Monday Reads: How is this even a Thing? I try to fully Celebrate Black History Month this yearPosted: February 4, 2019 Filed under: 2018 elections, 2020 Elections, morning reads | Tags: Black History Month 72 Comments
Well, it’s Monday Sky Dancers and it’s never too late to learn new things unless you’re Donald Trump.
The appalling way women have been historically treated was one of the hallmarks of the last two years. The #MeToo movement led to a very differently looking congress in 2018. The #BlackLivesMatter movement went back front and center yesterday at the Super Bowl.
It’s Black History month and it’s time to find teachers and take lessons. It’s also evidently time to relearn a few lessons some people failed to get the first million times out.
I’m fully beginning to think that the next election will be about the historically shameful way that Black people have been treated up to and way pass the Emancipation Proclamation and the enfranchisement of Black men into the voting populace in 1870 with the passing of the 15th Amendment. Virginia has once again taken center stage.
How can a man my age think that participating in any form of black face as an adult in any manner during–at the very least–the back half of the 20th century forward think that’s not an offense that should cause you to resign your position as Governor of the state that basically was ground zero for American slavery? How can a Democratic leader who relied on votes from African Americans not do the right thing? When will Virginia Governor Ralph Northram resign?
The drumbeat spread to the state’s public universities. The College of William and Mary on Monday announced that Northam would not attend Friday’s inauguration of new president Katherine Rowe, saying in a statement that “the Governor’s presence would fundamentally disrupt the sense of campus unity we aspire to and hope for with this event.”
University of Virginia president James Ryan issued a statement Sunday suggesting that Northam should resign, saying that if a leader’s “trust is lost, for whatever reason, it is exceedingly difficult to continue to lead. It seems we have reached that point.”
On Sunday night, the governor met with senior staffers of color to discuss his future following two days of defiance against the national clamor that he should resign. People familiar with that meeting said Northam had not reached a decision.
It was unclear who was present, but the group did not include Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), who would become governor if Northam resigned, the people said. One Democratic official said the meeting was emotional in tone.
Calling the Sunday night meeting was a clear signal of Northam’s effort to weigh support within the administration as he evaluates his options. Although he pledged Saturday to stand his ground, he also said he would reconsider if he thought he could no longer be effective.
Though blackface was the No. 1 entertainment form throughout the United States in the 19th century, it has a particularly notable legacy in Virginia. The first globally famous minstrel troupe hailing from New York City rebranded itself as the Virginia Minstrels in 1843. Dan Emmett, the group’s founder, understood his minstrel troupe needed to project a sense of authentic, stereotypical blackness. Virginia, a state that imported enslaved Africans as a colony as early as 1619, embodied the complex relationship between blackface entertainment, slavery and American culture in a single word. The troupe did not just borrow Virginia’s brand, but shaped it: Its song “Dixie” became the unofficial Confederate anthem.
That legacy can be seen in the history of blackface at the University of Virginia, founded and designed by another Virginia governor: Thomas Jefferson. Virginia was a state built on enslaved labor, and U-Va. was no different. Beginning in 1830, the university would “hire out” enslaved people from the surrounding area. Eventually, U-Va. purchased humans like “Big Lewis” Commodore in 1832 at auction for $580, permanently separating him from his family.
Virginia’s slave empire ended when African American slaves fought for their freedom in the Civil War. After 1865, Lewis Commodore was free. But when slavery disappeared, fundraising with amateur blackface minstrel shows and city minstrel parades emerged. They featured fictionalized blackface slaves and their Klansman counterparts — a pairing on display in the Northam photo — to sustain Virginia’s infrastructure and segregated economy, as well as to inculcate new generations into a form of white supremacy associated with collegiality, school spirit and patriotism.
Over the weekend, BB introduced me to Dr RL Barnes and her area of research which is basically the not so subtle and the subtle ways that the Institutions of this country remind every one of what racists think is the “place” of Black Americans in their own country. It’s also about how some of us passively, stupidly, and naively go along with it and internalize it.
I remember poring over literature, laws, and popular culture in the 1970s discovering how language, pictures, stories, and culture all work together to keep women in their “place”. As a teenager and young adult, it became very freeing to be able to point these things out and to discover it wasn’t all in your head that menfolk and their enabling women were out to get you.
I knew there was similar things in place for people of color including all the stereotypes of Native Americans, Hispanics, and African Americans that culture, the law, and society can feed you. I’m beginning to read stories of friends much the same way I read stories of friends screaming Me Too.
Over the weekend, I learned that decorating with recently picked cotton bolls was and is a thing. Oh, this is not making faking spider webs with synthetic batting and its use isn’t the innocent thing that Way Fair, Hobby Lobby and others are making it out to be.
There was also a history of casually tossing bags of them on to the lawns of “inconvenient” neighbors which seems a bit like something the KKK would do. How is this a thing?
Bridging that gap requires unpacking why, for many black people and people of color, raw cotton is a symbol of racial terror.
Cotton represents the product of a system that required slave labor to function. More recently, perpetrators of racial intimidation have used cotton as a symbol of their hatred. Before white robes became the uniform, some KKK members wore ceremonial hornsstuffed with cotton. Two white men seeking to intimidate and unsettle members of the University of Missouri’s Black Culture Center littered the front lawn of the Center with cotton balls. The word even fills the mouths of students who bully their black peers by calling them “cotton pickers.”
Jasmine Gales, a black woman and social activist in Nashville, explains how this context translates into the contemporary mindset of many people of color:
“Black people’s association with the cotton plant is an obvious one of trauma and suffering,” she wrote for The Tennessean. “In being culturally sensitive to the history of African-Americans which includes slavery and the free labor of cotton harvesting, an institution wouldn’t choose to display it at a dinner meant to uplift the black experience.”
The individuals who reacted defensively or dismissively to the cotton complaints either ignored this context or were ignorant of it entirely. If there wasn’t an explicitly racist motive behind the design choice, they reasoned, then it wasn’t a problem.
Neither perception reflects an absolute truth. But the chorus of naysayers trying to drown out the voices of two black women reflects a power dynamic that must inform a culturally responsive interpretation.
So, I was horrified back in 1986 when the CJ Howell movie “Soul Man” came out. Haven’t seen it. Wouldn’t see it. Still can’t believe some one released and funded it and filmed it. It had obvious implications for my generation because of the Bakke Supreme Court decision in 1978 and my experience with busing and integration prior to that in and around 1973. There were mad white people every where about those decisions but I kind’ve wrote it all off to crazy white uneducated southern white trash and didn’t really explore it. Well, I’m exploring it now and finding that my assumptions were naive. Well, stupid if you really want the truth
There is, of course, no acceptable way for deeply unacceptable films to reach their merciful conclusions. But Soul Man manages to confound even one’s worst expectations. Before Mark’s big reveal to the campus, Gordon assumes the role of a pseudo-defense attorney, flipping the script on the product-of-his-environment argument. Mark, he argues, was brought up to be selfish and entitled, the product of an upper-crust white family in the suburbs. “Can you blame him for the color of his skin?”
For some reason, James Earl Jones’s character agrees with the assessment, and is even amused by Mark’s stunt. “You must have learned a great deal more than you bargained for through this experience,” he remarks, grinning. “I didn’t really know what it feels like, sir,” adding, “If I didn’t like it, I could always get out.”
That line is the movie’s nauseating coup de grâce, intended to justify the fact that Mark gets off with little more than a slap on the wrist for his deception. He tells Jones’s character that he wants to finish his law degree to “do some work that might be of use to someone.”
Mark’s happy ending prefigures a new era of racist film: the 21st-century white savior flick, a future constant in multiplexes and on Oscar ballots.
The deal is this. The blackface thing in that Virginia med school during the 1980s wasn’t an outlier. It was evidently another one of those “things” that I had no clue was a thing. I’m fortunate to know many New Orleans Writers and bloggers including a young black woman whose outrage at a cottonball decoration introduced me to more subtle ways that white culture continues to terrorize Black Americans.
My friend and blogger at The American Zombie reminded me this weekend that Tulane had a similar incident. One of the guys that was involved ran unsuccessfully for governor of Louisiana and now owns one of the state’s two big Newspapers.
I thought it prescient to repost this story today to remind folks that institutionalized racism is still alive and thriving behind the closed doors of collegiate fraternities throughout the South. Also to point out that the universities themselves should not be blamed. As evident in my story, Tulane struggled for years to separate the DKE’s from the school’s namesake going so far as to kick them off campus and not recognize them as an official fraternity. They existed as an independent entity living off-campus until the cancer finally died out around the late 90’s, or at least it went into remission. I would hope it’s dead but judging by the impenitent attitudes of the former DKE’s in the comment section of my post I would assume an entire new generation of kids are now carrying their fathers’ prejudices with them under alternate letters of the Greek alphabet.
My favorite dodge in that comment section was the DKE alum who tried to convince me that the noose in the 1975 yearbook picture was actually a tire swing sans tire:
A “tire swing sans tire” hanging twenty-something feet in the air would lead me to believe all these guys were on the Tulane pole vaulting team. And how, exactly, did the tire disappear from the noose? The tire split before the rope did? No one thought to ask, “Hey…you know…we have a noose hanging in our yearbook picture…should we take that down?” What a load of shit.University of Oklahoma president David Boren voiced his distaste with the actions of the SAE’s but he may have a hard time eradicating the fraternity from the campus if he so chooses. Once again, I don’t want to blame the educational institution itself, the actions of these fraternities do not represent the morals of the body wh ole. Anyway, here’s the story, reposted:
You may read Jason Brad Berry’s 2010 story at this link. I was in college at the University of Nebraska at the time. I was in grad school at the time of Northram’s adventure. I personally know of no one in my circle that would’ve done anything remotely like that even though I did witness a number of horrifying angry white people during the Omaha Public Schools “busing” policy’s start.
I grew up knowing that Omaha purposefully designed its interstate system to isolate the black part of town that provided the only black representative in the state’s unicameral. His voice was powerful and pissed off that powers that be for decades which frankly thrilled me to pieces. Senator Ernie Chambers turned 80 in 2017 and his legacy will be a forever thing there. Still, finding all this stuff went on with me totally unwoke embarrasses me and made me extremely sad. Senator Chambers was my primary teacher on racism until I moved to New Orleans. I have found I need more teachers. I need to learn more about these things that I did not know were a thing.
As I delve more into Black history with so many motivations that it’s hard to unwind them all, I turn to this “How Frederick Douglass Harnessed the Power of Portraiture to Reframe Blackness in America”. Douglass knew the power of an image before nearly any one.
For Douglass, this was no happy accident. Today, he is remembered as an influential advocate of emancipation and civil rights, a legacy defined by his best-selling autobiographies and powerful speeches. But what has largely been forgotten is the way he deftly manipulated the power of images to advance his cause.To put it simply, Douglass was a photography buff. He penned four speeches expounding upon the medium throughout his life—one more than the man considered the Civil War era’s most prominent photo critic. He held Louis Daguerre, the inventor of the daguerreotype, in great esteem for broadening photography’s appeal beyond the upper class. Because of daguerreotypes, Douglass claimed, “the humblest servant girl may now possess a picture of herself such as the wealth of kings could not purchase fifty years ago.” He viewed photography as the most democratic of the arts.He also believed deeply in its objectivity. “For Douglass, photography was the lifeblood of being able to be seen and not caricatured, to be represented and not grotesque, to be seen as fully human and not as an object or chattel to be bought and sold,” says Celeste-Marie Bernier, co-author of Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century’s Most Photographed American (2015).Photography was the perfect tool for a man trying to rewrite racial prejudices in the United States, and Douglass sought out every opportunity to be captured. With each portrait, he could present America with an additional image of blackness that contradicted the prevailing racist stereotypes.
The last time I really thought about the history of blackface was back when there was discussion of the role of Zulu and the incredible racist roots of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras. Here’s something you may want to read about the krewe and its signature looks from New Orleans investigative paper The Lens.
It’s hard to measure the scope of Zulu’s influence on what the Times-Picayune’s Doug MacCash has called the “new” Mardi Gras, and on what I have called the restoration of carnivalesque carnival, after the dark ages of the white supremacist anti-carnival ushered in by the Mystick Krewe of Comus in 1857. It’s a remarkable testament to the resilience of carnival spirit that, in the midst of the white supremacist era, when Comus, Momus, Proteus, and Rex ruled the day, the Zulu king first stepped off a banana boat in the New Basin canal wearing a lard can crown. The date: 1909.
That’s why it’s so upsetting — also a bit absurd — when people who have no understanding or appreciation for carnival aesthetics and social analysis chime in from hundreds of miles away with self-righteous finger-wagging. What they’re about is shaming traditions that are far more revolutionary than they are able to comprehend.
That’s exactly what has happened this year, when Tales of the Cocktail founder Ann Tuennerman went up on Facebook with a picture of herself in Mardi Gras regalia and since then, after taking flack for it, has been agonizing through a multi-part act of public contrition. Tuennerman’s sin is to have had the temerity to accept the great honor of riding in the Zulu parade on Mardi Gras morning, wearing the traditional mask of Zulu blackface.
I say “Zulu blackface” because the style of blackface worn by Zulu riders is distinct from other forms of blackface viewed as offensive due to their history as a tool of white supremacist ideology. One of the distinctive visual features of Zulu blackface is an enlarged white eye on one side of the face, which can be seen in depictions of the Zulu Big Shot as well as on Tuennerman’s face in her much-maligned social media posting. In the world of totalitarian expression — the opposite of carnivalesque expression — such nuances of signification go unnoticed.
A typically clueless (and arrogant) response to Ann Tuennerman’s posting came from Chicago’s Nikkole Palmatier: “I have a problem with the blackface entirely. As do most people outside of the New Orleans tradition. Just as those who live outside of Cleveland think the Indians logo is racist and the term ‘Redskins’ is racist.”
Yeah. Just let that sink in for a minute. It’s hard to conceive of a more egregiously false analogy than this. Are the Cleveland Indians and Washington Redskins actually Native American institutions, founded, owned, and staffed, at all levels, by Native Americans?
Palmatier’s argument leads us to question whether Zulu’s iconography should be practiced by anyone, not just whether Zulu should accept white riders. And that’s a whole other can of worms. It calls into question the extent to which black people should be allowed agency in representing their own experience; it also places limits on how black people themselves choose to enunciate anti-racist arguments.
There’s also the Spike Lee film “Bamboozled” for an interesting take. This film was made in 2000.
I feel this year that I need to unpack a lot more about black history and experience than reading inspirational speeches by the Rev Dr. Martin Luther King, jr. We’ve all seen the images of black stereotypes that were prevalent in the pre Civil Rights era. I’ve only used the original “Jim Crow” here but we likely all know many more. For me, it’s time to learn some of the deeper stories and to listen more about how this country continually dehumanizes our Black Americans.
I intend to fully celebrate Black History month.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
I disagree. The fraternities would not be there if there were no university. The fraternities may be private organizations and housed off campus; however, the university should at least make a public announcement condemning such racist actions.
I’ve always lived in the North where there seems to be less racism or at least it is far less overt. As I’m not a POC my impression can’t be anywhere as accurate as that of a POC. But I’m sure that blackface and especially a KKK costume would have caused outrage.
As for the whole fraternity/sorority Greek system — I saw them as full of bratty rich kids who spent most of their time drunk and weren’t very bright. (My friends and I were the unfashionable hoping-to-be intellectual writers and artists who argued about Eliot vs Pound, the ethics of different Europeans translating Japanese poetry and whether one person could be both a writer and a critic. Ah, the bad old days.)
Why is anyone asking Lieberman what he thinks? He’s always been a Republican underneath plus he’s been out of office for more than a decade and a half.
‘A rush to judgment’: Joe Lieberman says he sees no reason for Northam to resign
God … I hate apologists.
Northam is done. He can’t lead without a party or base to follow. If he were a Republican it would be no big deal. But he is a Democrat. What this and the Al Franken thing says in my opinion is that if you are a white male with a questionable past and run for public office you better be a Republican because you’ll get thrown under the bus by the Democrats. The deal with Franken particularly perturbs me because he was a great Senator and a person of substance. Northam should never have been allowed to run because this crap should have been uncovered way before the election. It would seem that the Democratic party is not doing its due diligence on their candidates.
True. If Al Franken announces that he is running forcPrezidentvhe moves to my top tier immediately.
He is smart, talented and charismatic, and doggone it people like him.
I’d vote for him over Biden or Bernie.
Me too, dak most of the time I feel that way.
This weekend I followed BBs links to Dr Barnes and her work, thanks. Great find, great information.
For the most part I am glad that Dem reaction has been unambiguous and unanimous.
Northam has the right to make his choice but personally I‘d like to seem him heal and find redemption as a private citizen. The future deserves a clear and unmuddled stand on a Black-faced Minstrels and Klansman. He can’t lead. Not now.
And who gives a crap what the bad guys do with their racists. They have become a racist, sexist, xenophobic, intolerant party of ignorance, ant that is just the Oval Office branch. We shouldn’t stoop to the level of deplorables.
This is a complicated thing. I watched Soul Man, and I laughed. I felt like it used stereotypical humor to undermine and criticize racism, like Blazing Saddles did. In hindsight maybe I was just young and dumb. Sophisticated satire and crass low humor can look alike.
I thought that Tropic Thunder was funny. I was made more uncomfortable by the nonstop “retard” jokes than I was by the black-face. I was in my forties by then.
Maybe I need to examine my beliefs, none of us should ever stop learning. I believe that intent is key. I wasn’t mad at Robert Downey, or C. Thomas Howell are Mel Brooks, I didn’t feel insulted by what they were doing. I felt they were insulting the bad guys. But then I was raised in the same racist culture as the bad guys. Maybe I was too accepting of the wrong things.
Sometimes this dialogue on race is overdue, even in one’s own head.
Could not agree more – especially on self-awareness. I never thought I was a racist – my brain told me I was a just person who didn’t judge people by their ethnicity or skin color. But we’ve all been poisoned with it from birth and I’ve caught myself a few times making assumptions about others.
Given the way Northam has been handling this, by which I mean not handling it, I’ve come around to thinking he’d do better as a private citizen too.
And given the way Fairfax has been handling it, I’ve been very impressed with him. Looks to me like a case of the one who should have been gov all along.
All that said, and knowing how much more fun it is to be right than wrong, I’m getting worried about the consequences of online virtue for freedom, democracy, and the Enlightenment.
Seriously. Hear me out. We’ve got Jack Effin Dorsey saying the Dump with all his bigotry and hate speech is “no different from Obama.” HUH?? Meanwhile on twitter misogynists run rampant. Feminist pileons don’t seem to exist, misogynist pileons are constant and vast. So while the Dump is just A-OK, feminists are getting banned for simply arguing for female-only violence shelters.
I know Twitter is private and “they can do what they want.” But it’s also the public square at this point, and NO, that is just not good enough. Yes, hate speech needs to stop. No, it can’t be used as an excuse to cement power, which is what’s currently happening with zero public accountability.
Another thing that’s worrisome is the luxury of not paying any attention to historical context.
Right now we have drag queens. That’s accepted as just fun and frolics.
It’s also men in woman-face making the most of exaggerating stereotypes for fun and sometimes profit.
And almost everybody is okay with that.
That’s how blackface felt to whites when it was considered acceptable by almost everybody.
That is the social and historical context. I’m not saying it’s right. But I am saying we really have to start being aware of how much our worldview depends on our society’s.
Mark Twain wrote Huck Finn, with real black characters in it which was decades ahead of his time. He also thought blackface minstrel shows were funny.
The social context is how that happens. It means that in a given social context, you can be only a little bit blind to participate in now-repellent actions. A hundred years later the same thing would mean you were a horrible person because you’d have to actively support and participate *against* the emerging social worldview.
We really need to start understanding that continuum of bigotry in context.
I think Northam probably needs to go for quite a few reasons but the Lt. Governor also probably has to go because it is highly likely that he has committed sexual assault which in the grand scheme of things is way, way, way worse. What I don’t get is all these folks who want to elevate the Lt. Governor and just look over it as some sort of smear. Both have got to go and Republicans have just undid not one but two elections. Really though it is the Democrats fault for electing people with a history of low character shenanigans. This whole situation is just a mess. But I really, really hate that there are two standards for Democrats and Republicans which is resulting in really bad people in higher offices around the country from one party but really good people like Al Franken get ran off. There needs to be some consistency and there needs to be some due process as well. These knee jerk reactions are getting old. I am also really concerned that Democrats don’t believe that people grow and change and become better people in 30+ years.
Oh Christ. Really? And he seemed like such a nice guy. This isn’t just some Repub fabrication? Argh. Pretty soon I really am going to be a reverse sexist. Nobody except women even considered for any position of power. 😦
The Fairfax case need to be weighed on its on merits. If he is an abuser he should go, no rush to judgement. I have heard that it is Northam people peddling this story.
Was was covering it up last week though. And appears to still be lying about it to this very day. I want to hear Northman’s side of the story, but if he is lying I see no justification for lying. Again, who cares what the Republicans do. There are no worse people than Trump.
Quixote, I hope it is just a Republican smear. He said it was consensual. You know how that often goes. Personally, I think our representation should fairly closely align with our population demographics which means that women are dreadfully underrepresented. And of course, if we picked our politicians based on quality and merit rather than popularity and $$$$ then not only would our politicians actually represent all of us they wouldn’t have a lot of these issues either. Really, I think a huge solution is for the Democratic party to actually recruit more women to run for all kinds of offices from tax collector, mayor, city council, state legislators, governors, judges, and of course every elected position in the US government. This is where things went wrong for Democrats because they quit funding and running for lots of these positions all across the midwest and the South. It was a tragic mistake that can be fixed.
Well, I care what Republicans do. I don’t want them using dirt to help overturn every election in which a Democrat has fairly won an election. As of right now all they have to do is float a story real or contrived and let the Democrats do the rest. It is silly to let the democratic process get hijacked by people who think that only they are allowed to rule. Isn’t that what this is really about?
My point about Repugs is this: They don’t care about accountability, I do. If someone is unfit for office it doesn’t matter if they are a Democrat. That said , I agree that knee jerk zero tolerance and purity tests that hamstring only outside is stupid. We should not allow ourselves to be manipulated, especially be smears and or faux outrage. I have said over and over that Al Franken was done wrong. I am glad that Bill Clinton did not let his consensual stupidity overturn an election. But once the Fairfax thing has been investigated , IF (big giant if…) he is a rapist he cannot serve. I don’t see where there is any flex on that.
This has to follow the facts and not political strategy, or else what are we doing? The point of Kavanaugh was truth and accountability not “winning.”
The answer is to force accountability on the bad guys, not abandon it ourselves.
One of the central themes in Bamboozled is the fact that many black entertainers, comedians, singers, dancers, musicians had to black up because if they tried to perform as their actual black selves they were banned. Bert Williams and many other vaudeville stars were essentially black men pretending to be white men pretending to be black men.
Later they were allowed to forego the actual burnt cork but they were still expected to coon. Stepping Fetchit and Mantan Moreland were very highly paid stars but they had to maintain the minstrel stereotype in order to work.
Al Jolson was popular in his day but was a hated symbol of racism for most of my lifetime. I have learn as an adult that he was like by black performers because he advocated for black performers to get equal pay and greater opportunity. That doesn’t undo the damage of Maamy, but it does open one’s eyes about how accepted it was not just by out and out racists.
I am glad that someone brought up Bamboozled . The movie was very moving and ahead of its time but the thing I remember most and the part that actually had tears streaming down my face was the closing credits as one by one the people performing in black face were shown Shirley Temple, Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Bing Crosby, Bugs Bunny. On and on, truly, it hurt like you can’t imagine. It as like WTF!!! Why does everyone despise us so?
Watch the closing montage on YouTube if you have never seen Bamboozled.
The point is you develop a thick skin where your enemies are concerned. But black-face and the coon stereotype is so pervasive that it is very often our friends that we see up there.
It is not also presented as hate but the dehumanizing baggage and legacy are so scalding that it has to go.
I agree. Once you see the truth, you can’t unsee it.
(The above is only about before one gets to that point, and how we’re those people too on some things, and how it’s good to get that.)
Thank you, Ron, for your comments. I learn from them. (Which is not to say that your role is to educate me, ’cause it’s not, though my role is to learn, if that makes sense.)
I will defend Huckleberry Finn to the death. It is an anti-racist book. Also see Puddin’head Wilson.
That’s exactly what I’m saying. It *is* anti-racist.
I had to read it for myself to find that out, but you are right.
Do you know women do drag now? It’s not about putting women down. It’s about men who have been historically disenfranchised for being feminine basically flaunting it and pushing the boundaries. It’s not about making women look silly. It’s about men exploring society’s ideas of femininity by going beyond the slams they get for not being “manly” whatever the freak that means. I don’t put that in the same category at all. Kinda like the Zulu Blackface.
The motivations of the people putting on the face aren’t really what I’m talking about. Blacks did blackface too, for perfectly good reasons of their own. The point is the social acceptance that gives it air, and *why* the society at large accepts it. In the case of “woman-face” I’d bet you dollars to donuts that many of the people laughing along are not doing so because they appreciate the challenge to society’s ideas about femininity.
(yes, I know women do drag.)
(Yes, Zulu is in a class by itself. I lived in New Orleans, remember? *And* I managed to beg a coconut off a passing float. Zulu is a whole other world. A better one.)
Well. Drag started in safe gay places where only gay allies went and knew it was a gay place and not their place and stayed respectful.
I recently accompanied drag cabaret singers and have now found it’s just another place where clues white people come and make themselves the center of attention. I have tales of bridesmaids and bridezilla basically trying to upstage the performers so I’d say yes, now it’s attracting audiences that see it not the way it was originally done. But, I also see drag expanding in ways beyond gender and the more traditional performances. But, having shitloads of spoiled straights overtake safe gay spaces is a whole other issue.
Women doing drag? As in dressing up and acting like the most ridiculous traits of stereotypical men? If so, that’s not the same thing at all. That’s the oppressed trying to make fun of the oppressor. Womanface is the privileged male making fun of the subservient female. You don’t see them imitating women who are plain, quiet, intellectual, small-bosomed or athletic.
There’s nothing inherently feminine — or masculine — about stereotypical clothing, postures, intonation of speech. Those are cultural constructs. For example, look at the French Sun King Louis the whatever for times when men wore heels, beauty spots, long hair, powdered wings, and yards of lace. Elizabethan high-styling men with pearl earrings.
Anything a woman does is inherently feminine, and anything a man does is inherently masculine. And there’s far more overlap than difference, so most attributes are humanlike.
Those men in the yearbooks in blackface and KKK outfits probably didn’t think they were putting Black people down — they were just having fun with costumes.
Here’s Midori: https://www.badasscreatives.com/podcast/episode-033-drag-makeup-artist-midori-tajiri-byrd
Thank you, quixote! I’ve always felt that drag performers were ridiculing women. It always makes me uneasy. They exaggerate the stereotypical woman’s traits in a way that says these traits are ridiculous. What’s more, these purported woman’s traits are for the most part inaccurate — not all women are busty, but even more, cosmetics are not inherently female, nor are tight clothing and stiletto shoes, screechy voices and infantile mannerisms. It’s a vicious caricature that’s supposed to be funny or daring. If someone wants to wear cosmetics, or painful high-heeled shoes, go ahead, but don’t try to fool me into thinking you’re really female or you’re making a brilliant statement.
Gay men haven’t uniformly been friends of women, even feminist women. Thinking of scenes in one of Doris Lessing’s novels that illustrate this. The Golden Notebook? She overhears her gay lodger talking with his lover and making fun of women’s bodies.
I never considered “drag” in terms of what it meant to women. Now I am thinking, “how could you miss it?” The broad and exaggerated nature of it bears many of the same elements as minstrelsy.
Going back to Milton Berle and Harvey Korman.
Deep. I may not be woke, but I am done hitting the snooze button. Thanks guys, you continue my education.
Depends on the performer … I’m having difficult seeing the redo of burlesque as women trying to go beyond the hypersexualization of women as sex objects for men but that’s what they say they’re doing too. A lot of burlesques and drag sends up fat shaming. Women were not born wearing high heels and push up bras. I think open exploration of what “gender” and “Feminine” and “masculine” mean is part of it. What about the entire bull dyke thing … does their selection of hair, clothes, etc worship masculinity? I mean we know now that gender and sexuality can be fluid and are on a spectrum. I think you’ve go to look at the performer in this case.
like here’s my friend Eureka Starfish ..
Can we say Boob-Face? Not accurate but funny.
This is so complicated. I was thinking about the scene in Silver Streak where Gene Wilder had to “black up” to slip past the cops. I don’t think there was any hate in it, but in the context of this week, it makes me a little sad.
Every person in drag is probably not the same as every other person in drag. Is a transgender woman in drag?
It gets at the same issues that we always talk about, is there intent to demean, humialiate, embarrass, intimidate, etc.
Every joke with race at the center is not necessarily racist. You can never escape intent.
But just like “more rogues than honest men find shelter under Habeas Corpus”, more racists than good folks find shelter under “no offense.”
I actually think Jack Dorsey may be a white supremacist. I’m not kidding.
I know you’re not kidding. He shows all the signs, including being just fine with every kind and variety of misogyny. They always seem to go hand in hand.
” Sophisticated satire and crass low humor can look alike.”
Some times I feel like I need an instruction manual to that. I used to rely a lot on RIchard Pryor’s humor.
This is an interesting conversation. I would offer that discussions about drag be considered in the context of our cultural environment, where the expectations of performing, and even non performing, females are quite exaggerated. I don’t think it’s unrealistic that a male may dress every bit outrageously as a Kardasian, Madonna, Beyoncé, or Vegas show “girl”. Maybe the reasons why for the sexes are very similar.
Also, misogyny and misanthropy are not bound by sexual preference.
I am glad to learn this about Rosa Parks’ history, and angry that this has not been widely reported earlier.
Rosa Parks was an activist long before MLK came along. She began by fighting against the systematic rape of black women by white men. Here’s a book about it.
Thanks for a great post, Dak. There is so much here to explore.
Thanks. It bubbled and brewed even while I slept last night. I’m some what overwhelmed by all the white people making excuses. It’s like watching the original sin amplify.
Now that same right wing site that posted the Northam photos is attacking Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.
Yes, they’ve probably just now realized that outing Northam will have “unintended” consequences.
(My whole life seems to be turning into one huge scream of, “It’s 2019. I can’t believe I’m still fighting this shit.”)
Good God Almighty Yes…there are so many republicans that have relationship with KKK, and White Russians, that we have been opposing, none have stepped down. They wear the invisible robe to this day.
Why not? Northam is all but out on his ass, why wait to get Fairfax out as well? Franken them all, We worked to get these liberals elected, now let’s let the right wingers tell us which ones get to stay and which ones are unacceptable. Let’s get some PARTY PURITY going on here, it worked so great for us in the past.
Apparently, the role of a good Democrat is to whinge about the unfairness of the GOP getting away with watching each other’s backs, and drawing ourselves up in self-righteous arrogance to point out how morally superior we are. If only we keep turning on each other in rough times, someday, maybe in 4 or 5 generations, the rightwingers will finally see how horribly they have behaved, and admit we were right all along. But it won’t matter if they do it tomorrow, because we do not believe in forgiveness, or redemption. Acting decently and honorably for the past 35 years is nothing to the monstrous act of insensitivity committed at a college party one night. We must have perfection! None of us has ever done anything that could be construed as stupid or ignorant. Our children are shining examples of how everyone should be, and have never done anything to embarrass themselves or us. Mistakes are not part of our life experience.
And as we engage in yet another round of soul-searching and hand-wringing, the Trumpanzees are looking to shut the federal government down again, and get us into a couple of wars (Iran and Venezuela), and take our eyes off Putin and his plan to destroy our country for all time. They want someone in that office in Virginia who will take away all reproductive rights in their state, Someone who will protect the monuments their grandpappies built to the treasonous Confederates. Someone who will understand that a man is not a man without a gun strapped to his backside, and shoulder, and ankle. Yessir, let’s help them achieve their goals.
Hey, hey, ho, ho!
Northam and Fairfax gotta go!
Yay for our team.
By the way, if you want to go down a rabbit hole, start searching for where this story came from to begin with.
You made the point louder and clearer than I did, but that’s part of what I was trying to get at. Dems are putting themselves in the position of letting Repubs dictate which Dems get to stay. Not good.
You sure as hell don’t want bigots all over government. But you equally as hell don’t want the Repubs making those decisions. I don’t know how you deal with it.
And you both are absolutely right! Democrats need to quit letting Republicans choose who gets to stay in office but the Democrats need to do a much better job of vetting their candidates. To go with that they also need to build a strong base from the ground up in every state so that they can have a better pool of high quality candidates. Sounds to me like something that Hillary Clinton excelled at.
Being a careful, disciplined professional was mischaracterized as inauthentic. Hills could not win with the bad guys, and neither can any other Democrat.
I saw this on Twitter yesterday. Really horrifying.
When you mentioned this existed I was shocked. Now that I’ve seen it I’ve begun to understand why all those medical experiments using black people as unsuspecting “specimens” usually involved southern doctors. Talk about dehumanizing a child.
Bernie Sanders plans to give a response to the SOTU at the same time that Stacy Abrams is giving the official Democratic response.
You have *got* to be kidding me. Ever since he poisoned the well against Hillary, I’ve considered him a blot, but does he really have to go bringing it forward and proving it all over again?
JUST GO AWAY.
Fortunately, it will probably only be streamed on Facebook.
Bernie’s ego won’t let him respect Stacy Abrams.
Bernie’s Sanders: The elgo that kvetched.
Bernie loves to mayo black women.
Didn’t he just do the equivalent of this recently? So much news I can’t keep it all straight. Did his own news conference at the same time Nancy Pelosi had a planned speech, or something like that.
Bernie would try to upstage his own funeral.
NYT article. The WSJ one is behind the paywall.
good gawdesses! 2013? WTF is wrong with people?
I know this isn’t the important point in all of the Northam news, but why get rid of yearbooks? That’s an extreme and ridiculous solution to a serious problem. Yearbooks aren’t inherently racist nor do they facilitate racism.
“trying to plug holes in the deck while flames eat up the hull…”
Russia revealing that Trump was in Moscow in 1995. Previously, it was believed he first went there in 1987.
So he didn’t actually go there until 8 years later than what was thought?
What the hell is Liam Neeson on about?
I don’t believe him. He was describing the movie “Death Wish” almost verbatim. Either he is confused or lying. In any case I really hope he is just making it up.