reappropriate

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Black. White. Episode 3

Ah, back again with episode 3 of our favourite show, Black. White. Like a bloody car crash, I just can't stay away. Please forgive my inarticulateness tonight, not only am I staying up past my allotted bedtime but I have a massive migraine. And just looking at Carmen and Bruno, I'm sure it's going to get worse before the night's end. We open the episode with Brian confronting Carmen on her calling one of Rose's friend a "beautiful black creature". Rose gets in on the Carmen action, and even Nick manages to get a full sentence in (proving he is actually able to speak)! Alright, and then Bruno comes to Carmen's defense, arguing that "beautiful creature" is not a dehumanization. I don't know what kind of drugs Bruno and Carmen were doing, but in the context of the sentence Carmen used, "creature" was used with a racial marker to describe something other than human. Carmen: "I do not want to have to choose my words!!! ... I was coming from total love!!!" In an earlier post, some argued that intent was indeed important (and for you guys, if you're still reading this blog, I haven't forgotten about you! I just haven't had time to respond) -- but can you still make the argument that Carmen's words were not hurtful or racist because she was "coming from total love"? I would say no -- it doesn't matter if Carmen didn't know or she really does love "beautiful black creatures", nothing excused the dehumanization inherent in those words. Meanwhile, "White" Nick and Rose go out into L.A. to participate in making a documentary on race in youth culture. Ho-hum -- so far, Nick's experiences offer no material for this show. Back to the painful stuff, "Black" Carmen and "Black" Bruno go to L.A.'s very own, real-live "Ask a Negro" session, except without the humour and comedy of Paul Mooney. While Carmen waxes philosophical about her excitement at finding a Black woman who might teach her how to be Black, I have to mention that Carmen's whininess since the beginning of the show as if she's being oppressed somehow because she has to watch her words is ridiculous. It's a veiled accusation of "reverse racism" -- and I think Carmen is making a good case as to why this whole new defense she's thought up is as ridiculous as her old abbrasive "love". Brian and Rene are now confronting Nick about why he seems bored with this whole makeup, transracial project. They ask him why he's participating. Frankly, I'm asking the same question of the whole Sparks family. But, of course, this being a show about "learning", Rene and Brian trap the poor boy in a car and preach to him about racism. The boy simply denies that racism is a factor in his life, gotta wonder if his parents really raised him right. Nick and Rose have been hanging out a lot -- are they going to hook up? Brian is currently confessing that he would like some of Rose to rub off on Nick; I have to admit Rose, for all her fetishism for Black cool, is still growing on me. So far, she seems like one of the only semi-redeemable characters on this show. Nick, meanwhile -- I know I said about three paragraphs earlier that I'm surprised he got a sentence out; well, in this episode, we are hearing more from Nick, and I'm starting to wish I could hear less. He just seems to be completely incapable of doing anything but being a stereotype and reveling it. Incidentally, we find out in this episode that Nick is also a high school drop-out, with an 8th grade education. "Black" Carmen and her "Ask-A-Negress" are at the Black Wax and Facts Museum with a guy in an African print mumu looking at blackface and slavery artifacts. "Black" Carmen saw the burnt cork and has now proclaimed herself in complete understanding of what it means to be Black. Be afraid, be very afraid. Rene just cussed Nick out for wasting $150 on a watch. You go, girl. Of course, this glorious cuss-out is ruined by Bruno's ignorant ass marveling at hearing a mother scold her son "in Black voice". Safari hats, anyone? Following the commercial-break-spanning cuss-out of Nick, "Black" Carmen and "Black" Bruno go to a cowboy bar where a Confederate flag is prominently displayed. Of course, we knew this wasn't going to go well, or perhaps it would, because "Black" Carmen noticed the subtle kind of racism that people of colour face daily (because the entirety of America is basically like this cowboy bar). "Black" Carmen was denied a coffee until the bartender saw her credit card, but "Black" Bruno felt right at home, seeing no racism because no one tried to lynch him. Carmen tries to articulate her experiences of the night. "Gosh," she says, and I paraphrase, "having people treat me like this all my life? That would be sad." Sad. That's the best word she could think of? Again, Carmen resorts to the Crying White Woman approach to dealing with race relations, even while in blackface. Meanwhile, Bruno confesses that his problem with racism is because some Black ballplayers wouldn't play with him when he was a gangly, dorky White boy. So now he thinks racism doesn't exist, essentially because he was last picked in a gym class. I'm not sure I quite follow the logic, but the story doesn't exactly win me over to his point of view. It's hard to take anything else he has to say seriously because he is so transparently oblivious to racism while simultaneously managing to completely condescend towards all Black people. Then again, I'm starting to wonder if maybe the reason Bruno sees no racism is because the only person he's actually paying attention to is himself. You can't be treated racially if there's no one around to mistreat you, and in Bruno's world, the Earth seems to have a population of 1. I find it fascinating that even in this situation, where Carmen and Bruno went in blackface to a bar sporting a Confederate flag, the actual racism of the Confederate flag is not dealt with. The very hurtfulness of displaying a flag under which people rallied to enslave an entire race of people and Carmen, after having had her Black History 101 moment at the museum earlier, seems to have missed this modern-day incarnation of old-school racism. Commercial break's over and Nick seems to have survived the cussing out, just in time to have a lunch date with Rose and tell her that he got kicked out of high school for carrying a knife in his bookbag to protect himself from the scaaaary, knife-wielding Asian population. I know I shouldn't say this but, "N*gga, please". Carmen has return to her "Ask-A-Negress" to ask for help "entering the Black community". She has revealed her true race to Missy A.A.N. and now Miss A.A.N. has decided to become a racial ambassador. Gotta love how Missy A.A.N. throws out yet more stereotypes of the Black community that are just blatantly uncharacteristic, like how it's un-Black to not read the Bible. My Black atheist boyfriend is offended at just having his racial membership questioned. Back to the show, Nick has returned his watch and Missy A.A.N. joins "Black" Bruno and Carmen who are posing as an interracial couple. Missy A.A.N. is just as offensive as Bruno and Carmen -- she's like a ghetto-fabulous safari tourguide for Bruno and Carmen's safari trip. Whitefolk used to do this all the time in Chinatown, and frankly I'm finding it distasteful to watch it happening here as well, with Missy A.A.N., asking as "interpreter". How many times do I need to say it; being defined by White people into a role in which we exist to teach White people is no better than any other form of cultural appropriation and servitude. Missy A.A.N. just happens to be more house negro than those in the neighbourhood she's showing off. Carmen describes a typical White Flight moment while in the Black neighbourhood because the Blackfolk were looking at her negatively for her and her "sellout boyfriend" entering into their space. Black men were apparently muttering amongst themselves about Bruno, a man who looks like a White-washed Black man bringing his White wife to the 'hood -- something I can understand, since I am privvy to similar treatment on occasion. The difference is that Carmen combined this treatment with her existing, racist fear of Black people and turned it into a full neurotic attack -- there was no physical threat to Carmen, but because she perceived Black people as scary, she saw a physical threat where there was none. And the producers used some creative editing to use the African drumming as a symbol of Carmen's mounting fears -- I don't even know what to do with that. "Black" Bruno cries racism! He's come to an epiphany: it's not White people who are racist, it's Black people! Post the commercial break, we cut back to "Black" Bruno squarely accusing Black people of having the problem when it comes to racism. White people, he thinks, have transcended racism, but it's those Blacks who seem to have a colour problem. Again, there's nothing else we can say about Bruno but that he just doesn't seem to want to see himself and his race being a part of the problem, only the victims. Meanwhile, Carmen shows her White privilege by suggesting that she return to the Black safe space alone and honestly believes that she will not be privvy to any negative treatment. Only someone who has never experienced racism would honestly look at the world through such rosy-coloured glasses. And so, when faced with the truth of racism, she resorts to the typical defense: she cries. At least Missy A.A.N., in all her "Teach the Whitey" glory, brings home the after-school special: what Carmen felt in two hours of being treated as unwelcome, different and unsafe, is what we feel every day. It's not lynching, as Bruno contests, it's a gut feeling. At least Bruno knows what it is now -- although he's still looking for it only from Blackfolk. As I wait for the preview for the next episode, I want to deal with one final question -- does Black. White. have some merit because even though it, itself, is offensive to many, particularly people of colour on the blogosphere, it is fostering race discussion? Well, here's the first problem I have with that -- the only people talking are people who voluntarily seek out critical commentary on Black. White. The vast majority of Black. White.'s audience are not going to the blogosphere to participate in discussion. And while I do appreciate open discussion in all its forms (this is why I love blogging in general and encourage people to speak out about their opinions on the show, whatever they may be), I don't think the fact that this show engenders discussion excuses or justifies the Blackface. There are many ways to open race discussion, and we could have easily started this conversation without the burnt cork.

35 Comments:

Blogger Piscean Princess said...

I'm glad you're still watching. You do a great job of fleshing out the "characters" and analyzing the show overall. I know it's painful - I have physical pain each week while I watch this mess.

I can't even talk about Bruno. The less of him I have to see the better.

As idiotic and clueless as Carmen is, she is very representative of her age/racial group in my opinion. And she demonstrated this week that she wants to get something out of this exercise. I'm not sure if she understands that black culture is bigger than blatant racism, hair products and absurd stereotypes, though. Unfortunately, she has not encountered anyone who can explain things to her. The discussion about the "creature" comment was the perfect time for the Sparks' to speak intelligently about institutionalized racism and the subtle way that her language dehumanized the poetry student.

I'm not sure if I'm over my embarrassment/anger about Nick's situation to speak coherently on it, but I'll try.

I guess the important thing to clarify is that Nick is a child, and at this point he is largely a product of his upbringing.

And with that in mind, what the hell happened? Forget teaching him about race/racism, what was going on when he was held back in 5th grade? How did Brian & Rene deal with that? Did they enroll him in Sylvan? Did he start a tutoring program? Did they read with him at home?

Then he fails 8th grade the first time around, then he gets kicked out for that dumb ass knife incident. I could talk about the glaring deficiencies in their parenting for hours. I think it's pretty obvious that they dropped the ball in SEVERAL areas where Nick is concerned. Perhaps they thought their having good jobs and living in the suburbs was enough home training for their son.

Moving on...I'm not sure how I manage to hold on to my "black folks membership card" anymore. 'Cause I haven't read the bible since the early 90's and I don't think I've ever looked in anyone's shower while visiting their home (unless I was planning to bathe in it). Thank God I like fried chicken & am often late for work - if not I'm sure the membership police would be revoking my card with the quickness!

I think this show, no matter how absurd or offensive, has plenty of value. I struggled with wondering who the audience is also - will anyone watch who has not previously been open to discussions about race? But I know I'm watching and I am learning. Surely there is a no-bible-reading-would-be-safari-tour-guide out there watching who may be more careful before she tells someone what black people do and don't like/think/do. And hopefully the Sparks' (and other parents in their position) are watching to see for themselves the extent of their poor parenting.

Since the black folks on this show are not really getting much in the way of "the white experience", couldn't there have been a moderator or somebody who can speak INTELLIGENTLY about the situations these 6 find themselves in? A Tavis Smiley, or Michael Eric Dyson, Cornell West, Mark Anthony Neal, or somebody who could respond and analyze without Rene's emotions or Brian's inabiilty to make sense without using expletives?

3/23/2006 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger phillyjay said...

"And the producers used some creative editing to use the African drumming as a symbol of Carmen's mounting fears -- I don't even know what to do with that."
Seriously?They actually did that lol?!!That's great.
I still have no way of seeing the show (no cable) but I guess I'm not missing much.I have read in a few news articles that the show was heavily edited, and many scenes may not be what they truly are.Have you heard anything about that?

Hve you talked to many black or white people about the show?I got a chance to talk to a few.So far, many blacks feel the white family is either clueless or racist.While some whites feel it's unfair to whites, and the black family only wants to see racism.Almost no inbetween.

3/23/2006 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger hysterical blackness said...

I am so glad you're doing this. I missed last nights episode - I'll have to catch it later.

Nick an 8th grade education! No racism!

Carmen and Bruno - beyond words.

3/23/2006 12:37:00 PM  
Blogger hysterical blackness said...

oh, and it's true you shouldn't have gone there. to the n-please.

Why did you?

3/23/2006 12:43:00 PM  
Anonymous tmj said...

I don't have this channel, but managed to watch the first one on the internet...so thanks for the recaps. I knew this show would be the train wreck it turned into. I am angry that Ice Cube allowed such an ignorant Black family to represent...a dropout from jr high? I DO believe that these parents though a suburb life would be sufficient...but they just look really ignorant on the show...and able to provide Bruno's ignit ass with much fodder to chew on, cud-style. Argh!

3/23/2006 12:47:00 PM  
Blogger phillyjay said...

"oh, and it's true you shouldn't have gone there. to the n-please.

Why did you?"

Heh, I didn't even noticed that part myself.Good question :)

3/23/2006 01:35:00 PM  
Blogger autodogmatic.com said...

I also missed last night's episode, so I am not going to be able to comment. Thus, I defer to my earlier comments insomuch as they apply.

Damn.

I would also like to understand your use of the n-bomb.

3/23/2006 03:26:00 PM  
Blogger Sue said...

Thank you. I can't make myself watch the show, especially now that I am reminded of how much control the editing and production has over the eventual outcome. Anything said out of context with the right background music can totally change what really happened. But I have a friend who is eager to discuss it, so now I can read your recaps and at least be an intelligent participant to some extent. I really appreciate the time you are taking, and suspect I would totally agree with your analysis just because the behaviors you are relating are so typical!

3/23/2006 04:11:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Why I went there -- Nick seems highly focused on representing himself as a stereotype, the quintessential thuggish, pimped out Black man with low aspirations, low education, and the most expensive Nautica watch known to man. I don't use the n-word lightly, but given that Nick is trying to embody this stereotype to the nth degree, it's hard not to respond in accordance with this sentiment, expressing frustration and annoyance that he's trying to be such a baseline, dismal caricature. In other words, he is the stereotype, and my response is annoyance that he's trying so hard to be just that.

Apologies if I've offended anyone.

3/23/2006 04:50:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

oh, also, I was also experiencing an intensely irritated response to his racist characterization of my people as knife-wielding gang-bangers who, by the virtue of the colour of our skin, are able to get away with concealing weapons on our body and pose a serious threat to his personal safety.

3/23/2006 04:52:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

We won't achieve any sort of racial detente until anyone, with knowledge of the hurtful history and current oppression faced by a race/ ethnic minority denigrated by a particular epithet, can use said epithet against or about a member of the corresponding race/ ethnic group, without their original points becoming lost in a identity politics hoopla.

I don't believe it's possible, or happening now, but until the Brunos of the world can use the N-word with real sense in that diction choice, we won't have race peace. That being said, Jenn didn't say "Nigga, please." She dropped the "i". She tried to express a measure of respect here.

And that nigger Nick didn't deserve that. Let's douse the torches in reason's cold water, people.

3/23/2006 05:11:00 PM  
Blogger jose said...

I am continually aggravated by the onus put on People of Color to take up a secondary, unpaid profession of teaching white people. The show could have at least gotten someone with the sociological background to properly explain racism, but we end up with the Sparks and Deanna. Okay, the Sparks are trying, but when their son doesn't think racism is relevant to his life, one has to wonder how effective they will be in imparting that to others.

Deanna's reaction to Carmen made me think about damali ayo's rent-a-negro. Carmen does seem earnest, so I think it's forgivable that Deanna sees her as a potential ally. What I cannot forgive are the stereotypes Deanna validates -- all blacks being Bible-bound, blacks rifling through hosts' medicine cabinets -- and were completely unnecessary for the task at hand.

To continue the discussion about White Woman Syndrome, I think it's helpful if people understand the psychological underpinnings of the white liberal reaction to encountering racism. It is built on a certain definition of racism, in which historical racial prejudice is considered utterly reprehensible, leaving some alternatives: colorblindness, or the opposite reaction of love. Strict adherence to one of these is done in order to avoid being grouped with the people in the white hoods.

It is hurtful to be "called out" when the white liberal believes him or herself to be prejudice-free. It stirs up stereotypical ideas of what a racist is, and it is incongruent with the white liberal's self-image. Defensive mechanisms kick in, and there are several options here: go on the offensive ("but black people do reverse racism, why is this wrong?"), rationalize it ("the dictionary definition of creature is..."), or withdraw and play victim. White Woman Syndrome is the latter, and it hinges on an internalized gender-based identity which makes it doubly distressing -- using sexism to defend racism. Is it so hard for the white liberal to accept that they are incapable of having the POC life experience, and simply defer to it?

Carmen seems to be in an early encounter phase of forming her white identity, and her foibles are common. Until we determine she is capable of understanding what that is, as well as understanding what it means to be a true ally, we will be suspicious of her intents and we will be critical of her mistakes.

3/23/2006 06:51:00 PM  
Blogger phillyjay said...

"oh, also, I was also experiencing an intensely irritated response to his racist characterization of my people as knife-wielding gang-bangers who, by the virtue of the colour of our skin, are able to get away with concealing weapons on our body and pose a serious threat to his personal safety."

True, but irritation shouldn't be used as an excuse.N*gga is still nigga even if the letter "i" is censored.Also as bad as the guy is, I see him more as ignorant then throw the n word around to describe him james.Yeah, yeah I know I'm too P.C......

3/23/2006 09:21:00 PM  
Blogger phillyjay said...

Oh almost forgot.No offence taken.Not the first time I heard an asian person say it.

3/23/2006 09:35:00 PM  
Anonymous carlos said...

jenn- in my origninal comment on how people's intentions matter, i wasn't referring to carmen specifically. i think i was responding more to the use of blackface and that from the two pictures you used in your original b/w post, it was clear that the intentions are different. it doesn't necessarily make the b/w blackface ok, but i think there is a difference between the two.

carmen's comments, to me, are clearly out of bounds, and i'm pretty sure i haven't claimed otherwise. i also find it unfortunate that she is so eager to "get in" with the black community that she fails to see how diverse the black community is, and fulfilling a stereotypical view of african-americans won't give her any real insight into the black community (such that there is a unifying black community).

as one of my last comments indicates, i agree completely with your dismay at the stereotypical portrait of african-americans. in that sense, b/w adds nothing to a discussion on race relations.

james, i think your comment vis a vis the n-word is an interesting one. would people of all races freely using historically racial eptithets mean progress in race relations? what would be the difference between jenn's use of the n-word, and bruno's? i hate to bring up the intentions word, but... perhaps jenn is coming from a position of understanding of the history of the term, where bruno isn't. but, how would we judge if people are allowed to use the word. carry a badge that says, "i understand the history of the hurtfullness of the term (insert racial epithet)"?

if, as you commented earlier, a non african-american can never fully understand what it means to be black in america, then how could any non african-americans be allowed (in a socially acceptable sense) to use the n-word?

it's not that i don't find any merit in the idea that people could freely use certain terms so long as they do so in an educated way, but i think it's open for discussion, and my mind is certainly not made up. my wife and i live in an area that is more diverse than the population at large (about 20% each hispanic, asian, and african-american, and 40% white). she teaches at a local high school that also reflects that population. the students there freely exchange what are seen as racial epithets. when my wife questions them on their use of these terms, without exception, they respond with some form of, "what are you talking about? no one cares. get over it." but these students have also grown up together, so it's different than if someone like bruno, who has clearly only been around white people, uses these terms.

i'll be interested in everyone's thoughts...

3/23/2006 11:15:00 PM  
Blogger Ragnell said...

I'm digressing a bit, but I suspect the word can also only become non-racist profanity if it could be used to slander a white person and have the same connotation. To illustrate my point, take the word B*tch for example. Used to describe a woman, it's describing an especially aggressive and domineering person. Used to describe a man, it's talking about a submissive and passive person. Both profane, both insulting, but two entirely different meanings applied based on who it's aimed at. That makes this word a sexist insult in addition to run of the mill profanity. The only time the sexism is removed from the word is when it has the same meaning when applied to men as to women, and is used interchangeably -- no wierd feeling when used to describe a male (take calling a man a "slut" for example). Same with the n-word. Until it's applied to all races unhesitantly, to mean the same exact thing to each person it's applied to, it still conveys the racial politics of the slur. (Until we can hate all people equally, with no special regard given to race, gender, creed...etc..)

Again, my apologies for the tangent.

On-topic, I must confess to using the Crying White Woman trick. It got me through many tough moments on the playground when I was being teased. Instant teacher rescue. So, I can't really fault Carmen for--

Wait, Carmen's the adult isn't she? Okay, then I can fault her for the tactic.

3/24/2006 03:49:00 AM  
Blogger autodogmatic.com said...

There are two things I'm really struggling with here.

The first I'll call "Broad strokes." What falls under this "BS" category is all of the statements about People of Color, White liberals and White Women Syndrome (and a few others). Is it really that simple? Is my wife, because her skin color is brown (she is Indian), part of some larger body of People of Color? I don't think she overtly knows it, if she is. Would her struggles as a Person of Color be the same as yours, Jenn? Or should I expect my sister, as a White Woman, to cry whenever confronted about her issues with race? I don't know the answer to these questions. I do know that generalizations are the root of racism (or any 'ism). When we add action to these generalizations, we get problems. I call this broad strokes, because we're trying to paint a detailed picture with a kitchen sponge and it's not coming out too pretty. We reduce the complexity of our existence when we define ourselves externally (rather than internally). It's not that POC experiences don't often share a common vein: from what I can tell, they do. The same goes with the WWS or the WL reaction. I simply struggle with this simplification.

This brings me to point #2: meaingful relationships.

First, no minority exists to teach the majority. I think everyone can agree with that statement; however, it's not exactly helpful. Meaningful relationships require we share experiences with each other. Therefore, we do have an obligation to those with which we hope to relate. If I want to have a meaningful relationship you, I have to share my story with you. That story is complex, evolving and incomplete (As is yours). As far as race is part of that story, it should be shared as well - not from generalizations, but from perseonal experience.

Though minorities don't have an obligation to teach the majority about race, on an individual basis, Mr. Minority should try to educate Mr. Majority on his/her personal experiences to the extent that such experiences will help Mr. Minority and Mr. Majority relate to each other. This is a voluntary exchange. But for this voluntary exchange, I don't think there would be any hope for race relations. There just wouldn't be any race relations.

And I think that's what is failing in B/W. The families are failing to relate to each other through stereotypical generalizations instead of as individual people.

Thoughts?

3/24/2006 09:12:00 AM  
Anonymous sheldiz said...

Just wanted to comment on the whole "intent" issue.... in communication, intent means exactly and precisely dick.

communication is not in the intent, its in the perception. when something is "communicated", it means how the person receiving the information perceives it, not how the person giving the information intends it.

the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

3/24/2006 09:43:00 AM  
Blogger autodogmatic.com said...

Sheldiz,

With all due respect, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" is irrelevant to the intent matters/doesn't matter discussion. Communication is incredibly more complex than simply how it is perceived. Communication is about knowing your audience, tailoring a message accordingly, and sending that message off. Then, we receive feedback as to how the message was received. Does the sender perceive the receiver understood? Does the sender need to say more to elaborate the point? And around and around we go.

Lots of things go wrong here: communication is imperfect at best. Thus, attempting to understand intent is absolutely relevant to communication. Not only do I believe this, but you believe this, too. That is, unless you take everything anyone says literally. Why? Because sarcasm or any form of figurative speaking is all about intent. To strip intent from communication is a gross oversimplification.

So no, I disagree. Intent doesn't mean, "exactly and precisely dick."

This is to say nothing about Carmen or her intentions.

End of tirade.

Neal

3/24/2006 10:12:00 AM  
Anonymous sheldiz said...

neal - i completely and totally disagree. if you mean one thing and someone perceives another, whatever the other person perceives is what's communicated. correct or not, the outcome of the exchange is what's communicated.

take the recent example of the broadcaster who was fired for (hopefully) inadvertantly referring to Condoleeza Rice as "coon" when he meant to say "coup". Whether it was a freudian slip, an accident, a mix up of words b/c of speaking quickly -- it doesn't matter, it was perceived as a racial slur and that's all that matters.

another example is sarcasm. if someone does not understand sarcasm, then they will interpret a situation as exactly the opposite of the intended comment.

intent means nothing if the outcome is misunderstanding.

3/24/2006 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger phillyjay said...

"The first I'll call "Broad strokes." What falls under this "BS" category is all of the statements about People of Color, White liberals and White Women Syndrome (and a few others). Is it really that simple?"

For some people yes.While there is some truth to those people described above, you can't label everyone the same way.Not every white woman has the "syndrome", and many minorities do not identify as a "POC"(some see the term as idiotic, and to be honest I never even liked using it myself and I'm one of those POC)
But honestly, I think most people here are not going out of their way to generalize.
This is a great discussion on both subject by the way.The show and the use of the n word.

3/24/2006 11:50:00 AM  
Anonymous carlos said...

sheldiz-

if intent means nothing, then how could a misunderstanding ever be cleared up? communication isn't a one way street where the recipient has the right of way. also, if the person does understand sarcasm, then they also understand the INTENT of the statement. if i see an attrative woman on tv, and then say to my wife, "i'd sleep with her," doesn't mean i'd actually sleep with her, and my wife, understanding my INTENT, does not worry that i may actually sleep with this other woman. this sort of communication occurs all the time, and the intent of the communication is extremely relevant. kiss my ass, go fly a kite, blow me, go fuck yourself, have your cake and eat it too, and on and on are all statements in which the intent is very relevant to the communication. without intent, words, statements, actions, etc. could only have a singular meaning. intent provides a very important context in which the communication occurs.

going back to my original point on the blackface, i think there is a difference between the two styles of blackface, and for me, the major difference is INTENT. the first one is done with the sole intention of being hurtful, the second is not.

3/24/2006 12:38:00 PM  
Blogger jose said...

Neal, Re: "Broad Strokes", I'm not sure if you're getting the fact that WWS is a specific type of defensive reaction based on internalized ideas of race and sex, therefore earning a moniker denoting both. If a white woman does not have those internalized ideas, then she is unable to exhibit the symptoms of having them. I do not know your sister, but as I have stated, there are several possibilities if confronted with accusations of racism. If she identifies as anti-racist, then she can go on the angry offensive, rationalize, withdraw, or accept. If she does not identify as anti-racist, she may actually revel in it. How does this brush a broad stroke?

As for an abhorence for generalization, I agree that stereotypes contribute to systematic racism. In terms of America, white people have more power due to being in positions of authority and media, as well as having numerical majority, so generalizations of POC are more harmful than generalizations of white people because the aggregate action is disproportionate. Additionally, there are so many white people that they are implicitly immune to stereotypes. It doesn't quite work the other way around. I hope you see that treating things equally in both directions ultimately distracts from the imbalance that already exists.

Of course, no two people have the exact same experiences. We all have several identities and environments that contribute to a unique identity. This is covered by Patricia Hill Collins' discussion of the Matrix of Domination. I suggest you read it if you have not already, since it addresses the complexity of being an individual: http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/45a/252.html

Struggle no more.

Minorities don't exist to teach the majority. Minorities teach the majority because their quality of life depends on it, and are continually challenged to do so. White people could never consider race and their quality of life would not change.[1] When POC perceive a wrong, the burden of proof is put on them. What many people don't understand is that bringing up that wrong is the experience, and if white people accepted it, things would move forward. What usually happens is the white person gets defensive about it, and race relations (in terms of how you view it) ends.

The Sparks don't have the sociological and/or psychological background to explain things in an academic manner, and that's not their fault, because even if they did, Bruno and Carmen would continue invalidating the minority experience being imparted to them.

[1] There is an argument put forth that America's legacy of racism hurts white people, so under this theory, white people would benefit from considering race. For the most part, I think that harm is negligible.

3/25/2006 05:34:00 AM  
Blogger jose said...

Carlos: It's a contentious issue, but "reclamation" of slurs has several functions. When used by the target group, it is taking it away from the oppressor. It becomes neutered through redefinition. The goal is to reduce the slur's power. That's what restricting their use accomplishes -- makes them more potent -- and when use by the target group is restricted, it's just another reminder of who still has the power.

Certainly, the younger generation who may never have been targetted with a slur may not feel the same type of pain as the older generation that has. I think in that situation, it's respectful to refrain from saying it in their presence, as it is a potential "trigger".

As for who is "allowed" to use slurs, you must realize that blacks and other POC have a much similar experience with each other than with whites. Each group has its own historically hurtful epiteth, linked to a history of oppression. White people have never had one because they have always been in positions of power.

Still, I think it's legitimate if an individual member of a target group takes offense to a certain usage. It is hurtful to them, plain and simple. I don't think people outside that target group can claim offense. With that said, I believe we (white people, too) have license to use a slur in front of individuals who personally vet you and may or not believe in reclamation, and this being a widely-read blog, would probably benefit from adhering to the lowest common denominator.

3/25/2006 05:54:00 AM  
Blogger Mendi O. said...

Jenn, just don't go there. When you use your anger at something stupid a black person says be justification for calling him a nigger, nigga, jigga, nukka, nikka, ngga, nga, or n-a, you're claiming a right to put a black person in a racially marked, derogatory position. I didn't think that's the kind of person you were trying to be.

3/25/2006 11:58:00 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Thank you all for your comments. While I realize that several people have and will take offense to my use of the n-word in this post, I've always felt that censoring a word is never the proper approach. While the n-word can cause injury regardless of intent, I don't think the solution to epithets is to prevent people from using them -- I think it is more important for educating people about the context of the word, so that ignorance does not prevail in future generations and people are kept aware of words and their history.

If I commited an incorrigible offense simply by using a slur (in a context in which I acknowledge it's unPC-ness and use it to describe a person who is, himself, trying to be the stereotype it describes, in a context suggesting frustration towards anybody trying to be the stereotype), while I openly invited this criticism, my personal view is that it is better to open that can of worms and talk about Nick being a stereotype with the understanding that his desperate, enthusiastic adherence to such behaviour can result in the n-word being thrown around than to universally prevent all outsiders from ever using any slur.

While I again apologize for any offense, I also feel that this discussion, while relevant, detracts from other dicussions we can have about the episode's contents. It's easy to demonize someone who has consciously put themselves out there, it's harder to talk about the more institutionalized BS that surrounds this show.

3/28/2006 06:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't been compelled to comment on a blog post in quite some time. I must say I am loving the discussion of this show. On to the comments:

Re: POCs as Professors of Unity
I've read several comments with regard to POC's being forced into a position of teaching. The distinction that has yet to be made her (or if it has I completely missed it, and I'll admit to skimming a few comments) is that discourse is different from explanation.

Having the experience of being a minority student in a private school, I'll put it like this. I feel (and I used that word purposefully) inclined to explain to a non-black friend one on one (or perhaps even in a small group) about the why I do my hair differently because we happen to be having a discussion centered around such subjects. By the same token, I feel pressed upon when explaining to someone who is not my friend regardless of color. The experience is completely different. One speaks to the fact that an individual's social experience is so homogenized such that they have no black friends with whom they can have a comfortable conversation similar to the former wherein they can learn of their on volition. Thus, I am pressured into the representing an entire race as opposed to just myself, and also pressured into making sure they "get it", which invariably never happens. Tiresome to say the least. Not to mention fruitless and annoying. If, speaking of the latter example, this individual truly wanted to broaden their cultural horizons they would simply have put themselves in a position to have access to such people on a regular basis. You cannot claim to be liberal and anti-racist (or prejudiced - as in these circumstances I believe the terms to be negligiably different) if you live in a cocoon of sameness. It doesn't wash.

Which brings me to the subject of intent. To dismiss intent and have the dicussion truly have merit, I posit you would also have to dismiss perception. It is impossible to do either as again, individuals bring their own baggage to the discussion. Thusly, intent as it is perceived does in fact play a role. As to whether the show is any more meritus than blackface, for myself I'd have to say it most certainly is.

Nice segueue here to the perceived benefits of the show. Jenn (I love you for these posts btw - and not simply because you share my name) once posed the question about the discourse it is sparking. To paraphrase, I believe you questioned the merit of it bringing about discourse if (as you perceive it) that discourse is only amongst folks who were already predisposed to having such discussions. To that I say, there will always be a fair amount of preaching to the choir on any hot topic. My question is how may of those with a proclivity for intellectually discussing are actively attempting to engage folks who may not be so inclined? See "cocoon" statement above. I can say that I am. Are you?

Additionally, there's the issue with the n-bomb as some call it. Personally, I am of the reclaiming camp. I am neither of the generation of the parents of this show, nor the kids. I'm actually in the middle with a good 10 years to spare on either side. Having said that, I like to use the words amongst non-colorous people to incite on purpose. Because being black and saying anything that can be construed as racial tends to make them uncomfortable, but often it allows me to open a discussion. I'm not viewed as a typical "attitude laiden" black woman nor particularly afro-centric. Just pushy. So my ability to do so often wanes, but I have fun with it and where effective am able to gain perspective on people's views on race. I believe the more we use it in this vain, the less power it has as an epithet. Conversely, I do respect the fact that those in the generation above me who share my cultural background are still sensitive to it, and also have open discussions with them, and frequently use the same tactics. All that to say, it can be done. In this manner, I don't mind teaching, but I prefer to look upon it as sharing my perspective. If it sticks, nifty. If not, I feel good not having let an opportunity to bring about change slip by. I certainly don't bandy it about in the manner Bruno does. Let me not even digress upon him.

Can't wait to see what you have to say on teh 4th episode. I find myself covering my face in agony every week. So many nuances for discussion on this show. That alone makes it "good television", which is something I was beginning to believe was an oxymoron, particularly with the advent of "reality" tv.

3/30/2006 01:40:00 AM  
Blogger Balance55 said...

Hello Fellow blogger! I realize this is a little off topic from my normal routine of promoting pranks & Gags but, it threw my train of thought off so here goes:
I feel that this story must be in the same category as Pranks & Gags so here is my opinion on the stupid series which came on FX tv.
Is it me or did they miss something in their research?
I am referring to the fact that they chose 2 families one black and one white. (spray painting their skin)
That's fine, but the problem I have with this theory is that the 2 families they selected are medium to very high income. Is this something that is prevalent throughout our United States? To get the real feel of how one race is treated would be to select the families from the low income neighborhoods.
This is where the real racism is because, the don't haves, live there- be it Black or White.
Do you have any opinions on this subject? Let me know. Post your opinion here.
To me this show must be a Prank or a Gag.
..........................................
Have a Nice Day!
Balance55
NickersonStores.com

4/02/2006 04:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Emmanuel said...

Jenn you have a nice blog but, I gotta call you and James out on your use of the N word:

Jenn blogged:
...Commercial break's over and Nick seems to have survived the cussing out, just in time to have a lunch date with Rose and tell her that he got kicked out of high school for carrying a knife in his bookbag to protect himself from the scaaaary, knife-wielding Asian population. I know I shouldn't say this but, "N*gga, please".

Jenn later said: (to explain her use of "N*gga")
Why I went there -- Nick seems highly focused on representing himself as a stereotype, the quintessential thuggish, pimped out Black man with low aspirations, low education, and the most expensive Nautica watch known to man. I don't use the n-word lightly, but given that Nick is trying to embody this stereotype to the nth degree, it's hard not to respond in accordance with this sentiment, expressing frustration and annoyance that he's trying to be such a baseline, dismal caricature. In other words, he is the stereotype, and my response is annoyance that he's trying so hard to be just that.

Apologies if I've offended anyone.


Jenn later added:
oh, also, I was also experiencing an intensely irritated response to his racist characterization of my people as knife-wielding gang-bangers who, by the virtue of the colour of our skin, are able to get away with concealing weapons on our body and pose a serious threat to his personal safety.

James said: (in defense of Jenn's original use of the "N*gga, please")
We won't achieve any sort of racial detente until anyone, with knowledge of the hurtful history and current oppression faced by a race/ ethnic minority denigrated by a particular epithet, can use said epithet against or about a member of the corresponding race/ ethnic group, without their original points becoming lost in a identity politics hoopla.

I don't believe it's possible, or happening now, but until the Brunos of the world can use the N-word with real sense in that diction choice, we won't have race peace. That being said, Jenn didn't say "Nigga, please." She dropped the "i". She tried to express a measure of respect here.

And that nigger Nick didn't deserve that. Let's douse the torches in reason's cold water, people.


Fristly, Jenn the use of "N*gga" in that context was inappropriate and ironically hypocritical in a blog article citizing the show Black.White. for not portraying the realities of race relations in this country. You recognized this and as an explanation, you said that you were "experiencing an intensely irritated response" to his characterization of "knife-wielding gang-bangers who, by the virtue of the colour of our skin, are able to get away with concealing weapons on our body and pose a serious threat to his personal safety" and then you appologied for offending people. Your answer to a racist and ignorant statement was another ignorant statement. Nick is a 16 year old with an 8th grade education (who should know better) and was completely wrong is saying that statement but, you are a grown woman and a college graduate who even studied race relations as an empasis. Frankly, you should know better. You appologize for offending but, you were in the wrong to say it in the first place. The use of the "N*gga Please" in retort to your offense was silly and disappointing to hear from an educated woman. Education doesn't make you immune to offense or anger but, I would hope that it would at least enlighten you not to use nigga in that context as part of your casual speech.

James. Your use of nigger in a clearly degrading connotation of "Jenn didn't say 'Nigga, please.' She dropped the 'i'. She tried to express a measure of respect here.

And that nigger Nick didn't deserve that. Let's douse the torches in reason's cold water, people." (Emphasis mine)

I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it is dark humor, ironic but, if it was, it was poorly crafted. Nick was a racist towards Asians so, you as a black man (read on your blog, linked in your name) decided to express racism in response to racism? Again, another college educated adult, a black man living in America calling another nigger, point blank as a derogatory term. This doesn't help anyone and only undermines you own points of view about race relations on this blog.

As an Afro-American who was born in Kenya and has lived here for nearly 20 years, I am scratching my head. In a blog about the problems in a racially charged show the author says something clearly inappropriate in reaction to offense and an african-american man makes an even worse, clearly racist comment and somehow because he's black, he gets a pass?

Clearly, Black.White isn't the only thing having problems with race relations.

4/03/2006 09:05:00 AM  
Blogger James said...

Emmanuel-

Okay. Great. From your lengthy comment we learn one theme - people who discuss race and racism can not use terms involved in race and racism. I reject this notion.

I have a serious problem with the critical race theorists who are so afraid of racial epithets that they'd rather ban their use than interrogate why people still use them today. I'm sorry if this offends, but I don't believe it's possible to discuss American racism without use of the word Nigger. It's the ultimate lingustic distillation of American race hate, and without personal experience with that word and it's use, people who consider race and racism in America have a difficult time making sense.

If you're afraid of language, you can't speak, and you're already silenced. More on this later.

4/03/2006 07:13:00 PM  
Blogger phillyjay said...

James:
It seems at least to me Emmanuel took offence because of the way it was used by you and jenn.Especially after jenn complained about the way nick sterotyped asians as gangbangers.I don't belive he saying he doesn't want it said at all.Am
I right Emmanuel?

4/07/2006 03:44:00 PM  
Blogger Worldwide Underground said...

"I also missed last night's episode, so I am not going to be able to comment. Thus, I defer to my earlier comments insomuch as they apply.

Damn.

I would also like to understand your use of the n-bomb."

I don't care if her son even started a band with his best friend and called kunta and kente..it still wouldn't be appropraite...to avoid going into a internalized racism spiel I'll briefly state that the use of the n-word shows lack of education and hypocrisy..if you knew the history of the word you wouldn't use it..enough with the whole drop the er add an a and now it has a new meaning..its still the same word with the same history and connotations..and its too too funny because the ones who use it the most will be the first to light a fire under the ass of the white kid who lets one slip out in public...if you don't want people of other races saying it..then don't say it yourself...I have yet to see hispanics and asians referring to themselves as spic and chink respectively on a widebased scale the way the n-word is used..there really is no excuse for the use of the word and the real person you should be sorry to have offended is yourself...

4/24/2006 12:08:00 AM  
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