Black History – one for the ages… and the spacemen

If aliens arrived, and they asked you about black culture in the United States… and YOU are the only ambassador. Well… clearly not you.  But me. We can all agree this isn’t the best option, but it is what we have to deal with.  No pressure. Here is what I hand them:

 A book

soul on ice > Eldridge Cleaver. Eldridge Cleaver as a leader in the black panther party. You need to learn about them, they were AMAZING. They were a ‘black power’ group, but did this by taking over their own neighborhoods. Food drives, shoe drives… etc. Wait, you say – didn’t they shoot white cops? Nope. Geronimo Pratt’s sentence was finally overturned and he was set free. Pratt was jailed in the early 70s for shooting cops. But, he didn’t. He was set up by the cops.  Turns out the witnesses were cops who were lying.  Pratt did almost 30 years for that bullshit.  Same with Hurricane Carter.  It’s no wonder why black people hate you. I hate me already!

So a brief primer on the Panthers, whom I love. It was started by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. In this time, in Northern California… blacks were getting majorly hassled. This was happening everywhere, in here they took a stand. Huey Newton, the leader, knew law. He LOVED law. He would follow cops, and when would pull over and harass black folks, he would stand there and tell them their rights. “you don’t have to answer that”. Or “ask if you are being detailed, and do NOT allow them to search your person or vehicle. You have rights!”  Huey was known to carry a rifle in one hand, and a law book in the other.  Is there a better symbol of America than that?

 Yeah, he really did that. He ran around at night and advised his poor black community peers of their rights against the white racist cops. Well, the cops hated that, as you can imagine. Nixon made them public enemy number 1.
Eldridge became a leader in the group shortly after. According to Eldridge, he was very high up… possibly even #3 (behind Bobby and Huey). This book is Eldridge’s diary while he was in prison for something or other. Before you read it, know that Eldridge is a big fan of Eldridge. Did you read Clinton’s biography? It’s kinda like that. These guys LOVE themselves. Still, though, it is an AMAZING read and opened my eyes to black culture and contributions beyond what my middle class upbringing would provide.

 Bobby also wrote a book, called ‘Seize the Time’. Sadly, it isn’t as good. Know that Bobby was a MUCH bigger figure historically than Eldridge… but Eldridge is a hell of a writer. Eldridge even strikes me as a guy who probably refers to himself in the third person. Still worth it, though.

Side note – Bobby is still alive (unlike Huey and Eldridge). With the passing of Nelson Mandela… Bobby Seale might be the greatest living black activist… or a very close tie to Harry Belafonte.

 A movie

It is a real and genuine tragedy there is no good Black Panther movie. Man, would that make an amazing film. It has everything. I imagine young blacks know about MLK, and perhaps a bit about Malcom X (another amazing memoir, and also a bit of a hagiography)… but I bet few know about the story of the Black Panthers. Or worse, possibly the perception that the white power structure put out – that they were thugs and gangs and anti white and cop shooters. Listen, here is the thing… just because they are pro-black… it does not mean (to me anyway) they are anti white.  Speaking of movies and Malcolm X, I very much enjoyed the Denzel movie.  I think he did a terrific job.

 Sorry, I got diverted. I think Spike Lee’s movie ‘Do the Right Thing’. It’s a great story. Kinda funny, my only memory of the cast is Danny Aiello (the one white guy). I don’t much care for Spike, though. I think he is totally racist.  However, he is honest and upfront about his opinions.  Here is when I turned on him… or when he turned on us.  He was being interviewed for something, by someone, about making a shit ton of money on something or other and the reporter asked how he would spend the windfall.  Spike got all butt-hurt and demanded “would you ask a white man that?”.   Yeah.  Yeah we would.  It was an interview… about all the money you made… where we ask you questions… about the money you made.  No hidden agenda here, man.

Can I add one more thing?  It sure wouldn’t be a Tyler Perry movie.  Those movies are so stereotypie that my stereotypographometer®  just exploded.  Maybe if the aliens asked ‘how about a movie about what black people think white people think about black people’.

 An album

 Jimi HendrixElectric Ladyland.   This album is an insano masterpiece of songwriting and engineering. This is the last record from Jimi (in his life he only did 3). There isn’t much pop on here. No ‘Foxy Lady’, or ‘Purple Haze’. No sir. This fucker goes deep. To listen to the album optimally, I would recommend really good headphones, an ocean, and a shit ton of LSD. Not sure that is what you should do, but it worked for me. What was it Hunter said “I never advocated drugs, violence, alcohol, or insanity… but they always worked for me”.  Here is my favorite song of all.

oh, there is also this one.  Like this one a lot.  Side note, this album has Jimi’s highest charting hit… and it was a cover.

A poem

 You expect me to give you some Maya Angelou. I wish I could. I am sure it’s great. I never read any. From afar, it looked boring and preachy. I am not proud of that, just being honest.   Let’s go deeper, crackers. I am a lit guy, and I had a great lit teacher who turned me on to WEB DuBois. Dig this gem, from around 1900

My country tis of thee,
Late land of slavery,
         Of thee I sing.
Land where my father’s pride   
Slept where my mother died,   
From every mountain side
         Let freedom ring!

My native country thee
Land of the slave set free,
         Thy fame I love.
I love thy rocks and rills
And o’er thy hate which chills,   
My heart with purpose thrills,   
         To rise above.

Let laments swell the breeze   
And wring from all the trees
          Sweet freedom’s song.   
Let laggard tongues awake,   
Let all who hear partake,   
Let Southern silence quake,
         The sound prolong.

Our fathers’ God to thee   
Author of Liberty,
         To thee we sing
Soon may our land be bright,   
With Freedom’s happy light   
Protect us by Thy might,
         Great God our King.

a tv show

 In Living Color, the Wayans family.  So funny, and so aggressive and silly at the same time… about race issues.  That show was brilliant.  That show did what I think Tyler Perry is trying to do but can’t… let black people celebrate their differences and laugh about cultural variances.  This can be done playfully bouncing off stereotypes… without beating them to death.  I have never seen on of the 13 ‘Madea’ movies… but I will bet my life there is a scene in every one where she is sweating in a pentecostal church with a fan saying things like ‘oh lawdy lawdy lawdy’.  I bet she threatens to ‘whoop a lot of ass’.    Perry, you are to blacks what Adam Sandler is to whites.  Don’t over think that, it just wanted to see what it looked like in print.

                               power to the people.  All power to the people.  – Huey Newton


The Eddie Murphy Archetype

Critical Update -Sept 2019 – far bottom >

Is there a better picture than above to celebrate Black History month.  That is Angela Davis giving the black power salute as she is being taken away in court.  For her fight, I am coining a new phrase here.  It’s the one above. I am here to tell you that the ‘Eddie Murphy Archetype’ thrives because you are racist.

Slowly I began to realize that when white people are alone, they give each other things for free

– Eddie Murphy as a white man in SNL’s brilliant ‘White like Me‘.

The Eddie Murphy Archetype (we’ll call it EMA for short) works because you get to laugh at a black guy who says all the things you so badly wish you could say, but don’t.  He is a black man who you are not afraid of.  You love the EMA because to you; it means you aren’t racist.

How could you be racist?  You own every Eddie Murphy DVD, even those super bizarre ones he has been doing for the last twenty years.  Now would a racist person have that much Eddie?  Yes.

Your racism isn’t what fascinates me, though.  It is how replaceable that guy is.  After Eddie just dropped off the earth, we were issued Martin Lawrence.  Yes, he was issued to us.  Since we didn’t have Eddie, us whities needed a new black clown  to dance for us… so that we would feel ok about the whole slavery thing.  You think “well, this guy is funny and rich.  So, clearly he isn’t being oppressed.  Heck, without me, the white suburbanite, this guy would be dirt poor.  Really, I am a hero here.  No more white guilt.

I guess we don’t want the blacks to get too uppity, because you only get about a five-year run at the top.  Then, we tire of your schtick.  Every five years (approximately) we get a new black guy to say those zany racist stereotypes.  “why can’t you white  people dance?  Y’all got no groove!” and we laugh because it’s so true.  The character has bonded with us, and let us know he doesn’t hate us for slavery.

After Martin Lawrence, we were issued Chris Tucker (from Friday), and he had a good give year run doing nothing but Uncle Tom bits that pretty much mirror “Mr Robinsons’ Neighborhood”.

So, he left us after about a five year run.  Then, we were issued Will Smith.  I know you think of him as a great and thoughtful actor, and he is.  It is how he lasted so long.  Remember, Will Smith wasn’t always doing super thoughtful biopics.  Check  out his IMDB page, it isn’t all Oscar material.  So, Chris Tucker faded and we were issued Chris Rock.  He faded after a great five year run and then Dave Chappelle jumped in just at the right time.

Now we know Chappelle is gone.  I mean, he meant it, and did it on his own terms.  He walked away from a 50 million dollar contract with Comedy Central.

So, that brings us to Kevin Hart.  His roles are SO close to Chris Tuckers, for the first few movie previews I thought it was Chris Tucker.  They are playing the exact  same characters.  To prove the concept that Kevin Hart is nothing but a flavor of the month, watch this clip.  The whole gag, in its entirety, is Hart yelling over and over again “you’re white!  You’re White!  You don’t fight!”  What kind of patronizing shit is that? What makes it hilarious is for that gag to work, we have assume every black man knows violent struggle in life that we couldn’t imagine.  So, the violence inherent in the racial divide is owned solely by young black men.  If you look at prison stats, you might conclude they are right.  For the gag to work, it pre-supposes you think most (or all) blacks are violent thugs.  This character takes the spit out of it by letting us know it’s ok.  We will always be fortunate and safe from street violence just because we are white.

Even after analysis, I still love the clip.  I think it’s great.  But, on many levels it is also degrading to the black man.  This is no different from a hot girl in a beer commercial.  Yes, I know she is being exploited for sex and that is simply to get my to lock into that product.  However, I still watch and drool.  For me, it’s a fair trade-off.

I don’t think for a second anyone of these actors wants to be a disposable dancing clown for the white man.  But, it pays well.  So, keep an eye here.  We’ll watch Kevin Hart have a great five-year run and disappear.  He will have a very public tax problem, most likely, and then we will be issued a new guy to mirror our best guesses of what life must be like to be black.

I think Chris Rock nailed the barrier between races.  He explained, rather thoughtfully, that:

“None of ya would change places with me! And I’m rich! That’s how good it is to be white!”

In writing this, I don’t mean to denigrate the actors.  Clearly, some of these actors are brilliant and funny and talented.  They deserve recognition for being more than a trope.  Yet, what else could explain Martin Lawrence?  How did he make the cut?

Here is further proof of my concept.  (Black) Comedian Jay Pharoah does them all in 2 minutes.  (there are two different clips above.  Watch both, it’s dope!

Being wrapped up in the EMA is lot like being an NFL running back.  You get five great years – and then you are dunzo!  By 35 years old, you are no longer needed by society.  That is what makes you racist.  That is what makes it so funny.  Power to the people, ALL power to the people – Bobby Seale.  Black Power!

*** bonus feature.  WTF is the deal with all these?  Eddie made at least 11 of them, Tyler Perry has made even more.  They are so patronizing to the black experience I can’t even discuss them.  Why is every black woman over forty played identically teh same?  She is fat, and has a huge ass, is over-nurturing, and says thinks like “whoop your ass” every 40 seconds she is on screen?  I blame the Jerk.  It started there.

Update Sept 2019

I wrote this four years ago, and boy was I prescient.  This is what Eddie Murphy told Jerry Seinfeld verbatim in a recent interview:

Murphy says he had a “strange relationship” with Pryor. “Back when I broke, the town was still doing a one black guy at a time thing,” he explains. “So when I showed up, Richard kind of had this—there was this feeling like this was the new one, so Richard kind of felt threatened.”