Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Joys of Politically Incorrect Humor and Why Black Folks Got to Stop Being Mean and Angry All The Time



Blogger has fixed its gremlins and gotten the ghost out of the machine...fingers crossed.

Some good things are happening this weekend: I will be on Ring of Fire Radio today--Saturday, May 14th--talking about my piece on white privilege and the now hobbled Birther Movement. Mike P is cool people and has had me on quite a few times, so please check out the show either online or live on the radio.

I also have a piece that is featured on Alternet. One of my friends challenged me. He said that I am "just" a race man and am pigeonholing myself, if I want to do the pundit thing one day I need to show some breadth. My Alternet piece on the systemic strategy of historical revisionism by Conservatives is my effort to show that there are many styles in my dojo. Tell me what you think pro and con if you get a chance.

Black folks can be a grumpy bunch. We are always looking for something to gripe out, some racist bogeyman to chase down, or some crisis, real or imagined, to immerse ourselves in. The faux controversy over Telemundo's "racist" "Afro-Monkey" comedy skit is one such moment. Although there is no accounting for taste--and I freely admit that I am a proud Negro who still doesn't eat fried chicken or watermelon in mixed company--we need to confront an uncomfortable truth.

Oftentimes the most impolitic aspects of popular culture can be the most pleasure filled. While we may decry the ideologies at work in a given text, we are often at an impasse because the rules of political correctness do not always govern the intangible rules of pleasure and joy.

How many hip hop feminists for example publicly decry "misogyny" in rap lyrics but privately play the most provocative and politically incorrect music for their own entertainment (or booty tapes)? How many black folks decried Amos and Andy or Good Times, but secretly pulled down the shades in their houses and reveled in the laughter and joyous release provided by those "less than convenient for the project of black political empowerment" TV shows?

We are a people like any other. We are ugly. We are beautiful. We are grand. We are petty. Our art and music can be brilliant. It can also be grotesque. In all these cases, the agents on this stage of life are no less black and authentic.

Just like Hoyt said in Training Day, when you can balance the smiles and cries you will have figured out the streets. In parallel, I would suggest that when one can balance the complexities of black life as a preeminently human condition (while simultaneously struggling to negotiate the riddle of Black Respectability) you will have figured out one small part of our Blues Predicament.

Remember folks, it is okay to laugh. The Black Superpublic has made our private joys public. While there are many reasons to deny the pleasures of inconvenient humor, sometimes we just have to give in to the smiles...

14 comments:

fred c said...

Re: the Alternet article, I, predictably, liked it. It's well written and it contains good ideas, it has everything, melody, harmony and rhythm. A possible criticism might be that it has a strong point-of-view, but I share the point-of-view so I didn't care much about that. The article provoked a good comment discussion, which is always a good sign.

Thrasher said...

CD,

Regarding the comment about being just a 'race man"..( I thought is was a cheap shop )

1. In a world and culture where anything Black is discounted ..I find it a noble and honor to be called a 'race man" I get attacked with the same charge often..

2. Your reaction to this smear( as if being Black is bad and criminal etc) Why did you feel compelled to react??

3. I hope you will stay on focus and of course your totatility is more than just the race man circuit ...We know this

CNu said...

We are a people like any other. We are ugly. We are beautiful. We are grand. We are petty. Our art and music can be brilliant. It can also be grotesque. In all these cases, the agents on this stage of life are no less black and authentic.

Sure they are. I used to get into this argument with the late David Mills all.the.time. Ironic now, I find myself quoting David often as not in discussions with my 11 year old son. To wit, "some folks are preoccupied with putting highly survivable landers on the surface of Mars, others with singing, dancing, rhyming and posing" - give me the genuinely and importantly productive afronerd whose work is foremost and whose race is an accident of culture and birth every.single.time.

If more such strong Black folk dominated the academy, industry, and popular culture, this would be a moot point. As it happened, lowest common denominator "race men and women" full of breath, britches and words - like arcane jackleg preachers - came to dominate popular Black cultural production, much to our collective regret...,

In parallel, I would suggest that when one can balance the complexities of black life as a preeminently human condition (while simultaneously struggling to negotiate the riddle of Black Respectability) you will have figured out one small part of our Blues Predicament.

arbeit macht frei..., when, if, the work comes up to standard, when if the tangibly respectable afronerd scientist scholars come to dominate our collective logic, language, and values - instead of singing, dancing, talking, rhyming, and posing nullities.

CNu said...

Heaven forbid, I left out one of the primary class of useless-eater actors in the contemporary drama of Black cultural devolution, the athlete. Singers, dancers, talkers, rhymers, posers, and athletes - one and all extraneous carriers of the disease of barbarian culture (pseudo-respectability/pseudo-status) by which our contemporary cultural mentality is now so deeply afflicted.

chaunceydevega said...

@Fred. Thanks. I am a polemicist. So I can't stand in the middle of the road ;)

@Thrasher. The comment was from a fellow race man. No, the title is a badge of honor. He was being playful and encouraging meaning you/we/us have thoughts to offer on many subjects so not let ourselves get boxed in. He is making good time in his field and knows the talking head types, so he was giving guidance on how to develop my brand.

@Cnu. Zing! Afronerds will rule the world...one day.

CNu said...

Ruling the world isn't the axe's edge I'm grinding - nor for that matter - is it one I'd likely ever seek to grind.

I'd simply like to see the afronerd restored to the dominant position of respectability within the larger african american cultural complex.

As things presently stand, ignant's have scant few tangibly useful roles being modeled and there is still (Double-O presidency notwithstanding) an alarmingly high probability that insufferable ni nis noir will be among the very first of the unprofitable eaters who are thrown up against the wall and summarily shot...,

Thrasher said...

Cnu,

I would often call the late David Mills aka One drop in part because his willingness to be the exceptional person of color running code for david simon his jewish meal ticket..

I also find your theme of demonizing an entire bandwidth of Black folks over the top and petty to be candid..Your brush is much to broad.. No one bandwidth dominates Black culture..

CNu said...

Old assed ni ni noirs - i.e., 2nd and 3rd line "inheritors" of the civil rights movement - those who are in largest possible measure personally culpable for the template that has yielded three successively more intractable generations of uneducated, unemployed, know-nothing, do-nothing talk, sing, dance, rhyme, pose, play, and propagate ignants - should be the VERY FIRST taken out and unceremoniously shot.

pundits, preachers, politicians, and other non-productive breath and britches parasites should surely know by now that their time is drawing nigh....,

CNu said...

It won't be long now before the crisis achieves critical mass in America. Old ni nis are incapable of the objective self-appraisal of this Greek businessman - and young ni nis noir are bereft of any remnant rural roots to which to return.

"Athens has failed its young people. It has nothing to offer them any more. Our politicians are idiots … they have disappointed us greatly," said Dikiakos, who will soon be joined by 10 friends who have also decided to escape the capital.

They are part of an internal migration, thousands of Greeks seeking solace in rural areas as the debt-stricken country grapples with its gravest economic crisis since the second world war.

Thrasher said...

CNu,

Again another over the top presentation..I am troubled how you let off the hook so many others for the meltdown of America..

That is what happens when one develops tunnel vision..

Oh Crap said...

Just heard the RoF replay - you sounded good, m'man. The lazy left needs a swift kick in the bum around white priv and basic race issues.

Oh Crap said...

@CNu arbeit macht frei..., when, if, the work comes up to standard, when if the tangibly respectable afronerd scientist scholars come to dominate our collective logic, language, and values - instead of singing, dancing, talking, rhyming, and posing nullities.

Arbeit macht Frei? Says who?

CNu said...

old school respectables tired, tired, tired, of ignants...,

chaunceydevega said...

@Oh Crap. Thanks. I need to eliminate a two words from my vocabulary--one is folks, the other is absolutely. I will keep "connect the dots."