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Archive for June, 2013

Bobby Valentino: Slow Down

Remarks:

This song went to #1 on the American R&B charts in 2005, to #4 on the British pop charts.

Bobby V is our poster child for the 2000s. Not for having its greatest song, but, like CeCe Peniston of the 1990s and Shannon of the 1980s, for having an R&B song typical of that time.

I know, the video has issues of whitened, Ciaraesque ideas of beauty and sexual objectification, but that was part of that time (and ours) too. Still a great song, one that reminds me of back then.

The video is pretty much my picture of Los Angeles. It reminds me of how it looked when I was there in 2003.

Other songs on this blog from 2005:

Lyrics:

I saw you walking
Down on Melrose
You looked like an angel
Straight out of heaven, girl
I was blown away by
Your sexiness
All I have to do is catch up to you

[Hook:]
Slow down I just wanna get to know you
But don’t turn around
Cuz that pretty round thing looks good to me
Slow down never seen anything so lovely
Now turn around
And bless me with your beauty, cutie

A butterfly tattoo
Right above your navel
Your belly button’s pierced too just like I like it girl
Come take a walk with me
You’ll be impressed by
The game that I kick to you
It’s over and for reeaal

[Bridge:]
Like a flower fully bloomed in the summertime, you’re ready
To be watered by this conversation, you’re ready
I’m in awe cause you shine like the sun
Let me be the one to enjoy you
Let’s kick it girl

[Hook x2]

Oh baby you know by now that I want you bad
I’m floating on thin air I can’t come down
Cupid hit me already damn
Now I can’t leave till seven digits are in my hand, my hand

[Bridge]

[Hook x2]

Slow down never seen anything so lovely
Cutie

[Hook]

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The N-word

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The N-word is the word “nigger”, one of the three truly taboo words left in Standard English in 2013 (the other two start with c and f). It means a black person but has behind it hundreds of years of white racist contempt, particularly when it comes out of the mouth of a white person.

Timeline (when words first appeared in writing):

  • 1550s: Negro, probably from Spanish or Portuguese, where it simply means “black”.
  • 1568: neger
  • late 1600s: nigger
  • 1800: nigger in the woodpile
  • 1840s: nigger-brown (shade of brown)
  • 1878: nigger heaven (upper gallery in segregated theatres)
  • 1896: nigger toes (Brazil nuts)
  • 1925: niggah (in black use)
  • 1944: nigra (possibly worse than “nigger” itself)
  • 1967: a thousand place names in the US still have he word “nigger” in them.
  • 1969: nigga (black use)

By the late 1700s, at the latest, the word had become racist. The word itself is a screwed up way of saying “Negro”, which till the 1960s was the proper, respectable word for dark-skinned Africans.

By the 1800s whites applied the N-word not just to the dark-skinned people from Africa, but to those from India, Australia, Polynesia and the Philippines as well.

In Jim Crow times (1877-1968) the racism that underlies the word was so taken for granted that White Americans could use the word as mere description without any ill-will – like in Mark Twain.

Since the 1960s, with the fall of Jim Crow, the word has changed among Americans:

  • among whites:
    • its public use has become one of the few signs that one is racist, now considered a grave moral fault.
    • Its private use is seen as harmless and meaningless by many if not most whites.
    • Its artistic use, like in “Django Unchained” (2012), is debatable.
  • among blacks some have tried to reclaim it by using it as a common word, to take the sting out of it. Mostly written as “nigga” or “niggah”, it can have a negative to neutral to positive meaning depending on context. Other blacks, however, avoid the word as wrong to use. Either way the word plays out against a background of internalized racism (black self-hatred).

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Use in hip hop music: This can be an act of reclamation, as with Lauryn Hill, or it can come from and strengthen internalized racism, as with gangsta rap. That in turn has to be set against the fact that most listeners of hip hop are white, where the N-word can amount to minstrelsy – blacks degrading themselves for white entertainment.

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Chris Rock: Ugh. In the 1990s he informed us that only some blacks are “niggas”. Whites love to quote him, especially those whose idea of “some” is 99.991%.

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“If blacks use the word, why can’t whites? So unfair! Waahh!” Given the past and present racism of whites, there is probably no public use of the word by a white person that would not reasonably offend at least a fair number of black people. Whites who still want to use the word anyway want to disrespect blacks. Why would they want to do that? Because they are racist.

Thanks to Sondis for suggesting this post.

See also:

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Voting Rights Act of 1965

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The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) is one of the main American civil rights reforms of the 1960s. It outlawed the literacy tests, poll taxes and other devices that the Jim Crow South used to greatly limit the black vote. It is what Medgar Evers, Freedom Summer, Selma and those fire hoses were mainly about – the right to vote.

President Johnson called the VRA:

a triumph for freedom as huge as any victory that has ever been won on any battlefield

The VRA has not only allowed way more blacks to vote, but also more Native Americans and Latinos: it outlaws practices that in effect limit voting by race or language.

In 2006 Congress, after holding long hearings to see if the VRA was still necessary, voted to extend it by 25 years. Over 90% voted for the extension. A Republican President Bush signed it into law.

On June 25th 2013 the Supreme Court, in a 5 to 4 decision, gravely weakened that extension. Chief Justice Roberts said that it was “based on 40-year-old facts having no logical relationship to the present day.” Congress had used facts from 1975 to determine which states and counties need oversight by the Justice Department when changing voting laws and practices.

vra-map

States and counties that required Justice Department approval to change voting laws or practices

Congress could update the VRA to satisfy the Court, but that seems unlikely any time soon: the Republicans firmly control the House. The difference between 2006 and 2013 for the Repubicans is one of demographics. The election and re-election of President Obama show that the white vote is no longer enough. That will become more and more true with each passing year.

That is why the Republicans in 2012 passed laws to limit voting – voter ID, cutting back on early voting, changing voting hours, etc. The VRA kept the Deep South, Texas, Arizona, Virginia, North Carolina, Alaska, New York City and some other places from doing that, but now with the new ruling they can – just in time for 2016.

Blacks and others can still challenge these laws under the VRA in court, that part of the VRA is still in effect, but that takes time and does not always work.

We have been here before: In 1876 the Supreme Court gravely weakened the laws Congress passed to carry out the Fifteenth Amendment, the amendment that gave black men the right to vote. The Court said the laws were not specific enough.

Even the Fifteenth Amendment itself was a fatally flawed compromise: some wanted it to outlaw poll taxes and literacy tests. Blacks wanted national voter registration to protect their right to vote.

By the 1890s the South pushed through laws to limit black voting with poll taxes and literacy tests. The South did this in part to break up an alliance between blacks and poor whites. The Klan did their part by using violence to stop blacks from voting.

Which brings us all the way to the 1960s – and the Voting Rights Act.

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Number of Black Southern Legislators, 1868-1900 and 1960-1992

See also:

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Paula Deen

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Paula Deen (1947- ) is an American television cook of down-home Southern cooking. In June 2013 the American press and the Internet went nuts over her admitted use of the n-word.

Her empire the day before the scandal broke:

  • net worth: $16 million (700,000 crowns)
  • income: $4 million in 2007
  • television shows: 3 on the Food Network
  • books: 5
  • magazines: 1
  • restaurants: 6: her own and her brother’s in Savannah, Georgia and four more that bear her name at casinos owned by Caesar’s.
  • spokeswoman for: QVC
  • products with her name sold by: Walmart, Target, Sears, Smithfield Foods, Walgreens

In 2012 Lisa Jackson, a former white female manager at her brother’s restaurant, took Deen and her brother to court for sexual harassment and racial discrimination.

On June 19th 2013 the National Enquirer made the court testimony public. According to Jackson, in 2007 Paula Deen said of her brother’s wedding:

Rootso14

Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and Shirley Temple in “The Little Colonel” (1935)

Well what I would really like is a bunch of little niggers to wear long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties, you know in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around. Now, that would be a true Southern wedding wouldn’t it? But we can’t do that because the media would be on me about that.

According to the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, which has talked to some of the black employees:

  • Light-skinned blacks deal with customers while dark-skinned blacks are put in the back.
  • Whites are promoted faster than blacks.
  • Her brother told one black employee, “you don’t have any civil rights here.”
  • Someone in Deen’s family repeatedly called a black cook “my little monkey”.

Deen admitted under oath to wanting the plantation-style wedding for her brother complete with blacks playing slaves, but that she has not used the n-word since about 1987. That was when she told her husband about a black bank robber putting a gun to her head.

On June 21st she apologized twice, saying that the n-word is completely unacceptable.

Then the Food Network dropped her.

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On June 24th Smithfield Foods dropped her.

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On June 26th Matt Lauer interviewed her on television. She maintained that she is not racist. The interview ended with her close to tears, saying:

I is what I is and I’m not changing.

Then Walmart and Caesars dropped her, no longer wanting her name on their stuff.

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Her friends say that the press is making her into something she is not.

It is now June 27th, early morning.

She grew up in the Jim Crow South in Albany, Georgia, in the heart of cotton country. Her family used to own 35 slaves.

In 2012 she told the New York Times:

We [slave owners] didn’t see ourselves as being prejudiced.

and that:

black folk were such integral part of our lives, they were like our family.

and that in 2012:

We’re all prejudiced against one thing or another. I think black people feel the same prejudice that white people feel.

She is not sure if racist jokes offend black people. She is not even sure if the n-word does, given how much they use it.

Thanks to Sondis and Daniel Bryant for suggesting this post.

 See also:

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Blade Runner

“Blade Runner” (1982) is a Hollywood film based on Philip K. Dick’s science fiction novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” (1968). Film noir meets science fiction. Rick Deckard (a young Harrison Ford) is a bounty hunter in a gritty, dystopian Los Angeles of 2019. He kills androids – but then falls in love with one. The film was great at making the future look real rather than wow. Ridley Scott of “Alien” (1979) directs.

  • Philip K. Dick: the Hollywood films “Total Recall” (1990) and “Minority Report” (2002) are also based on his stories.

What Dick calls androids the film calls replicants – humans genetically engineered to be slaves. They are born fully grown and live only four years or so. Some have false memories planted in them which makes them think they are human. They are supposed to lack feelings. They live off-world – those who flee to Earth as runaway slaves are hunted down and killed by people like Deckard.

blade-runner-cityscape

A Future Without Black People? Los Angeles in 2019 is a mix of all kinds of people, mostly stereotyped Asians, but few if any are black. Unless, of course, you read the replicants as allegorically black. 

I saw “Blade Runner” for the third time last weekend. It is not as good as I remember it. That might be because there are different -

  • Versions: There are seven altogether. In 1982 Hollywood made Scott put in a happy ending. In 2007 Scott put in the ending he wanted on the DVD.

DoAndroidsDream

But, of course, the book is better.

In the book:

  • One of the androids is an opera singer – important to the theme of the book. Hollywood made her a stripper.
  • Deckard makes love to – but does not fall in love with – an android. He is married and goes back to his wife in the end.
  • Androids are utterly heartless and see religion as fake.
  • The love scene is more interesting – what is it like to make love to an android?
  • Most of the action is set in metropolitan San Francisco – post-apocalyptic, but solidly Anglo.
  • Androids have issues of “passing”. Deckard calls them “illegal aliens”.
  • Roy Baty, the lead android of the runaways, is not white but has “Mongolian” features.

But most of all, the film leaves out the religion and nearly all the philosophy in the book. While the book is built on a police story – something Hollywood is good at – it goes much deeper into questions of what it means to be human, drawing the line between man and meat machine at empathy and, arguably, religion. Fakeness – of people, of American culture, of way too many things – is a huge theme, one that went right over Hollywood’s head.

Dick got the idea for the book when he read a letter by a guard at a Nazi German death camp. The guard complains:

We are kept awake at night by the cries of starving children.

It shocked Dick that anyone could be that inhuman. When the Vietnam War came it was apparent that the same fake humanity had spread to America.

See also:

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The voice of colour

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The voice of colour is the idea that, all things being equal, people of colour are better able to speak about racism than whites because they experience it directly. That might seem like common sense, but not to most White Americans, who believe in:

The voice of whiteness –  the idea whites are better at talking about racism, about anything, in fact, because whites presume themselves to be fair-minded, unaffected by the colour of their skin, by race, by race loyalty. It is one of the Rules of Racial Standing – the rules by which whites process the truth of statements according to the race of the speaker. In America it is why:

  • in most court cases where race matters the jury (and judges) will be nearly all white.
  • it is hard for a black person to win a job discrimination suit without white witnesses.
  • whites think blacks are emotional thinkers.
  • whites think blacks imagine racism.
  • Tim Wise can make a living by repeating stuff people of colour say.

Because they trust the judgement of whites over people of colour, even (or especially) when it comes to racism. Whites trust voices of colour only in so far as they agree with the voice of whiteness. Thus Rented Negroes.

Strictly speaking both the voice of colour and voice of whiteness are a logical fallacy, an ad hominem: judging the truth of statements according to who makes them. From the point of view of logic, statements are true or false regardless of who makes them – they stand or fall based on facts and reason. Experts in a field might be able to make better arguments, but they must still stand on their own.

In practice, however, the race of the speaker does matter. Whites leave out racism, play it down or fail to know even the simplest facts about it. Karl Marx, for example, lived in a time when whites kept blacks as slaves and wiped out native people to take their land – yet, despite his vast reading, thinking and writing about Western history and the nature of its society, he said little about racism.

It is not what you might think – a simple lack of direct experience of racism. At least not in the case of White Americans. After all, they do not seem to have the same trouble in knowing, understanding and talking about, say, anti-Semitism or toxic waste. White people have brains. There are tons of written accounts of racism. They can read. It goes deeper than that.

Instead it is their Fragile White Ego: They base too much of their self-image as good people on being white, as strange as that sounds. Yet it is the absurdity of that position – and deep down they know perfectly well how absurd it is – that makes them avoid any deep examination of racism. It becomes like that thing your uncle did that no one wants to talk about.

See also:

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blockbusting

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A guest post by commenter Jefe:

Blockbusting (1910s – 1980s) was a common real estate practice throughout the 20th century in the United States. It was used to profit from and enforce racial segregation in housing, reaching a peak between 1948 and 1971. Prior to 1948, it was more common to use restrictive covenants to enforce segregated residential patterns. In 1948, the Supreme Court ruled (Shelley v Kraemer ) that lower courts could not enforce restrictive covenants on real estate. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 invalidated the practice of blockbusting, but it continued until the 1980s. Some cities tried to break blockbusting by making it unlawful to place “For Sale” signs in front of houses, but the Supreme Court ruled in 1971 that that violated freedom of expression.

Blockbusting refers to:

The practice of frightening homeowners by telling them that members of a particular race, religion, or national origin are moving into their neighborhood and that they should expect a decline in the value of their property or an increase in crime. Homeowners sell at deflated prices and properties are then resold at inflated prices.

Blockbusting became widespread following the two Great Migrations (1910 – 1930 and 1940-1970) when increasing numbers of African-Americans moved outside the Deep South. The demand for housing outstripped the supply in crowded ghettos. Also, more non-whites started to earn higher wages and wanted to move into middle-class neighborhoods. Previous restrictive covenants and land zoning had created highly segregated residential patterns which made it very difficult to open up housing to prospective residents.

Some black residential suburbs were built to satisfy this need. However, this required land to be made available to build houses for non-whites and lending institutions to relax their redlining practices (of not lending to non-whites). Supply remained limited.

The other, more profitable, option was to convert a nearby white neighborhood into a non-white one  by blockbusting.

S0me blockbusting methods:

  • Hiring blacks to walk through a neighborhood pretending that they live there (eg, having a woman push a baby carriage down the street in full view of all the neighbors) and then flooding the neighborhood’s mailboxes with warnings that non-whites were moving in and offering quick cash.
  • Convince a single or small number of homeowners to sell their houses to non-whites at a slightly inflated price, after which the remaining residents were scared into selling at depressed prices.
  • Leave buildings in the neighborhood abandoned. In turn, houses would be sold to black families at inflated prices, often made possible by predator lending methods. The white families could be sold a more expensive house in another neighborhood that had not yet been blockbusted. Real estate agents raked the money in.
  • Conversion of rental properties could be sped up by raising rents to unaffordable levels (say, by making an inconsequential improvement), forcing the residents to move out quickly.
  • Rezone the school district with nearby black neighborhoods so that white students were suddenly forced to attend majority black schools.

Blockbusting became rare by the 1980s, but the effect was continued by the practice of Racial Steering, and reinforced through Redlining and Subprime Mortgage or other Predatory Lending.

Reference: Encyclopedia of Chicago.

See also:

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