How Racism Is Destroying America's Political Discourse

A few years ago I had an internship at the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition, where one of my chief duties was to spend hours looking through microfilm for newspaper clippings that dramatized the racial climate in Philadelphia throughout the years.

One article that stood out was a poll of Philadelphians that asked, “How would you describe the state of racial equality in America today?” The vast majority of whites (something like 60-70%) answered “Good.”

The year was 1968.

These people had no idea how dire the state of race relations was in America at the time because all they could compare it to was a not-so-distant past marred by lynching, sharecropping and segregation. But today we can see quite clearly that things were bad. Racism was alive and well.

And that’s why race is such a tricky issue in America. Racism grows classier and more refined every day, but it never goes away. How else can we explain the American people tolerating the unprecedented disrespect, racism, obstruction and outright legislative terrorism being perpetrated by the GOP?

WATCH THE THRONE, And Why Jay-Z and Mitt Romney Have A LOT In Common

Mitt Romney and Jay-Z have a lot in common.

Like Jay-Z, whose widely considered to be the most influential and important figure in Hip Hop today, Mitt Romney is currently the front runner for the Republican Presidential Nomination. In fact, like Jay-Z, he’s been the de facto “front runner” in the race for a while now.

And like Jay-Z, Mitt Romney continues to hold onto this position for no good reason at all. And probably won’t be holding onto it for long.

How Facebook Can Depress You as a Single Black Girl

So, I am discovering how utterly depressing Facebook can be. Yes, I did not stutter. Facebook, touted as the pen-ultimate medium for awkward wall flowers to gain social inclusion and social integration, is depressing. Not depressing in the most clinical sense of depressing, but more depressing in the vein of, “Damn, all my friends (I use the term, friends, loosely because are we really friends If I met you in the club one night and we said lets Facebook) are finding great partners,” as evidenced by their many corny profile pictures of them and their boo hugged up for dear life.

Tyler Perry Is Full Of Sh*t….

This past week, at a press conference regarding his latest Madea flick, Tyler Perry told Spike Lee to go straight to hell. Clearly fed up with discussion of Lee’s comments a few years ago regarding the “coonery and baffoonery” that is Tyler Perry’s film career, Mr. Madea finally took a stand:

“Spike can go straight to hell! You can print that. I am sick of him talking about me, I am sick of him saying, ‘this is a coon, this is a buffoon.’ I am sick of him talking about black people going to see movies. This is what he said: ‘you vote by what you see,’ as if black people don’t know what they want to see.”

Now Perry actually has a point here. To somehow frame his work as “the problem” is actually condescending to his audience. People pay money to see what they want to see. End of story.

But then Perry went too far.

“Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois went through the exact same thing; Langston Hughes said that Zora Neale Hurston, the woman who wrote ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God,’ was a new version of the ‘darkie’ because she spoke in a southern dialect and a Southern tone…”

Ummm…no.

The First Step is Acknowledgement: I Have Class Privilege

Aloha . . . Mahalo . . . Hula . . . Hana Hou . . . are a few Hawaiian words I’ve learned this week while visiting Hawaii. You know, I think Hawaii is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen with its luscious green mountains and its sparkling blue beaches. There is something special about this place that makes me want to be less troll-like to people who attempt to break my camel’s back or who attempt to pull my last nerve. Indeed, Hawaii is a special place. Perhaps, it has something to do with the bounty of green vegetation that encircles the island. And given that I grew up in an inner city, went to school in an inner city, and probably will die in an inner city, seeing the abundance of fauna and flora is simultaneously breathtaking and a little disturbing as well.

Breathtaking for all the reasons listed above. But disturbing because I seem to be allergic to Mother Nature and of course I have capitalism, pollution, and chemically enriched foods to thank for all of this. Furthermore, seeing all the vegetation and the beauty of Hawaii is equally unsettling because it reminds me of how privileged I am and how many in my immediate biological family will never be able to visit the land of Hawaii because they do not have the funds and/or time to do so.

Yep, you’ve guessed it this blog is not about Hawaii per se, but more about my inner turmoil with dealing with my increasing class privilege. I know the phrase “inner turmoil” seems a tad bit dramatic, but it’s the best phrase I can conjure up to use while struggling with jet lag. Also, Hawaii is a metaphor for talking about privilege. Well, even though my going to Hawaii was based on my services of being a part-time grad school nanny. It still feels like a privileged state because I did not have to pay for anything. Furthermore, the child was extremely well-behaved and I had an abundance of time to explore Hawaii. So, to say the least I felt inner turmoil about being in Hawaii when so many in my family struggles to keep their heads above water.

Recently, my mother told me she and my two younger siblings will have to move yet again because of a faulty housing agreement. This will make the fifth time they have moved in the last five years. Of course, my mother told me not to worry about her because she’s a hustler, but I can’t stop worrying about her and the need for my younger brother and sister to have a stable place to lay their heads. In addition to this, my older sister is continuously in and out of the hospital because her insurance–which she got only a year ago after working at the job for two years–does not provide her with the best doctors to ensure correct diagnoses. And these examples of hardships are just the tip of the iceberg.

In response to me telling people I have “inner turmoil” about my class privilege, they say, “Well, you’ve made the right decisions in life. You’ve worked hard in school and so you deserve to have.” There is something unsavory about their response because they assume I’ve made the right decisions at every moment of my life and that if you make one bad decision than you are forever doomed to be poor living pay check to pay check.

The Princess and the Frog, but what about the White Frog's Hunters?

Today the Princess and the Frog opens across the nation. Of course, I’m going to go see the movie, however like most cynics I wrote a blog about the movie before it premiered approximately two months ago to  be exact. So, if my argument is proven wrong by actually seeing the film, I will write another blog saying I was wrong. However, I do not think this will be the case. Also, I hope bloggers, writers, teachers, critics, etc. are equally critical of this movie as they were of the movie, Precious.

The original title of the blog was, Mobs, Cracker Barrel, and Hunters . . . Oh, My.

Captain Save-a-Negro: A Primer

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www.koffii.com/ImageDescription.aspx?photoId=38873

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I swear I saw commercials for the movie The Blind Side more times than I caught the ads of those cats singing the free credit report jingle.  (F-R-E-E that spells free/credit report dot com, baby…) Environmentalists could learn a lot from Hollywood; that place recycles scenarios more often than a tree hugger sneers at Hummer drivers.

The trailers for the movie indicate that The Blind Side is yet another addition to that long list of white savior movies.  I haven’t seen it and don’t plan to (In grad school, we call this not being bound by the text.), but it seems that Sandra “I’m doing this movie to make up for playing a racist in Crash” Bullock saves a big black kid from the perils of blackness.  (Crabs in a barrel.  You know the deal.)  I guess the Based on a true story tagline wants to goad me into not being critical of the movie, the genre.  Whatever.  The movie has provided an occasion to address the white savior film.  Since I’ve seen every episode of Webster and Diff’rent Strokes and Dangerous Minds (twice), I’m going to provide a primer for Negro saving for any and all white folks with plenty of money and love in their hearts to adopt a hapless black kid.  And for you black youth out there, pay attention.  You might find something useful here to make yourself more marketable.

Mobs, Cracker Barrel, and Hunters . . . Oh My!

So, what does a frog, a violent racist white man, and non-violent racially complicit white people have in common? Well, they’re all  mammals. No, that’s not the answer because a frog is an amphibian. What they have in common is that they all contribute if not directly participate in the abuse of black women. I know at this point, many of you are wondering how so and in particular how the frog figures into the equation. Well, I’m glad you asked young grasshopper. Inspired by summer’s You Gon’ Be All Right: On Maia Campbell and (More on) Tyler Perry, I decided that I too wanted to map connections between dissimilar current events to talk about how they represent normal and normalizing narratives of violence against black women. The stories I want to talk about are the upcoming Disney movie, The Frog and the Princess and the Cracker Barrel Nut. I know for some of you these stories seem inconsequential to each other. However, if you look closer you will see common strands of violence against black women.

So, let’s begin with talking about Disney’s The Frog and the Princess. Of, course there are many critiques to throw against this movie from the emphasis on girls being Princesses to the racist stereotyping of African cosmologies.  However, the bone I have to pick with the film today has to do with the “white” hillbilly “frog” hunters pursuing and hoping to eat the first Black Princess, Princess Tiana, who spends the majority of the film as a frog. Of course, I am pretty sure Disney like the rest of Post-Race America is banking on black people being so desirous of a black princess that they will only see the “clueless” and “stupidly innocent” nature of the white frog hunters because how could the hunters know the true “human nature” of princess Tiana. (In my best sarcastic voice) Just like how could Glen Beck and Joe Wilson know that their comments about Barack Obama were racist they were only saying what they felt they didn’t call him the “N” word. And my response to this hogwash is that’s some cow dung. Yep, just in case you did not catch it I said “cow dung” instead of using the four letter expletive.

Even if the white hillbilly frog hunters are impervious to Princess Tiana’s humanity the historical and at times very present nature (i.e. Duke Lacrosse Team gang rape of Black female Dancer) of white male mobs “hunting” black women’s bodies should have signaled an alarm. But, it did not because it’s all too common of a practice to abuse or to imagine abusing black women whether they are human or in “frog” form. If you are skeptical of my claim all one has to do is look at the footage of the Boston Tea Party March on DC, go to a Cracker Barrel, read about what happened to Semenya, or type the phrase “black girl” into any search engine to know black women like other women of color are subjected to the most violent and horrific forms of real and imaginary physical and sexual abuse and often without legal, societal, and communal recourse.

And let’s be honest, Disney is not completely clueless to the historical meaning of white mobs because if they were the white hillbilly frog hunters would be featured in The Frog and the Princess’ movie trailers, but they are not. To know that they are a part of the movie you have to visit The Frog and the Princess’ Facebook Fan Page. 5655_151497223708_99911703708_3551667_1534218_nThere you meet the white hillbilly hunters—Two Fingers, Reggie, and Darnell.  And of course, Disney makes sure to mention how “dim witted” the klan clan is as if their dim wittedness and “hunger” for frog legs is suppose to make us feel as if they do not really mean “intentional” harm to Princess Tiana because if they, the klan clan of hunters, knew she was human than they would not harm her. Yeah right. What crack is Disney smoking? It must be that good stuff that Whitney referred to in her interview with Diane Sawyer. Because if we bring into the conversation the historical setting of the movie—French Quarter turn of the century— white supremacy and racism was the law of the land meaning white men could easily rape and kill black women without retribution meaning the seemingly innocent dim witted white hunters in Disney’s film could literally not only eat frog legs, but also devour black women’s flesh through rape.

And of course, we don’t have to look at historical times to see how white men have violent access to black women’s bodies. Just look at what happened to Tashawnea Hill and 7-year old daughter at a Georgia’s Cracker Barrel. Ms. Hill, an African American woman, was beaten by Troy West, a white man, because she asked him politely to watch out when opening the door at Cracker Barrel. At this affront, Troy West started to beat Ms. Hill and call her Black Nigger Bitch. No one intervened to help her and her daughter. Furthermore, Ms. Hill recalled how some of the white patrons grinned in delight as she was beaten senseless. Can you believe that no one helped her? Perhaps, it isn’t difficult not to believe because just a month ago a black woman was beaten by her husband in broad daylight and no one interviewed to help her.

And of course of many of you are saying what does all of this have to do with an animated Disney Film? Well, it has everything to do with it because movies like The Frog and the Princess and Monster’s Ball represent what is normal, acceptable, if not downright desirous behavior toward and of black women. It becomes publicly sanctioned behavior for men irrespective of race to abuse black women. Therefore, Disney’s animation and characterization of the white hunters as dim witted white hillbillies minimizes the intended violence of the hunters, makes their violence normal, and makes their “hunger” a justified reason for killing Princess Tiana. This all too well reminds me of what a white man screamed at the Boston Tea Party March on DC this last Saturday. Holding a sign that read, “We did not bring guns this time,” a middle age white man begins to fuss about how he lost his job and how the government is too big because of black welfare queens. I know all too well how his words and job loss can justify the retrenchment and sidewalk abuse of black women during this recession time.

Lions and tigers and bears Mobs, Cracker Barrels, and Hunters . . . Oh My!