I had only begun to have white friends the year prior when I found myself newly “tracked” into the higher-achieving second grade class based on superior reading ability. Scattered into a predominantly white classroom among only a handful of black students left me desperately wanting to culturally fit in and sound like my peers, especially since the vast majority of black children I knew stayed concentrated in the “B” and “C” tracks. My awkward attempts to fit in resulted in me being teased mercilessly by my black peers, who from then on through the better part of high school both accused and found me guilty of “talking too proper,” “acting white” and, perhaps most egregious of all, “thinking I was white.”
I was grateful for the friendship of a white girl in my class, Amanda. I’m not sure why we were drawn to each other, but more and more, we became each other’s primary playmates during recess. By fourth grade, Amanda and I were joined at the hip, so much so that our teacher, a Black lady named Mrs. Gaulden, still my all-time favorite teacher, called us Ebony and Ivory after the famous song. Amanda directed the classroom production of “Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott,” starring yours truly as Rosa Parks.
For a guy who launched his career with the stoner movie “Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle,” actor Kal Penn’s recent tweets in support of stop-and-frisk come as a surprise. Yesterday, he applauded NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s recent op-ed, saying “Great op/ed by @MikeBloomberg on the merits of “stop-question-frisk.”
In a series of tweets, which have since been deleted but were saved by The Aerogram, he responds to criticism from fans, saying he supports racially profiling black and Latino people because they commit most crimes.
In America, nothing is truly validated until it’s accepted by the status quo. One may rebut with the fact that there’s just more white people in America so the numbers determine what’s popular. That’s a fair point but it doesn’t explain the expectation projected that certain people, places or things are classics, icons and etc., just because a bunch of white people say so and anything outside of that is just the musings of “others”.
Look at television. How many popular shows are full of all white or majority white casts? Friends, Cheers, Frasier, Dawson’s Creek, just to name a few hit shows over my lifetime that contribute to this mindset. The creators of these shows decided to place little to no people of color in these shows. Why? Better yet, what would happen if they had? Would it change the nature of the show? Maybe. Why is that though? Because anything other than white is playing in the fields of the others and it no longer is the typical “American” show. It’s considered normal if it’s a majority of white people but once you get others involved the show is no longer a reflection of American society. Otherness is rarely respected unless it has a heavy dose of something very emotional and tragic and/or its created by someone white and even then the content usually just reiterates stereotypes. If something non-white does blow up, it’s sometimes a fetish more than anything (I think hip hop falls under this category). Look at what we see in movies; look at our sitcoms and television shows or look at the magazine covers. If something is a majority white, it’s laissez faire. But if something is a majority African-American, Asian or Latino and has a heavy dose of their way of life in it, then white America sees it as just another black, brown or yellow form of media and not meant for them and thus the show rarely does well.
Jason, you once noted “I also grew up in the punk rock/hardcore rebellious culture. I really have a similar mentality when it comes to comedy. I think comedy should be dangerous.” What is dangerous about reinforcing many centuries of white supremacy? What is dangerous in perpetuating stereotypes about oversexed black women seducing their white masters? What is dangerous in profiting and relishing off black death? Stereotypes?
You seem very invested in positioning yourself as cutting edge, as new, and as hip? Congratulations, you just participated in a video that would make D.W. Griffith proud. You just acted in video that seems to have taken cues from some of America’s most racist forms of popular culture. Cutting edge is not 19th century minstrelsy. Is that what you call hip? Is that what cutting edge looks like to you? In your eyes, would Thomas Dixon be a cutting edge writer; would bull connor be a cutting edge police man; George Wallace an edgy politician; would Henry Ford be a cutting edge business man?
One hundred fifty years after Harriet Tubman helped successfully free 750 slaves during the Raid at Combahee Ferry, becoming the first woman in U.S. history to successfully lead a military campaign, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons has chosen to commemorate her legacy by releasing a highly offensive web video titled “Harriet Tubman Sex Tape.”
In it, Harriet Tubman’s character played by YouTube comedienne Shanna Malcolm, can be seen willingly cajoling the master into sex, and even penetrating him with an unseen strap-on, in order to manipulate him into giving her freedom. Meanwhile, one of Harriet’s minions played by DeStorm Power hides in a closet with a video camera. The video was released by Simmon’s new YouTube network, All Def Digital.
At best, Simmons is utterly clueless about the realities of black female victimization during slavery; at worst, he’s a willfully ignorant misogynist who delights in minimizing the pain of slavery and rape for black women. This is one of the problems with the resurgence of black nationalist politics that inevitably follows the unjust killing of black boys like Trayvon Martin. With a scarily consistent frequency, black women’s political histories and needs are not only minimized but utterly discounted in service of a narrative of black male racial victimhood.