Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Devil Made Pat Do It

By now you’ve seen the video clip, read the text or heard about Pat Robertson’s comments about the devastating earthquake in Haiti and his take on why it happened.

No, “Uncle Pat” is not a seismologist to my knowledge, but he has a theory and was happy to share it with the world. For those who are unaware, here is the text and the video:

And you know, Kristi, something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon the third, or whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to The Devil. They said, we will serve you if you will get us free from the French. True story. And so, the devil said, okay it's a deal. And they kicked the French out. You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after the other.

Mmkay, so all that I really have to say here is that “Uncle Pat” is ca-ra-zy! Well, that’s not nice, and my mother did teach me better than that so suffice to say that Mr. Robertson is citing a supposed 1791 conversation between a group of Haitians, a voodoo priest and The Devil. Robertson goes so far as to say, “True story” to reassure us that he knows whereof he speaks.

After a bit of consternation and pondering the likelihood of this having taken place, I decided to use logic and deductive reasoning to determine Robertson’s sincerity and the accuracy of his words:

  • The supposed pact took place in 1791
  • In order to prove this story true, there would have to have been a witness or witnesses
  • Pat Robertson seems to be in the know about exactly what was said and what transpired
  • Hence, Pat Robertson is either a 219-year-old Haitian, a voodoo priest or The Devil.

I’m putting my money on him being The Devil.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What's Said in Here Does Not Stay in Here: I Hear White People

"A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee…" —Former President Bill Clinton

“Obama is light-skinned” and has “no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."— Senator Harry Reid (D-NV)

These quotes are from a new political book, Game Change. Many people are up in arms about the comments, calling Clinton and Reid racists and demanding that Reid step down as Senate Majority Leader. White women are clutching their pearls while old white Republican males rush to remind people that the Republicans freed the slaves, while black/African American and even a few Negroes feign shock and disgust at the comments.

First off, the only people who could possibly be shocked by comments like these are white people. Yeah, I said it. Let’s face it, any black/African American or even Negro person in America knows that white people (not all, but many) interact quite differently when they are or believe that they are no longer in mixed company. The race jokes abound, white males feel free to mimic the speech patterns and walks of black men they see on television, they might even sing along with an MC Hammer or Will Smith record. If enough alcohol is imbibed and there are no blacks/African Americans or Negroes on the wait staff, they might even try to kick something by 50 Cent, Jay-Z or Kanye. This particular scene is always worth far more than the price of admission.

It reminds me a little bit of an old Eddie Murphy clip from Saturday Night Live that my family affectionately calls “Mr. White.” Murphy undergoes an extreme makeover to appear white and adjusts his speech and mannerisms to go “undercover” in society as a white man. Much to his surprise, he is offered cocktails on a city bus once the minority passengers have exited, a free newspaper at a store and even free money at a bank—all due to the fact that he is white.

While this is a send-up and goes a bit far, the bit does have merit. White people tend to behave differently when in white-only situations, just as black people, Hispanics and everyone else do. It is much the same in the way that I might walk around the house with my hair in rollers amongst family, but I certainly wouldn’t do it in public (I know, plenty of other folks would, but that’s a whole different topic). Many black/African American /Negro people will use a different cadence when in homogenous company, just as many Latinos/Hispanics or other foreign language-speaking people might speak in their native tongues.
As for Mr. Reid’s and Mr. Clinton’s comments, did they lie? Sadly, they did not. Forty, thirty or even twenty years ago—the only thing Barack Obama could have done at the White House was bring coffee, shine a few shoes and smile while saying “Yassir” to every white face in the building. And though no one wants to admit it, if Barack Obama had the complexion of Yaphet Koto, Wesley Snipes or Djimon Hounsou and used “dem, dat, dose and dese” in his regular speech, they wouldn’t even let him shine shoes. America is still quite color conscious, regardless of what people say or would like others to believe. As for the use of the word "Negro," hell I am black/African American/Negro and I use the words interchangeably myself.

I’m unsure of the context in which these comments were made, but I will not purchase the book and add fuel to the fire in order to find out. One can likely pretty accurately assume that Reid’s comment was made in a context of “Hey look, if ever there was a black/African American/Negro candidate for the presidency, Obama is it. He is light-skinned—and hence less ‘threatening’ to most whites than a darker skinned black male. And, to hear him speak, most people wouldn’t perceive him as black/African American/Negro since most white people think all black people sound like the crackheads, gang-bangers, rappers and buffoons they see in television shows and movies…”

As for Clinton’s comment, as a standalone fragment it seems pretty bad. But what if it went something like this: “Wow! Barack Obama is the first black president! It’s hard to believe—I mean, a few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee—unable to be recognized as a viable candidate despite being qualified…” Not quite so condemning now, huh?

The moral of the story is that we no longer live in a country or a time where the media reports the news—now they create, cook and spin it into a ready-made opinion to save you the trouble of forming one of your own. Some modern conveniences like the refrigerator, microwave, washing machine, dishwasher, cell phone, internet and the like are great. But falling into the trap of mainstream media and believing what they want you to believe without digging deeper and finding the truth is in no way convenient. It is actually quite dangerous. The leader of the free world has better things with which to worry himself, so please, check the sources, do some research and handle this type of your stuff for yourself.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

White Writer's Take on Black Black vs. Barack Black, Featuring Jay-Z

I find my fingers striking the keyboard with gale force. I know I shouldn't allow myself to be annoyed or offended by this stuff but nonetheless, I am. In an Esquire magazine piece on Jay-Z, writer Lisa Taddeo

anoints Jay-Z as "the first black-black guy to cross over into Oprah-land and Bill Clintonworld without making the Oprah-sized no-look-back forward flip that means you're selling not necessarily your soul but perhaps something fleshier, a little more external."

She takes it a bit further with the assertion that "Jay-Z is black black. He is old-school double-dark-chocolate-chunk black. He is black the way Labatt is blue. He is not white black, Barack black, like our president. Or the kind of black that doesn't curse and deplores the n-word, the genteel black, like Oprah."

I guess Ms. Taddeo (like most of the world) has yet  to read this blog, hence she is one of what seems to be the majority of white Americans who have been brainwashed by mainstream media to believe that "black black" (real, average, everyday) black people grow up in poverty, sell drugs and own guns; whereas "Barack black" black people who speak proper English, get an education, marry before having children and have good credit and no criminal record are somehow less authentic, less everyday and more of the exception than the rule.

I wholeheartedly concede that neither Oprah Winfrey or Barack Obama are average everyday people. But that has nothing to do with their race and everything to do with their tenacity, business/media savvy and a heaping dose of being in the right place at the right time. Neither Obama nor Winfrey could have achieved what they have 30 years ago—no black American could have.

But where did the writer get the idea that Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey are less than authentic black people? Because they appeal to white people and can conjugate a verb means they are being less than true to themselves? I cringe and become enraged as I revisit the myriad instances when I've been accused of being exactly that for precisely the same reasons. Sadly, not only do misinformed and small-mind white people harbor such beliefs, but also black Americans who either choose to live in  a state of self-pity or have drunk enough Kool-Aid that they actually believe and insist upon living down to the general negative stereotypes.

As my stomach begins to settle and my fingers once again begin typing rather than assaulting the keys, a realization begins to form in my mind, perhaps a partial epiphany. The years of "separate but equal" did all too good a job of not only separating but hiding the black middle class. Those grainy black and white film clips from the 60s and 70s are filled with housing projects, riots, serpentine welfare lines and downtrodden and defeated looking black people. Rarely do they depict the neatly-landscaped yards and clean streets of black middle class neighborhoods where black doctors, lawyers, teachers and the like raised their children.

I digress and suffice to say that this is yet another example of the one-sided story that mainstream media tells regarding African Americans.