Friday, January 27, 2012

Brother Cornel West Brings the Ruckus at the "Remaking America: From Poverty to Prosperity" Conference

I love a good performance. An admiration of a great performance does not take away from its meaning, weight, teaching, or importance.

Brother Cornel West brings it in this keynote address at the "Remaking America: From Poverty to Prosperity" conference.

Truly he does. Dr. West's lecture is sharp, enlightened, multi-leveled, nuanced, and entertaining. Make no mistake, Cornel's speech is well-practiced; yet, it proceeds forward by marshaling the illusion of improvisation and inspired spontaneity. Trust, his speech is practiced, deftly so, and repeated and refined (over and over and over again).

For lunch, I am going to eat a Quizno's sandwich, drink a Coke, and study up on what Cornel West pulls off here. I love great emcees; I admire great workers in professional wrestling; one day, years in the future, I would like to be able to channel a small percentage of Cornel West's oratory skill.

Entertainment can equal education. In combination, they are "edutainment." It is okay to indulge. Intellectual sugar highs are fine...if you follow them up with a trip to the archives and some deep reading to get to the root of the argument.

In all, Brother Cornel is hot on the set here.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Racism Chasing? Republican Mark Oxner's Campaign Ad Features a "Slave Ship" the USS Obamaboat

I will let you all arbitrate the semiotics of this ad.

At least Mark Oxner's people had the good sense to make sure that the enslaved children on Obama's "ship of state" (with its upside down U.S. flag and crossed out "United States Constitution") were a diverse group. We can count that as a small measure of progress in the post-racial age.

In a political moment where campaign commercials have featured Islamic terrorists, demon sheep, and gangster rappers who penetrate white women with their guns, this ad is par for the course.

Is race an element here? I am not sure. This anti-Obama campaign commercial could be one more example of the "benign" myopia that is common to the white racial frame ("how could anyone be offended by a boat, an allusion to slavery, and a black captain whipping his crew? How shocking!). Alternatively, the racial ideologies at work here could be more sinister, as any reference to "white slavery" has historically done potent political work from the Revolutionary War to the present (with the Tea Party faithful using that very same phrase to oppose the Obama administration and play on white racial resentment and anxiety).

I am hoping that there will be an expert on naval history who is also a racism denier that will post a defense and explanation of Mark Oxner's ad. That could be good fun.

I will sit this one out and see if any of you want to put on the racism chasing shoes this evening. Who knows? Perhaps, the ghosts of Jack Johnson and the Barbary Pirates will show up and give us a real seminar on white slavery and poor Billy Budd.

Connecticut Keeps it Classy: Eat a Taco for Civil Rights; Marine Goes Free After Murdering Iraqis

It is always a pleasure to see my home state featured in the national media.

There are many tragedies in America's long war. While some are upset about Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters in Afghanistan (and of course are not asking the more important questions about the efficacy of the policy that put U.S. soldiers in harm's way, or if peeing on dead bodies is worse than incinerating innocent people with bombs), there are many other shameful moments that will eventually come to light from the long wars abroad.

To date, we have seen "dead pools," assassination squads, rapes of children, racially motivated fratricide, and all sorts of descents into madness by U.S. and allied forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The American people choose to either turn away, remain blissfully ignorant, or wrap themselves in childish nationalism as a defense mechanism. When blowback inevitably comes they can shake their heads and ask "why do they hate us so? Is it our values? The American way of life?" Some pandering politician will avoid all real talk and instead answer a resounding "yes" to all three questions.

Frank Wuterich, a United States Marine from Meriden, Connecticut has been found not guilt of murdering more than a dozen innocent non-combatants during a punitive raid in Iraq. His punishment? Nothing significant, he was slapped on the wrist for "dereliction of duty" and sent on his way. If Vietnam brought the barbarism of the Tiger Force, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are going to spit forth much fodder for books and movies that will make the Abu Ghraib scandal look like a resort town.

The mayor of East Haven, Connecticut also kept it classy this week. Following a series of civil rights abuses by his police, Joseph Maturo publicly announced that he would eat tacos as a way of supporting the Latino community--a group which has been subject to racial profiling and harassment in his city. Post-Civil Rights era race discourse has really reached a new level of sophistication has it not? Reparations through the gesture of taco eating. Priceless.

There is a deeper element here that is worth exploring. How do certain spaces, towns, and communities come to be hostile to "outsiders" who are not the "right" ethnic or racial group.

I grew up in New Haven and Hamden, Connecticut. As such, I am very familiar with East Haven. It had the greatest Toys R Us in the area, and every Sunday I would nag my mother to drive me up I-95 (or on the surface streets) to East Haven where upon arrival at the store I would grab the newest G.I. Joe or Transformer. Years later, I would also spend a good amount of time at East Haven's bowling alley--they had a great pro shop, really easy lane conditions, and lots of "action," i.e. money games between some of the best scratch players in the area.

Those spaces were very integrated. However, there was always this lingering white ethnic anxiety in the air as we black and brown folks knew not to hang around too late in the area as anything (harassment by the police, a fight with some locals who would drive by in their Monte Carlo SS's, Ford Thunderbirds, or Corvettes--watch Jersey Shore and you will get the joke--and yell "nigger" or "spic" at you for a cheap thrill) could jump off. If you were a brother dating a white woman, you most certainly knew not to take her to one of the late night diners in East Haven. "No shoes, no service" would be the least of your worries if some of the local "Itals" didn't like that one of "their" women was with one of "those people."

Like many other rustbelt suburbs and cities of the Northeast, in East Haven there was/is racial anxiety about lost economies, ethnic transition as a proxy for the wages of whiteness gained (for those who could move out to places like Branford, Cheshire, or northern Hamden) or lost (those Italians, Poles, Greeks, and others who couldn't because of financial or familial reasons leave the neighborhood), and nostalgia for the "good old days." These dynamics are difficult for many white ethnics of a certain generation to reconcile as formerly white spaces became black, and then Hispanic and Latino.

My adopted Scots-Irish grandfather would tell me stories about the neighborhood of his youth in New Haven. During the 1920s and 1930s Irish cops would ride on bicycles and hit kids in the head with a stick for sport, to put some fright in them, or to break up groups of "undesirables." Apparently, the latter was more common when the group was "mixed" than if one "kept to your own type."

My father grew up in the same area and would jokingly talk about the local neighborhood cliques that would in turn form the basis for the semi-pro football teams in New Haven county. He could "pass" if he so chose. Thus, my father had many white ethnic friends and could navigate the various Irish, Jewish, and Italian neighborhoods in relative safety if "he walked really fast and kept a hat on." Like my adopted grandfather, he too had stories about how space was bounded by either the police, or the gangs of young toughs who lingered on the borders of each ethnic and racial neighborhood. No one got killed. There would be tussles to keep everyone honest--fights more akin to The Wanderers than Boyz in the Hood. Over time you earned some respect, and eventually could earn a pass to either walk on certain streets, or go into certain stores.

The mayor of East Haven's epic fail is an entry point for thinking about local history and geography. Teach me a thing or two. How did East Haven become so hostile to Hispanics and Latinos, and non-whites more generally? Does anyone have an insight into the local history? What are the towns, cities, and areas where you know that as a black/brown/white person that you had best avoid? Sundown towns are no longer enforced by "law," yet they still exist.

Ultimately, are places like East Haven, and larger cities like Providence and Cranston, just experiencing metaphorical hangovers from white flight, deindustrialization, and realistic group conflict, dynamics that play themselves out through racial profiling and harassment?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Not All Slave Owners Were Rapine Beasts: Ron Paul's Musings on States' Rights and the "Tragedy" of the Civil War

Over the last few days, I have watched this interview with Ron Paul several times. Something about his tone of voice just doesn't sit right with me, the detached indifference rubs me the wrong way.

It is easy to flatten history, in doing so to generate stories of evil men, barbarous and incomprehensible deeds, and frothing at the mouth villains. This is true when the history is personal and your people would have been the vanquished, the oppressed, the conquered, or the exiled. Ironically, the need to hold on to a fiction of two-dimensional monsters and evildoers is also true of those who are the present day descendants of the dominant, the winners, the exploiters, the "in-group," and the conquerors.

By painting "those people" into a box where only the most wicked were racist, prejudiced, genocidal, chauvinist or the like, a safe distance is created between the present and the past. Cartoon versions of the past are very comforting for those on both sides of history's accounting sheet: nuance is a shared enemy for those seeking simple and validating stories.

For example, it is easy to imagine all white slave owners as rapine beasts who crawled into the beds of black women and girls, using them as their personal sex toys, where inevitably these same white men would either sell off their own mulatto sires for a profit, or throw them into the fields as "free" labor. Likewise, we can envision the babies of newly arrived African slaves being smashed on the ground, killed during the seasoning process that the human cargo of the slave ships endured upon arrival in the New World.

In black masculinity's shared collective memory there exist memories of wives and loved ones taken before our eyes, we being rendered powerless to intervene by the barrel of the gun or the edge of the blade, and where inevitably the lustful eyes of the white slave owner, his sons, and friends turn to us as objects to sate the wickedness of their reckless and violent libidos. This is a secret pain, one little discussed in the shared history of blacks and whites together in the Americas and elsewhere. And of course, every overseer was an evil debased man like Mr. Covey of Frederick Douglass' famed autobiography, a degenerate piece of poor white trash who, like many of his class, lived for nothing but the sadistic pleasures that came with "breaking" black slaves as he made them suffer under his whip, ax handle, cat of nine tales, scold's bridle, or branding iron.

But, what of the white slave owner who struggled to reconcile his "Christian faith" with the owning of human beings, and in a fit of guilt, convinced that he would go to hell because of his wickedness, freed his human property? How do we make sense of the white slave owner who manumitted the children of slaves on his plantation, or the feelings of loyalty and closeness that some slaves felt for their "white family?"

Perhaps, most troubling for a two dimensional version of American (and Atlantic) slavery is that plantations were run like factories. Of course, there were yeoman whites who owned one or two slaves, and lived in close intimacy with them, as privations were shared, and struggles (if not successes) were experienced in common across the colorline. But the plantations that occupy American memory, The Gone with the Wind version of history, were in reality, based on detached principles of labor efficiency. The owners of these business enterprises exchanged journals, notes, and theories about how to improve the yield of their crops. Therein, rubrics about the relationship between the ideal amount of punishment (the whip) and selective incentives in order to produce the maximum amount of productivity were divined and ciphered.

For the most profitable slave-owning whites, chattel slavery was a business. In many instances, it was a very impersonal one (where on some plantations the owner would never dispense punishment personally as it was a distasteful act and would make his slaves resent and fear him, while on other plantations it was only the head of the house who could wield the whip or the lash--overseers were not to be trusted to act judiciously or fairly). In all, African American bondsmen and bondswomen were entries on a ledger sheet; they were "workers" whose productivity had to be maximized by any means available.

There is an odd intimacy here. On one hand, slavery on the largest plantations was business and never personal. As a practical matter, slavery could never be anything but the latter.

It is not Ron Paul's piss poor understanding of the historical underpinnings of the Civil War and chattel slavery that is most disturbing. No, it is the idea that in his detached musings, I can hear in my ear the whisper of the assassin doing a hit, or a slave owner assessing the value of his latest purchase on the auction block, that this is "business, never personal," just before they pull the trigger or sign the check.

As we have seen in other moments throughout his campaign, there is an utter lack of human empathy (and sympathy) for black personhood in Paul's speech to his Redemptionist, white racist, Neo-Secessionist public that yearns for the states' rights narrative. This is the root of my disturbance.

Ron Paul's counter-factual about gradual or compensated manumission (where the freedom of blacks held in bondage was purchased as a means to end chattel slavery) is problematic on a number of levels. Primarily, it ignores the significant psychic wage that whites invested in the personal owning of black bodies, their attachment to a society that validated white superiority over people of color, and where even though a majority of whites did not have bloody hands from the direct business of chattel slavery, they could aspire to one day own slaves as a sign of upward mobility and success.

Ron Paul's musings about the civil war as an avoidable conflict, save for the desire of the North to impose its will on the poor South--and thus violating states' rights--is also ahistorical. We do not need to hypothesize about why such proposals as compensated manumission did not come to pass on a wide scale in the United States. It is not a mystery or puzzle. There is a rich historical record which details the many failings of such a scheme, and slave owners' rejections of it in the name of perpetual white supremacy.

In all, Ron Paul's desire to frame the Civil War as a tragedy for the South at the hands of a villainous North, a federal force that only wanted to take away the liberties of white people, is an ideal-typical example of libertarianism's failings on matters of race and justice. Ron Paul does not seem to identify slavery--the owning of black people by white people in perpetuity--as a de facto state of war and tyranny. If libertarians were to find a historic freedom struggle to claim as their own, one would think that abolition, accomplished by any means necessary, would be at the top of their list.

Second, Paul places his principle of "non-interference" over the rights of African Americans (and others) to be treated as full and equal citizens. Whites have the freedom to discriminate against, violate, and terrorize black people. The latter's liberty and freedom are secondary to those of the former. By virtue of that most basic standard, Ron Paul is a polite white supremacist who enables and supports a herrenvolk Apartheid America in theory, if not fully in practice.

The detached manner in which Ron Paul valorizes the Confederacy as "the victim" of federal tyranny, is to my eyes at least, one of the most frightening faces of contemporary, "color blind" white supremacy. Here, black people are secondary to his principles; slaves do not really enter into the calculus because as a privileged white man he cannot imagine himself as existing in such a state of existential duress and oppression.

In keeping with the universal "I" of whiteness, the "normal," the race-neutral "we," the African American held in bondage is secondary to Ron Paul's higher order principles. "We the people," and "the states' rights" apparently do not include the will of African Americans to not be held as human property. Ron Paul's whiteness is blinding, deafening, and utterly transparent in this regard. It is ugly. I dare say that there is something evil about it.

I thought long about that last statement of moral and existential judgement. I own it. I believe it.

Just as the plantation owner entered profits and losses, births and deaths, crops and yields, in his ledger, we can all take comfort in the fact that Ron Paul's particular version of white racism is "business, and never personal." That makes it okay, doesn't it?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Introducing Red Tails 2.0: The "Sassy Black Sistas Special Edition" Courtesy of George Lucas

Red Tails, George Lucas' long awaited World War 2 love letter to the storied Tuskegee airmen of the 332nd Fighter Group has finally been released in theaters across the country. As I pointed out in my review some months back, the movie is a throwback to the golden age of Hollywood in the 1940s and 1950s. For some viewers this makes for a good, old school, nostalgia heavy, and fun, movie going experience. The critics are a bit more negative, with their consensus being that Red Tails is a horrible disappointment.

There has been much talk about Red Tails online, with George Lucas receiving both praise and condemnation for his honest sharing about the difficulties of getting Hollywood to make a "black" film in which white actors are not central to the story. Across the black blogosphere, the upset at Red Tails has been at the apparent omission of black women from the Tuskegee airmen's story. Clutch Magazine for example, has featured a series of posts on this question, where the feeling is that the lack of black women in Red Tails is a reflection of their broader status as second class citizens.

In the digital age, there are no final edits. To point, George Lucas has a habit of tweaking with, fixing, and updating his films. The epic Star Wars trilogies have been continually updated by George Lucas. There is little reason to believe that Red Tails will not receive the same treatment. Readers of We Are Respectable Negroes know that I love to play script doctor. Given that popular films are a playground for the imagination, I am going to run with the concerns expressed by some in the black blogosphere about the role of African-American women in Red Tails.

As always, populism is both liberating and fun.

What follows are my casting choices for the inevitable update of Red Tails, what I am calling "Red Tails 2.0: The Sassy Black Sistas Special Edition":

Red Tails is pretty standard World War 2 action fare. It features masculine comradeship, fast machines, explosions, the obligatory prisoner of war scene, a foreign love interest, and a pretty linear and predictable plot where the Tuskegee airmen struggle against white racists, win the approval of their superiors (and white peers), and go on to triumph over unbelievable odds. Adding some roles for black women in keeping with the Hollywood tradition could open up some interesting possibilities. Let's free our minds and have some fun.


Red Tails needs more comic relief. The film could benefit from a motherly figure who has been in the U.S. Army for some time as either a Secretary or Stenographer (perhaps a Buffalo Soldier?). She is now a trusted adviser to the senior officers in the 332nd. This character doesn't take any back sass from the young lions in the unit who are cocksure and a bit overconfident. This character also dispenses folksy wisdom, as well as a shoulder to cry on when matters get too dire, and friends are lost in combat.

Tyler Perry's Madea fits the role perfectly.

The Tuskegee airmen could not win World War 2 alone. There were many support personnel, mechanics, and the like who kept the P-51 Mustangs, "the Cadillac of the sky," up and running at peak performance. This actress should be attractive, but also comfortable with machines and tools. It would be a bonus if she complicated gender stereotypes about black femininity. She is a "strong black woman." She is also vulnerable. Her body and habitus should suggest athleticism, confidence, and a no nonsense attitude balanced with a need to love someone--be they male or female. Queen Latifah (or perhaps the movie Pariah's Adepero Oduye) is a great choice for the part of Master Sergeant Mechanic for the 332nd airgroup:

Red Tails has been criticized because one of the Tuskegee airmen in the film has an Italian love interest. According to its critics, this is a slap in the face to black women. They offer the following: How come they cannot have a woman of color, either a wife or girlfriend at home (or one they meet overseas) who is the object of their affection? As a corrective, there are many possibilities from which to draw for the movie--and still remain historically grounded. My suggestion is that Red Tails should feature one of the many multiracial blacks who could be found throughout Europe during World War Two.

There were Afro-Germans, French, Italians, Russians, and other nationalities across the continent. One of the pilots in the Tuskegee airmen should have an intense relationship with a character who is the child of a Black Sicilian and a white Northern Italian woman.

Hauntingly beautiful, she would be marginalized by the French in the small town near where the Tuskegee airmen are based. One faithful night she meets one of the black American pilots outside of a segregated U.S. Army club. They then proceed to dance the night away in an alley where he sings jazz classics in her ear and she provides the chorus in Italian. There relationship is a whirlwind of sexual bliss and intense, immediate love. She becomes pregnant with their love child, only to have her lover killed during one of the Tuskegee airmen's final missions of the war.

There is only one choice here: Halle Berry.

Rosie the Riveter is an iconic image from World War Two. Women served throughout the U.S. military. While they were not allowed in "combat" positions, they took great personal risks flying aircraft across the Atlantic to Europe, towing planes for gunnery practice, as nurses and spies in Europe and Asia. In fact, one of the most noted aviators of the 20th century was Bessie Coleman, an African American woman, who in the dark days of Jim Crow, flew across the United States solo. If history does in fact echo, Red Tails should include many more women of color in its narrative.

Truth is fiction; fiction is truth. The Tuskegee airmen were facing difficult odds. The War Department, in realizing that it was foolish to hold back talented war fighters from the front lines, have called up an elite group of female aviators. "The Black Banshees" are assigned to the Italian theatre of World War Two, where they appear in the last thirty minutes of Red Tails in order to save the day after the 332nd suffers heavy casualties on a particularly harrowing and poorly planned mission. At first, their presence is resisted by the Tuskegee airmen. Inevitably, The Black Banshees win over the Tuskegee Airmen, and each woman pairs up with their opposite number among the 332nd. At first the mutual attraction is resisted, but eventually each member of The Black Banshees marries a Tuskegee airmen after retiring from the service, pregnant of course with future aviators, who just like mom and dad, will be the cavalry of the skies in the jet age.

Members of The Black Banshees include Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Missy Elliot, Jean Grea, and MC Lyte. Their flight leader is Angelina Jolie channeling her earlier role as Cleopatra.

War is hell. Blood is spilled. Bodies are broken. Nurses in wartime are sisters, mothers, confidantes, objects of unrequited love, and skilled technicians who put broken bodies back together again so that they can go out to fight (and be broken) again. There is something almost Freudian and Oedipal about nurses in many World War 2 movies: they are sister-mother-lover figures. The love is many times quite chaste...until it surrenders to desperation...and lust. Red Tails needs this actress to be compelling, pathos filled, and sincere. Gabrielle Sidibe, of Precious fame, is the perfect young actress to play the role. She is a member of the U.S. Army's nursing corps who is transferred from Atlanta, Georgia to the European theater in order to tend to the young and homesick men of the 332nd air group.

Red Tails is not a perfect movie, few are. But, Red Tails is an opportunity to self-indulge and spread our proverbial wings. True, viewers may not get exactly what they want; but, they should also be honest about the good that is there...and the hellish possibilities that could have otherwise been. This is not a soft-bigotry of low expectations as a decision rule and rubric for judging Red Tails; no, it is just real talk.

In that spirit, what other actresses would you add to Red Tails and why? And how would you cast the obligatory big budget black actress of the last few years, she who is Miss Beyonce (who I intentionally left out of my hypothetical casting game), in the film? Would you include a dance number where all of the black women in the movie break out in song Dreamgirls style?

Friday, January 20, 2012

The World is Now Made Less Interesting: Meteorologist Dr. Mel, from New Haven's WTNH, has Passed Away

Dr. Mel passes away at 66:

This is for the folks who have cracked my secret identity, for those readers from New Haven and Hamden, Connecticut, and all people who have a beloved personal weatherman or weatherwoman.

Dr. Mel Goldstein has passed away. He fought a long and very public fight with cancer and it appears he finally succumbed. Dr. Mel didn't lose. Dr. Mel simply went on to another fight; he had to predict the weather for the elder gods on another plane of existence.

He was a quirky guy. Dr. Mel was very popular and a true populist: he would show up all over New Haven county and talk to people. From the rich to the poor, all of us--the black, brown, white, yellow, and red--we all trusted him. I am sure if Dr. Mel decided to run for Mayor he would have won in a landslide.

In fact, at the supermarket in the old Ames-Stop & Shop Plaza near The Strand Theater on Dixwell Avenue in Hamden, Connecticut ("back in the day" during the 1980s), I met Dr. Mel.

My dad, mom, and me? We were all overwhelmed. Dr. Mel was genuine, and it was as if he had known us for years as he talked to us for a good fifteen or so minutes. While my favorite celebrity encounter was getting Mr. Fuji's (of the then WWF's) autograph at Bradley's department store while he stood in line wearing a kimono and flip flops, my encounter with Dr. Mel is a close second.

Random factoid: I am named after a weatherman. Therefore, my highest complement is that Dr. Mel was THE DUDE that all of us trusted when it came to his predictions about closing school for a winter storm. If Dr. Mel said there would no school tomorrow, we were never disappointed. Those other folks, on those other networks? Not to be trusted.

You will be missed Dr. Mel. Your passing means that we are all a bit older. You will never, not ever, be replaced.

In the unique cadence of Master Yoda, "irreplaceable, you are."

Dr. Mel, you are real people. You are also a respectable negro. Do travel well.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Juan Williams is a Human Toilet and Chauncey DeVega is a Nasty Boy

Juan Williams is in on this angle; in the language of professional wrestling the Gingrich-Williams fracas is a "worked shoot."

I left a little easter egg in my piece on Juan Williams and the Tea Party GOP's air raid siren politics of racial appeals to white conservatives. No one gave either a wink of approval or a moan of condemnation...until today.

The good folks at the Right-wing website Newsbusters have declared me a very nasty boy--one you don't bring home to mother. They picked up on my suggestion that Juan Williams, in his Stockholm-like loyalty to Fox News and the Tea Party GOP, is a political coprophagist. Hopefully, this allusion to Juan Williams' (and that of black conservatives more generally) role as a human receptacle for white racial resentment will resonate around the Right-wing echo chamber. It would be good fun.

And do check out the peanut gallery's reaction as well for a laugh.

Hearing oneself discussed in the third person is always great sport. Courtesy of Newsbusters:

While several media liberals have praised Juan Williams of Fox News for pushing around Newt Gingrich with the idea that his campaign rhetoric is at best insensitive to black Americans, Chauncey DeVega at the Daily Kos is sticking to the theory that Williams is a tool of racist Republicans: "Juan Williams is an object of abuse, a means to prove a point. Juan Williams is a paid pinata for white conservatives."

Or Williams is a toilet: "Juan Williams is/was a repository for the fecal matter of white conservative bigotry, and a need to maintain superiority over negroes who dare not to step off of the sidewalk when white folks pass." Or Williams is actually "coprophagic," he eats feces:
That in another life Juan Williams would be a critic of "negro agitators" during the Civil Rights movement is coincidental to his designated role on Fox News: he is exemplary of Joel Kovel's theories about white supremacy, and how it manifests as a White society which is collectively (and individually) stuck in the fecal phase of human psychological development -- it is all over his face. Juan Williams smiles while cashing his checks at the prospect of his political coprophagia at the ass end of conservative politics. He revels in playing the role of the human centipede.
Chauncey followed up his pinata line with this:
I do not know if he was legitimately hurt and surprised by their reaction to him, or if his pain was not feigned, and rather sincere and real. In understanding the logic of Republican racism and naked appeals beyond the dog whistle, Williams was the stand-in, the object of abuse through which to actualize rage and hostility. Barack Obama was not available. Any black body would do. The cheering, snide glee of Newt Gingrich dressing down uppity "Juan," and the audience's cheering of a "boy" being put in his place, would be missed by only the most in denial observer.
Let's just round up the crazy with this final brain-blast:
In 2012, Republican candidates are using overt signals, what are for all intents and purposes blaring air raid sirens and signal flares that race, whiteness, and American identity are deeply intertwined. The appeals to white racism by the Tea Party GOP during the primaries are not background rhythms or subdued choruses. They are the driving guitars of Blue Oyster Cult's "Godzilla," the chorus of Jay-Z's "99 Problems," the opening moments of the Notorious B.I.G's "Kick in the Door," or the flipped samples of Justice's "Stress". You feel it. You know it. To deny the obvious is to close one's ears to a driving drum line and cadence that travels up through your shoes...and to your bones.
How else can a fair observer excuse away Republican arguments that blacks are lazy parasites, whose children should live in work houses and pick up mops and brooms to learn a work ethic, that "illegal" immigrants should be killed by electric fences, or Muslim Americans should be subject to racial profiling, marked like the "Juden" of Nazi Germany?
[HT: Johnsey deFlagga]

Racial Air Raid Sirens: Newt Gingrich vs. the Uppity Negro vs. Boardwalk Empire vs. Speaking Lies in the Black Church

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

A Google search limited to the last seven days yields the following results:

282,000 returns for "Juan Williams" and "put in place."

23,400 returns for "Juan Williams" and "uppity."

The video of a Gingrich supporter applauding his reinforcement of the colorline, and the "natural order of things" through a "moment of instruction" for Juan Williams, is priceless. How can you deny the obvious that all this "lazy negro mop carrier uppity negro talk" is precisely about race, when one of your own white racist supporters signals just such a thing, and you, the candidate, smile in acknowledgement of what is a not so inside joke?

Ultimately, Newt Gingrich is a master of talking out of both sides of his mouth.

Several days before a debate during which he would demagogue the lazy coloreds on a national stage for the delights of white racially reactionary conservative populists, Newt Gingrich campaigned before a black church assembly. Ironic (or perhaps fitting?) then, that the Great White Father who wrote his dissertation on King Leopold's vicious white supremacist colonial enterprise in the Congo would yearn to play the Great White Father to African Americans:

I am unsure if Newt Gingrich is closer to the Batman character Two-Face or He-Man's Man-E-Faces, but his practiced lies-as-truth speech mongering does most certainly remind me of Nucky on Boardwalk Empire--but with less sincerity, generosity, or pragmatic spirit:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

An Air Raid Siren: Chris Matthews was Right About Republican Racism in South Carolina, But Wrong About "Dog Whistle" Politics

On his MSNBC show Hardball, Chris Matthews called out Newt Gingrich and other Republicans for what he described as their "dog whistle" appeals to white racism during the South Carolina debate on Monday night.

He was correct in identifying the work that racism does for the Tea Party GOP and its candidates in their efforts to win over white conservative voters. However, Chris Matthews was too generous and kind. Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and other Republican candidates are not engaging in subtle dog whistles to their faithful, where racism and white racial anxiety hides in the background, masked and hidden by other language.

Definitions matter: dog whistle politics are based on a signal or cue to the in-group, and one so subtle that those not in the know will overlook it as no more than quixotic background noise, a blip, a comment without context or meaning.

For example, during the 2004 election, President Bush's mention of the infamous Dredd Scott Supreme Court decision had nothing to do with African Americans and slavery. Rather, it was a wink to a rabidly anti-choice conservative Right-wing audience that Roe vs. Wade would be overturned by his administration.

In 2008, McCain-Palin featured a negative campaign ad which borrowed from the movie The Ten Commandments and suggested that Barack Obama was the Anti-Christ. If one was not part of the Left Behind Jesus Camp Christian Nationalist Dominionist crowd, the visuals and narrative of the commercial were odd, bizarre, utterly strange, and devoid of context. The ugliness of these symbols and metaphors were so covert, that they made sense for those outside of the targeted audience only after Time magazine thoroughly deconstructed the campaign ad and its malicious intent.

In 2012, Republican candidates are using overt signals, what are for all intents and purposes blaring air raid sirens and signal flares that race, whiteness, and American identity are deeply intertwined. The appeals to white racism by the Tea Party GOP during the primaries are not background rhythms or subdued choruses. They are the driving guitars of Blue Oyster Cult's "Godzilla," the chorus of Jay-Z's "99 Problems," the opening moments of the Notorious B.I.G's "Kick in the Door," or the flipped samples of Justice's "Stress". You feel it. You know it. To deny the obvious is to close one's ears to a driving drum line and cadence that travels up through your shoes...and to your bones.

How else can a fair observer excuse away Republican arguments that blacks are lazy parasites, whose children should live in work houses and pick up mops and brooms to learn a work ethic, that "illegal" immigrants should be killed by electric fences, or Muslim Americans should be subject to racial profiling, marked like the "Juden" of Nazi Germany?

In all, the Tea Party GOP's campaign for the presidency rests upon marshaling white anger and rage at The Usurper, a perpetual Other, and one not fit for the presidency by virtue of his birth and skin color--he who we know as President Barack Obama. If Birtherism is not based on this calculation, on what else does it rest?

Race matters to the Tea Party GOP. It matters overtly. And it matters to the white populists of the Republican Party without apology or subtlety. This leads to the following practical question: how do we separate the subtle dog whistle from blaring conservative racism? What are the elements of the racial appeal? How can we identify it so that reasonable folk can neuter and castrate it? Is this even possible?

Knowing is half the battle. As such, I highlight the following elements to the puzzle:

The speaker effect. Using one of the most gross examples, when Newt Gingrich talks about lazy blacks on welfare and food stamps who do not know the meaning of hard work he is mindful of his audience. Remember, politics is ultimately about the creation and reinforcement of imagined communities. Gingrich, Santorum, Perry, and Paul know exactly how to talk to their respective audiences in order to get a response. To point: white conservative populists have disdain for non-whites, see them as lazy, outside of the polity, and as rightful targets for appeals based on symbolic racism. In the eyes of the Right, "those people" are not "real Americans." They never can be.

The audience as a public who receives, internalizes, and circulates the Tea Party GOP message about race, white racial resentment, white oppression, and hostility to people of color. The folks in the audience and on the stage during the Republican primary debates "get" the terms of the conversation. In fact, they are deeply attuned to the language and rhetoric of the New Right, as anyone who either goes to one of these events, or votes in a primary election, are deeply invested in its outcome, and a return to white American normality. In all, they are chasing nostalgia and a Leave it to Beaver vision and lie of America. This audience is also "tuned in" to politics. Gingrich and his peers are sending signals to a group primed and ready for his racial appeals...without a need for explanation.

This reality speaks to why there should be no surprise when Republican audiences cheer the death penalty, dying people without insurance, or heckle soldiers who happen to be gay. There are unstated rules, a script, which govern social norms and behavior. The outliers who go to political debates are intimately familiar with this language. Like marks at a professional wrestling event they know when to boo and when to cheer.

Context matters. In isolation, perhaps it would be a more difficult case to suggest that Gingrich's appeals to white audiences about lazy blacks are predominantly and clearly about white racism. However, given that communities are created through speech, and that "discourse" is about a sense of shared meaning with unstated assumptions, any argument for conservative colorblindness is judged to be insincere.

In South Carolina, where the Confederate flag still flies, there was Rick Perry (a neo-Secessionist that wants a Civil War 2.0 and a renewed fight for states' rights); Ron Paul (a bigot whose newsletters continue to suggest that African Americans are ravenous, craven, criminal, stupid beasts); Rick Santorum (a man fascinated by bestiality and the idea that blacks are parasites who only want to live off of white people); and Newt Gingrich who sees all African-Americans and Latinos as being on welfare and the public dole until proven otherwise. In total, these candidates are a rogues gallery where white supremacist attitudes towards non-whites is a standing rule, one only to be disputed after the fact.

Juan Williams is an object of abuse, a means to prove a point. Juan Williams is a paid pinata for white conservatives. I do not know if he was legitimately hurt and surprised by their reaction to him, or if his pain was not feigned, and rather sincere and real. In understanding the logic of Republican racism and naked appeals beyond the dog whistle, Williams was the stand-in, the object of abuse through which to actualize rage and hostility. Barack Obama was not available. Any black body would do. The cheering, snide glee of Newt Gingrich dressing down uppity "Juan," and the audience's cheering of a "boy" being put in his place, would be missed by only the most in denial observer.

Juan Williams is/was a repository for the fecal matter of white conservative bigotry, and a need to maintain superiority over negroes who dare not to step off of the sidewalk when white folks pass. That in another life Juan Williams would be a critic of "negro agitators" during the Civil Rights movement is coincidental to his designated role on Fox News: he is exemplary of Joel Kovel's theories about white supremacy, and how it manifests as a White society which is collectively (and individually) stuck in the fecal phase of human psychological development--it is all over his face. Juan Williams smiles while cashing his checks at the prospect of his political coprophagia at the ass end of conservative politics. He revels in playing the role of the human centipede.

The excuse of ignorance and a lack of memory. One does not need to understand the root of a thing in order to buy into its power. White conservatives (and others) who traffic in racism do not necessarily need to be able to explain how blacks came to be associated in the White racist mind with apes. Likewise, those who hate Jews do not need to be able to give an exegesis on Nazi propaganda in order to be expert anti-Semites.

This is one of the greatest tools and defenses of the contemporary white racist--I didn't know that, you are being unfair!; You are "playing the race card" for calling out my association of the Obama with watermelons and apes as "racist"; I never associated blacks with welfare or crime, people like you are the real bigots for calling attention to how Republicans talk about such things, we are really all Americans!; stop talking about slavery, my family never owned black people!; (and of course) whites are oppressed in America by Barack Obama!

There is a collective reservoir of symbols, assumptions, and narratives that individuals borrow from in a given society in order to make sense of their world. Knowing the wellspring helps; it is not a requirement to perpetuate common sense understanding(s) of the world.

Ultimately, Chris Matthews was correct in the spirit of the law versus the letter of the law. To defeat President Obama, the Republican Party is wallowing in white racism in order to win over racially and economically insecure white voters. However, Gingrich and company are doing this overtly. There is little subtlety. Looking forward, the 2012 Presidential season will make the infamous Willie Horton ad of the 1988 presidential election look like a celebration of Dr. King's birthday. The challenge for liberals, progressives, and reasonable conservatives, is how to make the Republican Party pay for their race baiting, and desperate reaching back to the Civil War, Redemption, and Birth of a Nation as playbooks in order to defeat the United States' first Black President.

Sadly, matters may be so dire that the white identity politics of years past are now "new school" rather than "old school." To marshal that fear, insecurity, and anger one does not need nuance, sophistication, or dog whistles. White conservatives can put such feelings on blast and gin up the psychological wages of white fear, white anxiety, and white rage to try to defeat Barack Obama.

As always, the past isn't even past. It is yesterday. Get ready folks. What occurred in South Carolina is only a warm up for what the Tea Party GOP is preparing to unleash in the months to come. What is coming to pass will be an ugly, wild ride.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

For Folks Smarter than Me: Is Ron Paul a John Mearsheimer "Realist?"

I do hope that Ron Paul stays in the Republican race, between another batch of racist newletters coming to light today, and his pain in the ass truth-telling about foreign policy as exemplified by his astonishing idea that common sense ought to have some influence on statecraft, he is mighty entertaining.

The audiences for the Republican primaries are more fun than the candidates themselves. Last night, the Tea Party GOP South Carolinian populists were in great form as they cheered Newt Gingrich putting uppity negroes back in their appropriate place, and booed Ron Paul's suggestion that the golden rule ought to have some impact on America's foreign policy calculus.

The latter moment was very telling. Years ago I believed, truly in my heart, that the United States was preordained for greatness and that she could do no wrong in the world. My thinking was tautological: America was great because it is great; America does good abroad because America is good; America is first among nations and by virtue of that fact she can do what she wants because she is the first among equals (and lessers).

I was also seven years old at the time.

Contemporary populist conservatives are mired in anti-intellectual authoritarianism. Their rabid brand of American exceptionalism is resistant to all empirical reality, fact, and nuance. The Tea Party GOP, in its appeal to nativism, and desire to court Fox News low information voters, encourages and reflects a profound amount of infantile thinking on the part of its public. When mated with a penchant for Christian Dominionism, and the hold that "faith" and the Culture Wars has over reason, the realpolitik of the Right naturally devolves into that of true believers, heretics, traitors, secret pledges, and the "paranoid style" of governance and politics.

The negative response to Ron Paul's damnable thought that America does not have carte blanche to act in the world without consequences or blowback is a symptom of this cultural-political sickness.

In watching Ron Paul work through the idea that states should think long-term and that no power is more "exceptional" than any other--thus freeing it from the consequences of its actions like some divine chosen one--I was called back to Robert Kaplan's recent Atlantic magazine piece on noted political scientist John Mearsheimer.

In Kaplan's profile on Dr. Mearsheimer's body of intellectual work (with an obligatory mention of the Israeli Lobby thesis), and the influence of "realism" on international relations theory, one passage seemed particularly relevant:
Such thinking is prologue to Mearsheimer’s admonition that a struggle with China awaits us. “The Chinese are good offensive realists, so they will seek hegemony in Asia,” he tells me, paraphrasing the conclusion to Tragedy. China is not a status quo power. It will seek to dominate the South China Sea as the U.S. has dominated the Greater Caribbean Basin. He continues: “An increasingly powerful China is likely to try to push the U.S. out of Asia, much the way the U.S. pushed European powers out of the Western Hemisphere. Why should we expect China to act any differently than the United States did? Are they more principled than we are? More ethical? Less nationalistic?”
For the many folks smarter than I am on these matters, can you help a brother out? Is Ron Paul a type of realist--perhaps a "defensive" one? If not, what school of statecraft is Ron Paul an adherent to? Is he a pure isolationist?

I play in these waters at the child's end of the wading pool, and there is no way I could swim in said pool without two life preservers and a rope. Teach me a thing...or ten.

Juan Williams Plays the Black Pinata For Newt Gingrich and White Conservatives in South Carolina

Boy you best know your place.

Juan Williams earned his several million dollar a year contract as Fox News' designated black whipping boy conservative last night...

There is racial progress in America: the Republican crowd for last night's South Carolina debate only booed Juan Williams for his uppity back sassing, whereas not too long ago they would have called up a lynching party.

Once more, my black conservative readers, can you please explain your affinity for a Republican party that consistently (and with glee) lies about and belittles African Americans? And which does so before a national audience--and even to one its "exceptional" pet negroes?

Ultimately, I do not know which was the more offensive aspect of the South Carolina Tea Party GOP debate: was it A) Rick Santorum's factually and sociologically challenged understanding of the relationship between poverty, marriage, and opportunity structures or B) Newt Gingrich's consistent insistence that black people are lazy bums who need to pick up mops, and are uniquely addicted to food stamps and welfare?

This one is yours folks.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Enjoy a Free Preview of the Documentary "All Me: The Life and Times of Winfred Rembert"

It is great when you can still be surprised by life. Ignorance is bliss; discovery is joy.

Last week, I was forwarded the early link to the upcoming documentary, "All Me: The Life and Times of Winfred Rembert." Until that moment, I had never heard of Winfred Rembert. I wish I had known about this remarkable artist many years earlier.

My mom comes from a little town in the South that now has a population of only 300 or so. On that level, Rembert's story, and his work at chronicling a world disappeared, resonates with me. I promised her that we would go back to our family land; I intend to keep that pledge.

On Dr. King's holiday we can celebrate the slaying of Jim and Jane Crow, but we must also be honest about how the two Great Migrations, and racial integration, helped to put a nail in the coffin of the Black Metropolises (and other vibrant African-American communities across this country).

Those times were not to be idealized--the nightmare years of racial supremacy, white violence, and segregation are not to be yearned for despite the Utopian dreaming of some black nationalists and others--but they are an epoch which black folks ought not to ashamed of. In all, Winfred Rembert is a great model of cultural resistance through art and the everyday, quotidian politics of black life.

Here is the description for the documentary on his life and work. The film will be released during Black History Month, but you should take time to enjoy this preview courtesy of the good folks at SnagFilms.

With his intensely autobiographical paintings depicting the day-to-day existence of African Americans in the segregated South, Winfred Rembert has preserved an important, if often disturbing, chapter of American history. His indelible images of toiling in the cotton fields, singing in church, dancing in juke joints, or working on a chain gang are especially powerful, not just because he lived every moment, but because he experienced so much of the injustice and bigotry they show as recently as the 1960s and 70s.

Now in his sixties, Rembert has developed a growing following among collectors and connoisseurs, and enjoyed a number of tributes and exhibitions of his work. In "ALL ME: The Life and Times of Winfred Rembert," the artist relives his turbulent life, abundantly visualized by his extensive paintings and, in a series of intimate reminiscences, shows us how even the most painful memories can be transformed into something meaningful and beautiful. A glowing portrait of how an artist—and his art—is made, "ALL ME" is also a triumphant saga of race in contemporary America.

The Obamas vs the Romneys: The Republican Mind and Visions of Whiteness and Race Suicide on Dr. King's Holiday

The road to the world imagined by Dr. King remains long.

Some four decades after his murder, and the inauguration of the Southern Strategy, the sweet appeals of racial code words, and the succor offered by white racial resentment remain undeniable to the Republican Party. When Santorum, Gingrich, and Romney talk about lazy, parasitic African Americans who should pick up mops to learn about hard work, and where "the blacks'" exalted leader wants to turn America into a "Socialist-Communist-Fascist European welfare state," the signals to white racism are beyond dog whistles. They are blaring air raid sirens.

Dog whistles can also be subtle; they can be visual cues which speak to the faithful.

For example, some Americans see Mitt Romney's much publicized family photo as one of homogeneous whiteness and WASP glory.Whether in rust belt towns, gated communities, poor white rural America, or the nondescript suburbs, this is the America of "Nixonland" that so many yearn for. This is real America; the best of us; a country that they/we should die to protect.

Of course, this is a memory steeped in false nostalgia. It is whiteopian dreaming. Nevertheless, such illusions are both compelling and compulsive to many Americans of a certain age, hue, ideology, and experience.

Other folks see the family photo of Barack Obama and his kin as the future. Americans are a cosmopolitan people. While there exists a deep and historic nativist impulse, as well as a fear of the Other, the country's greatness has been its ability to include all folks that want to belong-- what is an all embracing sense of pluralism and "we the people" that is flexible, accommodating, and inclusive.

Citizens use heuristics, memes, cues, and slogans to make sense of politics, and to work through their own political decision-making. As such, for many, the photo of Mitt Romney's family is that of "real America," and to deviate from this approved model is hazardous to the Common Good, a decision that is perverse, and one that is "unAmerican."

By implication, for the collective consciousness of the white Tea Party GOP populist electorate--and although they may lack the vocabulary to express this cogently--there is something inherently wrong with the interracial, international, and "diverse" nature of Barack Obama's family. In all, the Obama way is "race suicide": it is a path of destruction for the United States, as to be American is to be quintessentially and unquestionably "white."

Folks like Pat Buchanan are honest enough to voice such sentiments, feelings which are the rotten, beating heart of the Tea Party GOP. Others who share Buchanan's anxieties and loyalties are not as courageous; they play around with his themes while not owning their substance.

Ironically, their need to couch such wickedness in race neutral talk is "progress." However, the concerns of reactionary white populists are centuries-old, near and dear to Whiteness and a country originated as a White Republic. For them the question remains unresolved (even in the year 2012): how much racial equality is "enough?"

The challenge here is that to be wholly inclusive, and to really create a radically democratic society, is to risk the privileges of Whiteness. It is to create a world in keeping with Brother King's vision where white people are forced to compete on an equal playing ground with people of color. Some of us are more than ready for that world.

Others, those White Dreamers, who foreground whiteness as "real and "idolized" America, are scared to death of a multiracial, multicultural, pluralistic 21st century. Whiteness is such a valuable currency, one whose rewards have been outsized for so long, that to consider further reductions in its returns is terrifying to many White Americans.

On Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's birthday, conservatives will mouth breath about his legacy as they spin an empty story of racial equality, racist Southern Democrats, and white victimhood in the Age of Obama. These contortions are to be expected. The joke is--and has long been--that the real Dr. King, the radical visionary and not the deracialized, apolitical panderer for gross consumerism and empty politics, would be hated by conservatives, Red State America, and many others fearful of his progressive vision, if he lived in the present.

This fact is a signal to Dr. King's greatness.

All Americans should be reflective on this day. Sadly, many conservatives, and others who hold a deep disdain for people of color, the poor, unions, the working class, immigrants, and the disadvantaged, will try to find a way to steal Dr. King's vision. The time is long past for such antics to be made obsolete. In the year 2012, those on the Right who bastardize and rape Dr. King's legacy, should finally stop such foolishness.

Brother Martin does not belong to you. Sorry. He belongs to us. It is about time that his legacy and vision were taken back--without apology--by those who would stand shoulder to shoulder with him in the present, and that are the offspring of his struggle and martyrdom.

And Tea Party U.S.A. is not part of that vision. They never were and could not possibly be today.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Football Theodicy? Tom Brady is to Tim Tebow as Stone Cold Steve Austin was to Jake the Snake Roberts

Oh Mr. Tebow, I know that the faithful Christian Nationalist evangelical Dominionists who believe that you are favored by Providence--and that God intervenes in football games--will valorize your suffering as it is both epic and prophetic.

But, I simply could not resist: Tom Brady and the Patriots just kicked your ass.

This begs a question: does Tebow's humiliation introduce a theodicy problem for his zealous faithful? How do they reconcile an all knowing, all loving, omniscient and omnipotent god with the existence of football evil in the form of the unholy trinity that is Brady-McDaniels-Belichick?

Should Black Women Boycott Red Tails, George Lucas' Tuskegee Airmen Movie?

While we wait for the epic sonning that Tom Brady, the Hooded One, and Josh McDaniels are about to put on Mr. Tebow this evening (that trio sounds like a country rock group, no?) here is something to pass the time.

There is a good conversation on Clutch magazine's website about the interracial gender politics of Red Tails, George Lucas' upcoming Tuskegee airmen movie. One of the primary tenets for those who study the politics of popular culture is that audiences (or "publics") receive, process, interpret, and circulate ideas on their own terms. Of course, there are any number of corollaries and complications to this argument. But, the basic idea is that populism "matters"; once a "text" is out among the public, part of our work as critics is understanding the "why's" and "how's" of their investment (or not) in it.

I reviewed Red Tails months ago. There, I made mention of one aspect of the story--the romance between a black airman and a white Italian woman--that I thought was superfluous to the plot and could easily be left on the cutting room floor. I did not read this plot point as subverting the overall story, or as being deeply symbolic of the state of the family and love relationships in the African American community in the twenty-first century. Moreover, there were many love and sexual relationships between black GI's and European women in all theaters of World War Two. Given the "historical" nature of Red Tails, a wink to this fact would not be out of order. Ultimately, my observation was based on efficiency in story telling. It was not some deep aversion to the idea that a young man far from home would find comfort in the arms of a beautiful woman.

Populism can be empowering. It can also be confusing, distracting, and lead to any number of interpretations--some of these are cogent and compelling, others much less so. What strikes me the most about the comments on Clutch magazine's site is not how some readers (in a vacuum not having seen the movie) are making impassioned claims, but how short the leap is from Red Tails the World War Two action film, to "black women in Hollywood are misrepresented all of the time and hated by the mass media," to "black woman are unloved by black men and Red Tails reinforces this fact," to "Red Tails should be boycotted because there are no black female love interests."

It would seem that there is much pain in parts of the black community, where the seemingly trivial and benign are interpreted as the significant, the poignant, and the meaningful.

Thus, I must ask: Are matters really this dire?

From the peanut gallery:

AJ JANUARY 10, 2012 AT 3:14 PM

Will definitely not be seeing it. Typical hollywood spin of BM with WW, never a BW/Bm love story made with real money. when they put a love story with a BW on the big screen as the main story, then maybe. until then – NOT. The majority of the tuskegee airmen had BW for wives/girlfriends – why can’t we see a high quality, big budget romance between them? Please. And Lucas being with Melony Hobson means nothing, since she is past child-bearing age (and he is too, imho).

Jess JANUARY 10, 2012 AT 8:05 PM

@PINK: I know just what AJ is talking about. How about you do more than look at trailer snippets, and find out what more the movie is supposed to be about? YES, this movie does feature an interracial relationship between one of the Airmen and a white woman. And YES, I agree with AJ – why the pattern of almost all movies focusing on romantic relationships between Black men (particularly those of integrity and character) with white women? Why can we not get big budget films made like this where the love a Black man (or any man) has for a Black woman be showcased? Why must the IR thing be shoved down our throats. Think about your daughters. Ifthey are going to watch a film celebrating Black achievements, why are they discounted and pushed to the sidelines always for someone white? I don’t buy it, and call bull...

@Jess – You nailed it! Every war movie *except* those with black soldiers show the soldiers fighting to come home to their women (of the same race). This is true for every white war movie from the black and white era, to “Saving Private Ryan” and right on down to “The Dirty Dozen.” When it comes to black soldiers, movie makers find ingenious ways of leaving black women out! This trend even touched “A Soldiers Story.”And now black women, who are once again NOT shown as women worth fighting for, are supposed to bear the burden of supporting “Red Tails.”

Otherwise, we risk seeming ungrateful to Hollywood, unsupportive of black male actors, close minded to interracial themes or just plain too ignorant to see period pieces or anything that doesn’t have Tyler Perry’s name on it. But they keep missing the point: Show us some love and we will do the same for you!

AJ JANUARY 13, 2012 AT 11:26 AM

And it’s all about what is pushed to our youth – Lucas’ relationship is not being pushed to millions. His movie, on the other hand will go to millions, in full CGI with emotions on display. So BM can continue to believe in the goodness and sweetness of WW and others instead of their own. The youth are being taught, again and again by Hollywood, to believe we BW are not worth saving or anything else positive. Other than to be helpers and sidekicks. If this movie doesn’t show how the Airmen loved Lena Horne, and how she stood up for them it is not worth any little money I have.

Sure Lucas will make millions, and our community will continue to be brainwashed into hating BW and girls.Money talks, bullshit walks. He put ALL the money up for this, its obviously a labor of love for him. He wants this story told, and he wants to practice his art in film at the same time.Yet, that’s just not good enough for some of you. You want to yap about him not being married to his black girlfriend, you want to whine that there are no women’s concerns “represented” in the movie, you don’t want an action movie, you want a romantic comedy, where are the movies about black history before slavery, why should we go see a movie made by “Massa” about black people, etc.?

How did we get so good at complaining? Like I said, I don’t know how good the movie is going to be. But it’s got to be better and send out a better message than the next low-nutrition meal from Tyler Perry (which I believe is called, “Medea Gets A New Wig” or something like that). That steaming load of empty calories will be served up soon enough at a theatre near you. Get a grip, everybody!

Vertigo Schtick JANUARY 14, 2012 AT 7:16 AM


Alright looking at IMDb has confirmed the character Sofia (playing by Portugal native Daniela Ruah), is the Italian love interest of a certain main character–perhaps Terrance Howard. So I can kind of see where the outrage is coming from. Still, I’m not going to bash the movie unless they make her the star of the movie. I am upset (given that they, the Airmen did not marry interracially) that this new twist was added. But I figure that’s just a way of marketing to all audiences, as no one is particularly interested in seeing a movie about black love besides black people. Not yet anyway.Sigh, one step forward, few steps back :/
YeahRight 2011 JANUARY 13, 2012 AT 2:34 AM

Pilot is pretty much on the money with his/her comment. George stated his purpose for making the film “to give teenage boys role models” paraphrasing and by in large I like he meant black teenage boys. End of story. If black women want a movie that does this for black girls than I suggest we hit up these black actresses, singers, and talk show personalities to invest in an idea that doesn’t show grown women in a constant state of depression and anger (not over racism or injustice but over a freaking man). Black women played a huge role in the history of this country, its our responsibility to tell it.

Tiff JANUARY 12, 2012 AT 8:33 PM

I was happy about this movie. God knows we are desperate need some positive black movies outside of Tyler Perry. I was going to support this film too. Not going to support it after Kola Boof said on her twitter page last night that the main love interest in this film is a white woman despite the fact all the Tuskegee airman was married to black women. She also had seen the movie in advance.

I could care less that none of the main actors in the movie are married or dating non-black woman but what is mess up is Hollywood once again trying to erase the existence of black women yet begging for black women to support them economically. George Lucas who is dating a dark skinned black woman ought to be shame of himself for allowing this to happen, he should at least know better but guess not, he is willing to throw black women under the bus just to prove something to Hollywood. I know he funded the movie but the screenwriter of this film is Aaron Mcgruder who wrote Boondocks and I am sure some black women has some issues with him.

AI JANUARY 14, 2012 AT 8:21 AM

I respect you ladies desire to boycott a movie that doesn’t have a Black female love interest to the Black men. However, I doing so will not send the message: “Continue doing big-budget Black movies, but do it with Black love interests.” Rather, it says “Black movies don’t make money.” Money talks first. When it comes to Black films, studios don’t take the time to sift through what worked and what didn’t. They just say eff it, and do another Perry film or a “feel good” movie like The Help. When you convince studios that you are talking money, THEN you have the financial leverage to get folks that care in casting. I don’t say this to convince you to change your mind, bc your principles are admirable and just. Just to caution you that it won’t be effective.

LemonNLime JANUARY 14, 2012 AT 6:56 AM@Vertigo Schtick

– I would love to know. I have heard 2 arguments 1. is that the cast is made up of several men who date or marry non-black women and therefore shouldn’t be in it and 2. the love plot that is in the story is based around one of the airmen and a white woman (comment from people who supposedly have already seen the movie). If it is reason 1, I could care less let people live their lives. If it is reason 2, I just ask that it is historically accurate for the time period, even if it is brutal because if people are seeing a movie about history they should see real history. I just have a hard time believing any film were actual Airmen help create and tell the story would have a white woman as the main love interest. But that is just me. Other than that I say it is best for people to calm down until we’ve actually seen it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Laughter is Your Friend: Courtesy of Comedy Central, Do You Want to Win DVDs of Sinbad, Eddie Griffith and Patrice O'Neil?

I promised to bring the readers of We Are Respectable Negroes more goodies in the year 2012. I generally pass on promotions, but this most recent offer from the good people at Comedy Central was too good to let slip by.

This Sunday will feature the debut of comedian Kevin Hart's special "Laugh at My Pain." Dude has gotten lots of great press and you should certainly check him out at 9pm EST.

As a nice incentive to spread the word about his show, Comedy Central is offering up the following DVDs to all of you: Patrice O’Neil's"Elephant in the room"; Sinbad's "Where you been?"; and Eddie Griffin's "You Can Tell ‘Em I Said It."

We have 3 sets of DVDs to give away, so there is much goodness to go around.

As is our habit here at WARN, you need to put in a little work to win this great set of prizes.

Here is what you need to do.

In keeping with my ghetto nerd roots, I would like you to imagine that space aliens have finally made first contact with Earth. If you had to choose one comedian, either living or dead, as humankind's ambassador to the universe, who would you send and why?

This contest will run until next Wednesday night. Get creative, be reflective, make your case, and win a prize. Pretty easy, no?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Jar Jar Mea Culpa? George Lucas Discusses His Tuskegee Airmen Movie "Red Tails" on The Daily Show

George Lucas is making the rounds to promote his newest film Red Tails. I attended a screening of the movie several months ago and wrote my review here. On The Daily Show Lucas echoes my observation that Red Tails is a corny, over the top, jingoistic, 1940s era World War 2 movie--just one with black folks as the centerpiece of the story. In short, Red Tails is the World War 2 movie that The Tuskegee Airmen deserved and never received: it is their/our Flying Leathernecks.

I love Star Wars. I owe Lucas and his fantastic creation a great deal both personally and professionally. As such, I feel that I have earned the freedom to engage in some critical ghetto nerd talk about the prequels and Lucas' politics more generally. Dude is on the right side of so many issues, and his body of work signals to this fact, that (to my eyes at least) Red Tails makes up a bit of the ill will left over from the Jar Jar debacle that is the Prequels.

Lucas drops the shield with Stewart, engages in some self-deprecating humor, talks long term plans for the Red Tails franchise, and the reality that Hollywood will not finance black movies save for Tyler Perry's hot garbage new age race minstrelsy (notice how George bites his tongue, speaking very carefully about the coonery and buffoonery that are Madea and Meet the Browns).

I will see Red Tails again both to support the venture, and to see if the final edits improve on what was an already more than serviceable film.

Here is one of the real faces, the real voices, and real people who were the heroes known as The Tuskegee Airmen. This interview with Alexander Jefferson of the 332nd Fighter Group from the U.S. Army War College archives (an amazing resource by the way, one that I will be featuring more often) is worth a view.

Men like this are legends, elder gods:

An Inside Con Game? Why Would Cornel West Go On the Hannity Show?

Last night, Brother Cornel West appeared on "Brother" Sean Hannity's TV show. Lord. "Brother" Sean Hannity? Save me now. I cannot stomach Fox News; only a few seconds of viewing leave me spent and exhausted--their lies and distortions are that burdensome.

In all, this an entertaining interview. But, it left me with many head-shaking moments, and a few questions.

One, why would Cornel West go on the Hannity Show? Fox viewers are not going to buy his books, they see him as a crazy negro intellectual leftie Commie, so what is the point? Is Brother Cornel just putting his head in the lion's mouth for a cheap thrill?

Two, why would Cornel walk back his observations about Herman Cain being on "the symbolic crack pipe?" You are on enemy territory, why not go hard and stick to principles? And yes, it was fun to hear Hannity mentioning some of my talking points on Herbie Cornbread Imagine There is No Pizza Cain (once more, I had a moment when I regretted not going on Fox News those months back). One day, I will get my metaphorical hands around the throats of Hannity and company, I just have to wait for the moment of my own choosing.

Three, are the talking heads all in bed with each other? Is this a big charade that the true believers, marks, and the low information voting public don't realize is a sham? Left and Right need a good fight, just like boxers who feign hatred for each other to build up the gate. Is this a dynamic present in the Cornel West Fox News interview?

Fourth, do Hannity and the Conservative Jesus Christ hates the poor and loves the rich Christian Nationalist Dominion crowd really believe the crap they spew? I am not a "Christian," but the Right-wing prosperity gospel war monger types have always been the object of much fascination on my part. What mental gymnastics do they use in their biblical hermeneutics? Can their pastors, ministers, and other oracles be brought up on charges of biblical malpractice?

Finally, who the hell are the "so-called" rich that Hannity defends as an oppressed and aggrieved public? What leaps of faith are necessary for listeners to sustain a belief in, and adherence to, such Orwellian fictions?

The lie isn't even that persuasive, even for the most superficial and dim of viewers. Why does it have any traction at all?