Thursday, January 25, 2007

Umgawa! Blog power!

Here is some of what’s being discussed on the black side of the blogosphere:

With all the media hubbub surrounding Isaiah Washington and his use of the word “faggot,” I tip my apple cap to Jasmyne Cannick, a black lesbian who resolved any potential crisis of identity politics for herself by standing tall for Isaiah… and against the “gay mafia.”

She circulated the online petition for saving Isaiah’s job, and she declared: “[S]omething about this whole thing reeks of white privilege, gay power, and what I commonly refer to as the hypocrisy of white gay America.”

Cannick highlighted a drag queen known as “Shirley Q. Liquor.” This is a white Southern comedian (name of Charles Knipp) who performs – in blackface! – as an Ebonics-spouting welfare queen with 19 "chirrens." Apparently, Shirley Q. Liquor is popular on the gay cabaret circuit.

“So let me get this straight, no pun intended,” Cannick wrote last Friday, “it’s not ok for the Black person to use the f-word, but it is ok for the white gay person to dress up in blackface and perform parodies that mock Blacks.”

Shirley Q. Liquor was scheduled to perform next month in a West Hollywood nightclub. But after days of agitating on her blog, Jasmyne Cannick announced a few days ago that this show has been canceled.

Ms. Cannick ain’t through yet. She reports that Charles Knipp/Shirley Q. Liquor is scheduled to perform on February 17 in New Orleans, and she has provided the addresses and phone numbers of black media outlets and city officials in New Orleans, so her readers can make their feelings known.

As Cannick blogged last week:

I learned a long time ago that as a Black lesbian, my place was with Blacks. The same racism and classism issue that exists between Blacks and whites in general, applies to the gay community as well. I may have issues with the occasional homophobic Black pastor or rapper, but at the end of the day, we as Blacks know what discrimination and racism is because we’ve dealt with it all of our lives. … Unfortunately, when it comes to the gay community, if it’s not affecting their rosy white lives, then they couldn’t give a damn. But hey, isn’t that what white privilege is all about?

Of course, this stimulated lots of vigorous commentary amongst her readers. Such as this from “akaison”:

I see – so if I think Mr. Washington is a homophobe, and that this is wrong, that makes me white. I am black and gay, and think he’s wrong. Am I still white? Oh, I know, being gay makes me white. Or maybe it just makes you a bigot. Thanks for playing.

Me, I couldn’t care less about the Isaiah Washington affair. But I’m curious as hell about this Shirley Q. Liquor. I fancy myself a student of comedy (and of blackface as well, actually). I am not easily offended. So I went to Shirley Q. Liquor’s website and ordered three of his CDs. I’ll report my thoughts here after I’ve checked ‘em out.

Moving on…

Richard Prince, in his journalism blog for the Maynard Institute, reported last Friday that 88-year-old Simeon Booker is retiring. Anyone who ever read Jet magazine knows the name Simeon Booker; he ran Johnson Publishing’s Washington bureau for decades. His coverage in Jet of the Emmett Till murder in 1955 was legendary in its impact.

(Black reporter James L. Hicks, a contemporary of Booker’s, wrote in 1955 about covering the trial of Emmett Till’s accused killers in Mississippi: “A deputy threatened to knock Simeon Booker’s ‘head off’ because Booker held up [his] press card and asked the deputy to help him get through the crowd. A man who walked up to the press table and called all of us ‘niggers’ was sworn in five minutes later as the bailiff.” The two accused white men were acquitted by the proverbial “all-white jury.”)

What I never knew was that Simeon Booker had been the first black full-time reporter at the Washington Post, from 1952 to 1954. I worked at the Post during the early ‘90s, and it was a world apart from the place Booker experienced. Dick Prince quoted from Howard Bray’s 1980 book “The Pillars of the Post”:

"One men's room was open to [Booker] in the Post building… He avoided the inhospitable company cafeteria; many other eating places were closed to him. Booker's editors kept him in the office for a long spell, but when they finally sent him out to cover a robbery the police nearly arrested him as a suspect. He had trouble getting white cabbies to take him back to his office in time to write his stories before the deadline. Booker's copy was sometimes scrawled with racial epithets."

Finally, black conservative Casey Lartigue (cited Monday on Shay Riley’s Booker Rising blog) had a nicely contrarian take on the news that two African-American head coaches will square off in the upcoming Super Bowl. Lartigue blogged thusly:

I was listening to black talk radio this morning. There was a lot of emotion. One caller said it was a "dream come true." Another said he had "tears in his eyes." Yet another caller said he was "thankful to be alive" to see it happen. The music played was "I'm black and I'm proud" and "Ain't No Stopping Us Now!"

Was the emotion about seeing a black person on the Supreme Court? Or that blacks have held the highest ever positions in a presidential administration? Or some other significant historical event?

Nope! They were talking about two black coaches getting ready to play in the Super Bowl! It seems that many would be more offended about an attack on Tony Dungy or Lovie Smith than about attacks on Clarence Thomas or Condi Rice.

I can see why blacks were so excited about Jackie Robinson back in the day. But in 2007, so much enthusiasm about football coaches?

Unfortunately for some, a black coach won't have a chance to defeat a white coach--meaning that black NFL coaches will only be 1-1 after the game...

Will it be racism if the game has low ratings?


odo coileus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
odo coileus said...

Just found your blog via Craig Mazin's site.

Interesting. Will return.

Undercover Black Man said...

Thanks, odo. I'll be here.

SJ said...

Does this whole 'faggot' issue really have to dissolve into a black/white thing? It's easy to think that people are ganging up against black people but I don't think it is like that. I think a similar uproar would have ensued had it been one of the other white men on the show saying 'faggot'.

You also have to remember that the whole thing did die down but Isaiah brought it up again (by lying outright). Not everything regarding a black person has to dissolve into a race issue.

And why all this hubbub over two black coaches? Sure it's a first time thing but the less attention brought to it the better. I don't think white America really cares if the coaches are's all about the sport and occasion. They don't care whether an athlete is black so why should they about a coach?

Maybe I'm all wrong. What do I really know about race in the US anyway...I'm a foreigner in this country.

bill said...

Here's a fascinating book from last year that uses Shirley Q. Liquor as an introduction to the subject matter: Black Like You: Blackface, Whiteface, Insult and Imitation in American Popular Culture, John Strausbaugh.

Undercover Black Man said...

Bill, thanks for telling me about "Black Like You"; I didn't know of it, but I've ordered it.

Turns out my friend Darius James -- an unrecognized genius -- wrote the afterword.

SJ, you wrote: "What do I really know about race in the US anyway...I'm a foreigner in this country."

And you're in Birmingham, Alabama??

Man, the ghosts of America's racist past are all around you. Bull Connor... the little girls killed in the Sixteenth Streeth Baptist Church bombing...

Allow me a quick quotation of Martin Luther King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail":

"One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a 72-year-old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: 'My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest.'

"They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting-in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience's sake."

Of course, now Birmingham, Ala., is 73 percent black, and in 2005 it was ranked the sixth most dangerous city in America. (That year, its murder rate was higher than Baltimore's, higher than Detroit's, higher than Newark's... higher than every city in America except Compton, Calif., and Gary, Ind. I wonder if Bull Connor is smiling in his grave?)

Well, SJ, I never said this race shit was easy. Take care of yourself down there.

SJ said...

Yeah when I came here I was stunned to find out the amazing history of this city. The bombings, the civil rights museum, etc.

Though I have personally never had much problems here (except for somebody breaking into my car and stealing my CD player, etc. in the first month I bought the car), the homicide rate is quite high and you regularly hear of murders taking place. Last year I remember heard on the news how the homicide rate was on par to exceed the rate in 2005, reminding me of season 3 of The Wire where Burrell mentions how they want to keep the numbers below 250 (or something similar).

Out of curiosity, I once decided to drive by the 'ghetto'...and witnessed an area which looked eerily similar to the one shown in season 1.