You aren't Black and male in America if people are not afraid of you — this is a fact smart people don’t refute. We are Thugs, the Exquisite Monsters trapped in a pop-culture paradox old as America itself: Let Us Own You. Let us Love You. Let us Taste You.
Let Us Kill You Now.
(“You are your best, safest beast in a box or bag or casket of some sort.”)
If we are to survive, people need an icon of safe black maleness they can relate to. If you wear a hoodie or play loud music, even thoughtful white people will have no doubt as to why you got shot.
Early in, Gus was the face of black maleness and the wrongly(?) accused. Small wonder lynching became a national pastime. Those ideas still persist in the absence of the soft, accommodating face of assimilation and respectability. W.E. Parks. King. Gates. Obama. Yep.
We need to go younger.
America needs a young portrait of Black American Exceptionalism for perspective, to get some legislation churning, to die for Trayvon Martin's sin of being free and unbowed -- someone black, not Black. The face of Middle-Class Aspiration has be wearing Dockers, drinking a Yoo-Hoo and shot hard in the face on his way home from Lacrosse practice. Yes -- Theo Huxtable must die, because he is black, not Black. The juries will convict, the laws will pass. Because America loves black people.
You mad because juries are slow to find a murder charge when Cockroach gets shot, never understanding that Cockroach -- young, Black, male -- has it coming. He always does.
He always did.
Kluwe’s maybe lost his job, out there fighting someone else’s (?) fight. Sure — he’s gotten pats on the back, as well he should. But GLAAD isn't fighting to get him his job back.
Altruism is one thing, but don’t get it twisted —alliances have balance and equity. So Kluwe’s isn’t so much a gay ally. He’s a crony.
Too often, producers just want you on their TV or radio show because you are Black, and your Negro-ness becomes your dominant credential. They want you to be the Negro Tour Guide Through The Dark World. I'm on record: while it pays pretty well and gets you some pretty good pats on the head, it is not for me. I am not your Black Explainer: I don't wish to be Professionally Black. No shots. Just saying. I enjoy TMM and other stuff I do because while my Blackness is relevant, it is merely tangential. Frankly, that's the way I try to live my life.
Since Obama got elected, being Black seems to be the only reason I get called, so I don't do a ton of TV or radio anymore, or I do it as it entertains me. I did Al Jazeera recently, for instance. It was fun. To me, that's the only reason to do stuff like that, for me. For fun.
I've been on TV quite a bit -- I did it back when it was difficult to get on. When it paid. Now, if your Moms has a blog, and she's angry enough, she can get on MSNBC. Meh. Also, I'm something like a hard-body but I look fat on TV. So I'm good on that. Radio is almost always fun and involves friends and colleagues, or sometimes, a nemesis. So I almost always oblige.
I did some local radio in Cleveland on The Sound of Ideas at WCPN, the NPR affiliate. I pre-recorded my comments, as I was teaching the next leaders of the world about Black American social radics, classism, hip-hop, Tony Manero and the American Dream. It's still kinda weird for me, over at WCPN. People stop me in the streets to ask me about it, so I'm not telling any tales out of school here.
Talk of The Nation had me on when they were in town to talk Harvey -- because I am, after all the Harvey Pekar Scholar -- but WCPN only ever has me on -- like, 3 times in 5 years -- to talk about being Black (or about TMM, which is almost just tomato, to-MAH-to) -- and it's annoying. -- It's nice that they loaded my voice into the conversation. That's gratifying, in its way. It's hard not to be flattered. However, I hear me, talking about "we," like I'm the King of All Blacks this week, and it makes me wince. I should have been more careful in couching my comments in my personal experiences. Ugh. I'm hoping that now that I'm a little more grounded in-town, WCPN and I will do something that doesn't have anything to do with my black maleness.
Because, while I'm proud to be Black and male, being Black is probably the least interesting thing about me. My maleness? Well. Some find my maleness quite interesting, I am told.
A race man operates in all things social, political and economic with the good of The Race in mind. Silently. It isn’t racist so much as conscience: you owe your own first, best consideration. He has no Duboisian Dilemmas. His priorities are made clear if not explicit.
What happens when Our Man on The Inside gives The Race some dap?
By raising a flag so high, what fear and confusion has he wrought?
I said this already: #longform, nine times out of ten, is just an excuse to bury a thin argument in exposition. A lot of internet feminists and race-writers craft these whiney, earnest 3,000 word essays that have no meaning whatsoever; that reveal little except that the authors were likely paid by the word. No shots. But you know who you are.
So few people are doing that kind of prose well, chances are good you aren't one of them.
Feminists have such a love/hate relationship with Madonna. They love that she took slutting mainstream but hate she has no radics or politics that aren't of the moment or agenda-oriented. Black feminists particularly, because they can never be Madonna. Like every white hipster, she only loves black culture as it is able to inspire some kind of ironic response. I remain a fan, nonetheless. Madonna doesn't hide her agenda.
This argument regarding WorldStarHipHop's exploitation of Black girl-fights misses the point. Our daughters are raised on a diet of resentment, blind anger and reality television addiction where loud profane, antagonism and violence is preferred to reasoned conflict resolve.
No one is saying you’re not entitled to your anger, Sistaz. Just own it. Why is everything da Black Man’s fault?
Black feminism has no use for Black men until it needs an excuse for bad behavior.
It's rated "T" for Teens, because Martin was all about the kids. And twerking.
You won't mind if I double-down, right?
Paul Springstubb, the last English teacher I had before I dropped out of high school, would turn me on to two things: Richard Wright and Black Fire, an anthology of Afro-American writing edited by Leroi Jones.
I read the poem below, to my youngest son, hours after he was born, much to my then-wife's dismay.
"We must raise fearless kings and creators," I said.
By Leroi Jones (1965)
Poems are bullshit unless they are
teeth or trees or lemons piled
on a step. Or black ladies dying
of men leaving nickel hearts
beating them down. Fuck poems
and they are useful, wd they shoot
come at you, love what you are,
breathe like wrestlers, or shudder
strangely after pissing. We want live
words of the hip world live flesh &
coursing blood. Hearts Brains
Souls splintering fire. We want poems
like fists beating niggers out of Jocks
or dagger poems in the slimy bellies
of the owner-jews. Black poems to
smear on girdlemamma mulatto bitches
whose brains are red jelly stuck
between ‘lizabeth taylor’s toes. Stinking
Whores! we want “poems that kill.”
Assassin poems, Poems that shoot
guns. Poems that wrestle cops into alleys
and take their weapons leaving them dead
with tongues pulled out and sent to Ireland. Knockoff
poems for dope selling wops or slick halfwhite
politicians Airplane poems, rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr
rrrrrrrrrrrrrrr . . .tuhtuhtuhtuhtuhtuhtuhtuhtuhtuh
. . .rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr . . . Setting fire and death to
whities ass. Look at the Liberal
Spokesman for the jews clutch his throat
& puke himself into eternity . . . rrrrrrrr
There’s a negroleader pinned to
a bar stool in Sardi’s eyeballs melting
in hot flame Another negroleader
on the steps of the white house one
kneeling between the sheriff’s thighs
negotiating coolly for his people.
Aggh . . . stumbles across the room . . .
Put it on him, poem. Strip him naked
to the world! Another bad poem cracking
steel knuckles in a jewlady’s mouth
Poem scream poison gas on beasts in green berets
Clean out the world for virtue and love,
Let there be no love poems written
until love can exist freely and
cleanly. Let Black people understand
that they are the lovers and the sons
of warriors and sons
of warriors Are poems & poets &
all the loveliness here in the world
We want a black poem. And a
Let the world be a Black Poem
And Let All Black People Speak This Poem
Baraka did a lecture at the Louis Stokes Branch of the Cleveland Public Library in the early 2000s. I took a reader and also two copies of "Dutchman," a play Dr. Carolyn Gordon from TriC turned me on to. "Why two copies, Brother - you gon' sell one?" he asked me. No, I explained. One was for me, one was a gift for my then-girlfriend. He snickered. "I hope she's still y'girlfriend after she reads it."