Is Dave Chappelle’s Skit Anti-Reparations???

“Kiss My Black Ass, America!!!”

– “Tron”, Dave Chappelle Show, Season 1, Episode 4

I believe that in 2019, reparations as a keyword and hot button political promise surrounding HR 40 has divided US Blacks into camps that once did not exist but now frame those Blacks who may have arguments as to why reparations may not be a good idea as “anti-Black”.

As a means to provide this discussion with a much needed room for reasonable disagreement, I would like to show examples of US Blacks prior to reparations being spouted by Whyte policy makers creating an oversensitivity among some quarters of US Black America discussing potential healthy and unhealthy hypothetical outcomes without being labeled “anti-Black”.

Dave Chappelle’s Alternate Reparations Reality

On February 12, 2003, episode four of Dave Chappelle’s ground breaking Comedy Central show aired. Within a set of skits, mock man-on-the-ground, and stage routines Dave presents what in 2003 was a fairly common discussion on potential damages of reparations.

While much of his humorous presentation is what I have termed “the pocket watching hypothesis of reparations,” it must be noted that it was a fairly common sentiment among US Blacks of all class strata.

He opens this conversation as a segue away from a bit in his opening monologue addressing affirmative action and slavery. He enters this spot by stating,”I’m going to say it publicly, not only am I for affirmative action, I will take it a step further, I want my reparations for slavery!!! That’s right, I’m trying to get paid for the work of my forefathers.”

He also adds a cavaet to these sentiments. Dave states,”The only thing I would say is that if we ever do get our reparations, which I doubt, but if we do, we Black people have got to get together and come up with a plan for the money. This is a consumer based economy, you can’t just give Black people all this money and turn them loose on the streets. That could be a potential disaster!!!”

Before Dave even sends us into this skit, he presents us with a few lines of thinking vis a vis US reparations for US Slavery. His first line of thinking is that, yes, reparations is a desirable thing. He also defines reparations as, money “paid for the work of my forefathers.” I believe this is important.

It is important that we all define reparations for our Selves. It is important that we all have a vision of what reparations should look like. It is important that we bring to this collective discussion our own individual interpretations.

I believe Dave’s comedic–thus terse, yet thoughtful– definition should not be weighed as filler or transitive. Nor should we treat our own personal thoughts about reparations, pro et contra, lightly. What Dave is suggesting here is an interpretation of reparations as unpaid inheritance. As a topic that impacts millions, this is just one interpretation of millions. He has a personal interpretation, because, it is personal.

I also think it is important that he qualifies his hypothetical with, “which I doubt”. That is to say, he doubts US Blacks will receive their just bequeathal.

I am highlighting this statement because it reinforces a sentiment of doubt and uncertainty that should always permeate discussions about promises from governments that provided cover for those atrocities of US Slavery, Jim Crow, Red Lining, Police Brutality and Mass Incarceration. Dave considered this in 2003, I believe we should consider it in 2019, and I would remind us here that HR-40 is not a proposal to pay reparations, but a proposal to form a committee to discuss discussions discussing reparations.

He adds this qualification of doubt to a caveat that I am witnessing people in this contemporary moment being attacked as “anti-Black” for expressing. In 2003, Dave Chappelle reminds us that we live in a consumer economy.

Once again, I too have my own thoughts about reparations. One of those thoughts is that it is not my business to pocket watch other US Blacks, in hypothetical considerations or otherwise. My point here is to show that criticisms about a hypothetical reparation payment have existed in the US Black collective mind without being considered as “anti-Black” or forms of “self-hate” for quite some time.

Hilarity Ensues

This first of two skits begin as Dave invites us to imagine a world where US Black descedants of Slaves are given a reparation package sans a collective economic plan. It is important(I know, that’s my new favorite word here) to understand that this joke only works if we accept this notion of a reparation package without a collective agreement about how that money would be spent in, as Dave calls it, a “consumer economy.”

Framed as a “special report” for channel 3 news, Dave playing as a whyte news anchor, “Chuck Taylor” brings us a top story, “Reparations 2003”. In this alternate reality, Congress has agreed to bequeath US Blacks a trillion dollar plus reparations package. After Dave’s “Chuck Taylor” exposition, we go to a mock man-on-the-street as “the first checks” have been sent out.

With “Wendy Mullen” in front of a liquor store in Queens, we are shown scores of Black people smiling and waving in a line stretching around a corner waiting to have their checks cashed. “Wendy” states that they have been standing in lines for hours. In fact, “Wendy” has clips of earlier interviews from those that already cashed their checks. We transition to a Black woman after cashing her check– indicated by her waving a wad of bills — she states,”Hide the money y’all, there’s poor peopla around. With your broke ass!!!”

In another of these mock interviews, “Wendy” asks a Black man in a Kools cigarette truck played by Donnell Rawlings was he going to quit his truck driving job. Rawlings’s character replies that he just bought that truck cash, and now has enough cigarettes to last him(and his family) a lifetime. As “Wendy” returns back to “Chuck” in the studio, “Chuck” is written to ask “Wendy” why there are no banks in the ghetto. To which “Wendy” responds,”Well, Chuck, that’s because banks hate Black people. But, I think that’s about to change.”

Continuing the skit’s theme of a news broadcast, “Chuck” proceeds to discuss the effect of this new injection of capital on markets. Financial correspondent “Michael Peterson” (a whyte male in a suit in tie with a stock ticker below him and a scene of stock market traders behind him) tells us that “these people are spending money like hot cakes”. He relays that Sprint prices have risen as two million deliquent phone bills had been paid off. Of course, they have “Michael” report that gold and diamond prices are their highest ever. In this world, oil prices have gone down, while chicken prices have shot up to six hundred dollars a bucket. He states that eight thousand record labels had been started in just that hour, and Cadillac had sold three million Escalade trucks that afternoon alone. To sum up that bit, “Michael” states,”these people seem to be breaking their necks just to give this money right back to us.”

A line that they use this “Michal Peterson” character to convey is that “the recession is over and we have no one else to thank but these Black people.”

We return back to Dave’s “Chuck Taylor” who announces a breaking story that the crime rate has fallen. This ends the first skit on this topic. This episode furthers with another monologue and man-on-the-street bit about award winning breasts. Closing this episode, however, we return to this alternate reality as “Chuck” reports that Blacks basketball players stopped playing for the NBA, and Bill Gates has “been overtaken” on Fortune magazine’s wealthiest people listing.

We are then taken to Harlem where “Tron”(also played by Chappelle) is questioned as to how he surpassed Bill Gates on that list. We see “Tron” surrounded by a group of brothers waving wads of dollars next to a baby carriage. “Tron” states that he won this money in a dice game. When asked was that baby in adjancent baby carriage his son, he states,”naw, I just bought this baby cash.” It concludes with a question inquirying his intents with all of his new found money. Dave has “Tron” assert,”[I’m going to] spend this money before you honkies change your minds!!!”

In one last segment, “Chuck” introduces “reliable, friendly, portly, Big Al”. “Big Al” (another performance by Dave Chappelle) stands in front of a weather chart with a gold chain and crown on. He immediately wishes his audience a “Happy Reparations Day, Happy Juneteenth”. Addressing “Chuck” he announces that he has turned in his resignation, hours ago. He then states that the voice he uses is not his real speaking voice, and he begins to talk in a deeper voice.

This closes this segment and skit out.

Dave Chappelle’s Reparations ::: Truth In Jest

One of the most disturbing aspects of US Slavery is that it not only robbed our forebearers of labor, time, and thus money, but it also robbed them of self-determination. That is, US Slavery robbed our ancestors of an ability to choose a course of life suitable to their tastes and visions of what a life well lived should look like. We do not know if those born into this evil institution would have chosen to form their own nation like so many who came to this contintent during that era, or if they would have decided to fight those that enslaved them on Afrikan shores. We could never know; human existence was robbed of that opportunity to know.

Without self-determination there is no intentional time to organize monolithic(think groups on that level of nation states) organizations that introduce and implement national scale programs of collective economics. This particular conundrum has been addressed across centuries and works as premise of Dave Chappelle’s humor here. Those addressing these same concerns now are being labeled as “anti-Black” despite this historical fact.

We first see Dave Chappelle addressing this lack of economic collectivity as “Wendy Mullen” interviews Blacks outside of a check cashing establishment. Check cashing businesses are pretty much an institution in urban Black communities. Even Russell “Harriet Tubman Rape Tape” Simmons attempted to exploit this particular financial condition with his RushCard. US Blacks in 2003(as well as 2019) were without a national scale system of banking, and many have been victims of predatory overdraft policies.

In his opening monologue, Chappelle explains that his fear of reparations as an allocation of large sums of money rests on a fact that “this is a consumer based economy.” We see this addressed as “Wendy Mullen” interviews a brother driving a Kools cigarette truck after purchasing it with cash so that he could have enough cigarettes for his family his entire life.

To add further clarity to his hypothesis, Dave Chappelle invites us to the stock exchange of this alternate reality. Here he takes US Black consumer trends of 2003(and still some that exist in 2019) to task. Gold and diamond prices soaring might seem a bit extreme, but given jewelry budgets of average rappers with a rags to riches themed personal brand, I think this is fair play.

It is important to note here that he decides to use a Whyte man in a suit in tie to represent corporate USA. Further, Dave has this “Michael Peterson” say, “they are breaking their backs to give us this money back.” Another very common anti-reparations argument that exists among common Black folks with race pride. “Michael Peterson” is used to represent a machine that exploits consumer trends to systematically and systemically replicate the status quo across generations.

This machinery — while represented here by Chappelle as a Whyte guy in a suit and tie(a suit) — is historically aided by those same US Blacks often lauded as aspirational, ideal, and paragons of the collective US Black national body. Publisher of Ebony and Jet magazine under eponymous publishing company, John H. Johnson Publications, also published an anti-Black business manual distributed to Whyte corporations, The Negro Handbook.

It is important to note that during that period where integration was being pushed in same manner that reparations is being pushed now, corporate USA was being catered to by Blacks like EBONY’s Johnson. Whyte owned Corporations would eventually extend their campaigns to desegregate US Black dollars through support for integration for their own capital base. Much of these ideas are represented in Dave Chappelle’s skit, yet in 2019, these ideas are being labeled as “anti-Black.”

Reparations as a redistribution of wealth

In conclusion, I feel it necessary to reiterate that Dave Chappelle states he is for reparations. Within Chappelle’s Reparations 2003 skit, he includes several ideas that serve as reasons why. Most apparent are his witty and subtle notions of wealth redistribution.

Dave’s “Michael Peterson” bit is mainly communicating this idea that US Black consumer trends couple with a trillion dollar plus surplus injection into domestic markets would prove to be more beneficial to Whyte corporate interests. In fact, Dave all but calls reparations in this alternate reality a “stimulus package.”

In both of his man-on-the-street(well, woman on the street, as it were) segments express a subtle recognition of a reparation package being a redistribution of wealth. A Black Woman walking out of a check cashing establishment with a fan of dollars looks around at a street full of other Blacks and looks at a single Whyte person(“Wendy Mullen”) and tells them to watch out for “poor people.” Where most of these segments in this skit use urban US Blacks as butt of this on-going joke, this particular bit reverses that.

In another segment of this skit, “Tron” surpasses Bill Gates as wealthiest person on Fortune magazine’s list of wealthiest people. This too is a subtle statement about reparations as a redistribution of wealth. Further, “Big Al’s” segment expresses this sentiment of redistribution of wealth where a professional class Black person refuses to hide his speaking voice, thus a reversal on social capital recuperation.

I think it is important(there I go again…) to remember that Dave speaks about reparations for US Slavery with doubt. He verbally announces his doubt prior to introducing this skit, and even has “Tron” echo this sentiment of doubt by saying,”I’m going to spend this money before you honkies change your minds”.

His bookending of doubt, even in a humor-based alternate reality, provides an appropriate frame for all of us to work within. None of us can be absolutely certain of outcomes relating to whatever sort of reparations package rendered. Integration was treated as a solution for all that ailed USA racially and Whyte corporations coopted every radical notion for marketing purposes. Many thought that an Afrikan-Amerikkkan US President would alter trajectory of USA’s racial animus. While I hope if US Slaves are financially rewarded their just due, we get a better turn out than integration or Y’all’s Daddy Obeezy, I doubt it.

And doubt is a better route than blind belief and name calling.

HR-40 And Celebrity Representation

I do not think that our entertainers and celebrated figures can represent US Blacks properly in a space of activism, social political grievance, nor policy consideration.

So much of policy making in these United States of America is symbolic heroism. A marketing of moments as ‘historical’, as if elementary school social studies text book manufacturers need more material to update with. Congressional halls tend to be full of sales people quoting noble words of lofty works written by slave owning rapists justifying genocide for land and labor.

Yet, there is never a changing of guards. Only an assembly line of unsung actors adding to that paucity of appreciation for those active participants that sacrifice life and liberty for principles sans principals. While our lives are enriched by those offered on alters of mystery gods, their deeds are never more than bricks used to further cement status quo’s bulwark.

We are given a few faces from our scattered flock. A selected overseer; a chosen trustee. Never a champion of our own making. Always a golden child shaped and forged in their molds. A mold that can only grow in markets controlled by pockets deep enough to charm society’s spectacles.

Juneteenth’s Charming Spectacle And Kombayyahs

Charming spectacle is an apropos phrasing and framing for what occurred Wednesday morning, Juneteenth 2019.

Addressing a panel composed of a cast of characters more likely to remind one of USA’s virtues than its vices, House Committee of the Judiciary convened its panel discussion discussing an on-going discussion to further a discussion for a study of reparations discussions.

My thoughts on reparations for USA’s involment and persistence of hierachical patterns resulting from US Slavery vary depending on how the wind blows. I have grown to see reparations for US Slavery treated much like integration was treated prior to Brown or even 1964’s Civil Rights Act. Upon seeing this who’s who of writers, actors, athletes and other worldly whisperers, my thoughts slant even further askew.

This Justice League of Whyte Whisperers was regaled so highly that Mr. Cohen, that gentleman from Tennessee, was forced to bellow,”Okay, enough with the pictures!!!”, while Danny Glover and other superfriends sat down. Among these Negro Avengers was also Ta-Nehisi Coates who apparently was selected based on his article written about reparations. Or maybe he was chosen for his article debasing Harriet Tubman’s legend as a slave raider, or maybe his article explaining how he could no longer live among Blacks of Brooklyn after riding that wave of his first book’s success.

No discussion about Black Men in these United States could be had without a Whyte Woman. Fulfilling role of Unavoidable Voice Of Whyte Sanctity was Katrina Browne. Ms. Browne rose to these illustrious ranks having written a book and emmy-nominated film detailing her family’s heritage of being the largest slave-trading family in U.S. history. Irony abounds as yet another liberal Whyte finds a way to get that bag coming and going…

Fulfilling that role of rookie superstar is Colemann Hughes. That young rising star among YouTube’s Intellectual Dark Web was present to either counter Coates’s brand of logic or to simply add a privileged millenial voice to buttress Burgess Owen’s aged respectability politics.

Speaking of Mr. Owens, we here at Asylum are pretty sure his invite to this epoch-making supergroup was due to OJ Simpson attempting to figure out Twitter. Or maybe Jim Brown was still keeping up with the Kardashians.

What is a discussion of US Blacks or US Slavery without a superhero from the Black Clergy. Representing for Whyte Jesus and US Christian values like savior worship and witch hunting was the Right Reverend Eugene Taylor Sutton.

Surprisingly enough they allowed one actual economist and since she was a Black Woman, they had to have a Whyte Man sitting next to her. For historical balance, I am sure.

Either way, this event designed to study if there is a need to propose a restitution for impact of US Slavery, one of history’s if not history’s most draconian social order, was handled with about as much gravity as a Chuckie Cheese b’day bash.

Danny Glover’s career as an actor was raised at least three times by law makers. This particular act became so routine that one representative had to remind his colleagues they were not there to solicit autographs to their wives and kids. Even Sheila Jackson Lee seemed smitten and star struck as she defered to Coates for commentary on questions better suited for MIT PhD Economist, Dr. Juliane Malveaux. Dr. Malveaux, who had to remind that committee that it was she who had studied economics, and was not there for kombayahs.

Boo, Hiss, But No Autographs…

Black public figures and luminaries from Hollywood have represented US Blacks in front of Congressional committees before this one. Paul Robeson faced House Un-American Committee as well as Hazel Scott. However, my concern is that in our era of Twitter hashtags as picket signs, and Facebook videos as consciousness raising, we have entered a new arena where celebrities as voices are no longer taken seriously. Coates is not consulted for his opinion, but his poetic presentations plus an association with political office and a presently popular public intellectual. Danny Glover himself felt a need to interrupt the proceedings to reiterate his points, painfully, as if he knew the gravity of this moment might have been slipping from him.

There were several points in this proceeding when people boo’ed and cheered as if this were some sort of sporting event. US Slaves themselves did not all agree on best methods for liberation, or even visions, that is — what liberation should look. Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglas, both born into US Slavery, had distinct approaches despite their shared heritage. Slavery was its own ideological framework that spawned various approaches to survival and criticism of the United States.

I do not look at Coates any differently than I look at Hughes. They both gained traction publicly by criticizing Black traditions for Whyte institutions. I question reparations as I have questioned integration. Public debate around these issues should not be rendered in a manner where we are chastising those US Blacks who have formed well thought out arguments against reparations as “hating themselves”. There were US Blacks that opposed integration who where murdered in front of their wives and children for their public service to US Blacks. Let us not be ignorant in our symbolic stance of sankofa.

Is Black Mirror’s Striking Vipers Pushing A Black Gay Agenda???

Like many of Black Mirror’s vignettes, Striking Vipers addresses an aspect of human behavior, at least that western variant, through the lens of technological cultural analysis. That is OWL speak for, it is about technology, but really, it is just about what people do and have done throughout history, more than likely. For example, writer Charlie Brooker in that popular “USS Calister” episode, explores office politics, alienation, nostalgia, and sexual harrassment via virtual reality, or even more simply, gaming.

Brooker revisits his virtual reality gaming theme with “Striking Vipers”. This time around his disc shaped extra-sensory gaming console provides us a conversation about marriage, age, Black masculinity, sexuality and nostalgia.

There are a couple of points I would disagree with this show’s writers’s overall perspectives as they might influence viewers. Two that I would like to deal with here are their take on marriage and that other is their take on Black masculinity.

In the same way that Brooker uses nostalgic pop culture as a commonly shared language for his virtual game world in “USS Calister”– namely inspirations taken from “Star Trek”– he borrows from classic video game “Mortal Kombat” to keep us all on the same page. “Striking Vipers” is a “Mortal Kombat”-styled video game. We are introduced to this game by US Black actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s character, Karl. Karl asks Danny(played by US Black actor Anthony Mackie) to play this game with him in a scene situated eleven years prior to the story’s contemporary timeline.

It is this scene that introduces us to “Striking Vipers’s” themes of homoeroticism in male bonding and Brooker’s exploration of that dynamic in relation to traditional heteronormative bonds between men and women.

Is There A Such A Thing As A “Black Gay Agenda”???

During the past few years strong movements have developed among women and among homosexuals seeking their liberation. There has been some uncertainty about how to relate to these movements.

Whatever your personal opinions and your insecurities about homosexuality and the various liberation movements among homosexuals and women (and I speak of the homosexuals and women as oppressed groups), we should try to unite with them in a revolutionary fashion. I say ‘whatever your insecurities are’ because as we very well know, sometimes our first instinct is to want to hit a homosexual in the mouth, and want a woman to be quiet. We want to hit a homosexual in the mouth because we are afraid we might be homosexual; and we want to hit th woman or shut her up because we are afraid that she might castrate us, or take the nuts that we might not have to start with.

Huey P. Newton, “the women’s liberation and gay liberation movements: August 15, 1970”, cf. The Huey P. Newton Reader, Edited By David Hilliard and Donald Weise

It must be noted for our purposes here, that this vignette has a predominantly US Black cast. For that reason, I situate this discussion in a way that invokes a literature encompassed by US Black Sexual politics and Black Male studies. That is to say, we will not just be discussing this as a vehicle for male bonding as it impacts traditional male and female couplings, but as a media representation of Black Males, Black Family, and Black models of sexuality.

When dealing with US Blacks, there has to be a respect for a history of middle passages, slave codes, red records, Jim Crows, mass incarcerations, and hashtags. Within this body of respect, a tone of serious inquiry into oppressive methodology and a wide array of solutions towards tackling those methods must be adopted. What this means is that any and every possible method of genocide and psychological warfare is worthy of public consideration. This has often placed well-intentioned people at odds with other well-intentioned people.

Oppression as a social condition is a foundation of fragmentation. Human history seems to be a bloody tapestry of egregious empires, despotic democracies, and otherwise homicidal heirarchies. That tapestry cannot exist without fragmentation of oppressed groups vying for resources–material, social and psychological–held by those that seek to reduce their humanity to categories of otherness. It is from this dynamic that notions of a gay agenda grew to represent a campaign of effeminizing Black males to reduce their ability to forge effective movements of physical resistance.

Before we move on here, I think it is also important to consider hostilities associated with social stigmas such as “gay plague”. While race in the United States impacts a significantly larger group of people with a significantly different set of oppressive technologies for significantly different reasons, this does not reduce the pain suffered by homosexuals in the United States of America. Before there was “male bashing” in the media, there was “gay bashing” on the streets.

Further, as noted as recently as a 2013 content analysis of newspapers covering NBA player Jason Collins’s “coming out”:

“Media have historically framed gay male athletes as soft, which was further reinforced in coverage since most of the prominent openly gay male American athletes (e.g. diver Greg Louganis, figure skater Rudy Galindo) competed in sports long framed by mass media as being effeminate and inappropriate for men.”

Kian, Edward M, et al. “‘I Am Happy to Start the Conversation’: Examining Sport Media Framing of Jason Collins’ Coming out and Playing in the NBA.” Sexualities, vol. 18, no. 5-6, 2015, pp. 618–640., doi:10.1177/1363460714550915.

This is me reiterating points I have made in the past elsewhere. If there is a gay agenda, it is a smart move. As a US Black Man, I have a US Black agenda. Oppressed people should have media agendas. Does this gay agenda when using Black Male images influence or inspire Black Men to be “effeminate”, which is code for unwilling to physically present resistance in face of an always-growing and always present physically imposing whyte supremacy?

I do not believe this. It rests on a specious premise that effeminate people cannot physically defend themselves or cannot physically dominate non-effeminate people. This is historically inaccurate.

That being said, I have other concerns about Black Mirror’s Striking Vipers.

Black Mirror’s Black Marriage

Black Mirror’s Striking Vipers is ultimately about Danny and Theo(Nikki Beharie) as their romantic relationship evolves from what appears to be shacking up to being married with children. From this episode’s opening showing them role playing as strangers at a bar(and slight foreshadowing) to its ending, this show is primarily a discussion of Black relationships with their marriage as the control. No matter how “futuristic” Brooker’s rendering of gaming consoles and virtual reality might be, most men engaged in cohabitation will have had their relationship with their male buddies analogized as homosexual.

A cursory glance at Google results for the query “marriage and gaming” may be enough to prove my point for those who have not had such experiences with heterosexual cohabiting. Taking a look at Google’s “Searches related to marriage and gaming” we are presented with a list of links including:

“divorce over video games”
“video games hurt relationships”
“my husband would rather play video games than spend time with me”
“gamer boyfriend problems”
“husband addicted to phone games”
“he’d rather play video games”

As a form of foreshadowing(or simply exposition), we have a scene transitioning from Theo and Danny having sex to Danny and Karl playing “Striking Vipers”. As an homage to “Mortal Kombat”, both characters are allowed to pick a game avatar that they have mastered moves for. Karl selects his favorite avatar, Roxette (Pom Klementieff) whereas Danny plays Lance (Ludi Lin). During their game play, Karl roughhouses with Danny in sexually suggestive ways.

Brooker fast forwards 11 years and now we find Danny and Theo married with child plotting on children. While celebrating his b’day hosting a cookout, we see Danny ogling other women’s bodies. Karl pays Danny a surprise visit which only complicates Danny’s own adulterous leanings. Karl, still not married, shares images of women with Danny, and when Theo suspects they are hiding something, Karl even shows her.

This entire scene sets us up for two things. One is part of Brooker’s overall discussion, which amounts to a tirade designed to persuade audiences that hedonism is better than structured couplings despite whatever questions of responsibility might arise. Secondly, we are presented with Brooker’s choosen device(pun somewhat intended) to explore this argument with. It is here that Karl gifts Danny with what appears to be the 10th installment of “Striking Vipers”,a virtual reality update with a few new easter eggs.

As stated above, Brooker borrows heavily from his previous work, “USS Calister”. While I am mostly concerned with form factors(a disc as interface), a vision of virtual reality that is much more psychosomatic than physical-digital, and his obvious nods to pop culture(a Star Trek-like mod, an homage to Mortal Kombat) as a means to create a common language, there are other consistent variables worthy of note. Although USS Calister focuses on consciousness trapped inside of a virtual reality, both episodes entertain this notion of avatar as other. Brooker revisits this notion in Striking Vipers by having Danny and Karl have sex via their game avatars.

I mentioned above that much of this vignettes’s theme can be compared to those many wives seeking marriage consultation from Dr. Google about their husbands spending more time with video games than with them. Brooker adds that other component often known to result in a wife or girlfriend to verbally question her mate’s sexuality, his boys. Following a traditional romantic story arc, Brooker has our characters on an emotional roller coaster that ends with Karl and Danny fighting one another after a “test kiss”. We are left to assume that Danny confesses everything to Theo as our final chapter shows them swapping her wedding ring — a symbol of them agreeing she can go have sex with randoms at the bar — for Danny’s virtual reality set — a symbol that he and Karl have decided to further their virtual pornography sessions.


Beyond Brooker’s brand of virtual reality here, I think his theme is fairly common and understood without these on the nose analogies, although they are visually interesting.

Even my wife and I have had our own variant of this theme. However, our solution was a lot less extreme than that proposed by Brooker here. We just decided to play video games together. Which might have been a balanced solution and a resolution I would have deemed more realistic, possibly more edgy given Black Mirror’s library of more nihilistic endings.

In other words, instead of Theo swapping her wedding ring however often they are agreeing upon in this makeshift open relationship, why not just write Theo & Danny spicing their relationship via this highly immersive, high sensory virtual reality game? Brooker already opens up with them role playing, it would not have been farfetched to see those characters extend that into virtual space. Brooker goes out of his way to frame Karl as an open and honest hedonist, as well as subtly suggesting that Danny and Theo are open to various pleasure experiments(Theo is written to state that they once all used “molly”). Given this framing, I found it odd that they Theo would be the one forced out of their trio to find affection with randoms. Why couldn’t she play as Lance a few rounds?

Also, I have noticed that many discusses this episode have mentioned its gender bending, transexual implications, but not many have considered its racial undertones.

Furthermore, Brooker does not establish a firm definition of Danny and Karl’s sexual relationship. While we are all free to exist sexually without labels, our mates who have sworn oaths of lifelong fidelty may want a memo when we decide to update our preferences. Theo is never shown to question Danny’s sexual attraction to his male friend on some level. Are we too assume that Brooker’s advice to all those women using Google’s Marriage Consultation Services is cheat with random strangers? Are we to assume that Brooker believes that the average US Black Woman would not question her mate’s sexuality in this sort of arrangement? Expanding from that interpretation, are we also given to conclude that Brooker believes US Black Women(especially those still coping with body changes after two pregnancies) would be satiated spiritually and psychologically by emotionless sexual encounters with randoms at a bar with no internal pangs about being cheated on by her husband with another man on some level?

Also, I have noticed that many discussing this episode have mentioned its gender bending, transexual implications, but not many have considered its racial undertones.

Both US Black Male characters embody what I am assuming to be Asian avatars. Is this a suggestion that US Black Men find Asian women more desirable? Is Brooker suggesting that US Black Men prefer this particular body type? As a proponent of Black Media Trust, it is important that we dig a few layers underneath the spectacle. Especially in a series like Black Mirror that is designed to promote inquiry into our social relations, and even more so given this particular writing wishes to play on identity sets.

A Designation Of Specificity ::: Richard Wright’s American Negro

I would like to open by revisiting what we have already established so far in this discussion. Initially, we visited Ms. “Unbought & Unbossed” Shirley Chisholm’s experiences as they related to distinctions between native born US Blacks (or descendants of US Slaves) and their immigrant or first generational Black counterparts. While establishing a clear indication of a need for a designation of specificity written prior to 2018 about incidents that occurred in 1970s, we also showed how fictive kinship obligations at a racial level are exploited by political players.

From there we examined the anthropological work of Ms. Zora Neale Hurston. Her interviews with Cudjo Lewis(née Kossola-O-Lo-Loo-Ay) sparked her own related responses recorded in her autobiography, as well as Mr. Cudjo’s own words detailing relations with those Blacks born in the antebellum South.

After showing both parties in early 20th century invoked sentiments underlying a designation of specificity, we explored Martinique born, Algerian revolutionary, Mr. Frantz Fanon. His thoughts on Afrikan culture and his experiences with US Black attendees at the first congress of the African Cultural Society which was held in Paris in 1956 helped to establish a Pan-Afrikan connection to a historically documented desire for a designation of specificity.

In this essay, we delve into the thoughts of one of the most, if not the most, prominent US Black at that 1956 Congress of African Cultural Society. Richard Wright addresses this conference in a speech documented in Presence Africaine. To maintain focus here, let us immediately address our concerns.

Plainly, our concern here is that some intellectuals have wrongly stated that those sentiments expressed by Yvette Carnell and Antonio Moore regarding a need for a designation of specificity among various segments of Blacks does not have historical trajectory and that there is no body of literature suggesting similar sentiment.

While we venture further into Richard Wright’s work here later, I want to quote his statements that prefaces his actual reading.

In his own words:

This afternoon, my old friend, Cedric Dover, from the United Kingdom, recalled a passage on nationalism that I had written quite a few years ago, — a passage on nationalism that I had written quite a few years ago, — a passage on nationalism among American Negroes — M. Dover expressed the hope that this statement of mine on Black nationalism would remain valid for some decades to come.

At the time I wrote that short statement on Black nationalism, we American Negroes lived our lives in a bitterly hostile racial environment. We had to build our own black churches, our black schools, our black butchershops, our black hospitals, our black newspapers, black graveyards, and a black culture in general. In short, we had to construct black ghettos in which to live. Had we not built them, we would have perished. Since that time, however, our claims to humanity have found a great deal of implementation in American law backed by police and military action. I hope, and this is all that I can say about this matter at present, that that implementation in law and that police and military action on our behalf will continue. I would like to explain that the Black Nationalism that we, American Negroes, practised in America, and which we were forced to practise, was a reluctant nationalism, a proud and defensive one. If these implementations of American law continue, and, as they continue, that nationalism of itself will be liquidated. I hope, even though I wrote lines to justify Black Nationalism in America, that they need not remain valid for decades to come.

Tradition and Industrialization: The Plight of the tragic elite in Africa, Richard Wright, Presence Africaine No. 8/10, 19-22 September 1956

From this above reading, we can see that from the outset of Richard Wright’s presentation, he frames US Blacks (“American Negroes”) differently than other Blacks. While we disagree with his interpretation of police and military involvement, it is necessary to note that he highlights Black nationalism in USA as a fundamentally specific group project.

With that out of our way, at least partially, I would like to delve deeper into Wright’s work. I am obligated to note a certain irony here that I did not plan. Namely, this is not the first piece I have written that discusses Ms. Zora and Mr. Richard Wright. I did not agree with him completely in that piece either. But moving on!

First of all, my position is a split one. I’m black. I’m a man of the West. These hard facts condition, to some degree, my outlook. I see and understand the West; but I also see and understand the non — or anti-Western point of view. How is this possible? This double vision of mine stems from my being a product of Western civilization and from my racial identity which is organically born of my being a product of that civilization. Being a Negro living in a white Western Christian society, I’ve never been allowed to blend, in a natural and healthy manner, with the culture and civilization of the West. This contradiction of being both Western and a man of color creates a distance, so to speak,  between me and my environment. I’m self-conscious. I admit it. Yet I feel no need to apologize for it. Hence, though Western, I’m inevitably critical of the West. My attitude of criticism and detachment is born of my position. Me and my environment oare one, but that oneness has in it, at its very heart, a schism. I regard my position as natural, though others, that is, Western whites, would have to make a most strenuous effort of imagination to grasp it.

Tradition and Industrialization: The Plight of the tragic elite in Africa, Richard Wright, Presence Africaine No. 8/10, 19-22 September 1956

What Richard Wright is addressing here are ideological differences between those he is attending this conference with. Before discussing my usage of “ideology” here, let me take some time to paint this contextual picture. Richard Wright is delivering this message and having it transcribed for an audience that is composed of Alioune Diop, L.S. Senghor, Frantz Fanon, Cheikh Anta Diop, Aimé Césaire, and a host of other note-worthy individuals that defined the Négritude movement. What is salient here is that Wright is highlighting his USA-ness to a group of people whose nativity and nationalities extend the globe from the West Indies to Senegal. Here we see a prominent Black thinker in 1956(over sixty years from the date of this writing) making a pronounced and public distinction of specificity while framing Black Nationalism within the context of a global Pan-Afrikanism or internationalism. Alright, now on to my reading of “ideology”.

I am here using Barbara Fields’s ideology as I have outlined for Black Media Trust. In her own words she frames ideology as:

Ideology is best understood as the descriptive vocabulary of day-to-day existence through which people make rough sense of the social reality that they live and create from day to day. It is the language of consciousness that suits the particular way in which people deal with their fellows. It is the interpretation in thought of the social relations through which they constantly create and recreate their collective being, in all the varied forms their collective being may assume: family, clan, tribe, nation, class, party, business enterprise, church, army, club, and so on.
…Ideologies do not need to be plausible, let alone persuasive, to outsiders. They do their job when they help insiders make sense of the things they do and see–ritually, repetitively–on a daily basis.

“Racecraft: The Soul Of Inequality In American Life”, Karen E. Fields and Barbara J. Fields, pgs. 134-135

Why am I providing this definition of ‘ideology’?

I want it to be understood that ideology here exists on a local level. What Richard Wright exposes is an experiential — lived — response to conditions of a particular group of descendents of Afrika. Regardless of my own personal feelings about Wright’s “Native Son”, it could only have been written by a Black descendant of US slaves who migrated to Depression Era Chicago.

To show that Richard Wright himself thought these thoughts, and that this is not only my interpretation stretching your imagination, let us quote further from his own speech. Deeper in his text, Mr. Wright tells a joke that alludes to traditional Afrikan religious practices. Mr. Wright , a former active communist, is an atheist.

(I do find it ironic that I am using the work of someone such a dedicated iconoclast and anti-traditionalist to establish proof of tradition!!!)

As an apology for his lack of piety, he makes this parenthetical statement:

(Now, at this point, I shall begin some self-criticism. I wondered at this conference, when I heard delegate after delegate rise and speak, if we were sufficiently beyond the situation in which we have been hurt to permit my making an ironic statement of that sort. I wrote this paper up in the country, projecting an ideal room filled with secular-minded Africans more or less like myself in outlook. (I am trying to bring my paper into focus with the reality that has emerged from this conference.) I felt that I could easily make a statement like that. Being an American Negro with but few lingering vestiges of my irrational heritage in both America and Africa, I felt that I could be intellectually detached. But I place a question mark, in public, behind that statement.)

Tradition and Industrialization: The Plight of the tragic elite in Africa, Richard Wright, Presence Africaine No. 8/10, 19-22 September 1956

Once again, we have Mr. Richard Wright semantically framing this separation of concerns. Our main purpose here is to prove that there is a body of work suggesting that Blacks have historically sought to identify segments of global Black population by nationality, region, class, and other related forms of group identity. While this is true, I feel obligated to highlight Mr. Richard Wright’s sentiment when using “American Negro”.

Some thinkers have suggested that US Blacks designating themselves as such, especially when discussing reparations for US Slavery, causes division. What Mr. Richard shows here is just the opposite. He is not using “American Negro” to be divisive, in fact, he is using it to show where he and an audience of Blacks who formed the philosophical base of Pan-Africanism for their era are in solidarity. By making a distinction, he assuages potentially offended sensibilities and allows further unity of purpose.

A Designation Of Specificity ::: Fanon’s African Negro

In this essay, we wish to continue what seems to be a growing body of work showing that there is a library of literature — a tradition if you will — outlining a need for a designation of specificity between US Blacks born into slavery or descendants thereof and their Native Afrikan counterparts.

In my contemporary moment, this particular need grows from a set of reform measures. When Daddy Barry Obama became US President, there was a need to highlight his lineage. As more people vying for a US Black vote use(or abuse) reparations for those families and individuals socially and economically crushed by US Slavery as a policy promise, a system of verifying lineage will be required.

While this paper is not about reform or national genesis measures, per se, I do find it necessary to outline particular understandings within that domain. Reform measures are presented by those militant types with “good jobs” as reactionary. As these militant types wipe down their Telsa SUVs on their way to pay off professional class mortgages, they tout revolution as a static force without any local or micro dynamics.

This is a very romantic approach to nation conception. Ernesto “Che” Guevara makes it clear in his analysis of asymmetrical battles for national legitimacy that there will be a need to exhaust all peaceful measures. As stated above, it is our belief here that one major reform measure as it pertains US Black myths about political equality, social acceptance, and economic competitiveness. When a half Kenyan, Afrikan Negro US President was forced by political expediency to sit and have beers at his White House with a Whyte cop from Cambridge, Massachusetts because he rightfully pointed out abuse of power and racism when that pig invaded his Harvard University colleague’s home under auspice of “Black Man, Whyte Neighborhood”, we as a people checked off that from our list.

We are now entering a Federal election cycle where multiple candidates are selling promises of reparations for those descendants of US Slavery because selling prospect of another nonWhyte US President is no longer novel or desirable without policy considerations.

We are here to discuss a body of literature detailing distinctions of specificity vis-à-vis Blacks. I have included philosophical and historical context here to show where this discussion exists on a trajectory of thought and action related to global cessation of advancement of European domination.

In dealing with efforts towards global cessation of advancement of European domination, I turn to Algerian soldier, psychiatrist, and poet, Franz Fanon. In his chapter on artistic and intellectual contributions to national genesis in colonial Algeria from “The Wretched of the Earth”, “On National Culture” reaffirms points I have made earlier. To that point, he writes:

As soon as the first demands are set out, colonialism pretends to consider them, recognizing with ostentatious humility that the territory is suffering from serious underdevelopment which necessitates a great economic and social effort. And, in fact, it so happens that certain spectacular measures (centers of work for the unemployed which are opened here and there, for example) delay the crystallization of national consciousness for a few years. But, sooner or later, colonialism sees that it is not within its powers to put into practice a project of economic and social reforms which will satisfy the aspirations of the colonized people.

“The Wretched Of The Earth”, Franz Fanon, pp 207 – 208

Once again, I am only providing this particular quote to enhance our understanding of context, philosophically and historically. Not to belabor the point, but there is a practice among people that actually shot guns at their oppressors (as opposed to those who hold militance as a night job) that informs their theory in such a way as to acknowledge a need to allow people time to grow impatient with reform measures. In this light, let us return to our main idea of showing a body of literature outlining a need for designations of specificity among Blacks.

In the same work cited above, Fanon writes:

Negritude therefore finds its first limitation in the phenomena which take account of the formation of the historical character of men. Negro and African-Negro culture broke up into different entities because the men who wished to incarnate these cultures realized that every culture is first and foremost national, and that the problems which kept Richard Wright or Langston Hughes on the alert were fundamentally different from those which might confront Leopold Senghor or Jomo Kenyatta.

Off the top, I would like to highlight just how specific and pointed this language is. “Negro and African-Negro” blatantly position perspectives, even more so than Cudjo’s “colored”. Fanon is not only a combat veteran but also a skilled communications & psychological warfare scholar. He understands the need to center his experiences in his words. Negro, while a generic catchall, is being used to point to US Blacks. We know this because he uses two US Black writers as examples. His generic use of “African” in “African Negro” works more specifically in this case because it is being used to isolate those continental Blacks from those born in the USA. Fanon includes himself in this distinction (although he was born in Martinique), as well as Leopold Senghor and Jomo Kenyatta.

Let us also deal with same concerns I have had calling reparations a reform policy. This chapter from Franz Fanon is one of my favorite. I do not disagree with Mr. Franz here. His is not that metaphorical use of “revolution” so pervasive in my own nation and contemporary era. US Blacks still living within US borders asking this US government for social and economic remunerations for debts owed their parents is a reform policy, not a revolutionary one. There is absolutely nothing morally wrong with accepting that posture. As stated above, it is a necessary step toward whatever nation building agenda US Blacks will develop in future generations.

For further context, Fanon is ultimately quoting US Blacks and reframing his understanding in a manner that centers Afrikans. In his own words:

The Negroes who live in the United States and in Central or Latin America in fact experience the need to attach themselves to a cultural matrix. Their problem is not fundamentally different from that of the Africans. The whites of America did not mete out to them any different treatment from that of the whites who ruled over the Africans. We have seen that the whites were used to putting all Negroes in the same bag. During the first congress of the African Cultural Society which was held in Paris in 1956, the American Negroes of their own accord considered their problems from the same standpoint as those of their African brothers. Cultured Africans, speaking of African civilizations, decreed that there should be a reasonable status within the state for those who had formerly been slaves. But little by little the American Negroes realized that the essential problems confronting them were not the same as those that confronted the African Negroes. The Negroes of Chicago only resemble the Nigerians or the Tanganyikans in so far as they were all defined in relation to the whites. But once the first comparisons had been made and subjective feelings were assuaged, the American Negroes realized that the objective problems were fundamentally heterogeneous. The test cases of civil liberty whereby both whites and blacks in America try to drive back racial discrimination have very little in common in their principles and objectives with the heroic fight of the Angolan people against the detestable Portuguese colonialism. Thus, during the second congress of the African Cultural Society the American Negroes decided to create an American society for people of black cultures.

ibid 216

Without me quoting this entire chapter, it should be noted that Mr. Franz uses this term “African-Negro” throughout this work after introducing it. His understanding of a unified, or Pan-Afrikan ideal — one he was willing to shed blood for, (not just complain about on text-based digital public forums) — is one that embraces a designation of specificity for each group of Blacks. Of course, these particular passages are directly discussing US Blacks and Continental Afrikan relations, but he also provides insights about relations between various Afrikan national cultures.

Let me make sure to hammer this in. Mr. Franz Fanon is presenting what many would consider a pan-afrikanist reasoning for a distinction of specificity as it relates to both US Blacks and Afrikans as well as between all Afrikan nations. Alright, let us wrap this up.

Our reason for addressing Mr. Franz Fanon’s work here is to add to this discussion negating those that state there is no body of work, or tradition, of thinkers and writers addressing need for a designation of specificity. In this piece I shown that Mr. Franz clearly states a historical trajectory of using a designation of specificity. I am including an interpretation that highlights Mr. Franz’s pan-afrikan leanings so that those that believe that a global cessation of European expansionism and a designation of specificity cannot coexist will be better enlightened.

We have shown that Mr. Franz Fanon compares US Blacks — or he reiterates a line of thought developed historically from US Blacks involved in first congress of the African Cultural Society in Paris in 1956 — to Africans ( as he states, “African-Negroes”) with specific national identities. US Blacks in his thinking have their own national interests in similar vein that those of Algeria or Nigeria might.

A Designation of Specificity ::: Shirley Chisholm’s Integrity & Kamala’s Pandering

Better cut off all identifying labels
Before they put you on the torture table

“Green Shirt”, Elvis Costello

Shirley Chisholm’s name has been bandied about lately. Former Conservative Prosecutor, excuse me, former San Francisco district attorney(2004-2011), Kamala Harris, may bear some responsibility for that. However, this slight resurrection of Mrs. “Unbought And Unbossed” Shirley should not in any way be regarded in a similar vein as say Alice Walker’s conjuring of Ms. Zora.

Ms. Chisholm’s reemergence into public mind space has caused me to revisit her own words and achievements. In her autobiographical work, “Unbought & Unbossed”, she writes about ancestry and constituency during her run to become representative of New York’s 12th congressional district.

In her words:

Less important than the sex issue was another undercurrent that ran against me. An inescapable fact, but one I have never liked to discuss because of the senseless bad feeling it can cause, is that a surprising number of the successful black politicians of our time are of West Indian descent. Thomas Jones, Ruth Goring, William Thompson, and I were all of Barbadian descent. State Senator Walter Stewart of Brooklyn is a Panamanian. So are many prominent blacks elsewhere in politics and the arts. In Brooklyn I have heard people grumbling for years, “They’re taking over everything.” Other black people will say, “Why don’t those monkeys get back on a banana boat?” There is a strong undercurrent of resentment, at least in New York, where most of the islanders migrated. It has never come out in the open against me, but sometimes I can sense it.

It is wrong, because the accident that my ancestors were brought as slaves to the islands while black mainland natives’ancestors were brought as slaves to the States is really not important, compared to the common heritage of black brotherhood and unity in the face of oppression that we have.But the feeling is there. One basis for it may be that in the islands, slavery was a less destructive experience than it was in the States. Families were not broken up as they were in the South. The abolition of slavery came earlier there, and with much less trouble. In the islands, there have never been the same kind of race barriers. There are class barriers, but they are not the same; race lines cut across them. As a result, I think blacks from the islands tend to have less fear of white people, and therefore less hatred of them.

They can meet whites as equals; this is harder for American blacks, who tend to overreact by jumping from feeling that whites are superior to looking down on them as inferior. Both attitudes equally isolate them from the greater society in which eventually we all have to learn to live.

“Unbought And Unbossed”, Shirley Chisholm, “Running For Congress”

Mrs. Shirley reminds us here that there are some specific differences between Blacks who are descendants of slavery in what is now referred to as the United States of America and those descended from slaves of other areas of these Americas. Her words, “I have never liked to discuss because of the senseless bad feeling it can cause”, points to a magnitude of courage and integrity not found in Kamala Harris’s Bardi B head nods, myths of marijuana clouds with Tupac and Snoop as soundtrack, or photo ops with hot sauce and soul food.

Another important sentiment addressed in above quote is Mrs. Shirley’s assessment of why US Blacks feel a need to address success of immigrant Blacks as a detriment to Our own achievements. Before I delve into that, it must be noted that Mrs. Shirley is a real one in my judgment. She is of that stock of Blacks that organized in housing projects before Jay-Z made it cool for people like Oprah to come through a Brooklyn housing project. This is not a discussion of Mrs. Shirley’s importance or character. I am having this conversation here — an extension of my thoughts I label, Black Media Trust– with her because she reminds us of how important it is to have a designation of specificity.


Her assessment, her analysis, of why US Black descendants of slaves feel a need to frame Black immigrants in a threatening way is biased. As it should be. As I would expect it to be. As I would not want it to be any other way coming from mind of such a strong and proud person. Mrs. Shirley is supposed to see this discussion from her perspective and stand as a representative of immigrant voice. Just as it is my role to represent a voice of those on that opposing side.

Given that understanding, what is Mrs. Shirley missing in her presentation of this dynamic? What would a Black person whose ancestry is so entrenched here in these states and its history of dividing families that they simply cannot name a specific family member that was not born in the United States say about relationship of descendants of US slavery and immigrants? Is the only group of people offering harmful and insulting words Blacks with US Slave heritage? Or is it possible that this dynamic is also represented by a disdain of US Black(descendants of US Slavery) by Black immigrants and those Blacks born here but not descendants of those mighty people that survived US Slavery in these states?

We are dealing with how Ms. Shirley presents this discussion. She suggests that this dynamic only exists as a US Black(Descendants of US Slavery) interpretation of immigrant success. It does not consider culture of Black immigrants embracing Whyte propaganda and ideological statements vis a vis US Black(Descendants of US Slavery). It does not consider this culture of Black immigrants harboring stereotypes about US Blacks(Descendants of US Slavery) as lazy, unambitious, anti-intellectual, and unwilling to engage resistance. Even her analysis bears this when she intimates, “I think blacks from the islands tend to have less fear of white people, and therefore less hatred of them…They can meet whites as equals; this is harder for American blacks, who tend to overreact by jumping from feeling that whites are superior to looking down on them as inferior.”

Her conclusion is not that Whytes power brokers have extended the same economic and social stratification initiated in US Slavery prior to the United States becoming “United States”. Her conclusion is that due to inferiority complexes, US Blacks(Descendants of US Slavery) are isolating themselves “from the greater society in which eventually we all have to learn to live.”

In conclusion, as I have written elsewhere, Black Media Trust has as a component a need to recognize when racial fictive obligations are being abused. It is my belief that comparing Kamala Harris to Shirley Chisholm is a form of this abuse. Further, Shirley Chisholm’s approach to distinctions of specificity represent her integrity and courage in stark contrast to Harris’s superficial pandering without addressing those distinctions of specificity although they exist.

Mrs. Shirley Chisholm’s acknowledgment that there are distinctions of specificity based on historical differences experienced is most important here. Despite her own understandable bias, her ability to recognize and publicly admit to these distinctions of specificity allows us to engage this discussion from a place of record and credibility.