“A community will evolve only when a people control their own communication” – Frantz Fanon
“In the context of the American dilemma the socioeconomic immobilization and destruction of the African American population must occur most intensely at the very time when a minuscule segment of that population appears to be garnering increased social and political status, and when a very substantial percentage of African Americans are deceived into thinking that such increasing status is indicative of ‘Black progress’. Racist agendas must be pressed while the dominant White groups for the most part, appear to be less overtly racist in attitude and behavior. Thus, if necessary, African American genocide must occur during the time the ruling segments of the White American citizenry seem to be relatively most committed to African American survival, upliftment, complete social, political and economic assimilation into the mythical ‘American mainstream.'” – Dr. Amos N. Wilson, “Black-on-Black Violence: The Psychodynamics Of Black Self-Annihilation In Service Of White Domination”
“Describing a way of life that they don’t understand, G/So I’m goin’ keep breaking it down until they understand me…” – Spice One(1993)
There is a dangerous advantage for White corporate officers and their gatekeepers to be able to select and harness US Blacks to represent other US Blacks from a distance vis–à–vis class and experience. One of the major problems I have with fictive kinship is that it allows for strangers to feel connected to moments of accomplishment. To be allowed to represent those moments of accomplishment by other US Blacks for White people exploiting an audience that does not often see themselves on screens. I liken the hoisting of particular media personalities above US Blacks as spokespeople to a White Woman that dates US Black men exclusively articulating a bond with US Black Women and an ability to speak for US Blacks.
I want to write about neocolonialism here. I want to remind my readers that there is a clear and present cause for alarm when you allow an exploitative, greedy and hostile corporate entity to dictate who your US Black Leaders are. I want to reinforce the reality that there are no US Black controlled mainstream media outlets. All US Black media with mass access is influenced by White corporate financing. The sacredness that infuses all things US Black due to the atrocious nature of our genesis is being manipulated every time a US Black stands in the name of US Blacks under the auspice and machinery of White business and politics.
Due to this fact—due to this objective and empirical data set, I cannot support US Blacks solely because they appear in a position of authority along White controlled career tracts. If race is to be treated as solely a social construct, like one’s national identity, I reserve the right to pick and choose who I deem worthy of my loyalty and who should be held for treason. Since there is no US Black land protected by a US Black military and governed by laws and edicts erected by US Blacks, I feel no compulsion to simply honor the works of US Blacks chosen by Whites to serve their financial and influential purposes. There is no direct connection between them and I, and I have no need to believe the myth that because one US Black is selected to oversee the water cooler discussions of other US Blacks, that I too will one day be so “blessed” by Whites. A class domination pointing to what I suspect are the origins of the US race imbroglio.
Racial class organizing by Whites in regards to US Blacks has always been invidious comparison. The promotion of US Blacks by virtue of a cultural “closeness”, an esteeming of White physical qualities to ensure a branding of social authority feels recursive in this era, the authenticity of Willie Lynch and his letter be damned. The ascension to ranks among US Blacks is hardly ever solely a democratic act of choosing among the US Blacks. Our leaders are not weighed and measured by us, but by an oppressive outside entity seeking not to inject elite talent, but to further our obeisance and dependence on the White corporate state and loyalty to a branding of White people as supreme. A psycho-social internalization almost reminiscent of Pavlov’s classical conditioning with the need for social status being the dog’s saliva and money and prestige doled out by White CEO’s being the food.
Goran Therbon writes in “What Does The Ruling Class Do When It Rules?”:
“The classical format of bourgeois representation is one whereby political leaders emerge as outstanding individuals out of an informally organized bourgeois public, composed of members of the ruling class and allied strata, lawyers and sometimes bureaucrats. These persons appear as candidates for leadership in various noninstitutionalized ways during the everyday social intercourse of the ruling class. Originally, they were then elected by other members of that class. This was the prevailing pattern in the Dutch Republic, in England until at least 1832, and in France under the Restoration and the July Monarchy. It even managed to survive radical extension of the suffrage. Thus, a notables format has characterized the French Third and (after 1947) Fourth Republics, and, in significant though modified ways, the still unstable bourgeois party system of the Fifth Republic; it largely marked British politics before 1945(it was not until 1965 that a Conservative leader – Edward Heath was formally elected); and, on the whole, it prevails in the United States to this day.”
Much of the intra-racial stratification-that is to say, the class organizing and hegemony amongst US Blacks- is based on colorism and perceived assimilation. Perceived assimilation tends to have no higher coin than appearance in the media as celebrity. Celebrated academics that have no previous associated work in the US Black community– nor status driven primarily by an association with US Blacks– are given status over US Black by virtue of their celebrity bequeathed to them by White controlled institutions.
Due to a lack of control by US Blacks in not media but also academics, various bouts of scholarship and debate under the mask of social uplift and at times even “revolutionary” theory occurs between members of academia. One such occurrence ensued after Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow”. Although her book discussing US Black incarceration with its leaning on the unfair practices of locking up US Blacks with drug charges received critical acclaim, it also was hailed as treasonous in some circles. One of the writers, Joseph D. Osel in his critique, ‘Against Prison Studies Without Capitalism: “The Strange Career of The New Jim Crow”‘, goes so far as to label her work a form of recuperation, which is the state propaganda mirroring of a détournement. As a US Black writer, I do find it offensive to use metaphors of the past to compare to modern plights of oppression, I also, as a former US prisoner, find her work a necessary bit of scholarship, if only that it opened up a discussion in circles I typically do not transcend.
My ultimate assessment is that Michelle Alexander’s work is less recuperation (in the hegemonic, propaganda sense of the word) as a socio-political artifice and more an extension of exploitation. A gambit less for the overall redirection of ideas against the lower classes being imprisoned as US slaves, or an effective rewiring of the energy and psychological charge held inside the symbol “Jim Crow”, and more for the reaching of higher steps on the ladder of prestige. Regardless, it works as one of those bits of misdirection that tend to allow readers such as myself to be led to greater ideals whereby the more common, yet initiated, reader might miss the ideal. This oversight not bearing its development due to an inability to tease out an ideal, just that the ideal is so buried under concepts that trigger reactions as to be neglected.
To look towards a more blatant–and still effective form of recuperation– I look towards the superficial use of US Black cultural artifacts by the US President Barry Obama. A pimp’s gait, an average basketball skill set, a selection of popular hip hop tunes on his audio playlist work well enough to rearrange the elements of US Black masculine rebellion to be used by the state to justify it—or at least to get a muppet worshiped. The same with many elements that are applauded in Rhimes’ “Scandal”. A US Black father addressing his daughter by telling her she has to work twice as hard– while borrowed from the audience– forgets that it is an attack against a system, and yet the show it appears in allows it to be used as a justification for the egregious enmities of the US State apparatus. While the bellows of “YAASSS!” might be followed with great details of one’s upbringing and dictations of parents, the use of a US Black idiom in such a manner begs me to question, “Whose Black Is It Anyway?”
The reduction of sacredness in the media– and where I might be so inclined, specifically US Black media—often is a result of such operations. While these lines resonate with a body of people, the overall usage is for the justification of another method, as well as an initiation into the rites of US Blacks. An unfair squandering of valued and shared artifacts for the sake of a career buttressed by assimilated postures that have worked to frown on the same culture whereby the artifacts are molded. I fear typing that this misappropriation is appropriate; the very poetic nature of this verity tempts me so. To ask a member of a group to respect and honor tacit boundaries that have no consequence due to a lack of vigilant members tasked with being vigilant in an organized way seems asinine and unjust here. And yet, this is what we ask of those writers working for companies that see not a US Black sacredness but a means into their bank accounts. Whose Black is it anyway?
The hierarchical distance that saturates and defines much of what is US Black media creation cannot belie its hegemonic position. Whether it is argued as an intentional or coincidental impact, that most US Black writers and cultural icons are either products of elite training or celebrators of it, can only work to support and collude with the hegemony. Barry Obama’s rush from the offices of his first bid for presidency to make sure huge funds were allotted JP Morgan can only speak to his support of and faith in the status quo. Johnson Publication’s entreaty and dependence on JP Morgan for financial support can only speak to the decision maker’s support of and faith in that same status quo. To believe that that support and faith does not also temper the visions and directions of Obama’s Administration and EBONY’s editorial processes seems less than accurate. An inaccuracy that beckons those it influences to not only suspend but quell whatever critical analysis might be developed for a total immersing in the sacral ambiance of the presentation simply because it originates at such a hierarchical distance. As Shonda Rhimes types, she is not only not talking to those that should only take her artwork as gospel, she is only talking to those that are at distance from her audience; those high up enough in the stratification to be intoxicated(get high?) by the rare air of Ivy League graduation ceremonies.
“Situationism, unlike Marxism, had no sense that human history was moving toward victory for subordinate classes. There was a permanent dualism in its adherents’ view of recuperation, namely, that the ruling class could twist every form of protest around to salvage its own ends. The situationists’ enthusiasm for what they termed détournement…suggests that by this term they meant something akin both to subversion and diversion. In terms of the spectacle of everyday life, détournement particularly operates by redeploying official language but can also employ official visual imagery to subvert the established order. It is the revolutionary counterpart to recuperation, a subversive plagiarism that diverts the spectacle’s language and imagery from its intended use.” – “Radical Media: Rebellious Communication and Social Movements”, John D H Downing