to protect. As also found in the most traditional and politicized veins of radical Islam--a neat parallel given the "war" between Christian Nationalism and the Muslim world--there is an odd attraction and aversion here that borders on misogyny. Women are coveted, dominated, wanted, and sexualized, while serving simultaneously as perpetual threats to the moral rectitude and strength of men.

From the Virginity Balls of Red State America where young evangelical, Conservative, Christian teenage girls "pledge" their virginity to their fathers, to Palin's strategic use of her MILFish qualities to inspire the masturbatory fantasies of young Republican activists everywhere, sex is central to the Conservative political impulses that nourish Palin's base. In total, the marketing of Sarah Palin is dependent upon her performing the role of Red State virgin/whore. Simply put, if there was a Christian Domme version of Playboy, Palin would most certainly have been centerfold of the year.

Bonus: Given that Sarah Palin is an object of lurid desire and fantasy, it is fitting that she is now part of the proud tradition of "slash fiction" with the website Sarahpalinerotica.com

Here is an excerpt from a debauched Sarah Palin themed story to start your day and titillate your desires. Enjoy.

@@@@

The World of Men

What Sarah likes most about skirts is that they fall just far enough above the knee to catch a man’s attention. If she’s learned anything living in the world of men, it’s that a woman must always catch a man’s attention because without a man’s attention, a woman has nothing. She is nothing. What makes Sarah happiest right now is that she has the attention of a great many men. If her favorite thing is telling herself she will be the next president of the United States each time she passes a reflective surface, her second favorite thing is to sit in a conference room full of men in their crisp, slightly sweaty dress shirts and designer slacks with their earnestness and condescension and turn away from the table just enough to slowly cross and uncross her legs. She’ll allow her eyes to crinkle, the corners of her mouth turning up slightly and she’ll lean forward just enough for her blouse to part. She’ll watch them and the predictable way their eyes follow the toned muscles of her calves up to her breasts. They’ll clear their throats and adjust their ties and shift uncomfortably in their seats. She knows what they’re thinking—they’re thinking if they play their cards right, they too could be fucking the next president of the United States.

If her favorite thing is telling herself she will be the next president of the United States and her second favorite thing is toying with boys in conference rooms, then her third favorite thing is to read the things people say about her. When she’s flying between cities and the men in suits are buzzing around planning the future of the world, she loves to sit with her laptop, alone, reading about her inexperience and right wing politics and the tanning bed in the Governor’s Mansion which, it must be known, is one of the few places where she can have a moment to herself, and as such is a crucial part of the gubernatorial process. The caustic barbs and Photoshopped images and conspiracy theories about the maternity of her youngest don’t bother her. They’re a turn-on. They are talking about the next president of the United States, she thinks. And they just don’t get it. I could give a shit about reproductive health or alternative energy or tax cuts because when the old man kicks it, sooner than later, I will be fucking in the fucking East Wing.

One of the GOP aides who’s been assigned to Sarah is an eager young man with an earnest, serious haircut named Conor, with one “n.” He is tall and handsome in that uptight, muscular manner unique to Republican men whose bodies have not yet given way to too much bourbon, too much red meat and too many cigars. Conor recently graduated from one of those elite East Coast schools that the Republicans love to criticize but always attend. He has not been out of school long enough to realize that a degree in political science teaches one exactly nothing about politics and this ignorance is somehow endearing to Sarah. Conor is not very bright but he is good at getting things. He always knows the location of her phone, husband, glasses and suit jacket. He also knows how she takes her coffee and maintains custody of a pack of Marlboro Reds at all times. These are not inconsequential skills.

On those nights when Sarah is alone, when Todd is back in Alaska looking after their brood, Sarah is not really alone and it is not a well-kept secret. Amongst her staffers, it is not Trig Palin’s maternity in question but rather, the boy’s paternity. Some time after midnight, after she’s slipped out of her suit and set her glasses on the night stand, and she’s watching the image of a late night talk show host flicker silently on the TV screen, she’ll hear a soft tap at the door. She’ll wait for a second knock, and then she’ll open the door and let Conor in because in addition to getting things, he’s also fairly adept at giving things. He’ll look both ways, making sure the hallway is empty because he doesn’t yet realize that there are no secrets on the campaign trail. When he thinks the coast is clear, he will slide past the door and lean against it as it shuts. He’s always wearing jeans and a t-shirt and Sarah enjoys seeing the boy out of uniform.

“Madame Governor,” he’ll say, shivering because Sarah likes to keep her hotel room frigidly cold. It reminds her of home.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: WWE's "New York" Video



Why not? Let's enjoy this before the copyright monsters at WWE Corporate take it down.

This was the best part of the MSG show last night. And whatever we smart marks feel about professional wrestling at the moment, the folks in Stamford have always put together great video packages. I remember all of those moments--how old am I/we getting? In revisiting them I just couldn't help but have a smile on my face. Having been to MSG for (then) WWF shows, she really is a special place.

The other thought that I could not suppress was just how lacking in majesty the current crop of Cena's, Hardy's and the other post Attitude era stars are in comparison to the legends of the long and recent past.

Gorilla Monsoon, Andre, Captain Lou, Owen, Miss Elizabeth, Eddie, we miss you all. And Chris, we miss you too.

But enough criticism from me, I am going to mark out and reminisce for a moment or two.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Racial Divide is Bridged by Hard Times in Barack Obama's America or Ain't No Racism in the Unemployment Line



But Dennis and Jenny Duncan, a white couple who once owned millions of dollars in real estate assets as former developers, felt equally stymied. Interviewed in the lavish home they built for themselves, they said the sheriff had just come to call and told them their belongings would soon be seized to satisfy debts. Unlike Ms. Rucker, neither has a college degree, making work difficult to find.

The idea that the recession is an equalizer has become accepted in Henry County. Both black and white residents were hesitant to say that either race had taken a greater hit. But Ms. Taylor, the black woman who dispensed advice at the county food stamp office, said there were some notable distinctions between blacks and whites.

“They’re a little weaker than we are at handling things like this,” she said, adding without rancor, “but I know they get more sympathy than we do.”

****
Poor whites and poor blacks sitting in a tree k-i-s-s-i-n-g.

As suggested by the New York Times piece "A Racial Divide is Bridged by Hard Times," race and class in Barack Obama's America is (re)set once again.

My curiosity about the role of race in American life was first stimulated by my introduction in high school to the 19th c. Populist Movement. During this time white farmers were organizing against exploitation by Capital. Black farmers in the South had were also disempowered by the same structural forces. Unfortunately, the proposals by (even more) forward thinking White Populists to ally with Black farmers never came to fruition. To my eyes, this seemed like a perfect alliance, why wouldn't poor white people ally with poor black people? Frankly, not taking advantage of this moment didn't make sense to my hopeful teen eyes.

As I would later learn, this has been the story of race and class in America, from our factories, to the farms, to the cotton trade in Texas and the Southwest, opportunities for alliances across the lines of race for the common good were derailed by white racism. With those rare exceptions such as the United Mine Workers, sadly, white skin privilege would trump the material gains of cooperation. False consciousness wins again, no? The White racial id (or is it shadow?)--the appeal to white supremacy that is not inseparable from the invention of Whiteness and the White race--hovers over all things.

What to make of these temporary "alliances?" Is this the same old story of black and brown folks being the miner's canary (one of my favorite terms)? As always, extending a lifeline to white folks who have fallen down? Will anything come of this? Will the children of the white middle class that have fallen from grace soften their attitudes about race and poverty? Will being poor cease to be a stigma once poverty has been colored more White? Will poor Whites respond with hostility to black folks as their "natural" rivals in these hard times? Or will the backlash be against "illegal immigrants?"

As the old joke goes "those people" are on welfare, while "we" receive subsidies, social security, tax breaks, etc. etc. etc. Will this narrative reinscribe itself during our Great Recession?

A Racial Divide Is Bridged by Hard Times

McDONOUGH, Ga. — During the housing boom, Henry County, a suburb of Atlanta, had its share of racial tension as more and more blacks joined the tens of thousands of others pouring in, creating a standoffish gap between the newcomers and the county’s oldtimers.

But the recession has begun to erase those differences.

Blacks and whites have encountered one another in increasing numbers recently in the crowded waiting rooms of the welfare office and at the food pantry, where many of both races have ventured for the first time. Struggling black-owned businesses are attracting the attention of white patrons. Neighbors are commiserating across racial lines.

At the Division of Family and Children Services, Keasha Taylor, 36 and black, helped explain the system recently to a white mother. Ms. Taylor, who was there because her family had been evicted, told the mother, who was in line for food stamps, that a child with acute asthma might be eligible for Social Security.

“Right now, a lot of white people are in this situation,” Ms. Taylor said, recalling the conversation later. “We’re already used to poverty; they’re really not.”

Denese Rodgers, the county director of social services, who is white, has held several lunch meetings at A J’s Turkey Grill, owned by Diane Walker, a black woman, in hopes of helping business.

“It was in one of our abandoned strip malls, a forlorn looking kind of place, but when you walk in, it’s just pristine,” Ms. Rodgers said. “She’s doing everything right, it’s just not full.”

Peggy Allgood, a 54-year-old black woman who lost her job and four-bedroom house and is now living in a trailer park, said she had noticed the recession obliterating racial differences up and down the economic scale.

“It’s gotten to the point where everyone I talk to, their hours have been cut, their jobs have been cut,” Ms. Allgood said. “My neighbor, she’s white, she’s trying to find a job. She hasn’t had any luck.”

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Bill Belichick's Stunning Decision to Give Peyton Manning the Ball on the 30--or Bill's Worst Night as Coach of the New England Patriots



I feel like Dudley at the bicycle store right now. Yes, the refs gave Faulk a horrid spot. But, Belichick should have either 1) not blown the timeouts and thus have been able to challenge the spot or 2) simply punted the ball.

I am a New England Patriots mark. I am stunned (now twice, our loss to the Giants being the first) by Belichick's decision to give Peyton Manning the ball on the 30. If I were playing Madden 2009 then surely I go for it, and then I lay down to allow the offense an easy 6 points. This decision then allows me to get the ball back quickly and go up the field. In real life, with home field advantage at stake, you don't make calls like Belichick's.

I must ask, has Bill lost the confidence of the defense with this betrayal? He doesn't trust his "D" to stop Manning, or at least to limit the Colts to a field goal? One other thought: Lawrence Maroney is not a franchise running back. There I said it.

I am rendered silent. Your thoughts?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Some Friday Afternoon Happiness Pills--Alexyss Tylor's Interview with the Trashman, Pastor Manning's Thanksgiving, and Chris Rock's Good Hair



There is a big brown shark coming. Social science theory in action: key concept--infrapolitics.

The last few posts have been heavy with all this talk about racism, white privilege, and less than respectable negro behavior. To boot, it is Friday the 13th....a two for one blow against this respectable negro's spirits. And don't hate on my fear of Friday the 13th or I will have to ask Brother X-Squared to come back early from his world wind media tour and share some wisdom with you all.

When in need of merriment, crack open a bottle of Youtube, sit back, and relax. Here are 3 videos guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.

Happiness Pill Number One

Pastor Manning is lecturing Barack Obama for his poor form in not inviting his Kenyan grandmother to Thanksgiving. What is Obama hiding? Is he afraid that his Kenyan grandma will expose the "truth" that Obama is not an American citizen? Is Obama just too cheap to fly grandma Obama over here from Kenya? Hmmmm.....inquiring minds want to know! {I am laughing already} Random thought: I would love to see Pastor Manning perform spoken word poetry with Maya Angelou at Carnegie Hall. Now I would pay five, ten, or even twenty dollars to see that show. Are you with me?



Happiness Pill Number Two

Oh my muse Alexyss Tylor, I cannot get enough of you. A few months back she interviewed "The Trashman." You may know him not by his moniker, but for his crime: The Trashman was the gentlemen who was imprisoned for poisoning Gerber babyfood in a failed extortion scheme. Oh no! Don't you dare sleep on the Trashman as he is much more than a small time con artist. Alexyss's guest is actually an expert on prison culture, booty love, and the pleasures and perils of "the chitterling hole." Be awed by his brilliance and wisdom:



Happiness Pill Number Three

Oh praise the echo effect. I am going to Radio Shack right now to buy a vocoder or some other device to modulate my voice. Everything you say with an echo effect sounds profound. Think about when you are at Wendy's ordering a Spicy Chicken Sandwich Combo--with the echo effect--you will sound like God himself preaching from on high. So what in fact does the echo effect enhanced Mayor of Blacktown have to say about black women and their piss colored blond hair? How black women's obsession with haircare products has sapped the political economy of Black America? I bet you know already...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Columbia University White Privilege Fight Update Number One--Let's Check the Comments Section! What Does It Tell Us About Post-Racial America?

The story of Professor McIntyre's unfortunate break with respectable negro behavior, i.e. punching a woman in the face while in a heated disagreement about white privilege has generated quite a few comments on the NY Post's website. As I have done in the past, let's check the peanut gallery to get a thermometer reading of the state of race relations in the age of Obama. Once more, are the masses asses? Let's proceed...

Frank 11/11/2009 6:17 PM

Are we dealing here with another equal oppourtunity placement? A professor who got the job over who knows how many qualified candidates? How about black privilege? Take Professor Gates up at Harvard another nasty piece of work. Both of them spew hate and in the case of this guy resort to beating woman who don't take kindly to their views. God help us with Obama the wonder black in the White House with his First Lady Michelle Le Shawn Robinson Obama on Sesame Street.People like these indoctrinating the youth of our land and acting as role models for the next generation of blacks. Soon enough their day will be over as Hispanics rise through the ranks. Hispanics work, keep their family units intact and mostly I think we can live with them in peace and respect.

Mark 11/11/2009 5:46 PM

Its been black privilege for many blacks for awhile now. DO YOU THINK IF HE WERE WHITE AND PUNCHED A BLACK FEMALE IN THE FACE, HE COULD KEEP HIS JOB ETC! Not to mention the uproar from Sharpten and Jackson etc. One of the major problems are that kids are being brainwashed to believe that they are all victims and that whites are to blame of course. It is just creating racism! This professor was probably spoiled as a child who feels awfully sorry for himself. If he were a man of honor he would have a real voice to be listened too, instead of a bunch of politically correct brainwashed students to feed the blame game too!

NiceGuy 11/11/2009 5:16 PM

It was a hate crime, charge this kneegrow. He hit her and the man because they were white. And btw, some advice; when dealing with kneegrows always whack them first. before they can hit you. The white guy made a big mistake by just telling him not to hit a female and the kneegrow took it as a sign of weakness and hit him. Not too different from Travis the chimp. They only understand fear and dominance.

RightStuff 11/11/2009 5:13 PM

Murray and Herrnstein were correct. The "intellectual" McIntyre should pick up the book "The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life"

DcAreaFatCat 11/11/2009 4:57 PM

As is the case with the Fort Hood terrorist, Columbia probably had plenty of information about this professor and either chose to ignore it, or more likely elevated him to a higher stature that reflects what they consider to be a good professor. More than likely he is tenured, or will be soon. This is the calibre of professor that people who fund Columbia are paying for, so that is probably what they want.

dave 11/11/2009 3:59 PM

And the drive by media refers to the prof as an intellectual? They say that he is intelligent and respected? Guys like this and Major hasan are simply poster children for affirmative action and political correctness gone wild. They make me weep for our Nation.

oldgeez 11/11/2009 3:10 PM

People, please pay attention...nothing will come of this. First he is black. Second the first line of the article gives it away - "a prominent...'. Of course it's a hate crime, but nothing more will come of it. It will either be ignored, or someone or group will squeeze the victim into dropping any complaint.

Someone earlier mentioned that he said (paraphrasing) "he was sorry it escalated to this"...he actually never said "sorry" to anything, he said "It was a very unfortunate event," he said afterwards. "I didn't mean for it to explode the way it did." He can't even apologize. Black or white, what a pig.

Which, of course, makes me wonder how he meant for it to explode if not the way it did.

Whatever...no jail, no fine, no suspension. If the victim is lucky she might get compensated for her injury and distress, and to forget about it all.

PK 11/11/2009 2:43 PM

Welcome to Thunderdome! Two go in, one come out!

There's multiple levels of sublime hypocrisy to this: Isn't the outrage at someone sucker punching a woman and using an argument of victim/privilege itself resorting to chivalrous patronage and female victim privilge? If the black man had punched a white guy in the face, would it be ok?

Either women are equal, and need to accept the responsibilities and liabilities of said equality, or they are not. White female feminism has been closely allied to the race hustler game for decades now. Now they're going to devour each other.

nur07 11/11/2009 2:30 PM

Naturally we will hear from Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and all those other defenders of racial equality!

*cricket*

Oh wait, this is a white person that got "sucker punched" by a black person! My bad. In that case it is perfectly justified since white people are all bigoted, minority hating foes that should be wiped off the face of the earth so everyone else can live in peace and utopia.

Yes, that was sarcasm.

I have nothing at all against black people, but this is man is reprehensible. Why he was let out without bail is beyond me, but I suspect it may have something to do with the color of his skin. How about we talk about black/minority privilege? How about that for a change? According to the hate crime legislation that just passed they are now more equal than white folks. Talk about racism...We have a half black man in the White House and we are still getting beat up (literally) over so-called "white privilege." The man is a professor for goodness sake! Delusional! When is enough enough? Talk about a "hate" crime...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Black Professor Punches Woman in Heated Argument Over White Privilege or When Well Meaning White People Run Face First Into the Fist of Black Rage



I must admit, as frustrated as I may have been in my many discussions of white privilege, they have never come to fisticuffs. Unfortunately, on Monday of this week Professor McIntyre's self-control was far less stalwart. Random thought: will tenure protect him on this one? Or is he out on a moral's clause?

People of color have long learned the merits of sucking it in. Apparently, this policy of silent annoyance does occasionally result in moments of explosive rage.

Respectable negroes learn at an early age to be diplomatically neutral, if not silent, even when we are right. We must smile when we are upset. And of course, we must demure to White folks in matters of race because as in all things they are the ultimate experts. This is the irony of race relations in America. Historically, black folk (and others) have been a "problem" to be managed. Not "managed" by ourselves per se--our agency is not in doubt--but managed, made the object of bureaucratic and legal apparatuses, and the focal point of studies, research, and policy designed to solve the race problem in America. The Racial State manages bodies, personhood, and relationships. Implicit in this relationship is that White folks do the managing, and people of color are the pieces of the game that are to be coordinated.

Counter to this narrative is the fact that racism is a problem of the White soul. It is not Black and brown folk, but rather White people, who need to reflect on their own culpability and responsibility for the grotesque history (and present) of this society spanning, world organizing concept and regime.

What follows is the eureka moment upon which conversations about race more generally, and whiteness, in particular become so heated: necessity dictates that black folks and the Other are experts on White people, and by reversing the gaze (where Whiteness and White people are now made the objects of inquiry) feelings, emotions, and expectations can become dangerously impassioned.

The moment of reversal can result in two binary outcomes. For racial reactionaries and conservatives there is a fierce denial of White privilege, one that is prefaced on an unwillingness to accept the profound impact of race and racism on American social and political life. It is tragically funny then, that the racial resentment felt by White conservatives is exactly a response to the perception that their superior position is under threat:



For White liberals, especially self-described "progressives," White privilege is met with some acknowledgment where the responses follow a predictable script: "Sure racism is real, but I am not a racist, right?" Alternatively, these same progressives may assert that, "I am certainly fighting white privilege because I am a progressive, feminist, environmentalist, vegan. My bonafides are proven, thus I share no complicity in supporting or perpetuating social inequality."



My favorite of this genus is the racist White liberal. This purveyor of the soft bigotry of low-expectations expects little from people of color. And in their patronizing, he/she proceeds from a position of inherent superiority. In discussions of white privilege the racist White liberal is oftentimes the very person who introduces the concept. Ultimately, this is just another domain within which to grandstand, all the while maintaining one's expertise on people of color, the race problem, and white privilege. It is a coup of sorts because the expertise of racist white liberals on these matters is enabled by white privilege, all the while they rally against the very thing which sustains their "superiority." The result: people of color are rendered mute as experts on the condition of their own being.

Theorizing in a vacuum, what do you think precipitated the fight in the following story? Who is more racist and frustrating? Liberals or Conservatives? Do you have a favorite white privilege/male privilege/some other privilege story? One that ends in some exciting fireworks of tears, anger, rage, or just utter exacerbation? I must ask: Who is more likely to cry as a defense mechanism and distraction? I know the answer. I just want to here others confirm it. I will beg the question: Is White privilege even worth discussing? Or is it just a dead end where one ends up wasting energy by speaking to the honest (who already "get" it) as well as the disingenuous (who pretend to "get" it) alike?

From the NY Post, the story follows:

****
Prof busted in Columbia gal 'punch'

Last Updated: 1:17 PM, November 10, 2009

Posted: 2:57 AM, November 10, 2009

A prominent Columbia architecture professor punched a female university employee in the face at a Harlem bar during a heated argument about race relations, cops said yesterday.

Police busted Lionel McIntyre, 59, for assault yesterday after his bruised victim, Camille Davis, filed charges.

McIntyre and Davis, who works as a production manager in the school's theater department, are both regulars at Toast, a popular university bar on Broadway and 125th Street, sources said.

The professor, who is black, had been engaged in a fiery discussion about "white privilege" with Davis, who is white, and another male regular, who is also white, Friday night at 10:30 when fists started flying, patrons said.

McIntyre, who is known as "Mac" at the bar, shoved Davis, and when the other patron and a bar employee tried to break it up, the prof slugged Davis in the face, witnesses said.

"The punch was so loud, the kitchen workers in the back heard it over all the noise," bar back Richie Velez, 28, told The Post. "I was on my way over when he punched Camille and she fell on top of me."

The other patron involved in the dispute said McIntyre then took a swing at him after he yelled, "You don't hit a woman!"

"He knocked the glasses right off my face," said the man, who would only give his first name as "Shannon." "The punch came out of nowhere. Mac was talking to us about white privilege and what I was doing about it -- apparently I wasn't doing enough."

McIntyre had squabbled with Davis several weeks earlier over issues involving race, witnesses said. As soon as the professor threw the punch Friday, server Rob Dalton and another employee tossed him out.

"It was a real sucker punch," Dalton said. "Camille's a great lady, always nice to everybody, and doesn't deserve anything like this."

Davis was spotted wearing sunglasses yesterday to conceal the black eye. Reached at her Columbia office, she declined to comment on the alleged attack.

McIntyre was released without bail at his arraignment last night.

"It was a very unfortunate event," he said afterwards. "I didn't mean for it to explode the way it did."

Additional reporting by Sarah Makuta

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Brother X-Squared's First Guest Interview--The Cipher: A Conversation with a Revolutionary Black Thinker

One of our most stalwart allies, Brother X-Squared has been busy on these Internets. Last week, he gave an "exclusive" interview to the great website The Intersection of Madness & Reality. Hosted by Brother Rippa, our very own resident black nationalist expounded (as only he can) on terrorism, the boy in the balloon, and the state of Black America in these perilous times. Enjoy!

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The Cipher: A Conversation with a Revolutionary Black Thinker

Today on the Intersection of Madness & Reality we have one of the most revered thinkers in the struggle for justice and equality (pictured above), Brother X-Squared; president of the North American Chapter of the Renewed Black Panther Party. I had the pleasure of coming to know X-Squared from the good folks at WARNN (We Are Respectable Negroes News Network) at the blog We Are Respectable Negroes. If you haven't had the opportunity to at least checkout or frequent their blog, you're truly missing out. Seriously, do yourself a favor and add their blog to your daily reading because they're stamped and RiPPa approved. Recently I had the privilege of chopping it up with the brother and the following is an exclusive transcript of our conversation

RiPPa: Welcome Brother X-Squared.

Brother X-Squared: It is a pleasure to finally have the opportunity to speak with you Brother Rippa. Your name is an inspiration. It signals strength, power, dignity, and honor. I know from your works--'cause I monitor the white man's Internets in an effort to sabotage the white man's efforts to use tricknology to manipulate the mental mindstates of the captive Black African, especially the bastion of evil Youtube where you can see all manner of black foolishness--that you too are a warrior in the struggle against white supremacy. Your name also has many levels of meaning Brother Rippa. Do you understand that your name also is a dualism? A polyhedron of knowledge that resonates throughout the multiverse?

RiPPa: Not sure if my name is Swahili for anything, or even what a polyhedron is all about, but I'd appreciate if you could expand on that for me my brother.

Brother X-Squared: Rippa is a name that makes sense. It embodies energy. It speaks truth. Obviously, you shed your slave name in order to rename yourself as a strong, righteous, black man. You see, Brother Rippa you are not one of these baby boy, little girl sissy men who was named by a an illegitimate, ghetto underclass, confused, cum dumpster implement of the white man's evil like that sad negress in that damned to hell movie Precious. Rippa exudes dignity and intelligence unlike those Shaquan's, Latrelle's, Tyrone's, and those other names common to the NBA—Nigger Ball Association--that signal from birth that you are destined for the white man's prison. Human fodder for his prison industrial complex.

RiPPa: Well that puts a lot of pressure on me now that I know this. Which is actually scary when I think of it Brother X. Next thing you know I'll be on the FBI watch-list like those brothers in Dearborn Michigan. Of course you heard what happened to them the other day didn't you?

Brother X-Squared: I heard of those pigs killing my fellow revolutionary. Do you know how many men died in the battle of the Somme in 1915?

RiPPa: Not exactly but I'm sure there were many.

Brother X-Squared: Almost 1 million of those white devils died. And that number is nothing compared to how many of our brothers have been killed by the white man's slave catchers and enforcers of his white supremacist racial state. That martyr won't be the last...no way, there will be many many more. You asked me about fear? About being afraid?

RiPPa: Yes I did; isn't it natural for a man like you, a Black man in America to ever be fearful? Surely you must be, right?

Brother X-Squared: You clearly don't know who I am Brother Rippa. I am disappointed. I have never shown fear. The only being I fear is the almighty Black God, the creator of the universe. Death is a comfort to me Brother Rippa. You see, I am a modern day samurai. I am their heir in action. The samurai were the greatest warriors the world has ever seen because they welcomed death, they went into battle as dead men looking to earn back their lives. Just like those strong Nubian warriors the Jem'hadar in those white space movies Star Trek, victory is life for all true revolutionaries. I welcome battle with the white man and his death squads. But, I know they won't come for me because I am too strong, too black, and too powerful. They understand that Brother X-Squared is too educated to fall for their nonsense and trickery. I use their own Constitution and Bill of Rights against them. I keep a copy of it in my pocket as a reminder of their wickedness. Those sacred documents have also given the Black man a tool to use against those white tricksters and forked tongue devils. I slay him--just like you do Brother Rippa--with his own laws and principles.

RiPPa: Wow, brothers in outer space - never gave it any thought. Sorry about that brother, I hope I didn't offend you in any way. But anyway; usually "conscious" or "enlightened" Black men such as you often come to this point in their lives through incarceration, is this true for you as well? And what are your thoughts on the vaccination of prisoners before "law abiding" citizens?

Brother X-Squared: Apology accepted. To know when one is wrong and to change one's course of action is the path of the enlightened new Black Man. For adhering to those tenets you are to be praised. Again, the media is controlled by the White Man. Notice--I capitalized his name to emphasize how powerful the white man's media is. In a democracy the media is supposed to serve a watchdog function, it is the fourth estate as those European sissy feminine white intellectuals called it in the 18th century, that should be holding the Man to the fire and giving the people knowledge. Now, it is all corporate. Like Noam Chomsky said--a decent white man--this is about manufacturing consent, about making the people malleable and feeding them lies. People who believe that only strong, smart, dedicated revolutionaries come from being inside of the white man's prisons, his rape houses where black men are turned into women and slaves, are victims of the mass media. So no prison for me Brother Rippa. I have been, will continue to be, and am always a revolutionary. I am the question and the answer. There is only Brother X-Squared.

RiPPa: Now that’s interesting considering that most brothers today do not reach the level of consciousness such as yourself without having done some time in prison.

Brother X-Squared: As for this inoculating prisoners. This is right out of white supremacy and capitalism 101. You all need to read more Marx, Gramsci, Foucalt, and those others thinkers on this issue of power, the body, and labor. You see slavery wasn't just about racism. Oh no, this was about getting the black man's labor. We are the strongest men in the world and we are worth more than our weight in gold. Those little Indians in Latin America had this white catholic priest devil--you do know that Catholicism is a foul white religion, a mixture of crazy Druid and Nature worshipping and magic with Christianity Brother Rippa? That is why their popes and priests dress like they are conducting a magic ceremony, all that talk of turning blood into wine! Nothing but magic--back to my original point, that devil who saved the Indians was named Bartoleme de las Casas. This devil argued that the Indians were too weak to be slaves and that the Black Gods from Africa should be brought to what they called "The New World" to work forever. This relationship has continued for centuries.

From slavery to freedom the Black man has been cheap labor. Now, and this is so deep Brother so listen carefully, the prisons are being used as labor camps. When you call United Airlines, or when you order from certain catalogs, that is going right to the jail. In California--that land stolen from my brothers in Mexico, Viva La Raza you and your struggle are not forgotten, Brown and Black Power!—the government uses prisoners to make furniture and clothes that it sells at a huge profit. Check out the book Slavery by Another name, it is deep. That book talks about what was called the convict lease system in the South during Jim Crow. What ignorant captive new Africans in America call the chain gang. Those poor people were slaves, captured by the government and then sold to big companies. This Swine Flu lie--it is a lie, because this is actually a biological weapon engineered by some white devil, he was made from wicked science, and wicked science will continue to be his favorite tool--will result in society crumbling. To remake it, they will need a captive labor force. Thus, their protecting the prisoners.

Nothing is new Brother Rippa the game has never changed.

It is sad, that right now, even in this Depression, so many dumb NBA and Hip Hop coons and their fans are walking around with all that gold and junk on their necks. Bragging about chains! Damn the mental assault on our subliminals is so deep, that these young fools are reenacting being on a chain gang like they were slaves! Poor fools don't even know it. The poor black man is recreating the conditions of his own oppression.

RiPPa: So the white man is pretty slick with his tricknology, huh?

Brother X-Squared: Tricknology is his primary means of control. Check the book Guns, Germs, and Steel. The white man used his weapons of war, his evil to conquer the world. How did a small part of the world, with comparatively few people, cave dwellers at that, come to dominate the world? Through the wickedness of their technology. The white man knows no limits of morality. Therefore, he can make all sorts of foul implements of war. Nuclear bombs. Machine guns. Explosives. All manner of evil. Even the Internets. Damn brother, pay attention now because this is gonna blow your mind. These Internets were made by the US military and their group called DARPA---Defense, Advanced, Research, Projects, Administration so that the military could communicate following a nuclear war. Now they let "the people" use it for "communication." Nope, they are monitoring you at all times. These internets are tricknology, tricknology that most of you captive ignorant coon moon crickets who slave for the white man are married to and controlled by. You all don't even know it! Watch the Matrix films brothers! Free you mind! Everytime I see a captive black african with an Ipod or Iphone or other mess I shake my head. Mental slavery, right out of a Phillip K. Dick novel, and you folks are living it right now.

RiPPa: Tell me something I don't know.

Brother X-Squared: Boys in balloons. Did you see that story about the fame crazed bunch of white people with that mixed race child who staged that balloon nonsense?

RiPPa: Yes, wasn't that crazy? I'd like to see someone Black pull that one off.

Brother X-Squared: White people go up in balloons and the whole world stops for that nonsense. Black people, black children are being killed on these streets, right at sea level and the white media doesn't give a damn. Black people are being shot down in the street on terra firma and no white person cares. The white man is so obvious with his agenda and how he values the lives of his children...let there be a rumor one of them is in trouble--or God forbid a white woman, some Miss Ann is in trouble...probably killed by her own evil white husband or boyfriend or a white serial killer because as we know they have a lock on that...and you have some Amber alert, red alert, stop the world bs that some white media news station will cover forever. But, let some Black queen get in trouble and they could care less. Post-racial America? Please. White Supremacist America is more like it! The Black man needs to wake up and see the tricknology right in front of his very eyes. I can fight the fight for you sad, captive negroes, but I can't win the war unless you all wake up!

RiPPa:. One last question: is/was Jesus Christ a Black man?

Brother X-Squared: Does a Pigeon fly in circles after it has been flying near salt water and eating almonds? Of course it does! Brother use your negro truisms and folk tales to understand the world around you! It is a self-evident fact that Jesus, the most high, the ultimate bad ass and freedom fighter who took on the credit cards of his day and the pimps is a BLACK MAN. How could he be anything but? Tell me!

RiPPa: Well it sure has been a pleasure Brother X-Squared having you here at the intersection of Madness & Reality. I'd like you to know that the door is always open for you to come on through and share your infinite wisdom, knowledge and understanding.

Brother X-Squared: It was a pleasure. Peace and honor. Stay strong in the struggle.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Monday Random Goodness: Hip Hop Philosophy with the RZA's New Book The Tao of Wu



I love the Wu-Tang Clan. Most importantly, I never forget that Old Dirty Bastard and Wu-Tang is for the children.



I won't categorize this clip under hip hop as cliche by virtue of RZA's appearing on PBS (but it is pretty close...maybe I am just biased). From the RZA's musings on speed chess, innovations in musical production and distribution, as well as his habitus--that is fancy, academic speak for the RZA's style, energy, and sense of place--Mr. Robert Diggs clearly possesses a philosopher's soul. Who else would so carefully parse Ol Dirty's final words, so poignant, that "I don't understand." Damn indeed, I never have seen a man cry, till I seen a man die.

Some quick questions: Is there such a thing as hip hop philosophy? Or is philosophy so laden by the Western canon (and its Eurocentric baggage) that hip hop has its own unique system of thinking about, reflecting upon, and generating knowledge? Is RZA's philosophical vision some version of Africana philosophy? If you are giving a book to a young adult as his or her life manual, which would you choose? The Tao of Pooh or The Tao of Wu? Bobby Digital? Artistic genius? or piece of garbage conveniently forgotten and justifiably consigned to the dustbin of music history.

Bonus clip: let us not forget that Ghostface Killah is also a philosopher...a philosopher of the mysteries of love--



Saturday, November 7, 2009

Chauncey DeVega says: Charlotte History Teacher Reenacts Slavery with His Black Students or Now that is One Dumb--and Soon to be Unemployed--Black Man



There is a bit of an uproar in Charlotte, N.C., as parents, teachers and the local NAACP are livid over a civil war lesson that supposedly went wrong during a Rea View Elementary school class trip to Latta Plantation on Wednesday.

According to WSOCTV.com, Ian Campbell, a black historian, had three black students, already a racial minority in their class, model cotton-picking slaves, with bags around their necks, in front of their peers. Kojo Nantambu, president of the NAACP in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, is one of many who believes the demonstration was both insensitive and poorly executed:

There is a lingering pain, a lingering bitterness, a lingering insecurity and a lingering sense of inhumanity since slavery. Because that's still there, you want to be more sensitive than politically correct or historically correct.

Campbell, though, begs to differ. As a historian of 15 years, he argues that he has had kids partake in demonstrations before, and this is the first time there has been a complaint. Campbell also believes he is being historically accurate...

****

To paraphrase Robert Dinero in the movie Casino, "now that is one dumb black man."

I believe in the power of experiential learning. But, one has to act both appropriately and considerately. For example, in a society where black children continue to be marginalized, ought one to further dis empower them in class? I am less worried about the idea that reenacting slavery "stigmatized" these children because there is no shame in being the descendants of a people who were enslaved by others. Moreover, Africans in America fought at every step for their freedom--and improved American democracy through their efforts--so I feel no lingering embarrassment or lack of pride in my people or their accomplishments.

My concern is that while the lesson was effective in one sense (for the white kids in class, having to see how a seemingly arbitrary decision about the personhood of their friends can be based on something as "simple" as the color of one's skin) can never replicate, not in any way, the dehumanizing, violent, and debasing experience that was chattel slavery. In fact, if the point of Mr. Campbell's lesson plan was to encourage the children to reflect on slavery as something more than a historical abstraction and mere curiosity, he could have instead made the white children slaves. Or if he were really sharp, Mr. Campbell would have auctioned off the white children in an imaginary slave market where their peers, as well as students from other classes, could have bid on them.

Alternatively, Mr. Campbell could have even done some version of the classic blue eyes/browns eyes experiment to greater effect and far less controversy.

I have tried to use experiential learning techniques in my classes on race with mixed results. The white students resented having to discuss their relative privilege. In fact, several opted out of the exercise (here: the privilege walk). In the same instance, the black students (with the other students of color somewhere in the middle in terms of their comfort level) were disgusted with having the present and persistent realities of racial privilege as inextricably tied to past inequalities of race, wealth, and opportunity laid bare for all to see. I suppose they wanted to keep this naked "secret" all to themselves.

For those teachers and educators among us, how have these exercises worked out for you in class? Are we being too hard on Mr. Campbell? Is this all to do about nothing? How would the public respond if it were a simulation of the Holocaust for example? Would there be the same amount of controversy? Is Mr. Campbell a visionary who we should be encouraging?

The story follows here.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: Beware the Hebrew Hammer! or More Details Emerge on Israel's Raid on Syrian Reactor



Even while in the midst of a serious discussion on the ramifications of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East one cannot forget THE essential truth: the Raid on Entebbe's score is pure funk goodness.

As my mom says, don't mess with the Israelis or they will tear your ass up. In the interest of full disclosure, she also says it is no wonder that the Arabs are so angry at Israel because that little country has repeatedly embarrassed all those dumb **insert racial expletive**.

In September of 2008, the Israeli air force--arguably the best air force in the world--launched a bombing raid on a suspected Syrian nuclear facility. Of course, the Syrians denied that they were collaborating with the Iranians and North Koreans on such a project. In hushed tones, the Western intelligence community discussed the details of this raid. By all accounts, the makings of a 007 movie are clearly present. Flybys of President Assad's home to give him a little wake up call (and to point out just how easy the IAF could penetrate Syrian airspace)? Check. Assassinations of high ranking Syrian officials from snipers hidden on board a yacht? Check. Commando insertions to do reconnaissance? Check. Israel "hacking" into the Syrian air defense network in order to deactivate and "spoof" its radars? Check.

I for one love peering behind the curtain and into the world that is shadow ops. Who knows, maybe the American people will get more details on Seal Team Six's work in Somalia where they took out a high ranking Al-Queda operative a few months back. If there is true transparency (yeah right!), we will also find out about the January bombing raid in Sudan conducted by the Israeli Air force with rumored assistance from American operatives and unpiloted aerial vehicles.

The details, or at least those details the Israeli's and their allies want to release, follow in this great piece from Spiegel online, excerpted here:

But on a night two years ago, something dramatic happened in this sleepy place. It's an event that local residents discuss in whispers in teahouses along the river, when the water pipes glow and they are confident that no officials are listening -- the subject is taboo in the state-controlled media, and they know that drawing too much attention to themselves in this authoritarian state could be hazardous to their health.
Some in Deir el-Zor talk of a bright flash which lit up the night in the distant desert. Others report seeing a gigantic column of smoke over the Euphrates, like a threatening finger. Some talk of omens, while others relate conspiracy theories. The pious older guests at Jisr al-Kabir, a popular restaurant near the city's landmark suspension bridge, believe it was a sign from heaven.
All the rumors have long since muddied the waters as to what people may or may not have seen. But even the supposedly advanced Western world, with its state-of-the-art surveillance technology and interconnectedness through the mass media, has little more solid information than the people in this Syrian desert town. What happened in the night of Sept. 6, 2007 in the desert, 130 kilometers (81 miles) from the Iraqi border, 30 kilometers from Deir el-Zor, is one of the great mysteries of our times.
'This Incident Never Occurred'
At 2:55 p.m. on that day, the Damascus-based Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported that Israeli fighter jets coming from the Mediterranean had violated Syrian airspace at "about one o'clock" in the morning. "Air defense units confronted them and forced them to leave after they dropped some ammunition in deserted areas without causing any human or material damage," a Syrian military spokesman said, according to the news agency. There was no explanation whatsoever for why such a dramatic event was concealed for half a day.
At 6:46 p.m., Israeli government radio quoted a military spokesman as saying: "This incident never occurred." At 8:46 p.m., a spokesperson for the US State Department said during a daily press briefing that he had only heard "second-hand reports" which "contradict" each other.
To this day, Syria and Israel, two countries that have technically been at war since the founding of the Jewish state in 1948, have largely adhered to a bizarre policy of downplaying what was clearly an act of war. Gradually it became clear that the fighter pilots did not drop some random ammunition over empty no-man's land on that night in 2007, but had in fact deliberately targeted and destroyed a secret Syrian complex.
Was it a nuclear plant, in which scientists were on the verge of completing the bomb? Were North Korean, perhaps even Iranian experts, also working in this secret Syrian facility? When and how did the Israelis learn about the project, and why did they take such a great risk to conduct their clandestine operation? Was the destruction of the Al Kibar complex meant as a final warning to the Iranians, a trial run of sorts intended to show them what the Israelis plan to do if Tehran continues with its suspected nuclear weapons program?
In recent months, SPIEGEL has spoken with key politicians and experts about the mysterious incident in the Syrian desert, including Syrian President Bashar Assad, leading Israeli intelligence expert Ronen Bergman, International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohammed ElBaradei and influential American nuclear expert David Albright. SPIEGEL has also talked with individuals involved in the operation, who have only now agreed to reveal, under conditions of anonymity, what they know.
These efforts have led to an account that, while not solving the mystery in its entirety, at least delivers many pieces of the puzzle. It also offers an assessment of an operation that changed the Middle East and generated shock waves that are still being felt today.
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Don't ever forget that while Shaft was doing some "wet work" in Africa, the Hebrew Hammer had his back stateside:

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Problem with These Kids Rap Critics Today, Part 2




The central claim in Part 1 was that mainstream rap critics fail to take seriously the gripes that disenchanted golden era fans have with the current rap landscape. Instead, these fans are reduced to bitter old grouch stereotypes, while their legitimate concerns about the overall quality of today’s rap, especially in comparison to 80s and 90s rap, are dismissed or ignored.

I’m working from the premise that today’s rap landscape is better in some ways (inclusiveness, access), but worse in more ways (everything else). And in my view, the ways in which the landscape is better don’t lead to better music. As I wrote in Part 1, there is no shortage of critics who scoff at the idea that the music is in decline; I haven’t found any credible critic, though, who can say with a straight face that the quality of albums hasn’t dropped off (at least at the top).[6]

Disenchanted golden age fans who try to pinpoint why the music has fallen off often cite commercial pressures, the broadening of the fanbase[7], the decline of sampling, the consolidation of corporate media, and the internet-fueled democratization of the means of music production and consumption. Yet there’s no inherent reason why these things, even when taken together, had to diminish the quality of the music.

When we set aside the changing cast of characters, the expansion of audiences and styles, and the (d)evolution of the sound, what distinguishes today’s rap landscape from that of the golden era are the norms by which fans police the quality of the music. I will argue that these norms have been weakened substantially since the mid ‘90s. The resulting social anomie that characterizes the current rap landscape has fueled the personal anomie of the average disenchanted golden era fan.

What defined these golden era norms?

Golden era norms of rap criticism[8] were shaped by four main principles:

Principle 1: Reward originality and creativity; punish biting.

Principle 2: Treat technical skill as necessary, but not sufficient.

Principle 3: Shun crossover acts that bypassed the normal channels (i.e. did not receive widespread sanctioning/vetting from rap heads)

Principle 4: Regard it as a duty to criticize substandard music, even when it comes from favored artists.


These principles are hardly unique to rap, but the ways in which they played out in practice and the ways they played off of black critical traditions gave rap’s critical norms a character all their own. Though image and symbolism certainly played a role (Principle 3 is a prime example), these norms were mostly about aesthetics.

Because these four principles are often misunderstood, I’d like to say a little more about each one.

Let’s get this out of the way: there is original rap being produced now, and there was an endless parade of biters during the golden era. What Principle 1 meant in practice was that blatantly jacking styles was generally frowned upon and was seen as beneath any rapper who wanted respect. The anti-biting principle represented a recurring thread in black music criticism only more intense.

The golden era emphasis on technique has been caricatured as some sort of preference for clinical, Joe Satriani-style masturbatory excess (either in a vocal sense, or a “conceptual" sense). In reality, the point of Principle 2 was to establish that all things being equal, skilled vocalism and lyricism matter and should be encouraged and that greatness is impossible without a baseline level of technical ability.

Principle 3 concerned how rap fans wanted the genre to be represented in the mainstream. If a wack or manufactured-for-pop rapper blew up, there was a collective effort among rap fans to actively spurn this rapper. This effort was dependent on the fact that black youth tastes determine what rap is considered cool—not only to rap fans, but to sympathetic outsiders as well.[9] Rap fans, then, had the temerity to say, “Enough. Let's shun this wack shit" and the sway to actually do it.

Principle 4 was the defining principle of the golden era. It fostered a willingness to call out wackness, wherever it surfaced. Even respected artists LL, Kane, Tribe, Dre, Jay Z and Nas felt the sting of Principle 4 in action. At its best, Principle 4 cultivated neither blanket negativity nor an inclination to hate anything “different.” Most golden era fans understood that the habit of crying wolf about how rap sucks now and the fixation on “sucka MCs,” “wack DJs,” and “biters” were tropes that reflected rap’s competitive spirit and inclination toward improvement.

Why were these norms so effective?

These four principles combined to foster a ruthlessly competitive creative environment that simultaneously promoted quality and actively sought to expose and shun wackness. If your records sucked, they weren’t going to be played for that long. If you couldn’t rap live, you got booed (and in rare instances, you got your monkey ass whooped). To varying degrees, vaudeville, metal, punk, and country audiences were known for their rowdy audiences and rigid norms. In rap, though, the critical norms typical of male-dominated, aggressive youth music and the critical norms of black music[10] coalesced. The pervasive air of critical (and sometimes physical) menace surrounding the reception of the music distinguished rap’s critical norms from those of jazz, blues, and rock, or any previous form of black music. Part of the appeal of golden era rap was the edge that this critical menace gave the music.

I feel obligated to state that these norms were problematic in a number of ways. Chauncey teaches classes on hip hop and pop culture. His students are often dumbfounded and even angry that hip hop’s critical norms were so harsh. Although I grew up in this critical environment, I can appreciate these students’ perspective. While effective in certain contexts, fear is not exactly an ideal motivation for creating art. Golden era critical norms were not very welcoming to many groups and certain forms of expression (though this point has been overstated).

Worse, however, was that the merciless nature of golden era rap norms cultivated an uncritical element among some fans. These fans, emboldened by the norms’ harshness and spoiled by the abundance of quality mainstream rap, dismissed good music for superficial, nitpicky reasons (e.g. the artists’ image/production changed from rugged and grimy to glossy; the lead singles were blatant crossover attempts, the music appeals to women).

What happened to these norms?

In hindsight, it should have been obvious that golden era norms were unsustainable—they were based on historically contingent factors and a whole lot of luck. These norms were ultimately gutted by a series of overlapping trends in rap fandom, black culture, and the broader culture.

Golden era rap norms operated alongside (and occasionally within) the contentious debates black folks have always had about the roles and implications of their art and culture. These debates have always revolved around a series of tensions (e.g. masses vs. elites, folk culture vs. high culture, black folks vs. outsiders, authenticity/artistic freedom vs. political art).[11] Though always heated, these debates have ultimately been a healthy example of the black public sphere’s depth and vitality. However, these debates and all four of the golden era critical principles have been crippled by the overwhelming influence of two (quasi)arguments: the hustler ethic and the hater defense.

The hustler ethic, summarized brilliantly by Rafi Kam, leads its proponents to counter any criticism with the inane response “I’m tryin to get my paper.” An earlier version of the hustler ethic used to be offered reluctantly against the backdrop of widespread racial discrimination in the entertainment industry (“There isn’t much space for complex black expression, but I’m an entertainer and I want to work;” “I’m employing black people; doesn’t that count for something?”). In the hustler ethic’s current expression, the fact that craft is an afterthought compared to the naked profit motive is no longer shameful; amazingly, it’s become a source of pride.

Unlike the hustler ethic, the hater defense doesn’t even require those who use it to offer up any justification. When artists use the hater defense, they don’t need to defend their creative output or acknowledge potential areas for improvement; the hater defense serves as a blanket condemnation of any and all criticism.

The increasing shamelessness of the hustler ethic and the triumph of the hater defense are both general cultural trends, of course, but they have hit black culture especially hard.The ultimate goal of both the hustler ethic and the hater defense is to silence substantive criticism and marginalize aesthetic judgment. That’s precisely what they’ve done to black cultural criticism in general, and rap criticism specifically.

The splintering of the rap audience has also weakened golden era critical norms by intensifying the polarization and politicization of taste. Fans now ride for their preferred faction over everything else, severely hampering Principles 1, 2, and especially 4 in the process. Because of perceived threats from “the other side” (think again of the NYstalgist-revanchist feud), factions of fans heap ridiculous superlatives on their favorite artists until the praise becomes something like consensus.

For a perfect example of how this polarization has diminished aesthetic standards, consider the increasingly political and unwarranted late-era 5 Mic album ratings of the now defunct(?) Source Magazine. The external political pressures on this one limited yet influential publication typifies the deterioration of the overall critical landscape of the last decade or so.[12]
Five of the last six albums to which The Source issued its perfect 5-Mic album rating are listed below:

Life After Death (1997)—This album contained some incredible songs by a rapper who died at the top of his game, but there’s never been a classic hip hop double album. Life After Death is no exception. Because BIG had just died, there was significant pressure. The 5 Mic rating was questionable, but The Source should get a pass for this one given the circumstances.

Blueprint (2001)—More cohesive than several of Jay Z’s previous albums, but not classic. Jay started getting a bit lazy with his lyrics here, and he coasted largely on personality. This one was problematic because The Source seemed to be swayed more by the album’s event-like hype, by Jay’s s feud with Nas, and by the album’s manufactured gravitas and self-conscious classic status-seeking than by the music itself.

Stillmatic (2001)—This review, not the reviews for The Minstrel Show and The Naked Truth, put the final nail in the coffin of The Source's critical relevance. The Source had long been criticized (justly) for its heavy NY bias, but once the magazine lost the ability to credibly assess NY rap (pretty much the only music it knew how to assess), it served no purpose at all. The classic status bestowed upon this Nas album was indefensible from an aesthetic standpoint—the album contained a handful of stellar tracks surrounded by overrated garbage. The only way to explain it was that there was immense pressure to 1) avoid the appearance of siding with Nas’ then-nemesis Jay Z and 2) herald Nas’ return to form, especially given all of the hype surrounding the album. It’s no coincidence that albums by Biggie, Jay Z, and Nas, NY’s biggest and most respected solo acts, received classic ratings because The Source was, in essence, an exercise in NY rap mythmaking. But the pressure to bend the rules of criticism for reasons outside of the music extended beyond the borders of New York.

The Fix (2002)—This was a nice album, to be sure, but it didn’t even come close to Face’s best albums. What happened here was likely The Source realizing that, after heaping classic status on the albums of three New York rap giants, the magazine had to bestow the same honor on an album of a Southern rap giant.

The Naked Truth (2005)— The less said about this Lil Kim “classic” the better, but aside from the conflict of interest shadiness, I think there was a gender quota thing going on.
The Source wasn’t alone in lowering critical standards. This general relaxing of aesthetic standards has benefited older favorites and younger favorites alike.

What does this mean for mainstream rap criticism?

The point of all of this isn’t to blame the mainstream rap critics I referenced in Part 1 for the decline of golden era critical norms—they aren’t responsible for this decline; these critics are merely responding to the new climate in a way that makes sense to them and their audiences. This is also not about challenging critics to “take rap [norms] back” to ‘88 or ‘94 or any other year. It’s neither possible nor desirable to try to recreate the critical environment of the golden era. What critics can and should do, however, is learn from past critical environments to improve upon the current one. Critics are actually doing this in some respects. For example, they have looked back to rap’s pre-album era to help flesh out what a rap landscape divorced from the album as the primary artistic vehicle could look like given today’s technology (how critics have responded to the deluge of mixtape releases and the lack of quality control is an entirely different matter).

Moreover, critics have a duty provide context and history, not only for the music they critique but also for the history of music criticism on the ground and in print. This is especially important given that history-challenged rap outsiders are and will continue to be the primary consumers of rap criticism.

Critics can render the landscape in nuanced ways—ways that don’t reflect tired frames (NYstalgist vs. revanchist, NY vs. everywhere else). Specifically, they can address the legitimate concerns that many disenchanted golden era fans have with current musical and critical environment; they can consider the negative effects cultural and ideological pressures have had on aesthetic norms.

It’s not only in critics’ interests to do these things; it’s in the interest of the music.

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Notes:

[6]Ironically, my attachment to the album form can be critiqued as informed by a rockist bias.

[7] This is, I think, supposed to refer to the growing influence of women, white folks, non-Americans, and non-rap heads.

[8] I’m talking about a combination of norms on the ground, as experienced by the average rap head, and those held by tastemakers and rap critics.

[9]Which is why it’s so strange to hear academic types, hip hop feminists, and other hip hop “activists” talk in conspiratorial terms about white audiences driving the direction of the music.

[10] My dad fronted a few bands in the South and in L.A.in the 60s and 70s. According to him and his former bandmates, the climate of some of the surviving chitlin circuit venues (even with the South’s renowned cordiality) made the Apollo Theatre seem like a tea party.

[11] Those interested in black music and black politics should check out studies on the racial uplift ideology literature of the late 19th Century through 1950s, which reveals, among other things, “New Negro” discomfort with black folk culture (demonstrative church music, blues, jazz, narratives depicting uneducated black folk.). This literature features recurring questions such as “How does popular black art affect the moral training of black children?” and “How will this art make us look to white people?” If you replace all of the “negro”s with “black”s or “African American”s,” you’d swear that these things were written today.

[12] There was also a palpable pressure on the magazine to award Illmatic (1994), and Aquemeni (1998) high scores. The former album because Nas was hailed as the 2nd coming of Rakim, the latter album because The Source’s credibility had been pushed to the limit by its extreme bias toward NY artists when it came to granting albums classic status. But because these two albums actually deserved their 5 Mic ratings, the pressure was overshadowed by the music.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Enter Our Halloween Giveaway Contest: Do Any of You Want to Eat Our Brains?



Candyman loves him some white chocolate. How could he possibly resist?

Oh the joys of Halloween. As a child did your mom make you an elaborate Halloween costume that consisted of a bed sheet and some talcum powder? Did you cry when your vinyl and plastic Darth Vader "constume" was torn getting in and out of mom's Plymouth Grand Fury? Were you permanently scarred by the rubber band that affixed the Scooby Doo mask to your nubile, preteen head? Am I the only one who thought he would asphyxiate from wearing some god awful, poorly ventilated, overpriced mask while dancing at the local spot on Halloween night?

In an effort to find solace and peace, we respectable negroes are rectifying the injustices that are our collective Halloween traumas by offering you a chance to painlessly win some free graphic novels courtesy of First Aid Comics. The prizes you ask? The winner will receive the first two trade paperbacks of my personal favorite, the ongoing comic series The Walking Dead. The runner up will win a copy of Marvel Zombies 3. Good deal, no?

The contest? Since we respectable negroes are democratic by nature and have served as the miner's canary, one that both endlessly renews and thanklessly sits watch over American democracy, you folks have 2 options.

Option One--Name the greatest zombie hunter living or dead, fictional or real. Be creative: tell us who would be the zombie ass kicker you would call when it all goes down and why. For example, I would pick Omar from The Wire. Why? I reason that Omar is such a killing machine (and dude is so gully) that he was quite literally a living nightmare for the cornerboys and dealers on the block. For my man Omar, dealing with a few undead would be a comparatively easy task.

Option Two--Tell us what is the most frightening movie--intentional or otherwise--that you have ever seen and why. For example, I would pick Roots as the scariest movie this negro has (never) seen in many many years. As a runner-up, I would pick the upcoming Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey mammyesque cosponsored crapfest ghettounderclass spectacular Precious. Frankly, that trailer sends shivers up and down my spine unlike anything that I have seen in a long time...



Is it safe to come out yet? Goodness, that abomination is a monster straight out of the Moynihan Report and the darkest ids of William Julius Wilson and Marten Gilens.

Have fun. We will announce the winners of our Halloween contest some time next week.

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...