Saturday, April 30, 2011

Oh, My!

I am an American. As I have often joked, we kicked the Brits' asses twice and saved their asses twice. We owe them absolutely nothing (though, they have been taking a big one for the Anglo Alliance team during this whole "War on Terror" thing).

I am African-American. Sixteen percent of the Revolutionary Army was made up of my people, and we've been fighting ever since. Besides, who took up this whole slavery thing with gusto on our continent in the first place?

I am also of Jamaican descent. Runaway slaves on that island (known as Maroons) fought the British for centuries. While never gaining full independence like their Haitian brethren, the Maroons fought so ferociously, the British ended up suing for peace. The interior mountain region of Jamaica was never officially colonized because of the Maroons.

And one puddle in this muddied gene pool of mine, one can find Scottish ancestry. My peeps have been used and abused by the Brits. Bonnie Prince Charlie almost took it to the redcoats, but what can you do?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tiger Mothers and Other Reaffirming Stereotypes

I admit, I've been mildly intrigued by the idea of reading Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother ever since the fire storm over Amy Chua's book erupted a few months back. For those of you who haven't heard, Battle Hymn chronicles Chua's battles with her daughters and the utter abuse they take in the author's quest to be a proper "Chinese mother."

As many of you know, I read books for a living. As soon as this bad mutha hit the office, I scrambled to have it assigned to me. Mission accomplished, I started Tiger Mother yesterday and am about halfway through. This is what I think so far ...

First, I must make perfectly clear, that I hate exceptionalism in all its forms. For nations, it simply means that we Americans will rush headlong into countries like Afghanistan simply knowing that, because of our inherent goodness, we will not suffer the fates of Alexander the Great nor the British Empire (see how that's working for us).

As far as race goes, I believe that exceptionalism is simply the PC flip side of racism. These backhanded compliments will laud any race in one particular area while subtly suggesting that they are inferior in all others. In the 1840s, while enslaved Negroes were being called "lazy" and "shiftless" in one breath, the very next breath admonished those "slovenly" and "dirty" Irish and Germans to be more like the "hard-working," "industrious" darky. The "model minority" was born and continues to thrive to this day--though the levels of melanin have pretty much changed.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fo'evah Coonin'

So, last night, in an attempt to embrace the ensuing insomnia that's been plaguing me these past couple weeks, I plugged my headphones into some '90s hip-hop and curled up on the couch to David Wondrich's Stomp and Swerve: American Music Gets Hot 1843-1924. In it, Wondrich acerbically details the birth of American popular music: the minstrel/"coon" show.

Apparently, the whole phenomenon started in the 1840s with a group called the Virginia Minstrels, who combined the African banjo and the European fiddle with more than a dash of burnt cork for their faces and "Negro dialect" for their tongues. They instantly became a national--and later, an international--sensation. I guess as our nation crept towards the Civil War, white folks felt somehow reassured by this black-faced view of the Negro just a-pickin' and a-grinnin' on the plantation. The minstrels' white audiences also felt that these caricatures of African servitude presented an "authentic" look into Negro life.

White groups in black face sprouted up all over and were wildly popular. They dominated American entertainment until the unthinkable happened. A group of black coons calling themselves the "Georgia minstrels" done stoled they thunder. White folks ate 'em up. Georgia minstrels started popping up everywhere. Black folks, it was felt, were just better at cooning than white folks (obviously, this was before the advent of reality TV). They were just more "authentic" on portraying that happy-go-lucky plantation life.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Is This What Our Democracy Has Come To?

What do you think? Gary Busey for Secretary of State? Mel Gibson, Ambassador to Israel? Chris Brown, Health and Human Services? Who else would be a perfect fit for a Donald Trump Cabinet?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Why, Some of My Best Friends Are Monkeys Black

I'm sure you probably heard by now, but a California Republican (and reportedly Tea Party activist), Marilyn Davenport is being slammed for emailing this photo of Obama to fellow travelers with the heading, "Now you know why no birth certificate."

Members of her own party in her own state found this image so offensive, they've been calling on Davenport to resign from her state party's central committee.

"It's just highly inappropriate, it's a despicable message, it drips with racism and I think she should step down from the committee," [chairman of the Orange County (Calif.) Republican Party, Scott] Baugh said. "It undermines everything we are doing to reach out to ethnic communities."

Now, this is exactly the kind of drivel that will cause all kinds of shock and blah all over the blogosphere. Before it properly kicks off, I, for one, want to state for the record that I am not shocked in the least bit by any of it.