Thursday, November 10, 2011

Poetic Violence in Motion: Goodbye Uncle Smokin' Joe Frazier, Do Travel Well



An obligatory goodbye.

The 41 rounds that Joe Frasier and Muhammad Ali fought were poetic violence in motion. Their battles were exercises in grotesque beauty.

Rest in peace Uncle Smoking Joe Frazier. We judge our heroes by the battles they fought, by how their rivals forced greatness out of them. You were a crucible for Muhammad Ali. But you are not a footnote to history, you are a giant in the sport of boxing, and an object lesson in perseverance.

Muhammad Ali confessed to his confidantes that you brought him the closest to death that he had ever been. Together, you two walked the line. Now you have peace. I know you met death, your lover and intimate, with eyes open.

Peace.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Online Chronicles of an "Angry Black Man" in the Age of Obama: Why is Black Genius So Threatening to Some White Folks?



Writing online is a type of archiving. It is also a type of performance.

What follows is a bit of critical self-reflection, breaking kayfabe, and thinking aloud in public.

I always take a moment to step back whenever I write something on these Internets that riles folks up. When doing so, I ask myself the following: "Okay, if I didn't know the author, what impression would he leave me with?" "What are his politics?" "What 'type' of black man is he?"

He seems pretty reasonable to me, if at times a little provocative and playful. But crazy? Mean? Unreasonable? Not interested in "dialogue?" I just don't see it.

Thus, I am always surprised by the response of some folks to my online work, that in their eyes I am somehow "angry," or "upset." Black folks know that figure, "the angry black man" quite well--he is us, we are at times him. White folks know him too: he looms large in the American political and cultural subconscious, where instead of a 3 dimensional being, this angry black man is a bogeyman caricature, all huff and puff, irrational and rageful towards those innocent white folks who did him no harm.

Of course, there is much to be upset about in this world. And in America, much of this ugliness has worked itself out along lines of race.

Given that clear, plain on its face reality, I nevertheless remain surprised by the power that the very idea of the angry black man holds for so many. Intellectually, I get that white folks, and Whiteness at large, does not want to be forced to confront the righteousness of black anger. Why? Because to do so would force "uncomfortable" conversations about justice, one's personal relationship to white supremacy--and of course their investment in the normality of Whiteness with its White looks, White ways of thinking, White ways of knowing, and White ways of being.

For many, to take ownership over such a fact is the very definition of cognitive dissonance.

America is a country without a history. America has no memory of anything earlier than what happened last week. The historical myopia of Whiteness is no small part of that national personality trait, what is in all, a very bad habit.

I often smile when I read comments by readers who think that I am an angry black man. I am not. Life is too short to overly obsess over the curious ways of white folks. What I struggle and work towards is a holistic type of personhood; I simply want the freedom to be, to integrate every part of my self.

And yes, my blackness, and particular experiences as a working class black man of a certain age, a ghetto nerd, sensualist, reader, and citizen born in the post-Civil Rights moment at the time of hip hop's birth, is a significant part of my full humanity.

Because I love black people, and respect our accomplishments in the face of unimaginable obstacles in these United States, I am at peace, even while I see that there is much work still to be done. Because I understand how black folks helped to save American democracy from its own malformed, retarded, bigotry, I am made quite proud.

Back in the day we used to call that "knowledge of self." At present, I just call it a certain peace of mind.

When I wrote my open letter of sorts to the readers of the Daily Kos about liberal racism, Brother Akbar's words on the need to fully integrate one's self; to not have to ask permission from white folks to speak; to not need white approval when we want to sing our own "heroes" and "sheroes"; and to be unapologetic about demanding that democracy live up to its promises and potential, were echoing in my memory.

Black confidence, black pride, and black self-confidence is scary to many (if not most) white folks. For all of my reflection and research on the topic I do not know why. Of course, I intellectually "get" the ways that race, power, and structures intersect, and how "in-group" identity is normalized. But on a personal and emotional level, how can a people who have so much, who in essence run the world, be so easily upset by black folk's most simple, basic, human needs?

Ultimately, when we refuse to ask permission, we become angry black men and angry black women.

Why is this?

Please, teach me something on these matters. I am eager to sit back, listen, and learn.

What Ever Happened to Shame? Malcolm X Versus Proud Pregnant Black Teens



Hat tip to Rippa on this one. You do have to love Brother Denzel.

A provocative post.

What ever happened to shame? And wasn't shame a good thing when she kept our teen girls from posing bellies-exposed and taking pictures of what should be their private shame and circulating it online?

Please forgive me my old school respectable negro politics. Do pardon my pun, is this what radical sexual autonomy has "birthed?" Where did we go wrong as a people?

Or is this some type of co-parenting adaptive strategy among the underclasses where young women coordinate their pregnancies in order to be in an opportune position to share resources?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Navigating White Privilege and Liberal Racism: 10 Tips for Blogging While Black on the Daily Kos (and Other Predominantly White Spaces Too)



As demonstrated by hundreds of comments, it would appear that I am the object of no small amount of upset by some readers of the Daily Kos.
Am I surprised? No. My style of direct speaking, and commitment to always voice truth to power may not be everyone's cup of tea. That is okay.
As folks who have followed me over the last few years know, I can go all out and cut a damn good promo if need be; I also can move silently and do work with a scalpel; And at times I choose to use a garrote to ether my opponents.
In all, styles make fights and I try to use the right tool from the tool box in order to get the job done.
A few months back, some of my folks online encouraged me to check out Daily Kos and its fracas over race and blogging while black. I received emails from allies and friends asking about my thoughts on the matter, and if I were going to get involved. I'm not 'fam so I initially demurred. But, what I saw while lurking was enough to encourage me to move forward. I chose my time wisely and decided to make some small forays, to do some basic recon in order to get the lay of the land.
As Brother King and the other warriors in our glorious black freedom struggle realized, sometimes you have to shake the bushes to get the snakes out. At other times, you need to lay an ambush to get a sense of how your enemy will react.
I have long been a student of Whiteness. I am particularly interested in racism--and the many manifestations of white privilege--as performed by white liberals.
The latter are particularly fascinating on these matters because in our contemporary political imagination "racism" is something those "other people" do. White supremacy and racism are albatrosses and weights that hang from the necks of the Right, the false white populists, the Tea Party GOP and Birthers, racial reactionaries, and the bomb throwers and bigots like Buchanan, Limbaugh, Coulter, and Beck.
There sins are not "our" sins, in fact, a belief in anti-racism, and the merits of "multiculturalism," are the distinguishing marks of the contemporary left and progressives in the Age of Obama.
I knew what I would find at the Daily Kos. There would be some allies and perhaps even some friends. There would be those put off and afraid. Some would come closer and others would run away. That is the way of the world; Its diversity is a good thing.
I also knew that I would encounter white privilege, glaring examples in fact, that would further the thesis that Whiteness does real work in our society as it impacts all folks across the color line.
I always try to pass along what I have learned on my journeys to others. Here is a primer, a set of helpful hints for black folks (and other fellow travelers), who may endeavor to write about race, politics, culture, and power at the Daily Kos and other predominantly white spaces on these Internets.
Please do amend it as necessary.

10 Tips for Blogging While Black on the Daily Kos (and Other Predominantly White Spaces Too)

1. Every community has certain rules. The rule here is to be "respectful." Respect can also mean conforming, knowing your place, not rocking the boat, and staying on the approved script. Respect is also about power: who wields it; who makes the rules; who gets to decide what behavior is "inappropriate." In majority white spaces, those decisions and rules are always racialized. You probably learned those unspoken rules and life lessons as your guide for life, from a parent, elder, or other sage. Remember, those rules still apply online. Do update your Negro Motorist Green Book with entries about blogging while black at the Daily Kos.
2. Whiteness is ultimately about the maintenance of white privilege. White privilege can be understood in material, economic, legal, social, and political terms. The most basic manifestation of white privilege is the freedom and ability to determine how and when you will be uncomfortable, and under what circumstances. Thus, do not engage in any talk about race, white supremacy, identity politics, or other matters that may make certain folks "uncomfortable," "upset," "feel dirty," or "angry."
3. Your intellectual life, creative voice, and right to speak are subject to the demands of the chorus. You must get permission to speak. You must live for the approval of the (white) Kossacks. If you do not, then you will be marginalized, confronted, and told that your voice is not welcome.
4. To the above: remember that you as the Other are the perpetual teacher. Never forget that special burden. And yes, it is hard to be the teacher when your students will feign knowing more about these matters of life experience, history, and power than you do. Never forget, you are the little man behind the stove--even when others want to argue for an equivalence of insight and experience.
5. For blacks to criticize other black folks for their tom foolery, race minstrel shtick, or hostility to the empowerment of people of color, is verboten. You must speak in an approved tone that does not offend the sensibilities of white folks who may want to participate in the conversation. We live in the age of the black superpublic where there are no more "black spaces" for private talk. Moreover, the white gaze is real; never forget that your conversation and critique should always allow a space for Whiteness to participate. To do any less is both rude and uncivilized.
6. Race is always secondary to class. In fact, if we just stopped talking about all of this race stuff then our problems would be solved. Abandon intersectionality. Remember, it is always class--and you should forget that class location is a function of this country's racial hierarchy. Really, I mean it. Simply forget those inconvenient facts. Delete them now. Your life will be a lot easier.
7. The Right is lampooned and mocked for its "echo chamber" memes and tendency towards "epistemic closure." The Left has its problems in that regard as well. Be prepared.
The Freepers, Townhall, and Fox News types have "Socialist," "libtard" and "class warfare" as their Orwellian newspeak PC working conversation shutdown vocabulary. As an equivalent, many Kossacks throw about "racism" and "sexism" to marginalize those with who they disagree. Like their peers on the Right, most cannot define these terms. They are simply weapons of the lazy and the anti-intellectual. Avoid the fire, smoke, and distraction of those slow moving bludgeons by asking for a definition: most will disengage because they have none to offer.
8. The ban hammer and Daily Kos' "hide rating" is a type of cyberbullying and intimidation. Some rules appear "race neutral." In practice, we know that they are not. Tread carefully. Whiteness is a lie. Because it is a lie, Whiteness is existentially dependent on hiding the truth. The "HR" is a tool to that end.
9. There is frontstage racism and backstage racism. Frontstage racism is that which occurs in public. Backstage racism occurs in private, and in (often) all white spaces where people feel comfortable enough to let their guard down. Because racism has evolved over time, frontstage racism is heavily policed and a source of shame when the perpetrator is called out. Backstage racism continues on in the Age of Obama.
Because of their different political personality types, white liberals and white conservatives manifest racism and racial resentment in divergent, if not complementary ways. What they have in common is a type of racial heliocentrism, what we call "the white racial frame" which puts Whiteness at the center of all things. Conservatives are more honest about this fact. Liberals and white progressives are also paid the psychic wages of Whiteness, but they cash the check while feeling either very great guilty or grossly magnanimous.
10. Take the words of the Kossacks seriously for what they reveal about white privilege and liberal/left/progressive politics is invaluable. For example, on my post regarding Herman Cain's noxious race politics, the commenter Poetic Mind wrote that:
...a selection of uprates...well, my hr stands,I am still unconvinced: the presentation and the racialist undertones still make this post inappropriate for a progressive blog...sure, I am not African American, I may not be able to follow your perspective as an African American, but Dailykos has community standards and I still feel, you haven't met them...but in time with more posts you will probably understand what a progressive blog is really about... progressiveness is looking into the future, not getting hung up by the past!
Progressives are "race neutral." In fact, you need to leave the richness of your humanity and life experiences out of the conversation. Your Blues Sensibility and four centuries of experience in the New World, the Black Atlantic, and as the co-founders of this Republic, ought to be ignored. You are quintessentially American, but that essence is inconvenient. It may make some white folks uncomfortable: we are the envy of the world; but no one really wants to be black.
Ultimately, black folks are in need of a good lecture about the real meaning of "progressive" struggle.
We may have led the fight to improve American democracy and carried whole peoples and their struggles on our backs, but now we have sit at the knee of "the real progressives" and take our moment of instruction. Like John Lewis learned at an Occupy Wall Street protest, you best know your place and always ask for permission to participate.

Chauncey DeVega Versus Daily Kos: Liberal Racists Don't Fancy Black Truth Tellers Too Much



I have been doing an experiment over at the Daily Kos this last month or so. I have long been fascinated by liberal racism, and given what I heard about Daily Kos' war on black bloggers, it seemed the perfect time to do some recon.

Little did I realize what a productive and revealing experience I would have with the "Kossacks."

My post on Herman Cain's minstrel antics and Birth of a Nation has caused folks to stroke out. There are some defenders, but I may be banned in that neck of the woods very soon. At almost 400 comments later--yes I said 400--the ugliness and bullying continues.

If you have a Daily Kos account, please go there and vote my post "up" so that it will go on the front page. And do read the comments, they are a great insight into the pathology of white privilege as enacted through a liberal left "progressive" frame.

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: The Obama Administration Discusses UFO's and Louis Farrakhan Tells the Truth about Extraterrestrial Life



Farrakhan, aliens, and foreign news correspondents equals definitive truth telling.

Obama is a ghetto nerd for real. He lets the Centers for Disease Control issue a report about a zombie outbreak as a means to encourage the public to think about disaster preparedness. Now, the Obama administration issues a statement about U.F.O.'s and extraterrestrial life.

What's next? Will President Obama issue a statement on the Force? That S.H.I.E.L.D. is real? Do the shadow people actually exist? Was the Philadelphia Experiment real? Is Obama secretly using HAARP in order to make the Tea Party GOP act like fools?

The public demands to know Mr. President!

And by the way B-Rock, is Bat Boy chilling at the White House?

White House Says No Evidence of Extraterrestrials

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sorry, E.T. lovers — the White House says it has no evidence that extraterrestrials exist.

The White House made the unusual declaration in response to a feature on its website that allows people to submit petitions that administration officials must respond to if enough people sign on.

In this case, more than 5,000 people signed a petition demanding that the White House disclose the government’s knowledge of extraterrestrial beings, and more than 12,000 signed another petition seeking formal acknowledgement of an extraterrestrial presence engaging the human race.

In response, Phil Larson of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy wrote that the U.S. government has no evidence that life exists outside Earth, or that an extraterrestrial presence has contacted any member of the human race.

“In addition, there is no credible information to suggest that any evidence is being hidden from the public’s eye,” Larson wrote.

But he didn’t close the door entirely on a close encounter of an alien kind, noting that many scientists and mathematicians believe that, statistically speaking, odds are high that there is life somewhere among the “trillions and trillions of stars in the universe” — although odds of making contact with non-humans are remote.


Monday, November 7, 2011

A Birth of a Herman Cain Nation Moment: Cornbread Can't Help His Love of the White Ladies



A black Republican is accused of sexually assaulting a white woman. Sound familiar?

With his race baiting antics for the gleeful delight of white populist conservatives, Herman Cain is indeed writing history with lightning.

Yes, Birth of a Nation is such an obvious allusion that it demands to be done, even if it is in many ways quite vulgar. In all, sometimes we just have to put in work, and state an obvious and ugly truth.

To point: I do not know if the continued support of Herman Cain by the Tea Party GOP brigands, despite his being accused of sexually assaulting a white woman, is a sign of progress.

On one hand, not too long ago, a white woman's screams and false cries of rape were enough to justify a one way trip to the lynching tree. Herman Cain is still with us, and his campaign moves forward, despite--and perhaps even emboldened--by these accusations.



This is quite a puzzle. Herman Cain appeals to a part of the American electorate that is racially resentful, possesses no small amount of anti-black affect, likes black folks who know how to shut up and know their place, and who parrot the fantasies that the White Soul possesses of African American humanity.

Herman Cain fulfills the worst stereotypes and fears of black male predatory sexuality: he is the myth of the black male rapist GOP candidate made quite literally real. Yet, they still have his back.

Again, quite a riddle and mystery is afoot. What do you all think will happen with Herb Cornbread Cain? Is the continued support of his Tea Party GOP base a sign of racial progress?

Or do white conservatives have special rules for "their blacks," folks who are every now and then allowed the sweet pleasures of a white woman's alabaster thighs and tasty honey mead yoni wine?

Could the pass they have issued to Herman Cain actually be an ironic triumph of the hard bigotry of low expectations? Where Herman Cain can't help but to have "slipped up" because what black could possibly resist any white woman? Anywhere? At any time?

Random Notes: Chuck Berry's Sex Tape and Herman Cain's 4th Accuser to Go Public Today

I love it when a plan comes together. I predicted that there would be at least five women accusing Herman Cain of sexual harassment. As of today, we have a fourth, who (with Gloria Allred in tow) will be detailing good old Cornbread's naughty habits. I offered a prayer last week. I asked God if he/she/it could arrange that Herman Cain would be outed as a flasher who liked to expose "yee old godfather" to his female employees. Those answers will be forthcoming imminently.

My mind is a twisted labyrinth. For whatever reason, our speculations about Herman Cain's sexual proclivities made me think about Chuck Berry.

[Who knows? Perhaps, there is in fact a collective unconscious that links all people together, where in a Jungian mode, we all share a common set of signs, symbols, and cultural references.]

Whatever Herbie is accused of doing, he can be comforted by the fact it will in no way compare to the level of debauched fun that Chuck Berry indulged in while on the road.

Right?


IN THE EARLY 1990S, a friend sent me a short videotaped scene in which a man alleged to be Chuck Berry is shown pissing on a white woman and farting in her face. [See below for a complete transcript.] It was explained to me that Chuck Berry had been hassled so many times by authorities for sexin’ up young white girls while on the road, he took to videotaping all of his one-night stands as legal proof of consent on the girls’ part.

This explanation gained further credence when High Society magazine published eight photos of Berry posing naked with various women, presumably groupies. It was given further credibility in the early 1990s, when a former female chef Berry had employed at his Southern-Air Restaurant in Missouri filed a lawsuit claiming that Berry was covertly videotaping gals in the women’s bathroom using cameras placed at angles that gave aerial and eye-level views of the toilet. [The suit was apparently settled out of court.] And a few years back, Spy magazine ran a feature which described not only the piss-and-fart scene which I viewed, but also other videotapes containing alleged poop-eatin’ by Chuck and his various lady friends.

A year or two after I received the initial videotape, another friend sent me a Berry-themed tape called Sweet Little Sexteen. Lasting over an hour and a half, it contains the initial piss-and-fart clip, plus TV news blurbs about Berry’s restaurant lawsuit, and an interminable parade of hairy, inflamed, slimy, beef-jerky white-girl twats in disgusting clinical closeup, many of them pissing while squatting over motel-room toilet bowls. The tape tends to imply that these segments were all filmed by Berry during one-night-stands. During one sad-yet-funny scene, the feather-headed white girl tries sucking off a skinny old black male wearing only a white T-shirt [presumed to be Berry] for what seems like a half-hour, but he’s apparently too old or coked-out to get it up. He tries shoving his half-hard choco-worm inside her pussy, but it plops out limply each time. He finally retrieves a giant black dildo and rams it up her twat like he’s shoving a thermometer between a turkey’s legs. While she painfully squirms on the monster artificial dong, he cackles, grunts, and asks her things such as “How ya like that big dick goin’ up in ya?”

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

I DON’T REALLY CARE whether or not the man in these videotapes is Chuck Berry. Even if it isn’t, the fact that someone would go to the length of making it all up signifies that Chuck Berry is somehow highly relevant to American cultural psychology. So what reasons could he possibly have for pee-peein’ on all those poor dumb white girls?

My favorite Chuck Berry story involves shriveled Limey junkhog Keith Richards, who never played a note Chuck Berry didn’t play first. In the early 80s, Richards apparently went backstage at a Chuck Berry show and tapped him on the back of the shoulder, hoping to introduce himself. Before looking to see who it was, Berry instinctively hauled off and slugged him in the face.

Good for you Chuck. Shoulda pissed on him, too.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

ROLL OVER, BEETHOVEN—AND LEMME PISS ON YOU

The following dialogue was transcribed from a segment of videotape lasting a little over two and a half minutes. The action appears to take place in a motel bathroom. It begins with a white woman sitting in a bathtub, lazily scrubbing herself. The woman’s feathered-back blonde hairstyle suggests that the events transpired sometime in the late 1980s. Although the tape is blurry, and although surface “white noise” tends to muddy the sound, it’s credible that the warm brown blob of a man who suddenly steps into the bathtub is rock legend Chuck Berry. He is thin and bony, naked except for a classy gold wristwatch. His hair approximates Chuck’s greased-back black wool. His speaking voice sounds like Chuck Berry’s. But I have no way of proving it’s him, and I’m sure he’d deny it, so I have to throw in all these disclaimers.

CHUCK BERRY [allegedly, of course]: Are you bathing?
BLONDE WHITE FEMALE GROUPIE: Yes.
You gotta get clean.
Yes, I do.
You like to stay clean, don’t you?
Yes, I do.
You really do.
Mm-hmm.
I’ll give you somethin’ to bathe for. You know that? [stands up over her] I’m-a give you somethin’ to bathe for. See this here? [wiggles his dick]
Yes.
Yeah? That’s what you bathe with.
It is?
Kiss it...Kiss it...Again...Suck on it...You my girl?
Yes.
You love me?
Yes.
Very much?
Mm-hmm.
Mm-hmm? I’ll bet you do.
I do.
Well...You really love me? [begins pissing on her face]
[she gasps, surprised] I really love you.
Yeah? Put your hands down by your thighs. Take it. [she continues gasping as he continues pissing] Take it. Take it. Take it. Open your mouth. Open your mouth. [sound of piss gurgling into her mouth, then Berry unleashes a LOUD, long fart] You can smell my fart. Piss on ya, that’s what I’m doin’. Pissin’ all over you. Mm-hmm. You love me?
Yes.
Tell me you love me.
I love you.
Alright, then, drink my piss. Drink my piss. [grabs towel and hands it to her] Dry yourself off. Clean yourself off. How’s that piss taste, hmm?
Bitter?
Alright, alright, alright? Tastes bitter, doesn’t it? It’s salty, yeah, I know.
Yes.
You drank my piss.
Yes, I did.
Yeah. Suck this. SUCK IT. [she’s sucking and gasping and grunting as if in pain] Here, clean yourself. Clean that piss out of your eyes. Poor sugar, little baby. What’s the matter, baby? Did I piss in your eyes?
Yes.
Did I piss in your eyes? I’m sorry. There’s piss all over your neck and your hair. But you love me.
I love you.
I won’t betray you. I won’t betray you ever. Believe it. [leans in to kiss her, then stops] I can’t kiss you—it smells like piss.
I know.
I’m sorry. Clean yourself off. Take a shower. [he walks out of the tub as she turns on the faucet to clean herself]



Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday Fun: Uncle Jack the Good Darky, Herman Cain's Crooning Minstrel Confessional, and AMC's Hell on Wheels

I hope you are enjoying your daylight savings day and the extra hour for onanistic, sensual, culinary, drudgerous, painful, or obligatory deeds it allows. In all, today should be good fun. We have the New England Patriots seeking revenge against the foul and dastardly New York Giants; The Walking Dead, Dexter, Boardwalk Empire, and The Last Days of Osama Bin Laden. And of particular interest to this ghetto nerd history buff, Hell on Wheels will also be premiering tonight on AMC.

I have heard some interesting things about this show, and will most certainly be watching it through a race critical lens.

In my sojourns across these Internets in pursuit of my daily high, I came upon the following essay in the online magazine, Religion Dispatches. There, Professor Butler of the University of Pennsylvania, offers a great take down of old Herb Cornbread Cain, the Tea Party GOP's favorite bucking and ducking, shucking and jiving, new age race minstrel.

Of particular note: she does a great reading of the semiotics at work in Herman Cain's rendition of the spiritual "He Looked Beyond My Faults" at the National Press Club. Professor Butler's suggestion is that Cain basically admitted that he sinned and that his personal god had already forgiven him. Ultimately, and as I suggested here, Cain was able to deploy a script of forgiveness and penance to turn the tables of righteousness against those who would dare attack him.

In her essay, Professor Butler makes reference to a statue in Louisiana named Uncle Jack the Good Darky. As a young negro of a certain age I have never heard of good ol' Uncle Jack. I learned something today as his story is fit for an epic poem--or at the very least a good graphic novel.

I can also imagine a Boondocks episode where Uncle Jack the Good Darkie comes alive and reeks havoc on all who oppose him (or alternatively gets his hustle on and stars in a reality show on Bravo or BET). Uncle Ruckus and Herman Cain would seek the blessings of Uncle Jack, just to have him turn around and slap them across their collective mouths.

[If Aaron McGruder emails me for the actual script treatment, I will kindly put him in touch with my SAG affiliated agent].

The following story is great folks: it has all the requisite dramatic elements of racism, subterfuge, intrigue, and violence.

Once more, history is stranger than fiction.

The Journey of Uncle Jack

An 82-year-old sculpture has divided its life between Natchitoches and Baton Rouge. Now “Uncle Jack” is about to be moved again.

Erected in 1927 in northwest Louisiana, the sculpture was hauled three hundred miles to the Rural Life Museum (RLM) in Baton Rouge in 1972.

The life-size bronze sculpture on a limestone base was commissioned by Jackson Lee Bryan. It depicts an elderly African American man, shoulders slumped, head bowed, tipping his hat.

Bryan, a planter and banker in Natchitoches, envisioned a tribute to African Americans who helped build the South’s agriculture-based economy. He commissioned eminent sculptor Hans Schuler of Baltimore to create the piece, at a cost of $4,300.

Unveiled in May 1927, the statue bore the inscription: “Erected by the city of Natchitoches in grateful recognition of the arduous and faithful services of the good darkies of Louisiana.”

White people regarded the work as a tribute to slavery. The local paper noted that the Rotary Club had adopted a resolution “that express[es] the general Southern sentiment toward the faithful old slaves who took care of their masters’ wives and children and homes while the masters were away fighting to hold them in slavery.”

Even some African Americans approved of it. P. Colfax Rameau of Birmingham wrote to the Natchitoches paper: “Do not think it will be an insult to the modern, Christian negro. He will only say deep in his heart, ‘I wish there were more white men in the South of the cloth of the Honorable J. L. Bryan, and mob violence would soon be history for unborn white and black boys and girls to read.’”

Dubbed “Uncle Jack,” after Bryan, the sculpture became a landmark. Tourists took photographs of it, and tributes appeared in newspapers all over the country.

“Many white people in the parish have been nursed or served by the old-time ‘uncles’ and ‘aunties,’ and a warm regard remains on each side,” wrote the New York Times.

The National Geographic ran a photo of Uncle Jack. Postcards identified him as “The Good Darky,” and a poem by that name noted, “How faithfully he played his part, and with the fervor of his race/ Gave all . . . and then his heart!”

But not everybody was happy to see the first statue in town honor a black man, however humble. It was repeatedly vandalized by “paint pouring,” whitewashing, and even a reputed cross-burning.

Pearl Payne, 91, who was nine when the statue was erected, recalls that local African Americans “didn’t appreciate it. They took if for nothing good. There was controversy. It had a negative effect on our people.”

“I recall ire and dismay in the black community,” says Ed Ward, who grew up in Natchitoches in the fifties. “It brought forth negative feelings because it promoted a subservient and menial view of the race.”

With the sixties came racial unrest. Then-mayor Ray Scott got a telephone threat that the statue would be dynamited. “We were threatened with harm we had never seen before,” recalls Ward, a black businessman and civic leader.

In September 1968, city workers showed up in the dead of night to remove the thirteen-thousand-pound statue. Alerted by an anonymous phone call, Jo Bryan Ducournau, the daughter and heir of Jack Bryan, rushed to the scene to stop the imminent destruction. “She basically threw a fit,” says RLM director David Floyd.

“They were wrapping it in chains,” says Natchitoches historian Bobby DeBlieux. “It was going to be destroyed. [Ducournau] talked the mayor into taking it out of the ground without destroying it.”

Exactly how the statue was removed is shrouded in mystery. The Natchitoches Times ran a photo of the sculpture atop a bulldozer and a close-up of Uncle Jack with ropes draped around his neck, looking like a lynching victim.

The statue was hidden at the local airport, according to one account. Ducournau reportedly received many requests for it, including one from the Smithsonian Institution.

Four years later, Steele Burden learned of the statue’s fate, contacted Ducournau, and asked her to “loan” the statue to the Burden Plantation.

The Burden family owned five hundred acres in the heart of Baton Rouge. In the 1960s, they began giving the property to LSU in increments. Steele Burden had begun collecting relics of Louisiana plantations—plows, wagons, tools, even buildings, which he dismantled and hauled to Baton Rouge. He resurrected them on the Burden property, creating a collection that commemorated life in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Lousiana. By the early 1970s, it was called the Rural Life Museum.

The sculpture was moved to the RLM in 1972. Set in a landscaped spot selected by Burden, Uncle Jack appeared to greet visitors as they approached the museum by car.

In 1974, the loan became a gift. Burden added a second plaque to the statue’s base: “Donated to the Rural Life Museum by Mrs. Jo Bryan Ducournau.”

As visitors increased, the statue attracted more attention—not all of it positive. In response to a 1989 letter from State Representative Raymond Jetson complaining about the word “darkies” on the original plaque, LSU president Allen Copping wrote: “It was not possible to completely remove the inscription without damaging the plaque and the base of the statue. Instead, the staff . . . constructed a wooden frame to cover the entire inscription. . . . . I am confident that the modifications made to the base of the statue have eliminated the possibility of anyone being offended.”

The second plaque, added in the 1970s, was removed from its position higher up the base of the statue and screwed into the wood now covering up the original plaque.

A prominent visitor offended by Uncle Jack was writer Maya Angelou. In 1997, Angelou wrote: “Uncle Jack is the quintessential obsequious Negro servant. . . . The droop of his shoulders bears witness not only to his years but more specifically to his own understanding of his place as a poor black in a rich white world.”

In 1999 James W. Loewen wrote in the book Lies Across America, “This statue was from the start intended to be useful only to the cause of white supremacy. The [museum] has not used ‘The Good Darky’ to ‘provide insight into the largely forgotten lifestyles and cultures of pre-industrial Louisiana,’ the museum’s avowed purpose. No plaque gives any information about its history or symbolic meaning.”

Although the term “darky” is considered outdated and racist today, many recommended that the original plaque be uncovered and resume its place as part of the piece. “The word ‘darky’ is offensive, but consider the times,” says Kathe Hambrick, founder of the African American Museum in Donaldsonville. “You can’t change history. Every plaque that was ever made for the statue should have a label on it [for interpretive purposes].”

Another African American who supports the statue is Clifton Webb, a Baton Rouge native who first saw it thirty years ago. “I thought it was magnificently executed with a real sensitive feel for who this African American was,” says Webb, a sculptor who studied art at LSU. “It exemplifies [his] nobility. It could have been negative, but the man was beautiful; he had a beautiful face.”

As for the plaque praising “darkies,” Webb says, “I believe that you don’t just go around erasing and wiping out history. We need to understand that’s how things were. It should be there; it’s an opportune moment for education.”

With the RLM building a new visitor’s center, Floyd says the board of directors decided last summer to move the statue inside the complex of buildings to make it part of the tour given by docents.

When word of the planned move got out, many thought it would be removed entirely from the RLM. Floyd got calls and emails urging him to keep the statue. “I made a stand from the beginning that we would not get rid of it,” he says. “It’s a great opportunity to use it as a teaching tool.”

Meanwhile, Natchitoches wants Uncle Jack back as part of a planned museum in the Texas & Pacific railway depot downtown. Ed Ward, who once opposed the sculpture, hopes for its return. “It can be a stumbling block transformed into a stepping stone,” he says.

But not everybody in Natchitoches agrees. Pearl Payne, a retired teacher, is content to have it gone. “I would say no, you’re just bringing back something bitter,” she says. “It’s not good to open a can of worms. It’s better to just leave it away, since it’s been away so long.”

Ruth Laney can be reached at ruthlaney@cox.net.

Friday, November 4, 2011

More Bucking, Shucking, and Jiving: Herman Cain is the Koch Brothers "Brother From Another Mother"



Watch this video and circulate it before the Koch Brothers copyright monster yanks it down.

This clip is going to be the basis for many a commercial in the next few months. In the Age of OWS, a gross and near criminal maldistribution of wealth, and a mass public who are awakening to how the kleptocrats and financiers brought upon the Great Recession, the last thing a wise candidate should do is announce that they are the pawns of the Koch Brothers.

What does this appearance gain Herman Cain at this juncture? He must kiss the ring, but this knee-bending bit of political fellatio just seems very ill-timed.

Question: what negro folkisms and bits of black vernacular English will Herman Cain shuck, buck, and duck with next?

He has used "shucky ducky" already. Now we have "brother from another mother." If Herman Cain continues at this rate, the burnt cork will be brought out very, very soon.

Obligatory Cainage: Herman Cain Meets Marion Berry and Why Herman Needs to Confess that He Has Lust in His Heart



When I think of Black Walnut Cornbread Herman Cain's deflections and denials I can't help but think of Marion Berry. It is a small world. Perhaps they are cousins, or at the very least, members of a mutual admiration society.

Question: How many important events have been ignored by the news media this week because of Herman Cain's purported peccadilloes?

Nevertheless, he remains tasty, low hanging fruit that one cannot resist over indulging on--even at the risk of becoming horribly ill. The old maxim was always, "if it bleeds it leads." There is a cousin to that rubric. Sex sells. Race and sex and cartoonish black conservative pizza mavens sell even more.

Why? Even in the Age of Obama, race remains America's national obsession. Moreover, most voters are ill-equipped to talk about public policy with any degree of expertise. Because the masses are asses, and elites encourage them to remain in a state of stupefied ignorance, the public is attracted to sex scandals because the politics of the loins, and errors of Eros and lust, are topics that are universally relateable.

As the founder of Herman Cain studies, I offered an obligatory prediction regarding the total number of women who will eventually come forth and accuse him of sexual harassment (thanks owed to The Daily Beast for giving my over/under some shine). I have also uttered the heretofore obvious, but somehow still verboten:Herman Cain's accusers are white women.

As the weekend approaches, I will play Negrodamus one more time.

Conservatives, especially the Tea Party Christian Nationalist types who are Herman Cain's base, love a story of lust, corruption, falls from grace, and redemption. At this point, it is obvious that Herman Cain is guilty of something. My instincts suggest that at a minimum he stepped out on his wife a few times. In the worst case scenario, Cain got these women drunk and had sex with them--consensual or otherwise. Cain has lust in his heart. Therefore, he should be the fallen everyman and use his gift of melodramatic preacher pitchman Stepin Fetchit habitus to throw himself on the mercy of the Tea Party GOP public.

In another life, I worked in public relations and crisis management. If I had his ear, I would have told Herman Cain that the old school still remains the true school: the cover-up is always worse than the crime. Ideally, he should have gotten ahead of the story a week or so ago, issued an obligatory and vague statement, took the 24 hours news whipping, and moved on. We are past that point. Now Herman Cain has to do something a bit different to turn the tide.

If I had Herman Cain's ear, I would tell him the following.

Herman, you need to have a confessional. Unless you can have a third party silence these accusers, they are going to make a public debut. This will happen sooner rather than later. When the inevitable occurs, you need to channel your big tent preacher revival spirit. If need be, cry. The public is you. You are the public. We are all victims of a judgmental mainstream liberal media that wants to take down the only person who tells the truth. They defend Obama at every turn. The mainstream media, inside the beltway, East coast elites, are hostile to you because they are fundamentally dishonest. Herman, real America understands you. Play to this strength.

Communicate with your public: Don't let the media take this moment away from us.

Remember,"you," "we," and "us." Those words are your friends.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Thursday Prayer: Lord, Please Let Herman Cain's Accusers be Big Fat White Women



They say that you should never pray for personal enrichment or gain. Moreover, your prayers should be for the benefit of others. I am unsure if the prayer I am about to offer fits neatly into those guidelines. With the Great Recession, an anemic job market, and America possessed by an existential malaise, we could all use a good laugh.

So please don't blame me for what I am about to write. It is all my mother's fault, a little black lady from Shelbyville, North Carolina who pointed out that Herman Cain looks like a black version of Bill O'Reilly, and that he is likely a sex pervert who wants to have kinky sex with fat white women. She says that with no malice by the way, as some of her best friends are big fat white women.

Moms said I should offer up a prayer on that "website thing" I write on so that maybe God will answer it. I am a good son who cannot deny her anything.

****
A Prayer for Herman Cain

God; Krom; the Blessed Exchequer; JC Most High; Soul Brother Number One,

I have a favor to ask. I don't pray often and do not really have a tongue for it. I know you have my back as so many random things have happened in my life to my benefit that they cannot all be by accident. Yes, I am a bit of a deist and am a spiritual person. I have no interest in religion. I make no apologies as this is how you made me. In my heart I know what matters: you do intervene in life to make things right, when we help ourselves, and to smooth over the rough patches. I also know that you have a great sense of humor.

God, you are really creative. You made the universe and filled it up with dark matter as a type of joke on all us. You made aliens who travel between the stars just to put probes in people's butts. You put events into motion that created hip hop, the Wu-Tang Clan, and Biggie just to take it all away from us with coontastic minstrelesque Southern ringtone rap. You also made Halle Berry, Rosario Dawson, Zoe Saldana, and Rihanna. You have allowed an average guy like me to bed some beautiful women...just to eventually get tired of them. You are a trickster who makes bets with the devil just to prove a point about faith.

I have a favor to ask. The American people are really stressed out right now. We are trying to find a way in the world, and so many of us are hungry, scared, and worried about the future.

There is a good amount of evidence which suggests that laughter is actually healing for the body and the soul. It would make sense that you designed us that way.

I know that you are very busy, and maybe will have to delegate this to an intern, but please, if at all possible, could the women who were sexually harassed by Herman Cain be big fat white women? You know I have love for all of humanity. But, the visual of new age race minstrel Herman Cain chasing around a big fat white women would be a joy to behold. Yes, I know that stereotypes are wrong. I also know that they can be really funny.

One more quick request.

If you are feeling especially generous, could Herman Cain have also exposed himself to them, or offered up some flirtatious innuendo fit for a Moms Mabsley, Dolemite, or Lawanda Page?

Thank you, the American people could use the laugh.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Three is His Lucky Number: Four Questions on Herman Cain's Angry Black Man Sex Scandal



[There is a new poll up on the sidebar for those so inclined]

The men in white coats are coming to take him away. What a priceless image.

Pimp mack daddy Godfather Herman Cain is grumpy. I think he needs a nap.

An observation: President Barack Obama is not allowed to get angry lest he be called an "angry black man."

First question: will Herman Cain's momentary channeling of Sam Jackson be interpreted by his allies as proof that he is a "strong black man?"

Second question: There is a third woman accusing Cain of acting inappropriately. By the time this winds down how many accusers will there be in total? I say no less than five and no more than 7.

Third question: With each accusation of sexual harassment Herman Cain becomes more popular with his base. Is this a tipping model? Will Herman Cain's stock soar until it reaches a crescendo where his fly by night, thumbing of the nose at those liberals and feminists, becomes even too much for Conservatives to tolerate?

Fourth question: That which lingers but has not yet been broached...are these women white?

A Perpetual Line Stepper: Cornel West Wants to Go Upside Ron Christie's Head on Real Time with Bill Maher



Someone suggested that I sound like Ron Christie. I don't hear the resemblance as I am much more chocolaty and sensual, a mass of impenetrable negritude that calls women to me like a black hole in outer space beckons passing starships.

If "their" blacks are indeed better than "our" blacks, Ron Christie's appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher does not do their team much credit at all. I am all for ideological diversity, but I have to wonder at what point does personal integrity--or even intellectual honesty--become a variable and decision rule for talking head conservatives. Christie consistently talks out of both sides of mouth; this interview is no different, as he spins and offers nonsense talk in an effort to undermine President Barack Obama.

The Maher interview is also a great example of how punditry is a performance, especially in this example where Christie and West are both channeling their own respective types of negritude.

Cornel is the afrodemic superstar philosopher cut from the cloth of DuBois, who appears in movies, and produces unnecessarily dense prose in an effortlessly magical act of intellectual and philosophical creation. Christie is the approved and safe negro who is non-threatening, and operates from the head, and certainly not the heart (or the loins). He is passionless. In all, Ron Christie's blackness is his own interpretation and performance of Whiteness.

West is certainly clowning during this interview when he feigns wanting to knock Christie upside his head for being a perpetual line stepper. But, who do you think would win in a fight? Christie seems very traditional to me, the type to operate under the Queen's rules like a late 19th century era pugilist. West, an emcee and street intellectual, could get a little gangsta and gully if he so chose. Christie has youth; West has age and wisdom.

Who wins?


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Please Stop the Lie, Herman Cain is Not Being Lynched

Herman Cain is being questioned about reports that during the 1990s he sexually harassed several women and his employer paid them hush money. The Right, who (re)discovered white victimology and grievance politics with the election of President Obama, and racism with their embrace of Herman Cain, have now deployed the "high tech lynching" oeuvre.

Clarence Thomas introduced that ugly phrase into the popular imagination with his pleading, desperate defense against sexual harassment charges during the Anita Hill scandal. Since that moment, it has become a type of lengua franca for black conservatives and their defenders.

Ann Coulter has used that ugly language to defend Herman Cain. Rush Limbaugh has used that ugly language to defend Herman Cain. Herman Cain himself has feigned martyrdom and invited a high tech lynching as proof of his bonafides as a black conservative.

The history of African Americans is a plaything for the Right and black conservatives. They pretend that Dr. King would have supported them, that the Democratic Party is a plantation, and black people are zombies and brainwashed fools--as opposed to a radically democratic and revolutionary people whose struggles have forced American democracy to live up to its potential and creed. Thus, the use of the phrase high tech lynching by conservatives, and their black lapdogs, is in no way a surprise.

A lack of surprise at their abuse of language, and distortion of history, is not a defense; nor is it an excuse. Herman Cain is not being lynched--be it by "high tech" or "low tech" means. Black conservatives are not being lynched--be it by "liberals" or other black folks.

If conservatives are willing to evoke the ancestors, and a very dark, twisted, and troubling history to make a cheap political point, they ought to be willing to look into the face of the very legacy and reality they reference.

To point: the political action committee Americans for Herman Cain has circulated an email provocatively titled "Don’t let the left ‘lynch’ another black conservative." This letter is intended to rally the troops in a spirited defense of their chosen son against an evil mob that would do him harm, hanging him from the lynching tree, where he would dangle like so much strange fruit.

As an experiment and object lesson, I am going to mate Herman Cain and his ally's pleas for money with some actual images from America's century-long history of lynching. Perhaps this simple act will expose the ugliness, cowardice, and disrespect that Black Conservatives and others have for the history of African Americans (and our struggle for full freedom and equality across the Black Atlantic), when they play with the language of racialized violence and slavery.

Folks often forget that words are violence. When Herman Cain and his allies utter the phrase "high tech lynching" they are committing a violent act. The tragedy for Herman Cain is that his allusions to lynching are a type of self-inflicted wound against the black community, a group to which he has some ostensible attachment.

I am troubled by that fact; However, I am more disturbed that Herman Cain, a child of the South, and Jim and Jane Crow, may not understand the harm that he does to himself, and to others, when he cries that he is a victim of human barbarism, most gross and most cruel.

I have a request. Herman Cain, please get the phrase "high tech lynching" out of your mouth. Please, tell your alllies to do the same. You are not being lynched. Nor, are you under any such existential threat.

Is a picture worth a thousand words? I suggest that it is...

Don’t let the left ‘lynch’ another black conservative

Patriot,
They’re at it again. The left is trying to destroy Herman Cain - just like they did to Clarence Thomas.
They are engaging in a “high tech” lynching by smearing his reputation and attacking his character.
The idea of a black conservative like Herman Cain as the GOP nominee is Barack Obama and the Left’s worst nightmare. That’s why they will do anything to take him down.
As the leading pro-Cain committee, we intend to fight back by launching one million phone calls in Iowa to defend Herman Cain. Will you join us?
The left wing have told Conservatives they have to pick Mitt Romney, despite his flip-flops on abortion, immigration, gun control. They’ve told us he’s more electable, ignoring the fact he’s lagging behind in the polls after 6 years of campaigning.
Let’s send a clear message to those who would like to tell us what to do. Let’s stand up against those who would like to take down any black man who stands up for Conservative values. Join “Americans for Herman Cain” today and support our efforts to fight back.
We have a real choice this time: Herman Cain. Will you help him today?
It’s days like this that reminds us why we launched “Americans for Herman Cain,” a project of 9-9-9 Fund.
Herman Cain has grassroots support. He has the poll numbers. He is a conservative. He can beat Barack Obama. Now it’s our job to propel him to victory in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina, Florida, Michigan, and Arizona.
We’re going to do everything from TV ads, voter mail, advocacy phones identifying Herman’s supporters, to get out the vote programs. But we can’t do it without your help. We’re fiscal conservatives like you, and we won’t waste a dollar.
Will you help us by helping fund part of the one million phone calls we are starting ASAP in Iowa? Will you help us elect a true conservative outsider in the mold of Ronald Reagan to the White House?
Together, we will take our country back.
For America,
Jordan Gehrke
Campaign Director
AmericansforHermanCain.com