Sunday, March 30, 2008

An American tradition, reanimated

My little retrospective on “racial masking” leads us to the current example of Charles Knipp, a white gay comedian who performs as “Shirley Q. Liquor,” an ignorant black welfare queen with 19 “chirrens.”

In January 2007, I wrote about blogger Jasmyne Cannick and her protest campaign against Knipp’s grotesque caricature (which gay audiences seem to love).

The protest continues. There’s a new website called Ban Shirley Q. Liquor. Bloggers such as Invisible Woman, the Villager and Craig Nulan – among many others – are spreading the word.

(Plug the name “Shirley Q. Liquor” into my black-blogosphere search engine, and see how far and wide the word has spread.)

I’m curious to know what you think of this:

27 comments:

Bay Radical said...

Well, I'm as gay as they come and I've never heard of the guy. Now that I've watched this video (well, half of it - I found it unwatchable) I don't doubt that there are gay folks who love the guy, but I'd think twice about saying that "gay audiences love him". I mean, maybe his audiences are mostly gay, but most gay people probably wouldn't love him as we tend to be a rather PC lot (apolitical white gay men notwithstanding). I don't want to downplay racism in the gay community. It's here for sure. But I want to be wary about polarizing generalizations that assume all gay folks to be white and all Black folks to be straight. Know what I mean?

Lola Gets said...

Ive heard of this man before, and I think his act is deplorable. Forgive me if I am wrong, but I thought I read somewhere that RuPaul liked his act. Now I know RuPaul has pushed the envelope himself in his career, and sometimes that can be a good thing. But I dont think that "Shirley" is a good example of that.

L

fishesalot said...

Damn,

What can't you say about this! Dude evidently has some misplaced anger issues here, ...when you think about the concept of "the Big Fight". I see it as just another fucked up person stricking back at those that, in the bigger scope of things, have little to no impact on him or his plight.

Bad thing is, some folks will laugh at this shit, and maybe retain parts of what they see in this imagery/dialog and then reference it later as they run across individuals having any of these traits.


Shit is not good!

Peace

coquinegra said...

I've gotta be honest...my gay friend had me listening to this mess on the radio 5 years back and I *did* laugh...when I thought it was a Black man. Somehow, it got less funny when i knew it was a white man in blackface. that probably says more about how messed up I am than it does this comic.

Michael Fisher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Fisher said...

Again the question is:

Why is it that when a white person makes a mockery of a black person this is offensive (as it certainly is to me), and when a black person makes a mockery of a white person (such as Dave Chappel or Charlie Barnett doing the "white geek" etc.) it is considered hilarious?

Simple: When Chappel or Barnett do/did their stick they functioned like the Court Jesters of old. That is, you can make fun of the King/Queen, but no one took you serious because everyone knew who had the upper hand.

It's like your kitty cat, your pet, making fun of you.

On the other hand, people who are victimized and do not have power see the Shirley Q. Liquor stuff as insult added to actual injury. It's like someone whipped the shit outta you and then makes fun of the fact that you are crawling about in pain.

Logically speaking, then, if the System of Racism didn't exist, Shirley Q. Liquor and any other such "Comedian" wouldn't be considered offensive. Nor would the word "Nigger".

Thus, the very fact that these images and words are offensive to black folks in and of itself is already proof of the existence of the system.

Villager said...

This guy went a step too far when he posted a Black blogger (Jasmyne Casnick) phone number online because of her protest against his act....

peace, Villager

jjbrock said...

I don't like it and what he did to Jasmyne by putting her picture on a porn star because she spoke out against this mess.

If he think he's funny why not do his act without stereotyping? I don't find this mess funny at all.

Submariner said...

Fisher hit the mark. But I expect as the terminal crisis of confidence envelopes many white males and if Barack Obama becomes POTUS we will see more of these images. Mark my words. Before November 4, someone will let the N word drop and/or refer to Barack as boy. It might be a Clintonista and/or a McCain surrogate.

Invisible Woman said...

Sad but true, submariner.

Anonymous said...

What's striking about this guy, is that he literally is a one trick pony. Unlike say, Sascha Cohen, he doesn't have several characters in his act. He doesn't mock gay white men. That certainly doesn't speak well of his talent, or his taste.

Gay white men are discriminated against, but they are still white men, which gives them a leg up in this society. Like Chris Rock said, skinny girls can't tell fat girl jokes, while the reverse is true. You can only mock folks in a equal or better situation than yourself.

Undercover Black Man said...

When Chappel or Barnett do/did their stick they functioned like the Court Jesters of old. That is, you can make fun of the King/Queen, but no one took you serious because everyone knew who had the upper hand.

You're hittin' hard up in here, Michael. On this thread and the last one. Hittin' hard indeed.

Thembi said...

In my observation gay white men aren't PC at all when it comes to black females. There's a lot of imitating in that relationship that I think sometimes gives gay white men a feeling of legitimacy around these of images that they should not have...all of the "girl" and "diva" stuff is not as much feminine as it is black feminine and a lot of people see it as just 'gay'.

Undercover Black Man said...

... but I'd think twice about saying that "gay audiences love him".

I understand what you're saying, Bay Radical. But I was quite precise in saying gay "audiences," as opposed to gays as a whole.

And that's because Knipp doesn't do this act in mainstream comedy clubs. He does it (and is in demand to do it) at gay clubs and gay events. That's his target audience.

Undercover Black Man said...

... I thought I read somewhere that RuPaul liked his act.

Indeed, Lola, this is true. Matter of fact, RuPaul gave Mr. Knipp the lead track on his 2004 album "Red Hot."

It's a short spoken-word intro featuring Shirley Q. Liquor and Knipp's other black female caricature... "Watusi Jenkins."

Click here to hear it.

Michael Fisher said...

What folks should understand in this context is that the behavior that is displayed by "blacks" and "whites" is engineered behavior and that is engineering is done primarily through what goes for "entertainment".

A glimpse of this was provided by Jane Elliot's Iowa class room 1968 experiment A Class Room Divided.

What Ms. Elliot demonstrated with her 3rd graders during one day you have to extrapolate to a 24/7/365 hundreds of years continuously and consciously refined psychological conditioning of all the people on the entire globe.

It appears mind-boggling because no one wants to believe that such a conspiracy could exist. But it is the only logical explanation for the aberrant behavior of people classified into "races" which "races" DO NOT EXIST BIOLOGICALLY.

Once you eliminate all the obvious possibilities, the improbable or the unfathomable becomes the only explanation.

I went into the entertainment business among other things in order to help change this stuff. After 25 years in that business the only logical conclusion I was able to arrive at was that there is a "how-can-we-fuck-with-Niggers'- minds-today" committee somewhere that gives the top entertainment industry brass it's marching orders.

Sound Recordings, scripts, music, lyrics are carefully and scientifically and systematically vetted to keep reinforcing Ms. Elliott's experiment.

Dave should, if he thinks about it, know what I am talking about.

This shit is foul and it has to stop.

fishesalot said...

^fisher, you're a mind reader, that was a powerball hit right on the money. Pop-pow!

...anybody care to touch it????

Over, ...and out!

NunaOni said...

I am in the minority here because the clip really didn't bother me
that much (I could do without the name tho). What I see is basically Tyler Perry's whole career and no one is really offended by him. After going through the Wiki profile, I think everyone is giving this guy too much attention. If he is a one trick pony then let him be. He will revel in obscurity and never affect your wellbeing.

I was more sensitive to the first minstrel clip and the talk show minstrel because of the atmosphere of the country at that time. I can’t imagine being a Black person at the time and having every public representation of you from cans of food to television and theater be a mockery of everything you are. I can’t imagine having my children watch me as I’d “yes suh” and “no suh” my way through life. I can’t imagine living in a time where the word nigger would chill me to my core.

Today we still have our issues, but as far as I am concerned he is not a one of them. I am not a court jester, powerless or victimized. Even if I were offended, his act affects my life in no way shape or form. I mean seriously, did this performance really hurt you to your core? How far can we say that we have come when we breakdown whenever anyone calls us a name? Sticks and stones, people. If this guy were Black he would be praised for a portrayal of one Black woman we all know from the church or wherever (i.e. Tyler Perry).

Freaking out over this guy is some high school sh*t, seriously. We are professionals who have fought through so many obstacles to get where we are now. Does this guy really snatch a rung from your ladder? I hope not cuz there are much bigger fish to fry. Don’t like him, don’t watch him.

Invisible Woman said...

@nunaoni:

"I was more sensitive to the first minstrel clip and the talk show minstrel because of the atmosphere of the country at that time. I can’t imagine being a Black person at the time and having every public representation of you from cans of food to television and theater be a mockery of everything you are"

That still happens a lot today.

"I mean seriously, did this performance really hurt you to your core?"

Uhhh, yes.

"If this guy were Black he would be praised for a portrayal of one Black woman we all know from the church or wherever"

Uhhh, no, I don't think so.

Lola Gets said...

NunaOni said
"What I see is basically Tyler Perry's whole career and no one is really offended by him."

I dont mean to gang up on you here, but yeah, a lot of Black folks are having issues with Perry. They might not go so far as to say theyre "offended", but Perrys carictures (?) of the Black woman are starting to rub folks the wrong way.

L

Antonio said...

Jason Whitlock called Tyler Perry out for blatant stereotyping of blacks and Latina women in a recent article. I never thought someone who writes for ESPN could be so right on a cultural issue. I don't find Madea funny at all and frankly think his movies suck.

Some of my white gay friends think Shirley Q. Liquor is funny. One even took one of her quotes and put it on the cover of a greeting card. I informed them how I felt about her, so they don't bring her up anymore.

And he does have another alter-ego, Betty Butterfield, which is more or less a white version of Shirley. It isn't funny either.

Thembi said...

I'm with Lola. I can't explain why I draw the line here, but past Flip Wilson and Martin Lawrence doing Sheneneh and Momma Payne, I cant stand to see a black man in drag and because of this have never laid eyes on Tyler Perry for more than 30 seconds. Maybe there is some double standard but at the end of the day what makes a big black woman who is really a man underneath the costume "funny" is simply not funny to me.

bill said...

I first heard of Shirley Q. Liquor when I read John Strausbaugh's Black Like You: Blackface, Whiteface, Insult & Imitation in American Popular Culture. Soon after, completely unrelated, a friend of a friend (middle-aged, white female, college administrator) was talking about Shirley and quoting parts of his routines. So I had to look him up on youtube and my verdict was not funny and not offensive.

I'm all in favor of everyone being a target of mockery, but I'm not even sure that's the point of Shirley's act. Also think a person should be able to do racial humor without automatically being called a racist. But like I said, I get don't get the point or the purpose of Shirley Q. Liquor other than extreme boredom.

Here's a quote from Strausbaugh:

One of the functions of humor is to serve as a forum where we Americans can say things about one another that we cannot say in polite conversation. In comic performance and jokes we say how we really feel about one another in ways we never do in public and with a straight face. In that sense, Shirley Q. Liquor's blackface mask is the ultimate in not-a-straight-face. It allows White people to laugh about Black people in public, in ways they normally would do only in private. By penetrating the surface of polite, politically correct discourse, Shirley Q. Liquor forces her audience to acknowledge feelings, attitudes and opinions that they have been well trained to hide and repress. One of the signal failures of politically correct social programming has been the notion that if Americans could be trained to speak and act as if they don't have any of these opinion or attitudes, these attitudes and opinions will disappear. Comedians like Shirley Q. Liquor, Dave Chapelle, Chris Rock, Carlos Mencia, and once upon a time Andrew Dice Clay, Richard Pryor and Lenny Bruce, have challenged this failed experiment in social engineering.

jjbrock said...

I don't believe you can compare Tyler Perry too this. I can relate to Tyler Perry character more than to a white man being that character.

@antonio, Jason Whitlock is good for attacking other blacks. When you will attack our young people and Hip Hop by saying they are the reason for all the problems in the country I got issues with that.

So I will take what ever he says with a grain of salt.

Tomm said...

I can understand not liking the act, or thinking that he's not very good (though that's definitely arguable), but is this is a horror that requires banning?

Obviously some people think so, and those people are more dangerous and deluded than a minor comedian with an offensive act.

Stop banning people, books, ideas, movies, images, and yes even comedy acts.

Angie said...

Shirley Q. Liquor is disgusting. In essence, the only people that laugh at that, gay or straight, are people who, on some level, think that black women are lazy welfare queens who name their children funny things because they are so stupid. Is THAT racist? I think so.

This is actually similar to my feelings for Chris "Leave Britney Alone" Crocker. He has appropriated what he considers to be black culture and is not shy about just inserting it into his performance. His "Bitch, Please" clip, wherein he "parodies" the many ways you (i.e. black ladies!) say "Bitch, please!" has been viewed almost 5 million times on YouTube. Who has been passing it around? Lots of gawkers, sure, but as the article about him in The Stranger pointed out, lots of urbane gay men too. Crocker talks in there about how he started listening in to a "partyline" for gay black men in Los Angeles and he adopted their way of talking. Right. A teenage, Southern, white kid just picked up saying nigga from an LA partyline where he was pretending to be a gay black man. Sure!

It's not about who has the "right" to claim identities but it is about respecting those identities and accepting that not every thing can be "yours." The court jester metaphor was apt and, frankly, it's just not funny when the bully is picking on the skinny kid.

dburt said...

I'm going to make this easy. Let's try to get rid of the BLACK minstrels first. Just as marijuana has been deemed a "gateway" drug, some of our entertainers that have embraced neo-minstrelsy might be considered the conduit by which Shirley Q. has been able to garner an audience. I'm just sayin'.....