By OK Kai/www.40acresandacubicle.com
There aren’t many words in the English language that can incite as much pain and hate as the word ”nigger.
Almost every racial and ethnic group has a disparaging and offensive slur associated with them, but nigger is easily the most notorious. The majority of White people in the United States called Black people niggers when slavery was cool. It was just the thing to do, build a nation on the backs of beautifully dark people and lump them into one category of niggers. Some Europeans were using the term without deliberate insult, they used the n-word to refer to all Africans. Kind of like how people still compare Africa to other countries as if all of the countries in Africa are the same, it’s identity-stripping behavior. When slavery was abolished, racist white folk started using the term solely as a tool of division and oppression. Then Black people took the word and told White people they couldn’t use it anymore.
But the post-racial society slaps us with a hand-full of irony. The most offensive thing you can call a white person these days is a racist. Calling a white person racist elicits a reaction liken to that of an ugly fat person getting called “an ugly fat person” to their face. Its not quite at nigger-level, but it’s pretty damn offensive.
When I was moving from my old house, the landlord, Jennifer, talked to me about the new resident of the property. The landlord was White and the tenant was a young Black woman with a mom who made a lot of demands. She demanded yard service, new paint, a new stove and a new sink, even though her daughter had signed the lease weeks prior and thought everything was great. Jennifer pretty much made it sound like this woman had gene markers from of Mo’Nique, Angela Bassett and Mama Jones because she apparently made these demands with copious amounts of sass. Jennifer went on to say that the tenant’s mom called her, “a racist bigot trying to squeeze these niggers out of their money”. As she explained that her husband is Black, tears began to roll down her cheek. I’m not that close to my landlord, so I was admittedly uncomfortable. But I still tried to comfort her by saying, “that’s terrible” and patting her on the shoulder. I felt bad, but not that bad. I mean, mom got called a nigger bitch at a tennis club and didn’t shed a tear. Just saying.
My landlord, as emotional as she may have been, had seemingly solid grounds for her reaction. It makes sense to take offense to people calling you something that you are not. However, if the shoe fits, shut up and take the criticism.
Decades ago, white people in the United States could defend ignorant behavior by calling it the norm, god’s will, or the will of the state. Now, however, being openly racist is looked down upon. You usually can’t put KKK down on your resume. Since being overtly racist is no longer socially acceptable, racist behavior is defended with projection.
For example, my white friend locked the door when we were sitting in the car waiting for a Chinese food order and some Black guys walked by. I told him that that was some racist shit, to which he replied, “You’re racist for thinking that bro”.
People had been walking passed our car for ten minutes. I called his bluff and told him that his strategy wasn’t original. Ever since racism became uncool, White America has been scrambling, trying to find ways to dissociate from bigotry. The most popular strategy for the especially ignorant has been to accuse the group that would most likely take offense. When George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin, 24-hour news channels were immensely fixated on Zimmerman’s race. They wanted us to know that Zimmerman was part Hispanic so bad that people who were defending him talked about his heritage more than his character. They hardly cared if this was the type of guy that would chase a teenager down the street and kill him for no rational reason, we just needed to know that he wasn’t racist. Then some of Zimmerman’s supporters tried to suggest that Black people were trying to capitalize on tragedies to promote their agenda. Republican politicians then said that Obama was being divisive when he said that his son would look like Trayvon.
When I was at the club a few weeks ago, the crew and I had found the perfect section to chill and go hammer at will. It was a mixed crowd, so there were some white people dancing near us. Everything was cool until Down 4 My Niggaz came on. My crew continued to bob there heads and drink their drinks. The white people proceeded to get krunk and yell “FUCK THEM OTHER NIGGAS ‘CAUSE I’M DOWN FOR MY NIGGAS!” at the top of their lungs. We didn’t react at first, we’ve lived in Post-Racial America for a while now. Our tolerance began to dwindle as the white girls relentlessly bumped into my crew despite several requests for them to “chill”. One of my homegirls mushed one of the racial slurring white girls in the face. As the men of the respective crews jumped between them, my homegirl called the white chic a racist. The white girl wasn’t even trying to get into it at first, until she was accused of being racist. Then she turned around and yelled “I am NOT a racist! You’re a racist!” and started towards us with red in her eyes.
I contemplated letting the brawl go down, but we continued to form a blockade around the section like a drunken game of red rover until the leader of the white crew was like, “we gotta go”.White people hate being called racist. This is the time of a Black president, hip-hop influence and Scandal with Kerry Washington, surely racism is a thing of the past. Just like the Caucasian imperialism that exploited damn near every region of darker hue on this planet is a thing of the past, right? Many white people think that the word “racism” only applies to overtly violent or oppressive acts. So if they’re not calling Black people racial slurs, lynching Black men or barring Black citizens from patronizing public establishments, they’re not racist. From the public education system, to the justice system, from our microsystems to our exosystems, there is racism everywhere. I understand why white people don’t want to be affiliated with such negative images and connotations. It’s similar to how Black people hate being stereotyped. If you claim to be tolerant or impartial to race, then recognize racist behavior when you see it. Everyone holds prejudices of some kind, and we should all be trying to reduce them. That requires honesty with yourself. Trying to ignore racism, or project it onto others in your denial, is the most hindering thing you can do to your personal development. Increase your introspective moments and adjust your behavior, I’m tired seeing the pot call the kettle nigger.
My apologies to the NAACP.
To the Deelishises, Boots, and Buckys (Flavor of Love); The Omorosas (The Apprentice), Corals(The Real World), and Taneishas (Bad Girl’s Club);The Atlanta “housewives” (Bravo), Basketball “Wives (VH1), and girlfriends, jump-offs, baby mommas or whatever other term given to the loosely delineated relationships of VH1’s Love and Hip hop Atlanta:
I have no doubt your affiliation with the aforementioned programming has not only significantly increased the value of your bank accounts, but has also garnered notable increases in viewership for your host channels, as well as revenue for producers and writers. It may even be stated that your participation in these shows has extended your five minutes of fame into fifteen in a world where it takes only seconds of exposure to achieve fame or become forgotten. Yet, in light of all your gain from the successes of your small screen performances (assuming that endless club appearances, mediocre product lines, countless promotional photo shoots with no particular sponsors and or profits, and casting calls and careers that amount in inevitably more reality television is considered a success), one must ask what cost you paid with respect to your dignity?
Now, my intent is not to ‘”judge” (that’s not my forte, or my interest). I’m simply inquiring if – after you auditioned for the season, signed the release forms, acted an ass on camera, and left your likeness and reputation to the whim of the editors in pursuit of fame and funds – you ever once considered the almost irrevocable effect you would have on the large-scale perception of Black women, and more importantly, the minds of black girls and young women set to one day become Black women themselves?
The stereotype of black women perpetuated by Western media and incubated by American culture (i.e. Black women as the welfare bound, domineering, ignorant, sexually immoral, yet highly religious, government freeloader) used to be an archetype found only in the characters written and endorsed by white writers and fed to the community by those who did not know us. In the era of television where the sitcom, rather than the reality television show, ruled (circa 1970-1998), there were a plethora of series dedicated to showcasing the progressive side of the African American experience. Many shows boasted characters that were not only indicative of real people in our lives (i.e. Moesha (1996) and Roc (1991)), but housed content that was relevant, provoking, and heartfelt.
Then somewhere around 1999, perhaps inspired by Y2k and the impending doom of the new millennium, a new genre was created where people did nothing but be themselves.
Enter MTV’s iconic “The Real World” (which had actually premiered successfully in 1992, but gained popular acclaim during the early 2000s) and CBS’s “Big Brother”which debuted in 2000 with a premise about nothing other than people aware of the fact they were being watched and the dynamics that ensued thereafter. These shows capitalized on their reality TV platform but also on their social experiment composition, similar to George Orwell’s “1984”. Soon, every genre of television possible was converted into “reality” while the casts and circumstances became more and more scripted, and the finished products less discreet about it.
That last paragraph probably meant nothing to you. I just figured you might like to know your place historically in all this mess. From a Black woman to Black women – whom I know with the greatest conviction have feelings, hopes, and aspirations like we all do – any endorsement of our presumed inferiority; footage of lewd, reckless, violent, or just plain ignorant behavior; petty arguments; admission of shallow aspirations and motivations fueled by money and men’s status; and no real contribution to the overall environment other than the hate and gossip you monger about those around you is an outright obstacle, and an act of sabotage to the advancement of ethnic women the world over. That might be an understatement.
I am consistently disenchanted by the portrayal of Black women as angry, raging bulls (acted so convincingly by characters like “Bad Girls’ Clubs’” Taneisha, or Coral from “Real World New York”). I’m thoroughly disgusted by caricatures of Black women as mindless, crazy, status obsessed sex objects (see: the casts of “Flavor of Love” and “Love and Hip Hop Atlanta”). I am intensely incensed at violence depicted as the primary method of communication between us on “Basketball Wives”.
WE deserve to be represented and written better. After centuries of oppression, victimization, and marginalization, we deserve to be shown in a light as wide and well rounded as the fake asses and titties found on the leading ladies of these programs. Am I going too far to wager that you’re still somehow unfulfilled emotionally and spiritually every week at the end of each episode?
I am reminded of a time when there was honor amongst women, and genteelness and couth were desired attributes in the feminine. What happened to the art of being a lady? When did we learn to no longer covet its mystique?
I am disappointed in you ladies heralding further fragmentation of our little girls’ social skills and identity. I am most disappointed in other media outlets like VIBE magazine calling women like Ms. Lozada a “new role model” in the Black community. Quite frankly, if that’s the new role model, than we need to return to the old immediately.
In closing, to the Black women of Reality TV and hopefuls wishing to one day sit in their confessionals: I am praying for you as I am praying for all of us in these times of deception and dishonesty. Though your lies may be lucrative, I pray for the day when you no longer seek these reality series, or producers who sponsor our crucifixions seasonally, for fame, success, or wealth. I pray that you learn to consider success as the contributions you give to your communities and your children, your feelings of fame from the fact that you are loved and valuable, and your measure of wealth from good health and good constitution of your hearts and minds.
On that note, be blessed. And next time your shows are on, look at the screen and then look in the mirror and try to remember which your true reflection is.
By Keisha Mitchell/www.theeditorink.com
What happens when you mix lyrical prowess, insane wit and porn stars with features from the likes of Chance the Rapper and Jhene Aiko? The second solo effort from comic-writer turned rapper Childish Gambino. Entitled “Because The Internet”, Gambinos’ Sophmore release doesn’t sound like a slump at all, rather more like a foray into the innerworkings of Gambinos’ musical mind. Entering the entertainment industry at 19 as NBCs’ youngest writer for the series “30 Rock”, and shortly thereafter made protege of SNLs’ Tina Fey, Gambino (whose pen name is Donald Glover) has been persistently purusing a seat beside mentions of HipHop Demigods such as Lil Wayne and Kanye West, and (much to his dismay) hasn’t always been received well by the more faithful of HipHop heads. As a response, “Because The Internet” seemingly doesn’t give a damn. It boasts a balance of middle school friendly jingles such as “Pink Toes” and “V.3005” while also offering bassheads a fix with singles such as “Sweatpants” and “World Star”. Gambino may not acheive the same commercial success that some of his strictly artist peers receive, but as a man with more than one hat to wear, “Because The Internet” reminds his fans and the world that the one labeled “MC” suits him well.
By David Rozzel/www.thecolorchannel.tumblr.com
Steve McQueen’s ’12 Years a Slave’ offers an alternative view of serfdom in America. It follows the struggles and minute victories of Solomon Northrup, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, as he has his freedom stripped and dignity tested throughout twelve years in servitude. The 2 hour movie, already highly acclaimed and slated to make waves come award season, depicts slaves as lowly, bold, proud…but is it something you can sink your teeth into?
When we last heard from the slavery epic, it’s mouth was full of muffled cries for mercy and indignant rants of enough N-words to make one reconsider using the term. This was the Django debacle. Django Unchained, a 2012 pseudo-Western directed by Quentin Tarantino, romanticized Americans’ hands in slavery to the point that the film could be interpreted as either a denunciation of de jure racism or a guns-blazing harbinger of its imminent re-emergence. 12 Years on the other hand is unapologetically a comment on personal bravery in the face of racism as manifested through slavery, whether in the heart of the slave or his owner. Director Steve McQueen is of British and Grenadian descent. His earlier works place a lens on the physical behavior of the body. ‘Five Easy Pieces’ for instance follows a tightrope walker across her narrow path, catching every bob and sway of her vulnerable person. ’12 Years’ is his third feature and offers a similar portrayal of two or three enslaved Africans and the bodies that they offer in return for the right to live.
Solomon Northrup (Ejiofor) is the first Africans who we see. He stands in the forefront of a crowd of newly inducted slaves receiving instruction on sugar cane harvest. His slouched body becomes a canvas on which the audience projects their opinions on servitude. Northrup, we later discover, had previously been a free, moderately well-off carpenter and fiddle-player. It isn’t until he is subverted by a pair of wicked White men that Northrop becomes a slave. He is drugged with wine and ambrosia and wakes up in chains. From here he is illegally transported to a Louisiana plantation.
Northrop is traded a number of times and ends up at the plantation of Edwin Epps played by Michael Fassbender. Fassbender is a staunch racist and once wakes the slaves in the middle of the night to dance for his wealthy Southern kin. The way Northrup responds is sort of like an olden-day “woman, are you crazy?” A striking phenomenon encompassed in ’12 Years’ is the scarcity of manhood within the African ranks. Northrop is often gazed upon by confused, hopeless eyes of female slaves. There is a subtle questioning of the place of gender and responsibility of the Blacks who are literally stripped of their roles for the sake of their White owners’ well-being.
I won’t give away too much, but Brad Pitt does appear toward the end. The character who plays Patsey refused to attend the Italian premier of ’12 Years’ after marketers there chose to place Pitt and Fassbenders’ faces on posters for the film. This film will be talked about for years to come for its faithful retelling of the perseverance of Northrop, masterfully played by Ejiofor. It’s written and directed by Black men and tells a true story so check it out. Two Eyes Open. Peace.
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