Gots all this stuff twirlin' about in my head.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Gots all this stuff twirlin' about in my head.
My rebuttal is predictable and direct: race and racial ideologies are no sideshow in American politics; how can they possibly be peripheral to OWS?
This is especially true as OWS works to define its movement culture, and to make sure that parallel efforts such as Occupy the 'Hood are included within their broader agenda.
Some have accused the Occupy Wall Street Movement of being the product of grumpy angst by generally entitled and privileged white folks who are upset that they are now getting a bum deal. In all, from this perspective, OWS is a version of the white privilege temper tantrum performed on a national scale.
In turn, this assertion leads to the following question: where were the OWS folks when black and brown people were catching hell for decades, as globalization and deindustrialization ravaged our communities, and punched upward mobility and wealth accrual in the gut?
These are fair questions that need to be addressed...and answered by OWS and its advocates. The following is an effort to further that discussion.
On occasion, I work through the hermeneutics of political "texts" that I find online or in print. The following open letter, which is now circulating around the black blogosphere, is quite provocative as it raises many questions that are more than worthy of no small amount of critical engagement.
As is my habit, comments follow in brackets and in bold.
[The branding of the OWS movement has been very effective. Who could reasonably agree with such a stark divide where the 1 percent (them) is doing amazingly well, and the 99% (the rest of us) are doing so poorly during the Great Recession.
However, this slogan hides more than it reveals.
For example, the biggest divides in wealth inequality, the ownership of financial instruments, and those who benefited the most from the Bush era tax cuts begins at the top 10 percent of earners. Moreover, if you want to see where the real action is in terms of America's kleptocracy, one should focus their attention on the top 1/10 of 1 percent of earners who are recording unbelievable gains while the American workforce in mass has seen its wages stagnate for the last 40 years.
When we use the language of the 1 percent, how do differences of race play into this narrative. The top 1 percent of black and brown folks are doing less well than their equivalents in White America. Does this complement the narrative? Or does it complicate it, because while the black and brown elite may be doing much less well than their white peers, both are still invested in the status quo...or are they?]
You suckers thought that you were so special, ennit? You thought that your heineys were just that much better and softer and more supple than all those poor people of color, huh? There was never any discussion of the “99%” for the past 400 years while Native lands were stolen, Native people were exterminated, black folks were enslaved, Latinos were gerrymandered, Japanese people were placed in internment camps or Arabs were sexually groped, fondled and heavily-petted at airports. No problem, right?
[Yes and no. Wealth accrual and inter-generational transfers of resources in this country have for centuries been racialized. As professionals in sociology, political science, and economics have repeatedly observed, race in America is also a story of wealth--who had it, had access to it, and could pass it down--and then reproduce its benefits for themselves and their descendants.
Scholars such as Joe Feagin, Manning Marable, Ira Katznelson, Eric Williams, Omi and Winant, Oliver and Shapiro, and others have done a wonderful job of tracing out these contours. White folks, both native born and immigrants knew this game. To not participate in it would have been morally and ethically sound (perhaps), but ill-advised in terms of crude self-interest. Who the hell is going to run away from free money?
Whiteness involves being an active signer to what Charles Mills smartly describes as the Racial Contract (or for whites in mass, at the very least being tacit beneficiaries of it). Once you make the bargain those "inconveniences" of history become just that, facts and incongruities to be avoided lest too much uncertainty (and responsibility spawned by introspection) occur.]
There was never any discussion of the fundamental imbalance of power on this continent and inherent unfairness of the trickle-up economics for the past few centuries as the aforementioned groups were only seen as a source of labor for powerful white male interests. Not a word.
Because you thought you were special. You were immune to that. That little issue didn’t involve you.
[Always be careful whenever you insert "never." There were many folks, across the color line, who understood the damnable imbalances of power in this country, especially as they overlap with gender, race, class, and other types of identities. Taken in total these disparities reveal the naked lie that is the American creed of upward mobility and the Horatio Alger myth.
Folks often want to deploy the "they were products of their time defense." Avoid it. Run away from it. The premise is absurd and weak.
Whiteness does involve being special. Historically, it was the cultivation of white mediocrity and the prize for European "ethnics" assimilating into "Americanness." Part of that bargain was to distance oneself from black people, and to look askance at, as well as socially distance oneself from, most people of color. European immigrants deeply--and others as well to this day--understood that to be "White" pays a material, financial, emotional, and psychic wage.
Whiteness is special: it got you low interest loans; it got you the G.I. Bill; it got you a job in a factory with a living wage; it got your kids into college and good high schools; it got you membership in a privileged class.
White folks knew exactly what they were buying into. Do not remove or take away their agency.
There is a reason that white Americans have on average 2 dollars for every 10 cents that blacks and Latinos possess: the State was invested in subsidizing their enrichment and advancement. The wages come with a natural defense as well, where the beneficiaries of White privilege can proudly announce that "their family never owned slaves" or "my grandparents were immigrants."
Guilt free. Hands clean.]
Now, you see that these powerful white males do not care about you either. Now you see that they will—just like they did to “us,” all people of color in this country—extrapolate every single ounce of energy, money and value out of you, your kids, your wife, your mistress.
[We need to ask hard questions here. Historically, elites have not treated their social lessors well. More specifically, Europeans were barbaric to each other across lines of class--in the work houses, in the factories, with indentured servitude--long before they got to the New World and discovered the "blessings" of African labor, chattel slavery, and genocide of indigenous peoples.
We need to define terms. Who are the "powerful?" Who is "white?" How does gender play into this--do not let white women, as beneficiaries of Whiteness and white supremacy too, off the hook so easily.
Here is another challenge. The global power elite numbers only a few thousand. Do they even care about race? They are transnational. Their concern is Capital and finance. Most certainly, race and these other issues of identity and in-group superiority may matter for the middle managers and other lowly administrators in this game. But, do you think that those who are really moving the pieces on the chessboard are at all concerned with such parochial and local interests as race, gender, and sexuality?]
After they do that, they will throw you away, fire you, lay you off, send your job to Mexico or India or someplace else where they can do exactly the same thing to those poor schmucks. Only they’ll do it for much less money. Now, you’re beginning to see that and so you started to call yourself the so-called “99%,” because you realize that you’re not so special at all.
[This is old school for black and brown folks. Hell, listen to classic rap song The Message. We were on to this con game decades ago.
When White America gets a cold, black and brown Americans get the flu. But, what of poor rural whites? What of those folks in the rust belt? On the 'res? How can we work together with them, to find common class interests across the lines of white identity and the wages of Whiteness? Where historically most members of the white poor and working classes have chosen racial affinity over class alliances with people of color?]
Stupid white people.
[The masses are asses. Are white folks any more or less stupid than any other group because of their "skin color?" No.
But, Whiteness does encourage a type of willful historical ignorance, myopia, blind denial, and short shortsightedness. Whiteness has paid white people as a group--for the most part--a type of psychic wage from group belonging. This has come at a moral and ethical cost. Most folks, not because they are White, but because they are lazy, dim witted, and painfully human (and comfortable on the sidelines of history) will not be self-reflective enough to work through the ledger sheet of race and their soul's debit; what is the blood on their hands from the benefits of "benign," "colorblind," white supremacy in the Age of Obama.
In fact, there are still white folks who believe silly fantasies such as this School House Rock video about Ellis Island, the melting pot, and European immigration. There are others who are race traitors, and as such, know the score. The latter have always been with us and on the right side of history. They are down like John Brown. Real warriors.
The question becomes how to move the lazy and settled middle.]
The punch line though? You were always part of the 99%.
[Yes and no again. In absolute terms they were not elites. But, they could feel superior and special by signing restrictive housing covenants; joining the KKK; becoming cops so they could beat a colored, a Mexican, a Chinaman, or an Injun; lynching negroes; and rioting against efforts at school integration in and around Boston.
The system needs to maintain the appearance, and historically for whites, of upward mobility. The system also needs the appearance of inclusion in order to make those who have bought into it psychically invested in the merits of their own hard work, because of course those other people can't succeed because they are "lazy," "un-American," or have "bad culture."
Remember: Success is easy in America. But, only if you work hard enough for it.]
Those powerful white interests love you as much as they love me. Which is to say that they love you about as much a man loves a pregnancy scare from a one-night stand. None. Zero. Idiots.
[Is this the money shot? Sorry, I couldn't resist...]
The bad news: You’re not special and unfortunately you’re just now beginning to realize that. The good news: well hell, at least you’re beginning to realize it now. But those are the two reasons that people of color have not joined this movement en masse: #1 We cannot believe that you were so stupid to not know that you weren’t special and that these powerful white male interests were just using you, and #2 we want to make sure that you gullible sheep will not, as soon as those powerful white male interests try to buy you off with giving your job back with the little benefits and 401k, forget about all of us poor people of color who have been suffering for years.
[Those white folks who are race traitors, critical thinkers, and visionaries who see globally and were long onto the neoliberal con game will get you. But again, most people are profoundly mediocre. Do not forget your audience: Whiteness is profoundly ahistorical; it is literally without history. To ask most White Americans to think about structures, institutions, and power, is a challenge, because to be white, is to be the quintessential individual.
In all, to get the privileged "I" to think structurally is quite difficult, if not impossible, in the long run. Some of them are coming around. I would not hold my breath waiting for the others as it may take an even bigger system shock than the Great Recession to wake them up. But by then, it may be too late.]
We are the faces at the bottom of the well, the very bottom of the 99%.
We are the 99th percentile. The bottom.
[Who is "we?" Who is "the bottom?" Please clarify your terms. Do these cohorts include people of color who are part of the elite? Be mindful of assuming a sense of linked fate or group affinity. These assumptions can lead one to misunderstand how class interests can overcome race, gender, or other assumed intra-group markers of affinity.]
We’re attracted to the movement, but we need assurance that you’re not gonna just up and leave and get tricked again, like you did before.
Now the invitation: we will join you. We are attracted to this movement. We want to join you. The truth is that we need this movement at least as much as you do. The truth is that we want to make something very serious and very permanent happen for the betterment of all poor and middle-class Americans—Native, white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Arab, everybody! The truth is that you have always been our brothers and sisters—you just didn’t know it. But we need to know that you’re serious. And what we mean by “serious” is that you aren’t going to back to thinking that you’re part of the 1% again and forget about us. You are not. We are in this together, whether you, my white brothers and sisters, choose to acknowledge it or not. We’re waiting.
So what’s it gonna be?
[I will let these paragraphs stand on their own. To reiterate the author's claims, please tell me, what is it going to be?]
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Watching the Vietnam War in HD: General Nguyen Ngoc Loan Executing a Vietnamese Officer was "Right"--He was Also "Wrong"
If you are not watching the History Channel's miniseries event "Vietnam in HD," you are truly missing out. The World War Two HD series was unsettling because the original black and white footage was "colorized." This made the events seem more real. The Vietnam War is closer to the present in terms of decades. Ironically, the high definition enhancement makes the events seem surreal.
Friday, November 11, 2011
We Were Always "Men": A Wealth of Dignity in the Civil War Era Photographs of African American Soldiers
He Lives to Rape History: Herman Cain Yearns For the Good Old Days of Jim Crow and "Small Government"
Herman Cain on the stump in Kalamazoo, Michigan. So very sad.
It is a small world. I lived in Kalamazoo, Michigan for a year. There, I would far too often enjoy the lovely evening of a 5 dollar movie, some jazz at the Union, and then a few beers at Burdicks.
My night out on the town would cost me less than 20 dollars.
Kalamazoo was a sad, but dignified place. It was a once prosperous community with beautiful homes from the Gilded Age. Like so many cities across the Rust Belt, Kalamazoo went downhill because of deindustrialization and other changes in the economy that were to the disadvantage of the American worker.
As a measure for comparison, I had an apartment in "the 'Zoo" that cost me about 600 dollars a month including utilities. The same apartment would have easily cost, at a minimum, 2,000 dollars a month in Chicago. Alas, given how inter-generational wealth transfers are to the disadvantage of folks of color, if I had parents to hit up I would have purchased that palatial domicile in a second if afforded the opportunity.
Thus, to hear Herb Cornbread Cain preach the neoliberal, small government, gospel to folks in a community that has been destroyed, precisely by such a civil religion, is more than a little bit off-putting. I shake my head as folks cheer his policies. But, I vomit in my mouth to hear him--once more, as he always does--rape history.
[Do the math. If Herman Cain's pappy walked off the farm in the early 1940s at (let's guess) 20 years old, his parents may have been--and his grandparents most certainly were--born as slaves. How did the free market and the "American Dream" of deregulation help them? Are his supporters that dim? Or are the masses just generally asses?]
It is not only because I am a student of history that I find his allusion to the glory days of Jim Crow, sharecropping, and racialized debt peonage offensive. Rather, it is my common sense.
How can any person, of any reasonable sense, conjure up a story about the evils of "big government," and a racist labor market, as a means of talking about the Horatio Alger myth of the "good old days" relative to blacks in the Jim and Jane Crow South during the 1940s?
I rarely, if ever, use profanity. I will break that rule today: Cain is huffing bullshit as he relays a story that is designed to please the mouth-breathing, upright walking, White conservative populists who are his base; there is no way that even Herman Cain can believe such a noxious fiction. Utterly impossible.
Herman Cain, race minstrel extraordinaire, is truly a performance artist: there are few if any other explanations for his Koch brother funded Bojangles routine.
Folks, he is slouching far past Gomorrah. As a professional Herman Cain watcher, I predict that he is soon about to go somewhere which will leave you shocked--but not at all surprised.
Herman Cain's, "slavery was good for black folks moment," is not too far ahead. You are now forewarned. Be prepared. And do set your clocks by that prediction.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
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.
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.
...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!
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.
Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: The Obama Administration Discusses UFO's and Louis Farrakhan Tells the Truth about Extraterrestrial Life
Monday, November 7, 2011
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?
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.
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]
Yeah? That’s what you bathe with.
Kiss it...Kiss it...Again...Suck on it...You my girl?
You love me?
Mm-hmm? I’ll bet you 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?
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?
Alright, alright, alright? Tastes bitter, doesn’t it? It’s salty, yeah, I know.
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?
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’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
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].”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.