Thursday, March 24, 2011

Armchair Sociology: The Burger King Bikini Brawl, Black Feminity, and the Social Determinism of Ghetto Names



I am fascinated by the ways of the urban troglodyte (or as I more affectionately call them the "ign't" classes). Given that the emphasis on exploring the notion of black respectability was the founding impetus behind starting WARN, my curiosity regarding these matters should be taken as a given. But, I am always surprised when these explorations of race and class often bump up against the expectations held by some black folk that we ought not to air our dirty laundry. Moreover, that any critique of the ghetto underclass (a term I still use and embrace) and a support for the notion that economic disadvantage ought not to equal a poverty of the mind, soul, or spirit, is somehow unfair or mean spirited. In short, to borrow a phrase from Michael Gerson, my rebuttal has, and will always be, that we must never embrace the soft-bigotry of low expectations.

Those qualifiers having been noted, we holders of the flame of black respectability still need to be able to laugh without shame or embarrassment at both our own foibles, as well as at the stupidity of our social lessers. To point: The Burger King Bikini Brawl is my happy pill of the day. It is a given that fast food restaurants are notorious for bringing out the worst in folks (and please, don't get me started on the mayhem which inevitably ensues every Popeye's Eight Piece Chicken Holiday). But this episode is doubly fascinating because of how dense it is with opportunities for sociological analysis.

1. The mayor of Blacktown has commented on this crudely. Brother Malcolm has done so eloquently. But, what is the state of black womanhood and femininity today? And is it even fair to talk in such broad terms? Would Weber and Durkheim want us to be narrow and more specific, and to explore how local constructs of masculinity and femininity are in conflict with broader social norms?

2. Sociolinguistics. What is our young heroine saying in the first portions of the clip? I know I am not alone in noticing that what was once called "African American Vernacular English" has become something else. What it is, I do not know. After trying my hand at translating the first portions of this clip, I now understand why the DEA is seeking experts in "ebonics."

3. The life chances and economics of names. Our champion caliber bikini brawler's name is "Kimesia." The wisdom of Freakonomics and applied economics in regards to "ghetto names" would seem to apply here. As noted in the article, "First Names and Crime: Does Unpopularity Spell Trouble?" :

Gyimah-Brempongand Price (2006), for example, use the Scrabble score of a person’s first name as a tangential explanatory variable (their key independent variables measure skin hue) in regressions trying to explain age at incarceration and length of sentence. In the majority of their specifications, a higher Scrabble score is associated with either an increased hazard of criminal activity or a longer sentence."

Ultimately, names may not be destiny in all things, but names certainly do reveal something about social capital and life chances.

What other bits of data were you able to tease out of the Burger King Bikini Brawl video? Is there something to be said about intersectionality? Group behavior? The parenting styles of various ethnic/racial/economic cohorts? Or is this just another example of the alternative cultural norms and conflict resolution styles of the urban poor, where any criticism of Miss Kimesia's behavior is really a function of high minded bourgeois norms of class and respectability that are outmoded and unfair?

10 comments:

Tanya said...

Since this was a spring break related incident (that was all the English I picked up) and she's in a bikini are we to assume that she is in college?

She's a spring breaker who went wild. That's all. *these straws are much too slippery to grasp*

Vesuvian Woman said...

Not able to download the video on current server, quelle suprise.

However, I love that you reference Kimesia for what she is: A lower level princess.

This is America - change a street name, a color or an adverb and it's anybody's story.

Really excited for this video the way I'm excited for pics of rural and urban family picnics. When it comes to these glimpses of American life, it's only funny because it's true.

Jon said...

The video is somewhat reminiscent of the food fight in "Animal House" in a slightly different setting.

Oh Crap said...

Speaking of names, class aspirations, and mayors, the mayor of former Klantown (Fontana, CA) is Aquanetta Warren. She's a serious piece of work from Compton.

Fontana's "first Black" mayor is rabidly anti-Latino (Fontana's Latino population is huge) and pro-Arizona SB 1070. http://www.acquanetta.org/

Perhaps this comment belongs under the "Progress that is Black Mediocrity" post. :/

zimzimma said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
zimzimma said...

@ listed opportunity #1: If we were to "explore how local constructs of masculinity and femininity are in conflict with broader social norms," I'm curious to know why so many segments of the black community have accepted and perpetuated said local constructs when it seems that they offer no benefit to the community? My understanding of Weber's work was that (in summary) institutions are shaped by ideas (ie western capitalism was greatly aided by the popularity and indebtedness of the protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism), such that at least some who subscribed to such an ideology benefited in some way (ie the promise of a place in heaven or 'wealth'). However, I can't see how any party involved in non-sense benefits from assault, battery, and inciting a riot over what I assume was a botched order...so what's the gain of actin a fool? (this question is coming from someone who reasons 99.9% of phenomena by examining from perspective of the benefactors in the end result, which may not actually be possible) And if she's in college, she ought to know 80% of her actions were against the law...right?

Also, was I the only one who was impressed that, regardless of all that motion, her bikini didn't budge? As a straight female, I'd like to know where I can get one of those bathing suits...

Oh Crap said...

Speaking of names, class aspirations, and mayors, the mayor of former Klantown (Fontana, CA) is Aquanetta Warren. She's a serious piece of work from Compton.

Fontana's "first Black" mayor is rabidly anti-Latino (Fontana's Latino population is huge) and pro-Arizona SB 1070. http://www.acquanetta.org/

Dunno, perhaps this comment belongs under the "Progress that is Black Mediocrity" post. :/

chaunceydevega said...

@Tanya. I think you are being too forgiving. True she is a spring breaker, but what else is she and how does she behave? Are all spring breakers in bikini haranguing folks on the counter-top?

@Vesuvian. Lower level princess. Yikes, how far we have fallen when miss kimesia is a princess of the proles and palin is a goddess for the knuckledraggers.

@Jon. Zero point zero.

@Zim. Such a good functionalist. Question, given the madness among the ign't classes I do not know if it is alternative rationality at work, or if there is any calculus in their decision making. I wonder what Mancur Olson would say about the ign'ts?

The New Black Woman said...

Spring breaker or not, she just doesn't have any sort of home training. LOL, I couldn't even make out what she said throughout the entire video.

Anonymous said...

Funny how the folks keep making excuses for their violent behavior? Call it what it is: NBB figure it out! You are disgusting excuses for humanity, keep killing each other it's laughable!