Monday, June 11, 2007

UBM – The Early Days (cont.)

Here’s more of my August 2005 back-and-forth with commenters at American Renaissance, a white nationalist website where I used to dwell for cheap kicks.

I neglected to mention last time that this particular thread was set off by a Washington Post article about a white hip-hop deejay called “The Pumpsta,” who was prone to yell “Kill whitey!” into the microphone at his parties… parties which catered to “large groups of white hipsters.”

Most American Renaissance types consider The Pumpsta to be a “self-loathing white zombie” and a “spoiled little white self-hating automaton.” Perhaps he is. Or maybe Pumpsta’s just trying a tad too fucking hard to draw attention to himself. Whatever. I could give less than a damn either way.

But I did avail myself of the opportunity to take the AmRen conversation to a deeper place:
UNDERCOVER BLACK MAN: I find the “White N*gro” concept a minorly curious phenomenon in American cultural history. I’m not talking about white appropriation of black cultural styles, which is a larger, deeper and more fascinating subject, going back 175 years — when Thomas D. Rice dressed himself up as “Jim Crow” [pictured] and originated the uniquely American art form of blackface minstrelsy. The appropriation story is currently embodied in Eminem.…

Consider the ultimate examplar of American “White N*gro”-ness — bandleader Johnny Otis. The son of Greek store-owners, John Veliotes grew up around black folks, was inspired to pursue a career in music after seeing a Count Basie concert, and became a legendary rhythm-and-blues artist.

But that’s not all. He married a black woman, and in recent years he founded a black church. … Whatever the white nationalists among you may think of him for doing so, Johnny Otis at least wasn’t a dilletante.

GIMMEBACKMYCULTURE: I’d like to attend a party where Amren’s posters were in attendance. This particular thread’s responses are very impressive and insightful and beneficial to the discussion. It’d be an enjoyable get-together and the tribal thump-thump-thump of hip-hop “music” would nowhere be heard. Someday I hope. (By the way, why do blacks comment on a bulletin board where they’re really not wanted?)

Eminem truly is a cultural tragedy. This wigger nauseousness is as deplorable as it is depressing. The anti-racism brainwashing that American tv&film has contaminated this culture with is deadly epidemic now. …

I only wish Americans would tune out and — at least for a moment — consider the deadly reality of antiracism. But this society is so celebrity-mad, oprah is a billionaire and Sam Francis died a pauper.

UNDERCOVER BLACK MAN: GimmeBackMyCulture pa(ren)thetically inquired: “(By the way, why do blacks comment on a bulletin board where they’re really not wanted?)”

Well, sir, I do so just to prove that I can sit at any lunch counter I want to. And also because the American Renaissance wing of white nationalism fancies itself as upholding standards of civil discourse and objective thinking, thus why wouldn’t a black person’s point of view be welcomed? (And I do feel welcome here, and, in gratitude for that, I endeavor to be well-behaved.) …

Now, back to the subject at hand. Apart from this attention-craving young man called the Pumpsta, I sense a great deal of resentment here to the fact that many young whites are attracted to hip-hop music. Well, it’s the same as it ever was.

For those among you who believe that black people have contributed nothing to America besides out-of-wedlock babies, high rates of crime and a drag on the collective IQ, here is one indisputable fact:

Black Americans, generation after generation after generation, create modes of cultural expression which are then whole-heartedly taken up by their white neighbors… and by peoples all over the world.

“Let the white kids enjoy black music,” said Sam Phillips, the white man who owned Sun Records and released music by B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf and Junior Parker (not to mention Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis).

When GimmeBackMyCulture says he wants his culture back, which culture does he mean? He must not mean the music of Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones, who worshipped the Mississippi Delta bluesmen.

American funk bands of the 1970s — who made the blackest, most ghettofied music of their era — find their most enthusiastic audiences today in Japan and the Netherlands.

And is there a whiter country on earth than Denmark? Yet Copenhagen — called the “Jazz Capital of Europe” — provided a nurturing home during the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s to such black American expatriate beboppers as Oscar Pettiford, Dexter Gordon, Ben Webster, Kenny Drew, Duke Jordan, Horace Parlan and Thad Jones.

How many of you know about the rich, long-flourishing jazz scene in Poland? Check this out, from the Polish website www.culture.pl:

“The tradition of Polish modern jazz takes its origin directly from relating to the American classics. During the 1950’s and 1960’s, Polish musicians reached for records of Charlie Parker and Dizzie Gillespie, of hard-bop quintets (The Jazz Messengers and Julian Cannonball Adderley), as well as for the records of bands led by Miles Davis and John Coltrane. It would be difficult to overestimate the influence of the radio programmes of Willis Conover, broadcasted by the Voice of America, on the development of jazz in Poland.”

Indeed, Conover, who was white, is considered the most influential disc jockey in the history of the Voice of America (the U.S. government radio service that was aimed at folks behind the Iron Curtain). Conover was famous overseas as a symbol of “the American way of life.” And he became that by teaching his listeners about the music of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Jimmie Lunceford, Sidney Bechet, Charlie Parker, Art Tatum and Ella Fitzgerald.

Now, this has nothing to do with addressing the pathologies of the black underclass. I just wanted to make the point, objectively, that you can’t talk about an “American culture” without accepting that black people have shaped it, and will continue to do so.

RISORGIMENTO II: … Never once have I denied that Blacks have influenced White American music. Good and bad. … You, however, can’t get yourself to admit that Whites have also influenced Black music. Because you are a Black racialist. Admit it. (otherwise none of this “Black influenced White”, or “Blacks did it first” would matter to you).

You are proud of your people’s (positive) accomplishments. And I can’t fault you for that. So long as it’s based on solid facts and not myths, or outright lies, to build your self esteem. Go for it. …

When it comes to Music my tastes are not based on Black or White. Apparently, you would be surprised to know that I consider the two greatest saxophonists that ever lived to be John Coltrane and Grover Washington Jr.. Washington was not only an incredible talent, but he was a genuinely nice person, who didn’t carry a Black chip on his shoulder, unlike Miles Davis, who was an out and out racist.

I considered Jimmy Hendrix to be the greatest rock guitarist, and not because he was Black (I was at Woodstock and saw him play), until Stevie Ray Vaughn came along and blew me away. IMO, he is the greatest guitarist that ever lived, for numerous reasons, none of which is because he was White. …

The problem is, due to all the Afrocentric balony, it’s hard to tell or trust what’s true in Black history. Liberal forces both Black and White, who consider self-esteem the most important aspect when teaching Black students, that the lines between truth and fiction have purposely been blurred.

Due to racial tribalism, and liberal social conditioning that sees any form of White pride as the ‘racist bogeyman’, you cannot tolerate White’s who are openly proud of their peoples accomplishments, and so you feel the need to come to this site to set us White folk straight about the superiority of “Black” music on White America and Euro Culture, with not so truthful, and exaggerated spin. …

Sorry, but we are educated people who know how to research and check facts. As the old saying goes, “You can fool all of the people some of the time, and you can fool some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool the folks at American Renaissance.”

UNDERCOVER BLACK MAN: To Risorgimento II: … I was going to let you have the last word. But then you wrote this:

“You cannot tolerate White’s who are openly proud of their peoples accomplishments, and so you feel the need to come to this site to set us White folk straight about the superiority of ‘Black’ music on White America and Euro Culture, with not so truthful, and exaggerated spin.”

The problem with much of what you write — aside from your unsure grasp of the rules of punctuation — is your reliance upon the “ad hominen,” in both senses of that term. That is, appealing to emotion and prejudice rather than reason, and attacking the character and motives of your opponent rather than his ideas.

Nothing I have written during this exchange betrays an intolerance of white racialists. Notwithstanding my occasional attempts at ironic wit, what have I done to deny or minify the vast technical and cultural achievements of white men?

I am grateful to white men every time I step onto an airplane, as something like 95 percent of commercial airline pilots are white males. (And you won’t see me accusing the airline industry of racism or agitating for “more brothers in the cockpits!” Maybe everybody who’s currently an airline pilot is supposed to be an airline pilot, and all the people who aren’t airline pilots — who lack the skill sets, desire and temperament to perform that task — they ain’t supposed to be airline pilots. Shoot, even Brother Jesse’s got enough sense to leave that one alone.) … White men have much to be proud of…

Therefore, your characterization of me as an intolerant black racialist is simply an appeal to the prejudices of your fellow whites. But I’m less upset by that than by your repeated accusation that I am “not so truthful,” or that certain information I present is “not true.” You may challenge my interpretations, but not my command of the facts. …

I have not striven to exaggerate the impact of black music on white culture, nor to argue the “superiority” of black music. I have been clear-headed and precise with my language in putting forward a proposition:

Black Americans, with characteristic flamboyant expressiveness, have repeatedly innovated new musical forms (banjo music, ragtime, blues, bebop, funk, hip-hop) which whites become enchanted by and absorb it into their own way of life, and this happens to such a degree that the rest of the world defines American culture in large part by these black cultural expressions.

Is this a racialist exaggeration? Or is it a proposition supported by evidence? I have presented a variety of facts, large and small — some of them new to you, no doubt — to support my case. The impact of bebop on Poland’s musicians; the adaptation of banjo music from black slaves by white entertainers….

Meanwhile, you say again and again that “music is a compilation of many influences,” which is saying nothing at all. ALL culture is a compilation of many influences. But if you think Guy Lombardo’s influence on Louis Armstrong is equivalent to Jelly Roll Morton’s influence on Bix Beiderbecke, you are missing the big picture.

I’ve provided a way for you to understand why millions of young white kids rap along to Snoop Dogg. It’s the same cultural story being played out once more. The same as the 19th-century white minstrels “blacking up,” the same as young whites in the Jazz Age doing the Charleston (a black folk dance that became a nationwide ballroom craze), the same as Beat Generation white kids embracing the slang of black bebop musicians in order to be “cool,” the same as a young Brit named Brian Jones calling himself “Elmo Jones” and trying to play slide guitar like a Delta bluesman.

Whites are (and apparently will always be) particularly enchanted and intrigued with black art and black style. They want that as an element of their way of life.

11 comments:

SJ said...

That was truly an enjoyable read. I don't see a "to be continued", so was that the end of the conversation? I can't imagine what kind of response they would come up.

Your knowledge of the facts and your command of the English language is a force to be reckoned with on forums.

Undercover Black Man said...

Thanks, SJ. That thread had burned itself out by the time I got the last word in...

After a few months on the AmRen forums, believe it or not, I even received an appreciative word or two from a handful of AmRen readers. Which was cool, and made me feel like I wasn't totally wasting my time.

That's why I like "constructive engagement"... you never know, you might truly make somebody think a little deeper.

LeaNder said...

Interesting. Something I have been wondering about concerning the larger war of culture we are in, call it WWIII or IV if you like, is, if the warriors of our glorious Western Culture ever ask themselves if the giants on whose shoulders we stand, shouldn't have been asked first, if they wanted to create á pool of pride for a specific white western culture. I have been hearing these things too often lately.

Admittedly I feel basically the same reaction, no matter if the sounds comes from a low or high throat, if you allow me to shift media here?

Why should I want to question the huge impact of black music? Why ask for possible white influences? Odd? Did you manage to detect core thoughts, mental skeletons, a basic architecture of white racist thought after a while?

Anything essential?

I don't have an "unsure grasp of the rules of punctuation"; I happen to throw them out once in a while and watch were they fall. But I know I should be more careful;-)

LeaNder said...

Hmmm?

"if the warriors of our glorious Western Culture ever ask themselves-,- if the giants on whose shoulders we stand, shouldn't have been asked first,

Roberto Rivera said...

My brother (or, mi hermano), I understand the morbid (?) fascination with the white supremacist mind: I have a similar affliction. But your capacity for tolerance makes a far better man than I'll ever be.

Undercover Black Man said...

leaNder: As for what I've learned about the architecture of white racist thought, I have a peculiar notion. I think some white people are caught up in the same psychological trap of the "victim mentality" as a lot of blacks.

That may sound bizarre, but I'm telling you, some of those white racialists are just too attached to the idea that the world is against them, the system is stacked against them, that they're suffering because of their race, that somebody else has all the advantages, that many of their fellow whites have "sold them out"...

I don't know why those ideas are so psychologically attractive for some people. But part of the reason I can tolerate them -- and this touches on your comment too, Roberto -- is that I see them coming from a position of weakness. So it's an entirely different game than, say, 50 years ago, when overt white racists exercised a lot of power.

Also, Roberto, American Renaissance is a special case, in that they truly do police their discussions... no slurs, and at least the pretense of intelligent and civil discourse. My morbid fascination wouldn't lead me to hardcore neo-Nazi sites (except to occasionally observe quietly from a distance).

Thanks for the comments, fellows.

mike in dc said...

I can't get past the whole "SRV is a better/greater rock guitarist than Hendrix" part. Was he stoned at Woodstock, and missed the last 20 minutes?
As Neil Young once said, "there's nobody even in the same building as that guy(Hendrix)".

Random InterGhost said...

To be honest, it seems utterly perverse to argue about the wildly disproportionate impact on popular music made by the African diaspora over the last century. Has it all been one way traffic? No, but let's be honest, a frankly astounding amount of the genius and innovation in modern music has come from black people.

Even outside the US, if you look at the rest of the Americas you'll see the same thing. The places that have had a substantial African influence (Brazil, Jamaica, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad, etc) have produced vast amounts of music of global popular appeal, while the places that don't, haven't. No one who isn't Mexican likes that honking tuba shit, but people love salsa. Everyone hates the fucking Peruvian pan pipes, but people all over the world get down to reggae.

If I were one of the AmRen commentators, I woulda changed the subject.

dez said...

I don't know why those ideas are so psychologically attractive for some people. But part of the reason I can tolerate them -- and this touches on your comment too, Roberto -- is that I see them coming from a position of weakness. So it's an entirely different game than, say, 50 years ago, when overt white racists exercised a lot of power.

I think you just answered your own question, UBM. Their power has been eroded and they need a scapegoat. God forbid they take responsibility for their own lives, ya know?

Undercover Black Man said...

Random Interghost, you said this beautifully, perfectly: "No one who isn't Mexican likes that honking tuba shit, but people love salsa. Everyone hates the fucking Peruvian pan pipes, but people all over the world get down to reggae."

And check out South Africa. Zulu music sounds like this; whereas Afrikaaner soul music swings a little something like this.

I hold this truth to be self-evident... that black music rocks the planet, and it always will.

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