Jasmyne A. Cannick

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Based in Los Angeles, at 29, Jasmyne A. Cannick is an award-winning nationally syndicated pop culture, race, and social critic/journalist, and she blogs too!  She can be reached at jasmynecannick.com or myspace.com/jasmynecannick.

 

 

 

 


 

Rev. Jesse Jackson and Black America's Ghetto Pass Conundrum
by Jasmyne A. Cannick


 

Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr., emphasis on the Sr., is obviously displaying the early signs of senility.

How else do you explain his blatant use of the N-word during that now infamous whispered conversation during a taping of "Fox & Friends" on July 6?

"Barack...he's talking down to black people...telling n--s how to behave."

The fact that Jackson, a self-described civil rights advocate used the N-word is not that surprising in the scheme of things. I mean after all, we are talking about Rev. Jesse Jackson. This is the same Rev. Jackson who had an affair with a staffer that resulted in the birth of a daughter. And the same Rev. Jackson who has made a career out of using his birthday as a personal corporate fundraiser to the tune of millions. Simply put, he is not without flaws.

Rev. Jackson, like others, have been pimping the Black civil rights movement for decades with the help of the mainstream media, there's nothing new there. The reality of the situation is, if the media would stop looking to Jackson to represent all things Black, and open the door for new voices, voices under 50, and yes-female voices, we might not be having this discussion today.

However, what I am trying to understand is what makes one Black man's use of the word any worse than another's? I mean, in the grand scheme of things, Jackson's use of the N-word on Fox, a network that by and large isn't being watched by the majority of Black people, isn't nearly as bad as the use of the word by today's rappers whose exposure far exceeds Jackson's, yet I don't see us all up in arms over that.

While Jackson did verbally castrate Obama with the "I want to cut (Obama's) nuts off" comment, where's the outrage over Black men who are acquitted of having sex with underage girls, even though it was videotaped?

I also remember a certain boxer convicted of rape who upon his release from prison was given a parade in his honor.

If you ask me, we've got our priorities all screwed up.

Sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but words can never hurt me.

As a Black female, I find it hard to take seriously the national outrage over Jackson's comments when we don't exhibit the same outrage over brothas in our own community who have done far worse simply because we like their music or they are a sports athlete.

Obama is a big boy who knew what he was stepping into when he announced his candidacy. He can defend himself, and if for some reason he can't, he's got Michelle and a staff of hundreds. Instead of being so quick to jump to the defense of Obama, we need to jump to the defense of ourselves and stop with the "selective" outrage and ghetto passes.

Calling someone the N-word and threatening to "cut nuts off" under your breathe doesn't compare to the damage done by and to masses of Black folks everyday who call each other niggas and worse and listen to music made by other Black people calling them niggas and worse. And it certainly doesn't compare to the physical, emotional, and subliminal damage that's been done to Blacks by internationally known recording artists and sports athletes who prey on young women, and get a pass from us.

The real harm being done to Black people isn't coming from Jackson or Obama, it's coming from us and our ghetto pass policies that prevent us from getting our priorities straight and keep us distracted.

 

 

On Hillary "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going, I'm Stayin', and You're Gonna Love Me" Clinton
by Jasmyne A. Cannick

 

"I am staying in this race until there is a nominee. I believe I'm the strongest candidate against John McCain and believe I will be the best president among the three of us running,"-Sen. Hillary Clinton

By all rational accounts, May 7th should have been the end of the Hillary "Point to One Person Wave and Smile" for President Campaign.

In a perfect world, Clinton would have gracefully and graciously conceded to her opponent Senator Barack Obama, thanked her supporters while steering them towards barackobama.com, apologized to all of the people she and her husband offended along the way, and prepared to do her part to make sure that the Democratic Party beat Sen. John McCain in November.  And then I woke up.

Clinton is just determined to be "The Little Engine that Could."

Instead of the Democratic Party beginning the healing the process so that we can move forward to November, making sure that President Bush doesn't see a third term via McCain, we've got to waste even more time on party in-fighting.

Add to that, faced with the reality that the HRC for President campaign is about to removed from life support, some of her supporters have gone ballistic vowing that if Hillary doesn't get the nomination they're either going to skip the polls in November or even worse--vote for McCain.

Let me be clear. 

Obama is my candidate and believe it or not, he has said and done some things that have upset me, like disavowing Rev. Dr. Wright Jeremiah Wright,  but never once did I consider skipping the election or supporting the enemy.  Was I disappointed-yes.  A bit pissed off-you betcha.  But, crazy enough to vote for McCain-hell no!

Look---the Clinton campaign could very well strong arm their way into getting the Florida and Michigan delegates counted in their favor and into the Democratic Convention where in a "backroom" her most loyal supporters could take it to the mat and duke it out resulting in her coming out as the nominee.  As mad I would be, it wouldn't provoke me to put aside common sense, cross the aisle, and put the nail in the coffin on any chance of turning around this economy, getting out of Iraq, and improving the lives of those living in poverty.

In my opinion, the only thing that Clinton and McCain have in common is their race.  So I hope that race isn't the reason for the threats of insanity from loyal Clinton supporters.  If you're a Dem, you're a Dem, and so whomever gets the nomination is who we fall in line behind to support.  It's called the bigger picture or for me, the lesser of two evils.

As a Black female, I can attest to the excitement at having the first Black or female President.  But it is time for Clinton to quit the theatrics and put the Party first by exiting stage left. 

Clinton's superdelegates need to get in line too.  Obama has more pledged delegates, states won and the popular vote.  The will of the people shouldn't be tampered with.  2010 isn't that far off and we're making a list and checking it twice.

The bottom line is that Clinton has overstayed her welcome and should be using her experience as a leader to aide in the reconciliation of the Party before November.  Afterall, that would be the Democratic thing to do.

 

 

Repeating History:

They Wanted King to 'Shut Up' Too
by Jasmyne A. Cannick

 

I refuse to live my life tip toeing around as to avoid making people feel uncomfortable when it comes to race, class, and America's memory problem when it comes to Blacks.

As I said before, the white man's burden is not the Black man's responsibility. 

There's a reason why in school, we were taught about Martin Luther King and not so much about Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey.

Some Black people speak the truth in a manner that frightens others who just can't handle it and see it as threatening and will do anything to silence it in an effort to preserve the status quo to keep doing business as usual.  Almost similar to the reality perceived by humans in the film the "Matrix," where a simulated reality was created in order to pacify and subdue the human population while their bodies' heat and electrical activity are used as an energy source.  Yes, our denial and downright fear about race and class in America has been and is currently being used to the advantage to others

And to be honest some Black folks can't handle the truth either. We like to call that Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, Dr. Joy DeGruy Leary's theory that explains the etiology of many of the adaptive survival behaviors in African-American Communities throughout the United states and the Diaspora.

You see you got your kumbaya hand holding folks who talk a good game in front of the cameras and then you got those folks that just speak the truth, no holds barred 24/7.

Enter Dr. Jeremiah Wright.

Black America, in particular Senator Barack Obama supporters, are fearful that while even though they agree with much of what he's said, that he's going to somehow ruin it for Obama.

This caused me to ask myself as an Obama supporter, what's more important---this country finally addressing its issues with race and class or getting Obama the Democratic nomination?

The reality of the situation is that Obama could be elected President of these United States tomorrow, but there would be no guarantee that America's race and class issues would get any better.  In fact, I could see it getting worse, as some Americans are operating under the belief that by voting for Obama America has somehow transcended race issues.  The lies we tell ourselves.

While I want to see Obama ascend to the Democratic nomination and eventually the presidency, his candidacy doesn't supercede the quest for racial justice for African-Americans.  America's race and class issues have gone on for far too long unresolved and allowed to fester and brew making the way for the feelings that many Blacks harbor today towards the government and whites.  Make no mistake.  All of the recent stories of blackface on college campuses, nooses in the workplace, and justice denied as in the Sean Bell case, aren't new phenomenon's.  Similar incidents have been going on for years without media attention and in some cases the attention of famed Black activists, it's only because race has once again been moved to the front burner that you hear and see more of it in your daily newscast.

Back in the day significant members of the Black church including the National Baptist Convention led by Dr. J.H. Jackson in the 50's vehemently opposed the Civil Rights Movement and didn't want progressive ministers like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to rock the boat and have any confrontations with the government.  Today we are seeing a repeat of the past with calls for Dr. Wright to "shut up" before he messes it up for Obama.

I want Obama to be president just as much as the people calling for Dr. Wright's silence, but I draw the line at somehow suggesting that Dr. Wright's speaking the truth is less important.  America needs to hear the truth, both white America and Black America.  And while I think Obama would make a fine president, I am not pinning all of my hopes on him to fix America's issues with race and class.  Only we the people can do that, and we do that by speaking up and speaking out about.  It's always the right time to speak about race and America's politics.

Obama did exactly what I expected him to do last week.  Probably on the advice of his campaign advisors, he distanced himself even further from Wright after a string of public appearance by his former pastor.  Did it upset me to see him pandering to the voters by denouncing a man that dared to speak the truth on race?  You bet it did.  But I understand why he had to do it, I don't agree with it, but I understand it.  Is that going to make me take down my Obama signs out of my window and my custom made "Obama Mama" clinger on my car, not a chance.  I'm disappointed, not crazy.

Because of the criticism that Dr. King faced from his own people his activism, he created the Southern Christian Leadership Conference along with Los Angeles ministers Reverend James Lawson and the late Dr. Thomas Kilgore, pushing forward with his fight for equality, a fight that today has greatly benefited those that opposed him in the beginning. 

To that end, I am happy that Dr. Wright hasn't censored himself and caved in to calls for him to disappear somewhere.  We need voices like Dr. Wright's.

Let's be real, while there are a plethora of Black activists, there are very few that dare to really rock the boat.  Even fewer that would risk losing their corporate sponsorships by saying "God damn America."

To me, Dr. Wright represents the type of voice that we need, and quite frankly have been lacking, speaking up for Blacks.  You know, the kind of voice that hasn't been bought off with lavish corporate sponsorships of annual conferences and birthday parties.  The voice of reason that has nothing to lose by speaking freely and openly about America's denial of their issues with race as it relates to Blacks.

Dr. Wright embodies the late Shirley Chisholm's slogan, unbought and unbossed.  No amount of negative publicity is going to make him distance himself from his people or deny what he knows to be true.

My man, Dr. Wright!

And while all of America's attention via the media has been on Dr. Wright's comments, what about right-wing conservative Pat Buchanan's A Brief for Whitey?

And I quote:

"First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.  Wright ought to go down on his knees and thank God he is an American.

I don't think that it's a mistake that Buchanan's comments went relatively overlooked by the mainstream media while Wright's comments were repeatedly over sensationalized. 

Pat Buchanan's comments are exactly the reason why Black people need to address the atrocities committed against us and not leave it to others to rewrite our history.  If we don't, we get ludicrous statements like the one above which we all know is about as far from reality as Senator Hillary Clinton dodging sniper fire in Bosnia.

But because he felt comfortable enough in his "whiteness" to say it is what really bothers me and just further illustrates how our struggle for liberation and equality continues to be minimized to the benefit of the very people who are responsible for our current state.

We are at a point in a time where our actions are going to dictate whether it's business as usual as it relates to race or class or whether we address it head on, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  The way I see it, Obama being the good, Pat Buchanan the bad, and Dr. Wright the ugly---each of them has had a roll to play.  Obama gave us hope for the future, Pat Buchanan gave us reality, while Dr. Wright gave us the truth.

We've got to stop letting the mainstream media and reports of Senator Clinton surging ahead in polls, that we don't know even know to be true, pull our strings making us turn on each other.  That's how they keep us distracted, how we keep ourselves down and the last time I checked, no suckers lived here.

Instead of trying to silence the truth, we should be embracing it while using it to change reality into the hope for the future that we see in Obama.

Come tomorrow, no matter who wins or loses in Indiana and North Carolina, it won't be because of Dr. Wright.  It'll be because of ourselves and what we choose to buy into---or not.

Speak on Dr. Wright, speak on!

posted May 10, 2008

 

 

 

A Response to Pat Buchanan's
'A Brief for Whitey'

By Jasmyne A. Cannick


Leave it up to whitey to rewrite history in such a way that favors himself as Blacks greatest savior.

And I quote:

First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.

 Wright ought to go down on his knees and thank God he is an American.

 
The words above can be attributed to right-wing conservative Pat Buchanan's A Brief for Whitey.

If you ask me, it sounds like someone's been drinking unfiltered tap water, if you know what I mean.

Since when is kidnapping, lynching, raping, and torture seen as a good thing? Talk about living in a state of denial.

Pat Buchanan's comments are exactly the reason why Black people need to address the atrocities committed against us and not leave it to others to rewrite our history. If we don't we get ludicrous statements like the one above which we all know is about as far from the truth as WMDs in Iraq.

The fact that he felt comfortable enough in his whiteness to say this is what really bothers me and just further illustrates how they continue to try and minimize and justify slavery and years of racial discrimination.

If I follow Buchanan's logic, as a Black woman I should be thanking my lucky stars that the white man traveled across the Atlantic Ocean and to capture my ancestors and bring them here to work as slaves in his fields and home.

I should be thankful for the trees in the south that held the ropes that were tied around the necks of Black men and women who were lynched at the hands of whitey.

As Black women, we should be rejoicing over the white man's penchant for our dark chocolate colored skin, big hips, and voluptuous breasts, that frequently took him from the big house to the outhouse where we were.

The Bible, that Christian salvation that Buchanan and those like him speak so passionately about, well it's the same book that justified whitey owning slaves and the mistreatment of those slaves.  Whitey's Bible came complete with a blue-eyed Jesus to suit and was forced upon his African slaves in their new land.  I think Buchanan forgot to mention that part.

Yes, Amerikkka's been really good to Blacks.

What would a bunch of Africans know about freedom and prosperity anyway?

Before the European whitey and the American whitey showed up in Africa we were just reigning as kings and queens of our own land, providing for our families and villages through harvesting crops and Africa's natural resources, and praying to the God that we knew and believed in.  According to Buchanan, we never knew real freedom and prosperity until the first chain locked around our necks and we were shipped off to a foreign land and forced to cooperate in whitey's dreams of prosperity.

So here we are in 2008 and Amerikkka is still living in denial.

Pat Buchanan probably believes that Amerikkkan slavery was the best thing to ever happen to us blackfolks, but we know the inconvenient truth.

Buchanan writes that "--- It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships---" as if a Princess Line cruise ship pulled up to the West Coast of Africa and rolled out the welcome mat.  Try changing the word 'brought' to forced, captured, or kidnapped because that's the reality of what happened.

Africans were doing just fine in Africa until whitey showed up and decided to steal us for our talents at producing beautiful crops and children.  That's the reality.  Our crops weren't dying, whitey's were.  We had our own land and religion before we were forced to adopt theirs.

Second, no people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans.

Untold trillions have been spent since the '60s on welfare, food stamps, rent supplements, Section 8 housing, Pell grants, student loans, legal services, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs designed to bring the African-American community into the mainstream.

Not one of those trillions can bring back from the dead the lives the that were lost at the hand of whitey either here in Amerikkka or during the Middle Passage.  Furthermore, Buchanan fails to delve into the reasons that Blacks would need public assistant in the first place.  Another gift from whitey to Blacks, Jim Crow and racial discrimination.

But it gets worse.

We hear the grievances. Where is the gratitude?

 I'll be damned before I ever thank whitey for enslaving my ancestors and creating the chaos and confusion that exists today.

However, I'd offer to Pat Buchanan and the like, that they should be thanking their God that the years of white superiority indoctrination fed consciously and subconsciously to Black and brown people has worked so well to the point where we haven't managed to get it together to come together.  Because the day that we do is the day that whitey knows his reign of terror is up.

Pat Buchanan---talk about giving new meaning to Gil Scott-Heron's "Whitey On the Moon."
posted March 27, 2008

 

 

The White Man's Burden
is Not the Black Man's Responsibility

By Jasmyne A. Cannick
 

Well I guess on the bright side of things, there should be no more questions about whether or not Senator Barack Obama is a Christian.

If you recall, throughout his campaign for the presidency, he's been painted out to be an undercover Muslim who was swore into office on the Koran.  When that didn't work, it switched to rumors that he doesn't say the Pledge of Allegiance and he was the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan's flunky.  He's anti-Israel, friends with terrorists---who actually want him to win.  And the most absurd of them all---he's the Anti-Christ.

Now the focus for Obama haters has turned to his former pastor Dr. Jeremiah Wright of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago and what's being called "controversial" comments he's made from the pulpit regarding America's politics.

It seems that it's not enough that we've adopted their religion and most Blacks are worshiping to their white blue-eyed Jesus, but now they want to dictate the message that we receive as well.  And in the process, they've backed Obama against a wall forcing him to publicly distance himself from his pastor in order to prove that he's not an angry Black man in disguise.

Civil rights icon the Rev. Joseph Lowery once said, "The country's creating a 51st state-the state of denial.

I guess if the history books favored my race against all reality, I'd be pissed off at anyone who tried to say otherwise.  Too bad.

The fact is that Rev. Wright isn't the first or the last preacher or Black to call out America for her racist history.  A history that for some reason we are always being encouraged to forget because today Americans are transcending race.  Is that why Black men and women are being imprisoned almost as fast their mothers can give birth to them?  Is that the reason why a man who called a group of young Black women "nappy-headed ho's" is still on the air?  And were we rising above race when it was joked that Tiger Woods should be lynched?  Is us transcending race to blame for the pimps and ho's parties on university and college campuses around the country? 

The belief that America is somehow transcending race because whites voted for a Black man is dangerous thinking.

Another greatly feared Black man, Dr. Maulana Karenga, taught me that I am American by birth and African by choice and quite frankly that's the feeling of a lot of African-American's who are fully aware of the United State's role in the history of not only the underdevelopment of Africa, but generations of Black Americans.  And let me tell you, one Black man running for president isn't enough to erase that history or the feelings that many Blacks harbor whether publicly or on the down low towards the United States government and white folks.  We haven't touched on the issue of reparations, which our government continues to down play.

But it's this constant state of denial that continues to have some white folks sheets all up in a bunch to the point where they want to now go into our churches and dictate the message that the pastor delivers.  And if they have their way, we'll be singing hallelujah and thanking Jesus for slavery, Jim Crow, and the end of affirmative action because if you recall it was the Bible that justified whites mistreatment of Blacks.  But wait---we haven't forgotten Guyana.

The church, our church, white Jesus aside, is the one institution that carried Blacks through America's state-sanctioned slavery, lynching, racial discrimination, oppression, disenfranchisement, and exploitation.  It is not our responsibility as Blacks to sugar coat the truth to make it a easier pill for some whites to swallow.  We didn't have a choice between the red or the blue pill, reality or make believe.  We came out of the womb awake to the ways of the world.

And it'll probably be right about now that most whites reading this will begin to tune out. 

Yes, it's that state of denial that begins to kick in right about now whenever the words lynching, racism, and slavery are mentioned in relationship to the Black experience and the role whites played  in it that is hard for some to comprehend.  Unless however it's in the form of a primetime movie special during Black History Month, then it's all good for about two hours and some change to remember.

So here comes the mainstream and at times divisive, media trying to take Wright's comments out of context and making it into a bigger issue than what it should be, perhaps to make up for a slow news day and/or Clinton's complaints of a media love affair with Obama.  Either way, I thought race isn't supposed to be a factor in this election?  Maybe they're forgetting that Wright is but one Black pastor in this country and I am willing to bet that a peek into other Black churches around the country and the message is quite the same, maybe even more controversial.  And that's just Black churches.  Let's not forget All Saints Church in Pasadena, California who had been under investigation for a guest sermon its former rector had given just before the 2004 presidential election.  In it, he strongly criticized the war in Iraq but said he believed that both President Bush and his Democratic opponent, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, were good Christians.  This was taken as an endorsement of Kerry over Bush and in came the IRS. 

I know it's hard to believe for some, but everyone isn't down with America's unwritten policy of bomb now ask questions later.  I think we all know what lengths the American government will go to keep the truth from coming out.

It wasn't that long ago when we were dealing with the Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow.  Then came the mysterious arrival of crack cocaine in Black neighborhoods around the country and COINTELPRO.  By the late 70s, the white sheets had been replaced with business suits and phony smiles.  And even though the damage had been done that didn't stop them from giving us Reagan.

A.M.E. church founder Richard Allen said "the only place that Blacks felt they could maintain an element of self-expression was the church," and I'll add, but they still managed to burn down more than a few back in the day.

Fortunate for Dr. Wright, it's not so easy to get rid of dissident voices today as it was 30 and 40 years ago. 

Dr. Wright may be retired now, but thank God for us that there are still pastors and ministers like him out there who aren't afraid tell it like it is when it comes to the United States Government and the history that was so conveniently left out of the schoolbooks.

Those who don't know their history are doomed to repeat it---and this ain't no reentry in slavery.  Preach on, preach on.
poster March 17, 2008

 

 

I Don't Do Ignorance
By Jasmyne A. Cannick

 
drawing by Son of Ellis

The global image of the Black woman continues to be under attack, the latest of which being with Charles Knipp and his character Shirley Q. Liquor.  Liquor, is described by Charles Knipp as being "the Queen of Ignunce," who is based on his experiences with and interpretations of Black southern women.  Knipp, who is white and gay, performs the character --- an illiterate, welfare collecting, mother of 19 children, who drives a Caddy, and attends Mount Holy Olive Second Baptist Zion Church of God in Christ of Resurrected Latter-Days AME CME --- in blackface.

Men who take on roles as female characters for the purposes of entertainment are nothing new and they've been handsomely rewarded for their efforts with our dollars.  Starting with Flip Wilson's the devil made me do it "Geraldine" and in recent years Martin Lawrence's "Big Mama's House," Shawn and Marlon Wayans' "White Chicks," Eddie Murphy's "Norbit," and Tyler Perry's popular character "Madea."  With the exception of "White Chicks," all are Black men dressed in drag as Black women.  The exception is the Wayans brothers, who flipped the script and took on the roles of two white women.

What's the difference between a Black man in drag and a white man in blackface when both are depicting a Black woman?

Some have argued that Black Americans should not complain about Knipp's character Shirley Q. Liquor because we turn a blind eye towards Black actors who also perform in questionable roles.

You'll get no argument from me regarding Eddie Murphy as Rasputia Latimore in "Norbit."  In fact, long before the film was in theaters, the billboards promoting it were enough to make me wanna holla and throw up both my hands.  And while I definitely didn't appreciate Murphy taking on the role of a fat Black mean woman for the rest of the world to sit around and laugh at, I can't overlook the fact he did it as a Black man.

Hattie Mae Pierce, Martin Lawrence's character Big Mama, is a Black religious woman living in the South.  While Big Mama is definitely a big mama, she isn't mean.  However unlike Shirley Q. Liquor, she isn't on welfare, we never saw her guzzling down 40 ounces of beer, and to the best of my knowledge she doesn't have 19 kids, one of which being named Kmartina.  Oh, and like Murphy, Lawrence is a Black man.

This brings me to Tyler Perry and Mabel "Madea" R. Simmons, best known for the way she says, "Heluur!  This is Madea-ur!" 

Madea probably comes the closet to Knipp's Shirley Q. Liquor character, being that she didn't find out that Deacon Leroy Brown was her daughter Cora's father until her class reunion in 2003 and she's known to drive a Caddy.  She will argue with anyone, has a penchant for her unique pronunciation and enunciation of words, and is part of a large family with many children and grandchildren.

"Madea" or "Madear" is a typical Black Southern name for a grandmother.  The term is a shortened form of "Mother Dear."

Again, criticism withstanding, Perry is a Black man taking on this role.

A favorite defense of whites against anyone Black who takes issue with Shirley Q. Liquor is the Wayans brothers as Brittany and Tiffany Wilson in "White Chicks." 

As if somehow, two Black men taking on the characters of white blonde-haired and blue eyed cruise line heiresses is even remotely the same as a white man in blackface taking on the role of an overweight Black woman.  Mind you, this woman sings in his parody The 12 Days of Kwanzaa, "On the fifth day of Kwanzaa, my check came in the mail.  AFDC!  Thank you, Lawd!  Come on kids; let's go to the store for some collard greens, ham hocks, and cheese!"

I wish that when men, white or Black, decided to go in drag as Black women we were always portrayed as beautiful wealthy yet dim socialites. 

The difference between a Black man in the role of a Black woman and a white man putting on blackface and attempting to do the same is that whites don't have the same history of slavery and racial discrimination that Blacks do.

Since Black women were brought to America, as slaves, we have been forced to endure every form of racism and sexism there is at the hands of whites.

Let me recap it for you.

First, it was the Massuh we had to contend with and his penchant for darker skin that is primarily responsible for the various shades of brown that represent our people today.  Janie Crawford, Leafy, Nanny, and Zora Neale Hurston.  Ashay!

Then for many years, we were forced to take on the role of raising whites children, cleaning their houses, washing their laundry, and cooking their meals.  In keeping in line with America's approved racial etiquette, we did all of this while being referred to as "girl" or "nigger" and remembering to never look whites directly in the face.  Mrs. Thomas, Lena Younger, Sofie, and Florida Evans.  Ashay!

We dealt with Jim Crow and with the racist police officers, teachers, landlords, bosses, and bus drivers.  Rosa Parks.  Ashay!

For many years, we were denied roles in major motion pictures.  When they couldn't get away with that anymore, we were denied the same wages as our female white counterparts and the accolades bestowed upon them.  Hattie McDaniel and Dorothy Dandridge.  Ashay!

Now it's 2008 and we're nappy-headed hoes and being found in shacks, raped, beaten and urinated on.  In addition, just to remind us that we're still Black, our asses are being analyzed during tennis matches on live television for the world to see. 

Misogynistic lyrics recited by Black men and financed by white, continue to portray us as sexual objects to the point where some of us are so confused that we've gladly taken on the roll. 

So I find it ridiculous when anyone, white or Black, defends a white man who puts on blackface and an afro wig, calls himself the Queen of Dixie, and  says things like "I'm gonna burn me up some chitlins and put some ketchup on there and aks Jesus to forgive my sins."

Is Knipp even capable of understanding that back in the day after pigs were slaughtered, their intestines, the chitterlings Knipp mocks, along with hog maws, pigs' feet, and neck bones were given to slaves by their Massuh to eat because it was he who controlled their food choices?

And unlike with Tyler Perry's films, there is no feel good lesson of morality at the end of Knipp's performance.  Just a bunch white gay men and women, probably drunk, applauding the performance of one of their own for being able bring to life their own racist stereotypes of how they see Black women.

This isn't an argument in defense of characters like Murphy's Rasputia Latimore.  Rather it's an argument that these characters, while demeaning to Black women, are not racist. 

The same can't be said of Charles Knipp's Shirley Q. Liquor character that is demeaning, disrespectful, and racist by virtue of the fact that he is a white man in blackface that is using the most negative stereotypes of Blacks to entertain other whites.  Stereotypes that are based on traits that can be directly traced back to the history of racial discrimination faced by Blacks from whites in this country. 

For example, the generations of Black women and men who in their youth weren't allowed to attend school with white children and were forced to go to work to help support their families.  Because of America's sanctioning of segregation and racial discrimination, they never learned how to speak and write English properly; therefore creating the dialect that Knipp so often makes fun of.

Somehow, I find it hard to believe that if the heel was on the other foot, and some Black comedian was traveling the country selling himself as "a piece of poor white trailer park trash" in whiteface, that he'd be welcomed with open arms by whites.  I'll take it a step further to add, that if that same Black comedian were in whiteface and impersonating a white gay man, it'd be off with his head, literally.

So while I know it's easy to try and point the finger of blame back on Blacks in defense of Charles Knipp for our poor excuses of comedy in the form of Black men up in drag, unfortunately it's just not the same.  One is just ignorant, while the other, Knipp, is the expression of years of covert racism towards Blacks from whites.  I expected whites to defend Knipp; after all, they make up his core audience to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars annually.  However, for Blacks to do it is a slap in the face of our ancestors and all that they sacrificed for us to have the opportunities we have today. 

I don't do ignorance.
posted March 4, 2008

 

 

My Apology to Black Women for Gay America and Charles Knipp
by Jasmyne A. Cannick


At this year's State of the Black Union, Dick Gregory apologized to President Bill Clinton on behalf of Blacks for our role in allowing Clinton to believe that he was Black. 

In that same spirit, I feel compelled to apologize to Charles Knipp on behalf of gays for allowing him to think that he's one of the Black women that he unsuccessfully tries to emulate.  I also want to apologize to Black women on behalf of gay America for Charles Knipp.  Knipp's latest cry for help involved superimposing my head on some other Black woman's naked body and then tactlessly posting it on his website for my continuing to expose his constant mockery of the Black woman.

Charles Knipp is a self-described forty-five-year-old, fat, gay white man who believes he's on a mission from God.  A mission that involves mimicking Black women as his alter ego character Shirley Q. Liquor.  Knipp describes Liquor as being "a welfare mother with nineteen kids who guzzles malt liquor, and drives a Caddy."  The character is favorite among his core audience whom Knipp describes as being "gay men, their moms, and rednecks."

And while Isaiah Washington was unable to escape the wrath of gay America, Charles Knipp's blackface minstrel show continues to be rewarded by gay Americans to the tune of $90k annually

Imus may have called Black women "nappy-headed ho's," but it's Knipp who routinely tries to bring that image to life onstage as Shirley Q. Liquor when she tries to recollect the names of her "chirrun" with his skit "Who Is My Baby Daddy? Cheeto, Orangello, Chlamydia, and Kmartina..."

I blame gay America, from the political leaders to the club owners, for turning a blind eye to Knipp's blatantly racist routines that in his words are performed mostly for "gay men, their moms and rednecks."  We are the reason that his racist act continues to go nearly undetected on the race radar.

And no matter how I feel about gay America, in particular white gay America, as a lesbian, a Black lesbian, by virtue of my sexual orientation, I am reluctantly tied to you as much as you are tied to me.

So I am just as much to blame for failing to help you understand that just because you usurp the Black Civil Rights Movement's strategies and language and proudly display photos of your leaders with late civil rights icons on your websites that doesn't mean that there aren't still very serious race issues still at play in gay America. 

I should have told you that Black women continue to remain under attack in this country.  And that it doesn't matter what our standing in corporate America, the White House, the media, who we're married to, what our sexual orientation is, how straight and long our hair is, or how light our skin, we are still Black and we are still under attack.  Hear me.

I should have sat your leaders down and explained that it is not okay for any white man, straight or gay, to perform in blackface and mock African-American names and holidays.  I should have made you understand that many of the same gay nightclubs that book Knipp are owned by the same people that donate money to many of your gay civil rights groups.  I should have connected the dots for you.  My bad.

It was I who forgot to explain that while RuPaul is African-American, he's as disconnected from Black America as Ward Connerly.  So when he defends Knipp's act, it should be taken with a grain of salt.

I should have introduced you to  Angela Davis, bell hooks, June Jordan, Audre Lorde, Sojourner Truth, Alice Walker, Ida Wells-Barnett, and the plight of the Black woman.  Then maybe you'd understand why Charles Knipp's act is so offensive to me as a Black woman.  Then maybe you'd care.

Please forgive my shortsightedness.  It won't happen again. 

Blacks are so often referred to as being the conscience of America.  I want you to know that from this day forward, gay America can count on this Black lesbian to be its conscience when it comes to your involuntary and voluntary racist ways.

As for Charles Knipp, some would say that you need therapy.  But I say forget therapy, I'm going to tell you this for free. 

I'm sorry that you weren't born one of the Black women that you so love to impersonate.  I know how beautiful we are and how unfair it is that we are blessed with what your race often has to go out and pay for.  But I say to you, love the skin you're in.  Most people in your situation settle for surrounding themselves with Black friends, marrying someone Black, moving into a Black neighborhood, listening to hip hop, watching BET, eating Soul Food, and voting for Barack Obama.  Why don't you give it try and leave the act of being Black to those of us who are?  We have enough confused Black folks out there without having to take on a confused forty-five-year-old, fat, gay white man who thinks he's Black.
posted February 26, 2008

 

 

 

New Film on the Downlow Finds Audience at Urban Film Festival
by Jasmyne A. Cannick

 

 

As the 16th Annual Pan African Film and Arts Festival (PAFF) comes to its conclusion, I thought I'd take a few moments to offer further commentary on Hollywood's Black Gay Conundrum.

This year, like in years past, PAFF offered a diverse selection of quality films from and about the African Diaspora to enthusiastic audiences at the AMC Magic Johnson Crenshaw 15 Theaters in Los Angeles, otherwise known as the Black theater.  From documentaries to narratives, there was no shortage of independent Black cinema to go around.

One of this year's most popular films was Bill Duke's "Cover," a film about the downlow---surprise surprise.  "Cover" was so popular that one encore wouldn't accommodate the hundreds of people that showed up to see it, so a third screening was added.  Starring Aunjanue Ellis, Razaaq Adoti, Vivica A. Fox, Richard Gant, Mya, Louis Gossett, Jr., Leon, Paula Jai Parker, Roger Guenveur Smith, Patti LaBelle and Obba Babatunde, "Cover" tells the story of Ryan Chambers (Leon) who is murdered on New Year's Eve, the prime suspect is Valerie Maas (Aunjanue Ellis), a church-going homemaker whose life unravels when she discovers that her husband (Razaaq Adoti) of 15 years has been leading a double life.  Her strength of character and faith keeps the family alive as a deadly disease threatens to destroy all that they have known.

"Cover" screened three times in the heart of what is left of Black Los Angeles in front of hundreds.  In fact, the festival could have sold out another screening had they added one.

And yes, this is the same AMC Magic Johnson Theater that I argued "Dirty Laundry" should have opened up in last year instead of West Hollywood simply because of its gay content.

"Dirty Laundry" starred Rockmond Dunbar, Loretta Devine, Jenifer Lewis, Terri J. Vaughn, Joey Costello, with a cameo appearance from Dr. Bobby Jones and  followed the life of an African-American gay magazine writer with a near perfect life after turning his back on his southern roots by escaping to New York City--until an 11-year-old boy changes everything for him and his partner.

Like with "Dirty Laundry," "Cover" shares a stellar cast, a stellar Black cast.

"Cover" is set to open in limited theatrical release this week on February 22.  Limited as in Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York, Philadelphia, Newark, and Baltimore.  Limited as in this Black movie will have the benefit of opening up in traditional Black neighborhoods, a luxury that "Dirty Laundry" was never afforded which might have---no make that directly resulted in its being pulled from theaters about a week into its very limited engagement.

Film festivals, in particular Black film festivals, give prospective distributors as well as the filmmakers a direct link to their audience.  If it does well at a festival, it's likely to do well in a limited or national release.  Many films, including those that went on to win Academy Awards, got their start at film festivals, and the buzz went from there.

That's why film festivals continue to play a critical role for independent cinema.

One stark difference between "Cover" and "Dirty Laundry" is the way in which its gay albeit downlow or bisexual characters are portrayed.

"Dirty Laundry" is a film that features a Black openly gay character that's not on drugs, a prostitute, on the downlow, a hair dresser, choir director, or sashaying all over the screen.  You know, those stereotypical representations of the gay community that seem to envelope most roles that call for a Black gay characters.  Which is not to say that I'm hating on those types of brothas, but just like all lesbians aren't Cleo (Queen Latifah in "Set It Off"), all gay men aren't fabulous finger snapping hair dressers.  Add to that, "Dirty Laundry" is rated PG-13.  There's no sex or violence in the film. 

"Cover" on the other hand deals directly with Black America's infatuation with all things on the downlow.  Since J.L. King and Oprah opened up the subject nationally for mainstream America, there has been a never-ending stream of books and films on the downlow. Why?  Because it's a popular, yet taboo subject for Blacks.

However, "Cover" tells the typical and for me tired story of the brotha who did the sista wrong.  We've been there and seen that before.  It doesn't necessarily portray gay men, bisexual men, or men on the downlow in the most positive light, not that you need too to discuss the downlow.   But the plot that always includes the sista done wrong is a bit overplayed and does nothing to address the reason why the downlow exists in the first place.  Instead, it continues to point the finger of blame while using an all-star cast to keep its audience enthralled.

Like filmmaker Tyler Perry, the filmmakers behind "Cover" have already begun signing up HIV/AIDS organizations and Black churches nationwide to go out and support the film on its opening weekend.  Because this film speaks more to the good Christian sista done wrong, it's finding strong support amongst the Black Christian community.  However, I am not sure how much "Cover" is really going to do to continue the conversation on why the downlow exists in the first place.  I am more concerned with further ostracizing Black gay and bisexual men.  In fact, one might argue that this film given its gaining popularity might set back the advancements that Black gay groups have been making within Black America on this very subject.  However, only time will tell on that one.

What I do know for sure is that Black films thrive when they are made available to Black audiences, which means screening in urban theaters.  It doesn't hurt if that subject matter happens to be about the downlow and is cloaked in a script that allows good Black Christian folks to flock to their local theater without fear of being labeled as gay. 

I guess the proof will be in the numbers for "Cover."  After looking at the film's major success in Los Angeles during the Pan African Film and Arts Festival, this despite a less than complimentary review in Los Angeles' mainstream alternative newspaper the L.A. Weekly.  With strong grassroots support from the Black church community, HIV/AIDS groups, and good old word of mouth, the filmmakers might just see decent enough numbers to keep them in theaters for more than a week.  The flipside?  If that happens, you can bet that the subject of how to spot a man on the downlow, or my favorite, ten things to look for in your man to tell if he's gay will find new life in Black America via nail salons, beauty shops, pulpits, and on urban radio stations nationwide.  Been there done that.  What we need to be discussing is how our phobias created the downlow and continues to force people into living lies as opposed to pointing the finger of blame which does nothing in the long run to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in our communities or to bring us closer together as a people.
posted February 20, 2008

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On Hillary "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going, I'm Stayin', and You're Gonna Love Me" Clinton
By Jasmyne A. Cannick

 

"I am staying in this race until there is a nominee. I believe I'm the strongest candidate against John McCain and believe I will be the best president among the three of us running,"-Sen. Hillary Clinton

By all rational accounts, May 7th should have been the end of the Hillary "Point to One Person Wave and Smile" for President Campaign.

In a perfect world, Clinton would have gracefully and graciously conceded to her opponent Senator Barack Obama, thanked her supporters while steering them towards barackobama.com, apologized to all of the people she and her husband offended along the way, and prepared to do her part to make sure that the Democratic Party beat Sen. John McCain in November.  And then I woke up.

Clinton is just determined to be "The Little Engine that Could."

Instead of the Democratic Party beginning the healing the process so that we can move forward to November, making sure that President Bush doesn't see a third term via McCain, we've got to waste even more time on party in-fighting.

Add to that, faced with the reality that the HRC for President campaign is about to removed from life support, some of her supporters have gone ballistic vowing that if Hillary doesn't get the nomination they're either going to skip the polls in November or even worse--vote for McCain.

Let me be clear. 

Obama is my candidate and believe it or not, he has said and done some things that have upset me, like disavowing Rev. Dr. Wright Jeremiah Wright,  but never once did I consider skipping the election or supporting the enemy.  Was I disappointed-yes.  A bit pissed off-you betcha.  But, crazy enough to vote for McCain-hell no!

Look---the Clinton campaign could very well strong arm their way into getting the Florida and Michigan delegates counted in their favor and into the Democratic Convention where in a "backroom" her most loyal supporters could take it to the mat and duke it out resulting in her coming out as the nominee.  As mad I would be, it wouldn't provoke me to put aside common sense, cross the aisle, and put the nail in the coffin on any chance of turning around this economy, getting out of Iraq, and improving the lives of those living in poverty.

In my opinion, the only thing that Clinton and McCain have in common is their race.  So I hope that race isn't the reason for the threats of insanity from loyal Clinton supporters.  If you're a Dem, you're a Dem, and so whomever gets the nomination is who we fall in line behind to support.  It's called the bigger picture or for me, the lesser of two evils.

As a Black female, I can attest to the excitement at having the first Black or female President.  But it is time for Clinton to quit the theatrics and put the Party first by exiting stage left. 

Clinton's superdelegates need to get in line too.  Obama has more pledged delegates, states won and the popular vote.  The will of the people shouldn't be tampered with.  2010 isn't that far off and we're making a list and checking it twice.

The bottom line is that Clinton has overstayed her welcome and should be using her experience as a leader to aide in the reconciliation of the Party before November.  Afterall, that would be the Democratic thing to do.