Coffee Rhetoric: Black History
Showing posts with label Black History. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Black History. Show all posts

October 22, 2007

Full Speed Ahead on the Ignoramus Express

This is why race matters continue to fester. And why I become a little more bitter (with a dash of militancy thrown in for good measure) and a little less hopeful. Racism and bigotry in varying degrees continue to percolate, because many members of the majority refuse to acknowledge or accept the fact that people with dark skin, are not intellectually inferior. And have the capacity to excel and be successful. People like this piece of shit are archaic (but unwelcome) artifacts, that need to be buried for good with the rest of the fossils. UGH! Maddening!

September 14, 2007

And the HATEFUL beat drums on...

I don't have too much to say about the sheer despicable-ness of this crime. How does one even begin?? While our country's leaders fight a fruitless war on terror, and label the likes of Assata Shakur as a terrorist. These are the faces that represent real, homegrown evil, terrorism, and hate. Read and view the video for yourselves.

September 08, 2007

Re-birth of a Nation

"the greatest americans have not been born yet they are waiting patiently for the past to die. please give blood" -Saul Williams
During the summer of August 9, 2006 in Sound Beach on Long Island, a heated confrontation at a party- (where he was accused of threatening to rape a young white girl some months prior to the summer celebration)- prompted Aaron White, a 19 year old Black teenager to leave sans argument, after it was demanded that he do so. On his way home (nearby Miller Place, a predominantly white community), Aaron exchanged a series of angry cell phone calls with 17 year old Daniel Cicciaro, who alerted Aaron White that he was coming to his home. Drunk, Mr. Cicciaro with four of his friends in tow (all white), proceeded on with the threat of their presence. All five angry teenagers pulled up in front of the Whites' residence in two cars shortly after 11pm and were greeted by Aaron White and his father, John White via the garage. Father and son felt threatened enough to arm themselves for the impending showdown. Yelling ensued, in which Cicciaro and friends allegedly hurled racial epithets and refused to leave. At some point during the melee, Mr. White (father) shoots Daniel Cicciaro in the face with an antique handgun he inherited from his own grandfather. Daniel Cicciaro is felled by the gunshot, and is announced dead upon arrival to the emergency room. John White- who moved his family to their dream home on the North Shore in 2004- is described as a harding working "upstanding citizen" with no prior police record and who has never committed a crime in his life. He expressed deep regret and sorrow toward the Cicciaro family, claiming the incident was an "accident' and that he never meant to shoot the young man. That his only intent was to protect his family and scare his son's pursuers away from his home. John White was charged with manslaughter and criminal weapon possession. Internet users would then blow online news forums up with hateful racial epithets upon hearing the father's fate. Including cries for John White to be hung from a tree. While the outcome of the altercation is tragic, indeed. Can one blame John White for protecting his family and his son? The teens were unarmed, yes. But alcohol, bravado, hate speech, anger... Perhaps Daniel would be alive today, if he and his friends hadn't tried to recreate some vigilante style style of revenge. It's purported that during the 911 call and the race to get young Daniel to the hospital, his friends were overheard (through the phone) spouting off even more contemptuous race rhetoric. ...
Miles away, in Jena, Louisiana racial tensions are also brewing. Reaching their peak on August 31, 2006 after a black male freshman asks the Jena High School principal if he could sit under the shade of the "white tree" (where most of the white students usually convened amongst themselves). The principal suggested that students could sit wherever they wanted to. Three white students disagreed however, because the next morning three nooses were found hanging from that very same tree. The three students were later found to be guilty of the infraction and were up for expulsion... which the school board and superintendent promptly overruled. The superintendent would later trivialize the threat as a joke, as opposed to a threat against Black students' sensibilities. The school administration would later fail to report the incident to the police or the FBI (such brazen incidents can and should be reported as a Hate Crime). The decision and subsequent indifference would cause racial animus to reach a fever pitch. A series of disagreements, racially charged fights, and arson would soon occur over the course of three months. Black students would continue to grow disenchanted and slighted by the school's administration and local law officials. These disagreements would eventually culminate in the assault of a 17 year old white student named Justin Barker, perpetrated by 6 Black Jena High School students: Robert Bailey, Mychal Bell, Carwin Jones, Bryant Purvis, Theo Shaw, and an unidentified minor. Barker allegedly hurled racial epithets, a charge his family denies. Barker was taken to the hospital and treated for a concussion, bruising, and various other injuries and released two hours later, in time for a ring ceremony. The Jena Six, however were arrested and charged with aggravated assault. The overzealous District Attorney would then decide to increase the charge to attempted second degree murder which could result in the defendants being imprisoned past age 50. This blow prompted outrage from the Black residents of Jena, because the charges were disproportionate to the crime. On June 26, Bell's sentence would be reduced to aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated second-degree battery. According to my research, a deadly weapon would've needed to be used, to warrant being charged with such. The DA argued that Mychal Bell's tennis shoes he wore during the day of the assault and kicked Barker with, were deadly weapons. The all white jury agreed. The other defendants' charges would eventually be reduced, leaving Mychal Bell to remain in jail, facing 22 years in prison. All are waiting for their day in court, which will happen later this month. So many conflicting accounts and mishandling of this case. The public outcry and online groups supporting the Jena Six are warranted. The case has garnered national attention and has drawn the ire and support of black leaders and organizations. Jena's Black community are skeptical that the boys will receive a fair trial. I mean after all, their wariness is justified considering the glaring segregation and aloof attitudes toward the "noose" incident. The Jena Six should indeed pay if they assaulted Justin Barker. But they should pay with a sentence that matches the crime. Most murderers and repeat sexual molesters get off with with less time. How much responsibility do Jena High School administrators bear, by deciding not to address the root cause of the issue to begin with? They, in essence, instigated a terrible situation by choosing not acknowledge it. A prank is stealing the school mascot or the halls. Hanging nooses, racially charged graffiti, and the like are not mere pranks. It's hateful propaganda that has no place in the school system or anyplace else... not in this day and age. It's frustrating that in 2007, issues of race still abound. Technology, the current cult of personalities, media, and celebrity help exacerbate hateful language and inane rhetoric. The structure of most institutions and a dubious this White House administration continue to disadvantage many ethnic groups by fanning the flames of xenophobia, racial profiling, and not accepting that we're in the midst of the 21st century! A multicultural era, where we should be evolved by now. Instead, we're slowly regressing. Most of us are still scratching our heads over the outcome of Hurricane Katrina. As much as I'd like to think we'll reach some sort of resolution on race matters, the fact is, I don't think there will ever be a workable medium. Period. That would require cooperation from the powers that be. That would require those same powers that be, to relinquish some semblance of control by distributing justice and equality fairly and accordingly. Fat chance of that ever happening. Divide and then conquer. The most antiquated (and seemingly effective) method in the book. ... Why do hate and growing racial disparities still continue thrive and fester? The Jena Six deserve a fair trial plain and simple, and are being railroaded. P.S. I'm dying to hear Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly weigh-in on the Jena Six situation, if they haven't already.

July 28, 2007

Good "Bad" Hair Day

I'm having a particularly good "afro puff" day this afternoon (must be the new hair bands I bought a couple of weeks ago), so I figured I'd commemorate it with a scene from one of my FAVORITE movies. This film, School Daze written and directed by Spike Lee, and this scene in particular serves as an excellent illustration of Colorism which occurs most often in African-American communities (refer to rap and R&B music videos as one contemporary example), Latin-American communities, and especially abroad in countries such as Nigeria, Brazil, India, the Caribbean, and in Spanish speaking countries. Black sororities and fraternities at historically black colleges were once notorious for this form of inter-discrimination.
**Read: Don't Play in the Sun authored by Marita Golden.**
P.S. Don't call anybody a jiggaboo, unless you want to get dough-blowed in the neck.
Have a great weekend.

July 20, 2007

Black Opera

I've been on a musical kick as of late. So far I've watched the film version of the Broadway hit Rent, and while I saw it at the theater I've watched the Dream Girls movie several dozen times, in succession. I even accessed to the DVD's set up options and changed it to French. The dubbing job wasn't as amateur as I thought it'd be. Yes, I watched Dream Girls in French. I so love the movie and its soundtrack. I do what I must to fight the ravages of boredom, in any event. Next up, perhaps I'll rent the original incarnation of John Water's Hairspray (starring Rikki Lake), Cry Baby, and/or Sparkle. In the meantime, I'm slowly working my way through the George Gershwin opera, Porgy and Bess. Adapted from the book Porgy, written by DuBose Heyward. As I watched the opera, it suddenly begin to strike me how significant it and the novel really are. DuBose, who is white and a descendant of Thomas Heyward, Jr., wrote Porgy using all black characters living in a fictitious town called Catfish Row. He penned the novel sans the flippant and offensive nature of Thomas F. Dixon, Jr's The Clansman. Which would later be adapted into the controversial film Birth of a Nation, directed by D.W. Griffith. Heyward found inspiration for Porgy, whilst studying the ways in which African Americans lived in Charleston, South Carolina. While some people (understandably) considered the book, the Broadway hit, and the opera a perpetuation of racial stereotypes, it was still unheard of to read literature or watch portrayals (written or directed by White people) of Blacks in such a sympathetic way, during this time. True to the book, the Broadway show, and Gershwin's opera features an all Black cast- (which Gershwin was adamant about, even though some theater companies and opera houses here and abroad used all White casts due to the political (and racist) climate of that time)- and Gullah dialect. For this reason alone, Porgy and Bess is relevant. It wasn't even considered a legitimate opera, until 1976... which isn't that long ago.
The music is also a good enough reason to consider this a groundbreaking artistic endeavor for the time. Summertime (one of my favorite songs!), I Loves You Porgy, and It Ain't Necessarily So has been covered by many jazz greats including Billie Holiday (who does my favorite version of Summertime), Miles Davis, and Ella Fitzgerald
I guess the whole point in my composing this entry, is to strongly suggest Porgy and Bess as something to take time out and watch or listen to. While I appreciate the effort, I would take a pass on the movie version and soundtrack, and stick to Gershwin's versions of both. The opera is on DVD and is about 3 hours long. It is also reminiscent of one of my favorite musical films, Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus). An Afro-Brazilian tale based on the Greek tragedy, Orpheus. Orfeu Negro, made by French director Marcel Camus and which features an incredible and infectious soundtrack (which I own on CD), was also considered to be controversial. Critics felt that its depiction of Afro-Brazilians, living in the favelas of Rio as happy go lucky, was buffoonish and that it depicted racial stereotypes about people living in the favelas. While I commiserate with some of that film's naysayers, I do think the beauty of the love story and the lush backdrop of Rio and Carnaval helps contribute to the film's beauty. I would suggest that classic as well.

May 25, 2007

Keeping Our Head Above Water...

Yesterday, after I was settled in at home from work, I caught an episode of Good Times on the TV Land network. Florida (matriarch of the Evans clan) came home, excited and breathless... ready to share with her family that she had just enrolled herself back in school, in hopes of obtaining her GED. Before she could relay the good news to her family, father James [Evans] interrupted, chastising her for not listening to HIS good news first. He had been hired for a better paying job with a construction company as a foreman, and the opportunity would possibly allow him to move up. Excited, Florida heaped praise upon her husband, before telling her family that she was back in school, and may finally have the opportunity to get her diploma after having dropped out in the 10th grade. Thelma, J.J., and Michael were ecstactic and hugged their mother. James (who dropped out of school in the 6th grade) on the other hand wasn't thrilled and a dark look came across his face. Suddenly he became discouraging and somewhat insulting... commenting, "Everybody knows that you can't teach an old dog new tricks!" He suggested that best friend, neighbor, and modern woman (for the time) Willona was the one, undoubtedly, putting such nonsense, as going back to school, into Florida's head. James also demanded to know what she planned on fixing for dinner. Willona proudly told James that she had finished school, got her diploma, and that it afforded her the opportunity to work at a clothing boutique. Florida challenged James (with Willona's encouragment) that if he tried to stop her from achieving her goal, he was gonna be faced with "One hell of a fight!" from her and suggested that she wouldn't be able to improve the quality of her (or the family's) life if she didn't see her education through to fruition. It was an intense episode. Due to my getting up to get a glass of vino and some Ramen, I missed the end. Good Times was filmed during the mid 70's, which wasn't that long ago. That particular episode, where James discourages Florida's desire to improve herself by turning into a chauvinist extraordinaire... brow beating and insulting his wife's desire to excel, prompted me to think about how difficult women... black women (as well as other women of color) in particular, had it during that time (and how difficult it still can be for us). I'm reminded of the whole concept behind (and need for) the womanist movement, encouraged by author Alice Walker and adapted from her book: In Search of Our Mother's Garden: Womanist Prose. The concept of womanism came to be, because women of color were left out of the mix during the feminist movement... which dealt largely with issues pertaining to white, middle-class women; and focused predominantly on suffrage and sexism. Racism and classism were not issues they related to or felt compelled to fight against. Womanism paints a portrait from the perspective of black women. When discussing issues of race or classism, the focus tends to be about the oppression of black men. Sexism tends to chart the plight and suppression of white women and how they overcame their struggles. It's rare to find literature that deals specifically with the oppression, suppression, and plight of black women, specifically. There are Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, but how many other black women have traveled tumultuous roads, paving the way and fighting for civil rights and liberties for women of color? We grapple with sexism, classism, and racism. Throw sexual stereotypes based on ethnicity into that equation, thanks to the rump shaking featured in rap videos and the media's portrayal of us, and you begin to understand WHY the Don Imus incident caused such an uproar, after he described the Rutgers University women's basketball team as being "nappy headed ho's." Many people seemed flummoxed about the furor that statement incited. Some martyrized him, saying that his constitutional right to free speech was being infringed upon... which is true, but so is our right to freely be WHO and WHAT we are, without having to continously apologize or go through this multi-step assimilation process, because people aren't happy with how we look. It's maddening, and I'm sick to death of it. Snoop Dog weighed in on the Imus controversy, by justifying his (and other rappers') use of the term "ho's", after the rap community came under fire (or were scape-goated) for desensitizing the masses to the use of the word ho'. Snoop suggested that it was okay for rappers to disrespect certain types of women by calling them the ugly name, because they're referring to the ho's living in the projects, not "a successful basketball team." That didn't really do much to help our cause, now did it? It's a neverending battle, particuarly when you consider that we already have 3 strikes against us. I think of some of my own personal struggles, particularly since I wear my hair natural, I carry around an ample rear end, and I constantly have to defend the reasons WHY I don't act like [insert stereotype here], WHY black women aren't one- dimensional, and WHY I'm not going drop my shit like it's hot for some ignoramus who has OD'ed on videos shown on BET... or WHY I want you to kiss my ample rear, when you pigeonhole me and women of color or chastise me for my blackness. I will gladly continue to fight the good fight and refer to myself as a 21st century womanist.

February 05, 2007

Memo: I Speak Well!

It’s like an educated black person is a rare sighting, like seeing a spotted egret. We’re viewed as a fluke. How many flukes simply constitute reality?
Reginald Hudlin, president of entertainment for Black Entertainment Television.

My friend Cat, recently forwarded a New York Times article to me regarding Senator Joseph R. Biden’s assessment of Senator Barack Obama. Biden seemed struck with amazement when he referred to Obama as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” OH ME! OH MY!

You know, very rarely do I get political on my blog, but statements like this make me flinch. Comedian D.L. Hughley couldn’t have put it more beautifully when he said,

"subtle words like this are more insidious. It’s like weight loss. The last few pounds are the hardest to get rid of. It’s the last vestiges of racism that are hard to get rid of."

Statements made by people like Senator Biden get under my skin, because I experience similar, back-handed compliments just like it… and often. Some white people look at me, they see the color of my skin, and they expect sheer and utter trash to come spilling out of my mouth. They must be, if they’re that taken aback by my diction.

At times, much to my amusement, they’ve read something I've written, and will comment, “You speak just like you write!” They’re aghast that I can string together complete sentences, or engage them in intelligent discourse. I remember once, I visited a graduate studies course on blogging and media, where students and their journalist professor wanted to interview me, about this very blog. I remember this one man, while he was extremely kind, kept on commenting on how “well” I spoke. I was a slightly agitated, and thought to call him on it, but didn’t.

While I’m sure Senator Biden didn’t mean any harm, covert bigotry is so much more insulting… damaging even, because it dictates that Black people can’t be intelligent, cultured, articulate, and that people have low expectations of us. It takes a page out of the book, The Bell Curve and it measures intellect on a scientifically bigoted scale. It perpetuates this ridiculous notion, that Black people can’t be beautiful, successful, attractive, or smart without all these prerequisites and quite frankly I’m tired of it.

“Oh, she’s sooo pretty for a Black woman.” “Wow, I didn’t know you were a physicist! You’re so tall, I thought you played basketball!” or my favorite, “He/She must’ve gotten into Harvard Law, because of Affirmative Action.”
President George W. Bush (of all people) has also described Obama as being “articulate” during interviews.

People who don’t experience this type of back-handed, concealed (and oft times harmless and unconscious) bigotry may read this entry and roll their eyes, but understand that it can’t be understood, if you don’t experience people having a low opinion about your capabilities to begin with, because of your ethnicity or skin color.

It’s the same feeling I get when men (especially white men) expect less from me, because I’m a woman. Or they become exasperated and call us nasty names that rhyme with witch and hunt, because we won’t acquiesce or dumb ourselves down, to placate them.

Biden would later go on The Daily show and expound on his comments, “Look, what I was attempting to be, but not very artfully, is complimentary. This is an incredible guy. This is a phenomenon.” Intellect covers a wide spectrum... race, sex, and ethnicity notwithstanding... and so does ignorance and stupidity, apparently.

My question is; Why not say, to begin with, “Barack is dynamic, an incredible and charismatic man!” rather than insinuate he’s a rare, extinct breed of Negro?? And just for the record, he is NOT the FIRST mainstream African-American who is articulate, bright, and clean...