Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Right Reverend President and the Concern of Cheap Grace

I love my President. I listened intently to his most recent and thoughtful eulogy. After listening, I texted several of my close ministry colleagues and contemplated my thoughts, weighed my emotions and considered how to respond (if at all). Through my (cyber) dialogue with them (which will continue in the days to come), I have come to applaud and appreciate how POTUS drew upon the best and most redemptive ideas,  tropes and themes of the African American Religious experience. The Black Churches attributes of faith, hope, love and justice came shining through.  President Obama was careful and thoughtful to highlight what the Black Church has persevered through and has come to mean to the faithful and to our communities writ large. Mr. President became “Mr. Preacher” (as we call those in the Black Church who become associated with the ability to inform and inspire from the pulpit platform).  Bishop Barack stood squarely in the African American preaching tradition as he called the names of the nine victims who were murder at “Mother Emanuel,” honored the family, and lifted up the life, love, and legacy of the late Rev. Clementa Pinckney.
I also understand the ubiquitous platform whereby the President stood. He is, after all, the leader of the American empire. To that end, there were also a few things that drew my concern and attention. POTUS did not speak directly about how the cultural production of white supremacy has created an environment whereby even those raised in a “post-racial society” can carry out racial terrorism. Furthermore, the President explicitly stated, "[THE KILLER] DIDN'T KNOW HE WAS BEING USED BY GOD." I cringed. 
As a public speaker who veers from my printed manuscript, I understand extemporaneous impulses and the dangers (and benefits) thereof. I'm not sure if POTUS prepared this statement or merely just, "went with it." Nevertheless, this statement coupled with a few others bordered on theological shortsightedness and misrepresentation.  The “Reverend President” and Theologian-In-Chief ought to have, like all of us who attempt to articulate divine insight through human instruments, room to err.  I grant him that.  POTUS also can, like all of us, be subject to loving critiques (like the one I’m attempting to offer here). 
The evoking of “grace” as a theme was present throughout the eulogy and rang true to the tenets of the Black Church historically. The grace we have extended and encountered is nothing short of “Amazing” (as was the movement led by POTUS to invite the congregation to celebrate in song as he led “in tune”).  We love it and live it.  And yes, the President called out very relevant topics of mass incarceration, poverty (a word many of his critics tried to condemn him for not saying), America’s “original sin” (racism), and the inadequacies of our current social structure.  Yet, the type of grace POTUS asked us to extend (which is indeed part of the Gospel mandate) has the potential to border on cheap. Bill Maher asked, “Should we forgive them so quickly?”  Maher went on to suggest that right wingers like Fox News may use the Charleston Massacre as a means of condemning any (black) victims who don’t forgive “like the good people of Charleston did.”  Is there space in the Presidential rhetoric of tragedy to affirm black rage?  Can black folks both sincerely forgive and be sincerely angry?  It is not a far reach to surmise that POTUS requested that Black victims employ grace to a violent white supremacist in ways POTUS himself is reluctant or unwilling to extend to Islamic Jihadists like ISIS.  Again, he is the leader of the American Empire.  I get it! 

I also get our conflicting and complex relationship with civil religion.  For instance, many of those who bought POTUS’s eulogy wholesale as the sermonic second coming, spent the same morning condemning the SCOTUS ruling on Marriage Equality that POTUS has been championing for a few years now.  I can understand (and to some degree appreciate) the support and critique from both sides of the congregational aisle.  What I hope we can all glean from this is the need for us to pay close attention to the ways in which rhetorical theology – the association with and appropriation of religious rhetoric as a means of theological, political and/or social affirmation and persuasion – and our political leader’s religious sensibilities can do us harm or good.  It is ultimately up to us to study and show ourselves approved.  

                                                                                                             -Rev. Earle J. Fisher

Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Social Death By Misadventure: Rachel Dolezal and the Manipulation of Blackness (Part 1)


            C.Thomas Howell once portrayed a college student, Mark Watson, who used tanning pills to  appear Black in an effort to get admitted to Harvard Law School on a scholarship available to African Ameicans and vis a vis a minority quota.  In this comedy, which I consider dark and lacking humor, Howell’s character oft times finds himself in a conundrum because he doesn’t maintain the sterotypes of a Black male (i.e. physically endowned, great athlete—basketball player), and must wriggle his way out of these situations by positing that he is an “exception” to the aforementioned stereotypes, which is supposed to be funny.  Twenty-nine years later, Rachel Dolezal seems to be the living embodiment of the 1986 cinematic exploitation movie “Soul Man.”    
The thing about minstrelsy, or Blackface, is that it is a brand of antiquated humor, only funny to those of the lighter hue, that exaggerates the socially constructed stereotypes of the African-American that satirize human inferiorities, both intellectual and physical, that are definitely not solely attributed to those of African descent or the darker hue.  It has even been lampooned and inverted in popular culture, particularly entertainment, by positing the Black exception as odd or unnatural in that he or she who is of African descent to be the polar opposite of the infantile, ignorant, shiftless, and overtly foolish imbecile that has been the standard for African American stereotypes since we set foot on the land that is now the United States of America. 
The problem I have with Rachel Dolezal is her manipulative use of the agency of "passing" when it is profitable, convenient, and comfortable.  Identifying and experiencing American Blackness are fruits from a different bowl.  Her faux complaints of racial harrassment and discrimination aside, I would like for her to be Black when it's condemned not when it's cool. Yes, she attended Washington D.C.’s  Howard University (a prominent black college) and married and divorced a Black man, and had Black adopted siblings, and has served as the Alaska-Oregon chapter President of the NAACP, serves as an adjunct instructor in Africana Studies at one of Washington state’s colleges, and wore braids and curls and got an orange tan, yet all of the aforementioned things do not make her Black. 
 The Black American experience is much more nuanced than the music, soul food, civic organizations you have membership in, college courses you teach, or romantic relationships you choose. Braids or 'fros don't cut the mustard, folks.  The conundrum lies in the alleged allegations that she has been a victim of racial discrimination and harrassment because of her race or ethnicity which is a lie in and of itself.  She is a white woman who has chosen to become aesthetically, and for all intents and purposes, Black.  The media alleges that the threats she says she has endured and the letters she has received and the noose planted in her yard are all a hoax.  And this is what’s troubling.  The Black American experience isn’t a game.  The Black lives that have been lost solely due to the stereotypes perpetuated that suggest the Black American is a menace to society and a harbinger of skullduggery and criminality are no joking matter and definitely not something that should be taken with a grain of salt.  There is a huge difference between wearing a costume & wearing a hue or attire that cannot come off or be discarded in a closet or found at a beautyshop or tanning salon.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Let’s Go Krogering: Memphis: In Black & White

            There is no doubt that my hometown has a problem with violent crime.  But on the night of Saturday, September 6, 2014, I was appalled at what was captured on the cellular phone camera by a witness.  To see a herd of Memphis teens, all of which appear to be African American (even though some eyewitness accounts claim that some members of the mob were white) caused a tempest to churn inside of me.
 I watched as teens ran wildly across the parking lot of the Kroger grocery store on Poplar and Highland.  I cringed at the sight of one Black male kicking and stomping a Kroger employee, who happened to be white.  I shed a tear or two when, to add insult to an unconsciously injured human being, the aforementioned youngster, and others, forcefully threw large, seasonal pumpkins at the head of the incapacitated victim.  Lastly, I became enraged.  I became enraged because I knew, even though it was a crime against humanity, my city, Memphis, Tennessee, would conjure the ghosts of division and racism that have resided here since the days of Ida B. Wells’ anti-lynching campaign and the race riots of 1866.  I hoped we wouldn’t, but, as I have followed the aftermath of the incident and read comments on social network sites and listened to conversations on talk-radio and throughout the city, my “hope” was in vain.
There are litanies of nuances that can be intricately analyzed and critiqued as it pertains to the riot-like atmosphere that resulted in the physical harming of three individuals, but the most pressing and paramount concern, for me, is the visual that has produced such frenzy, not only locally, but nationally as well.  Even veteran Hollywood actor James Woods has expressed his concern and desire for Attorney General Eric Holder to visit Memphis as he did Ferguson, Missouri to address racial violence, tension, and hate crimes.

When analyzing a visual text, one must observe what is seen and not seen.  In this tragedy, all most people in the audience see is a white teen being physically assaulted by one particular Black teen while other Black teens are running wildly around—some could be participants and some could be onlookers and voyeurs getting thrills from watching another human being hurt.  What the visual recording displays is what looks to be a racially motivated attack, but who can really know if race was the prime motivator?  With African Americans viewing non-Black on Black crime as an incident of “hate”, it is only logical that whites would view a Black on white crime through the same sociological lenses.
But, there is more to it.  Sure the teens that were involved in their idea of a “fun” game entitled “pick ‘em out, knock ‘em out” (a game where individuals randomly select unsuspecting individuals to punch/knock out) should be punished.  Sure, the parents of the aforementioned teens should be chastised and held accountable for the rearing and actions of their offspring.  Yet, should we, as a viewing audience, publicly lynch the character of these Black teens and relegate them to a state of perpetual thuggery and criminality?  Some may think so, but we have all been young and youth is often filled with idiocy and bad choices.  And being a resident of the Southern Bible Belt of Christianity, I do believe in second, third, and fourth chances.
We all must stand for justice regardless whether or not one whom “looks” like us is a victim.  Black and white Americans should march, protest, and become advocates against violence even when we do not identify with the victim.  What causes divisiveness is when we only rally around the home team.  As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and like millions of others, I concur. It shouldn’t matter the color of our uniform, we all play for the same team.

*Gee Joyner is an English Professor, lecturer, and author of Kim; The Story of John and He Talk White:  The Scholarly and Artistic Works of a Writer

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Still A Nigger: A Day in the Life of a Black American Professor

It is always a strange and unfamiliar territory when one is transitioning from one thing to another—be it a relationship, home, city, or job.  And, in my case, the transition from a small HBCU (Historically Black College or University) to a large state university (PWI-predominately white institution) is no different.  It’s strange because I once walked this campus in the pursuit of two degrees and a Literature certification.  I walked this campus racking up numerous graduate hours in Education.  I once walked this campus stockpiling Doctoral hours in English, yet upon my return, it all seemed alien to me.
            Having taught for over half a decade, six years to be exact, at a predominately Black college, and when I say “predominately”, I mean during my tenure there I saw maybe eight or nine white students and never taught any of them, I had resided in a Black vacuum of Negro culture.  Sure, aggressive commentary, behavior, and bodily gestures were oft times prevalent, but what I experienced today on this white campus was different.  It reeked of pale privilege (insert white privilege).  It took me back to my elementary, middle, and high school days.  It transported me at warp speed to the subtle prejudice and racism I endured growing up in a Southern white suburb on the outskirts of the chocolate city of Memphis.
            First of all, I must inform you of my sojourn to campus the day before my paranoia set in.  Yesterday, I came to campus to meet with the Director of Writing just to bounce around some ideas pertaining to the courses I would be teaching.  When I arrived on campus, I parked in the lot reserved for a white fraternity.  The lot was literally their frat house’s lot.  I knew it was forbidden, yet I parked there anyway because on a campus of more than twenty thousand students, parking is always hard to find.  I met with the director for fifteen to twenty minutes, went back to the lot, cranked up my vehicle, and made my exodus.  But, on today, I decided to park in the frat house’s lot again because I knew I’d only be there for ten or fifteen minutes top.  I came to sign some paperwork, submit a voided check to payroll, and pick up my textbooks for instruction. 
Today was different.  I pulled into their lot and parked.  I exited my vehicle, pressed my alarm, and walked across the street.  In mid gait, I heard a voice holler, “Hey! Hey!” I turned around to see a beer-bellied frat boy with his hat turned backwards.  We both displayed orbital recognition, then, he yelled, “You can’t park here!” I immediately turned around and headed back to the lot to move my car and find another place to park.  I watched him as he walked back into the fraternity house and thought no more of it.  Then, a bigger frat member comes out of the frat house.  And by “bigger”, I mean 6’4” and about 240 pounds of the lard that Southern cooking and beer puts on a man—you know, Mike Brown of Ferguson, Missouri big.  He walked toward the parking area and says, “Hey, boss.  You can’t…” and before he could say “park here”, I frowned and said, “I’m not your boss, man.”  I unlocked my car and saw him turn and walk back into the house and hear him murmur, “Boss, you can’t park here.”  I replied in a louder tone, “Don’t do that, dude.  Don’t come at me with that ‘boss’ shit.”  He continued into the house and I turned on my automobile and left—upset.

I left because I felt that Black and white Americans are on edge.  Is it because of the Mike Brown murder/Ferguson uprising?  Is it because of the racial tension that has been boiling and stewing over since 1619?  You make the call.  But, I felt some type of way about my small incident (if it was even an “incident” at all).  I didn’t feel it was necessary to be told twice that I couldn’t park there.  I felt some type of way about the tone in which both of these frat boys spoke to me.  I wasn’t a student.  I wasn’t a passerby.  I may even be their professor come next week.  But, how would they know that?  I wasn’t dressed like a professor. (however a professor dresses.)  I didn’t have a huge medallion hanging from my neck saying “I’M A PROFESSOR”.  But what I did have on was a costume of Blackness that I’ve adorned since March of 1978 when I escaped from my mother’s womb.  What I did have on was a costume of Blackness that seems to garner disrespect, subjugation, subordination, castigation, and condescension in the good ole U.S. of A.  What I did have on was a uniform of Blackness that seems to create fear, trepidation, and wariness from non-Black Americans.  What I did have on was a cloak of Blackness that says “Nigger” (with the –er).  To them, and even to me, I was a nigger.  A nigger who was parking in a place that I wasn’t supposed to park.  To me, and to them, I imagine, I was still a nigger.

Monday, August 11, 2014

No Flex Zone: Killin’ Season on Black Males and the Psychosis of the Cops Who Are Doing It

While we are mourning and hash-tagging Michael Brown, don't forget John Crawford of Ohio who was killed by police in a Walmart for holding a bee bee gun/rifle in which the chain store sells! Stop putting a name to these unarmed Trayvons. Apparently, they're just "Niggers" or "Coons"! And therefore, I'm gonna hold my son's hand until he's 40!
Regardless of what these two particular young, Black males did or did not do, as well as the unnamed and unknown Black males did or didn’t do, there is no excuse for them being murdered in cold, freezing blood at the hands of U.S. law enforcement.  I am tired of writing pieces that my colleagues within the Academy will deem fitting.  I am frustrated with always adhering to the guidelines of rhetorical composition.  I am sick and tired of trying to copy and paste and research statistics and incidents that back up my “claim.”  This time, I will write my opinions. Opinions null and void of scholarly sustenance.  I wanna write my anger onto this page.  Voice my outrage in this piece.  Be pissed off and say, “Fuck the formal and informal”.  I’m gonna write what hell I wanna write.  Shit, it’s my blog, right?  So, with that being said, where in God’s name is the white American outrage when unarmed Black Americans are being gunned downed like raccoons in the southern woods by “law enforcement”? What laws are they enforcing?  I need to read that damn handbook!!!
            While we are mourning & hash-tagging Michael Brown, don't forget John Crawford of Ohio who was killed by police in a Walmart for holding a bee bee gun/rifle in which the chain store sells! Stop putting a name to these unarmed Trayvons. Apparently, they're just "Niggers" or "Coons"! I'm gonna hold my son's hand until he's 40!  There has been a devaluing of the life of the Negro since 1619.  Why would a being that was brought here as a chained and enslaved individual, here to do the laborious tasks of cultivating land and crops and international revenue, somewhat like a beast of burden, be viewed as anything more as a means to an end?  So, I am no longer surprised when Black males, and even Black females (see Renisha McBride and Marissa Alexander), are either victims of the judicial system or casualties of the police brutality and judicial system.
            I had a conversation over Sunday dinner with my parents and sister, while my 6-year-old son was in the den playing with toys and his imagination and laughing at cartoons, and they both, being that they were raised in the height of the 50’s and 60’s Civil Rights Era, down South, were adamant about how “we” (Black folks) need to teach other Black folk what they need to do when accosted or approached or in the presence of police.  My parents said that we need to “obey their orders” and “do as we are told”.  My reply was, “What if that isn’t enough.  What if they still shoot and kill us?” Silence.  
I began to try to remind my father of a time when I was in high school, my senior year, and I threw a back-to-school swim party at our home in a 99% white suburban subdivision, and he told a white cop who came to our home voicing complaints from the neighbors, “I don’t need the police to police my home.  I can handle this.  I’ve been running my house for 15 years.”  I said, “Daddy, you could’ve been shot and killed for being a Black man who was “non-compliant”.  He stood in silence as he was slicing the pork roast.  My sister and my mother were mute.  I wasn’t.  I knew and know the man that he was and is.  The man that came to my aid when my racist 8th grade English teacher humiliated and subjugated my fellow classmates to ridicule and unjust punishment simply because they were Black students at a predominately and exclusively white suburban middle school.  He came to my aid when she attempted to embarrass and condemn me to punishment.  He was there vouching for me and my record of incidents of racism when she eventually got to me during her path of racist retribution upon Negro minorities.  He was the one who stood up to her and the Black, hand-picked principal who was just glad to have the position.  He was, and is, my hero because of the aforementioned, and with what has happened to the young man in St. Louis and Ohio, he was at a loss of words.  His only reply was, “Negroes gotta just watch what they do around these white police.  I know it sounds harsh, but ain’t nothin’ changed.  Folks gonna have to teach these young Negroes to keep their mouths shut and do what the police say.”  And this, is the problem.
            What exactly can “Negroes” do to avoid presumed police provocation. Not frown, blink or sneeze? Not question officers’ orders? Not sag their pants?  Not listen to Rap music in their vehicles?  Walk with their heads down?  Though the entire story and truth hasn’t come out about either Brown in St. Louis or Crawford in Ohio, any intelligent and modestly objective media voyeur can surmise that something is afoot.  No weapon.  No definitive crime committed—and even if there was a crime committed, that doesn’t give law enforcement officials the right to kill these youngsters.  It seems as though the noose and the Ku Klux Klan has been replaced with bullets, batons and policemen.  I don’t agree with the notion that young Blacks should behave a certain way around cops or give cops a particular level of respect to avoid the loss of their lives.  In my estimation, that defeats the premise of the modern-day Civil Rights Movement.  Equality means, to me, that one shouldn’t have to be of exceptional intelligence, wealth, or behavior in order to be treated in a humane manner.  And for my extreme conservatives, both Black and white, miss me with the idea that we, as Black Americans, are blowing another incident out of proportion by invoking race and racism.  Stop saying we are "playing the Race card"! It ain't a card game when losing means a disparity of pay, inequality, incarceration, or the loss of your life, damned Fool!
While we are mourning & hash-tagging Michael Brown, don't forget John Crawford of Ohio who was killed by police in a Walmart for holding a bee bee gun/rifle in which the chain store sells! Stop putting a name to these unarmed Trayvons. Apparently, they're just "Niggers" or "Coons"! I'm gonna hold my son's hand until he's 40! 

                                                                                                    -Gee Joyner

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Don't Mess With My Messiah: Black Jesus, Blind Faith & Biblical Foolishness

I watched it.  Then I watched it again.  Not necessarily because it was so captivating, but more so because when I watched it the first time I missed the introduction (it felt like trying to read the bible by starting in the book of Matthew or John; at some point you’ll have to begin at Genesis to get a better context).  I watched it a third time because I was impressed by the way the theological themes were being teased out with Christological creativity and satirical sophistication.
It actually affirmed and reminded me why I have spent the last 16 weeks teaching the #SonOfGod: Black Jesus & White Lies – Race in the Black Church series at Abyssinian Baptist Church which was birthed on the back of the constant cinematic revisions of Biblical history which kept perpetuating ancient Hebrews and Egyptians (from Moses, to Mary, to Jesus) as white people.  As an emerging servant-scholar-pastor, public theologian and college professor of religion I’m ever mindful of the truth in Dr. Cornel West’s statement in his latest book Brother West: Living and Loving Outloud, “In America, every card in the deck is a race card.”  Race matters...especially in 21st century religion, contemporary theology and spirituality.  I! Get! It! 
That’s why I was taken aback (sadly) when met with information of the impending protest of Aaron McGruder’s new series Black Jesus.  Have people of faith nothing better to galvanize behind? How about we spend our ecclesiastical energy around instances highlighted by Dr. Leslie D. Callahan in her article, Black Jesus: We Have Other Things to Boycott?  Callahan argues, “...this is not because I am incapable of indignation. I’m just saving my ire for other things, such as, the carnage in Gaza, food insecurity in my city and every city, and even the nonsense folks preach in pulpits depicting Jesus as a money-hungry capitalist, which by the way is at least as blasphemous as portraying him as a cussing, smoking, homeless dude in the hood.”
Why were so many in the black faith community so disturbed? What has McGruder done (this time) that has disrupted so many?  It is, again, abundantly (and sadly) obvious for me.  There continues to exist in the life of those in the 21st century a gap, void, chiasm between the characters and catalogue of the biblical text and the life of black folks in North America.  People are familiar with scripture, salvation and the Lord and Savior but people usually don’t place themselves in close proximity of those who we find in the chronicles of our faith.  We hear about the forerunners of the faith, but few of us simultaneously imagine their bodies being kissed by the sun like ours.  We presume most biblical characters are white.  We think race and racism existed then in the same fashion it exists now.  We think God is white (an old white man with a long gray bear to be exact – google “God” and see what comes up). 
We think the Jesus of the bible and in history, literally looks like the painting authorized by the Vatican of a pale skin, brunette with light brown eyes.  We think that we’re reading and referencing a text that has little or nothing to do with our history, legacy and life with the exception of the connection between the Hebrew slaves and the African-American slaves or maybe some subtlesimilarities in songs sang in the civil rights movement based upon the scriptures.
So when McGruder takes the artistic liberty, theological acuity and satirical courage to depict a “neighborHOOD Jesus”, those who think they have a monopoly on biblical interpretation and a sickening spiritual superiority complex feel compelled to defend the myths – it makes perfect (pathetic) sense.  Fact is,McGruder's Jesus is more contextually/historically accurate than most preachers’ presentations on Sunday's.
In the mainstream Jesus is most often presented as a social-superstar who gives back-stage-passes to prosperity (read: WHITE), instead of a religious revolutionary who is concerned with social-political-religious liberation not simply our "soul's salvation." (read: BLACK) You think I'm upset with McGruder for presenting an alternative "hood" Jesus? "...Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?" PUH-LEEZ.... we're so colonized that we don't even understand when we're defending the elements of our own oppression!!! Therefore, when it comes to those who are so gung ho about using their faith as a means to protest pictorial representations of religious figures on television but silent about abusive priests, manipulative ministers and pimpish politicians, I’ll let them have it.  But be clear, I am NOT impressed with our colonized Christianity and pathetic attempts to perpetuate piety.  And neither is God! 

                                                                       -Rev. Earle J. Fisher

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Them Niggas Were Coonin' Too: The Ironic Subjectivity of the Black Minstrel

I’ve often wondered why African Americans give the Black pioneers of cinema a pass, yet the modern-day African American community, as a whole, particularly those of the scholarly or academic ilk, castigate the new-age minstrels (i.e. African American reality kings and queens) such as those characters portrayed on the Love and Hip Hop shows, both Atlanta and New York, Real Housewives of Atlanta, and R&B Divas among others are demonized as the worst thing that has happened to the image of Black Americans since the crack epidemic, Gangsta Rap, and Flavor Flav. 
A couple of days ago my father and I were having our usual post-breakfast conversation on America and pop culture and Black America and Black American pop culture and I brought to his attention how, back when I was in Graduate School, the African American professors at the university in which I attended, always, like sheep, fell in line and were obedient in lauding the Black actors and comedians, who seemingly consistently portrayed stereotypical Negroidian roles on stage and film, as pioneers who paved the way for the New Negro to revel in national, and oft times international fame, notoriety and wealth, yet lambaste the Black actors, rappers, comedians, and, even athletes, of today as being coons who were and are disrespectful of those who have paved the path for them to economically and socially flourish in the 21st century.  Moms Mabley came to mind.  I said, “Daddy, them niggas didn’t have a choice, but neither do these new Niggas.  I mean, sure they perpetuated the derogatory stereotypes be it their aesthetic appearance (i.e. bucked eyes, bulbous lips, spooked-out/frightened/dumbfounded facial expressions, or tattered and subservient attire) or their perpetual use of Black slanguage or Black Speak (see bell hooks or Zora Neale Hurston).” He casually replied, “Hell, they didn’t have to do it either.  They should’ve just not taken the roll or acted the part.” 
I laughed and agreed.  This is true.  Was being in show business that important?  I know that one’s art or craft, whether it be to live vicariously through a written role in a film or to make someone laugh or dance or cry, or, in a writer’s case, to think, is a gift and talent, but I wouldn’t write for the sake of garnering money or fame or acceptance.  So, why did these people?  I am fully aware that great entertainers like Moms Mabley utilized their artistic expression to subtly cram racism and sexism in the face of the hierarchical structure under the guise of comedy, but can you not say that Stevie J of Love & Hip Hop Atlanta isn’t doing the same by deconstructing the notion that the only way to obtain wealth, or at least a consistent paycheck, while being a Black male is to be educated at the finest universities or colleges and procuring internships and wearing slacks and loafers and neckties and speaking with clarity and enunciating his syllables and pronouncing his words correctly?  You know, being “articulate” as Black and white Americans say when hearing a Negro who doesn’t sound like a Throwback-Thursday Antebellum slave.
The peculiarity in the way that Black reality stars are demonized befuddles me, because, for the most part, they are utilizing all of the characteristics and motifs that early Black comedy, Black Exploitation films of the 70’s, and Hip Hop of the late 80’s, 90’s, and early 21st century have done.  They are being “them”, or at least I hope so, because I’m a fascinated fan of realism and ratchedness that they portray on the television screen week in and week out.   Both Black and white Americans alike love voyeurism, and reality television is a hit, and has been since the early 90’s when MTV introduced The Real World.  So, why not be compensated and be afforded the ability to provide yourself and your family and friends with a lifestyle that is reminiscent of what we all have been told and sold as the American Dream?  Expensive everything: car(s), house, clothes, jewelry, and food.  If being a perpetual stereotype, no matter whether any positivity or negativity can be found within the textual message one is disseminating, is a crime, do you really want to be right?  If these niggas are coonin’, let them coon.  Coons gotta eat, right?

                                                                                                 -Gee Joyner