Tuesday, January 30, 2007
The Coon Affect
“If the minstrel skit had an ante-bellum setting, the coon was portrayed as a free Black; if the skit's setting postdated slavery, he was portrayed as an urban Black. He remained lazy and good-for-little, but the minstrel shows depicted him as a gaudy dressed "Dandy" who "put on airs." Unlike Mammy and Sambo, Coon did not know his place. He thought he was as smart as White people; however, his frequent malapropisms and distorted logic suggested that his attempt to compete intellectually with Whites was pathetic.”
Since antebellum the white supremist, patriarchal, dominator power structure in the United States has invested many resources into disparaging blacks that, due to attained levels of freedom beyond that of most blacks, posed some threat to the status quo. Racist iconography has been a common tool employed since antebellum by the power structure to inform public opinion about Blacks. Resulting negative public perception of Blacks has often translated to public policy. Free blacks during slavery and educated or middle class blacks after emancipation were often the targets of this strategy. In addition to employing these methods to paint middle class and educated blacks as pathetic and laughable the white supremist, patriarchal, dominator power structure has often employed these methods against Black political leaders and activists. Specifically Booker T Washington, W.E.B. Dubois, Frederick Douglas and many Blacks who advocated on behalf of Black people were often depicted in popular media as bumbling idiots who stumbled through the English language in an attempt to use “big words” that ultimately resulted in exposing their foolishness and intellectual inferiority.
Coonifying Black Presidential Candidates
Black candidates for president in the US have been a favorite target of the coonifying media and public attitudes machine. To date there have been four black candidates for president and 5 presidential campaigns for Black presidential candidates. Those candidates were Shirley Chisholm, Senator Carol Moseley Braun, Jesse Jackson, and the most recent Al Sharpton.
Chisholm and Moseley Braun who both have the distinction of being women have some things which distinguish them from Jackson and Sharpton other than their womanhood. Both had extremely successful careers as elected officials and public servants prior to their bids for president. Chisholm and Moseley-Braun both served in the Legislature of their home states before being elected to the US Congress, Chisholm to the house ( 8 terms), and Moseley Braun to the senate (1 term). Moseley Braun also had a brief career as a prosecutor before beginning her elected career and has the distinction of being the only Black woman ever elected to the US Senate. The final and probably most regrettable commonality between Chisholm and Moseley-Braun is that they were both very well qualified candidates who would probably have been taken much more seriously had they had penises and a bit less melanin and both led such dismally doomed to fail campaigns that they were not subjected to what I’ll call the coon-affect that plagued the Jackson and Sharpton campaigns.
Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are serious politicians, dedicated and seasoned activist, brilliant and articulate orators, published authors, and biblical scholars. Further they have both demonstrated such a profound commitment to fighting injustice that one is never surprised to see either of them as first on the ground when injustice occurs in America, or abroad. However, in spite of what I consider the undeniable credibility and qualifications of both men they are often positioned in conflict with credibility, as race-batting, pontificating, tongue wagging, coons. Unfortunately the realities created by the internalized racism of many blacks dictates that much of the coonifying of Sharpton and Jackson has been committed by Black comedians, publications and broadcast programs. Jokes by Blacks and Whites about their seriousness as presidential candidates that focus on their oratory cadence, their diction, and other language patterns bear a striking and disturbing resemblance to the coon iconography of America’s racialized cultural history. Ultimately Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and a long list of other brilliant and important change agents have been victims of coonifying.
Enter Barack Obama- Coon Free
When Obama first became the sweet heart of the American media and subsequently the American public I wondered why. A key note address that he delivered at the 2004 democratic primary seemed to catapult him into the hearts of the American people and a successful campaign for election that followed shortly thereafter seemed to cement him there, at least for now. Before these events very few Americans would have been able to tell you who Barack Obama is. It’s extremely curious that Obama is so popular today, being a Senator who won a seat that was so low profile that he ran uncontested until republican Alan Keyes decided to throw his hat into the rink in the final hour. What else is curious is that Obama, unlike other high profile Black politicians, has yet to be coonified. Since his successful election to the US Senate Obama has enjoyed an unusual amount of positive press. Not even his unusually dark lips have been enough to draw the coonifying eye of comedians. Even an admission of using cocaine and marijuana was not enough to draw out the conservative hounds. The only somewhat negative press that Obama has received is so ridiculous that it seems almost orchestrated to be so. Fox news commentators recently compared his name to Osama (Bin Ladin) and suggested that he was trained in a radical “Islamist” primary school.
Over the last year or so speculation has been flying about whether Obama will run for President in 2008. No other perspective 08 Presidential candidate has received the kind of attention that Obama has received other than Hillary Clinton. In fact so many in the Democratic camp are hopeful for an “Obama 4 President” campaign in 2008 that Democratic funding channels have been all but locked down and the only person other than Obama who seems to be able to raise two pennies to rub together, again, Hillary Clinton.
The attention that Obama has received has been intriguing for a number of reasons. Obama a relatively unknown State Senator who delivered the key note at the Democratic convention apparently made such an impression that he was able to win a seat in the Senate with virtually no competition, a task that is next to impossible for Blacks. What’s also striking about the Barack Obama Love affair is that he has yet to be coonified or radicalized. Commentators that have speculated on the love affair have suggested that the reason for America’s comfort with Obama is that he has a white mother and a father from Kenya and therefore is not one of the children of those enslaved by American whites. Others have suggested that the love affair can be credited to his charisma and to the advancements that Americans have made in the area of race relations since the end of state sanctioned segregation. I don’t buy it!
Barack Obama is the Manchurian candidate! I’m not suggesting that Obama has been implanted with a microchip that when activated will cause him to bomb Canada. What I am suggesting is that some very powerful forces have had there hand in the making of this hugely successful upstart Senator. In less than two years an unknown Junior Senator becoming America’s favorite for the presidential race is cause for inquiry. What I am suggesting is that he and Hillary have been very strategically placed in the lime light and developed as the American favorites for President in 2008 and that nobody in the Democratic camp has the skill to achieve this while conservatives remain silent as they have. I’m also suggesting that Obama, like the character in The Manchurian candidate has little to do with his own success and that strings are being pulled from the dark corner of a marionette box to ensure his run for President. To determine who is pulling the strings, one need only determine whose interest it will serve if Obama does decide to run.
I believe that someone in the Republican party is pulling strings with the media to set both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton up to receive the Democratic nomination for president. This is why Obama’s public image has not been marred by coonification and why his most staunch competition for the Democratic nomination is a woman. While this may seem like a stretch there are some realities that inform my position.
1) Based on history we know that it is very difficult for a Black man to win the nomination for the presidency from either of the two major political parties in the US. In fact to date most nominees have been white, male, and protestant. Deviation from this formula is usually a sure fire way to lock a candidate out. Candidates who are protestant and white but not male; male and protestant but not white; white and male but not protestant are all pretty unlikely to be President in this country. God help those that neither white nor male. In spite of this formula the two individuals who are most likely to win the Democratic primary are a white woman and a black man, both are protestant.
2) America is pissed of with the Republican party and the neo-conservative (neocon) movement of George Bush is all but dead. There is virtually no way that a Republican will succeed George W. Bush as President of These Here United States. Unless…
3) Of the republican candidates that have formally filed with the FEC all are white, male and protestant.
What we know for sure, if Hillary wins or if Barack wins, the Democratic nominee for President will be a non-white-male-protestant running against a white, male, protestant candidate. While white Americans are very unlikely to elect a white woman who runs against a white, male, protestant, they are much less likely to elect a Black man who runs against a white male protestant. The lack of coonification that has made Obama’s candidacy unique among Black male candidates for the post of US president is precisely because Barack Obama is the best hope for a Republican president in 2008.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
What will 2007 bring? MLK weekend is coming up and once again thousands of Black gay men will honor Martin Luther King's Dream when they converge on the city of Atlanta bringing with them millions of dollars in disposable incomes ear marked for Lenox Mall, Bull Dogs, and Christian Brothers. Delta Airlines, Hertz Rent-A-Car, the Hiltons and dozens of restaurants, bars and clubs are licking there chomps at the prospect of record breaking sales margins at the expense of Black queers.
While club owner get, and remain rich, from our labors, another “For Us by Us” AIDS service organization, like Renaissance III, will likely close its doors or lay off staff for lack of funding. While we, Black Gay Men, demonstrate our ability to piss out thousands of dollars into the sewer systems of Atlanta, Miami, Los Angeles, New York, DC and other party centers all over the country the Sexual Minority Alliance of Alameda County remains committed to serving Black Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender young people even in the face of tough financial times and staff and programmatic cut backs. While ZAMI and The House of Manolo Blahnik struggle to raise the money to give away thousands of dollars worth of scholarships to young Black Queers, Black gay men will buy plain tickets, hotel rooms, party passes, drugs and alcohol worth many dozens times the amount that it cost for these organizations to send Young Black queers to school.
While we dance, sweating our liquid investment away into the thousands of dollars worth of designer digs bought special for MLK, Fourth of July, MemorialDay etc., the Black Justice Coalition, The Black AIDS Institute, People of Color in Crisis, Us Helping Us, People Into Living and the New York State Black Gay Network will all look for money from the FORD Foundation, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, State and Local governments and community foundations and other non-black funding sources so that they can keep their doors open and continue doing the work that they do on our behalf.
What is your New Year's resolution?
Will it be once again the weight loss plan that includes costly health club memberships or workout equipment that begin gathering dust on the 14th day of the year? Or will you help to make sure that young Black LGBT kids in Oakland have a place to go to get away from the violence and harassment that their schools, homes and neighborhoods often reserve for them? Is your commitment for 2007 to find a man, to which end you will spend thousands on a new wardrobe that shows off your figure? Or will you make a commitment to ensure that organizations driving our issues forward into policy and legislation have the dollars that they need to effectively lobby on our behalf? Will you resolve to finally take that trip that you’ve been promising yourself? Or will you take responsibility for the thousands of Black Gay men receiving HIV care services from Black AIDS Service Organizations.
Another year means another opportunity. We have the opportunity to make 2007 a legendary year, a revolutionary year, a year of liberation. Make your New Year's resolution to ensure that non-profit organizations working on our behalf and on behalf of our children don’t have to look outside of our communities for the dollars they need to continue to exist.