Showing posts with label Supernegro. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Supernegro. Show all posts

Saturday, December 8, 2012

An Urgent Appeal to President Obama

I know the President is setting himself an ambitious agenda following his defeat of Mitt Romney last month, but there is one question that it's in all of our interests that he answer: Does he plan to forget about all of the white men he's slapped over the past four years? Who will look after their welfare (so to speak)? 

Ever since 2008, he's been doing it. I mean for real, just putting guys to shame that were supposed to be real dudes. If our President doesn't watch it, he might have an epidemic of white men who have been publicly pimp-slapped by a black man. I'm not saying that it's wrong to slap a white man in public, but you've got to be careful with the consequences. 

I'm looking for America's Next Top Model
We, as a world community, need to figure out what we're going to do with all of these disgruntled white men. If the 20th century was about solving the Negro question, the 21st will be about solving the Crakasskracker question. Many of these troubled individuals have guns. They are just now realizing that the White Supremacy is not an ideology suited to the present reality. In other words, we don't believe you, you need more people.

That's a heavy blow for a lot of folks. The President could show some leadership on this issue by providing services to a few of the high profile white men he has emasculated in the past. 

Final Five or not, you gotsta chill
John McCain: Remember how Neo had him staggering around stage? McCain was a war hero who sold his medals to the Bush crowd and never got them back. He would have been a more formidable contender if he hadn't placated to the Republican establishment. He knows the toll war can take on a human being. Instead of thinking about the soldiers first, the people he relies on are more interested in war as an economic tool. One could argue that it always is, but McCain bangs the war drums a little too quickly on just about anything these days. He shouldn't have anything to prove, but you get the feeling that he still has never gotten over losing to a Black man. Maybe some kind of 12 step recovery program. Step #1: Forgive yourself. Please. 

I still got my binders
Mitt Romney: He would be a good Willy Lowman if he wasn't so damn rich. The election brought to mind the Jordan Sick game. NeO holding his guts, but bussin threes every time down the court. In the second debate he made Mitt Romney his Byron Russell. Romney got thirsty when the Bhengazi thing came up. He, like Byron Russell, thought to himself "I finally got him!"  
Proceed Governor, NeO said. Drive right, followed by a cross back to the left hand, and finally a nice pull up with perfect form for the game. Next thing you know, the debate moderator had to step in and tell him how bad he got faked. I actually don't think Mitt Romney is going to need all of that help. He has little to know respect for most of the voting population and convinced himself that people on welfare cost him the election. His self-delusion is supported with enough cash that he'll pull through. Maybe just have him try that Cory Booker Welfare Week diet.

It was like right, left, right
Jim DeMint, now known as Ji'Mint: So remember when ole boy was talking about it's going to be NeO's Waterloo? Made me have to look up Waterloo on Wikipedia and everything. Ji'Mint said he was going to break the president. It must have felt so good to stand in front of those cameras and talk all that trash.  Kind of like Joe Wilson standing with a room full of White men calling the Black president a liar.
**Ed. Note: That actually happened. It actually did** 
But now we get word that Ji'Mint is quitting the senate. He's taking a think tank job. Now, he's going to clean up on the financial end, but if you had to choose one person who did not get "broken" in the exchange with NeO, it seems a fair point to say it's probably the dude who still has his job.
 When Ji'Mint comes back around the block and tells everybody about the fight he was bragging he would win, you know people are going to ask how he won with two black eyes.
Maybe we could just arrange for someone to go by the house and check in with him every now and then. I do, however, take it as a good sign he's trying to get a brother to be appointed to his spot. I don't know much about the brother, but I assume they have him on a short leash. That shows Ji'Mint is thinking beyond his whiteness.That's encouraging.

Naw, girl. Don't worry. I got you.
Chris Cristie: I wouldn't call this an emasculation, necessarily. More like CC cut his deal after the storm hit and went with the hug instead of the coming lipbustment the Republican were about to get. Dude is sharp though. He's one of the few people I've seen make John Stewart start grasping at straws. CC just needs to keep getting invited to the house. Keep him on the payroll and everything will be alright.

Donald Trump: There was a point where I actually felt bad for Donald Trump. Not only did the President go all Hot Sauce on him at the White House Correspondents dinner. Obama:
He petty for that, Mr. Trump. Petttty.

“All kidding aside, we all know about your credentials and experience. On Celebrity Apprentice the men’s cooking team did not impress the judges from Omaha steaks, but you recognized that this was a lack of leadership, so you fired Gary Busey. These are the kinds of decisions that would keep me up at night. Well-handled, sir. Well-handled.”

Sitting there fuming, it must have just sounded to Trump like one joke told over and over again: what did the five fingers say to the face?And to top it all off, the next day dude is killing Bin Laden. Talk about dissed and dismissed. In this case I don't think it's going to be so bad. As long as there's a camera around, Mr. Trump is going to be able to blow himself back up. I'm not sure how severe the case is right now, but I would suggest some kind of invasive treatment with Arsenio Hall. Maybe they have to hang out together and do a reality television show. Call it The Big Buck and The Big Bucks.

John Boehner: Leave John John alone. You know he's quick to tears. It's bad enough that Pelosi done smacked up side the head and Barbara Bush went in on him. Now you going to punk him about the fiscal cliff? You know that ain't right. And Maybe just no more jokes about the tan. That's probably not helping.

 In a post pimp slap world, we need to have the resources at our disposal to make sure that these White men aren't left to their own devices. We must bring them back into the fold. For everyone's sake.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Don Belton: Truth Teller (Revisited)

Yesterday Michael Griffin was convicted of killing novelist Don Belton. The jury put aside Griffin's nonsensical defense that the former Marine was driven into an insane rage after being sexually assaulted days before by his victim. The truth of the matter is painful, because of its awful consequences for both men and the people who love them, but this truth is easy enough to see: this crime was not about who Don was, it was all about who Griffin was afraid of being.

In a way, Griffin was asking the court for the same thing he sought from Don on that chilly December morning. He was asking for absolution for his actions. Not denying the act, but the responsibility. This act couldn't be a part of who he was. This act had to be the fault of someone else. Not someone who had served his country in war. Not someone who had a girlfriend. Not someone who had a son. Not someone who was all man.

It was important that the justice system rejected Griffin's argument and recognized this as the brutal murder it was, but it's hard to feel that justice has been fully served. Part of the reason Don died was that he recognized love and integrity as two sides of the same coin. His love for himself, and presumably for Griffin, wouldn't allow him to give the absolution his murderer sought for making love to another man. He knew that the only person who could find Griffin innocent was Griffin himself.

And that's what doesn't feel all the way right about this. Don's physical presence was stolen away from all of those who loved and respected him and that absence can never be filled no matter how many years Griffin is punished. But the only person who can bring true justice to the matter is Griffin himself.

Novelist/lawyer Alyce Miller, who posts to an excellent blog started by friends of Don, asked that in the spirit of Don we extend peace to Griffin and his family. Additionally, I wish Griffin the courage to face whatever it is he was running from on that fateful day. The person who took Don's life lacks the bravery to recognize his own guilt for his crime, but, just as importantly, this person lacks the bravery to recognize his own innocence in loving a man, a great man, like Don Belton.

***Link to the earlier Don Belton article

***Link with  Don Belton's brilliant work

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Elbows: A Meditation

Mr. President, I feel your pain. I've seen pictures of you on the news, holding your swollen lip like a piece of sour candy. The image will undoubtedly be more fodder for the tragic narrative they have been waiting to apply to your presidency. After the mid-term elections, it's obvious that you're not perfect like you tried to make us believe. You aren't strong enough. You're not tough enough. You can be beaten. In Jim Demint's words, you can be "broken". In your own words, you can be "shallacked".

Note to Pres. NeO: Find another word to describe defeats. Despite its etymology, 
"shellack" sounds like something a slave master does to a slave.  *No KuntaKente*
Mr. President, I knew this day would come. Ever since they said that you were not only a regular hooper, but in fact a baller. Ever since the summer of '08 when I saw you sink the most clutch three pointer in the history of politics during a visit to troops in Kuwait.


Did McCain ever really have a chance?

Ever since I saw you out-shoot the University of Connecticut Huskies women's basketball team in the White House backyard during their post-national championship visit. The same team that has won 80 straight basketball games (and counting). I knew this day would come.

Ever since I saw you dismantle former all-American Clark Kellog during a "friendly" game of POTUS, I knew this day would come.

I guarantee you Clark missed a couple of those shots on purpose, 
but only because he didn't know he was going to lose. You can't give me that kind of room. Indeed.

The game, and its adherents, often leave marks that can't be concealed. I knew the day would come when evidence of your hoop life would be writ large across your flesh for all to see. On this day the people you are charged to lead would read these marks and create new meanings, meanings that you couldn't control. Meanings that speak to your frailty (humanity?). I knew this because whether you're President of the United States or a high school English teacher, if you get bruised up, you about to get talked about.

Mr. Shakur got socked in the eye, y'all! Dang, Mr. Shakur, you got lit up! I told Mr. Shakur he better have my money! Why they have to hit you all in the eye like that, Mr. Shakur? It was like, bink! [mimic slow-motion punch to eye,then punch-drunk-stagger around classroom]

I have heard it all.

But basketball is a passport for me. My face and complexion always raise more questions than they answer when people see me. I'm hard to place. I have to spend more time explaining myself, where I came from, why I'm here. The truth of my story is too complicated for people to grasp in a short time, so seeing me play basketball offers a Cliff Notes version of my identity.

My students have often had a similarly difficult time placing me, and that's why I try to let them know who I am by getting on the court. As soon as I start working somewhere, whether it's Minneapolis, or Baltimore, or Chicago, I play. Basketball is part of my teaching philosophy. 

It's amazing how much extra effort you can get from a student in the classroom if you can take them to the hole and finish with your left. The court gives your students insight into who you are as a person. My students learn that my jump shot is often shaky, that the hardest shots for me are the easiest, and that I have a tendency to curse myself when I'm frustrated. But they also learn that I don't neglect my defensive responsibilities, I'm not afraid of contact, and I'm more likely to praise a teammate than criticize one.  

When I get the opportunity to play students, I try to show that my fetish for hard work is not limited to the classroom. That I'm not just a teacher that believes in them because I don't have anything else to believe in. That I can operate on multiple levels. That I will block your shot if it's weak.


More than anything it allows for a coaching relationship that's different than the classroom. When you play basketball with students, you literally have to work together to score points. In a real way it makes all of the success and challenges communal. The things I encourage my students to do on the court are the same things I ask them to do in the classroom: Stay focused. Keep your eyes open for your teammates. Don't be afraid to shoot. Keep hustling!

But as you demonstrate your ability to operate in multiple realms, you also are subject to the norms of those realms. On the court the teacher can be physically challenged without consequence. Sometimes these challenges result in injuries for said teacher.

In Baltimore, during an after school game, I got an inadvertent headbutt from a student. This caused a nasty cut above the eye brow, that required a few stitches. That wouldn't have been terrible if this hadn't been the same week I met the parents of my then girlfriend (future Mrs. Knowitall!) for the first time. Awkward, to say the least.

About a month later, a student pushed me in the back during a layup. I caught my feet, but not before I turned and slammed the back of my hand into a brick wall. I finished the game, but my hand swelled up like a balloon. This was in the salad days of my barely existent Americorps medical benefits, so under the wise advice of my roommates (If you can move it, it can't be broke!) I didn't seek immediate medical treatment.

Misstra Knowitall stupidity quiz #4080

After I shattered my hand, I:

A. Attempted to bind my wounded ring finger to my middle finger for stability.
B. Created a makeshift splint out of a popsicle stick and some medical tape.
C. Played basketball again, a couple times, despite the sharp pain in my still swollen hand.
D. All of the above.

If you chose D then you obviously know how dumb I can be about basketball injuries. By the time I went to the doctor, they told me that my hand had already healed--crookedly, of course. I'm lucky that my backroom orthopdeiatrics didn't leave me with a hook hand. However, the rest of my born days my ring finger will tuck shyly beneath its sturdier brother.

I read a brilliant essay by the poet Ross Gay where he talked about the "visionary" elbow of a student taking out his teeth during a basketball drill. Ross considered the elbow not as an instrument of revenge or turpitude, but as an expressor of primal possibility. The elbow as teller of survival stories. The elbow as speaker of those magical words: here's how my story goes.

I don't drive through a lane of sharp-boned, loose-limbed children like I used to. I have to admit a sort of perverse pride in being able to endure injury. Even if you've never read Don Sabo's classic essay, Patriarchy, Pigskin, and Pain, you realize that somebody who continues to play pickup basketball with a broken hand has issues. As I've gotten older, I have realized that I don't need to shatter bones to help children. I've learned to be a better teacher in the classroom so I don't have so much to prove on the court.

I have also realized I have told more of my story on the court than I have story left to tell. My knees sing sermons as they bend, and the day when my story is more appropriately told outside the confines of the court's white lines, rather than within them, grows closer by the day. But that's okay. Now I'm more focused on helping the young people I teach tell their own stories. Teach the benefits of being active, rather than passive, participants in their own destinies.

The President finds himself in a similar position. In his autobiography he talked about the ways that basketball helped shape not only his identity, but the way that people perceived him. As petty as it sounds, if he didn't have a reliable jump shot, there would be very real questions about whether he was a Black man or not.  But he's also getting older. He's probably in excellent shape, but years wear you down, especially when compounded by the stress of the job. Although both Bubba and Dubya came running into the presidency, they both left with a limp.
Big Daddy Cane

So our President's days as baller-in-chief are certainly numbered. But like I said, that's not the worst thing in the world. You enjoy it while it lasts, then you move on and help the next ones out.

In the comments to one of the news reports of NeO's injury, a reader speculated about whether the man who busted the President's lip would ever be asked back to the White House game. Maybe Obama would hold a grudge and ban him from the court. Those comments show a profound misunderstanding about the heart of a baller. Seeing the President holding his lip, seething, it's clear to me what's on his mind:  

Let's run that back.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Undercover Others

Out of all the older people gathered in the school library to hear me talk about how I was going to be supervising them, this Black woman was most clearly trying to distinguish herself as not a fuddy duddy. Her short hair was immaculately styled. Her eyebrows were impeccably plucked and thinly penciled to her brow. Her ears sagged with gems. She wore a purple and rose-red jumpsuit, satin soft. The thickness of her lenses could never undermine the stylishness of her gold frames. Her smile was church-pleasant as I offered my hand to shake.

This was my first official foray into the purgatory of public school education. After kicking around Minneapolis for a couple of years as a journalist/strip mall clerk/Notary Public extraordinaire, I signed up for Americorps Vista. Back then I was shocked by the events of 9/11, but I was even more shocked at the world that was being formed in its aftermath. I remember being in a park near my house, shooting baskets with some shorties when it struck me that this was just the beginning of a lot of suffering. That these youngsters would be growing up in a new type of world. Although I felt sadness for the people who lost their lives in the Towers, I couldn't help but dread the deaths yet to come. Prodigy of Mobb Deep described it perfectly on Survival of the Fittest, There's a war going on outside, no man is safe from. So instead of joining the military, I signed up as an Americorps VISTA in Baltimore Maryland. I worked in a school as a programs coordinator. One of the programs brought retired seniors in to tutor elementary school students. I acted as site supervisor, which mostly involved a lot of paperwork. I hadn't had much experience, but I always enjoyed talking to older people. They tend to be wise, and willing to candidly share that wisdom.The word "wisdom" is, of course, at times open to interpretation.

Her hand shake was soft and firm. Her teeth bright.
"Hi, my name is Abdel," I said.
"What did you say?" she said. Her hand flinched back to her ear, like she had been suddenly struck deaf.
I'm used to people clowning with my name. White people usually just have a pronunciation issue. In Minnesota people heard either "Ed" or "Bill" when I told them my name was Abdel. They didn't have the linguistic palette to hear what I was saying, so I often had to repeat the pronunciation. Having a name like mine requires one to have a sense of humor, but sometimes it's a struggle.
"It's Ab-del," I said to the woman, trying my best to reassure the anxiety I saw brewing in her eyes.
"Abdel?" she said, her voice quivering. "What are you, some MUSLIM?"

For the record, I am not a Muslim. Even though my name is Arabic for "servant of Allah," no one in my family is Muslim [not that there's anything wrong with that!] and I have never actually been inside a mosque. My name, Abdel Shakur, is a product of two non-conformist individuals who wanted me to have a unique name that would signal a new age in both of their families. So they gave me the last name of Black liberation icon Assata Shakur. If I was a girl, I would have been named Assata Shakur, and probably would appear at the top of every government no-fly list ever. So, my name is an expression of belief on the part of my parents, just not in the way you might think. 

I couldn't tell if the library had gotten colder or whether it was just perspiration cooling my skin. We stood in the aftermath of her question, standing close, both confused. I thought at first that she was joking, but I could see that the fear and disgust curling within the folds of her face was genuine. It made me sad because I got the sense that I was always going to be an Other to this woman, no matter what I said. Despite my wanting to build a sense of connection with this woman, I was destined to only be a young man of indistinct nationality with a terrorist name. I smiled broadly and tried my best to change the subject.

That incident comes to mind as we witness the NeO narrative enter an ominous phase. Before your eyes you are seeing our first Black President transformed into the Other. First there was doubt about his origin. Then doubt about his Blackness. Now it's about his god.

I guess I'm not surprised. In 2008, Barack used his special mulatto powers to bend himself into whatever hopeful shapes people could imagine. It's called passing--duh, our people invented it. Even as he stood taking that oath, supported by throngs, I knew it would get bad. Every president is destined to reach a point in their presidency where they are unpopular. Everything has a season, politics are no different.

Despite his seeming transcendence, one of the primary tenets of race still remain: a white man's cold is a Black man's flu.
My father often notes that a Black man's negatives are easier to exploit than a White man's. In our culture, very few of the narratives about Black men don't end in some kind of depravity. Michael Dukakis lost the presidency because of one of those narratives. Barack is essentially his own Willie Horton.

Now, it's important to say that I count myself among those disappointed in the NeO presidency thus far. Health care was a major victory, but we thought 2008 would mark a turning point in the battle against the complete corporatization of our political and economic systems. We had the crazy dream of keeping the wizards of finance from actually going ahead and selling our country away. But day by day it becomes more clear that the bill of sale was given a long time ago. Our President has become merely a delivery man in a messiah uniform. I still love the brother and find inspiration in his intelligence, strength, and swag, but I realize the jig (so to speak) is up. In the words of Biggie, things done changed.

Despite my disillusionment, I realize the consequences of abandoning a prominent and controversial Black man during a time of strife. Black people on the whole were ambivalent about Martin and Malcolm at the time of their deaths. Everybody loves them now, but as their narratives were shaped by powerful unseen forces, Black people had mixed feelings. First, Malcolm was too militant. Later, Martin was not militant enough. Both died much less popular than they had been previously.

And let me also be clear: I'm not suggesting we issue the "R-Kelly Pass" for Barack. You know, the pass that makes a prominent Black man morally immune to any kind of scrutiny in the eyes of Black folks? Those who claim to be our advocates need to not be our pimps, no matter how much swag they have. NeO promised us a lot and has not delivered like he said he would. Although not recognized as such, civil liberties is one of the most important Black issues in this country. Historically, we have bore the brunt of the coercive power of American government. At one time we were actually owned by our government, so there is no bigger priority than Never Again. And our President knows this. And yet after almost 20 months in office, it's still not clear how the Obama presidency is indistinct from the Bush presidency on the issue of civil liberties. And that sucks.

But this thing about him being a Muslim is inexcusable. This brother is being setup. He is being called "tyrant," "traitor, "criminal," "alien". If you put the word "Black" in front of any of those words, you start to see the danger that is brewing.

A lot of people doubted the wisdom of the president's remarks regarding the so called "Ground Zero Mosque". People said he wasn't involved in the controversy until he propelled himself into the debate, but they're wrong. The controversy has been ginned up to get people to reset their consciousness back in time to 2001. In the ruins of the towers, Bush waved his bullhorn and told everyone that we wouldn't forget the events of 9/11, but he really meant we wouldn't forget what we felt that day: fear and anger.

NeO realized that the intolerance being shown in the political discourse was not disconnected to his own political fate. NeO and Tinkerbell have one thing in common: their existence is dependent on our ability to believe in the fantastic. Whatever you want to say about him, our President doesn't draw his power by catering to the baser instincts of his constituents. He's no fearmongerer and he's too intellectually proud to become one. Contrary to popular belief, NeO didn't invent the idea of hope, he's just the most gifted manipulator of it in American political history. If he's going to be a two-term president, he's going to have to get people hoping again. That's why the mosque is important.

I felt a lot of pride when I first read his comments :

As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are. The writ of the Founders must endure.

The message underlying the speech is quite simple: We are a nation of laws. One of those laws prevents discrimination based on religion. You can't discriminate. End of story. Nothing really controversial there, but in desperate times even the idea of religious freedom becomes controversial. But NeO knows that he couldn't stand on the sidelines on this one. He made a beautiful and very clear statement about what he believed. And then he equivocated. And equivocated about his equivocation. And then he just stopped talking about it.

There's a part of this narrative that NeO has very little control over. If America is determined to erode all of its civil rights, than there is only so much he can do, especially considering the state of the economy. But whatever he does, he shouldn't equivocate. If he wants us to believe again, he's got to show us that he's willing to take slings and arrows for greater purposes besides political expediency. It probably won't get him a second term, but it's probably the only way he'll be able to leave that big White House not haunted by his own presidency.

And we can't afford the luxuries of bitterness and apathy. We have to realize the need to speak out for those outside of our communities who are being Othered. Whether it is about gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, or national origin, we've got to fight for the civil rights of everyone in our society, even if they have a name that's scary or hard to pronounce. Second term or not, if we don't take up these fights, we'll lose the only thing that can save us: hope.

Monday, January 25, 2010

You better tell your story fast...

Junot Diaz had an interesting article in the New Yorker about the lack of narrative in the year long presidency of President NeObama. Diaz argues that NeO has not been able to frame his legislative efforts inside a greater narrative of his presidency. Diaz cites the rethugs' use of 9/11 as a masterful example of how narrative can be used to drive policy.

To this, I have a few things to say:

1. The first year of the NeO presidency reminds me of how I felt after I watched the sequel to the Matrix: slightly disappointed. The Matrix ends with Neo ascending to a seemingly infinite level of power. He tells us that he is going to get rid of all the rules and boundaries. He crosses from the Rubicon of potential and (literally) flown into the realm of actualization. It might sound corny, but the first movie left me wondering if some large part of myself had not been just changed by what I had seen on the screen. Maybe everything was different now.

And then came the sequel. I've written extensively about the dreaded White Dreads from Reloaded, but let's just say that no matter what happened in the second movie, we were bound to be disappointed. The election of Scott Brown was my White Dread moment.

No, we don't use gel!

2. Diaz makes a good point about the importance of narrative in a presidency, but he doesn't recognize the genre that NeO is "writing" in. We are talking about the story of the Presidency of the United States here. Don't get it twisted, this is a Western. The main character has always been a White man. This particular White man has always had to bust his guns. The vast majority of the bullets have been caught by colored folk (whether they be Injuns or Hajis or Charlies or run-of-the-mill-Negroes) in the interest of "settling the land."

What? That's what I thought.

Bush and the Rethugs rode that narrative so well because they were traveling a well worn path that everyone could understand. On 9/11, once again the White man was under attack and answered the call, reluctantly, of course, to save the day. (The story got a little old near the end there, especially when it became blatantly clear that the rethugs were more apt to blast their friends in the face than smoke out and round up the offending redskins.)

That's why the Tea Partiers have it so easy. Hell, all they had to do was watch the first twenty minutes of Birth of a Nation to figure out their political platform.

Well, we don't care what Senator Brown said in his speech. His daughters are NOT available.

But there's no question about NeO's writing ability. On the campaign, he constructed one of the greatest political narratives the world has ever seen. He reached out as a beacon of redemption for an entire nation. If our country could put centuries of prejudice and hatred aside and take a leap of faith for this brilliant, special man (and his family), than maybe there could be hope that the vision of America we always here about could be real for all of its citizens. And if NeO had been able to fly into the clouds on inauguration day (high, high over Aretha Franklin's hat), that would have been the perfect ending of that story. But that's not what happened.

What's happened is that NeO is in the midst of about ten different narratives, from overt and covert wars on multiple continents, to health care, to immigration, to economic disaster, to natural disaster, to an education system in turmoil, to Scott Baio (!) trying to clown his woman. Trying to unite all of these these narratives within a single overarching structure is something that would even make Dickens shake his head. It also doesn't help that in the traditional POTUS western NeO would be the one wearing the feathers, shaking a tom-tom. Western's are all about the domination of the Other, and in order for NeO to be successful against his opposition, he's got to rally White support against the an Other that is White. That's complicated.

For real? Charles in Charge. Do you really want it? Because we can make it happen for you.

3. But in the end, I think Diaz is right. NeO has made some decisions, like state secrets, like the bank (giveaway) bailout, like escalation in Afghanistan, like the expansion of executive power, that cause me considerable pause. One of my favorite professors, Alexs Pate, used to always talk about the importance of discovering the "goodness" of a character. Goodness doesn't necessarily mean that the character is good, but that you have a firm grasp on the motivations behind their actions. They are consistent with who they are, even if that consistency makes you shudder. Dick Cheney may be many things, but his goodness is not difficult to grasp, though his narrative may be shallow. He is a satisfying villain because you know what he is going to do: evil. NeO, on the other hand, is harder to get a sense of because so many of the things that he has done, or not done, have gone against my understanding of who he is a character. Not that I've given up on him by any measure, but he's getting a lot more complicated than I imagined.

You just had to put on the black hat, right?

4. My hope for NeO, which I guess is the hope I have for all of us, is that he take the risk to evade the Western genre. It doesn't matter if you put Tyreese Gibson in the starring role, the Western is about domination. To regain the confidence of the American people in his POTUS narrative, some will advise that he needs to dominate, he needs to start collecting some scalps. Historically, during similar ebbs in popularity these scalps have been "scalps of color". (See: Clinton, Bill; Bush, W. George; Bush, George H.W.; et cetera)

Although I give NeO mixed reviews so far, I hope he has the courage to resist the trappings of the genre and take a stand that's principled, even if it costs him a sequel.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Obama in Ghana


Talking Points Memo posted new pictures from Obama's Ghana trip. Do yourself a favor and have a look.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Uhhh, Awkward!

I'm not going to spend a lot of time telling you how I felt about the way Henry Louis Gates was treated by the police. (Let's just say that I immediately adjusted my Facebook status to reflect my outrage.) However, I do have to make a confession: I think that may have been an inopportune moment for our first Negro president to invite himself into (White) America's homes and call the police stupid.

I know that we need to stand in solidarity behind our leader, especially in his moment of need, particularly when he is defending another brother. I know. I know. I know.

But allow me to make a confession: right now I could really care less about racial profiling. Or what it "means" to be Black in America, as reported by CNN. Or whether X person was hired/fired because he was Black. Or what Reverend Wright said. Or what Reverend Jackson said. Or what Reverend Sharpton said. Or what any other Reverend said.

Sorry, Reverend, I don't have time to discuss Thelma's biological clock

Or what Chris Brown did. Or what Michael did. Or what Michael didn't do. Or the inordinate sentencing of Black males. Or the merits of reparations for centuries of slavery.

Some of these "Black issues" are worth giving attention to, but the only "Black issue" that's important right now is health care.

If you give me the assurance that all Americans will have access to basic health insurance (and maybe even throw in equal access to education), then you can keep reparations. Even if the government gave us money for slavery, Black people would be spending most of their reparation checks on going to the doctor for diabetes, heart disease, HIV, etc.

If we're going to have a "national conversation" right now, it shouldn't be about whether Black professors should be arrested for loud tawkin' a White man. Of course they shouldn't but I'm sure even Mr. Gates would agree that his case is only really important within the context of a broader conversation about the way Black males are treated in society. The most troubling thought for me is how many brothers have been caught in similar situations and ended up jailed, beaten, and even worse.

Mr. Gates, please step away from the tricycle

But we can't have that conversation right now. This isn't the moment. There's too many things going on for us to start having Obama become Black before White people's eyes. That was one of his main appeals, kind of like Will Smith, he has the power to make White people comfortable, even while he is displaying his strength. But he's got to be careful. I wasn't trying to hate when I said that he is destined to be deeply unpopular at some point during his presidency. It's bound to happen, but what really matters is how he acts when the heat really gets turned up. That will be his crucible.

But I still believe in him like it's nobody's business. I admire his brilliance and his ability to keep an open heart, even if it makes him vulnerable at times. The difference between him and his predecessor is that Dubya was never made to feel ashamed for being a White man. He wore his cowboy boots and his smirk and his flight suit and ran his mouth whenever he saw fit. When he declared his Whiteness to the world, it was called patriotism.

Laura Bush thought bubble: Put that down and act like you got some sense.

Obama's showing us how to do this thing, this thing that has never ever ever ever ever been done, but this was a misstep.

I know we were in dangerous water when he joked about getting shot by White House security. Basically the humor of the joke is based in the idea that the security apparatus that is designed to protect White power is so entrenched that it would sacrifice the life of it's own Black president to preserve its symbols of White power. What kind of thing is that to lay on people? That's too heavy. Although there were a lot of criticism you could make about Dubya, that's one thing he did: keep it short (and stupid.)

Caption unnecessary

I'm not suggesting that Obama dumb down his message, but on Wednesday I got the sense that he was feeling pretty frustrated. Like he was tired of hearing about wise latina judges and overweight Black women Surgeon Generals and White men talking about they were going to "break" him. And he did what a whole lot of brothers would have done a long time ago: let 'em know.

I definitely understand the sentiment, but we can't allow anyone to take their off the ball now. Our people need health care. Now.

*****But, if we're going to have a "national conversation," let's hear what Mr. James has to say:

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Saturday, May 30, 2009

God Bless the Funk, the Almighty Funk (Redux)

I guess this is the season for important anniversaries. My dad's birthday is Monday. Two years ago Tuesday I did some broom jumping with Missusknowitall. And one year ago today I started this blog. Honestly, it seems like a lot longer than that.

It has been a funky year indeed. In the past 12 months I have...
Along the way I've tried to keep posting on the regular, whenever I got an idea or saw something that was interesting, but it's been a struggle at times. The occasional love from people who read the blog has made it worth it though, so: Thank you.

By the way, don't be scurred, leave a comment!

And what's an anniversary post without a countdown list? Here are some of my favorites from the past year.

#5 The Negro Hulk

The Negro Hulk typifies everything Misstraknowitall aspires to be. He's big, funky, and can leap tall buildings in single bound. Plus, he's a G.

#4 George Clinton's Funky Drawers: Pedro Bell

Putting together the Funk Issue at Indiana Review was one of the most meaningful (and fun) projects I've ever been involved in. I learned a lot about the meaning (and possibilities) of funk, the way it mixes race, class, sexuality, blues, power, politics, humor, and rhythm. I also was kind of amazed at the way that visual artists, such as Pedro Bell, had such a profound influence on the way that Parliament-Funkadelic created their Cosmic Slop of Funk. I recently got to meet Pedro Bell and needless to say, dude is a genius and he laced me with some very funky game, which I will impart very soon.

#3 When 900 Years You Reach, Look as Good You Will Not

I think this was one of the first times that it really dawned on me that the game was about to change and that NeObama would be The One. Ever since I first heard about this brother with the funny name, I had been waiting for that other shoe to drop. In the back of my mind, I was thinking (and I know I wasn't alone) "These White folks is never going to let this brother in the White House. Never."
But after Neobama put Hill to bed, it became obvious that he actually had a legitimate shot to win and if They were going to take him out, They were going to have to use some real Rethuglican tactics. But after the primary was over, the sense of desperation emanating from the McCain campaign was palpable. They were weeks away from making their biggest misstep of the campaign (Palin), but McCain honestly didn't look like he knew what the heck he was going to do. Looking back, with all of the crisis we've had in the last 6 months, this country really dodged a bullet with McCain/Palin. *Can you imagine?*

#2 The Wisdom of Jericho Brown 1,2 and Tim Seibles: Ten Queries of Funk 1,2

I can't decide between the two and both of these guys are among the funkiest poets I know. They also contributed some awesome work to the Funk issue, so I got to show them love.

What's nice about their work is that it doesn't just dabble in the Funk mileu, it comes out of the Funk and it's always on The One. These Funk scholars are definitely dropping some funk knowledge.

#1 We Built It, Now We Live In It

I didn't envision this blog being explicitly confessional and, besides the occasional tidbit, I try to keep a lot of my personal stuff out, particularly about teaching. But I couldn't help but write about the experience of witnessing the next generation welcoming the age of NeObama.The ride has been a little rocky so far, but there's no taking away the sense of hope and possibility we shared that day, not only for our country, but for ourselves.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

An escalating probability of disaster

I never thought I would say it, but it's times like these that make George W. Bush's style so much more satisfying than NeObama. His speeches were brief, too the point, and made little to no sense. They were bold assaults on our understandings of logic and of language, and were usually followed by some random form of mechanized violence somewhere in the world. As horrifying as it was, there was a surreal, cinematic appeal to his governance. He spoke [like a fool] and then he acted [a fool].

Dick Cheney brought that back for me today in his counter remarks on detainees and torture. He growled and cursed and lied, just like the good old days. When they were rolling him around in that wheelchair at the inauguration, I was concerned that Mr. Cheney would not be able to take his rightful place as archsupervillain in the NeObama universe.

Sup, shorty?

But never fear, Dick ain't going nowhere.

In fact, in Matrixspeak, if Obama is The One, than Cheney naturally has to be The Architect.

In The Matrix Reloaded, The Architect was revealed as the creator of The Matrix. According to the entry on Wikipedia, the Architect
"appears to be a cold, humorless man sitting in a large circular room whose walls are covered by television monitors" [an undisclosed location???]...he also has little facial expression beyond smirks and glares, but does exhibit emotion on limited occasions, such as regret, annoyance, and arrogance."
Uh, besides the thing about regret, that's Dick Cheney.
In the third film, the Oracle explains to Neo that the true purpose of the Architect is to balance the mathematical equations that make up the programming of the Matrix, and he is unable to see the world as anything beyond a series of equations. It is also because of this that he is unable to comprehend choice and free will and cannot see the results of such choices as they are no more than variable factors in an equation to him.
I know, it's scary.

And if you watched Cheney's speech today, you could tell Dick was feeling good, with that familiar glint in his eye and curse on his tongue. Hell, according to CNN his poll numbers are up. The argument of his speech: Yeah, we did it. So what?

The Original Gun Clapper
You've got to respect his gangster. NeObama, on the other hand, had an awesome speech where he talked about the reasoning behind his support for "revamped" military tribunals and the suppression of torture photos. The speech was well-reasoned and articulate and, in the end, it was just a speech.

Why, yes, I am considering a nursing home for a family member.

The commitment to human rights and democratic values is demonstrated through action, not rhetoric. Although I appreciate the pragmatic approach he's taken towards cleaning up the messes of the last eight years, the more we learn about the excesses of the past administration, the more it seems like there will have to be a more formal reckoning, whether by "truth commission" or congressional investigation or whatever you want to call it. This country will not be right until we find our moral bearings by understanding the degree of taint that guided the navigation of Dickanddem.

Otherwise, The Architect is counting on NeObama to lead a rebooting of The Matrix so he can start the whole damn thing over again.

A sequel is the last thing we need.