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

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Tales from the Thot: The Objectification of Black(female) Sexuality

I can remember the first time I heard it.  It was a few weeks into the Fall 2013 semester.  I was doing my routine 3-5 minute ice-breaking monologue for one of my classes.  Asking students about their weekends and giving them a detailed yet graphic description of mine.  Ala Arsenio Hall (in the 90s) or any other network talk-show host you may or may have fancied.  And one student mentioned a party they had attended, and if you knew anything about collegiate parties or gatherings, particularly HBCUs, you know they can run the gamut from lame to no-holds-barred cage match type gatherings to all out pseudo strip clubs and grind fests.  Anyway, the student was giving a brief outline, if you will, and stated, “It was plenty of Thots, Mr. Joyner.’  Then, another male student chimed in, “It was a thotfest out there, man.”  I stood befuddled, bewildered, even ignorant.  Female and male students alike burst into laughter and full-toothed grins.  So, I asked, embarrassingly, because I knew, due to the context, I was losing touch with the millennial generation, even though I consider myself pretty cool, hip, and “with it” because I have always been cool, hip, and “with it” as far as Generation X’ers are concerned and because I have the cache of mingling with the youth of today considering my occupation as a professor, “What is as Thot?”  In unison, half of the class replied, “That hoe over there.”  I inadvertently laughed and lowered my head.  I love acronyms.  And this acronym shook me to the core, yet me thinking I’m still cool, chose not to expose it to my students.  I was laughing and smiling, but to me, the “term,” or acronym-turned-noun (synonymous with whore) wasn’t funny whatsoever---it was disturbing. 
Since the beginning of recorded language there have been many words used to describe a sexually promiscuous woman: harlot, trollop, whore, slut.  So, I guess it is only right that the 21st century colloquial lexicon, just as its predecessor popularized the slanguaged term hoe, a derivative of whore, would introduce another disparaging piece of language to further demonize the sexual freedom and frequency of intercourse of women, particularly the Black female.  But the dilemma lies in the idea of judgment, personal freedom, and morality.  And all of these three tenants in which women and their sexuality and their usage thereof exist under a microscopic lense of subjectivity.  Who is to say what morality is and whether or not a woman is cognizant or unaware of what it is she is doing or attempting to do when it pertains to her nether regions?  As far as Thots are concerned, this new terminology has replaced hoe, even though hoe is represented by one of the letters in the acronym, and is not only synonymous with a promiscuous woman but it is also connoted with a woman who seems to be irresponsible and unaccomplished, be she a negligent mother, an untrustworthy friend, a cutthroat criminal, or an occupier of a dead-end job.
But why is the Thot so castigated?  Because she utilizes her looks or her physique or feminine wilds to get what she want?  Money, housing, attention, or a mere sexual satisfying of her pleasure principle.  Possibly.  But, what is ironic is the fact that both women and men alike seem to detest a woman who chooses to occupy the space that men, both Black and white, have occupied for so long-- a space of patriarchal prestige, power, and entitlement.  A space where one’s superiority in a particular discipline or occupation or physicality affords them the opportunity to dominate another.  So, are Thots to blame for creating a space that defines them as superior, or, at the least, getting what they want in a given situation vis’ a vis the tools that they were given or capitalizing on what society as a whole wants?  In graduate school, as a graduate assistant, I wrote a headnote for a Norton Anthology on the late June Jordan, famed author, feminist, and social activist, and in doing my research, I came upon a quote by Audre Lorde that has stuck with me for the past 13 years and aided in making me comfortable in what I was and am trying to do as far as my own artistry.  She stated, “If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.”  Maybe the Thot has a freedom that those of us that glare and condemn her do not understand.  Maybe we are the one’s enslaved to the worry of judgment and marginalization and ostracization.  If we really think about it, haven’t we all been a Thot, both male and female, for someone?  Just a piece of meat or a piece of sex or something to pass the time while the person we performed for waited for a better man, woman, or thing to pin there hopes upon.  Shirley Chism famously said, “The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, ‘It's a girl.’”  That’s funny, yet true.  We all must revisit, deconstruct, and reconstruct the way the vagina, and the woman it is attached to, has been demonized for wanting and doing what it and she wants to do.  Double Standards are a bitch, but you better not call a man one.

Monday, April 28, 2014

D'Jonald Unchained: The Los Angeles Clippers and Their Massa

Let's be honest. Donald Sterling, formerly Donald Tokowitz, is a racist. Not because of the alleged comments (secretly recorded by his minority mistress) pertaining to Blacks or African Americans that were disparaging and bigoted, but because he literally holds a position that allows him to successfully subordinate and objectify the African American via his money, position, power, and ability to employ and/or fire people.  That is, in my opinion, the true definition of racism.  Though the conversation that was more than likely leaked to the media by his mistress as either extortion or revenge was disgustingly painful to listen to, that is the least of the problems the NBA has in regards to Sterling’s ownership of a franchise.  His comments were bigoted and reeked of prejudice and stereotypical vitriol, but we, as the viewing and paying public (ticket holders, subscribers to NBA TV, and purchasers of paraphernalia), should be up in arms concerning the numerous allegations of racism and sexism in the Clippers’ front office and the racial discrimination lawsuits levied at Don in the past decade.  The phone recording is spilled milk.  The lawsuits and the details thereof, on the other hand, are a socioeconomic oil spill that should have been cleaned up years ago.

By now, the entire social network populace and those who have tuned in to any major media outlet in the United States has heard excerpts, if not all, of the recorded conversation between Donald Sterling and his mistress, so I won’t regurgitate the salacious rhetoric in an attempt to bolster my audience or my “shares” or my “likes”.  What I will do, though, is try to articulate why this isn’t just about Sterling but about the NBA and its ownership.  In 2006, the U.S. Department of justice sued Sterling for housing discrimination because of claims that he purportedly refused to rent to Latinos and Blacks, and those he did rent to, in particular Kandyce Jones.  In sworn testimony, one of Sterling's top property supervisors Sumner Davenport claimed he made racist comments about black people living in one of the buildings he had just acquired: "That's because of all the blacks in this building, they smell, they're not clean. ... And it's because of all of the Mexicans that just sit around and smoke and drink all day."  Davenport went on to testify, "Kandynce Jones' refrigerator dripped, her dishwasher was broken, and her apartment was always cold. Now it had flooded. Davenport reported what she saw to Sterling, and according to her testimony, he asked, 'Is she one of those black people that stink?' When Davenport told Sterling that Jones wanted to be reimbursed for the water damage and compensated for her ruined property, he replied: 'I am not going to do that. Just evict the bitch.'"  That suit was settled for $2.765 million dollars without Sterling having to admit any liability. 

In 2009, NBA legend and Hall-of-Famer Elgin Baylor, who served as Director of Basketball Operations for the Clippers for 22 years sued Donald for unlawful termination vis a’ vis age and racial discrimination.  Although Baylor lost the lawsuit, disturbing commentary from individuals within the Clippers’ organization, if true, became known.  Baylor stated, “[Sterling] said, 'Personally, I would like to have a white Southern coach coaching poor black players.' And I was shocked. And he looked at me and said, ‘Do you think that’s a racist statement?' I said, 'Absolutely. That’s plantation mentality.'"  In the suit, Baylor also claimed that three top Clippers players — Sam Cassell, Elton Brand, and Corey Maggette — complained to him that Sterling was bringing women into the locker room to look at the players, and once said to one of the women, "Look at those beautiful black bodies."  As early as 1983, two years after Donald Sterling acquired the team and was attempting to move it from San Diego to Los Angeles, he was courting NCAA championship coach Rollie Massimino in hopes of luring him to the NBA, and Massimino allegedly recalled a brief glimpse into the racial ideology of Mr. Sterling: “Here’s this guy, and he has this blonde bimbo with him, they have a bottle of champagne, they’re tanked. And Don looks at me and he says, ‘I wanna know why you think you can coach these niggers.”  Now, don’t just look at the words in these accusations.  Go up a few lines and read the alleged actions connected and directly connoted with Sterling’s views on Race, and in particular, those of African American descent. 

To understand Sterling’s racial ideology, we must understand the man’s background.  As I mentioned earlier, he was born Donald Tokowitz.  A son of Jewish immigrants who allegedly came to this country flat broke.  Sounds eerily similar to those of us whose ancestry derived from those dark-skinned Africans who landed in what is now the United States of America in 1619 (give or take a few years depending on what historian you talk to).  He apparently changed his surname either in an effort to distance or erase his past or to escape his Jewish heritage, which either way would make a superb case study in Self-Hate and Self-Deprecation.  His history authenticates that Sterling is a Horatio Alger story for the ages.  He grew up in Los Angeles, became an injury and divorce attorney, invested his money, and bought one of the hometown sports franchises.  Bravo.  But what is lost in this story is how he utilized his wealth and societal positioning to assimilate into the stereotypical culture of WASPS.  His upward mobility freed him from his immigrant roots and poverty, more than likely associated with his ethnic plot in the United States.  His money freed him from oral censorship.  His money freed him from moral responsibility of human empathy and sympathy.  The fruits of his labor and his business acumen unchained him from his marginalized past and allowed him to be free to literally ‘do’ whatever he wants to others (i.e. subjugate, denigrate, and deny residency/occupancy). 

Being that the NBA is an exclusive sports league that can allow or disallow ownership at its discretion it is ironic that they have never called major media attention to this owner.  Unless one lived on the West Coast, before the Baylor lawsuit, you’d probably never knew who owned the Clippers, what he looked like, or what sketchy past the man had.  But now we do.  And the bigger question is why haven’t any of the other 29 owners of NBA franchises, excluding Michael Jordan, the sole Black owner in the league, voiced their personal and professional opinions on this matter.  Not the recording, but Sterling’s massive history of racial inequality.  Better yet, with almost 80% of the players in the NBA being Black/African American, how often is this type of thing going on within the league’s team’s front offices.  We just heard what Sterling has said and have seen his discrimination suits played out in the public sphere via the media, but only God knows what is going on with the other owners.  I would like to know the percentages of non-player personnel that is Black in the NBA.  Yes, D’Jonald has been unchained and off the chain for years, but what about the other owners who are quiet as church mice during this public smearing of the Clippers, its owner, and the NBA brand?  The new commissioner, Adam Silver was under David Stern’s tutelage since 1992.  I’m sure a smart, Jewish lawyer like himself knew Sterling’s resume on equality and discrimination.  We have.  But I guess the league helped to unchain him.
                                                                    -Gee Joyner

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Sherman, Smart, and Sam: America's Caging and Censoring of the Black American Athlete


     When Seattle Seahawks’ cornerback Richard Sherman startled a white female sideline reporter, and the television viewing audience, with his verbal chastising of San Francisco Forty Niners’ wide receiver Michael Crabtree, I elected not to write nor publicly say anything.  The night amateur athlete and Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart shoved a loyal Texas Tech fan after being verbally assaulted (be it a racial slur or not), I was so quiet you could hear a rat piss on cotton. Then, University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam “came out” and proclaimed his homosexuality to the world in an interview, and I decided it was time that I say something.  Something needed to be written. I needed to write something.  I needed to compose something that illustrates what I believe is going on in this post-racial America courtesy of the almighty Obama’s election and reelection. There seems to be a deconstruction and reconstruction of the Black American male athlete, and this reconstruction may very well void the only positive stereotype that exists and persists in the American and international psyche as it pertains to the self-worth of the Black male.   

      Via extensive media coverage there is no need for me to intricately detail or do a play-by-play analysis of what occurred with Sherman or Smart, but I must state that, in my thirty-five years as a United States resident, the only African American stereotype that doesn’t wreak of inferiority, criminality, and minstrelsy is that of the Black male’s athletic/physical prowess, prominence, proficiency, and superiority.  Asians are smart.  White people are rich, powerful, and intelligent.  Latinos have a rich heritage and culture and are hard working.  Italians are Catholic and have a love of family and familial traditions (ok, yes, they have mafia connections). But, outside of the Black American being fast, coordinated, and can jump high, we have been inundated with the notion of Blacks being dumb, thuggish, absentee or neglectful parents, and are the face of poverty and welfare in the U.S.A.  Yet, Sherman, Smart, and Sam, or at least the media’s portrayal of them and the audience’s response to them, may be the undoing of the image of the Black athlete as a heroic figure in American folklore.

        I intend to do something within the next four-hundred to six hundred words or so that is something that is studied, analyzed, dissected, celebrated and commodified in the halls of America’s upper tier academic institutions, mainly private, white, and economically exclusive, is a claim for scholastic fame and intellectual adoration for Black scholars who have terminal degrees in African American Studies and anything “AfAm” and have extensive research experience and publications because of this—the “freestyle”.  Rappers have bars that are pertinent, poignant, and profound, and my bars are sentences.  I just want to construct a brief, cold-blooded rhetorical foray, without the fire (phi) beat, into the negative depiction of African Americans, specifically and explicitly athletes, by mass media once they roam outside the zoo of American sports entertainment. 

        Because Richard Sherman was animated and aggressive and braggadocios and insulting to his individual opponent, a wide-receiver, being that he is the defensive antithesis to the position of wide receiver in football, and startled the white female reporter in front of thousands in attendance and millions in the viewing audience, Sherman was labeled a thug, out of control, and “out of line” by many in the media after his alleged tirade. I always felt like the media was upset with his aggression even in the mere presence of the white female reporter whether or not his tirade and aggression was aimed at her or anyone else.  Sherman had the nerve to be hostile in the mere presence of a white woman.  He was no longer tamed.  The game was over.  The money was made.  The fans got their monies worth.  And this Black robo-animal should be able to hit the “stop” button and get a hold of himself and act with some sense.  Be seen and not heard.  And Sherman, Smart, and Sam are doing neither of the aforementioned.  These three talented Black athletes, who happen to be top tier in their respective fields or level of athletics, will be seen and heard as long as they maintain the skill level required to have an extensive career in the American sports workforce.  
       Marcus Smart violated the code of relieving himself of his duties as zoo animal and spectacle by putting his hands on a white customer, a white ticket buyer, when he responded to the verbal insult that was hurled at him.  Note to America—you are paying to be entertained not paying to verbally abuse the athletes who you vicariously and voyeuristically want to be like and salivate at their physical abilities and coordination.  Whatever sadistic thought is in the live and viewing crowd’s psyche should not be acted out upon these gladiators that perform for the viewer’s pleasure.  A “boo” here or there is fine, but, please, no name-calling.  Particularly in college.  They are amateur athletes.  They aren’t getting paid to endure your internal and malicious ire.  Oh, and Michael Sam should not have to be worried about whether or not his potential employment by an NFL franchise is predicated upon his sexual preference or orientation.  He has informed us that he is a homosexual male athlete months before the NFL draft, so that the league and its family of teams cannot blackball him because of a "secret" that has been known for months in collegiate football circles.

     Yet the media and residents in the universe of social networking outlets are condemning the actions, some warranted, of the aforementioned athletes.  Sherman should have more class and shut up.  Smart shouldn't have put his hands on that fan regardless of what kind of insult was hurled at him.  Sam shouldn't tell because we didn't ask.  The American media wants to tame if not destroy individualism and free speech and free think and harness the physical capabilities of the Black male athlete once he is done playing the game.  Be humble in an interview.  Be quiet about your sexuality. Don't put your hands on a white fan no matter what he or she says, or, I assume, does to you.  The mystique of the machismo connoted with the image of the Black male athlete is being deconstructed for the 21st century.  No longer is the superior athlete someone to admire.  He is now someone to revile and detest because he seems not to know his place like Cassius Clay changing his name, becoming a member of the Nation of Islam and refusing to be inducted into the U.S. military because of his anti-Vietnam War sentiments.  Lik John Carlos and Tommie Smith and their hoisting of the Black Power salute. Jim Brown's constant stance against discrimination in America and American sports, and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf's refusal to hold his hand over his heart and sing the national anthem during pre-game NBA rituals.  In essence, just run, nigger, run.

                                                                                                                   -Gee Joyner



Monday, December 23, 2013

Redneck Religion: Phil Robertson and the Duck Dynasty Dilemma


     A few weeks ago I was in need of a cheap black T-shirt to wear with my bop around black sweat pants on a non-teaching day.  Considering I was only fielding office hours and would be on campus no more than three or four hours, I, as I often do, wear lounging gear, but I had been slothful and had not done laundry the night before and decided to drop in to Walmart to cop a shirt.  Briefly glancing at the megastore’s selection, I decided to purchase a black t-shirt with the words Duck Commander in yellow letters.  I put the shirt on in my car and thought nothing of it.  Now, after a week filled with controversy regarding A&E's Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson’s statements on homosexuality and Religion and Race in the American South, I may have to rethink my purchase of this now peculiar piece of paraphernalia.  And since this is an op-ed piece, and due to my love for rhetorical composition and the adherence to the rules, both grammatical and social, Reverend Earle J. Fisher and I have decided to have no thesis whatsoever.  Pure, unadulterated stream of consciousness is what you should expect.  Now, with the aforementioned mentioned, I have decided to post a couple of excerpts from Phil Robertson’s interview in the January 2014 issue of GQ magazine.


On Race:  "I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once," the reality star said of growing up in pre-Civil-Rights-era Louisiana. "Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I'm with the blacks, because we're white trash. We're going across the field ... They're singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, 'I tell you what: These doggone white people' — not a word!"Robertson continued, "Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues."

On Homosexuality:  Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men," he tells the magazine. Paraphrasing Corinthians, he says, "Don't be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won't inherit the kingdom of God. Don't deceive yourself. It's not right."Phil continues, "It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man's anus. That's just me. I'm just thinking: There's more there! She's got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I'm saying? But hey, sin: It's not logical, my man. It's just not logical."

     Any scholar or layman can unpack this rhetoric and see that stereotypes and the aesthetics, descriptions, and ideological beliefs associated with stereotypes is at the core of the Duck Dynasty Dilemma (or so the media would have you to believe).  Born and raised in the South, I know the warning signs of certain kinds of white folks.  ‘Redneck’ is to Blacks as ‘Nigger’ is to Whites.  Just as non-Blacks can assume someone’s moral compass and character merely on the color of one’s skin, so too can non-Whites do the same based on one’s skin color and aesthetic composition.  As a Southerner, most Black people assume that a long-haired, long-bearded, Christian, rural, White male with U.S. or Confederate flag paraphernalia or clothing, is no friend of Blacks and probably labors in some agrarian occupation and isn’t too fond of gays or miscegenation or anything anti-Southern (i.e. condemning the documented atrocities of the American South---you know, Black American slavery, Jim Crow, lynchings). In essence, are we really taken aback by Phil’s comments?  It should be no shock that, even though Robertson referred to himself as “white trash” and being “the same as Blacks”, that he is ignorant of his white (male) privilege.
      Stereotypes infect and affect us all, even white people—even if they are not bigots, sexists, racists, misogynists who revel in classism.  The Duck Dynasty audience, or the audience A&E targeted for the highly successful cable show, knows, or at least think they know, Robertson’s ideological beliefs and, for the most part, follows the show because they identify with him and his familial brood. 

      What we find extremely peculiar is the failure (or benign neglect) of many people to connect the commentary Robertson offers synthetically.  He put together racism and homophobia while being asked about sin.  What he communicates is, he sees God as a white heterosexual male.  In the framework of his sector of the Christian faith tradition this is by no means uncommon.  It is the same sentiment shared by Megyn Kelly as she remixes notions of Jesus’ personhood in connection with Santa Claus.  It is white racial and religious privilege turned (also referred to as #turnt) all the way up!  It is consistent with white, systematic or dare we say redneck religion and theology. 
      Tim Wise tells the story of his daughters discussing the movie “Bruce Almighty” were one of his daughters informs the others of the movies ultimate fiction because Morgan Freeman, a black man, plays God and from the daughter’s perspective, “He can’t be God because God is white.”  This telling statement is the foundation or building block of the type of theology that has been inserted in the inspirational veins of most conservative, evangelical Christians.  Robertson, like many others, draws these mythical parallels between social reality and spiritual reality.  Therefore, in Richardson’s mind, it is not only feasible but foundational to connect an indictment of homosexuality with a blinded eye towards the harsh realities of the Jim Crow south. 
     One blogger recently wrote a blog entitled, #DuckDynasty, Grace, and White Supremacist Gods #fleshYGod where it was stated,  I can understand why persons come to reject Christianity in this age, (let’s put aside sexual ethics for a second), when all of these outspoken representatives of KKKristianity continue to perpetuate the white supremacist mythology. KKKristianity in the eyes of outsiders seems less like a group of followers of Jesus who love our neighbors as ourselves as they are more in love with the idea of swimming in cultural ignorance.... White Supremacist Gods have cheap grace and oppression as their telos” (insert #BOOM #DropTheMicAndWalkOffTheSacredStage)
      It is understandable, albeit rather dangerous, to associate and develop a concept of God based on one’s experience with society, politics and sacred traditions.  But it is bigoted and biased to presume that one’s own religious convictions are universal convictions that are shared and supported by anyone who really matters.  Race matters.  Religion matters.  Time and space matter.  That is exactly why diversity matters.  None of us have God figured out, nor do we have an exhaustive or complete understanding of God. 

      Therefore, in many ways, Robertson’s comments are, indeed, a matter of the first amendment, but not so much as it relates to freedom of speech as it relates to freedom of religion.  Should he be allowed to spew his racists and homophobic theology out in public? Verbally, yes!  Should he be subject to the backlash and consequences of promoting a shallow and insensitive view of what many have come to encounter as a loving and liberating God?  You bet your bottom Bible! And since Walmart is seeing Duck Dynasty gear fly off the shelves at an alarming rate, and  Cracker Barrel  has rescinded their decision to remove Duck Dynasty paraphernalia from their restaurants, maybe I can get one of those corporate, white-owned chains to buy my T-shirt.  It's been worn a few times, but hey, nothing's wrong with a little wear and tear.  It gives the shirt character and history---like the good ole' South.  History and the ideologies associated with it has never physically hurt anyone, has it?  They're just words on a shirt, right?

                                                                          Earle J. Fisher and Gee Joyner
                                                                          (The Pastor & The Professor)






Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pushin' Past Petty: Why Niggas Shouldn't Be Consumed with the N-Word



     Words can hurt and destroy.  Yes, the aforementioned is true, and numerous people use this phrase as a catch-all as to why the term ‘nigger’ should be decimated and deleted from the American English Lexicon.  But just as words can hurt and destroy, they can also be deconstructed and reconstructed and utilized in a fluid manner where a particular word can lose and regain its connotation all within a single breath---that is the beauty of ‘language.’  Language is never static.  For the most part, it is and has always been fluid, and at some points, certain vocabulary in the lexicon becomes extinct with time and the social progression of humanity.  For instance, a trollop was once the pejorative term for a sexually promiscuous woman, yet whore has eclipsed trollop and you would be hard pressed to find a person in the 21st Century who regularly uses ‘trollop’ rather than ‘whore’ when referring to a woman with low sexual morals let alone even know what a ‘trollop’ is unless they are a fan of period piece Literature and movies from the 19th Century.  So, why is it that Black Americans seem to be distinctly divided in the usage of the term ‘nigga’ or even ‘nigger’ for that matter?  Should we not understand context when analyzing and critiquing vocabulary and diction?  That’s the conundrum, people. And considering I happen to be an English professor, writer, and resident American nigga, I think we should. 

  In no way do I want to exhaust you with detailing the expansive history of the word ‘nigger’, but I will try to create a brief summation of the initial usage of the word and the verbiage in context.  As far as American History, or current History goes, and by current, I mean the last two or three centuries, the term ‘nigger’ derived from the Spanish/Portuguese use of the word in describing people of a darker hue as being ‘Negro’ or ‘Neger’ or the French usage of ‘Noir’ (i.e. French Negre).  Mind you, I only use the Spanish/Portuguese as my starting point because, just like the tribes that sold or traded African hostages/prisoners of war to the English and the Spanish and the Portuguese into bondage, are responsible for the construction of the most grotesque and ethnospecific Holocaust in the history of the World--the North Atlantic Slave Trade.  And because of this Holocaust, the castigation of an entire race or group of people that maintained similar aesthetics has been dehumanized, and even celebrated, in many ways because of a term that subjugated, alienated, and otherized the aforementioned merely because of physical attributes, specifically the color of one’s skin. 

        I am well aware of the Negro/Afro-American/Black/African American’s relationship, both contentious and endearing, with the word ‘nigger’ and the variations thereof (i.e. ‘nigga’ ‘niggah’).  But, I don’t understand the preoccupation with how others use it. Being that it, the word, no matter the negative, and, even alleged positive connotations of the word, using both its initial defining and the progression and fluidity of the term depending upon context and who is using it in a specific context and that user’s American experience and identification with the words and the humans that reside under that labeling, is just a construct of language and lexicon to create, maintain, and perpetuate a societal hierarchy. I don’t understand Black Americans being more concerned with the use of the word ‘nigger’ and ‘nigga’ than they are about the treatment of those that are perceived, only through the visual aesthetic lens, as being an N-Word.


     Yes, I know that being a ‘nigger’ in American is connoted with being connected with the original African prisoners to America who were considered chattel and subhuman and, eventually, three-fifths human in a fledgling nation’s legal, if not, ‘biblical’, text, and permanent second-class citizen in the Jim Crow era, and the financial foothold in the 21st Century American Prison Industrial Complex System.  Plus, I comprehend the linguistic genius in deconstructing and redefining and respelling and even repronouncing the word to make it mean a term of endearment synonymous with friendship, familial connection, and comradery.  So, shouldn’t the masses?  Have we not all been taught reading comprehension and the most important nuance of reading comprehension which is ‘context’?  And to understand context, one must understand and tolerate the progression of time and subsequent generation’s reaction to history and its contents.

     But, since when did Black Americans become so mentally and socially and emotionally weak of a group of people that allowed words to rule us?  We changed ‘cool’ from a measurement of temperature to an assessment of one’s demeanor and personality.  ‘Hot’ as well.  We must realize that words can be pejorative in one instance and endearing in another.  In Rehabilitation circles, I’m almost positive only they can exclusively call one another ‘junkies’ because they have a common bond and experience that only those who have experienced being a ‘junkie’ can even remotely make light of or use the term all willy-nilly.  ‘Nigger’ or ‘Nigga’ is a similar term.  Same circumstances and exclusivity applies.  Unless of course, you’re Richie Incognito of the Miami Dolphins, but I’ll address that in another article.

       The brilliant comedian-turned- activist Dick Gregory once said, “The N-Word instead of ‘nigger’ robs younger generations of Americans of the full history of black people in America,” and I agree with him.  I like context because context allows for history and the language of history to be fluid, which in turn makes us reanalyze and revisit history by the minute, if not second.  I feel it is folly of people to take a social stance in that they do not utter ‘nigger’ or ‘nigga’ or consider it a vulgarity or a societal offense.  And I feel this way because, in my opinion, it may be a societal offense in not using the word.  I mean, all a man has is his integrity and authenticity and without those one is not honest or ‘real’.  And to be dishonest is to compromise and revise history, and I believe that to be uncivilized and uncouth, even criminal. You know, just like they say ‘niggers’ are.

                                                                                                         -Gee Joyner








Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Untouchables: Black America's Obsession and Idolization of the Black Exception


     First and foremost, I am a Hip Hop/Rap fan--have been since I memorized L.L. Cool J's "I'm Bad" from the "Bigger and Deffer" album.  Or maybe even before then when my cousin and I exhausted our Krush Groove VHS tape--literally memorizing every single line from every single character and every single song performed in the movie or used in the movie's soundtrack.  So, there is no way, particularly as an English Literature major, writer, and self-proclaimed rhetorician, can I deny the verbal flow and narrative skills of Jay Z/Jay Hova, the God M.C.  But, I often wonder why he, like so many other Black American exceptions, steer clear of certain sociopolitical or racial conflict and discourse that often arises in 21st Century popular culture.  Case in point--the Barney's of New York racial profiling incident that occurred a little more than a week ago. 

     Before I delve into why I believe that Shawn Carter, aka Jay Z, should take a stance in this particular incident, I must first disseminate my definition of a "Black American Exception".  As far as my thirty-something eyes can see, I believe a “Black” exception to be one who has been granted the privilege, via above-average intellect, talent, and skill, be it through the luck of the draw or particular circumstance, whether it being educated in the right schools, granted a specific scholarship, growing up in a certain neighborhood, or networking with the right Black or white people has achieved above average social, financial, educational, or occupational standing in American society, and therefore, maintains a broader scope of influence than the average ‘Black ‘bear, or Negro. 

     It has been reported by numerous national media outlets that there have been complaints of racial profiling by Barneys, and Macy’s, in New York City.  Now, hip hop lyricist, legend, royalty, and mogul Jay Z apparently has a deal with Barney’s to sell his fashion line in their stores and is even donating 25% of the proceeds to a scholarship fund to help under-privileged youth go to college---you know, have a chance at the ‘American Dream.’  Yet, after the allegations of profiling were revealed to the public, Jay Z was reticent in speaking on the incident and took several days to speak on the matter, and when he did, he only said, “I move and speak based on facts and not emotion...I haven't made any comments because I am waiting on facts and the outcome of a meeting between community leaders and Barneys. Why am I being demonised, denounced, and thrown on the cover of a newspaper for not speaking immediately?”  Well, sir, because you are in a fiscal partnership with this particular brand and that brand, maybe not directly, but indirectly, maintains employees that seem to deem Black, African-Americans unqualified to purchase items from the store in which they labor.  And you, being the mogul and voice of a Hip Hop generation and blackened Horatio Alger figure that you, are have a dog in this fight---and a very big dog at that.

     From his rhetorical abilities, lyrical prowess, and extreme proficiency in the construction of narrative tales of the social, economic, racial, and classist ills that have inundated the United States since its inception, and his knowledge of the aforementioned, lead me to believe that he, and other Black exceptions like himself seem to be removed from their civil responsibility to uplift and properly represent the other 90% that DuBois once said the talented tenth were, in essence, responsible for.  He and his wife, R&B megastar Beyonce, have a net worth of well over $650 Million and literally have nothing to lose in being an active voice in reconstructing the hierarchical structure of 21st century American racial and socioeconomic politics. 

                                                                                                                    -Gee Joyner