Thursday, April 30, 2015

'Black Humor': How did Freddie Gray Sever His Own Spine?

A good deal of twentieth-century Negro humor, then, continued the process familiar to us from the trickster tales: the outer world was reduced to pygmy proportions; the situation was dwarfed; and the joke-tellers and their audiences were allowed to set aside, or at least to minimize, the pain and defeat imposed upon them by the external world. 
The Baltimore uprising forced back today's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show with guest Joe McKinney until next Tuesday. I want to see how matters develop this weekend so that I can be sure that my opening comments on the podcast are appropriate.

It has been a busy week. I have had two pieces on Alternet (last week and a new one today on white America's historical amnesia about its own mastery of anti-black and brown riots and other violence). My essay on protecting the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. was also picked up by Salon and should be appearing on Alternet as well.

[Salon also republished my Alternet piece with a damn heart punch title and subheading. Impressed. Very impressed I am, in my best Yoda voice.]

Sigh, it is unfortunate to have to do truth-telling about such foul matters. Alas, the racism beat must be walked if we are to get closer to a more just world.

Love from the Incredible Hulk?  Writing about the Elder Gods, MLK, and White America's expertise in rioting? All in one week? Fate has a sense of humor.

To wit.

The newest--and quite predictable effort to spin, distort, and otherwise obfuscate the killing of Freddie Gray by Baltimore's police--involves their leaking part of an official report which suggests that he somehow severed his own spinal chord.

Of course, this is bovine scatology. It only makes the police look more guilty and will fuel the roars of the young lions that have taken to the streets across the country in support of justice for Freddie Gray and against police brutality, more generally.

[From Freddie Gray to Victor White, apparently all black men are naturally gifted contortionists, the heirs to Harry Houdini.]

The fictions about Freddie Gray's demise are evocative of the classic Jim Crow era joke where two white sheriffs discover a black man hanging from a tree with a knife in his back. The first sheriff observes, "hell of a thing." The second sheriff says, "how boss?" He answers, "I get how the nigger hung himself, but how the hell did he manage to stab himself in the back?"

Black folks and others who have suffered under power use humor as a survival mechanism to negotiate the institutional and quotidian struggles of life in an unfair society.

For example, historically, Black Americans responded to the absurdity of white supremacy by engaging in acts of subaltern resistance through cultural and symbolic politics. These were not separate from more formal types of political activity in the public sphere; rather, they often complemented one another.

Some classic jokes in the African-American comedy tradition that can help to manage the smiles and cries in the aftermath of the Freddie Gray killing include those collected by Lawrence Levine in his classic work Black Culture and Black Consciousness.

Some gems.

  1. A white man driving a convertible in Mississippi runs into two Negroes, hitting them so hard that they fly straight up into the air. One lands in the back seat of the convertible and is charged with illegal entry, while the other lands about 150 feet down the road and is charged with leaving the scene of a crime.
  2. Getting off a bus in a strange Mississippi town, a Negro visitor saw no members of the race around and asked a white man, Where do the colored folks hang out here?" Pointing to a large tree in the public square, the white man replied, "Do you see that limb?"
  3. A negro got off a bus in the South, penniless, hungry, and lonely. The first person he saw was a white policeman, whom he approached politely and asked what time it was. The policeman hit him twice with his club and said, "Two o'clock nigger. Why?" "Nothing, capum," he answered. "I'se just glad in ain't twelve."

Any jokes to share?


Buddy said...

Chauncey: Please vote.

Jeb Bush just said he's read Charles Murray, is "a big fan."

We're fucked if he comes within a mile of the whitehouse.

Buddy said...

From Talking Points Memo:

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) declared himself to be a fan of controversial social scientist Charles Murray's books at a forum Thursday in Washington.

Bush lauded Murray's books on two separate occasions during an interview with National Review editor Rich Lowry, at a forum sponsored by the conservative magazine.

Lowry asked Bush, "... is there any policy or anything public officials can do to help turn back what has been a rising tide of family breakdown crossing decades now?"

"Absolutely, there is," Bush, a likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate, said. "It's not exactly the core. My views on this were shaped a lot on this by Charles Murray's book, except I was reading the book and I was waiting for the last chapter with the really cool solutions — didn't quite get there."

Later in the interview, Lowry asked Bush what he likes to read. Again, he cited Murray.

"I like Charles Murray books to be honest with you, which means I'm a total nerd I guess," Bush said.

Bush didn't say which of Murray's books he was referring to. His political team did not immediately respond to TPM.

seeknsanity said...

Absolutely incredible. From Michael Brown shaking off bullets, to Freddie Gray throwing himself down onto his voicebox. And then, flipping over onto his back to sever his spine. You cannot even make this stuff up.

seeknsanity said...

Author of The Bell Curve. If that doesn't say it all...

joe manning said...

As if the claim of cultural inferiority isn't stupid enough Bush would pile on with biological inferiority. No way that this racist is presidential material. The "liberal" media made Paul Ryan recant his praise of Murray. I'm waiting for a similar smack down of Bush.

KissedByTheSun said...

As Richard Pryor might of said:
"Jeb Bush is already in the White House, he's always been in the White House.

john fremont said...

As a commenter brought up on another blog when he heard the Freddie Gray "suicide" story, the punchline to another southern sheriff joke, "Dang, that boy stole more chain than he could swim with. " My gosh, they're really gonna go with this "suicide" story.

Gable1111 said...

That #1 is absolutely hilarious.

The best jokes have an element of the reality to it, and this one does, as racism has been just that absurd.

Gable1111 said...

Just heard that the cops involved in the killing of Freddie Gray were indicted by the States Attorney, with charges for some including second degree murder, with maximum penalties of up to 63 years in prison.

While that is a step towards justice, we should be mindful of the various tricks and traps a prosecutor can use, even when there is an indictment, to intentionally make sure the guilty walk.

There is the case of Rekia Boyd here in Chicago:

Given how these cases have gone, you almost have to expect the worst.

lkeke35 said...

In ten or twenty years, when White people look back on these things, what will they have to say for themselves, I wonder?

It's been fifty years or thereabouts, I wonder what all those white people who were screaming at that little girl going to school, (Ruby Ridges) I wonder what they're doing now and how they feel about what they were doing that day? Do they just pretend it didn't happen? Or that they weren't there?

At the end of their life, having committed so much nothing to the advancement of the human race, how do they feel about themselves?

How is it possible that White people can look back on the things white people did to blacks back then and decry that, while repeating the same damn behavior they're condemning and believing they have a "good bead" on things?

Do people not recognize when they're on the wrong side of history?

I just wonder about these things.

seeknsanity said...

They feel completely justified while in the throes of the social ideology of their preferred groups. So, no they don't feel a shred of onsciousness over any of it. America has a unique (I think) blend of various psychosis. CD, often writes about them here. The selective amnesia, that was posted a couple of days ago. This one:

Sociopathy. It suffers from a cognitive dissonance, as recently illustrated in a Mother Jones article:

Nurtured by a need to be seen as exceptional. In that frame we can deny, excuse, or justify, all sorts of acts that don't fall within the picture of what we are supposed to project outside ourselves. No one can tell us we aren't great, even as they parade the remnants of our acts, in front of us.

That same mindset is embodied among the "exceptional" within this country, to wit, white priveledge. Of course, being on the other end and observing how it is played out, it is puzzling to us, who think the wrong committed should be obvious. But, not to them.

This is why we are constantly being told that we should "get over it" in one breath, while being expected to deify the very actors, this country's forefathers, in the next. It is very easy for them to excise the bad acts of their forebears, or ignore current bad acts of its government, so long as it did/does not impact them. But, they hang on to that Civil War, or Pearl Harbor, or rather recently 9/11, for all it is worth. And their frame of reference is informed by these events.

When confronted, or rather when shown to be wrong, they can claim, rather convenieniently, that they did not participate. Deny any such acts were committed by them, individually. Who's going to prove them wrong? That is, until they can jump on the next bandwagon, group-think of wrong-sidedness, to feel exceptionally American nationalism.

We are products of very powerful propaganda, sharpened and honed over the course of the history of this country. Piled on top of slight after slight and never corrected. Just dropped for the next piece. Complete with movies, shows, news, books, music and religion working in tandem to reinforce all of the above for different sectors. One big psychological experiment.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

Recently read D'Souza say if affirmative action programs were ended, the black college population would be extinct. Annihilation seeps out through their language.

lkeke35 said...

thank you for the link. it was very helpful.

lkeke35 said...

Thanx for the link. Actually it was very touching. I believe people should make every effort t atone for the things they believe they've done wrong, and she did, but it seems not to have worked out for her .