Sunday, February 14, 2010

Inquiring Readers Want to Know: What if Rush Limbaugh Were Black?

I said I would leave this alone, but this shared link caught my attention because it is both smart and funny.

It has inspired me. So, to my friends, allies, and kindred spirits who read this blog let's do an experiment--but only if you are game. I propose that each of you who are willing, do a post where you offer the following counter-factual: If (insert given white conservative) were black he/she would (insert different consequence for their behaviors).

Does a link/post party sound like fun?

For those of you with blogs please email me or post your links so we can share our respective posts. If you do not have a blog, simply post your thoughts here.

Who knows? together we may be able to just fight off the flurry of trolls and conservative zombies that will be inspired to come out of the woodwork to defend their selective champions.

Our first shared post is courtesy of Godless Liberal Homo: What if Rush Limbaugh were Black?

There is an excellent post on We Are Respectable Negroes about the racist double standards in our society. Here's part of it that uses Sarah Palin to illustrate just how bad things still are...

We live in a society where it is socially acceptable to be crazy racist as long as one is careful not to express the racism directly. Indirect bigotry and code speak are quite common. Of course, this is hardly limited to racism. The problem is quite common with sexism and heterosexism too. Code speak like "Family Values," "Identity Politics," and "PC" are quite common and the "Identity Politics" code is often used by people who are on the left on some issues.

Of course, one could easily do an "If Rush Limbaugh Were Black."

- His bosses would have fired him for hoping that a President would fail.

- His lack of command of facts would be used to question the intellectual capacity of an entire race of people.

- Republicans would stampede to criticize him, rather than cowering in fear.

- Rush's dishonesty would get him vilified by the right, while those same wingnuts would treat that dishonesty as something to be expected from "those people."

- Rush's sexual escapades would be tied to stereotypes about black men.

- His illegal drug use would have gotten him taken off the radio.

- Rush's incredible obesity would be attributed to stereotypes of eating habits and laziness.

Don't think for a minute that I'm making this up. There still is a majority view in this country that white people who are incredibly lazy, unpatriotic, bigoted, stupid, dishonest, dysfunctional, and just plain irritating are "superior" to people of other races just because of the concentration of melanin in their skin.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Black History Month is Bill Duke

Predator. Commando. Menace to Society. Battlestar Galactica. The Limey. 'Nuff said.

I'm New Here: Gil Scott-Heron is Back Again

Good stuff. It is nice to see one of the founding fathers of contemporary black music reinventing himself. All respect due to The Last Poets, but I am excited to see what Gil Scott-Heron does in this, the third act of his life.

Courtesy of the Guardian:

Gil Scott-Heron: the Godfather of Rap Comes Back

One of the most moving songs on Gil Scott-Heron's long-awaited new album, I'm New Here, is called "Where Did the Night Go". Over the most minimal electronic pulse, his familiar deep drawl, now more ragged and reflective than ever, intones the lines:

"Long ago, the clock washed midnight away, bringing the dawn,

Oh God, I must be dreaming,

Time to get up again, time to start up again,

Pulling on my socks again

Where did the night go?"

For those of us who have kept an ever-hopeful eye on Gil Scott-Heron's faltering musical and personal journey over the past three decades, the song has an added resonance. Where, I wondered on first hearing it, did the years go? Where, to be more precise, did Gil Scott-Heron go in the long silence that began in 1982 after the release of his last album for Arista Records, Moving Target, and was broken only briefly by the appearance of Spirits, in 1994.

"People keep saying I disappeared," the singer tells me, laughing heartily, when I speak to him. "Well, that's a gift I didn't know I had. You ever see someone disappear? That makes me a superhero, right?"

The humour, though, conceals a great deal of heartbreak and an epic struggle with addiction, both of which are referred to obliquely on his raggedly brilliant version of Robert Johnson's "Me and the Devil" on the new album. "Early this mornin', when you knocked upon my door", he sings, "And I said, "Hello, Satan, I believe it's time to go."

Though Gil Scott-Heron insists he did not disappear, that he kept playing club gigs in America and did the occasional tour, that he was writing, if not recording, the news that kept on filtering back from his long winter in America was always bleak. It seemed at times as if the most astute musical social commentator of the 70s and 80s had metamorphosed into a character from one of his own sad songs of suffering and struggle. On the sombre and still-startling "Home Is Where The Hatred Is", recorded in 1971, he described a junkie trapped in a blighted inner-city ghetto who lived inside "white powder dreams". Thirty-odd years later, he seemed to be living those lyrics.

Gil Scott-Heron's creative trajectory has, in many ways, run counter to that of the traditional troubled artist insofar as he fell into hard drug use at a time in his life when most of his peers had either sorted out their addictions or succumbed to them. What we can say for certain is that sometime in the mid-to-late 80s, the man the critics were by then calling "the godfather of rap" and "the black Bob Dylan" developed a cocaine habit that, if his ex-partner, Monique de Latour, is to believed, spiralled out of control into full-blown addiction to crack.

By then, like Sly Stone before him, Scott-Heron had a reputation for showing up hours late for concerts or not showing up at all. It seemed scarcely believable that the lithe, loose-limbed performer who sang "The Bottle" – about the alcoholics he observed queuing at a local liquor store every morning – and "Angel Dust" – about the mind-destroying drug of the same name that brought down the great James Brown – had fallen so low.

"I've had bad times in my life when I'd rather be somewhere else doing something else, for sure," he tells me when I ask about his troubles. "But you get to my age, that shit happens. You get in trouble; you maybe lose some folks – a parent or a friend. Maybe your marriage breaks up, you lose your wife, lose touch with your kid. But what life does not have those things in it?"

the piece continues here...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Those Who Deny White Privilege Need to Admit that They are the Smelly Man

My final two cents on this Sarah Palin as a scion of white mediocrity dust up...

Those folks who are in denial about white privilege need to be like Bobby Hill and admit that they are the smelly man.

Much to my surprise, my post "What if Sarah Palin were Black?" has proven pretty popular (it has been among the most viewed posts on Open Salon and is being picked up by other websites next week). It has also been a bit depressing as it reminds me of the toxic mix that is white denial, blind partisanship, white racial resentment, and a type of soft bigotry wrapped in the robes of empathy-less privilege. It seems that in the age of Obama, as much things change, the more certain old habits seem to stay the same.

I have also taken the comments of folks here and on Salon quite seriously--and yes, even the overstated, bloated, defensive and conversation dominating claims often introduced by the supporters of Palin. They are an object lesson--much like their goddess--in privilege. Practically, their logic and reasoning when brought out into the light are exposed for the speciousness of their reasoning. That is both helpful and useful. As a final concession to their sense that this is "just" about race, and that only "certain" people can participate and be listened to in this conversation (which is to some degree true by the way, as we do not all possess equally privileged insight on these matters ) I offer the following anecdote:

A few years ago I was walking home from the local university tap after closing. As folks in this neighborhood tend to do, they walk in large groups made up of both strangers and friends. In this mixed herd the conversations of that night continue and new voices are invited to contribute. I passed a group of twentyish year old undergrads who were involved in a heated discussion. One of the students recognized me as their instructor and asked my opinion about his two friends' dispute. I obliged.

A young woman was arguing with her male friend about the merits of listening. I asked for some clarification: what did she mean by listening? She specified that as a young woman she has had some experiences with sexism that are hard to communicate with men because they can't relate to them. Her male friend was very defensive. He said that was "impossible, people can always understand each other, power has nothing to do with it. We always have to justify our feelings to one another!" "Not today, sexism is exaggerated." Both asked me what I thought. I reflected. My answer was simple. "I am a man in a society where I benefit from that fact, often without thinking about it. So yes, I agree with her statement whole heartedly. Men have to learn to listen to women on these issues, and to not force folks to explain their life realities." Her male friend was shocked. He could not understand it, so therefore it could not be real. He was too invested in how he saw the world that he could not concede the truth of another's perspective--one that perhaps saw things that he was blinded to.

Finally, this young gent asked his female friend to prove that sexism is real, that her feelings and experiences are "real" and not imagined. I asked him if he trusts and respects her. Our young male friend said "of course." If so I replied, "then don't you have to listen to her and accept her words at face value?" He stammered. I also offered a final thought. "Be quiet for a few moments and really listen. You don't have to have the final word. That is okay. But making that first concession is important for learning how to empathize and respect one another." As I departed, I saw him rambling and gesticulating again. Apparently, it was too hard to simply learn how to listen.

Sadly, I think our conversation on Sarah Palin has proven that point once more.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Pain of the White Negro: Is John Mayer a Racist Hipster Douchebag?

John Mayer, racist hipster douchebag?

I am not a big fan of his music. But, what struck me most were not his words, but how low Playboy magazine has sunk. In reading this interview I couldn't help but long for the great interviews of years past with such figures as Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr., exchanges that could only be found in that most edgy of magazines.

Is the Mayer interview any surprise? Am I the only one who kept thinking of Norman Mailer's timeless essay on the White Negro as I worked through Mayer's ramblings? Is David Duke ever a fair metaphor for one's manhood--and its desire for inter-racial intimacies? Last time I checked, many a white supremacist (case in point: Strom Thurmond) for time immemorial loved to lay with a black woman (be she willing or not). Ironic then, that the loathing in the White Soul for blackness is more than balanced by an envious longing for the same.

Some choice excerpts from Playboy:

MAYER: Someone asked me the other day, “What does it feel like now to have a hood pass?” And by the way, it’s sort of a contradiction in terms, because if you really had a hood pass, you could call it a nigger pass. Why are you pulling a punch and calling it a hood pass if you really have a hood pass? But I said, “I can’t really have a hood pass. I’ve never walked into a restaurant, asked for a table and been told, ‘We’re full.’"

PLAYBOY: It is true; a lot of rappers love you. You recorded with Common and Kanye West, played live with Jay-Z.

MAYER: What is being black? It’s making the most of your life, not taking a single moment for granted. Taking something that’s seen as a struggle and making it work for you, or you’ll die inside. Not to say that my struggle is like the collective struggle of black America. But maybe my struggle is similar to one black dude’s.

PLAYBOY: Do black women throw themselves at you?

MAYER: I don’t think I open myself to it. My dick is sort of like a white supremacist. I’ve got a Benetton heart and a fuckin’ David Duke cock. I’m going to start dating separately from my dick.

PLAYBOY: Let’s put some names out there. Let’s get specific.

MAYER: I always thought Holly Robinson Peete was gorgeous. Every white dude loved Hilary from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. And Kerry Washington. She’s superhot, and she’s also white-girl crazy. Kerry Washington would break your heart like a white girl. Just all of a sudden she’d be like, “Yeah, I sucked his dick. Whatever.” And you’d be like, “What? We weren’t talking about that.” That’s what “Heartbreak Warfare” is all about, when a girl uses jealousy as a tactic.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

An Object Lesson in White Privilege: What if Sarah Palin were Black?

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

****My final (I hope two cents) on this matter are posted here.****

The impenetrable stupidity of Sarah Palin knows no boundaries. She wallows in mediocrity. Palin is the queen bee of a cult of personality where to be anti-intellectual is a trait to be rewarded. Ultimately, she presides over a confederacy of dunces.

People of color have many a shared experience that comes from being racially marked in a White society. One of my favorite examples of this social reality is the moment when a crime is announced on the evening news and we collectively grimace with the thought, "I hope he or she isn't black/brown/yellow/or red." I must also imagine that in a post 9/11 world, my Arab-American brothers and sisters likewise have a similar moment where they hold their collective breath in dread upon the announcement of some act of terrorism (real or imagined, in any part of the world).

Question: Do white people lower their heads in collective shame when they listen to Sarah Palin? Is there a moment where white folks shake their heads in mass and say to themselves, "Lord, I wish she weren't white?"

To be White is to be "normal," "invisible," and quintessentially "American." It is also the freedom to be an individual. When crazy white people bomb buildings, kill cops in the name of radical right wing politics, go on shooting rampages, or more generally just act like fools, it is never framed as a "White" problem. I would suggest that these actions are rarely, if ever, interrogated for what they reveal about Whiteness and/or white folk at large. In short, there is no "I hope that person isn't white" moment. Why? Because a given white person's actions are usually a reflection of their individual shortcomings, not a commentary on white people as a whole.

Efforts to communicate the essence of white privilege in American society are often made difficult because of the denial, fear, and vulnerability that comes from self-reflection about power. Moreover, in a time of economic calamity, white Americans are probably (and quite understandably) resistant to hearing about some "unearned privilege" when they are fighting for their financial lives. Surely, this is a time when conversations about the deep linkages between race, wealth, and white supremacy in the United States are an increasingly hard sell, even in so far as they remain especially true (as the old saying goes, "When White America gets a cold, Black America gets the flu...or worse").

Nevertheless, the need to discuss how race structures life opportunities remains necessary--and perhaps even more so--during our Great Recession. As opposed to the heavy theory and abstractions often favored by academics, scholars, and public intellectuals, I prefer practical common sense examples to prove my point. To that end, Sarah Palin is a perfect object lesson.

So, let's play a game of fill in the blanks. I will start:

If Sarah Palin were black
she would have disappeared into obscurity long ago.

If Sarah Palin were black, her daughter's out of wedlock, "baby daddy drama" would have been presented as an example of both pathological behavior and a dysfunctional family that is symbolic of the social problems in that community. If Sarah Palin were black, never would the poor decision making by the Palin family be marked off as challenges overcome, or deeds to be valorized.

If Sarah Palin were black, her neo-secessionist husband would have been the death knell for her political career, because as we all know you can't trust "those people."

If Sarah Palin were black, her lack of intellectual curiosity, willful and cultivated ignorance, and lack of grace both written and spoken, would not be taken as "folksy." Instead, Palin would be viewed as unqualified for any public office.

If Sarah Palin were black she would be tarred and feathered as an "affirmative action baby."


Tell me, how would you fill in the blank? If Sarah Palin were black she...

Monday, February 8, 2010

Jim Crow 2.0: Tom Tancredo, Tea Party Opening Speaker Calls for Return to Poll Taxes and Literacy Tests

I am watching the PBS special on African American military service as I post this. I will have something more substantive to say later on, but I wanted Tancredo's speech to stand with little comment. Well, I reserve the right to modify that statement one bit: Do they know what they say? Do they hate us that much? Or is this a type of coincidental White Nationalism where their bigotry is accidental and coincidental.

Funny, in watching "For Love of Liberty," I can't help but smile because we loved a country that did not love us back. Doubly funny, Black Americans were serving this country and have far deeper and greater justice claims to citizenship than Tancredo's ancestors, the castoff dregs of Europe who arrived here long after we had been here at least a century or more. Oh the glorious delusions afforded by the whiteness of memory, it must be grand to have such a privilege.

Black Americas, Native Americans, and those few White folk who can trace their lineage back to the Mayflower or Jamestown are the original Americans. In a grand irony, those unwashed masses who came through Ellis island think that this is "their" country and we Black folk are just guests.

If measured by blood, labor, and time on the ground, this is more our country than theirs. I wonder if THEY understand that fact. I also wonder how many Black folk understand and embrace this truth?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Saturday Oscar Talk of Magic Negroes and White Saviors: (Re)Reading Precious and The Blind Side

Following the post by Ishmael Reed on Precious, I decided to post this other gem (I have been saving these for my class) on the 2009 Hollywood Oscar trend of good white folk helping the poor darker races (one could add Invictus to that list as well).

A thought: Is the popularity of these nothing new, this has been a motif in American movies for decades movies, a function of an anti-Barack Obama backlash? An assertion of white salvation and relevance in an era of perceived Black triumph? A really provocative thought: Are there some black audiences that are feeling pressured by Barack Obama's triumph, and they find comfort in tales of African American pathology? Are some of us prisoners of a type of racial Stockholm syndrome where it is easier to imagine the bar set so low that being the ghetto underclass is our de facto state of being?

Certainly tragic. But, could it be true?

For your weekend reading pleasure:

Is Sandra Bullock's New Movie Racist?

The African-American teen character in the hit movie The Blind Side is loyal, polite, sexless, and surrounded by white people who love him—it's a miracle of the Obama age.

As portrayed in The Blind Side, the story of a homeless black teenager taken in by a wealthy white family and who later became an NFL star, Michael Oher is gentle, hard-working, self-sacrificing, and soft-spoken.

Though raised in Memphis housing projects, he uses no slang and dislikes the taste of malt liquor. Instead of Ecko and Sean John, he wears Charlie Brown-style polo shirts. His table manners are impeccable. He exhibits virtually no sexual desire. He is never angry and shuns violence except when necessary to protect the white family that adopted him or the white quarterback he was taught to think of as his brother.

Though he appears to be made of (large amounts) of flesh and blood, Michael Oher performs miracles for white people.

In other words, Michael Oher is the perfect black man.

While Precious is garnering a great deal of attention from critics and intellectuals for its unapologetic portrayal of blacks who are cruel, violent, and self-destructive, The Blind Side is far more popular with audiences. With virtually no preceding buzz or publicity, it nearly beat the massively hyped New Moon at the box office last weekend. And Sandra Bullock’s performance as Michael’s adoptive mother has made her an early contender for Best Actress.

The success of The Blind Side might be attributed to the fact that it is the most recent example of what some film historians have labeled the "black saint" or, less politely, "magic negro" genre, in which a virtuous black character saves the white protagonist. The term was coined to describe a series of movies in the 1950s—most notably No Way Out, Blackboard Jungle, Edge of the City, and The Defiant Ones—that feature Sidney Poitier as an upright black man who sacrifices himself, often with his life, for whites. These movies were so successful that they not only established Poitier as the first “serious” black movie star, but also changed the way Hollywood thought about race.

According to Donald Bogle’s history of African Americans in cinema, Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies and Bucks, Poitier was "the model integrationist hero." For white audiences, he was "a black man who had met their standards." His characters "spoke proper English, dressed conservatively," were "amenable and pliable," and "non-funky, almost sexless and sterile." They were "the perfect dream for white liberals anxious to have a colored man in for lunch or dinner."

The "black saint" genre was established by white filmmakers—mostly Jewish and left-wing—who sought to overthrow the dominant Hollywood image of blacks as either sexual predators or hapless buffoons. But their project began when the civil-rights movement had not yet become a national phenomenon and black leaders like Martin Luther King were still largely unknown among whites outside the South. So the creators of the genre were informed largely by the ideas of white liberals like Eleanor Roosevelt and the Swedish sociologist Gunnar Myrdal, who wanted to create a new image of African Americans as being "just like us."

Myrdal’s bestselling 1944 book, An American Dilemma, which essentially established white racial liberalism and the new rules of race for Hollywood, instructed African Americans to overcome their cultural "pathologies" and “become assimilated into American culture.” To do this, they had to acquire “the traits held in esteem by the dominant white Americans.” Eleanor Roosevelt issued similar directions in several influential articles and speeches. In a famous 1953 Ebony magazine cover story titled “Some of My Best Friends Are Negro,” Roosevelt praised her black friends for their “Christianity and intelligence,” their ability to “go through so many hardships and emerge so free of bitterness,” and their “serene, charming" manner.

The theme of honorable black men saving white people dominated Hollywood "race" movies into the 1960s and helped many whites become accustomed to the idea of integration. But with the advent of the "blaxploitation" films of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the black saint was replaced by a new generation of "bad" black heroes who were more likely to shoot The Man than save him.

But perfect black men began to reappear in the 1980s, in films such as Mississippi Burning, Glory, and most famously in Morgan Freeman's portrayal of a wise and noble chauffeur for an elderly white lady in Driving Miss Daisy, which won the 1989 Oscar for Best Picture. Though Driving Miss Daisy was widely criticized for reviving the "magic negro," the archetype gained increasing popularity among Hollywood filmmakers.

Frank Darabont's Green Mile, which celebrates the magical healing powers of a wrongly convicted black death-row inmate, was nominated for four Oscars in 1999. The following year, Robert Redford's Legend of Bagger Vance, featuring Will Smith as a supernatural golf caddy, caused Spike Lee to announce the era of the "Super-Duper Magic Negro."

The Blind Side, which is based on a book by Michael Lewis, purports to tell the story of a real person. And Michael Oher was in fact a parentless, homeless kid who was adopted by a white family and now plays for the Baltimore Ravens. But like all saints, the cinematic version of Michael Oher is pure, entirely selfless, and therefore not human. Though he appears to be made of (large amounts) of flesh and blood, he performs miracles for white people. He stops an airbag from injuring his adoptive white brother (Jae Head) and single-handedly takes down an entire house of gun-packing crack dealers who threaten to rape his white sister (Lily Collins) and mother (Bullock).

But the most important miracle Michael performs is to make his new family feel good about themselves. Throughout the second half of the film, Bullock’s steely Leigh Anne declares to all around her that adopting Michael has given her a new and complete happiness.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, members of the Republican Party circulated a song calling Barack Obama "the magic negro." They were excoriated for what many saw as a racist attack, but their inspiration was a Los Angeles Times op-ed written by the African-American film critic David Ehrenstein, which argues that Obama offers the same thing to whites that Sidney Poitier did in the 1950s. And indeed, Obama's moral rectitude and promise of racial reconciliation and redemption are similar not only to Poitier's characters but also to the character of Michael Oher. The makers of The Blind Side seem to be aware of this. The film contains a gratuitous jab at George W. Bush, much is made about Michael's academic tutor being a Democrat, and fist-bumps between Michael and his white little brother are ubiquitous.

While many are appalled by the portrayal of black sinners in Precious, we might also question what it means to portray African Americans as saints.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Ishmael Reed on Why Precious is Pathology Porn for White Folks

Even the Brits know that Precious has to be stopped.

In the United States, the movie Precious has been much discussed by critics, fans, and students of popular culture. In a post that could have been, I wrote a very sharp critique of the film where I described it as "pathology porn." But, I felt that given the devastating broadsides fired by folks such as Armond White that it would be much overkill. Practically, why try to improve on White's destructively perfect review.

With the nomination of Precious for an Oscar, the politics surrounding such noxious depictions of black life--an ugliness made so much more so given the ascendancy of the black family in Camelot that is the Obamas--will certainly be made center stage once more. Looking forward, I have something special in store for Precious when the time arrives (devious in fact, if I do say so myself). For now, load your guns and keep your powder dry: Here is noted cultural critic Ishmael Reed placing Precious in a broader context of white guilt, moral panics, and stereotypical depictions of "blackness" as synonymous with the "ghetto underclass." From the New York Times:

Fade to White

Oakland, Calif.

JUDGING from the mail I’ve received, the conversations I’ve had and all that I’ve read, the responses to “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” fall largely along racial lines.

Among black men and women, there is widespread revulsion and anger over the Oscar-nominated film about an illiterate, obese black teenager who has two children by her father. The author Jill Nelson wrote: “I don’t eat at the table of self-hatred, inferiority or victimization. I haven’t bought into notions of rampant black pathology or embraced the overwrought, dishonest and black-people-hating pseudo-analysis too often passing as post-racial cold hard truths.” One black radio broadcaster said that he felt under psychological assault for two hours. So did I.

The blacks who are enraged by “Precious” have probably figured out that this film wasn’t meant for them. It was the enthusiastic response from white audiences and critics that culminated in the film being nominated for six Oscars by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, an outfit whose 43 governors are all white and whose membership in terms of diversity is about 40 years behind Mississippi. In fact, the director, Lee Daniels, said that the honor would bring even more “middle-class white Americans” to his film. Is the enthusiasm of such white audiences and awards committees based on their being comfortable with the stereotypes shown? Barbara Bush, the former first lady, not only hosted a screening of “Precious” but also wrote about it in Newsweek, saying: “There are kids like Precious everywhere. Each day we walk by them: young boys and girls whose home lives are dark secrets.” Oprah Winfrey, whose endorsement assisted the movie’s distribution and its acceptance among her white fanbase, said, “None of us who sees the movie can now walk through the world and allow the Preciouses of the world to be invisible.” Are Mrs. Bush and Ms. Winfrey suggesting, on the basis of a fictional film, that incest is widespread among black families? Statistics tell us that it’s certainly no more prevalent among blacks than whites. The National Center for Victims of Crime notes: “Incest does not discriminate. It happens in families that are financially privileged, as well as those of low socio-economic status. It happens to those of all racial and ethnic descent, and to those of all religious traditions.”

Given the news media’s tendency to use scandals involving black men, both fictional and real, to create “teaching tools” about the treatment of women, it was inevitable that a black male character associated with incest would be used to begin some national discussion about the state of black families.

This use of movies and books to cast collective shame upon an entire community doesn’t happen with works about white dysfunctional families. It wasn’t done, for instance, with “Requiem for a Dream,” starring the great Ellen Burstyn, about a white family dealing with drug addiction, or with “The Kiss,” a memoir about incest — in that case, a relationship between a white father and his adult daughter.

Such stereotyping has led to calamities being visited on minority communities. I’ve suggested that the Newseum in Washington create a Hall of Shame, which would include the front pages of newspapers whose inflammatory coverage led to explosions of racial hatred. I’m thinking, among many others, of 1921’s Tulsa riot, which started with a rumor that a black man had assaulted a white woman, and resulted in the murder of 300 blacks.

Black films looking to attract white audiences flatter them with another kind of stereotype: the merciful slave master. In guilt-free bits of merchandise like “Precious,” white characters are always portrayed as caring. There to help. Never shown as contributing to the oppression of African-Americans. Problems that members of the black underclass encounter are a result of their culture, their lack of personal responsibility.

It’s no surprise either that white critics — eight out of the nine comments used on the publicity Web site for “Precious” were from white men and women — maintain that the movie is worthwhile because, through the efforts of a teacher, this girl begins her first awkward efforts at writing.

Redemption through learning the ways of white culture is an old Hollywood theme. D. W. Griffith produced a series of movies in which Chinese, Indians and blacks were lifted from savagery through assimilation. A more recent example of climbing out of the ghetto through assimilation is “Dangerous Minds,” where black and Latino students are rescued by a curriculum that doesn’t include a single black or Latino writer.

By the movie’s end, Precious may be pushing toward literacy. But she is jobless, saddled with two children, one of whom has Down syndrome, and she’s learned that she has AIDS.

Some redemption.

Ishmael Reed is the author of the forthcoming “Barack Obama and the Jim Crow Media.”

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Thursday Night Happiness Pill: The Greatest Thing Ever! The Tea Party Anthem Sung by Black Conservative Llloyd Marcus

I love to share things that make me smile. As a positive byproduct of what can be depressing work, a personal and professional interest in the politics of race does encourage one to develop a keen appreciation for the bizarre and the absurd...

Thus, I can confidently proclaim that The Tea Party Anthem is the greatest thing on these INTERNETS! Freedom Ain't Free is so compelling that upon hearing it I got what black folks in the church call "the Spirit." In hysterical glee, I am dancing around my office as we speak!

Random question/thought: What the hell is going on with the racially ambiguous Salt-N-Pepa inspired, cheerleader hip hop wannabe dancer at minute 2:16?

Second random question/thought: Check out this footage of Lloyd live in concert at a Tea Party gathering. Does it not in fact look like he is performing the theme music at his own lynching?

Frankly, Freedom Ain't Free is ten thousand times better than the Pants on the Ground song. And this anthem is a million times better than the Hip Hop Republicans at the Tea Party gathering in DC:

Humor aside, Lloyd Marcus, singing slave catcher, is the totem negro fetish for the Tea Party crowd. As I always joke, is there a glass enclosure labeled "break in case of emergency" where these black conservatives garbage pail kids are stored? Perhaps, most disturbingly, I can see him making a ton of money off of his cd's, appearances, and interviews on Limbaugh, Fox News, and company. Who knows? There is a probably a version of this song being played as we speak in a karaoke bar that I/you/we/me best not enter on risk to the safety of our lives.

This minstrelesque, zip coon performance of Americana really does soothe the White Soul, a good patriotic negro, singing those happy songs about life down in the South--or in this case--how the Tea Party are good white folks on the right side of history.

I have to ask, am I alone in hearing a similarity in melody and chorus between Lloyd's joint and the General's Fried Chicken song from the movie Undercover Brother? Wouldn't that be ironic, a black conservative borrowing from a song about white racists using fried chicken to subvert the black community? Fitting. No?

Insurgent Whiteness? Move Along, Ain't No Coloured Folk Here: The Conspicuous Whiteness of Vanity Fair's Hollywood 2010 Cover Revealed


White people create the dominant images of the world and don't quite see that they construct the world in their image...As a hue, white is both the combination of all colors and no color at all. As a racial designation, white describes people whose skin color is not literally white--and because "white" skin presumes the absence of ethnicity, whites rarely consider themselves racially marked. Since "whites are everywhere in representation... they seem not to be represented to themselves as whites." Rather than its weakness, however, Dyer claims such paradoxes offer whiteness its representational power, inoculating it against stereotypes by suggesting that whites are both infinite in variety yet representative of humanity per se." At the level of racial representation, in other words, whites are not of a certain race, they're just the human race.


Insurgent whiteness. I may have coined a phrase. Whiteness is constructed as normality, privilege, and property. It is the unattainable. Whiteness is taken for granted by its owners as a thing desired by those who do not possess it. In working through the complexities of whiteness, please allow me a Socratic moment:

As my first sentence implies, can whiteness alternatively work to resist what is perceived as an imagined, dominant norm in Barack Obama's America?

In the Tea Party, Pat Buchanan, Palin populism that rides headstrong over Conservative America at present, is there some signal that whiteness--the white soul--as imagined by its owners and practitioners (this word is intentional as whiteness is both possession and practice) is under siege?

Is the cover of Vanity Fair a signal once more that whiteness represents beauty unreflected upon, where while a black man, and black first family may reign supreme, that whiteness still trumps all?

To turn a phrase, does whiteness Strike Back? Is insurgent whiteness fighting back against black and brown beauty-power as embodied by Barack Obama and the demographic changes that his presidency may in fact signal now and going forward?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Black History Month is Petey Greene Explaining How Black History is Everyday and Everywhere

What is Black History month? What was it ever? What does it mean now that we have a Black President who happens to be a President who is black (how can you not like that Oscar Wilde like word play?).

This month, in addition to my usual posts, I am going to share my instinctive--often counter-intuitive (and hopefully biting)--thoughts on what Black History Month is. Today, Black History Month is Petey Greene.

A question and a thought: In 2010 is Black History Month hustlin' backwards?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Barack Obama Enters the GOP's Dojo and Proceeds to Own Them or Barack Obama Channels Black Belt Jones

Much digital ink has been expended already on the Friday afternoon seminar taught by President Obama (and yes it was the equivalent of a master professor's schooling of some young not as smart as they think they are undergraduates). My two cents? I am glad to see the President getting his stride back. Hopefully, his good day on Friday will translate into him following through on the great promise demonstrated during the campaign...fingers crossed. Ultimately, in the immortal words of Mad Max: Beyond the Thunderdome, "Two men enter one man leaves!" In this case, it was President Obama doing his best imitation of Black Belt Jones who entered the GOP's house and then proceeded to dominate them:

Friday, January 29, 2010

What Would a Black Militant Say About Obama's First Year in Office? Brother X-Squared Responds to President Obama's State of the Union Address

The We Are Respectable Negroes News Network (producer of such award winning programs as the White in America series, and hard hitting exposes with Jesse Jackson and Pat Buchanan) is proud to bring you the latest installment in our recurring series of interviews with Brother X-Squared, president of the North American Chapter of the Renewed Black Panther Party. Always one of our most popular guests, he has been busy crisscrossing the country and spreading his unique brand of knowledge/power. In this exclusive interview, Brother X-Squared reflects on President Barack Obama's State of the Union Address and the one year anniversary of Obama's presidency.

WARNNN: It is wonderful to see you again Brother X-Squared. We have been trying to interview you for several months now, and you have been a whirlwind of activity. I know all of us here at WARNNN are so happy to see that you have been traveling all across this country spreading your message.

Brother X-Squared: I have been traveling. And it is wonderful to see you again Brother Chauncey. Did you receive the reading materials I sent you? The Conspiracy to Destroy Young Black Boys, How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America, and The Mind of the Master Class?

WARNNN: Yes, I did. You are a wonderful ally and friend. Let's get to the interview: With all that has transpired, all the history that has been made with Obama's first year, his State of the Union Address, and Dr. King's birthday--the first time a Black man has been president during that most auspicious of days--what are your thoughts on these exciting and poignant happenings?

Brother X-Squared: First of all Brother Chauncey, I am not your friend or ally. I am no one's friend or ally. I love all Nubians--those black people whose minds are free. I belong to the all powerful pan Asiatic coalition of Black Freedom Fighters. I am only willing to be "friends"--the white man's word for those who give in to his power and whims--with those who will die for the cause. Are you willing to die for the cause of Black liberation?

WARNNN: It would depend Brother....

Brother X-Squared: I have to interrupt you. If you can't say "yes" right away the answer is "no." I like you Chauncey DeVega, but you have a long way to go before you free your mindstate and can become my "friend." Now, my thoughts on this Obama Dr. King anniversary nonsense. Do you want to know how I really feel? Are you ready Brother Chauncey?

WARNNN: Yes, I am eagerly waiting. As are my readers. Tell us, are you happy, how are you feeling?

Brother X-Squared: I am happy like a Pentecostal snake handler feeding his pet raccoon after drinking strychnine and speaking in tongues with a bowl of hot chitterlings (the white man's feces filled pig guts) in front of him.

WARNNN: I am surprised. You are usually so disappointed, angry and upset. What a wonderful change. So, have changed your mind about Obama's presidency? Have we turned a corner? Is America now a post-racial society?

Brother X-Squared: You are still a slave in the White man's Matrix Brother Chauncey. So silly and dumb you can be sometimes. I am happy because every prediction I have ever made about Obama has come true. I am a vessel of truth! Leading the light! I am a Black locomotive rushing through the night destroying every white man's car stalled on the railroad tracks in front of me! Obama, that so called halfrican, confused, transparent black man is running an Empire in decline. The ship that is America is rudderless. It is going in circles ready to hit an iceberg like that Titanic. So wonderful! A white ship hitting a white iceberg and thousands of white devils dead. Talk about poetic justice. I love it! America is that great Titanic and it has hit an iceberg where it will sink. Trust me, the supposed black President Barack Obama will be the first and last Black president this country ever sees.

WARNNN: You have not lost a step have you.

Brother X-Squared: Never. Guess what Brother Chauncey? The White man knew what he was doing the whole time. Those Glenn Beck, Limbaugh soon to be arrested for child molesting and drug use, Tea Party neo-John Birchers, Sarah Palin white trash, Fox news watching populists who howl at Obama and claim he is the devil are the most happy that Obama is President! The White man is a master of tricknology and evil. In fact, they lie so well and so often the Right wing believe--like all White people, especially White Liberals--that their lies are true.

WARNNN: Powerful words. What did you think of the State of the Union Address? Even with your feelings about Obama, even you had to be impressed by Obama's political acumen, poise, and intelligence. What about how Obama handled a very difficult and impolite Republican audience?

Brother X-Squared: I am not impressed. I laughed and howled while watching the speech. It reminded me of a proverbial lynching. Just think of the setup. That poor negro Obama is so hated by them even though he is innocent, he is more white than Black, he does their bidding! The White man is running a game on everyone with this partisan nonsense. Obama, like every president is a corporatist hack. Nobody in that building loves or cares about Black people. That devil Chris Matthews said that he could close his eyes and wouldn't even realize Obama was Black. Hell, anyone can look at Obama, listen to his words, and see that Obama isn't a true Nubian. Obama is melanin challenged, his energy is zero--his white momma canceling out his black daddy--so Obama is quite literally a zero. Truer words have never been spoken by Chris Matthews! I salute him!

Tragically, Obama may not even know he is being used--so forgiving of white people, with his half white blood self, and king dingaling African diluting his melanin with a white woman daddy, believes he can create "change." Please! Ain't nothing changing in this game.

Did you know who built the White House and Capital buildings Brother Chauncey?

WARNNN: Black slaves.

Brother X-Squared: Exactly. And the white man's slave is sitting up there to this day as the president. Head slave! That is what he is. There was all this controversy about that white man Harry Reid calling Obama a negro a few weeks back. Again, even in their lies there is truth. Obama is a "knee-grow." He quite literally sits on the white man's knee like a little black puppet, like that sick nasty pedophilia signifying puppet Lester, while speaking the White man's lies. Yes, Obama is a negro for sure, a negro who grows out of the white man's knee!

I bet those murderous "founders" of this slaveocracy, Jefferson, Washington, all of them, are laughing too. They aren't rolling over in their graves, oh no, they are laughing at this charade. The only folks who may be sad are the elder Gods, those Black brothers who went to Washington after Reconstruction to set things right for the newly emancipated Black man. Read the book Capital Men, it shows what real Nubians do, not like that halfrican quasi black man Barack Obama.

I have a question for you Brother Chauncey. Let's test your knowledge of how power really works in this world. Did you notice what the guests for Obama's speech were wearing? What color?

WARNNN: I didn't really notice. Lots of dark colors seeing that they were wearing suits?

Brother X-Squared: Again, you need to up your IQ Brother Chauncey. Purple! Did you see Michelle Obama's dress? Biden's tie? Do you understand the significance of that? Purple is the color of the Illuminati. The global power elite wear purple because it was the color worn by the Praetorian Guard in ancient Rome! This is real deep knowledge that you and most other brainwashed Negroes are not prepared for! The Praetorian Guard pulled the strings, they controlled how long an Emperor would serve. Obama and his cronies, especially by having his queen--what is rightfully his property if Obama honored his Nubian origins and teachings which we know he does not--wear purple, Obama is telling his international masters that he is their boy. Times change. Game stays the same. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was tricking the dumb white man into believing that he, Satan, does not exist. The devils in the Illuminati do the same thing by hiding in plain sight.

WARNNN: What did you think of Obama's policy proposals? His ideas about fixing the economy? Obama's desire to have a freeze on "discretionary" spending?

Brother X-Squared: This is a shell game. America is a money society. Money is worthless. It is paper. It is useless in the real world. My brother Karl Marx, a good White man, pointed all this out with his boy Engels. This money culture is built on an illusion and now the illusion is shattered. Again, if America were righteous. Again, if Obama knew his teachings and African origins he would study the empire of Benin! What was a great, rich, and wondrous country in ancient Africa that ruled for centuries. Benin was based on gold! It had a stable, tangible, sustainable economy...not the mess the White man has made in this country--a house of lies and credit. Look at where these credit paper exotic voodoo financier Wall Street former slave traders got the American people. It made them all wage slaves. Suckers. Michael Moore, another good white man, a real race traitor like our late friend Howard Zinn, preached the truth in his latest movie.

WARNNN: What about not spending money which the U.S. does not have? Do you support that idea? That we ought to stop discretionary spending?

Brother X-Squared: See you need to think harder Brother Chauncey. We have so much work to do with you. "Discretionary?" Come on! The only thing discretionary in that budget is spending on poor folk, the poor who happen to be disproportionately Black, Brown, and Red. Entitlements--White people's code word for money they give to themselves. Defense spending--money to wage the White man's wicked wars on the world. Neither are touched by this spending "freeze." Black people don't get any of this money, even from the 600 billion dollars spent on "defense." Brother A Phillip Randolph during WW2 tried to make sure black folk got some of that money by forcing that white devil FDR to desegregate the arms industries. We ain't got no money since! White folks will continue to give themselves welfare even with Obama's spending freeze. The only people who will suffer from Obama's budget will be Black people, Latinos, and Native Americans. You will see!

WARNNN: I will grant those concerns. But, what of Obama's plan to spend more money on high speed transit? On public transportation for our central cities? That will most certainly help black folk?

Brother X-Squared: Again, you do not open your eyes to the truth. Getting to the fact of the matter--the white power structure only acts in its own interests Brother Chauncey. White people are gentrifying--what is really taking over and kicking out black people--our cities. They want the trains to get our black behinds out of the cities to the suburbs where they do this thing called scattered site housing to break up our ability to organize and rebel. Those high speed rails will connect the cities, just like the highway system created the lily white suburbs after WW2. New ghettos, just with houses not projects will be the result! The white man will never have to deal with black people again. We are being made obsolete! Out of sight and out of mind! But he will learn, the Nubians will never surrender, only those weak brainwashed neo-slaves will go quietly into the night.

WARNNN: As is our tradition Brother X-Squared, and damn you have been teaching tonight, please tell us something we don't know.

Brother X-Squared: Jersey Shore.

WARNNN: You mean that show with the stupid "Italians" acting like "guidos?"

Brother X-Squared: That show is evidence of the sickness that is whiteness. Those white ethnic people came over here and had to "assimiliate," they had to fit in. In order to become white they had to hate Black people. Italians, like the Irish, were almost considered as low on the totem pole as Black people. Now, they had to lose their culture to become American. What was left was a vacuum, an emptiness. Those sad white people fill it with silliness and dumb behavior like being a "guido." I love it. The sickness that is white people. They are pathological!

But again, the white man has tricks on top of tricks! In Italy, right now, proud Africans are fighting against the Mafia. African immigrants are standing up to the self-hating Italians--those Italians can't forget their Moorish blood, how we took their women, had our way with them, gave them real civilization and created Sicilians. My African brothers are righteously demanding equal treatment. Stay strong in the struggle my African brothers fighting white supremacy in Italy! We will get revenge for what those devils did to our most righteous Ethiopia--Haile Selassie, all honor due--oh yes, the chickens will come home to roost and the white man will end up getting what is coming to him. Never forget Brother Chauncey that 2010 is our year. 2 plus 1 equals 3. There are the three sides to a triangle. The triangular slave trade. Oh yes free Nubians! History is on our side and revenge will be sweet.

WARNNN: Wow, I am speechless. I know our readers are stunned. As always, I appreciate your time, honesty, and energy Brother X-Squared.

Brother X-Squared: Till next time Brother Chauncey.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Howard Zinn, On the Night of Obama's State of the Union Address, Has Passed Away...God Speed Our Friend

Goodbye our/my friend.

Professor Howard Zinn has passed away. It is fitting that on the one year anniversary of history in this country come full circle--Obama's first State of the Union Address--that one of our elder scholars would pass on the same day. John Hope is gone (I always called him John Hope as it seemed sufficient without the "Franklin." Zinn has left. The elder Gods will still smile down on us...for their wisdom crosses time and space. As Dr. ." Zinn Zinn said above, history is us, we need to create change, and it is the people who make the world the better place. Elites follow to the degree that it is in their best interests. The struggle is to reconcile those conflicting agendas:

Again, my highest complement. Professor Howard Zinn may the force be with you. You were indeed a bad white man, a true ally, and a great example for how truth (and the people) can speak to power. Let us not forget that it is the PEOPLE who make history.

You will be missed.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: The Pilot Script for AMC's Adaptation of the Walking Dead Reviewed

I love getting brain. I love to eat brains. I will one day write my own zombie opus--no really I will (the question is will anyone buy it?). In the meantime we ghetto nerds will have to wait for The Walking Dead to come to AMC sometime this year (I hope). What a world in which we live! These Internets, Mad Men, and The Walking Dead. Oh yeah, we can't forget that Fables is soon to be on ABC. Like I said months ago, we are living in the midst of a geek renaissance...

Courtesy of Coming Attractions:

Exclusive: A review of the pilot script for The Walking Dead TV series

Is there such a thing as having too much dead people in your entertainment quota?

The answer to that question will only be known if AMC decides to give a greenlight to a TV series based on Robert Kirkman's ongoing comic book series about life after the zombie apocalypse, The Walking Dead. If you haven't been paying attention, the 2000s saw the zombie finally rise to mainstream status with a horde of well-received movies in this monster genre: the Resident Evil films (with a fourth now in production); a remake of Dawn of the Dead; 28 Days Later and its sequel which gave the idea of a slow moving corpse a twist with its fast runners; zombie comedies Zombieland and Fido; and the return of the father of modern zombie cinema, George A. Romero, with two new ghoul films, Land of the Dead and Diary of the Dead (and there's a third forthcoming, Survival of the Dead.)

With all of that box office success one would think that television executives would be looking to cash in on the zombie hype and get a TV series on the air. Actually, one network did try: back in 2007 CBS ordered a pilot called Babylon Fields which could be best described as a drama set after the dead return from the grave. After viewing the pilot the network decided that the show didn't fit in with the network's fall schedule, and so a series was never ordered. So much for zombies on the tube, right?

Well, not really. Just like any good zombie it's hard to keep the idea of a zombie TV series dead and buried. Last summer the rights to Kirkman's Walking Dead were sold to AMC. Fans of the book may have felt somewhat reassured when it was also mentioned that Frank Darabont would be directing the pilot, as well as writing the pilot's screenplay and serving as an executive producer on the show. The director of The Shawshank Redemption, The Majestic, The Green Mile and The Mist, Darabont was also a producer on a proposed sequel to The Thing, the 1982 John Carpenter movie. Unfortunately that four-hour mini-series never got further than the screenplay stage, but when I reviewed it last year, I found the script to be an outstanding idea for a continuation of The Thing. If Darabont could bring some of that quality found in the Thing mini-series sequel to The Walking Dead TV show, then AMC's Mad Men audience may be in for a real ride.

Only as recently as last week did AMC order a pilot to be made from Darabont's Walking Dead screenplay. If the cable network likes what they see then there'll be a Walking Dead TV series coming as soon as this fall or perhaps around the start of 2011. So, here is the big question: does Darabont's Walking Dead pilot have the necessary ingredients to be not just a decent horror TV series but a good drama?

The answer: Yes, it does.

Contained in Darabont's 60-page pilot script are all the elements to make the show a success. There's plenty of horror that happens in those 60 pages. The director's script covers the broad range of the zombie horror emotional spectrum, such as giving us moments of extreme gore (hey, any zombie TV show wouldn't be a zombie show if it didn't have folks being munched on!), moments of shock value (hey, you didn't think that there was a zombie hiding behind that car, did you?) and the moments that I believe are the best indicator that The Walking Dead TV series has what it takes to transcend the boundaries of being simply labelled a horror show, the psychological horror scenes. Those scenes are the hammers that you're going to remember and the ones that are going to propel this show to be viewed as something more important than just a scary show.

If you're familiar with the beginnings of the comic then you'll be on familiar ground when you watch the pilot episode, even though it would appear that Darabont isn't interested in making a direct adaptation of the comic book's origin story. Our hero is Officer Rick Grimes, a deputy for a small Georgia town outside of Atlanta. About 15 pages into our story Grimes is involved in a police incident where he receives a near-fatal injury. After being taken to the hospital and falling into a short coma, our law enforcement man awakens to find the hospital empty and the telltale signs that something very bad has gone down while he was out. The way that Darabont chooses to introduce Grimes to the post-zombie world is nearly identical to the opening moments of Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later but it's forgivable; the impact of the changed world is that much more heightened with Grimes serving as our introduction to it.

From there Grimes tries to find his family, his wife Lori and their young son Carl. He returns to his home and finds the neighborhood deserted, his wife and son gone. Still not fully comprehending what's happened, Grimes is saved by another father and son who have taken up shelter in a neighbor's house. From these two survivors Grimes learns about the zombie plague and the rules of life: if you're bitten, if a zombie so much as scratches you, you become infected, you die and then you become a zombie yourself. We're also shown some of the rules of the game that the Walking Dead zombies adhere to: there are "walkers", the ones that slowly come up to you. The walkers are slow and a head shot will take them out. That said, there's a lot of walkers out there and if they decide to come at you at once, save that last bullet for yourself, you dig?

From his new neighbors Grimes is told that his family may have decided to head into Atlanta where the government was setting up a safety zone. With that info, Grimes heads off by himself and makes his way into the city. What happens in the next 20-or-so minutes is pretty intense for our hero and I want to leave it for Darabont to show to you.

I'm not sure if Darabont is the kind of guy that puts in camera effects into all of his screenplays but in his Walking Dead script there are a couple of places where he describes the visual tricks that he wants to do to heighten the surreal nature of a scene. There's a moment where Grimes is in a tough situation and has to fire a pistol at close quarters at a zombie. In the environment that he's in, Grimes is momentarily deafened by the blast. In Darabont's script, the description of what we the viewer should experience to communicate the deafness is in there. Reading that sort of scene as well as a few others like that made me more interested in seeing what Darabont's visual style is going to be in this show.

If you were a fan of the comic book before, now you know that the pilot's set-up of the Walking Dead story follows a similar arc as the comic's but it's not exact. I'd guess that about half to two-thirds of the first two issues are contained in the pilot episode but there's also new material. For instance, we now get to see the incident that brought Grimes to the hospital (the comic begins with him coming to in his deserted room) and there's some changes with what happens when he is in Atlanta that differ with the comic's depiction of events. Darabont seems to know what he's doing and in the places where he chooses to include new material, with his changes/additions better serving the story and bring more characterization (at the beginning and middle) and intensity (at the end). In particular there was a new revelation concerning the plight of the other father that Grimes finds living in his old neighborhood that's not in the comic. This new material really underscored the sense of what kind of deep and unsettling world the survivors are now living in.

Darabont's also done a solid job of knowing what works from The Walking Dead and sometimes reproducing it exactly in his screenplay, such as the case with the bicycle Grimes comes across and the reaction of its former owner to the officer's arrival.

The Walking Dead pilot doesn't sell out its concept for the sake of finding a wider audience. This is a show set in a world where families have died and the survivors haven't had the time to cope with their losses, much less come to terms with civilization collapsing around them. Knowing the course that Kirkman's comic book takes and now after seeing how Darabont's chose to make the pilot more of a drama than a flat-out horror action show, AMC's Walking Dead has fantastic potential. The Walking Dead could even do for horror what the new Battlestar Galactica did for science fiction. Cross your fingers and hope that the show comes together as well as it did on the page.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Equal Protection? Who is Protecting Us? Of Corporations, the Supreme Court, Campaign Spending and "Free Speech"

As Brother Malcolm said, "Of all our studies, history is best qualified to reward our research."

This is the "progressive" dilemma in a bucket--a black president not beholden to a "black agenda"; institutional forces such as transnational corporations whose interests are NOT those of the American public; a passive American citizenry that has abdicated their voice in exchange for the illusory power of the voting franchise; and Johnny-come-latelies to "politics" who think that activism is wearing an Obama t-shirt as opposed to real work, real sacrifice, and real vigilance.

What is our role and responsibility in this? How do teachers, educators, activists, and scholars prepare the next generation of children to take ownership over their own society?

Random thought: how many of you are teachers who are utterly surprised by the willful ignorance of current events on the part of your students? What an irony, so plugged in, so connected, and with the Internet (quite literally) at their fingertips, yet they remain so isolated in the ways that matter.

Second random thought: I taught Intro to American Politics last quarter. In that section, there were a large number of Education majors. To keep them interested, I kept returning to the idea of citizenship and the role of educators in preparing the next generation of Americans to be part of a responsible electorate. Repeatedly, with few exceptions, there was a profound irony at play: these future "teachers" had never thought of education as a political act. Nor, had these future teachers reflected on their role as agents of political socialization. Sadly, despite my best efforts I do not think that their ignorance had been unsettled. Is the system broken? Or is the system working precisely as designed?

Watch What is the Matrix in Entertainment | View More Free Videos Online at

Ultimately, it seems that the people are so downtrodden by the Conservative, rightward political ethos that has dominated our civic culture since at least the 1960s (where government is always the problem and never the solution), that we the people have few expectations of ourselves or of our leaders to fight for the collective good. Rather, many of us choose to wrap ourselves in the illusory power provided by "democratic" institutions as opposed to truly democratic participation:

Wake up folks, folks you best wake up...from the NY Times:

Justices, 5-4, Reject Corporate Spending Limit

WASHINGTON — Overruling two important precedents about the First Amendment rights of corporations, a bitterly divided Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.

The 5-to-4 decision was a vindication, the majority said, of the First Amendment’s most basic free speech principle — that the government has no business regulating political speech. The dissenters said that allowing corporate money to flood the political marketplace would corrupt democracy.

The ruling represented a sharp doctrinal shift, and it will have major political and practical consequences. Specialists in campaign finance law said they expected the decision to reshape the way elections were conducted. Though the decision does not directly address them, its logic also applies to the labor unions that are often at political odds with big business.

The decision will be felt most immediately in the coming midterm elections, given that it comes just two days after Democrats lost a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and as popular discontent over government bailouts and corporate bonuses continues to boil.

President Obama called it “a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”

The story continues here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

So A Black Woman Goes on an Internet Dating Site and Makes 2 Profiles--One Black and One White, Guess Which One is More Popular?

I am a wanderer of these Internets. One of my daily stops on my sojourn through cyberspace is a site called Erosblog. I do not as a rule repost information from other sites. But, for this I will make an exception. Today, Erosblog had a great story about a black woman who decided to do a little experiment: Kia posted an ad on Craigslist where she created a real profile (her true self) and a fake one (using a photo of her friend "Erin" who is white). Guess who was more popular, received "higher" quality responses, and attracted a better range of suitors?

I was going to do a similar experiment (and may still, although now temporarily absent Gordon said it would be cruel) but I give credit where credit is due. Kia's project is great. Here are some choice excerpts from her lab report where she discusses the types of responses "Erin" versus "Kia" has received.


So what kind of messages will a cute white girl from the DC metro area receive?

Really nice ones, actually. I am both validated and saddened. The majority of the messages compliment Fake Me’s humor and wit and express the sentiment that Fake Me seems like a cool person to hang out with. Which is true, I’m fucking rad. It’s validating to know that there are guys out there who “get” me.

But would they be as complimentary on my sense of humor and my killer favorite movies list if they were reading my real profile? Would they even bother to read my real profile? Probably not.

The most depressing part is that I rarely get messages like this. I can remember one. Let’s compare.

A sampling of messages to Erin:

“ok so you’re my new favorite person. first, that little intro paragraph was hilarious. i don’t even know why. but i laughed. Then you bash hiking which is ….ugh. I hate the people on here. it’s an instant rejection for liking hiking.” (VALIDATING MY HATRED OF THE OUTDOORS!)

“I enjoyed your wittiness and it’s not often that I meet people on here from Chevy Chase.”

“Anyone who speaks Elvish or, as you said, one of the many in the family of languages does not have a sad life. In fact, you’re the second person I’ve come across who took the time to learn it. Which makes you, in my book, pretty awesome. I actually enjoyed reading your whole profile, but the Elvish was the first thing I noticed.” (VALIDATING MY NERDLY INTERESTS!)

“I can’t spend much time on this message, because I’m typing it in the middle of my work out. My workout is bench-pressing a car.” (His entire message is like this. Very funny)

A sampling of messages to me:

“You know, the first thing I noticed about you was that your sense of humor is well developed and full of awesome. You made me laugh, and not just the lol silent internet laugh, but a true laugh out loud.” (This is the message I referred to. The only one. This guy talked to me on IM twice and I’ve never heard from him since.)

“Hi, so you thinking bout making out alot” (This is the entirety of the message)

“Hi Hello, how are you doing? I guess your doing fine’s. Actually l came across your profile and I was highly impressed. If you don’t mind, l would love to know you Bettie am here looking for my soul mate, someone loving caring loyal trustworthy and honest, am looking for someone to spend the rest of my life with. By the way am kelvin and u can contact me at…..” (This is the average language skills level of people who message me. I’m not exaggerating one bit.)

“Hello there, I saw your ad on CL and it caught my eye and my imagination…” (This guy goes on and on, not a bad message, but clearly copy and pasted from the mass responses he sends out to chicks on Craigslist. Great.)


Here is some gross data on Erin versus Kia's popularity as of the first day of their ad being online:

Erin: 99 profile views, 10 messages, added to 3 favorites lists, 9 IMs, 1 Wink (a passive-aggressive way to contact people)

Me: 13 profile views, 1 IM, 1 Wink

So what do you all make of this experiment? How is race a variable in the online dating game? Could this be an artifact of fewer people of color using the internet for dating purposes (question: is this even true? does anyone have data on this? It seems that OkayCupid has released some really rich data on race and dating online. Of note: check out the following two charts. As we can see black women are the most likely to write back to men of all races, and the least likely to get a response. We also see that white men get the most responses, and that white women prefer white men to the exclusion of almost all other groups. Asian and Hispanic women prefer them almost exclusively. What is up with the response rates intra-racially for black men and black women? Surprising? So much for the myth of black male primacy and the compelling allure of race mixing...

Chart One:

Chart Two:

I would bet there are a whole lot of folks trying to holla at each other on Facebook and Myspace (Would any of you date someone you met that way?) Alternatively, could people be using the Internet for approaching folk they would not pursue in person? Thus, interracial dating is more popular online? Stating the obvious: is Kia less attractive than "Erin?" Could the results be a measure of general attractiveness?