reappropriate

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Black. White. Episode 4

Ah, welcome back to our guilty pleasure. You know we people of colour are just loving to hate this show -- I admit, I'm starting to look forward to this weekly routine of pissing myself off. We open the episode with "Black" Rose returning to her poetry class. Now that her class knows that she's a White girl, the students are now taking turns standing up and suggesting what "Black" Rose should do next. Following her class, "Black" Rose is taken to a Black 'hood by one of her classmates. Rose is immediately surprised how small-talk quickly turns to race when her classmate is stopped by some guy on the street, and she is in awe by the kinship of Black America. Mmmm, Whitefolks jealous of the community formed out of racism, hatred, bigotry and oppression. Yeah, cuz that kinship is certainly worth all the bullshit. Meanwhile, after Rene explains why she participated in the Black. White. project, "White" Nick goes to etiquette school. While we all watch the ridiculousness unfold, I just want to take this minute to ask: since when is etiquette class a White activity akin to how slam poetry is a Black activity? I mean, I know a few White folk and I've never even heard of etiquette school being a common activity. Really, Rose puts it quite well: etiquette school is a rich person's activity. And, the problem with this particular episode of Black. White. is that the classism is getting mixed in the racism, but is not getting addressed. To suggest that White = rich and Black = poor is it's own level of perpetuating discrimination based not only on race but tying class and potential for wealth to skin colour, and yet nowhere are the ideas of institutional racism even mentioned. "Black" Carmen and "Black" Bruno go to a Black comedy night. Carmen notes the use of the n-word: if you're interested in some discussion on insider/outsider usage of the term, you can go to my post on last week's episode -- I certainly don't preach a universal censorship of slurs, but I also don't believe in reclaiming slurs. Either way, it's beyond the scope of tonight's recap. "Black" Bruno was extremely hyped about the comedy night, and was eager to hear some anti-White comedy. We can infer from this (and the fact that he was disappointed, and thus cranky on the ride home) that he wanted to use this opportunity to expose the racism of Blackfolk. He certainly has come into this project with an agenda: namely to redirect the racism finger away from him and towards oppressed minorities. The fact that the comedy night suggested not only cultural differences but also poked more fun at insider humour than the White mainstream discouraged him because it showed how there really is a cultural difference that Bruno cannot be a part of, and that Blacks are not as much to blame about racism as Bruno's twisted little mind would like to think. Back from the commercials and Rene is bonding with Rose, in a way that is kind of boring. "Black" Bruno is seeking a "successful Black person", so he goes to the rich neighbourhood to find a "successful" Black man. In other words, Bruno, again seeking to fulfill his agenda, is trying to find a Black person who has "overcome" racism in order to prove that racism shouldn't be as big a problem as it is. Meanwhile, Rose and "White" Nick have the White rich kids over to the house, and the kids see Nick's room, and see his culturally Black stuff. So, Rose and Nick decide to reveal Nick's identity. Nick talks about the only time he's experienced racism as being called the n-word, and, for some reason (*cough*, *cough*, Nick revels in being the stereotype, as I alluded to in the earlier post), he encouraged one of his new White girl friends to call him ... well, you know. And then the White girls (drunk?) make asses of themselves because they return to Nick's room, wear his do-rag and bandana and strike "hip hop poses". Proving just how little White people know about Black America, that they think that this is appropriate behaviour. Not to mention the random exoticism the girls now associate with Nick. Meanwhile, "Black" Bruno is talking to the Successful Black Man (SBM), who reaffirms Bruno's belief that racism can be overcome and lead to personal wealth (which is basically a nice way of saying that most Black people are poor not because of institutional racism, but personal laziness). Ooops, as I type this, Bruno drops the bomb: "personal responsibility". Thankfully, even SBM gets fed up with Bruno's stereotypes of Black people as "bitches 'n hos". (Where did he get this from? A late-night HBO special?) Then, we're back in the house-on-wheels where the White kids (including "White" Nick... but not Rose, I think) have a rather pedestrian discussion on the n-word. A White girl objects to the n-word because it offends her, and the White boys throw it around willy-nilly. No one knows why it's hurtful, hateful or derogatory -- and yet they all approach the word with the same rationalization: you can't say it for reasons beyond your understanding or caring. The girl is offended because the word is not allowed, and the boys say it precisely because it's not. Nowhere is there a discussion about why the word is hurtful -- again, why I believe slurs should not be censored because it only leads to this kind of willful racial ignorance. But again, this blog has already dealt with this issue in last week's recap. By the way, as we wait for the commercial's to end, this is now the second time I've seen an ad for Ice Cube's latest album. Anyone else all for boycotting it? I like Ice Cube from back in the day, but there is no way I could listen to his music in good conscience now. Back from commercial break and Brian and Rene are going to discipline Nick for letting his etiquette friends call him the n-word. Nick says repeatedly he just doesn't care. Okay, let's get this straight: racism doesn't bother Nick. He wants to be called the n-word, because he sees no problem with playing this stereotype for himself and his White peers. He has no problem with the word because, in many ways, that's how he sees himself. "Black" Rose and "Black" Carmen go with a classmate to a White neighbourhood to look for jobs. "Black" Rose and "Black" Carmen experience people not making eye contact, avoiding them, crossing the street to avoid them, and denying them job applications. What's interesting to me is that when Bruno experienced the same thing, he didn't see anything wrong with anything. Perhaps this will be another source of conflict between Carmen and Bruno? Bruno has an "I-told-you-so" moment because his SBM told him there's no particular Black culture. Which is not what the SBM said -- he simply said that he doesn't adhere to any particular cultural behaviours. Meanwhile, Carmen mourns Bruno's attitude, using terms like "breakthrough" -- again, this project all about educating the Whites, anyone? Brian takes Nick to the barbershop, where the man with the clippers on Nick learns that Nick has no problem with being called the n-word. Another "I-told-you-so" moment, except I kept wincing. There is no way I would tell the guy holding the clippers to my hair that I had no problem with being dehumanized, without expecting to come out of the whole thing with an "accidental" patch missing in my head. "Black" Rose opens the floodgates when going to a dinner with her poetry class by describing her envy of the kinship (oh, sigh, don't we all want to be oppressed?) and says that she envied Black people who, she thinks, know where they come from. Uhm, slavery? Hello? Still, this is an interesting discussion because it suggests a true difference between White identity and Black identity both born in formation of a community. It's something where my people, too, can weigh in, because our development of a community differs from both Blacks and Whites. I actually would be interested in hearing what you all have to say about that: how do you think White community-building and roots differ from others based on their status as the mainstream in America? Do you think there is an absence of a White culture as Rose implies? Now, Rose returns home and has as close to a breakthrough that I can appreciate as has happened on this show. Rose realizes that you can't try to be a race, you are a race and that this show doesn't get you any closer to being another race than you were without your native-born skin. In fact, that whole conversation between Rose and Carmen is something I appreciated: it illustrated not only the futility of this project, but also what little of a happy-go-lucky, after-school message we might get from this show. In other words, if you want racial harmony, you must respect difference, respect your own identity, respect boundaries, respect what cannot be yours, and realize that a certain amount of racial friction is not only possible but in fact an integral part of that harmony. Too bad the whole scene had to involve the trademarked White Woman Crying Syndrome. Back from commercial break and Nick and Rose are going to the etiquette class graduation ceremony. Nick is not wearing his Whiteface, and I expect the rich White kids to flip out and get uncomfortable. The girls immediately get starry-eyed, and you know their having Sambo fantasies right now. Nick, back from the scolding by the man with the clippers, has had his breakthrough moment and thinks perhaps his parents have a point. So Brian and Rene go over and discipline the whole table and implore the kids not to say the n-word, lest they get their asses beat. Again, is this really the right rationalization that should be communicated? Don't call someone a slur because you might get murdered? Call me an idealist, but I think White people should choose to or not to use a slur based on an understanding of their actions and the consequences. Brute censorship only breeds ignorance. Oh. God. While I was typing the last paragraph, Bruno began showing the Sparks a "rap" he made. It's so painful I actually want to leave the room or dive under the table. It basically disses the whole Black experience, rap, uhm... all of Blackness. Rene and Brian don't react at all, no one gets mad, probably because it was just so ridiculous and so acoustically painful to be taken seriously. What's actually surprising is that Rose and Carmen are the ones who beat up on Bruno, and it's for all the right reasons, suggesting that even Carmen and Rose are getting fed up with Bruno's stupidity. Personally, I think Carmen should just dump Bruno's sorry, cheesy ass. Overall, this episode is starting to bring together the point of the project, as well as illustrate its overall limitations. Even though the discussion has been initiated, the show itself doesn't offer enough of a forum for meaningful debate over these issues. Instead, to me, this show still merely reinforces the status quo of polite ignorance of anything beyond a rulebook of what-not-to-do. Is this show really going to offer the kind of respect Rose talks about in her middle-ground theory?

27 Comments:

Blogger Piscean Princess said...

I am at the point where I can't deal with Bruno or the Sparks family anymore. I can't even devote any energy to their ignorance.

Why-oh-why couldn't Carmen talk to the SBM? Why couldn't barber shop brotha' be the person to speak to the etiquitte class (if that was even necessary)? These people are tiring to watch, to say the least.

Carmen & Rose, however, are coming to terms with their experience on the show. Rose is having a much more enlightened experience because of the group she chose to associate with. Her poetry class responded to Rose's "kinship envy" by educating her. (Nothing like that would have been discussed with Rene or heaven forbid, Ask Deanna.) Thus leading to her WWS moment.

Unfortunately, I suspect that Carmen will have to continue to learn through her daughter, 'cause I don't see the poetry class encouraging her to bring her mama along on any more adventures after the whole "are you gay/creature" thing. Whatever, as long as I never have to hear Ask Deanna spew anymore ignorance about what all Black people do/think/feel/believe.

3/30/2006 09:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only "characters" worth watching on this show anymore are Rose, Carmen and Nick. Bruno and the Sparks are too entrenched in their views to gain anything from the experience and they are now tiresome and boring. Further the Sparks seem habitually off the mark in their assessment and analysis of the situations presented by the show (saying nigga is wrong because you might catch a beat down? huh? So by this logic is it ok in an all white setting to use this word?)
Rose and Carmen on the other hand are at least trying, and you can see some growth from them. Nick both repulses and fascinates me. If there ever is an argument that too much BET/MTV destroys young minds--Nick would be exhibit A. Ultimately, I see Nick simply as an unsure 16 year old that is easily swayed and desperately wants to be viewed as cool. Thus being cool with the n-word was just a means of not "rocking the boat" and remaining cool with this white classmates. I think that's partly why Nick revels in stereotypes--he enjoys the "positive" attention those stereotypes bring him. Blackness (at least the highly contrived, narrowly concieved stereotypical blackness mass marketed in music and movies) is seen as the epitome of "cool." Nick, like most 16 year olds, wants to be seen as cool, so he revels in the stereotypes, and denies or willfully ignores the pesky implications such stereotypes raise about race and class in America. Similarly, I think that's why Nick bought the expensive watch--he thought "flossin" or "ballin" would be seen as impressive to Rose. There may also be some intra-racial class issues going on with Nick as well. He appears to be comfortably middle class and suburban. But blackness, as presented by the mainstream, is almost exclusively shown as poor, urban, and hood. Maybe Nick revels in stereotypes on the misguided belief that the stereotypes make him more black.

3/30/2006 10:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Addicted to Race said...

Hey Jen, I've been hyping these recaps on Mixed Media Watch--I've really enjoyed reading them! Anyway, I was doing some googling about the show and happened across the show's MySpace page and also found RJ Cutler's blog on MySpace:
http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.ListAll&friendID=12547892&MyToken=24c5e33d-8383-4a3f-a11d-5d3c7802144e
Check out the first post all the way at the bottom where he talks about how this show came together. Not surprisingly, it's the brainchild of two white men. RJ and FX president John Landgraf. If you check out www.arp.tv which is Cutler's production company, you'll also see that it's ALL white. It's been pretty clear to me from the beginning that Ice Cube really wasn't involved witht he show - they probably just asked to associate his name with the show to give it a "ghetto pass" and deflect criticism that this is a white man's fantasy of what dialogue about race should look like.

3/30/2006 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger nubian said...

why didn't the sparks tell nick the history behind the word...not just "you can't use it"

why take him to a black barber shop and put the barber on the spot trying to educate someone elses child. i do realize the "kinship" of black folks, but i was embarrassed about this--what are his parents there for. the shitty part is not once did anyone mention why the word is so "powerful"

why can't i get a copy of bruno' rap--that mess was hilarious.

3/30/2006 11:40:00 AM  
Blogger Mocha said...

Community development among blacks and whites are no different, not as far as my experience tells me.

Recently, in one of the books I'm reading for a class, I learned about the strong sense of community in Peoria amongst the blacks that was systematically torn down because of the Caterpillar company who brought racist, white southerners to town for work. This was in the 1950s and there was, up until this point, no recorded racism issues known to them.

This was a good community torn apart that became a slum that ultimately had to be torn DOWN because of race. It was built on hard work, caring, compassion, and respect and racism ruined all that. Are there white neighborhood communities that have had that happen? I'm not sure. But there certainly are white communities built on the VERY SAME PRINCIPLES.

There's a white culture, even if Rose can't see it. It's the forest and the trees analogy all over again. The definition is the same, but she's trying so hard to see the difference between the two that she's missing it completely.

3/30/2006 12:03:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Anonymous said: "There may also be some intra-racial class issues going on with Nick as well. He appears to be comfortably middle class and suburban. But blackness, as presented by the mainstream, is almost exclusively shown as poor, urban, and hood. Maybe Nick revels in stereotypes on the misguided belief that the stereotypes make him more black."

I couldn't agree more when it comes to this point. BET/MTV has done an insidiously good job in ingraining into the Black community an identity that demands coonery for the masses. It has associated a "positive" hipness to being a thug, a pimp, and uneducated.

Nick deliberately embodies every stereotype of the n-word: he mumbles his speech when it's clear from his confessionals that he is perfectly capable of speaking up, he is fascinated with expensive knick knacks, he is uninterested in academic pursuits and sees no justification in going to school, and when in an all-White crowd, sacrifices his own interests to entertain his White peers. This alone might just be another teenaged kid, but he assocates his race with this identity -- he encourages others to be fascinated with his Blackness, and plays up this difference in order to attract attention, ignorant of the consequences. It is furthermore apparent that he comes from a middle-class background given the circumstances surrounding his parents' treatment of his behaviour, such that it's obvious Nick is putting on a display and falsifying a membership in stereotypically lower-class Black culture where none exists. He is a caricature.

Addicted to Race said: "It's been pretty clear to me from the beginning that Ice Cube really wasn't involved witht he show - they probably just asked to associate his name with the show to give it a "ghetto pass" and deflect criticism that this is a white man's fantasy of what dialogue about race should look like."

I'm still pissed with Ice Cube for associating his name with this at all. He should know better.

Thank you for talking about these recaps though and thanks all others for linking. ^_^

3/30/2006 12:22:00 PM  
Blogger phillyjay said...

Hey Jenn,got a question for you.Has this series shown any sort diversity at all when it comes to blacks and whites?Eevn just a little bit?Like in terms of class or culture.I was just looking at a few previews and it doesn't seem to be the case.

3/30/2006 01:15:00 PM  
Anonymous tekanji said...

I actually would be interested in hearing what you all have to say about that: how do you think White community-building and roots differ from others based on their status as the mainstream in America? Do you think there is an absence of a White culture as Rose implies?

I actually think it's a twofold issue at its heart:

1) Whiteness is seen as "default", therefore white culture is seen as "universal". Since blacks (and other minorities) are the Other, their culture, and therefore alleged kinship, is clear. I guess, a better way of putting it is that the idea of whites not having any kind of distinct culture is right up in the privileged area that lets us say we're colourblind.

2) Also, "whiteness" is a very diverse term. My culture - that of a white Jewish American - is distinct from my white friends' culture. I know Greek Americans, French Americans, straight up Anglo-Saxon Americans... We all come from vastly different cultures, but we're all still white. While our white Americanness does give us a shared experience, I think we tend to identify more strongly with our roots, rather than our skin tone (which probably relates to point #1).

3/30/2006 02:46:00 PM  
Blogger Piig said...

We can infer from this (and the fact that he was disappointed, and thus cranky on the ride home) that he wanted to use this opportunity to expose the racism of Blackfolk.

My first thought regarding Bruno's reaction was incredulity at his arrogance in assuming that White people are always at the center of Black peoples' lives. That Black comedians have no more creativity than to simply bust on White people. And of course, you're right, it was a stumbling block in his blind mission to prove "Black racism."

3/30/2006 04:59:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Good point, Piig, on Bruno and his White-centrism point of view on Blacks. I had a more eloquent response, but Blogger ate my comment. :(

3/30/2006 05:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this discussion! It gives me all of the salient posts and allows me to spare myself the agony, frustration, disgust of sitting through it myself. My nature is to watch TV myself and form my own opinions. After watching episode 1 I realized that I no longer have the strength.

Forgive my lack of eloquence (I'm at work), but the topic of the Nicks of America disgusts me to no end...

I agree with the previous analyses on Nick. [fyi AfAm 29 from affluent n'hood] -- I've seen "middle-class" (he's more than that) Black males falter in upwardly mobile enivironments when they should not. You all hit the nail on the head with respect to Viacom Blackness. Our culture is caricatured (from withIN as well as without) as hard knock life, hustlin', tryin' to make a $ out of 15cents, temporary lay offs. Nick does not really understand/know about the breadth of America's Blacks & history. He has a weak sense of self (to put it mildly). I blame his parents for his upbringing. The fact that a kid of that background dropped out of high school would have eliminated this family from [a real] discussion--had I been in charge!! I've seen this situation (not doing well in school, cooning for the white folks) time and time again. Notice that this phenomenon does not repeat itself among females. Our families have 2 different standards when it comes to sons vs. daughters. Daughters expectations are high and unwavering. The sons have little/no expectations and are mollycoddled because of the real & perceived pressure in the "mainstream" world.

Remember Nas' song "If I Ruled the World"? One phrase used to drive me up the wall. He said "we should be more conscious of the way we raise our daughters". He had it ass backward.

3/31/2006 12:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow anon--you've said a mouthful, and I agree with you. I think it would be an interesting discussion to see why black males (fyi I am one) are floundering and black females seem to be progressing. Is it external/societal factors? Are we raising our daughters so much different? Are black women just better than black men (my wife would choose this one..lol)

3/31/2006 01:43:00 PM  
Anonymous TheThink said...

Nowhere is there a discussion about why the word is hurtful -- again, why I believe slurs should not be censored because it only leads to this kind of willful racial ignorance.

Were the words "nigga" and "nigger" both censored on the TV edition? I watched episode 4 on my computer and all words were uncensored, including "shit".

If you believe that slurs should be not censored, then use the words "nigger", "nigga", or however you want to spell it. Saying "n-word" on a blog is just like bleeping the word "nigger" out on television. Be real about it. Nobodies going to bite you for it.

3/31/2006 10:36:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Hey The Think, I usually use "n-word" as a personal choice. Remember, I said words shouldn't be censored, but that if you choose to use the "n-word", that you do so with an awareness of its pain and history -- because it is a powerful word, I only use it when I feel it's absolutely necessary to convey what I'm trying to say. I don't think that this kind of caution is the same thing as unilateral censorship.

4/01/2006 11:55:00 AM  
Anonymous TheThink said...

I don't think that this kind of caution is the same thing as unilateral censorship.

Very well put.

4/01/2006 12:46:00 PM  
Blogger Sue said...

Once I got a brand new TiVo machine that had been donated to a thrift store for 25 bucks!! (It was like winning the f-n lottery!) I was finally able to capture and sit through #4.

But I owe it all to you because honestly I could never have stood to watch it without your first three recaps, because a) I had been sufficiently introduced and b) I could count on you to help me clarify in my mind just why it is so f-ked up.

I agree that it is ineffective. I have attended many anti-racism workshops that were slightly more effective because there actually were extensive in-depth discussions rather than shallow sound bites (Buffy fans will recognize the B&W rationale for not saying or doing anything racist: "Because it's wrong." [pout]).

This show is just a showcase for the racism that goes on every day. In the online discourse I have been able to stand to read (mostly forwarded to me by someone who can stand it more than I can), the people who identify with individuals are simply defending and explaining them. That makes for great dialogue-NOT.

One area that I am not seeing discussed is the enormous difference between genders and how they deal. The males seem much more impervious to their learning opportunities, and become annoying--and the females take their shallow understanding and compassion too far, and become annoying. Besides their color, being annoying is what unites them.

Is that the best we white folk can do in the year 2006? Apparently. (I am sticking to critiquing the white folks because that is my area of expertise, being white.)

White vs non-white culture--it's tough to get into that in a comment. There is a big fat book called A Peoples History of the United States by H. Zinn that I am summarizing when I say that white culture has been formed by creating false unity among many cultures; uniting human beings by one dominant skin tone. (Notwithstanding class issues that are really complicated and I agree being glossed over in B&W.)

TV has contributed much to the homogenization. There was a time when white communities retained distinctive identities but with freeways, super stores and satellite TV, everything has been whitewashed and cultures from which people cannot merge into white culture, are stereotyped and limited to characterizations like Bruno's "logical" little straw figures.

I think the most painful thing about watching this show (for me as a recovering white racist) is knowing that the white people are so fucking typical and seeing bits of myself in Carmen and Rose. I cried a lot during anti-racism workshops. I couldn't help it. And I was really annoying. It took many years of having authentic relationships with POC to calm the F down and learn to just be and I am still working on it.

I don't really expect Rose to get any further than her mother does, unless she stays connected authentically to communities of color beyond this project, after the blush fades and the attention ends. Not likely. IMO of course.

OK so I copped out. I stopped trying to lead anti-racism workshops when I saw how few white people really wanted to get it. Not that I am special, I have been forced by a transracial adoption to start dealing after taking a long vacation in white-privilege land. It's hard work but if I won't do it for myself, I will do it for my kid.

4/02/2006 04:12:00 PM  
Blogger Sue said...

Just one more comment, a positive one for Rose. I suspect she might have wanted to cry during the poetry group processing time, when she set off the uproar about black people having roots, but she didn't cry and in fact she shut up and listened, then went home and cried to her mama. I thought that was very cool. I wish I had had that kind of grace during my waking-up period!

4/02/2006 05:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey anon - man (I wish I didn't need my own blog here to self-identify).

I think it is a combination of societal/external pressures and upbringing. Because of your focus on racism, the discourse on sexism/gender disparities has been comparatively weak. There is the inclination towards a boys will be boys mentality combined with the desire to not put pressure on the boys b/c everyone else will. My experience coming up was rather limited b/c I'm the oldest of 2 girls. HOWEVER, I looked at allof my afam friends who had brothers (older, younger, twins even!) and there was a stark difference in discipline and expectations.

I'm tempted to agree with your wife! But....here's my laptop analysis...

Historically speaking, black women don't have anyone to turn to - as the bottom of the social totem pole. We have the worst jobs. We are expected to raise the kids when Mr. bounces. It is understood that we will not be put on pedestals (even if we come from privileged background). I was raised not to depend on a man to take care of me. Other than my folks, there is no societal forgiveness for my mistakes. With our boys however...no matter how bad society at large is, they can always rely on some woman (sig other or mama) to take care of them emotionally, physically or financially. In a nutshell we have nowhere to go but up. There has historically been noone for us to depend on. Knowing that there's no guarantee of (for some no possibility of) help is a powerful impetus to succeed.

4/02/2006 06:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey anon--I can appreciate your analysis, even though I've had a completely different experience. Maybe because I had a lot of males in my family--boys/men in my family were raised hard, disciplined harder and expected to work hardest. Whereas the girls/women were allowed to be BAPS. Maybe the dynamics depends on whether there are males around? I know conventional wisdom has black women at the bottom--but I'm not so sure. Black men are excluded from the "old boys" networks just like black women. Yet black women are not perceived as threats to white males (in some instances their percieved as allies). Its not suprising that the first black millionaire and billionaire were black women (CJ Walker and Oprah) and the highest ranking black official presently is a black woman (Condi Rice). Both Oprah and Condi concede that white male mentors (ie, allies) helped get them to where they're at. By no means am I downplaying black women's struggles, I just don't know if they are at the absolute bottom of the totem.

4/03/2006 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

By no means am I downplaying black women's struggles, I just don't know if they are at the absolute bottom of the totem.

anonymous, i'm a little troubled by this -- are you suggesting that the sexism that black women face is trumped by the racism black men face?

i'm uncomfortable because a black man doesn't know what it's like to be a black woman and vice versa. also, how do you measure who "has it worse" unless you are some sort of omniscient higher being? with what values do you compare oppression-level events? is slavery worse or institutional racism?

ultimately, i think suggesting that one group "has it worse" than another is a futile quest. it also ends up pitting one oppressed group against another in an attempt to earn the "most oppressed trophy" rather than working together to... take down the Man. (*can't believe I just typed that*)

4/03/2006 01:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good point Jenn--I don't know who has it worse, and no where did I state or imply that black men have it worse. I merely disagreed with the notion that black women were at the "bottom of the totem" which to me is just another way of saying black women have it worse. Any group can make a claim for hardship, I was merely making the claim for the group I happen to belong too,which proves the point that no group has a claim to the bottom of the totem. Its interesting that you picked up on my perceived "who has it worse" argument but ignored the previous poster's real and explicit reference to a heiarchy or "totem" of hardship with black women at the bottom.

4/03/2006 02:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ANONYWOMAN (I'm going to have to call myself that)

JENN -- I agree with the rejection of the most oppressed competition (a twisted race to the bottom in a way). That said we DO have to contend with the gender issues as well as racial issues. This concept has been a struggle in our community for a bit. Black vs. Woman instead of Blackwoman....

ANONYMAN -- you said
"Black men are excluded from the "old boys" networks just like black women. Yet black women are not perceived as threats to white males (in some instances their percieved as allies). Its not suprising that the first black millionaire and billionaire were black women (CJ Walker and Oprah) and the highest ranking black official presently is a black woman (Condi Rice). Both Oprah and Condi concede that white male mentors (ie, allies) helped get them to where they're at."

Yes I do agree that Black men are largely excluded from the GOB network. I do believe that some inroads have been made into this network from many people of both genders. BUT in all honesty, when the GOBs go for 18 holes at 9:30 at Suchandsuch Hills, they are going to ask ME before YOU???????

As for your discussion on "allies"...
(1)Yes,as women we may not be perceived as "threatening". As black women we may not be perceived at all.
(2)That's a very loaded word you chose. I'm going to assume that you choose carefully and meant what you said. As commonly used, allies share a mutual interest. If you meant to use ally, what interest do we have in common.
(3)Who, exactly, perceives us as allies? I certainly don't. I'm quite sure they don't (if you know a white man who perceives me as a natural ally I'd like to know so I can send him a resume). I get the distinct feeling that this is YOUR perception. I agree that a mentor is an ally, maybe even a friend, but certainly you are not implying that White men systematically refuse to mentor Black men in favor of a non-threatening Black woman? I have heard this argument before, usually in the context of discussing minority female presence on local news [Black & Asian men complain about how come it's always a white guy working with 'our' women?]. I don't mean to infer too much, but this line of thought appears to take root in anti-miscegenation sentiments.

BTW, who had Condi's job before her? Was the man not also Chairman of the Joint Chiefs? Do you think he had mentors?

I caught a few minutes where Nick's parents were talking to him about his coonery. Yep, this is ALL their fault. They should have gone upside his head with that hair brush.

4/04/2006 12:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonwoman--BUT in all honesty, when the GOBs go for 18 holes at 9:30 at Suchandsuch Hills, they are going to ask ME before YOU???????

Me: Neither, since neither would be welcome at many of the clubs. But when looking for a subordinate to mentor you'd probably get the call before me. Lets use the Powell/Rice analogy as a perfect illustration of how this plays out. Colin Powell was not part of the Bush camp but secured his appointment as secretary of state based on his stature as a military leader from Desert Storm. Rice was appointed NSA based on her status as mentee to Bushes. In the respective appointments of the two most prominient blacks in the current admin--who benefited from mentorship? Further, regarding their treatment on the job, Powell was undermined from day 1 because he was viewed as an outsider. Rice, as the NSA (a much closer posistion to her benfactor--or "husband" as she once accidently refered to the Prez) was viewed and treated as an insider. Though Powell quietly expressed dissent while publically supporting the admin in front of the UN and the world (an act of loyalty in my opinion), he was viewed as disloyal and canned. Rice-a less threatening--and thus percieved as more loyal subordinate was brought in to replace him as sec of state. It is my perception that this dynamic plays out in corp america as well. Just my observations and perceptions which I'll admit are filtered thru my biases. and I chose the word "ally" half jokingly because I often tell my wife as a running inside joke whenever she likens the foolish acts of some random famous negro as typical black male behavior, that black women and white men are at least united in their hate, distrust and general low opinion of black men.

4/04/2006 01:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anonyman - you are confusing mentoring with cronyism and cabal-ism [? :)]. Rice is a neo-con insider. Powell is not. Certainly you don't think that Powell never had REPUBLICAN mentors (not neo-cons)? I mean for Chrissake, "they" love Colin Powell. He has definitely had to navigate his way into the inner sanctum sanctorum of power and no one does that alone. He's not some sort of national security, foreign policy maverick.

As for your inside joke - I'll just let that be your joke.

4/06/2006 08:49:00 AM  
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