That “Nigga” Gene…

Interesting enough is the particular identification with the “ghetto”, or “hood”. This internalizing of poverty as an expression of “survivor”, you know(won’t go away without effort, I swear)? There is this sense of achievement of just saying you lived in a particular neighborhood, even if the person is still living there. Many have this need to blame the environment, and yet are determined to hold on to it. Define themselves by it.

There is a major sense of pride that comes with that. In the same way that soldiers or people who have been in the military during occupations and wars might point to a medal, or mention the particular operations they were a part of. We even hear it, “I’m a ghetto vet”. Now, would that be a domestic occupation? And for some, being a “thug” is an occupation! And although I’m being slightly facetious, there is something in A) the reality for some that there is a war occurring on US soil, and B) the overall comodification of the urban male/female image.

To be certain, it would be wise of us to realize that the image isn’t a new one. Nor is it for the most part an organic one as opposed to a manufactured one. The same sorts of behavior projected through time that were once used to make the American Black seem animal like, or less civilized, have been used to criminalize them. What would once be considered highly offensive, propagandistic, and in many ways inhumane, is now widely accepted as the way it is. It is just “keeping it real”. In many ways it is a pattern of how some might even want it. For some, it is just a joke, depending on who is telling it of course.

Granted, the notion that stereotypes are exaggerations of possible truths may have some validity. The roles that we choose to adopt to express native ability, or even gender, are often given to us by those who have an interest in promoting a particular image. There is market for a Queen Latifah to be a cover girl, or even for women to adopt the ideal of “Barbie”. There is something telling when we see a personality such as Monique exerting herself, comically or otherwise, to replicate the movements of Beyonce. As if to say yes, it is “F— skinny b—-es, but we still can dance like you.”

So, it would seem as though, if the stereotype doesn’t apply, or if the role presented by the image is difficult to maintain, a certain insecurity is developed. In that insecurity it seems that overcompensation occurs. Or humiliation, whichever comes first. Even in a Kanye West, a black male rap icon that admits to dressing like a homosexual there is a need to reflect the images of what might be the stereotypical rapper. Although, Kanye is in a league of distinguished gentlemen, we find him posing with his hands on his girlfriend’s butt holding a bottle Hennessey. Later in the same night, after possibly enjoy the said bottle cognac, he upstages, as part of his normal award show routine, Taylor Swift while giving her acceptance speech.

For black males in the urban community there is no Marlboro man to consider. But there is the “real nigga”. Not only is there the difficulty of simply being a man, and whatever standards come with that, there is the need to push beyond “real” man, into a role that society has been taught to fear. The athletic professional must not only be skilled in the techniques of their sport, but highly aggressive, demeaning, and often wrought with a lifestyle that mimics rappers mimicking what is perceived as the drug lord’s lifestyle. Which can get confusing these days, as many drug lords are mimicking rappers and athletes.

The need to not only possess that traits commonly held as masculine, there seems to be the desire to adopt the projected roles. You can’t just be highly talented basketball player, you’ve got have guns, and be seen with an entourage of “friends” from the dreaded “hood”. You can’t just be a brilliant scholar, a political phenom, a gifted orator, you’ve also got to have Ludacris on your ipod, play basketball, walk with a limp, and eat at the local grease pit. You can’t just hold a phd in theology or philosophy, and boast of intelligent works, you’ve got to be able to recite Nas’ discography.

Even as the black man with the most respect and fear in the world, it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t fit the description. You’ve got to have that nigga gene…

Big Black Mammies, Chicken Thieves, and The Oscars…

So, how exactly do I feel about the Academy Awards Show I watched last night?

Between beating my head into the desk attempting to find humor in the cliche-esque punch lines of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, and hoping, yes hoping some sort of line would get crossed in the dialogue regarding Gabourey Sibide. Much of my viewpoint on this whole topic is biased, as for any American Black it should be. The highest honor for most actors and actresses is the Oscar. I have heard that the trophy called “Oscar” is supposedly representative of the Kimitian (Ancient Egyptian) God Ptah, not sure how that would correspond, but hey…whatever, right?

What I do know is that images play a strong part in the minds of people. Gabby is not going to be known as the articulate and bubbly young sister who struck it big in her first movie. She will be known as the fat black girl who ran out of the scene with a stolen bucket of chicken. I am happy for Monique’s win. I was a little disappointed at her lack of understanding. Her comment to the Academy was “…that it can be about the performance and not the politics…” Possibly.

If Mo’nique was playing the role of Dr. Mae Jemison’s mother, or possibly the mother of Sista Souljah, or better yet if she was playing the role of Fannie Lou Hammer-then I would say the politics had changed. Winning the Oscar for playing the role of a trifling, loud, fat black woman in the ghetto who is blaming her daughter for losing her man, dropping tears in the cued scene, asking, “Who’s going to love me…?” is not a change of politics. It was Mo’nique herself that evoked the name Hattie McDaniels.

I was blessed to watch a one woman performance of the life of Aunt Jemima. The stereotype of the aunt or mammy caricature seems to persist throughout history no matter how many real or fictive character types are created to outshine this monstrosity. Hattie McDaniels wins the achievement award for playing the role of the aunt/mammy caricature in “Gone with the Wind”. A great role to model, the aunt jemima role actually begun during the minstrel show days, and was immortalized in advertising by the Davis Milling Company, and they even hired a former slave, Nancy Greene to portray a real live “Aunt Jemima” for events such as the World’s Fair. Thus Hattie McDaniel’s Oscar winning performance was actually the reenactment of a Minstrel performance. And this is who our great and talented Mo’nique chooses to evoke. Thus in 2010, it could be argued that we are still wrestling the images that extended directly from slavery, and the caricatures invented during slavery to help promote it to northerners who had no clue as to what was actually going on in the homes of slave owners. It was slave propaganda. And regardless who promotes it, or who wrote it, Precious the movie, doesn’t move itself too far out of my “slave propaganda” radar.

Am I happy that Gabby didn’t win? I’m sort of satisfied. The young lady has a bright and rewarding career that I pray is not stained by this unfortunate “break”. I suppose a whore in a strip club who is allowed to perform next to a widely establish porn star would be greatly appreciative of any “break.” I suppose an upcoming star would be greatly appreciative of any chance to sit in the company of stars who have sold themselves for the privilege to be judged by the academy. I suppose.

I learned a long time ago that the winners of awards are usually never the “people’s champions”. And like Puffy/Puff Daddy/P Diddy/The Guy who snitched on Shyne for saving his punk ass life once said, “Don’t worry if I write rhymes, I write checks..” I suppose the money matters that much, and since money is power, and politics is the study of power distribution, I’d say my premise stands. And Mo…I love you sister…but it is always the same old politics…