Thursday, June 9, 2011

Leaked! Herman Cain's New Campaign Video "We are the Real America" is Seeking Actors: Here is the Call for Extras

I have friends and contacts in places high and low. One of them forwarded me a call for extras from Herman Cain's newest campaign commercial, "We are the Real America." It fits perfectly. I cannot help but to laugh and smile as I read it. Enjoy.


Herman Cain, Republican Party 2012 Presidential Candidate is seeking extras for the shooting of a new campaign video called "We Are the Real America." This project is currently auditioning actors and is being cast in the Atlanta, Georgia area.

The campaign video is being shot by a well-known director who is a notable supporter of Conservative political causes in Hollywood. The 5 minute video is financed by the group Friends of Herman Cain for President in 2012. The campaign film highlights Herman Cain's broad appeal to a diverse group of Americans and how he speaks for the silent majority.

The film is seeking extras for crowd shots, as well as individuals and families for close in profiles. For extras, we are looking for the following:
  • Active seniors who convey a sense of happiness and excitement about the future
  • Young, clean cut blacks and Latinos
  • Soccer moms and their children
  • Traditional, middle class Americans from suburban and rural backgrounds. Country music and Christian gospel fans are especially sought after.
If you are located in the Atlanta, Georgia area and would like to be considered for Herman Cain's new campaign video "We are the Real America" please email with the role you are auditioning for in the subject heading.

We are also seeking actors and actresses for the following roles:
    1. Patriotic Muslim. She should be a very exciting, captivating and beautiful Muslim-American. An observant Muslim, she will be comfortable wearing a colorful hijab in the film. This actress radiates a love of the United States. Very charming and delicate, she will be shot waving a small American flag at a backyard barbecue while dancing with her American friends.
    2. Real American Motorcycle Rider. He is a powerfully built American with long blond hair, tattoos, and a goatee. Always ready for action, he is never far from his Harley Davidson motorcycle. Wearing jeans and a leather vest, he will have his patriotic tattoos prominently featured in Herman Cain's campaign video. If possible, this actor will have an American flag on his biceps that he will flex for a climactic close in shot.
    3. Upwardly Mobile Black Professional. He is a slight to small framed African American who wears glasses. With a clean cut look (no dread locks or other ethnic haircut) he is very excited and charmed by Herman Cain's presence. They will likely embrace each other and exchange a high five. He should be athletic because their meeting will occur while playing golf. This actor will wear a relaxed corporate look of khaki jeans, a cell phone on his belt, and a white baseball hat.
    4. Multiracial Family. This group of two parents and at least two children should be of different racial backgrounds. Both are professionals and very much in love. An African American and white couple is preferred. An Asian and white couple is also acceptable. The child should be no older than 2 years old (small enough to be placed on their father's shoulder while securely waving an American flag), and have light brown or red hair. Grey, hazel, or blue eyes are preferred.
    5. Sikh and Jewish Friends. At least one observant Sikh (turban wearing) and one observant Jewish actor (with yarmulke) or actress are needed. They should be young (no older than 30 years old), very athletic, and fashionable hipsters or otherwise edgy, cool, and tuned into popular culture. Both will be in the campaign video playing either soccer or Hacky Sack among a larger group of Herman Cain supporters while they update their status on Facebook or Twitter by using their Ipods or Ipads.
    6. Latinos in Military Uniform. A former veteran or active duty service person is needed. We are especially open to groups of military personnel from Latin or South America who are enthusiastic supporters of Herman Cain. They will be expected to appear in both their dress uniforms and camouflage. Battle ribbons and medals should be prominently displayed. Replica weapons will be furnished to the actors and actresses.

    7. Arab American with Dog. One person from the Middle East is needed with his or her dog. Preferably, a yellow Labrador retriever or a lovable mutt who enjoys interacting with others. The dog should be a puppy. If it is exceptionally talented and has prior acting experience, an older animal will also be acceptable.

Please submit photos and resumes by email only.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Brother X-Squared Returns to Talk About X-Men: First Class, President Obama, and to Reveal a Shocking Secret to Chauncey DeVega

The We Are Respectable Negroes News Network (WARNNN) 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.

As long time followers of WARNNN already know, Brother X-Squared is a potent activist, black futurist, and visionary thinker. He is also a noted cultural critic in the greatest tradition of African American commentary and letters. It has been six months since we last spoke with Brother X-Squared. He has been incommunicado and apparently in hiding. Brother X-Squared has promised us an explosive and jaw dropping expose on the future of America. Brother X-Squared has teased that his appearance on WARNNN will be of particular import to Chauncey DeVega, Editor and Founder of We Are Respectable Negroes.

WARNNN: Brother X-Squared, it has been too long. Where have you been? What have you been up to? What is this information that you are going to share with me? Are you safe? Where were you hiding?

Brother X-Squared: Silence child! I see that my absence has allowed your mental musculature and integumentary system of melanin wisdom to atrophy like the little penis of that white sex freak Anthony Weiner from New York. Brother X-Squared is never in hiding! Can you hide from the sun? From its heat? From its rays? The sun and the moon are in a dance and it is only cosmic forces that keep me from irradiating you 24 hours a day! I have taught you so much since we met those years ago. Yet, in my absence it seems that you have taken 5 steps backwards for every 1 step forward! Try again. This time with patience and be deliberate in your speech.

WARNNN: My humble apologies. What have you been up to these last few months? Were they productive?

Brother X-Squared: A little better. Do cicadas come out at night and sing the blues for moon crickets when the slave ship is coming into port?

WARNNN: You lost me, Brother X-Squared...

Brother X-Squared: Even in your confusion and stupidity there is truth. You truly are one of the lost mentally captive negroes in this hellish land called Amerikkka. Once more you do not understand the Negro folk wisdom. Sad. Tragic. Even the evil White Man knows of my wisdom and is making a special computer that can translate metaphors from different languages so that the CIA can spy on people. They will never create a cipher that can beat Brother X-Squared...but that is a talk for another time.

Chauncey, you need to get a copy of Laurence Levine's book Black Culture and Black Consciousness so you can learn something about your own great heritage as a Nubian! The answer is yes! I have been productive! I have put plans into motion that are still bearing fruit, I am a perpetual self sustaining nuclear reactor that is powered by my melanin. I have foreseen the decline of America. It is here as we speak! The visions came to me while I led a special month long training retreat for my soldiers in the North American Chapter of the New Black Panther Party.

WARNNN: What did you discover?

Brother X-Squared: You and the other mental idiots who comprise the majority of the captive black Africans in America are not ready for the whole truth. So, I will give you just a little dose. The White Man hides his truth in plain sight. He also wraps them up in lies. Sometimes he twists up the language--what the white genius devil George Orwell called newspeak in his book 1984. I can divine it because my mental state is strong and transcendent as it resonates through the dark matter of the universe. All this talk about the debt ceiling is your first clue!

How can debt be an evil calamity that is high in the sky? No, it is a hellish burden that sucks you in like quick sand! The White Man's evil is so deep that he is even trying to appropriate the wisdom of the great African empires of Kush and Benin and their gold standard to save his sorry butt! Impossible, the White Man can never master the economic systems of the black gods because his mind is corrupt and cruel from his natural state as an ignorant cave dweller.

WARNNN: I have to agree with you. The world is on the verge of a second Great Depression and the corporations and financiers are using the shock doctrine and disaster capitalism to bring the American people down. Ironic then that Barack Obama, America's first black President, may be her last if the economy continues its decline.

Brother X-Squared: Fool. I mock you.

WARNNN: Excuse me?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Intellectual Scatology: Ann Coulter's New Book Calls Liberals "Demonic" and Possessed of a "Mob Mentality" That Will Destroy America

In "Demonic," Coulter traces the words and movements of groups from the Ku Klux Klan and the SDS to anti-war protesters and Democrats today to argue her point that liberals have "consistently used mob tactics to implement their idea of the 'general will.'"

"Just as fire seeks oxygen, Democrats seek power, which is why they will always be found championing the mob whether the mob consists of Democrats lynching blacks or Democrats slandering the critics of Obama Care as racists," Coulter writes.
Ann Coulter has penned a new missive in which she argues that "the liberals"--anyone not a Right-wing Republican--are part of a dangerous mob. In turn, this mob will destroy democracy. There are also biblical overtones because these mobs are also apparently possessed by demons--or perhaps even are demons themselves. Coulter's mob of evil liberals is exemplified by the KKK, environmentalists, unions, advocates of health care reform, the L.A. riots, the O.J. Simpson trial, and anti-war protesters. She also connects the dots to Hitler and Mussolini and floats the suggestion that the liberals may start killing conservatives...

Let me stop. I can't even write anymore of this stuff. Have you ever encountered a mentally unhinged person? One whose rambling thoughts are so utterly believable to themselves that through sheer persistence they wear you down and suck you into their reality?

After trying to make sense of a few of the excerpts taken from Ann Coulter's new book Demonic (which was featured on ABC), I am exhausted. Truly. Tired.

Demonic is hot garbage which does not even rise to the level of failed political satire--but those on the Right who consume such tripe will take Demonic as authoritative because it confirms their priors.

For the anti-intellectual Conservative book reading crowd, Coulter's Demonic has facts, dates, and the names of people who are experts is mass psychology; it is written by someone they agree with; Demonic calls anyone who is not a Conservatives harsh names; thus, her arguments must be true.

You can't polish a turd--which makes any serious engagement with her premise impossible. But, you can try to understand the fecal waste in much the same way that Hippocrates studied the humors of the body, or Chinese herbalists would exam the excretia of their patients for indicators of disease.

There are multiple levels of Freudian projection going on in Coulter's screed: at present, the mob and the mouth breathing horde are a fixture of the White Populist Right and the Tea Party GOP brigands; but of course that reality goes uncommented upon.

This is serious stuff. As we have repeatedly seen, the Right-wing is creating an alternative reality fully equipped with their own "experts," schools and universities, and rewriting history when the facts do not match up with their ideology.

As an example of Tea Party GOP newspeak in action, here are seven intellectually scatological excerpts from Demonic to pick through...I couldn't muster the strength or patience to do more. My comments are in brackets.

For safety sake, be sure to wear latex gloves to avoid any pathogens or diseases from Coulter's "treatise":
1. The demon is a mob, and the mob is demonic. It is the nihilistic mob of the French Revolution; it is the revolutionaries who seized control of Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century; it is the Maoist gangs looting villages and impaling babies in China; it is the Ku Klux Klan terrorizing Republicans and blacks in the South; it is the 1992 Los Angeles riot that left fifty dead and did $1 billion of damage after the first Rodney King verdict; it is the bloody riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention; it is the masked hoodlums smashing up Seattle when bankers came to town; it is the 500,000 illegal aliens marching under a foreign flag in Los Angeles; it is throngs of Islamic fanatics attending the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's funeral, tearing his body out of its coffin; it is left-wing protesters destroying property and attacking delegates at the 2004 and 2008 Republican National Conventions.
[Huh? What a piss poor example of reasoning from a set of disparate cases. How many of these things are not like the others?]
2. The Democratic Party is the party of the mob, irrespective of what the mob represents. Democrats activate mobs, depend on mobs, coddle mobs, publicize and celebrate mobs -- they are the mob. Indeed, the very idea of a "community organizer" is to stir up a mob for some political purpose. "As so frequently happens when a crowd goes wild," historian Eric Durschmied says, "there is always one who shouts louder and thereby appoints himself as their leader." Those are the people we call "elected Democrats."
[In political analysis one should strive for specific historicity, i.e. in less fancy talk making sure that you are grounding your cases in the correct temporal context. There are many examples of Conservatives killing, murdering, plundering, and engaging in "mob like" behavior. Moreover, the "Democrats" of today and not the same party as yesteryear. The same can be said of the Republicans. Note the "community organizer" dog whistle for trouble-making Negro know, that guy Barack Obama, or Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement, or Suffragists, or anyone else who believed that you can use your Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms to organize and demand a redress of grievances from the State.]
3. The Democrats' playbook doesn't involve heads on pikes -- as yet -- but uses a more insidious means to incite the mob. The twisting of truth, stirring of passions, demonizing of opponents, and relying on propagandistic images in lieu of ideas -- these are the earmarks of a mob leader. Over and over again, one finds the Democrats manipulating the mob to gain power. It is official Democratic policy to appeal to the least informed, most weak-minded and perpetually alarmed members of the public.
[Classic projection. The Right-wing media echo chamber is rife with Eliminationist rhetoric that calls for the killing, murder, and destruction of liberals and progressives. It is par for the course that the Right refers to liberals as "libtards," or uses the slogan that "liberalism is a mental illness." Where facts are proof of intent, we have seen cases of actual murder and violence incited by the Right-wing media machine, where Glenn Beck's devotees for example have actually gone on shooting rampages at the behest of their Great Leader.

To Coulter's last point: The Southern Strategy, Palin's faux populism, and the post 9/11 playbook of the GOP have all leveraged fear and appeals to low information Conservative voters to mobilize their base.]
4. Although the left in America is widely recognized as hysterical, unreasonable, and clueless, the "root cause" of these traits has generally been neglected. More than a century ago, Gustave Le Bon perfectly captured the liberal psychological profile in his 1896 book, "The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind." Le Bon -- a French physician, scientist, and social psychologist -- was the first to identify the phenomenon of mass psychology. His groundbreaking book "The Crowd" paints a disturbing picture of the behavior of mobs. Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini used his book to learn how to incite a mob. Our liberals could have been Le Bon's study subjects.
[This is another gem from Coulter. The structure of the argument and its conclusions are classic propaganda and New Right communication strategy. Begin the observation with an opinion, one that you in turn take to be common knowledge and fact (the Tea Party GOP could certainly be described as "hysterical, unreasonable, and clueless"). Then link the observation with a source you signal as authoritative, which you in turn proceed to rid of all complexity and nuance. Mention an onerous historical figure, i.e. Hitler, and then link it to the target of your assault--here "the liberals."]
5. All the characteristics of mob behavior set forth by Le Bon in 1895 are evident in modern liberalism -- simplistic, extreme black-and-white thinking, fear of novelty, inability to follow logical arguments, acceptance of contradictory ideas, being transfixed by images, a religious worship of their leaders, and a blind hatred of their opponents.
[This is the best example of intentional propaganda and misrepresentation so far from Coulter's Demonic. All of these traits are common to what the literature on social psychology calls the Conservative/Authoritarian political personality type.

As a result of upbringing, and perhaps even brain structure, Conservatives are more likely to be fearful of change and difference, exemplify binary thinking in regards to problem solving, and be compelled by moral appeals and scripts.

The Authoritarian personality type craves strong leaders and is particularly vulnerable to the allure of the charismatic figure. Coulter must have been privy to this widely available information and intentionally lied for the validation of her readers.]
6. Conservatives don't cotton to slogans...Conservatives write books and articles, make arguments, and seek debates, but are perplexed by slogans...An orator wishing to move a crowd must make an abusive use of violent affirmations.
To exaggerate, to affirm, to resort to repetitions, and never to attempt to prove anything by reasoning are methods of argument well known to speakers at public meetings." Liberals love slogans because the "laws of logic have no action on crowds." Mobs, Le Bon says, "are not to be influenced by reasoning, and can only comprehend rough-and-ready associations of ideas."
He could be describing the New York Times and other journals of elite opinion when he describes periodicals that "manufacture opinions for their readers and supply them with ready- made phrases which dispense them of the trouble of reasoning." You will see all the techniques for inspiring mobs in liberal behavior.
[People's exhibit number one: Fox News and their disingenuous slogan "Fair and Balanced." The Right-wing in America is expert at disseminating talking points, coordinating them across multiple outlets, and focusing on the theme of the day. Coulter's attack on the "liberal media" is a great example of how Conservatives are able to so effectively propagandize their audience.

The strategy is simple. First, you make an assertion for which there is little if any evidence (that the media is liberal), then proceed from the premise to argue the opposite (Fox News is "neutral"), which in turn insulates you from any rebuttal (so what if Fox News has admitted they are opinion based journalism, that they routinely distort facts, and are in the pocket of the GOP, they are a "fair" alternative to the "liberal" media!).]
7. The only traditions liberals are eager to smash are moral and sexual ones, such as marriage and protecting the unborn. Crowds are too impulsive to be moral, according to Le Bon, which explains why liberals are mad for innovation when it comes to thousands-year-old institutions like marriage. Only when it comes to scientific innovation, are they hidebound traditionalists. Indeed, the only way to get liberals interested in novel scientific research is to propose slaughtering human embryos.
When adult stem cell researchers had already produced treatments for eighty different diseases, while embryonic stem cell researchers were stuck in the dark ages, the failed researchers won liberal hearts by pointing out that their method destroyed human fetuses, while adult stem research did not.
As long as Democrats can win by demagoguing the mob, they are perfectly happy to turn America into a banana republic.
With the country drowning in debt and Medicare and Social Security putting us on a high-speed bullet train to bankruptcy, the entire Democratic Party refuses to deal with entitlements. Instead, they will gin up the mobs to throw out any politician who cuts these increasingly theoretical "benefits." The country will have the economy of Uganda, but Democrats will be in total control.
Rich liberals want chaos for everyone except themselves, confident that they can afford a "green" lifestyle and their children will still attend Sidwell Friends. The rest of us are forced to live in a lawless universe of no energy, gay marriage, girl soldiers, and marauding criminals because liberals can't enjoy their wealth unless other people are living in complete pandemonium. They promote anarchy, believing the middle class should live in squalor, while liberals will be protected by their wealth against the mob.
[Wow. This is a buffet of talking points that exemplify the Right-wing media shotgun approach. As exemplified by the above passage, Ann Coulter really is a poop flinging monkey. She hits on just about every part of the Right-wing's Culture War meme: liberals are immoral and want to destroy "traditional" American values; the liberals want to kill babies in the womb; after ruining the nuclear family with their godless Communism, the liberals then want to make everyone gay.

Coulter also gets a dig in for the white populists by suggesting that Obama and his imagined cadre of "elitists" think they are better than the silent majority, red state, steak and potatoes crowd. Like most Right-wing propaganda, Coulter's analysis is decontextualized and does not link any of the country's contemporary economic or political challenges to two Bush terms or decades of trickle down and failed supply side economic policies.

She reserved her best money shot for Barack Obama, America's first black President--under his tenure the United States will become a "banana republic" like Uganda. Coulter and the New Right's formula for Obama derangement syndrome? Add race, hyperbole, histrionics, some Culture War seasoning, rinse and repeat.]

Monday, June 6, 2011

Rick Santorum's Nostalgia for the Good Old Days: You Too Can Have Thirteen Slaves for a Nickel!

I will have more on Rick Santorum's honest moment of yearning for a return to pre-1965 America to come in a bit. Given Santorum's mouth utterance over the weekend, my discovery of a 1939 issue of Popular Mechanics and its essay "Thirteen Slaves for a Nickel" was priceless in its timing.

You have to love the whiteness of memory. When the Tea Party GOP and their assorted crew of candidates talk about "real America" and "the good old days" they are really signaling to a myopic Whiteness of memory. The blacks knew their places. Women knew to shut up and stay in the home. The domestic sphere was secure. The queers stayed in the closet. Happy Days and Leave it to Beaver were actually real...except for the parts that were not.

Most important to the White Soul, there wasn't all of this "political correctness" stuff. Good white people could say what they want and about whoever they wished without any consequences. It was also a fun time where the possibilities of science and progress were everywhere. One could even innocently dream of owning black people as slaves and recreating yee old southern plantation with the help of your friend the kilowatt--without having to worry about being made to feel guilty by those Negro agitators and other assorted rapscallions and troublemakers.

The semiotics of "Thirteen Slaves for a Nickel" are priceless (pay particular attention to the smiling faces, the invisibility of non-whites, and how domesticity is depicted).

Shameless Self-Promotion: Chauncey DeVega on the Ed Schultz Radio Show Discussing How the Tea Party GOP is Rewriting History

One more clip to share. I like seeing WARN's name under my own. It feels right. I also must thank all of you folks for making that happen as this project was supposed to be a fun distraction, not something that would get any sort of attention at all. And as always, please share any and all suggestions.

On first listen a few weeks back, I felt this interview did not go well. The topic was slightly different than what I expected. Once I got into my groove I had to talk a bit faster than I prefer. Now, in hindsight, and watching the interview with the visuals, it was not too bad.

For those venturing into the talking head game I have learned quite a bit this last year. As you know I was a radio host for many years. But, being the one who asks is not the same as he/she who responds. A lesson for fellow travelers: have a game plan and a few talking points, yet be ready to shift quickly.
Thank you for indulging me my sharing. I get better at what I do precisely because of your feedback and honesty. There are some things going down this week that may pay off, keep me in your thoughts and the party will keep on...

They Are Who We Know Them to Be: Walter Williams' Libertarian Pandering and the War on Black America

This is a great way to start the week.

As a black pragmatist, and one who holds the feet of the ign't classes up to the fire because I have rejected the soft bigotry of low expectations, my belief in the wisdom of D.P. Moynihan (I like that abbreviation because the elder God is made to sound like a gangsta rapper) is unshaken. Moreover, I always double down on how Billy Cosby was right and correct in most of what he said about the self-destructive behaviors of the ghetto black underclass(es).

Nevertheless, I bristle when I see black conservatives such as Walter Williams and their related ilk. One, he can do better. But, Williams has figured out that simplistic explanations to complex problems pay great dividends. Two, he is a full time bootblack and lackey for the anti-black and brown New Right colorblind neo-liberal GOP. Thus, Walter Williams is utterly insincere in his analysis, as well as in the origins from which his critiques flow. To borrow from a previous post, black folks like Williams would easily rationalize owning their own kin and selling them down the river in the interest of profit maximization. Ugliness of that sort is timeless and consequently should not be a surprise.

Williams is not to be disregarded. Structures matter: but he denies them. A strong case can be made for the very same macro-level forces contributing to white poverty. Yet, Williams overlooks them. In total, simplistic explanations about the economy and labor market trump nuanced understandings about socio-political reality and how individuals negotiate truncated life chances.

Walter E. Williams' explanations and his libertarian yearnings about the role of the State in destroying black families is as much truth as it is a fiction. There, lies are mixed with truth. In the Right-wing echo chamber of self-fulfilling memes and mantras, that combination is a toxic mix which is hard to overcome. But there is a vulnerability: like the exhaust port on the Death Star, the naked pandering of black conservatives and libertarians is easily exposed and thus made an easy target. The challenge then is learning to trust the Force as we place a well placed proton torpedo deep into the heart of their shaky arguments.

Truths mixed with lies are tough pool my friends. They always have been. They always will. And that is not going to change any time soon. The solution: never expect the liar to be anything but what his or her essential nature dictates:

Saturday, June 4, 2011

No Small Amount of Complexity: Free Blacks Who Owned Other African-Americans During Slavery

Earlier this week, I offered an intervention regarding African-American Civil War reenactors and how many Americans still hold on to basic misunderstandings about the institution of slavery and the Black Freedom Struggle.

One of our commenters, Nomad, was kind enough to offer some push back on what he saw as problematic, binary assumptions regarding race and the Southern slaveocracy. There, he suggested the common understanding that black slave owners were for the most part benevolent (owning kin folk to protect them from enslavement by whites) was somewhat overstated. Nomad and I dialogued. Subsequently, I went down the rabbit hole and learned some new things about free blacks in the South who owned other African Americans as slaves.

The institution of chattel slavery in America was prefaced on white supremacy. It was a system almost uniformly unique to, and reserved for, Black people in the United States. However, like all social institutions there is much complexity (and times where the exception proves the rule) in how individuals interact with, manipulate, as well as suffer under it.

I am not a historian of the South and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, so those of you who may be please share any insights or additional information that you may have on the subject. I am especially curious as to the reliability of the following accounts, as well as the state of historiography on the subject of free blacks who participated in the slave trade. I would really like to know how accurate Popular Science was--the source of the following information--as a journal of record in the early 20th century.

[There is a separate post to be done on the rise of mass communication, the popular press, and in particular the role of magazines in both maintaining--and eventually tearing down--the Racial State and American Apartheid.]

As I am fond of saying, black folks are like any other people in the range of our humanity: some of us heroic, others trying just to survive, many are greedy, others selfless, and a few truly great and amazing. The following accounts are powerful examples of how we worked to maintain family, but also how black Americans were also property to be traded, purchased on credit and installment plans, and part of the ledger sheet to be accounted for in probate.

Example One: The Trickster Entrepreneur
There was a negro named Nat Butler who lived near Aberdeen, Harford County, Md., who owned a small farm and bought and sold negroes for the southern trade. This sharp and noted fellow would persuade a slave to run off and hide for a few days at a place prepared by Butler, who would in the meantime see the master of the runaway and learn the price he would take for him. If the owner had little hope of recovering his slave and so placed the price low, Nat would buy him and resell him to slave dealers who knew Butler's rendezvous for hidden negroes. His conduct became so notorious that he lost the confidence of slave owners and respect of negroes, who several times tried to murder him.
Example Two: Working hard, and making difficult choices, in order to maintain family
Jim Scott, a worthy colored man of the same county, was a local preacher and an industrious servant. He bought himself, wife and children from his master, Mr. George Amos, giving his own note, endorsed by his white neighbors. He hired out his wife and larger children and himself for ten years and paid off his indebtedness. He offered his son Henry to Mr. Henry Webster of "Webster's Forest" for three hundred dollars for five years, or until he was twenty-five years of age. Another negro in the same region sold his children in order to purchase his wife and set her free.

Dick Hunter, of Laurens County, S. C, was the slave of his wife, and he finished paying for himself long after the civil war. He died in 1902. Dick was first owned by Mr. James Hunter. The master entered into an arrangement with the boy, an intelligent youth, by which the latter was permitted to work for others for wages and reserve a part of his earnings to be applied to the purchase of his freedom, one thousand dollars being the stipulated price. Dick married a woman of color, and had paid six hundred dollars of his purchase money when his master died intestate, leaving no record of his private arrangement with the slave boy. Thereupon Dick was sold as one of the properties of the estate and was bought by a bachelor named Nugent. 

Meanwhile Dick's wife had died and he married another free woman of color. This woman purchased her husband from Nugent, agreeing to pay for him on the installment plan. During four or five years the installments were paid, amounting to several hundred dollars. Then the civil war broke out, and in a little while Nugent died. His estate was claimed by relatives who lived in the west, and contracts between masters and slaves for the manumission of the latter were at that time frowned upon by the law. 
Dick was put upon the block and sold for the second time, bringing fifteen hundred dollars. The buyer was again his wife and she was enabled to make the purchase through the generosity and compassion of a white neighbor, Mr. Clark Templeton, who provided the money. When the war ended this debt was still due Templeton's estate, and Dick did not repudiate it, though doubtless under the law he might have done so. On the other hand, he continued to work and save, and in the course of six or eight years after emancipation he paid the last dollar with interest.
Example three: Beware a woman scorned who happens to own you as a slave
Aunt Fanny Canady was a colored woman of Louisville, Ky., who bought herself and several members of her family. She also owned her husband, named Jim, a little drunken cobbler. One day Fanny went into her husband's shop with fire in her eyes and finger pointed at her husband. She said, "Jim, if you don't 'have yourself, I'm gwine sell you down river." Jim sat mute and trembling, as to send down the river meant to sell to a negro trader and to be taken to the cotton fields of the far south.
Example four: Likewise, if your son owns you as a slave, you had best be appreciative and respectful towards him
Judge William Gasken, who owned the man of whom we have just told, was thrice married, one of his wives being a daughter of Colonel McClure, of New Bern. After his death, one of the slaves, Jacob, became the property of Mrs. Gasken. This Jacob's wife was a free woman, and they had a son Jacob, then a young man and free, of course, as the child of a free woman. Aided by his mother's efforts, he managed to purchase his father at a very reasonable price as negroes were then held. All went smoothly for awhile, when young Jacob did not act as his father thought he should and his parent reproved him with fatherly love. Young Jacob was so disgruntled that he went off to a negro speculator named John Gildersleeve, who was from Long Island and was then in New Bern. This trader bought the father at a high price and at once sent him off south. Young Jacob afterward boasted that "the old man had gone to the corn fields about New Orleans where they might learn him some manners."
Example five: White folks look out for their own. Don't ever forget that chattel slavery in America was the "peculiar institution," one exclusively reserved for Black people
There were instances in which free negroes became the purchasers and masters of transported white people, redemptioners. An example of the purchase by free negroes of two families of Germans who had not been able to pay their passage from Amsterdam to Baltimore and were sold for their passage money to a term of labor, is given in a volume issued in 1818 in Stuttgart. It contains letters written in 1817 addressed from Baltimore to the Baron von Gagern, Minister Plenipotentiary to the diet in Frankfort-on-the-Main. The Germans of Baltimore were so outraged by this action that they immediately got together a purse and bought the freedom of these immigrants. An early law of Virginia is aimed at the same thing, and forbids negroes or Indians to buy "Christian servants," but permits them to purchase those of their own "nation."

Friday, June 3, 2011

Did You Know that Tom Jones was Black? The Black Israelites Share The Secret History of White People with the BBC

Last night I saw X-Men: First Class at a free screening courtesy of Aint It Cool News here in Chicago. I am going back to get more of that goodness this weekend and you all should too.

In the meantime, these Youtube Internets has yielded more lost/found knowledge for our enjoyment.

There is some great synergy here. First, I love the Black Israelites--especially when they fight zombies or make privileged, self-entitled, young white college snowflakes cry. Add them to some Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends, which was one of the best shows on cable at the time (along with Michael Moore's The Awful Truth), and you have a wondrous gem.

I always knew that Tom Jones was a brother. He, along with Emeril Lagasse (who comes from Fall River, Massachusetts and also cooks Hoppin' John Black Eyed Peas for luck on New Years...what other proof do you need!), I have long suspected of passing in plain sight. But, the Black Israelites in their "dropnology" and excavation of hidden histories are also demonstrating how information without context can be quite problematic. Oftentimes, it can often do more harm than good--to all parties involved.

Thus, the "front toward enemy" claymore mine rule of research, teaching, and punditry: take cover and when in doubt make sure that the enemy gets the full force of whatever fire you are throwing out. The Black Israelites's "seminar" with Louis Theroux fits that rubric perfectly.

Earlier this week I shared some of The History of White People. Here is a second dose of Dr. Painter's brilliant historiography. If the brothers in the Black Israelites get a hold of this book they are going to have some real combustibles to work with and folks had best duck for cover when they detonate them:
Jean Baptiste Chardin (1643-1713)--also known as Sir John Chardin--A French Protestant (Huguenot) whose family were jewelers to the court of Louis XIV, traveled routinely to Persian and Indian in the 1670s and 1680s seeking rare baubles for the French royal household...A scientist at heart, he took meticulous notes while racked by constant fear.
Chardin loathed the chaotic Black Sea region, where brigands controlled the highways, often threatening his goods, his freedom, and his life. As he says of Circassians, "it is impossible for them to glimpse an opportunity for thievery without taking advantage of it." They eat with their hands, go to the bathroom right next to where they eat, and then continue eating without washing. Chardin is totally disgusted.

The habits of the Mingrelians (Caucasian people on the northeast coast of the Black Sea) are vile. They "and their neighbors are huge drunkards, worse than the Germans and all the northern Europeans when it comes to drink." Not only do Mingrelians consider assassination, murder, and incest as admirable traits, they steal each other's wives without compunction. The women are not much better; they were too much makeup and their bodily stench overcomes whatever amorous intention their appearance might have inspired. "These people are complete savages," Chardin rails.
Wham. Boom. There goes the dynamite.

As a Friday bonus, here is one more clip from Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends where the irreplaceable Khalid Muhammad offers one of my favorite quoteables of all time on the relationship between white people, fashion, and his choice in pants:

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Shameless Self-Promotion: Chauncey DeVega on Ring of Fire Radio Discussing Tea Party Racism

I did this interview with Mike P of Ring of Fire a month or so ago and the video is now online. This went pretty well to my ears. But as I joke, I need to institute a quota on my use of "folks" and "connecting the dots." As always thoughts and suggestions are always welcome.

Explaining How and Why America is a White Man's Country...

I changed some info on the sidebar. I procrastinated. But, I finally got around to it. As requested by some of you, I am going to be doing more posts on history, sex, military science, esoteric potpourri and other miscellaneous goodness. Chauncey DeVega moves forward. As does this website.

On a housekeeping note, I am also going to trim down the links list to about 10 web pages. Do you have any suggestions for what to add, and which links to discard? Likewise, the list of favorite posts is getting (at least) halved. So please, offer your suggestions there as well.


I love to share good reads. I also need to clarify some of the terms I use on WARN. As a first effort, I want to work harder on giving an example and explication of the phrase "Herrenvolk republic"--one of my go to bits of Lingua Franca that I deploy here quite often.

A few weeks ago I mentioned The History of White People--a text which is oh so quotable. This post is the first of two sessions based on sharing pithy bits of wisdom from said great book. We often talk of America as a "White Republic." What follows is a sense of why and how that came to be.

Dr. Painter's observations on the roots of that phrase can stand on their own because they capture the spirit and substance of the ether and ectoplasm in which this country inhales, and was/is birthed so well. My friends, do not forget that history's reach is long and deep: when Palin and the other members of the New Right Tea Party GOP talk about "real America" they are signaling to the following:

As politics freed all white people and ideology whitened the face of freedom, "free white males: seemed useless redundancy...During the nineteenth century, when "free white males" was losing its usefulness because fewer and fewer whites were not free, another phrase was coming into use, one with a much longer life, "universal suffrage."The United States was the first nation to drastically lower economic barriers to voting. Between 1790 and the mid 1850's the ideology of democracy gained wide acceptance, so that active citizenship was opened to virtually all adult white men, including most immigrant settlers...

All women, people ineligible to become citizens (Native American Indians and Asians), the enslaved, and free people of African decent outside New England continued to be excluded, as well as paupers, felons, and transients such as canal workers and sailors...In this situation, "universal suffrage" meant adult white male suffrage, though from time to time the definition of white came into question...

The abolition of economic barriers to voting by white men made the United States, in the then common parlance, "a white man's country," a polity defined by race and limited to white men. Once prerequisites for active citizenship came down to maleness and whiteness, poor men could be welcomed into the definition of American, as long as they could be defined as white--the first enlargement of American whiteness.

What a powerful irony. On one hand black folks are quintessentially American. Our music, culture, struggle for democracy, and weight of character and history, in many ways exemplifies the best of what the U.S.A. is and can be. Nevertheless, by tradition and habit, people of color are a perennial Other which Whiteness and the in-group as "real Americans" use to define themselves against.

As they say, "God bless the United States of America." God help her in negotiating her deep contradictions. Tell me my friends, what can we do to save her?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Honoring African American Civil War Soldiers, But Still Searching for the Myth That is "The Black Confederate"

There is so much right with what these brothers are doing, which is why I will tread carefully in my intervention--one, that as always, is based on my prime directives of the love principle and a whole commitment to Black Pragmatism.

Even while trying to free our minds, there is much gunk and debris nested in the consciousness of those who were once colonized, excluded, made the Other, or oppressed. Consequently, those narratives that serve to legitimate Power are often reproduced by the very same individuals who are resisting it. In much the same way that a fish does not know that it lives in water, black Americans often accept and internalize White dominant scripts, frames, and narratives about both our history and present. Thus, we often see our selves through the White gaze.

When those moments are present and reproduced--especially by black folks who are trying to generate a counter-narrative in the face of White supremacist fictions about the humanity of black people--they are glaring. Consider the following quotation from The Tennessean's piece "Black Soldiers Celebrated as Civil War's Forgotten Heroes," where one of the members of the 13th United States Colored Soldiers Living History Association observes that:
“It was a painful time, yes. But I want people to understand that African-Americans were not all slaves and property and mindless and un-ambitious,” said Norman Hill, a retired executive with the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain. “We were strong; we weren’t all just raggedy slaves. These men marched for what they believed in.”
For lack of a better phrase, that just hurts. The irony is grand: A black man channeling the ancestors' freedom struggle and expressing how manhood rights were earned, and freedom dues paid, in blood, yet still holding on to a white supremacist fiction of happy lazy slaves on the yee olde plantation, shiftless and weak, saved by the good graces of White civilization and the benevolent hand of the planter class.

When I see speak to, read about, or encounter brothers and sisters who know not the greatness of their legacy and struggle as Black Americans, I like to remind them of the following facts.

Would mindless and un-ambitious slaves have:

1. Created such a sense of peril because of their daily resistance to the slaveocracy that the South was a veritable military state, where it was law in many regions that white men had to carry firearms on Sunday to put down slave rebellions? Or fought back so often and with such fervor that the TransAtlantic slave trade, while a charnel house for its human cargo, was also one of the most dangerous jobs in the world for those crews who ran the floating dungeons?

2. Manumitted themselves by the tens of thousands, risking life and limb to flee Northward, be reunited with family and kin once sold off, or created an indigenous culture of resistance and survival?

3. Hired out their own labor, negotiated the terms of their relationships with their masters, and then lived semi-independently working as skilled craftsmen, who in turn would buy their freedom and that of their kin folk?

4. Upon liberating themselves reorganized the plantations, kicked their former masters of off the land, and in some cases whipped white slave owners as punishment for their barbarous deeds?

5. Instituted some of the most forward thinking and progressive governments in this country's history during Reconstruction? Served in the U.S. Senate and Congress with distinction, only a few years removed from the end of slavery? Become prosperous entrepreneurs, formed black Wall Streets, and created their own vibrant civil society?

6. Had an appreciation for the grand irony of liberating themselves, returning South wearing the Union blue, and quite literally turning their former communities upside down as Jubilee day had come in the form of black men, marching South, and turning the tide of battle against the Confederacy?

Sadly, some black folks are ashamed of their ancestors' struggles. They eye-roll and look down at the ground when that "slavery stuff" comes up. Some are ashamed and feel like they are the "losers" in American history. Or alternatively, that they are heirs to a tradition of defeat and are somehow a lesser people. I never understood those sentiments. Black Americans have triumphed despite unimaginable obstacles, took our freedom through acts small and great, and tried to save American democracy from the wicked inequities of its own poisoned, White supremacist heart. In short, black Americans saved the country from itself--and selflessly did so for the betterment of all people(s).

We must always be cautious, for in this triumph, and in the 13th United States Colored Soldiers Living History Association's effort to preserve that history, the ugly, dead hand of White racism still reaches out, wearing the glove of friendship as it tries to resuscitate Confederate nobility and the lie that is the fantasy of Redemption:

“It’s not just black and white. You might almost say there were shades of gray,” Hill said. Ruffin Abernathy went to war with his owner, Tom Abernathy of Giles County. He served as a cook with the 3rd Tennessee Infantry and later as a surgeon’s assistant. After the war, he requested and received a Confederate pension and lived the rest of his long life as a farmer near Pulaski, Tenn.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans approached the family, hoping to place a military headstone on Ruffin Abernathy’s grave as a belated honor. The family agreed, but the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs balked, arguing that because Abernathy was a slave, he wasn’t really a soldier. “They said he would be considered more like ‘equipment,’ ” Gordon said.

Instead, the Sons of Confederate Veterans raised money on their own to buy new headstones for Abernathy and 17 other black Confederates in the Pulaski cemetery. Gordon and her family attended the ceremony on Nov. 8, 2009, which featured cannon fire and costumed re-enactors firing volleys over the graves.

The re-enactors offered to present a flag to the family — a Confederate flag.

“I was sort of torn about whether to accept,” Gordon said. “I couldn’t see accepting the Confederate battle flag, but there was one flag they called the Bonnie Blue flag of freedom.”

And so the Sons of Confederate Veterans presented the family with the Bonnie Blue flag, a single star on a bright blue background. A star not unlike the North Star that used to guide escaped slaves to freedom.

“I thought, freedom might mean one thing to them,” Gordon said. “And it might mean something else to me.”

The myth makers of Whiteness and the flimflam artists of the Neo-Confederate, White populist, Tea Party crowd are always looking for The Black Confederate Soldier. Somehow, he/she washes away the formal and treasonous declarations made by the South's leaders. Most importantly, the unicorn that is The Black Confederate Soldier acts as a magical totem who rewrites the basic truth that the war between the states first and foremost hinged upon the South's desire (in the name of economic "necessity") to maintain a formal system of white supremacy and the permanent inter-generational bondage of millions of people, a group whose only crime was to be born black in a country where they had "no rights that a white man was bound to respect."

As I have written elsewhere, there is no nobility in either the Confederacy or their misadventure. The stars and bars was and remains a symbol of terrorism, treason, and violence. In total, those individuals who honor the Confederacy are celebrating rebellion and white bigotry. By extension, and across the generations, they have blood on their hands.

Ms. Gordon is a better person than I am, for I would have demanded that the Sons of Confederate Veterans stay far away from my ancestors' memory and the honored dead who struggled to survive, live, and triumph despite the wickedness of the White supremacist State known as the CSA.

In sum, it is great to see a group of African American Civil War reenactors who are taking some control of their own history. Making that legacy come alive is important. But, we cannot abandon the fight in the present for controlling the meta-narrative about our own history, or for liberating our minds and cognitive schema from the muck and mire that is White racism.

History is written in drafts. As Americans of all colors, let's at least make sure that we get this central story--that of the Civil War, race, slavery, liberation, and our unfinished democratic project--correct.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

She's Rolling Thunder: Sarah Palin isn't a "Motorcycle Mama", She is a "Leather Dyke"

Sarah Palin is a chronic panderer and attention whore. One of the least popular Tea Party GOP candidates, she is always involved in a project of self-(re)invention: From a failed TV series, to a movie extolling her patriotic virtues, and now her motorcycle mama phase, Palin is a grizzly bear that cannot stay out of the spotlight.

On a related note, Chicago hosted the International Mr. Leather (IML) competition this weekend. I had intended to go, attend some panels, and do some interviews, but other events interfered. Nonetheless, it was great to see all of the leather daddies out in force (as well as the curious and surprised eyes of tourists and others not in the know, as a young girl was overheard saying, "Why are all those men dressed as policemen daddy?"). Timing is everything. Such then, that Sarah Palin's desperate photo op at the Rolling Thunder rally signals all sorts of BDSM, kink, and fetish potential on her part.

[Consider, Sarah Palin is all into "bears." Now we see her in leather. Call me titillated, but I thinks that Ms. Palin could be a very naughty girl, the type you don't bring home to mother.]

I wonder what the founder of the Carter Johnson Leather Library would think of Palin's energy? I will have to ask her during our interview, which of course I will be sharing here on WARN.

Palin is such good sport. In honor of IML I couldn't resist using her as an entry point for a fun read on leather, kink, and sex. From Time Out magazine:

That's Ms. Leather Daddy to You

In college, as a member of a military fraternity linked to ROTC, Pony (not her given name) developed an interest in bootblacking—the act of caring for another person’s shoes while they’re in them (and the master-slave aspect that comes with it). Last month, after an exhaustive weekend of competition in San Francisco, the Rockford native was crowned International Ms. Bootblack at International Ms. Leather (IMsL), the world’s largest event for leatherwomen. The win took Pony completely by surprise. “I’m not a leather dyke,” says the openly bisexual titleholder. “I’m a girlie femme who wears pink ribbons in my boots.”

As part of her Ms. Bootblack duties, Pony comes to Chicago this weekend to support and coach the men competing for International Mr. Bootblack, part of the International Mr. Leather (IML) weekend. It’s her third appearance at Chicago’s annual fetish mega-event. Pony will be joined by another IMsL winner, Lamalani, a Seattle resident who took home the coveted International Ms. Leather title. “Coming from a Chinese background, I kind of held everything in and didn’t explore that,” Lamalani says of her fetish. “A lot of it is exploring my physical and emotional boundaries. It’s fun, it’s sexy and it’s hot.”

Pony and Lamalani are part of what they say is a growing community of women interested in kink and fetish. But unlike their male counterparts, leatherwomen don’t have neighborhood taprooms like TouchĂ© and the Cell Block to explore their interest. That’s okay, they say, because the leather community has been quick to overlook the typical divides between gay/lesbian and gay/straight.

“I’m bisexual and female, but my master is straight and male, and we fit in at all the leather events,” Pony says. “Because we identify as leather and respect the leather history and community, that respect is always returned to us.” Case in point: At Chicago’s fetish joint Jackhammer, people of all sexual orientations and gender expressions are welcome in the basement playground the Hole, provided they’re wearing proper attire.

Lamalani echoes Pony’s sentiment. “I really think it boils down to a leatherperson’s heart, spirit and energy,” she says. At last month’s Cleveland Leather Awareness Weekend (CLAW), “the leathermen were just open arms,” Lamalani says. “They didn’t see me as a woman. They saw me as a leatherperson. Because we are outlaws to begin with, we band together with other outlaws.”

Both women say this spirit of inclusion extends to IML, the second- largest leather event in North America after San Francisco’s Folsom Street Fair in September. Although they admit that no part of the weekend is aimed specifically at women, who attend in comparatively slight numbers, the event maintains a strong female presence among volunteers, bootblacks and the infamous vendor mart where women might get their fetish going in live BDSM demos or just man a table. According to Pony, the relative rarity of women gives her an added cachet. “My favorite part is the reaction of ‘Oh, my gosh, a real live girl. Can I touch you?’” she says.

But given that there’s no event geared specifically toward the ladies, why should women bother with IML? “An event like IML is really the alternative sexuality community’s World’s Fair, and everybody’s welcome,” says Pony, who, along with Lamalani and other women, can attend the IML and bootblack competitions, hit key parties like GearBlast and the MAUL Uniform Party, attend the Pantheon of Leather (an awards ceremony honoring men, women and clubs), and play alongside male counterparts. “Just the vendor mart itself is a reason to go,” Pony says. “To be able to buy whatever you need or want and have nobody look at you sideways for it is really quite a feat.”

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Ghetto Nerd Win: Quick Thoughts on Thor and an Interview with Idris Elba

Ghetto nerds on the rise again as it seems that we are everywhere, the new Renaissance men and women.

It took me a while to see Thor (by the way the Hangover 2 was so blah I fell asleep during it).

I am happy to report that it was giddy, playful, self-aware, and just fun. I also got to see what the hullaboo by the white supremacist Nordic God wannabes was all about regarding the casting of Idris Elba as the character Heimdall. Non-story--of course--as the mythos of the Thor film is such that people from another dimension/plane of existence/planets came to Earth and were adopted by humanity as gods leaves the white identity nationalist victimology crowd looking silly (as they almost always do) by default.

I am still worried about the bloated potential of the upcoming Avengers movie, but Thor's allusion to the Skrull and the Cosmic Cube are a move in the right direction by creating a threat so great that a super team would be necessary to get the win.

The Independent has a great interview with Iris Elba that is well worth reading in its entirety. He seems like such an arrogant, confident, navigating the world in an unapologetically Black way, brother that I can't help but smile. Iris exudes the cool in a way akin to Miles, it just radiates off the screen. A selection from Idris Elba: 'I'm So Hot Right Now':

He's appearing at a cinema near you now in Kenneth Branagh's comic book adaptation, Thor, in which he plays the Norse god Heimdall. The film is spectacular fun, yet Elba is given relatively little to do. So where are the leading roles? Doesn't someone of such undoubted charisma fancy himself for his own superhero franchise?

"I'd be lying if I said no," he agrees. "The dynamics of a superhero character are just larger. I've got a huge imagination, always had. I read Spiderman and The Incredible Hulk as a kid. (And The Beano, naturally.) So to imagine myself doing all that stuff is a real thrill. Thor is a huge, legendary comic book story and I wanted to be a part of it. Heimdall fighting the frost giants! It's just wicked."

His next film is perhaps the most promising yet. A few days after our interview, he's due at Pinewood to begin shooting Ridley Scott's Prometheus, the director's long-awaited prequel to Alien. The production is shrouded in secrecy, and Scott has even tried to play down its links to the original Alien story, but Elba is giddy about the prospect. "I'm ridiculously excited. I worked with Ridley on American Gangster and he is royalty to me. I was three years old when he first conceived the idea for Alien, but it's timeless. You look at the technology he was thinking about then: the robot characters, the mothership. That shit has lived on in movies, on TV. But Ridley was the first to do it."

By this time the two of us are sitting in a quiet pub – me sipping a Coke, he a Carlsberg – with fewer strangers present to witness my emasculation by association. In common with other alpha male celebrities I've encountered, Elba has the air of an entrepreneur; he's the CEO of his own personal brand. It's not entirely specious to compare him to Stringer Bell in this respect: the striving Bell was in the drugs trade, but his real business was himself.

Business, moreover, seems to be Elba's first priority. He has a nine-year-old daughter with his ex-wife, from whom he was divorced before he was 30, and a one-year-old son from another relationship. Beyond that, he says, "I try not to talk about my personal life. It's unfair for the people involved. Right now, I'm single by choice. It's a busy time, and it's hard to maintain a good relationship when you live in a caravan. Know what I mean?"

If you do want to know more about Elba's emotional insides, I would direct you to his personal blog,, which features a selection of his musical recordings, under the moniker Big Driis. "I might tell you some stuff as a journalist, but I'll be brutally honest in my music. People will know more about me if they listen to my lyrics."

Chuckle if you must, and others have, but Elba has been a DJ since the age of 14, when he would accompany his uncle and his uncle's sound system to weddings. He spun records to pay the bills when he first arrived in the States, has produced two solo EPs, and can now count Jay-Z, Angie Stone and Pharoahe Monch among his collaborators. His music – an accomplished mix of hip-hop and soul – has appeared on the soundtracks to Prom Night and American Gangster.

"I feel like [Kanye] West when he told [Damon] Dash he was trying to rhyme," he raps on "Take Mine", a hip-hop-literate riposte to his doubters. "2 Black 2 Strong", meanwhile, is as self-aggrandising as anything by West himself: "I'm so hot right now ... I'm a one-man Million Man March movement". There are some sensitive love songs, too, though these are offset by the likes of "Sex in Your Dreams", which begins: "I'm in that zone, bone hard diamond-cutter/ Dick thick, like homemade butter..." and proceeds from there.

Friday, May 27, 2011

In Light of the Obama versus West Fracas Let's Talk About First Principles: What Exactly is a Free Black Man?

Watch the full episode. See more Tavis Smiley.

Just when I say I am out, they pull me back in.

The gravy train keeps on flowing. Now Brother Cornel and Tavis Smiley are adding some closure to the "Is President Obama Black and Progressive Enough?" battle royal intervention/spectacle of these last two weeks.

In the above interview, Dr. West really did a great job of fleshing out some of his claims--and also displayed some intellectual Aikido and misdirection as he called out the "chattering classes." However, there are/is still a meta-level set of questions hanging in the air, questions that to this point have not been thoroughly explored.

Stated simply: first principles have not been satisfied.

This error in reasoning and argumentation has created an entry point for much of the back and forth bomb throwing on the West-Obama episode that has occurred on many websites...and of course here at WARN.

Ultimately, who gets to play the Black authenticity police?

More specifically, what and who is a free black man? What does it mean in this context to be free? What does it mean to be black? How does masculinity complicate the narrative? What happens when those words--which are laden with such great socio-political weight--are put together? What synergy occurs (or not) in that phrasing?

Help a brother out if you could. Many are building an argument based on notions of authentic negritude which are not being interrogated. Thus, unstated assumptions are taken as matters of fact (and agreement). To my eyes and training this is lazy thinking that we all should work to transcend.

So, let's have some real talk about our priors, first principles, and definitions--especially before convening a drumhead court on the deck of the USS Blackness for the purpose of convicting President Barack Obama of crimes either real and imagined.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sorry Mr. Heller, Marcus Rediker Demolishes Your Claim that Airlines are as Uncomfortable as Slave Ships

In seminars and conferences a half-cooked or ill-conceived idea is often politely greeted with either a "let's move on" or if there is something to be salvaged, a "let's springboard from there."

My response to the silly and childishly provocative essay by Steven Heller at Print magazine, where he suggests that modern domestic airlines have modeled their seating arrangements after those of the floating dungeon slave ships of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, is in keeping with the above protocol.

"A Curious Similarity" is banal. Because both the hellish slavers and Southwest Airlines both face an efficiency problem does not make the situation at all comparable. One could point out Heller's epic fail at length, but the best and most compelling ownage was the pithy comment on Print's website that:

Sorry, you trivialized it.
That’s like saying Auschwitz is like summer camp. Hey! They both had bunk beds!
You should thank Gawker for sending traffic your way. Congrats, you’re famous!

Heller is profoundly ignorant. That deficiency can be cured with effort. I suggest that he start with some Olauduh Equiano, Philip Curtin, Questioning Slavery and then move forward from there.

But, we can jump off from his foolish proposition and land somewhere more substantial and worthy of our time. I have mentioned Marcus Rediker's The Slave Ship: A Human History in previous posts. That book is devastating and the stuff of horror movies. His lecture--which is embedded above--captures the power of his work and is inexorable in pulling the listener into his prose.

Know your history folks.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Stanley Crouch Channels David Horowitz and Attacks Cornel West

Is the enemy of my enemy my friend?

Neatly tied together here, Stanley Crouch has chimed in on Cornel West's critique of Barack Obama. Interestingly, Grimace look alike Stanley Crouch defends Obama and the "blackademics" against West's charges that the President's policies are contrary to the good of the Black community.

While it was little discussed at the time, a year or so ago failed academic and bomb throwing polemicist David Horowitz attempted a beat down of Dr. West in a screed called "Hurricane West: Cornel West and American Radicalism." While possessing some pithy prose, Horowitz's assault was predictable and fit perfectly with his Right-wing victimology, conspiranoid fantasies of a Left-wing plot to destroy America.

To my eyes, what is funny/compelling/unintentionally ironic about Horowitz's vicious 2010 hit piece on Cornel West is that in many ways it is a mirror of Crouch's NY Daily News column of a year later.

There, as viewed through Horowitz's lens, President Obama is a dangerous Socialist Progressive anti-American who is in bed with and enabled by Cornel West's activism and ideology, where the latter is a fraud and con artist--he is apparently also an "academic entertainer" and a walking black stereotype:
There is no other explanation for the ability of a shallow, vain, and trivial intellect, a comrade of anti-Semites and violent racists and a friend to America’s enemies, to attain the cultural eminence that Cornel West has achieved....Cornel West can be seen on the one hand as a progressive version of the Stepin Fetchit stereotype — absurd in his stumbling efforts to impersonate an intellectual and to wear the mantle of a prophet of social change. But Cornel West is also the archetype of an American radicalism that has set out to destroy the American experiment, and whose favorite son now occupies the White House as its commander-in-chief. Viewed as a historic force that has conducted a 50-year assault on America’s institutional values and standards and that has driven America’s cultural decline, the progressive Left is a movement that masks malice towards its own country as a love for the world’s powerless and oppressed.
To Stanley Crouch, Cornel West is an out of touch activist type who is a huckster and academic circus freak who plays the over-educated fool for trinkets and gold:
Serious black intellectuals privately dismissed West many years ago as no more than an academic loudmouth with a good show business game. He has perfected a variety of poses - from academic to conciliator to rapper - that are intended to give the impression that a very substantial mind is mulling over something and will soon drop some rhetorical bombs that will blow away all nonsense. A staple figure in American comedy is the pompous, educated fool, drowning in narcissism. West has long fit the bill; Harris-Perry finally exposed him for those who didn't already know.
I hinted at this before, but will be even more direct at present. There is big money to be made in making sure that one gets their 30 seconds of air time on the Obama-West fracas. I don't want to scream that Horowitz, Crouch, and others are haters per se, but I would certainly whisper the suggestion at a decibel level high enough to hear.

The public intellectual controversy game puts money in the bank and butts in the seat. Thus, why so many want to suckle at the teats in order to move up to the lecture circuit, talking head "A-list." Those who sit in the pews of the Church of Black Authenticity Fighting Over President Obama's Politics need to be mindful of how in their worst moments the chattering classes and the Fourth Estate are (often) playing a game of Three Card Monty on the public.

In sum, the opinion leaders and taste makers do not necessarily care about the common good or the interests of the common man or woman for self-interest is their over-riding principle. We should all be mindful of that fact lest we find ourselves exposed, exhausted, and distracted in this time of national peril.

The Irony of the Black Freedom Struggle's Victory is That We Created a Generation Who Has the Luxury of Not Being Black

I have met so many black folks younger than me who identify as being anything other than what their racial selves actually are. Instead, these young people are "Hispanic," "mixed," "White-identified," "multicultural," "part Indian," or something else. I smirk, because in another age, not too long ago, they too would be up on the auction block with no qualifier given. And for the record none of them could pass the brown paper bag test. Riddle me that one...

In the present, these same folks have the luxury--because of the blood struggles of their ancestors--to run away from blackness. History is laughing, is she not?


I love me some Dr. Akbar. Each week or so I am going to be sharing some of his wisdom for those who are tempted to write off our "Afrocentric" brothers without engaging the knowledge which the best and brightest of them bring to the game.

My rediscovery of Dr. Akbar is pleasant and brings on a laugh or two (or three). As a young college student who was dragged with great resistance by his mentors to the Black Man Think Tanks and other such events across this country, I never would have imagined that in my later years I would come to appreciate the hidden truths and knowledge I was exposed to in those spaces. At the time, I thought those events were spaces of reified black masculinity and tired tropes born of obsolete people searching for relevance.

Now I realize that many young people of color, especially those born in the post-Civil Rights moment, are not equipped with the mental and spiritual armor necessary to deal with the psychic burden of blackness--especially as strength can often be turned into weakness by the forces of backstage and frontstage racism.

The multicultural dreams of their parents, peers, popular culture, teachers, and mentors have left them naked and vulnerable before the continued onslaught of structural and impersonal racism. Using a military analogy, old school bigotry was the massed firepower of artillery and the machine gun at the Somme. Modern racism is asymmetrical warfare that beats you with a thousand little cuts backed up by a single JDAM dropped at high altitude from a B-2 stealth bomber that you never hear or see.

My mentors left me prepared to deal with both types of attack. For that gift I am thankful...however belated I may be in offering love and respect.

The last few weeks' conversations about Obama, race, authenticity, and identity can all draw a direct line back to Dr. Akbar's brilliant observation about the trap of freedom and racial self-identification in the glow of the Civil Rights Movement's many successes.

It would seem that race as lived practice and identity in the Age of Obama is indeed a paradox, one that we are still sorting out. Is linked fate and a keen sense of what "black is and black ain't" a blessing or a curse? Is Cornel "blacker" than Obama? Is Cain a "real" black man? Is President Obama a Black president or is he a man who happens to be black? What do we owe to our children and to each other in teaching these lessons?

I am still groping for an answer. Perhaps, we can help each other find one together.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Raggedy Race Science Revisited: Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?

Lisa Lampanelli is white. She is also one of the most existentially and physically unattractive white women I have ever seen. What then to the hypothesis that whiteness equals beauty?


Apparently, beauty is not in the eye of the beholder. If Dr. Satoshi Kanazawa's "Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?" is to be believed, it is an empirical "fact" that can be arrived at through the scientific method.

When this story circulated about these Internets last week I did not comment on the big ballyhoo the resulted because it was uninteresting and a bit "meh" to me.

While I understood the hurt feelings, feelings by themselves are not a substitute for reasoned engagement (on that note, his colleagues and students are taking Kanazawa to the woodshed as they should). Moreover, I found it more problematic that Psychology Today quickly deleted the piece and through it down the memory well. That was cowardly, but they are in the money making and not the truth telling business.

Ultimately, Kanazawa's work is piss poor science and I did not feel the need to put on my wading boots. The argument as outlined suffers from problems of construct validity (is Kanazawa actually measuring "beauty" or something else entirely? Are his variables accurate? Are objective measures of beauty as gathered by subjective interviewers reliable or consistent?). The model that he offers is also misspecified (are the relationships between the independent variables correct?). I am not a stats head, but even I could catch those pop up fly balls.

The measurement of beauty is an interesting project and certainly worth exploring. But, and here is Kanazawa's critical error, the concept of beauty is laden with history and socio-political baggage. The notion of beauty is socially constructed and not a fixed or real thing; beauty legitimates certain regimes of truth; and like the race science of an earlier age validates the assumed superiority and assumptions of those who are both creating and administering the test. While trying to reduce this to a scientific puzzle, Dr. Kanazawa, a professor at the esteemed and prestigious LSE, should have known to pick up a few history and social science texts--and consult with his colleagues who study the history and philosophy of science--before endeavoring to explore the relationships between race and science.

[The fact that an Asian brother is conducting research that validates the beauty of white women--and what that says about internalized white racism and the power of Whiteness as normativity--is another dynamic that demands comment, one I will leave that to others.]

The idea of whiteness as THE beauty standard is centuries old. It was created at the nexus of the imperial and colonial projects to rationalize and justify the exploitation of the world by Europeans. The idea that whiteness equals beauty is exposed as a patent lie when the normative philosophy and race thinking underlying the assumption is exposed on its own terms.

To point, the following selection on the relationship between whiteness, beauty, and science from Nell Irvin Painter's great book, The History of White People:

White asks, "Where shall we find unless in the European, that nobly arched head, containing such a quantity of brain...?" The mention of brain leads to a physiognomy of intelligence that recalls Camper's facial angle; White continues, "Where the perpendicular face, the prominent nose, and round projecting chin?" He ends with a soft-porn love note to white feminine beauty that incorporates the fondness for the blush found in many a hymn to whiteness. White and Thomas Jefferson shared with many others this enthusiasm for the virtuous pallor of privileged women. White asks, "In what other quarter of the globe shall we find that blush that overspreads the soft features of the beautiful women of Europe, that emblem of modesty, of delicate feelings, and of sense? Where that nice expression of the amiable and softer passions in the countenance; and that general elegance of features and complexion? Where, except on the bosom of the European woman, two such plump and snowy white hemispheres, tipt with vermillion?"

Sadly, even in the 21st century there are many people who belong to the colored races of the world that both consciously and subconsciously embrace the idea that whiteness is de facto beauty.

It is funny then, that some may scream and howl at the offense committed by Professor Kanazawa, but how many of said protesters believe on a deep and existential level that he was actually correct? Thus, no small amount of Fanon mixed with Freudian projection is the 800 pound elephant in the room that few want to engage.