Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Nehemiah: The Pet Negro

Okay, you must forgive me for posting twice in a row on TV. I had no intention to post on the Real World Austin, honestly it's a pretty bad show. I watched early episodes and then found more valuable things to do with my time. However, this week I found myself "tuned into the 10 spot." This week's episode was divided between two people's woes: Nehemiah and Wes. This week's episode starts with Wes receiving a call that Nehemiah is in the county jail. Turns out that Nehemiah got in a fight outside of a local bar. He was placed in jail with a 3000 dollar bond. It's not abnormal for the Austin Real Worlders to get into fights or get thrown in jail, but apparently Nehemiah's fight and jailing get the episode's attention.(Note that Nehemiah gets a lot of attention because episode 22 is named Nehemiah's actin' up... bad Negro, bad!). When confronted with the issue of getting Nehemiah out of jail Johanna lamentably repeats that it's a shame that Nehemiah's in jail because he's so poor and he, nor his family has any money! Eventually, Danny negotiates with the Production company to take the bail money out of Nehemiah's pay check (you did know that they got paid to be on this show, right?).

While Nehemiah sits in jail, Rachel reminds the group that they have a deadline on their documentary and Nehemiah is not there to do the documentary. This entire f***ing season they have been begging/demanding that Nehemiah take the lead (which really means do all the work) on a documentary on a local music festival. So what is the cast to do? Their pet Negro is jailed and they only have a few days before their deadline. The helpless cast sits and attempts to work on the documentary, but they can't possibly pick all that cotton themselves...oops I mean they can't possibly complete the editing without him. As they sit in a state of paralysis, Wes notes (paraphrasing) "Well he just spent the night in jail, so he'll probably want to take a nap and then work on the documentary." Are you kidding me!?! Danny returns from the jail having bailed Nehemiah out but he doesn't have his Negro in tow. As the cast watches Danny walk in alone they ask, "Where is Negr.... Nehemiah?" Alas, he won't be released for another couple of hours.

As Nehemiah returns to the house Wes, clearly part of the moral majority, in a paternal manner asks Nehemiah about what he did and advises him not to hide anything (thanks Dad). Wes then tells Nehemiah how much jail time he could be facing and that he needs to be careful about his actions. Nehemiah is a big boy and goes and apologizes to the White bar owner that he "assaulted" with a big non-threatening sheepish grin on. Lesson learned. If that wasn't enough, throughout the episode there are interjections of cast members in the confessional explaining how Nehemiah needs to watch himself when he's drunk and this should be a lesson. After all none of them have been drunk and in altercations, put in jail, or belligerent... not so fast! As Nehemiah returns to his quarters he settles in to work all night, the rest of the house goes out drinking.

Wes comes back drunk and does some "drunken" walking and smashing of the house. He knocks down a closet door, throws a canister of coffee at his housemates, and ends up slapping Rachel a fellow housemate. But of course, he's "too drunk" to remember any of it. See, Rachel flicked off Nehemiah, and Wes ran to the aid of his Negro. The result is an off camera smack that Rachel forgives Wes for because she's too tired to deal with it. Alas, the episode draws to a close with Nehemiah having learned his lesson, worked overtime on the documentary, and Wes having slapped a castmate. Thank God their pet Negro learned to behave.

My goodness, that episode was disgusting. If you happen to see it on, watch it! It's amazing. And I guess it would be good for me to relate this to Michigan, ready.... apparently a future home of the Real World may be Royal Oak. Well maybe while they are in the treelined suburbs they can avoid all those misbehaved Detroiters.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Aaron McGruder's Diabolical Plot

I have a ritual nearly every morning. Every morning I wake up and open my browser to the Boondocks comic. I love this comic. I even buy the books that he puts out on this comic. I have waited for years, literally, to experience the Boondocks Cartoon. Now that I've watched the cartoon twice, I have really mixed feelings. One possible reason is that I am a Boondocksphile (made that one up). I read the comic day in and day out, read interviews by McGruder, and all but have tattooed Huey on my arm (aight, I'm really not THAT into the comic but you know what I mean). So when I finally heard Cartoon Network picked up the show, I patiently waited. Maybe I'm too close to it to appreciate artistic variation. I think the cartoon is funny, not as funny as it could be, but definitely enjoyable. Most of the laughs come in a "comic strip" form (short jokes or running gags)which is true to the comic. The one thing that has concerned me and many who watched and are discussing the show is the use of "the n-word."

McGruder decided to use it because its part of Black culture and he himself sometimes uses it. I was kind of dismayed the first week, but now I feel like I understand. No, I don't think that "the n-word" (gotta put in quotes because now apparently it is a phrase)is appropriate or that he's doing it from an empowering standpoint. I think he's doing it to really piss people off. Who you ask? Everyone!

It seems McGruder has taken a different route with the show than he did with the comic strip. I think that the n-word is so over used in the show that most people who watch it, those who are pro and anti-n-word, would feel unsettled by it and question its role. I figure Aaron is SO smart, that he is taking a uniquely critical approach. He's challenging progressives to grapple with its presence in our speech, while also challenging folks who do use it to question it's frequency and utility.

Here's another possible theory and possibly further evidence that Aaron McGruder is being critical in an avant-guard way. Ceasar is absent. Ceaser is normally the dude that balances Huey, he's not gonna show up for the whole year. Instead, McGruder has Uncle Ruckus in every episode (thus far). Unless you really stalk the Boondocks, you were like, who is that crazy looking dude, but he has appeared in the comic before. In the comic, he is just as loathing of Black folks and ridiculous, just less ever-present. Ruckus shows us a part of the Black community that is self-hating. Ruckus' off the wall antics are a heavy satire, but would get any viewer who knows a Ruckus or is a Ruckus to think twice about their commentary on Black folks and their commentaries on White folks.

Aight, this post was supposed to be really short, but I kinda feel like I may be "on to something" with the Boondocks cartoon. I guess time will be the test.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Fear of a Vagina of Color

Over the past couple of weeks, the announcement of an all women of color casting call for the Vagina Monologues production this year on campus has raised quite a controversy. This year's director Lauren Whitehead issued a call via email that has gotten several people's underwear in a knot. *I can't find the original email right now, but when I do, I'll post it.*

Yesterday, Emily Squires, former Vagina Monologues director, weighed in with a nice viewpoint on the issue.

Today, the Daily published a viewpoint by 6 men entitled: In Dissent: V is for Racism.

While I applaud these guys for doing a little bit of research, they should really read more carefully. If you go page 23 of the Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence,and Consequences of Violence Against Women report, you find this note of caution when comparing simply Whites and women of color in general.
These findings underscore the need for specificity
when comparing victimization rates among
women and men of different racial backgrounds.
As results from the survey show, combining data
on all types of minorities may diminish differences
that exist between whites and nonwhites
and at the same time obscure very large differences
in prevalence rates among women and
men of specific racial backgrounds.

If you read the reports' full findings, you did find differences in rates of domestic violence, particularly rape, depedent upon the comparision group. I understand that they are attempting to respond directly to Whitehead's assertion, but in their response, they should tell the whole story. Not to mention, there is the strong possibility that there are differences in rates of reporting that underestimate the rates of DV in communities of color.

I am in full support of a woman of color cast for the Vagina Monologues
. While I'm not sure you're suprised, this is likely different than the position a number of my Black male collegues will likely take, but then again, that is why we need a production like this. I do think that domestic violence is a serious concern among all communities and particularly communities of color. While some may feel excluded by this production, the potential it has to draw in new communities of folks to become concerned with violence against women is even greater in my opinion. If nothing else, seeing your sister, mother, girlfriend, wife, or friend reflected in these women of color could have a profound impact on the future of DV in communities of color. While there are many complex issues in DV and resolving it, I do believe this production does open a "can of worms" that needs to be addressed. One Tamara Williams is enough.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The need to tinker

So recently I have been feeling the need to tinker with this blog. I want to redo it, but I haven't figured out what I should do. This page went through a major a revision a while back but I gave that up for laziness and because I felt like people were taking blogging "too seriously." (Insert your own interpretation) Some of you may remember my old page, which had more than the Blackblog. I just sat down to look at the old html and stuff I had set up and I realized something sad. All the pages I created and mock-ups were on my old laptop which fried and died. So I guess I'll be starting from "scratch" again. That is unless the rest of my life zooms ahead. I only sat down to do this because my next deadline for work related materials is December 1st, which seems really far away, but surely isn't. If you've got suggestions, drop me a line in the comments. Oh, and I changed over to Blogger's comment feature, which may or may not work. If that doesn't work hit me at blackatmichigan@hotmail.com.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

BAMN.... need I say more.

So looks like BAMN has been "exposed" to the U of M community. Honestly this has been some time in the making, but glad to see it's happening in a semi-systematic manner. Below you will find the NAACP UM Chapter's statement at last night's MSA meeting regarding BAMN.
The University of Michigan Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People publicly denounces BAMN for their actions at the University of Michigan this past Thursday. The rally had no positive ramifications and only served to humiliate and embarrass black Michigan students and black people everywhere. The rally perpetuated myths and stereotypes about the black community that pervade this campus, nation and world. While the high school students were able to leave the campus and go home, and the white organizers of BAMN were able to go on living their privledged existences with no consequences. The black students at the University of Michigan were left to clean up the mess and reassemble their destroyed pride and dignity. Because of this under no circumstances will BAMN be allowed at any U of M Chapter NAACP meetings, which includes but is not limited to: emailing our membership, attending our events or making general announcements. If BAMN organizers would like to participate in NAACP meetings as individuals then they are more than welcome. But under no circumstances will BAMN be allowed to organize in or around the U of M Chapter NAACP in the future. On Monday, Novemeber 7, 2005 NAACP President Riana Anderson will be meeting with BAMN organizers to talk about how they can better improve their relations with the black community.

The MSA meeting was apparently quite an event. Alex Moffett outlined her version of the event in a much more detailed letter that I may post later. There are, again, a number of interesting pieces on Affirmative Action, but I was most intrigued by Mara Gay's "The gags have got to go." I was so intrigued by her piece that I penned a response. I'm not sure if I'm going to send it to the Daily.
My response to Mara Gay's piece:
I appreciate Mara Gay'?s discussion of the last Thursday'?s events, but I think she misses a few key factors. First, the day of silence was designed to highlight the silence that would ensue if Affirmative Action programming was eliminated among all communities of color, not just the Black community. It is all too often that our dialogue on Affirmative Action and programs that are historically tied to it (i.e. ethnic studies, multicultural centers, etc.) are limited by a Black and White racial dialogue. While it is true that Black students compose the largest minority group on campus, it should be equally telling that other groups are underrepresented and often less "heard"? among the debates on Affirmative Action. Second, while the BAMN rally has consistently been characterized as out of control, there were a number of formerly gagged students who attempted to intervene in the chaos but were unable to change the high school students'? actions. The gags for some did come off, but their message still wasn'?t received. Third, there is the old adage that the "squeaky wheel gets the oil"?, which I believe is one major reason BAMN has consistently gotten national attention. Many progressive communities have consistently organized to amplify the voice of organizations that provide an alternative to BAMN (i.e. Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Critical Moment, The Independent, etc.) but locally until recently most groups could make very little headway on getting their views represented. Now that there are more visible and acknowledged alternatives, I implore all to get involved or at least attend a meeting so that you can gain greater knowledge. It appears that now is the time for other voices to rise, but not necessarily be "loud?." If we take the business of organizing against the MCRI seriously, then we will continue to argue with strong logic and drawing appeal to the population that is on this campus and far beyond. The majority of this state does not look like U of M, whether you measure it by class, race, sexual orientation or political orientation. So the best question that I think can be asked is, "?What type of voice and what kind of message affect the masses of Michigan?" Now that the gags are off, the squeaky wheel has been exposed, and the MCRI is forging ahead we must seriously consider how this fight for equality will be engaged and won.

After a rather quiet spell, things are really not quiet anymore on campus. I know a number of folks who are alums check in and ask about campus, well no longer will I be able to say, nothing is going on. I truly think the public denouncement of BAMN and visible support for it is new.

N.B. A story from 2001 involving MSA and BAMN. Thanks for the reminder of the history and the link Rob.