Thursday, October 30, 2008

Your Black World: Why Wright Happens -- By Debra Dickerson

Why Wright Happens

By: Debra Dickerson

How come white folks can consort with racists but blacks can't? Not that I'm conceding that Rev. Wright is a racist. But let's stick to the point.

Jonathan Stein's post gives me the perfect opportunity to kvetch about something that's been driving me crazy about the attacks on Obama via Wright.

Stein's right that vicious ads like this one will give a great many cover to vote against Obama. But here's the thing: What about the racists and loonies who helped raise most of us? My father was bitter beyond belief about white racism, even though he had white friends and volunteered to fight in WWII. I can separate his horrific life experiences (Jim Crow sharecropper) out from my own (post-Civil Rights Movement) world view, as do most other Americans. When the elders got together and ranted and raved about the white man, I didn't go upstairs, write a formal denunciation, and secede from my family. I considered the source and was grateful to have been born later. How dare you demand that we have no complaints? Church, and to a lesser and more troubling extent, certain forms of rap 'music', are places we go for catharsis. And catharsis ain't usually a pretty sight.

Jason Whitlock, whom I blogged about earlier, summarized this notion perfectly:

"It sickens me that we are forced to pretend Obama doesn't have the ability to associate with and even love people with extreme, illogical views, denounce those beliefs in words and deed and remain a rational, fair-minded person. For decades, black people have supported and respected elected white officials who were raised by unrepentant racists, and we are expected to take those white politicians at their word that their parents' views don't interfere with their motivation to be fair."

Right on. We don't buy into everything our ministers, elders, and Nation of Islam newspaper-vendors tell us. We take it for what it's worth if only because we've gotten a lot of practice at that, rolling our eyes and nudging each other when whites decry, for instance, the built-in affirmative action which almost entirely accounts for their group success. When you're black, you get the bullshit from all sides, and we're masters at keeping our own counsel. Here's a study of black opinion that didn't get near enough play when published in July, though it was recently discussed on CNN; the black community is nothing if not cacophanously diverse in its attitude toward race and world view. But you can only vote GOP or DNC (unless you want me to slap you) and those choices strike many blacks as all too clear.

Getting back to the issue of whether Wright is a racist or not, this whole kerfuffle also rankles because it demands that blacks have zero problem with race relations in this country. Well, guess what: We do, and we're not gonna shut up about it. Many of us believe whites/America as capable of just about anything, and realities like Gitmo, war profiteering, and the financial collapse have proved us all too right in that wariness.

Are there those among us who have been driven positively round the bend? Certainly, and we know just how to take them—as outlets for our sometimes incoherent rage. Then we go back to work as the the only black in our offices and we mix and mingle just fine, navigating between Raheem in the mailroom, who can "prove" all whites are devils, and Jennifer in accounting, who can never remember that you're not a cafeteria worker. We rarely argue with Raheem because he'd either pity or hate us as a sell out. Also, these guys are pretty amusing. Nor do we often bother to straighten Jennifer out (after three years) because we know it would only get us marked "angry" and "not a team player." Lots of things about America strike us as no crazier than our grannies and pastors; there has to be somewhere for us to work off the pressure.

Said it before and now I'm saying it again: It took the world centuries to make blacks this crazy. We come by it honestly. What's your grandmother's excuse?

Y'all show us a white in public life with no racists or conspiracy theorists among his intimates, and then we can talk about Wright.

Originally Appeared In Mother Jones

Monday, October 27, 2008

DL Hughley’s Def (and Dumb) Comedy Jam on CNN

By Dr. Boyce Watkins

I continue to be irritated by Fox News, which is why I don’t watch it. We know clear racism when we see it, and it should not be legitimized by our viewership. However, I’ve always given CNN a pass. I’ve overlooked the fact that nearly every financial analyst on the network is a White male, since that tends to be the norm in almost every academic department in America. I could almost overlook the atrocious spectacle called “Black in America”, which presented African Americans to the world as pathetic lab rats to be studied and pitied. When it came to CNN, I presumed that they are simply victims of the same institutionalized racism which plagues nearly every other corporation, university and media outlet in our country. I don’t get mad at every racist I see, since I truly, and perhaps naively, believe that most Americans strive to be good people.

But the new CNN show, “DL Hughley Breaks the News” was something I simply cannot forgive.

In Hughley’s new show, he attempts to add a comedic spin to the presidential election with “commentary” by characters such as “Freddie Mac”, a pimp who apparently caused the financial crisis. In the interview with Freddie Mac, the pimp makes typical pimp-like comments such as “bitch betta have my money”, and “pimps up, hoes down” in reference to the 2008 Presidential election. There are also segments which explain that President Obama’s healthcare plan would include “gold grills for everyone”, along with other equally tasteless jokes that have no place on an allegedly “mainstream” news network just a few days before one of the most significant elections in American history. Nearly every joke on Hughley’s show came back to some generalized stereotype, reminding us that African Americans are seen as relatively trifling “social critters” and not much of anything else. My good friend Roland Martin at CNN has never received the same respect as political caricatures like Nancy Grace and Glenn Beck. So, the most degrading thing CNN can do is to finally give an African American a show after he agrees to turn the stellar Obama presidential campaign into a minstrel show. I am not sure if Flavor Flav or Juan Williams (the educated version of Flavor Flav) could have done a better job.

I have to say that DL Hughley lost my respect 2 years ago during the Don Imus debacle. After working hard on the phone with Rev. Jackson and Rev. Sharpton to construct a plan to challenge Imus’ corporate sponsors, I was saddened to watch DL use this situation as an opportunity to say things that no self-respecting Black public figure would say. On the Jay Leno show, I dropped my face to the floor when I heard Hughley say, “Yes, those women really WERE a pack of nappy headed hoes!” I could not understand why Hughley could not simply make the appearance as a comedian citing the quality of his work, rather than a Black man agreeing to engage in the degradation of Black women for the enjoyment of a predominantly white audience.

At that point, I decided that when DL Hughley is on a show, I will not watch him. I can understand the grit and grind of getting ahead, but getting ahead at all costs makes you a professional garden tool. Perhaps the show’s resident pimp, Freddie Mac could use DL as one of his employees. The idea that this seasoned comedian would leverage his Blackness in such a degrading way simply makes me wonder why he never developed greater range as a performer. His laughs always go back to the same old unintelligent place, like the little kid on the school bus who memorizes 800 “ya mama” jokes and recites them one by one to keep the other kids laughing. Just when Obama taught us all to step outside the box, CNN and DL Hughley have reminded us to stay inside the socio-political ghetto. The audience members are not laughing WITH you DL, they are laugh AT YOU.

I make these comments as a Black man, which I’ve been for quite a while now. I am a loyal fan of Katt Williams, Chris Rock, Dave Chapelle, Richard Pryor, Wanda Sykes, Eddie Murphy and other cutting edge and incredibly talented comedians. I don’t wear my “Black Panther Hat” everywhere I go, and I have as many guilty pleasures as anyone when it comes to laughing about things that might be considered offensive. I also say this as a moderate fan of Def Comedy Jam, most forms of hip hop and nearly everything else that reflects the beauty and diversity of being Black in our great nation. But the truth of the matter is that there must be a point where the line is drawn, like realizing that you don’t put a porn shop inside a church or bring a gun to a baby shower. It is amazing that CNN would sign off on this show right before such an historic and politically sacred event, sending a clear message to African Americans that the only way to get their attention is to “be really black and make us laugh”. This once again underscores the necessity for more black-owned media outlets. Perhaps if there were a greater diversity of Black-owned media in America, we would not have to sell each other out for our moment in the sun. Until that time, I’ll be getting most of my news from the Internet.

Congratulations DL, it appears that your show will be a smash hit. You’ve become America’s favorite nappy headed hoe. I really hope it was worth it.

Your Black World: CNN's New Hughley Show Is "Stereotypical" -- By Dr. Metzler

CNN's new Hughley show reinforces black stereotypes

By: Christopher J. Metzler

In just eight days, America may well elect its first black president. Throughout the long campaign, race has been an omnipresent issue with many asking whether whites and some blacks would reject Senator Obama because of his race.

Most news outlets and commentators have discussed race in a vacuous way for fear of being called racists. In fact, if this election taught us anything about the media and race, it is that most journalists -- including white liberals -- simply lack the vocabulary to discuss and analyze race, choosing instead to engage in a cacophonous politically correct gab fest.

As the election draws to a close, one major cable news network decided to discuss race in a mephitic way, reminiscent of Amos and Andy, a situation comedy based on reinforcing stereotypes about blacks and widely popular in the United States from the 1920s through the 1950s

The show's anchor warned that the election of a President Obama would lead to a health plan with grills for all. Grills are shining metal caps worn on the teeth of blacks while they drink malt liquor from a paper bag. His guest, "Freddie Mack," attired in the traditional pimp attire complete with hat and bling, described Obama's fund raising prowess as "Big pimping." In fact, Freddie Mack went on to say, "Politicians are pimps and the electorate are their hoes." Thus, he reasoned, "bitch better have my money." In a response dripping with racism and misogyny, he reminded Americans that the financial crisis was about his sister Fannie May or Fannie may not again, utilizing the hoe moniker for black women.

The anchor also predicted that the election of a President Obama would result in a meteor striking America. His expert guest assured him of two things. The first is that such would not happen during an Obama administration and that if it did, blacks would be protected because of the complexion of our skin while whites would not. As if this was not enough, the anchor conducted an interview in which a black maid of a Jewish woman decried her years as a maid for that Jewish woman and warned that she would "clean her clock" if the old Jewish woman did not vote for Obama. Of course, besides portraying black women as violent, it also escalated the issue of Jews voting for Obama during this election. The message, it seems, is that blacks cannot convince with the facts but with fists.

The anchor also interviewed former Miss Alaska Maryline Blackburn, who beat vice-presidential candidate Sara Palin for the title. Asked whether Palin needed substance in her debate with Biden, Blackburn replied yes. No, the anchor replied, "All you need is to be in a tong and, I would vote for you."

Throughout this election, I have written prolifically about the role that race is playing. I have also said in several radio, television and print interviews that McCain and Palin created a racially charged atmosphere at some of their rallies which resulted in shouts of "kill him, off with his head, and terrorist" referring to Senator Obama. I have said that such an atmosphere is akin to the lynch mobs rallies which resulted in the gratuitous lynching of black men especially during the Jim Crow era. These rallies and the attendant racially tinged atmosphere were condemned by CNN.

Now, in a shameless show of hypocrisy, CNN -- like the slave masters who profited from racism and slavery -- has decided that there is still money in racism and found just the Negro to help it cash in. At 10 P.M. on Saturday, October, 25, 2008, CNN premiered D.L. Hughley Breaks the News.

By introducing D.L. Hughley Breaks the News, both CNN and Hughley have picked up where McCain and Palin have left off. During the course of this election, CNN has portrayed itself as having "the best political team on television." It can now portray itself has having, "the best racism team on television." This is so for at least three reasons. First, in the course of one hour, Hughley and his CNN producers managed to rearticulate the vilest stereotypes of blacks, especially the notion that at our core, black men are pimps and black women hoes.

Second, as if to give legitimacy to its racists portrayals, CNN had former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan endorse Obama after Hughley skinned, grinned and jived while broadcasting black stereotypes worldwide. The message was this a "real" news show; even the white man came on here to make an endorsement.

Third, Hughley demonstrated that blacks still suffer from internalized racial oppression. That is, too many blacks, including Hughley have internalized the racial stereotypes of us created by whites and remind whites that it is not necessary for them to purvey them through mass media, as we will do it for ourselves.

To be sure, both the white brass at CNN and Hughley bear equal responsibility for trafficking in and profiting from racism. CNN could not have done it without him or him without them. This symbiotic, collusive relationship is responsible for keeping racism alive. The white brass at CNN laughs all the way to the bank as we continue to denigrate ourselves for the entire world to see, racists delight in the voyeuristic enjoyment of racism and America continues to call itself "post-racial."

This election has taught us that outrage over racism is too selective. Ostensibly liberal networks such as CNN get a pass as evidenced by the lack of outrage about this show and ostensibly conservative networks such as Fox get pilloried as evidenced by the fact that Bill O'Reilly was taken to task for his comments about the "normal" atmosphere at Sylvia's restaurant in Harlem. It was not too long ago that Don Imus was banned from the airwaves because of his "nappy headed hos" comment. In fact, advertisers fled in droves. I have yet to hear any advertiser flee from this show.

So America, as Election Day approaches, would the election of a black president mean that we would have addressed race or that we will continue to rearticulate it?

Dr. Christopher J. Metzler is associate dean at Georgetown University and the author of The The Construction and Rearticulation of Race in a Post-Racial America.

Originally Appeared In The Daily Voice