Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Armchair Sociology: Beyonce Rules--This is What Happens When Black Men Are Systematically Absent in the Homes of Their Children



Forgive me the indulgence. As I always say, this is what happens when dad (or some responsible proxy) isn't around to mentor our young men--you have sexual assaults on ottomans; Latarian Milton; jsmoovery; and now teenage boys choreographing dance routines to Beyonce's music.

We are truly a society too sick to survive. Once more to the Moynihan Report (every time I see some ign't stupidity I am going to cite that grand document):

Chapter II. The Negro American Family

At the heart of the deterioration of the fabric of Negro society is the deterioration of the Negro family.

It is the fundamental source of the weakness of the Negro community at the present time.

There is probably no single fact of Negro American life so little understood by whites. The Negro situation is commonly perceived by whites in terms of the visible manifestation of discrimination and poverty, in part because Negro protest is directed against such obstacles, and in part, no doubt, because these are facts which involve the actions and attitudes of the white community as well. It is more difficult, however, for whites to perceive the effect that three centuries of exploitation have had on the fabric of Negro society itself. Here the consequences of the historic injustices done to Negro Americans are silent and hidden from view. But here is where the true injury has occurred: unless this damage is repaired, all the effort to end discrimination and poverty and injustice will come to little.

The role of the family in shaping character and ability is so pervasive as to be easily overlooked. The family is the basic social unit of American life; it is the basic socializing unit. By and large, adult conduct in society is learned as a child.

A fundamental insight of psychoanalytic theory, for example, is that the child learns a way of looking at life in his early years through which all later experience is viewed and which profoundly shapes his adult conduct.

It may be hazarded that the reason family structure does not loom larger in public discussion of social issues is that people tend to assume that the nature of family life is about the same throughout American society. The mass media and the development of suburbia have created an image of the American family as a highly standardized phenomenon. It is therefore easy to assume that whatever it is that makes for differences among individuals or groups of individuals, it is not a different family structure.

There is much truth to this; as with any other nation, Americans are producing a recognizable family system. But that process is not completed by any means. There are still, for example, important differences in family patterns surviving from the age of the great European migration to the United States, and these variations account for notable differences in the progress and assimilation of various ethnic and religious groups. A number of immigrant groups were characterized by unusually strong family bonds; these groups have characteristically progressed more rapidly than others.

But there is one truly great discontinuity in family structure in the United States at the present time: that between the white world in general and that of the Negro American.

The white family has achieved a high degree of stability and is maintaining that stability.

By contrast, the family structure of lower class Negroes is highly unstable, and in many urban centers is approaching complete breakdown.

N.b. There is considerable evidence that the Negro community is in fact dividing between a stable middle class group that is steadily growing stronger and more successful, and an increasingly disorganized and disadvantaged lower class group. There are indications, for example, that the middle class Negro family puts a higher premium on family stability and the conserving of family resources than does the white middle class family. The discussion of this paper is not, obviously, directed to the first group excepting as it is affected by the experiences of the second - an important exception.

There are two points to be noted in this context.

First, the emergence and increasing visibility of a Negro middle class may beguile the nation into supposing that the circumstances of the remainder of the Negro community are equally prosperous, whereas just the opposite is true at present, and is likely to continue so.

Second, the lumping of all Negroes together in one statistical measurement very probably conceals the extent of the disorganization among the lower-class group. If conditions are improving for one and deteriorating for the other, the resultant statistical averages might show no change. Further, the statistics on the Negro family and most other subjects treated in this paper refer only to a specific point in time. They are a vertical measure of the situation at a given movement. They do not measure the experience of individuals over time. Thus the average monthly unemployment rate for Negro males for 1964 is recorded as 9 percent. But during 1964, some 29 percent of Negro males were unemployed at one time or another. Similarly, for example, if 36 percent of Negro children are living in broken homes at any specific moment, it is likely that a far higher proportion of Negro children find themselves in that situation at one time or another in their lives.

An African American College Student is Arrested in Class for Being “Disruptive”: Is Robyn Foster a Victim of Racism?



With access to less than complete information, I would like to believe that I would have magically defused this situation and turned it into that pedagogical unicorn, the mythical thing educators call a "teachable moment." But in all honesty, I am unsure if I could have mustered that wisdom and patience.

Being a teacher is very difficult. Regardless of your years of teaching, level of competence, or depth of expertise in one's field of specialization, we are always a bit naked before their students. When that normal awkwardness is compounded by an unruly student (quite literally) anything can happen.

In my years of college teaching I have been faced with Holocaust deniers, hit by a student, called out of my name on more than one occasion, and have had to deal with what the all too common and generic sickness that is student entitlement derangement syndrome. But luckily, I have never had to call campus security to remove a student, because to do so is the ultimate disruption in the rhythm and sense of community in a class, and where subsequently, it is quite difficult to recover from such an episode. As I tell my students, teaching is like dating, we are building a relationship and have to be mindful of respecting one another, learning to trust, and to be open to sharing. That having been said, while in a dating relationship--as in all human relationships--there is an asymmetry of power. In the teacher-student relationship, the teacher (even with unfair and punitive student evaluations, bureaucratic interference, the corporatization of education, and helicopter parents) more often than not remains supreme, for they have the power of the gradebook.

In reviewing the video of Robyn Foster's arrest, I will be transparent in letting it be known that I don't have much use for "racism chasers." You know, those folks who cry racism at every slight, raised eyebrow, or indignity--real, imagined, or otherwise. Why? because just like the boy who called wolf, racism chasers diminish the power of their claims such that when real bigotry comes about, folks will not likely pay much attention...and then it is too late. Allies are lost, ears are closed, would-be protesters are tired, and folks (of all colors) may be deaf to the call to arms. The Foster case seems ripe for characterization as one where police authority has run amok and racism is the culprit. I do not know what to think, save for the following instincts and questions.

One, while I am not so naive as to believe that all things being equal that race is not operative here--I must suggest that a white (or even Asian) student acting in the same fashion would be treated more benignly (but in this age of school violence I am unsure). Nevertheless, Robyn Foster is no Henry Louis Gates Jr. (who is a legitimate victim of police harassment)--as much as the racism chasers will christen her as heir to his throne. While some "celebrity" will inevitably come to her--and perhaps this is what she yearned for subconsciously--Foster is not, nor should be, a Cause celebre. Two, what do we do with a college educational system, that at the highest levels, is being pressured to admit an excessive number of students (many of whom may not be equipped for success socially, inter-personally, or intellectually) for purposes of enrollment and to fatten the fiscal bottom line? Who is being served? Who is being cheated?

To point: in this incident I see a culture clash that is centered upon deference and comportment in the face of authority (quite literally, I suspect this student does not know how to deal with criticism. To boot, the idea of either public censuring and/or correction is too much for her to manage given her understandings of what "respect" and local norms of "prestige" and "power" are).

To my eyes, this video screams a lack of maturity and not race as the overriding issue of dispute and controversy. Some may say that this reading is my impressing of a bourgeois norm of respectability--and Black Respectability--onto a student who may be born of neither milieu. I disagree. Good comportment is good comportment--however awkward my phrasing may be--in the classroom and elsewhere, and the lessons of higher education should and ought to be how to best transcend one's origins and circumstances.

Nevertheless, I must ask myself: How much have things changed when in 2010 it is the norm for a professor to be so easily able to call campus police to their class in order to subdue a student? When did things get turned so topsy-turvy that educators have learned to be afraid of their students, students afraid of one another, and police authority has made itself known even in the college classroom?

Please share. What is your call? Is this racism? A scared and overreacting teacher? A teachable moment lost? How would you have handled this incident?

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: Pre-Wrestlemania Thoughts as Dave Batista Looses His Smile and Finds Himself



Damn. Good. Promo. With some Ric Flair thrown in for flavor and spice.

Long time readers know that I am a smart mark (wrestling speak for someone who knows that pro wrestling is "fake" but also how "real" it simultaneously is). In short, we love a good story...never forget that pro wrestling is physical storytelling at its best.

I am getting increasingly excited for this Sunday's Wrestlemania as it is shaping up to be one of the best in recent memory. For some time many folk--myself included--have wanted Dave Batista to be himself. As the saying goes, you get over when you are finally yourself with the volume turned up. After all these years, Batista, now in his late thirties/early forties, is finally being real.

Ultimately, Dave's promo on Raw was the 2010 version of Sean Michael's legendary "I lost my smile" spot in 1997:



I hope that Batista goes over this weekend as Dave deserves a nice run as a heel champion. Frankly, from a booking point of view, Batista as a heel versus face/tweener Edge, is money in the bank for the next 6 months or so.

And by the way, there is no way that the Undertaker loses this Sunday because "the streak" must continue forever.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

MC Reh Dogg's Exclusive Mixed Tape for the Obama Death Twitters Solly Foggy and Jay Martin



Straight fire! We got the hottest exclusives and best drops! Don't be hatin'! Go to your closest mixed tape spot and cop the one and only Reh Dogg giving love to Solly Foggy and Jay Martin the only "niggas" holdin' it down against that Obama and his Ozombies! Fire!



Thanks for indulging me. Am I the only one who used to love going to the corner spot and picking up cassettes of Lazy K, DJ Mister Cee, Doo Wop, DJ Craig G or Dirty Harry? Boy! those were the days. I will never forget the joy of getting the Best of Biggie as well as Dirty Harry's homage to Nas within 2 weeks of each other at the mixed tape spot on the corner of Whalley Ave and Sherman. Trust, the '93 Buick was bumpin' those beats outside of Great Gatsby's.

Since we can't go backwards, why not go forward? As folks have highlighted elsewhere, apparently there is a fool black conservative blogger who speaks for the hip hop set (I guess Michael Steele brought the collard greens and macaroni and cheese to get the young saggin' crowd to show up) who wants to up his street cred by mercin' President Obama. I reasoned that like most black conservatives black garbage pail kids in the Age of the Tea Party, their stupidity speaks for itself, so why not help them out a bit?

A year or so ago we featured legendary Connecticut MC Reh Dogg. He is so talented, amazing, and gifted he is the heir to Rakim's throne.



Little did we know that Reh Dogg would come to be the Puff Daddy of these Internets. He is a mogul, a man with a YouTube channel with tens of thousands of hits, and a legion of followers. Who could have possibly known that he was one of America's foremost Black Conservatives? William F. Buckley and Clarence Thomas have nothing on Reh Dogg, Solly Foggy, and Jay Martin. Nothing at all!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

How Much is Michael Steele's Soul Worth After Excusing Away the Racism of the Tea Baggers Who Assaulted John Lewis?



Steele rejected the notion that the incident may make any association with the Tea Party Movement a danger.

"It's not a danger," Steele told NBC's "Meet the Press on Sunday." "It's certainly not a reflection of the movement or the Republican Party when you have idiots out there saying stupid things."

Folks are quite rightly upset by the Tea Baggers in Washington D.C. hurling of racial epithets at civil rights icon Representative John Lewis and calling Barney Frank a "faggot." The Tea Party health care brigades were thorough as they also spat upon and threatened other members of Congress.

What befuddles me about this episode is how some folks seem surprised and shocked by the Tea Baggers dropping their mask and showing us who they have always been. As I said before, these are a bunch of neo-John Birchers whose grandparents were likely members of the Klan or White Citizens' Councils (the younger members of the tea bag cadre were likely more benign as they merely threw rocks at black school children trying to integrate schools in places like Boston). So please, spare me the gasps at their foul behavior. To paraphrase Forrest Gump, "White trash is as White trash does."

What I find more interesting, not so much as it is a surprise, but it begs a question, is how Michael Steele, Chairman of the GOP can continue to support this movement? Once more, Black Conservatives vex me: you have one more instance in a clear pattern of abusive and racially reactionary behavior by the neo-populist Palin Tea Party Right wing and the titular head of the (Black) Republican establishment continues to make excuses.

In centuries past, the Michael Steele's of the world would have been harbor masters at the docks of Goree Island directing the slave ships into and out of port with their cargoes of human gold. Why? For a pat on the back, and a little hope that they will get to ride on the top of the ship with the slavers and not in its hellish bowels. To illustrate the point, here is one of the masters to whom Mr. Steele is beholden:



Pray tell Mr. Steele, how much is your soul worth? Did you sell it to the Devil for 50 dollars? Did you sell it for a million? One of my mentors jokingly told me that if you want to be rich become a Black Conservative and write a crappy book. I suspect that his words have never been more true.

Michael Steele what is the price for your self-respect? For black conservatives, when will you publicly denounce the Tea Party? Are you ashamed of Michael Steele's excuse making? What more will it take for you to say "not in my name?"

From Fox News (so you know it must be true) here is an account of the Tea Party love fest in D.C. on Saturday. As is my tradition, here is the Vox populi aka the peanut gallery...once more the rabble makes clear the depths of their stupidity and bigotry:

Totally fake. Those racial slurs were made by dems pretending to be tea party attendees. Dems can only win when they cheat, they can only succeed with their plans when the steal and lie. How do they sleep at night? Pray they will have a day of judgement soon.--kate999

Representative Rangel draws attention to himself through his comments. There certainly are African-Americans involved in the Tea Party. He's either not watching or is in denial. This isn't about race, it's about taxes and spending. The fact that Rep. Lewis may have been targeted for his past history with the Civil Rights movement raises another suspicion that this was an orchestrated attack designed to discredit the Tea Party movement and make a race concern out of a "tax and spend" issue. These red flags just keep popping up.--mdm12

Typical Democrat trick used over and over again. It is really getting old. Remember these Progressives and their fellow travelers will stop at nothing as they believe that the end justifies the means.--munimula

While it is true that almost anyone is capable of almost anything, it is hard to accept that people who align themselves with the Tea Party movement would in that way. Especially after the very large public gatherings a few months ago. I would not be surprised if those who behaved badly were planted there in order to cast a negative on the Tea Party and the Repulican party.--rodz1

Is this report confirmed? If so, it should be condemmed. I would bet money that it is a Dem plant though... I don't put anything past these guys. They (Dems) are as crooked as a dog's leg.--raketenmann

Enough coverage of this bogus BS. It was yet another SEIU set up. No one but the hard left is falling for it.

glad to see that most posters realize that the so called slurs were probably a plant by SCIU or union thugs. The media dreams that they really happened because everything to them is about the glorius stuggle against the evil white man. These femmy media phonies always ignore hate crimes commited againsy white people.It probably turns these white media fairies on that hate crimes are ignored when their against anyone with there mommas skin color. When they cannot win an aguement they scream, racist sexist anti gay, so I tell these squeeling white fem boys fly away.--daniel7778

I awould like to think these racial slurs are from plants thrown in by those wanting to give a negative image to we Tea Party Patriots. Too many people do not understand the integerity of the most of those involved in the local Tea Party groups. I feel this type of outbursts are not from our people--kdwain

Only a democrat would make a racial slur.--tomos

Is this what is necessary to get the press to report on the massive Tea Party movement? If it's anything negative, even unsubstantiated, it gets reported? I agree with the other posters who have made comments such as, "IF THERE WERE RACIAL SLURS SAID, IT WAS PROBABLY A PAID UNION PLANT THUG."--americanadian

Please stop hiding behind supposed racial predjudice.--loisdad

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Saturday Afternoon Funny: Agustus the IV, My New Favorite Black Conservative Slave Catcher



I have been watching this character for some time and he brings me joy. Oh the Internets is great for allowing folks their five minutes of fame.

I am a bit offended though that he would dare to wield the very same replica samurai sword from Kill Bill that I have in my bedroom. Bad look on his part.



Wouldn't a talk show with Pastor Manning, this black Conservative black garbage pail kid, and Alan Keyes be worthy of an Emmy?

Friday, March 19, 2010

And Porn Shall Lead the Way: Is the XXX Film Parody of The Cosby Show "Racist" Because It Features White Actresses?



To paraphrase noted sex expert Alfred Kinsey, we can learn a great deal about a given society from its taste in pornography.

Gordon (who is coming back in ways more fabulous than before he has assured me...we shall see) and I have had a long running conversation about "respectable" negroes and their interests. He claims that the sort of folk who would come to our website would not have any interest in matters related to pornography. It is not because respectable negroes are prudes, but because of a need to maintain a certain distance from such matters that some may find prurient. I have heeded his suggestion until now.

Now, I don't know too much about porn or anything--I would like that qualifier to be known. I never watched Heather Hunter as a young boy and humped the bed into submission afterwards. No, not me. I never received a gift box full of porn from a friend who found such tidings in the closet of his new apartment. No, not me. I never met Ron Jeremy in person and found myself the beneficiary of his intangible powers. No, not me. And I certainly never wandered the adult DVD section of the Virgin Megastore in Chicago wondering why the "P.O.V." movies never featured a member that matched my medium brown complexion (if one notices those flicks always feature male genitalia that is either charcoal black or pasty white...hmmm what does that say about our collective racial id?). I have heard that some folk have sworn off interracial porn titles that feature white men and black women because of the disturbing undertones about race, power, and exploitation that those films inevitably play upon. I would know nothing of those matters. Finally, I never did have a chance to be in the World's Biggest Black Gangbang movie back in the 1990s and turned it down for reasons both obvious and hygienic.

What I do know about the recent popularity in classic sitcoms reimagined as pornography I have learned from around these Internets. Apparently, The Brady Bunch, Three's Company, and Seinfeld have all been remade into popular adult titles. Inevitably, sitcoms featuring black casts are the next to have their (re)debut in the form of adult titles. Enter: The Cosby Show now has 2 XXX treatments. While some of us are still pondering the Cosby's as trailblazers in American popular culture that helped prepare White America for the possibility of a Barack Obama--yikes, black folk that aren't pathological and where both parents are upwardly mobile professionals! What an anomaly! The adult industry is one step ahead and has already blazed a path forward where Cliff, Claire, Theo and the gang are having hot interracial sex.

Question: Given that The Cosby Show is a standard bearer for black television--and featured an almost exclusively African American cast--should non-white actresses be featured in the Cosby XXX title? What does the need to insert non-white actors into a "black" film say about how race is imagined in the Age of Obama?

In short, can't black folk have anything to ourselves?

First random factoid: did you know that white actresses will often refuse to appear in adult films with black actors? Why? It will lower the amount of money they can ask for in future movies because many (presumably) white men do not want to see their darlings have sex with a person of color.

Second random factoid: I have a post that I believe is easily as good as my White in America special where I cast a range of African American oriented sitcoms reimagined as adult titles. I never released it because Gordon and others said it would disgust our readers. Are folks interested or do respectable negroes in fact loathe such humor?

In total, these questions of race, inclusion, and the marketing of black adult movies to white audiences in the Age of Obama has created quite a dust-up among those who follow the adult industry.

What follows is an exchange on the popular adult website Fleshbot on just this issue--a worthy read (also check out the director of the Cosby's XXX film's response here) for respectable negroes interested in race and popular culture:

This is What is Wrong With "Not the Cosby's XXX" (And by Extension Porn)


As a general rule, I'm pretty difficult to offend (when you work adjacent to the porn industry, you sorta have to be). But this morning I received a press release that pushed me over the edge.

What was the offending press release? Why, the plainly titled "Do White Girls Make Not the Cosbys XXX 2 Sequel Better?"

To be honest, I shouldn't have been that surprised by the press release. The adult industry makes no secret of the fact that white women are seen as the default sexual fantasy: with rare exception, black porn actresses are relegated to niche titles that fetishize the color of their skin. (Not that this makes the adult industry any different from, say, the fashion industry, but that's a topic for another article entirely.)

But still: to take "The Cosby Show"—a sacred cow of blacks in mainstream entertainment—and to suggest that it could be "improved" with the addition of a few more white faces (and bodies)? Well, that was a bit too far for me.

Let us not forget that the original "Cosbys XXX" was not exactly a, ahem, black movie. Despite the smiling black faces adorning the box cover, there was more than enough white flesh to make this a bonafide "interracial" feature. Of the five (non-masturbation) sex scenes, only one featured two black performers; what's more, due to the—predominantly white—six person orgy scene that clocked in as the first major sex scene, there were actually more white women than black women getting naked and sexed up in this ostensibly black movie. Not that that's how director Will Ryder recalls things:

"What many don't realize is that we had white girls in the first movie and even a cute Asian but most still think of it as a black movie and not even an interracial movie but that is not true," Ryder remarked.

The obvious problem here is the insinuation that being a black movie is somehow the lesser option, that there is somehow a problem with people not recognizing the movie as interracial, with not recognizing that there are white girls in it, too. Apparently, Ryder's hoping to avoid making the same mistake with the sequel: while the box cover for the original feature showed the (not) Cosby family together, with not a single white face in the picture, the box cover for the sequel (shown here) has Cliff along with three white women and a Latina—and not a single one of the black women who are the ostensible stars of the feature.

Not that Will Ryder is racist or anything:

"Black is beautiful baby but we love women of all colors so we tossed in some more white ladies and a cute girl from Miami into this sequel and as you can see by the box cover Cliff is loving it," Ryder joked.

While the sentiment that "we love women of all colors" is a nice one, Ryder's never been compelled to demonstrate his love of diversity by adding some extra flavor to a predominantly white movie. "Not The Bradys" doesn't provide us with a scene of the boys going to work on a team of black women, no dark skinned beauties pop up unannounced in "Not Three's Company." Granted, one could argue that scenes like those wouldn't be true to the original sitcom—but then again, a six person, predominantly white orgy involving none of the show's characters isn't exactly true to "The Cosby Show," either.

What it feels like, ultimately, is that Ryder—and Porn Valley at large—feels the need to apologize for featuring black performers, for giving them time in the (mainstream) sun. Because black movies are seen as niche movies, any film that wants to be perceived as mainstream plays up its "interracial" angle, or its white performers—without any concern for what kind of message this sends about the film's black talent (hint: it doesn't make them look awesome).

And the longer we keep doing this, the longer we refuse to promote a predominantly black movie as mainstream in its own right, the more we relegate black porn performers as second class citizens. "Not the Cosbys" had the opportunity to shatter this glass ceiling, to make a black movie that was also mainstream because of its "Cosby Show" connection. And yet Will Ryder gleefully squandered the opportunity—and, with this press release, shat on any hope that he might, one day, come forth with a semi-enlightened perspective on race in the adult industry.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tea Party Neo-John Birchers Harass and Heckle Man with Parkinson's Disease



White trash.

Once more--if you would be kind enough to indulge my self-citing repetition--these are the grandchildren of the same people who brought their children to lynchings wearing their finest Sunday dress, or in later years (and a more seemingly benign mood) signed restrictive housing covenants to keep "the undesirables" out of the neighborhood, and threw rocks at buses carrying black and brown school children to protest integration.

Question: How many of these "health care" protesters are themselves on Medicare or Medicaid (or have relatives who are?) Second question: Ohio is one of the states hardest hit by the Great Recession. Would those handouts the teabaggers are protesting include unemployment benefits that many of them have or will soon be receiving? Or mortgage assistance from the federal government? Or public schools, tax credits for their children, or the like?

But then again, these folk are so principled that they would refuse any "government handouts" lest they be dirtied by such monies.

For example, listen to this interview on NPR's Morning Edition with an unemployed truck driver who has insurance through his wife's job (make note of the vitriol he has towards Obama).

This rabble is the hell spawn of a broken political system, an increasingly fractured public discourse, and a desperate ugliness on the Right. I do sincerely hope that the GOP, and the Tea Party/Palin crowd to whom they are increasingly beholden, take to heart the words of Colin Powell as they try to fix what is a deeply broken political party:



I do not want to see the Republicans fail as a party. I truly don't. Not because I am amenable to their politics, but rather because I fear the collateral damage their implosion will do to all of us...be we red or blue or somewhere in between.

To you folks on the Right, will you please get your house in order? For right now it seems that you are going to pull the temple roof down upon us all.

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: An Honorary Respectable Negro, Charles Moore, Noted Photographer of the Civil Rights Movement has Passed Away



It has been some time since we inducted an honorable white brother or sister into the honored halls of We Are Respectable Negroes. Today we add another proud warrior. Some say that the camera gives artificial courage so that one can hide behind the lens. I never agreed with that argument. I always thought that the camera gave one a sense of distance that enabled courage. It was not hiding behind the lens--it was using the lens to find a wellspring of courage to do what is/was necessary so that truth would echo through the ages.

Kaplah!

Charles Moore you are a proud warrior and we are blessed to have had you on the side of justice. As I said at my father's funeral, may you travel well. I am sure you will have many brothers and sisters on the other side of destiny who will welcome you with open arms.

Courtesy of the LA Times:

Charles Moore dies at 79; photojournalist's work brought national attention to civil rights movement

The Alabama native was at the center of unrest in the South, taking emotional and often distressing images of protests, integration efforts and Martin Luther King Jr. for Life magazine.


Civil  rights leader arrested

"Montgomery, Ala., 1958: The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is sprawled across the booking desk at a police station as his stunned wife, Coretta, looks on. He was arrested for loitering at the Montgomery Courthouse and released when his identity became known to the police. (Charles Moore / Black Star)"


Charles Moore, a photojournalist who both chronicled and helped alter the course of history through extraordinary photographs that reflected the brutal reality of the civil rights movement in the South, has died. He was 79.

Moore died Thursday of natural causes at a nursing home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., said his daughter Michelle Moore Peel.

From 1958 to 1965, he trained his lens on the unfolding drama of civil rights as a news photographer for the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser and Life magazine.

His shockingly graphic images -- of police dogs attacking protesters or marchers being assaulted by powerful water hoses -- helped propel what had been a regional dispute onto the national stage.

As his photographs created national outrage, they quickened the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to John Kaplan, a University of Florida journalism professor who wrote his master's thesis on Moore.

"He had the courage to stand up in the face of danger and let Americans know what was really happening, through his work," Kaplan told The Times. "That is why he is an unsung hero."

As Moore followed the struggle, he was known for his fearlessness and uncanny knack for capturing the most distressing images possible.

"To people who were really bigoted, I was the worst enemy, a Southern boy working for Life," Moore told USA Today in 1991.

"I knew the South. . . . I also knew how to talk back to racists."

The son of a Baptist minister, Moore was drawn to photographing the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., then a Baptist clergyman in Montgomery. After witnessing King's charisma firsthand in 1958, Moore sought to cover him whenever possible.

"I knew that this was a man who was going to make a difference," Moore said of King in the 2005 documentary “Charles Moore: I Fight With My Camera.” Moore had yet to realize that his pictures would also make a difference.

A photograph he took in 1958 of King being manhandled during a police booking ran in Life and became "one of the most significant photographs of the civil rights movement," Kaplan wrote in his thesis.

Through the magazine, Moore's work gained a huge national audience. Life had him cover the rioting over the enrollment of James Meredith as the first black student at the University of Mississippi in 1962 and later published his photos of Ku Klux Klan gatherings.

His photographs in Life "electrified and horrified the country," CBS News reported in 1991.

Moore's most influential pictures were taken over five days in 1963 during the campaign to desegregate Birmingham, Ala., Kaplan said. One famous photo -- Moore crawled across pavement, positioning himself between protesters and firemen to get the shot -- showed three students being thrust against a building by high-pressure water from a fire hose.

Covering civil rights "was difficult, exhausting and oftentimes very dangerous," Moore said in the documentary. "Plus troubling and emotional . . . because I'm a Southerner too."

By 1965, he had grown weary of the violence and booked a round-the-world airplane ticket. He came home eight months later.

Charles Lee Moore was born March 9, 1931, in the Alabama farming town of Hackleburg and grew up in nearby Tuscumbia.

As a teenager, he took up boxing and owned his first camera, a Brownie.

After a stint as a Marine Corps photographer, he studied fashion photography at Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara.

Returning to Alabama in 1957, he briefly worked in a portrait studio before joining the Montgomery Advertiser newspaper staff.

He moved to New York in 1962 to pursue a freelance career but the Black Star photo agency, which still represents him, gave him a stipend and persuaded him to continue covering civil rights. Moore went on to photograph political unrest in Haiti and Venezuela and document the Vietnam War.

In later years, he took travel photographs, corporate portraits and the occasional hard-news photograph. He also amassed about 100 magazine covers.

His work was gathered in two books, "Powerful Days: The Civil Rights Photography of Charles Moore" (1991) and "The Mother Lode," a 1983 pictorial guide to the California gold rush country he came to know as a longtime resident of Columbia, Calif.

Moore, who was divorced, also had lived in Massachusetts and North Carolina. He moved to Florida last year to be near family.

The genteel Moore could seem embarrassed by the attention he received for his most famous body of work.

"I know the importance isn't me, but the photographs," he told the Birmingham News in 2002.

"It's proof that the world learned a lot from them. Honestly, if those pictures made my native South, which I love, a better place . . . then I am darn proud of that."

In addition to his daughter Michelle of West Palm Beach, Fla., Moore is survived by three other children, Michael Moore and April Marshall of Dothan, Ala., and Gary Moore of Lewisville, Texas; his brother, Jim, of Conway, Mass.; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Desperate for Fame: Supersized Mother (with the Aid of Her Enabling Black Boyfriend) Determined to be the World's Fattest Woman



We are truly a society too sick to survive.

And yes, she is partnered with a black man. No Comment. As I tell folk, stereotypes persist because they are in some way true.

From the Daily Mail (in all its rotund glory):


Super-sized Mother Determined to be World's Fattest Woman

Donna Simpson already weighs 43st, but she is determined to nearly double her size to become the world's fattest woman.

The 42-year-old from New Jersey, U.S, is set on reaching the 1,000lb mark (71st) in just two years. Remarkably she insists she is healthy, despite now needing a mobility scooter when she goes shopping.

Donna Simpson

Donna Simpson already weighs 43 stone but is consuming an astonishing 12,000 calories a day in a quest to become the world's fattest woman

'My favourite food is sushi, but unlike others I can sit and eat 70 big pieces of sushi in one go,' she said.

'I do love cakes and sweet things, doughnuts are my favourite.'

Donna, who wears XXXXXXXL dresses, eats mounds of junk food and tries to move as little as possible.

Ms Simpson already holds the Guinness World Record as the world's fattest mother, when she gave birth in 2007 weighing 38stone.

She needed a team of 30 medics to deliver her daughter Jacqueline during a high-risk Caesarean birth.

Yet although she can only move 20ft before needing to sit down, she wants to be even bigger.

'I'd love to be 1,000lb,' she said.

'It might be hard though. Running after my daughter keeps my weight down.'

Donna Simpson

Ms Simpson can no longer walk more than 20ft before needing to sit down. She goes to the shops in a mobility scooter

You might expect her long-term partner Philippe, 49, to advise her to slim down, but instead he encourages her to eat more.

He met Donna on a dating site for plus-size people and is a self-confessed fat admirer, although he himself only weighs 150lbs.

'I think he'd like it if I was bigger,' said Donna.

'He's a real belly man, and completely supports me.'

To achieve her goal, Donna says she will need to eat up to 12,000 calories a day (the average woman should consume only 2,000.)

To fund the massive $750 weekly food shop, she runs a website where men pay her to watch her eat fast food.

Donna's weight problem began early. Her mother made big meals for Donna and her brothers and gave them lots of treats and fattening food.

By the time Donna was nine, she weighed 13 stone.

'Food was her way of showing she loved us, she wanted us to eat, and she was very protective of us,' Ms Simpson said.

'She wouldn't let anyone say anything bad to us about our weight.

She would argue with doctors who said it was dangerous.'Donna Simpson

Donna Simpson poses for a photograph with her daughter, Jacqueline. It took 30 medics to deliver her.

Donna's mother died soon after, and her dad married a woman who put the children on a strict diet.

'I used to steal food from the cupboards, which were still full because my mum used to store food,' she said.

But as she got older, Donna began to worry about her weight and started taking diet pills.
Between the ages 14 and 18 she slimmed down to 11 stone, but was still unhappy.

'Dieting just made me miserable because I was thinking about food all the time.,' she said.

After she left school, Donna got a desk job and no longer felt the need to fit in with other girls.

'I felt so much better when the weight came back,' she said.

'It felt like who I was meant to be.'

When Donna was 19 she met her first husband, who worked as a chef at a steak restaurant.

'He worked night shifts and would come home at 2 or 3am and bring the leftovers with him,' she said.

'We'd stay up and eat huge piles of steak, mashed potatoes, and gravy with butter.

'I started gaining weight quickly and my husband liked it.

'He said I was sexier when I was bigger, and I felt happier too.'

When she was 27, Donna weighed 25 stone, and fell pregnant with her eldest son, Devin. Her marriage ended soon after and she turned to food for comfort.

By the age of 31, she weighed 43 stone and decided to try and lose weight. She lost five stones in six months and was due to have a gastric band operation.

But just before she was due to go under the knife, her friend died during a similar operation.

'That was a sign for me,' Ms Simpson said.

'I decided it just wasn't worth it. I like being the way I am.'

Donna, then 37 stone, came across a website which celebrated obese women.

When she admitted her real size, Donna was flooded with emails from men.

'They sent me gifts through the post, like protein shakes to help me put on weight faster,' she said.

And she unrepentant of her weight-gain goal, despite risking her own life in the process.

'I love eating and people love watching me eat,' she said.

'It makes people happy, and I'm not harming anyone.'

Monday, March 15, 2010

Of Tea Parties and Original Intent: Everyone Has An Opinion On The Constitution...But Some Are Not as Equal as Others



Sometimes one has to pick a scab.

A question to my original intent, strict constructionist readers: Is the extension of "rights" to corporations as "people" under the Equal Protection Clause a perversion of the sacred cow that is "original intent?" Or is it in keeping with the framers' belief that corporations should have the protections afforded to people--in this case, special categories of protected persons?

In short: is that document a magical treatise to be read as the framers originally "intended" (warts and all) or is it more a set of guidelines and principles that are malleable and elastic?

The NY Times Week in Review section published a great complement to that perennial argument over the weekend that is worth reading in its entirety. Of note in the Times' piece is the following finding from Quinnipiac College's highly respected public opinion arm:

Surveys conducted by Quinnipiac University indicate that some 40 percent of Americans say the Supreme Court should employ originalism in interpreting the Constitution; slightly more say the court should take account of changing conditions. “You might think that questions about constitutional theory are an elite-driven idea,” Professor Persily said, “but people have opinions about this.”

A new study from Professor Persily and two colleagues, Jamal Greene and Stephen Ansolabehere, explored the political and cultural values of those who identified themselves as originalists. Such people “appear more likely than non-originalists to be white, male, older, less educated, Southern and religious,” the study found.

“They are less likely to favor abortion rights, affirmative action and marriage rights for same-sex couples, and more likely to favor torture and military detention of terrorism suspects and the death penalty. They are more likely to express morally traditionalist, hierarchical and libertarian cultural values.” The mechanisms for translating such popular understanding into actual constitutional law are varied. Over time, the Supreme Court’s personnel shifts with new appointments, and so may its thinking. Public opinion, many scholars say, cannot help but affect which cases the court accepts and how it decides them.

****
What has always struck me about The Constitution is how it can be used for purposes both good and evil. One side can use it to support Secession and state's rights. Another can argue for expanded civil liberties using the same text. One can use the Constitution to argue that it is okay to torture people and that The President can "disappear" citizens on a whim, or that the Constitution supports limiting the rights of citizens to marry whom they choose. Others using the same document, can counter that rights should be respected in all venues, at all times, and ought not be subject to the popular will.

But as Redd Foxx famously mirrored in his "Wash Your Ass" routine, everyone has an opinion...



By implication, not all opinions are created equal, nor should they be given the same weight in our public discourse or law making. Ultimately, the juvenile approach offered by the "what would the framers do crowd"--where they try to magically divine what the framers would say in 2010 based on their readings of a document some 200 plus years old--speaks to the political genius of the Right and the Tea Party crowd on this and other issues.

How? The Right in its various forms have been able to craft a narrative in which they "own" The Constitution. Just as the Christian Right and the GOP were able to monopolize Jesus as a symbol for their political agenda (an irony if there ever was one), folks on the Left, progressives, and pragmatists have lost The Constitution. This surrender has been enabled by the following dynamic: research in cognitive psychology has shown that conservatives are more likely to respond to simple moral appeals, possess a binary worldview that orients itself around "evil doers" and "good guys," and are motivated by a fear of change in how they make political choices.

The sum effect of these factors is that the Right has a profound advantage in how it crafts popular political narratives around the meaning of The Constitution--with their dominance in talk radio and an exclusive network in Fox News--and how they disseminate them. Moreover, it is difficult to engage the Right and its populist wing on this issue (or any other) because in keeping with the meme that all opinions are created equal (regardless of fact, documentation, or scholarly consensus), there is a deep hostility towards expertise and/or expert knowledge.

Consequently, the truth is what the Right wing populist "intellectual," blogosphere, talking heads say it is on any given day because the know-nothing foot soldiers feel it to be true, and the phrases "I think," "I believe," or "I feel" are held as empirical realities. Thus, these "truths" are immune from rebuttal or critical engagement by conventional standards. Most pointedly in the rhetoric of the moment, those "experts" are cast out as "elitists" or "liberals" who dare to insert fact, history, or precedent into our political discourse. How arrogant those experts must appear with all their fancy book learning and reading when viewed through the lens of the Tea Party populists.

The question then becomes, how do reasonable folk reclaim this terrain? What does the reality based community do in the face of the Right wing populist assault on an enlightened public discourse? More generally, who owns The Constitution? And which set of values would see its best intent served most honorably and in the service of the common good?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Thinking Project: Of Cultural Hybridity and the Jump Off Booty Shaking Contest



Well damn! The Brits have got it going on.

Where else can one see South Asians, Afro-Caribbeans, East Asians, and white Europeans all participating in a shared culture? Yes, New York and LA have their charms, but I have never seen anything like this (except for maybe Korean and Chinese sisters in the Bay Area loving up the brothers and the Latinos) except in videos of the UK.

Random thought: is our Sikh brother paralyzed by pleasure or fear?



Just as the old neurons were firing in an effort to resolve my hot dog dilemma, in seeing the wonderfully lascivious mix of gyrating women, ill timed improvisational dancing, and sweating bodies, I kept thinking of how globalization has been both for worse (lost jobs)...and in this case also for the better in the form of a beautiful multiracial melange of women for me to take on a ride to space mountain.



As you enjoy the power of the Jump Off, do keep the following keywords and concepts in mind:
  • Cosmopolitanism is the ideology that all kinds of human ethnic groups belong to a single community based on a shared morality. This is contrasted with communitarian and particularistic theories, especially the ideas of patriotism and nationalism. Cosmopolitanism may entail some sort of world government or it may simply refer to more inclusive moral, economic, and/or political relationships between nations or individuals of different nations. A person who adheres to the idea of cosmopolitanism in any of its forms is called a cosmopolitan. The cosmopolitan community might be based on an inclusive morality, a shared economic relationship, or a political structure that encompasses different nations. In its more positive versions, the cosmopolitan community is one in which individuals from different places (e.g. nation-states) form relationships of mutual respect.
  • Gilroy’s book, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (1993), marks a turning point in the study of diasporas[1]. Applying a cultural studies approach, Gilroy provides a study of African intellectual history and its cultural construction[2]. Moving away from all cultural forms which could be deemed ethnic absolutism, Gilroy offers the concept of the Black Atlantic as a space of transnational cultural construction[3]. In his book, Gilroy makes the peoples who suffered from the Atlantic slave trade the emblem of his new concept of diasporic peoples. This new concept breaks with the traditional diasporic model based on the idea that diasporic people are separated by a communal source or origin, offering a second model that privileges hybridity[4]. Gilroy's theme of Double Consciousness involves Black Atlantic striving to be both European and Black through their relationship to the land of their birth and their ethnic political constituency being absolutely transformed[3].

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Precious Debates: Stanley Crouch, Sheril Antonio, and Howard Stern



I was going to label this as a "Saturday Afternoon Funny" but I decided not to. To my detractors: I do in fact have a sense of self-restraint and good taste.

Listen, watch, and laugh as 2 black intellectuals try to make sense of that pseudo-monster movie Precious. Yes, I called that "cultural" document a monster movie because what is Precious, if anything, but monstrous?

First random thought: did Stanley Crouch's position on this film surprise you?

Second Random thought: How well will the movie Precious age? I predict not so well. Like others, I still argue that it is pathology porn. Moreover, I also suggest that it is part of the black pathology, black female suffering is by its very nature a noble enterprise, that is all in vogue as a counterpoint to the ascendancy of Michelle and Barack Obama. And yes, that ordering was intentional.

Not to be overlooked, some folks are hating on Howard Stern for daring to comment on the movie Precious and its star Gabourey Sidibe's health and weight issues. I submit that Howard is saying what so many of us are thinking in private...at least many of the black and brown folk with whom I pal around with. There is something horribly wrong with Precious, and doubly so with how so many people of color--and interestingly enough some white conservatives--have flocked to it as some type of exemplary "art," and its star as offering an alternative beauty and health standard for women of color. I will continue to argue that Precious is both literally and metaphorically unhealthy and should be critiqued as such. I have neither read nor heard anything to dissuade me from that position.

I must ask: With Precious who is playing who? Are Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey playing all of us for fools? Alternatively, while black folk in film may no longer always be Bucks, Mammies, or Coons, are we somehow liberated and freed by the pathos that is Precious? Or is Precious a new/old form of typecasting prison?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Armchair Sociology--The Racial Politics of Hot Dog Eating: Should I Go Back to Weiner Circle and Get a Double Char Redhot?



And yes, I have had a chocolate shake at Weiner Circle.

As noted cultural theorist Stuart Hall suggested, "race is the modality in which class is lived."

Ultimately, race (with its history, burdens, triumphs and tragedies) is the ether that we all breath, and the sea in which we swim. Thus, it manifests itself in social interactions both large and small.

I don't often solicit advice from folks. I am hard headed and willful by nature--it is my Virgo personality. But, I am in the midst of an existential and gastronomical dilemma. To resolve this state of angst I need your help.

I love the double char redhots served at Weiner Circle. I really really do. But, after watching this special on This American Life I swore them off. The toxic racial politics, Lincoln Park with its Trixies and Chads (Chicago folks will get the reference), and the exploitative capitalism at work in how the black folk who work at Weiner Circle are treated was too great a burden. I had to vote with my feet: the politics of my hot dog eating could not be reconciled with my politics as a respectable Negro.

In 2010 my resolve is weakening. I so desire to see a movie (check out The Prophet by the way) and eat a double char redhot with fries. Will this make me less than respectable? Is there a time limit on our boycotts?

Random factoid: to this day I still will not shop at Urban Outfitters...but that is another story for another time.

Hell, if the folks working at Weiner Circle take this abuse then that makes it okay...right?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Behold the Greatest Student Email Ever Sent! A Reflection on the Joys of Academia


I finished my teaching for the quarter today. After leaving class I went into the bathroom. What did I see? A fifth of Jack Daniels sitting used, spent, and helpless in the toilet. Is there any better metaphor for the state of higher education with its listless anti-intellectual students, the budget crises, hiring freezes, helicopter parents and entitled snowflakes than the above photo?

To this point, we have seen faculty shoot and kill their tenure committees, "racial incidents" at UCSD, an adjunct being fired for describing his status as a contract employee as equivalent to being a "nigger on a corporate plantation," and a facebooking professor put on permanent leave for venting that she sometimes wanted to kill her students.

Oh the joys of academia. One should not forget that these joys are the sum total of many small pleasures. Just as I shared the video of my friend ranting at his class full of ignt's, what follows is the greatest student email I have ever read (it was sent to me from a colleague back East. All names have been removed to protect the innocent). Enjoy and smile for these are the leaders of tomorrow!

The Greatest Snowflake Student Email Ever Sent

I am going to try my hardest to write you this email in response to the recent grade received on my paper, without reflecting the anger that I feel as a result. I would like to first express my respect for you and every other teacher that has placed their energy into educating me and my peers, as we all know that teachers are often the unappreciated foundation of our future. However, I must express a slight amount of disrespect, as I do not agree with your perception of my paper one bit. I recently read an article about Bill Gates and the steps he took as he dropped out of Harvard. What I found so interesting was that he had the confidence to leave his schooling behind for the other students that really needed it, as he realized that he had more important things to accomplish in life than to argue with teachers about grades on papers, as we all now know what thoughts he had storming in his mind.

You commented that I had probably the best example, to the assigned question, out of all the students participating. However, you also said that I did not complete the assignment as instructed, because I did not explain with the proper support from the text book literature pertaining to the two gentlemen of which the entire assignment pertained to. I beg to differ on your opinion of my interpretation of the assignment. Proffessor, what you fail to realize is that my story explains the topic in so much detail, that being specific is not in my nature as a writer, or a mathotical student. You see if I was to follow the path as the other students, I would have never gained the respect and admiration of my past teachers. What you failed to realize is that I understand the topic in greater depth than any of the other students. So much so, that I had a smile on my face writing this paper knowing that only an A student would understand my direction. The fact that I knew the topic so thouroughly, that I was able to visualize an event in history that explained the different mindsets of the two philosophers at hand, that it needed no explanation, besides an in depth detailed visual summary of a World War 2 event, that created an anaoly of the two philosopys that needed no explanation. You see the leaders of the two countries show the details that separate their ideology creating a mirror reflection of Mills and Rousseaus’s philosophys with regards to social justice. How ironic is it that justice is not seen by the instructor of a class about the exact topic that leads me to this email.

The paper is so methodically written, that it needs no explaniation. I am so disappointed that you do not understand or see that. Do you seriously think that I don’t understand the topic inside and out? You are so mistaken, as I understood it enough to come up with an example that so vividly creates a perfect analogy to the difference between Mills and Rousseau. That paper is written to perfection whether you understand it or not! The leaders of our country and Japan created a stamp in history that is flawed just as any theory of justice by anyone will never be perfect. Don’t you get it Professor? How do you not see that the government morals and ideas of the U.S. and Japan can directly reflect the differences between Mills and Rousseau? It is clear as day to any person that understands good writing. I am an A student and that is an A paper, and always will be to me. I read some of the other students papers, and to me they were nonsense written to fill pages. I will apologize for this email if you can produce one paper written for this assignment that can come close to competing with the ideas in my paper. I can only dream of having someone like Bill Gates give me advice for this situation. But I will still go on to follow the path that God has paved for me regardless of your opinion, because I already had the guideness I needed to help me visualize my purpose. I want my grade changed, and I am sorry if I offend you by this email, but I put my heart and sole into my education and I believe in myself even if you don't. -

Glenn Beck Apologizes to America for Massa--Nelson Calls Ha Ha on You!



I love this. I truly do. Two pieces of human debris who deserve each other. One day, if we are lucky, they will fight each other to the death in a phone booth. In the immortal words of Nelson on the Simpson, "ha ha!":

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

More Proof that Daniel Patrick Moynihan was Correct: Behold the Beauty of The Ghetto Kamasutra



There are times when one sees a thing that truly gets the neurons firing and jumping from vine to vine across that grand old bibliography in the old noggin.

I was disgusted when I saw this video. Once more the black superpublic is proven true as both concept and fact--the line between private and public is blurring more and more each day. In short, our triumphs, foibles, and disgraces do indeed walk down the street when school let's out. Or they choose to display themselves on Youtube (see the obligatory prison inspired, homosocial, sequel to the video where said knucklehead chooses to perform shirtless with his "boy").

Ultimately, in the Age of Obama the ign'ts win again. Question: where is mom? Where is dad? Where is some authority figure to talk sense into these two fools? Random question: who the hell furnished this space? A mattress, a mirror, and a chair? Talk about low rent.

If you want to be further appalled read the comments section for this video on Youtube. There you will find an odd display of pidgin English, 'hood speak, and text abbreviated language that might as well be from another world.

Coming full circle, The Ghetto Kamasutra reminded me of Orlando Patterson's NY Times piece on the ghetto underclass, the cool pose, and how social scientists and others often misread (and by extension misunderstand) the "culture," life choices, and decision-making processes of the urban poor. Patterson's piece is a new classic worthy of being (re)read in its entirety:

A Poverty of the Mind

SEVERAL recent studies have garnered wide attention for reconfirming the tragic disconnection of millions of black youths from the American mainstream. But they also highlighted another crisis: the failure of social scientists to adequately explain the problem, and their inability to come up with any effective strategy to deal with it.

The main cause for this shortcoming is a deep-seated dogma that has prevailed in social science and policy circles since the mid-1960's: the rejection of any explanation that invokes a group's cultural attributes — its distinctive attitudes, values and predispositions, and the resulting behavior of its members — and the relentless preference for relying on structural factors like low incomes, joblessness, poor schools and bad housing.

Harry Holzer, an economist at Georgetown University and a co-author of one of the recent studies, typifies this attitude. Joblessness, he feels, is due to largely weak schooling, a lack of reading and math skills at a time when such skills are increasingly required even for blue-collar jobs, and the poverty of black neighborhoods. Unable to find jobs, he claims, black males turn to illegal activities, especially the drug trade and chronic drug use, and often end up in prison. He also criticizes the practice of withholding child-support payments from the wages of absentee fathers who do find jobs, telling The Times that to these men, such levies "amount to a tax on earnings."

His conclusions are shared by scholars like Ronald B. Mincy of Columbia, the author of a study called "Black Males Left Behind," and Gary Orfield of Harvard, who asserts that America is "pumping out boys with no honest alternative."

This is all standard explanatory fare. And, as usual, it fails to answer the important questions. Why are young black men doing so poorly in school that they lack basic literacy and math skills? These scholars must know that countless studies by educational experts, going all the way back to the landmark report by James Coleman of Johns Hopkins University in 1966, have found that poor schools, per se, do not explain why after 10 years of education a young man remains illiterate.

Nor have studies explained why, if someone cannot get a job, he turns to crime and drug abuse. One does not imply the other. Joblessness is rampant in Latin America and India, but the mass of the populations does not turn to crime.

And why do so many young unemployed black men have children — several of them — which they have no resources or intention to support? And why, finally, do they murder each other at nine times the rate of white youths?

What's most interesting about the recent spate of studies is that analysts seem at last to be recognizing what has long been obvious to anyone who takes culture seriously: socioeconomic factors are of limited explanatory power. Thus it's doubly depressing that the conclusions they draw and the prescriptions they recommend remain mired in traditional socioeconomic thinking.

What has happened, I think, is that the economic boom years of the 90's and one of the most successful policy initiatives in memory — welfare reform — have made it impossible to ignore the effects of culture. The Clinton administration achieved exactly what policy analysts had long said would pull black men out of their torpor: the economy grew at a rapid pace, providing millions of new jobs at all levels. Yet the jobless black youths simply did not turn up to take them. Instead, the opportunity was seized in large part by immigrants — including many blacks — mainly from Latin America and the Caribbean.

One oft-repeated excuse for the failure of black Americans to take these jobs — that they did not offer a living wage — turned out to be irrelevant. The sociologist Roger Waldinger of the University of California at Los Angeles, for example, has shown that in New York such jobs offered an opportunity to the chronically unemployed to join the market and to acquire basic work skills that they later transferred to better jobs, but that the takers were predominantly immigrants.

Why have academics been so allergic to cultural explanations? Until the recent rise of behavioral economics, most economists have simply not taken non-market forces seriously. But what about the sociologists and other social scientists who ought to have known better? Three gross misconceptions about culture explain the neglect.

First is the pervasive idea that cultural explanations inherently blame the victim; that they focus on internal behavioral factors and, as such, hold people responsible for their poverty, rather than putting the onus on their deprived environment. (It hasn't helped that many conservatives do actually put forth this view.)

But this argument is utterly bogus. To hold someone responsible for his behavior is not to exclude any recognition of the environmental factors that may have induced the problematic behavior in the first place. Many victims of child abuse end up behaving in self-destructive ways; to point out the link between their behavior and the destructive acts is in no way to deny the causal role of their earlier victimization and the need to address it.

Likewise, a cultural explanation of black male self-destructiveness addresses not simply the immediate connection between their attitudes and behavior and the undesired outcomes, but explores the origins and changing nature of these attitudes, perhaps over generations, in their brutalized past. It is impossible to understand the predatory sexuality and irresponsible fathering behavior of young black men without going back deep into their collective past.

Second, it is often assumed that cultural explanations are wholly deterministic, leaving no room for human agency. This, too, is nonsense. Modern students of culture have long shown that while it partly determines behavior, it also enables people to change behavior. People use their culture as a frame for understanding their world, and as a resource to do much of what they want. The same cultural patterns can frame different kinds of behavior, and by failing to explore culture at any depth, analysts miss a great opportunity to re-frame attitudes in a way that encourages desirable behavior and outcomes.

Third, it is often assumed that cultural patterns cannot change — the old "cake of custom" saw. This too is nonsense. Indeed, cultural patterns are often easier to change than the economic factors favored by policy analysts, and American history offers numerous examples.

My favorite is Jim Crow, that deeply entrenched set of cultural and institutional practices built up over four centuries of racist domination and exclusion of blacks by whites in the South. Nothing could have been more cultural than that. And yet America was able to dismantle the entire system within a single generation, so much so that today blacks are now making a historic migratory shift back to the South, which they find more congenial than the North. (At the same time, economic inequality, which the policy analysts love to discuss, has hardened in the South, like the rest of America.)

So what are some of the cultural factors that explain the sorry state of young black men? They aren't always obvious. Sociological investigation has found, in fact, that one popular explanation — that black children who do well are derided by fellow blacks for "acting white" — turns out to be largely false, except for those attending a minority of mixed-race schools.

An anecdote helps explain why: Several years ago, one of my students went back to her high school to find out why it was that almost all the black girls graduated and went to college whereas nearly all the black boys either failed to graduate or did not go on to college. Distressingly, she found that all the black boys knew the consequences of not graduating and going on to college ("We're not stupid!" they told her indignantly).

SO why were they flunking out? Their candid answer was that what sociologists call the "cool-pose culture" of young black men was simply too gratifying to give up. For these young men, it was almost like a drug, hanging out on the street after school, shopping and dressing sharply, sexual conquests, party drugs, hip-hop music and culture, the fact that almost all the superstar athletes and a great many of the nation's best entertainers were black.

Not only was living this subculture immensely fulfilling, the boys said, it also brought them a great deal of respect from white youths. This also explains the otherwise puzzling finding by social psychologists that young black men and women tend to have the highest levels of self-esteem of all ethnic groups, and that their self-image is independent of how badly they were doing in school.

I call this the Dionysian trap for young black men. The important thing to note about the subculture that ensnares them is that it is not disconnected from the mainstream culture. To the contrary, it has powerful support from some of America's largest corporations. Hip-hop, professional basketball and homeboy fashions are as American as cherry pie. Young white Americans are very much into these things, but selectively; they know when it is time to turn off Fifty Cent and get out the SAT prep book.

For young black men, however, that culture is all there is — or so they think. Sadly, their complete engagement in this part of the American cultural mainstream, which they created and which feeds their pride and self-respect, is a major factor in their disconnection from the socioeconomic mainstream.

Of course, such attitudes explain only a part of the problem. In academia, we need a new, multidisciplinary approach toward understanding what makes young black men behave so self-destructively. Collecting transcripts of their views and rationalizations is a useful first step, but won't help nearly as much as the recent rash of scholars with tape-recorders seem to think. Getting the facts straight is important, but for decades we have been overwhelmed with statistics on black youths, and running more statistical regressions is beginning to approach the point of diminishing returns to knowledge.

The tragedy unfolding in our inner cities is a time-slice of a deep historical process that runs far back through the cataracts and deluge of our racist past. Most black Americans have by now, miraculously, escaped its consequences. The disconnected fifth languishing in the ghettos is the remains. Too much is at stake for us to fail to understand the plight of these young men. For them, and for the rest of us.

Orlando Patterson, a professor of sociology at Harvard, is the author of "Rituals of Blood: Consequences of Slavery in Two American Centuries."