Posts tagged "race"

The almighty dollar

jakec replied to your quote: People earning respect with money is the American…

I think it’s a pretty universal law in any Capitalist state and the ultimate cause of the failure of Communism, right? Where ‘money’ = material gain, I mean.

Yes, but no. Certainly there are commonalities across the capitalist west, and in many ways, money has acted as the great equalizer in all these places, but I think there’s something particularly American about Pierce’s maxim.

The United States’ history is a steady story of marginalized groups coming to the country and, over a period of generations, integrating themselves into the country’s mainstream by establishing themselves as hard-working, self-regulating, law-abiding citizens. Or, as Pierce put it, “earning respect with money.”

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Wish I still had access to JSTOR so I could get a copy of this essay.

Wish I still had access to JSTOR so I could get a copy of this essay.


Clearly it wasn’t. It was premeditated. [The bandleader] had tweeted twice before the show what his intentions were. And his Twitter account is 1.7 million people. So, it’s just, again, it comes down to the fact that if a Don Imus or someone does something that’s questionable, they are thrown off the air. But when something is done to a conservative, it’s just passed off and forgotten.

Michele Bachmann

Maura is, of course, right about the inappropriateness of the Roots branding Bachmann a “lying ass bitch,” but Bachmann can’t help but be obnoxious about this. I suspect it’s no accident on her part that she decided to invoke Don Imus, a man who found himself in hot water because of comments both racist and sexist. Those comments, you may recall, were directed at an apolitical group of people: a team of basketballers.

Yet Bachmann is truly aggrieved because she feels she has been slighted not over her gender, but over her politics. ”I’m a serious candidate for the presidency of the United States, but I’m a conservative Republican woman. That’s the double standard,” she said.

Accusations of prejudice tend to be seen in right wing circles as a liberal trick used to bring down innocent conservatives when honest politics founder. (In the words of one National Review columnist: “when particular groups fail to win a 51 percent majority on a particular issue, they resort to invoking racism and prejudice.”) But, just like Herman Cain, who decided that racism was at play in the accusations of sexual harassment against him, Bachmann has decided prejudice indeed exists — but she was a victim of it because of her conservatism, not her gender.

Why, after all, invoke Imus? Imus is not Rush Limbaugh. He’s a radio broadcaster before he’s a politico, and he’s supported both Democrats and Republicans. But Bachmann is a white woman who was slighted by a black man, and Imus is a white man who ran into trouble for slighting black women. Did Bachmann mention the former radio host because he became an honorary conservative — a victim of America’s “true” problem: accusations of prejudice?

Of course, in a way, Bachmann was treated poorly on “Fallon” precisely because she is a conservative. ?uestlove doesn’t like her politics and felt comfortable about being rude to her because of that. But there’s no systemic discrimination against conservatism in the United States, and one guy thinking you’d make a lousy president doesn’t make you the victim of systemic prejudice, even if he does have a band at his disposal. 

Which doesn’t mean Bachmann wasn’t the victim of prejudice — just that she wasn’t the victim of an imaginary prejudice against conservatives. Is this a politician with a particular reputation for dishonesty? Of course not. Bachmann is well known for having extremely right wing beliefs, for being a bit off the wall (Hey, ?uestlove, why not play the title track from Michael Jackson’s 1979 album?), and for getting basic facts of history wrong, but she’s hardly distinguished as a dissembler. If anything, she’s notable because she really does seem to believe all the crazy stuff that comes out of her mouth. So when the Roots greeted her with a rendition of “Lyin’ Ass Bitch,” it seems unlikely that it was the “lying” portion of that title they really cared about.


African Americans were a part of the wider novelty that was the wartime American presence, encoded as it was in both Australia and Britain with so many positive images. In the Australian context, Bell and Bell have shown the degree to which America had become “implicated” in the patterns of Australian life by the 1930s and have explained the degree to which American dreams were finding an increasing resonance with Australian wants and desires. With their accents direct from the Hollywood-dominated movie screen, dress uniforms that even for enlisted men resembled tailored suits, and disposable incomes that saw privates’ earnings rival those of an Australian captain, American soldiers, black as well as white, embodied these wants and desires. Conceivably, when Australians looked at a black serviceman, they saw his skin color, but they also registered him as an American. It is here, where issues of identity encounter forms of reception, that an explanation for African Americans’ experiences in Australia may partly lie. While “race” divided black and white Americans, arguably for Australians those divisions were tempered by an apparently homogeneous culture that downplayed difference in favor of an underlying Americanness. Put bluntly, although Australians were certainly attuned to notions of racial difference, they were less concerned with the divisions between black and white Americans than were Americans. African Americans stationed in Europe remarked on this pattern, and in the Australian context, this process was encouraged by the black press. In April 1942 the Afro-American reported that African Americans recently arrived in Australia had “behaved like typical American doughboys, strolling the streets, looking in the stores, drinking beer and attending movies.” Equally revealing was a June 1943 article in the Afro- American that described how the indigenous peoples of the North and South Pacific considered African Americans to be “black white men.”

Sean Brawley and Chris Dixon, Jim Crow Down Under? African American Encounters with White Australia, 1942-1945 (2002)

Yeah, so this paper is awesome.


Red Barber recounted in Ken Burns’s Baseball Documentary that Rickey’s determination to desegregate Major League Baseball was born out of a combination of idealism and astute business sense. The idealism was at least partially rooted in an incident involving a team for which Rickey worked early on. An African-American player, Charles Thomas, was extremely upset at being refused accommodation at the hotel where the team stayed because of his race. Rickey never forgot the incident and later said “I may not be able to do something about racism in every field, but I can sure do something about it in baseball.” The business element was based on the fact that the Negro Leagues had numerous star athletes, and logically, the first Major League team to hire them would get first pick of the players at a reasonable price.

Branch Rickey,” Wikipedia

Idealism and astute business sense. The most American reason to do anything.


douglasmartini asked: I think this is indicative of the way society treats women (ESPECIALLY women of color) with drug problems versus the way it treats men. How many male rock stars who struggle with addiction get ridiculed and turned into a punchline? Probably not enough of them. "Not everyone appreciates or respects that legacy.." seems like a fancy way to say, "People are justified when they make crackhead jokes about Whitney Houston." Which is stratospherically untrue.

Quite. When men have drug problems, it’s seen as evidence of their authenticity. (Kurt Cobain’s heroin addiction, for instance, was read as the troubled response of a “real” musician to the artificiality of celebrity; the drug abuse is held as a kind of proof he was so pure that he had to self-destruct rather than compromise himself.)

Ol’ Dirty Bastard, I guess, is an interesting intersection; his drug abuse is seen as a bit of a joke, but also as proof of his realness. ODB, it goes without saying, was not white.



The half-century between 1912 and 1962 was a period of … impressive social cohesion.

Oh, hi, David Brooks. You’re an idiot.

The half-century between 1912 and 1962 was a period of … impressive social cohesion.

Oh, hi, David Brooks. You’re an idiot.


A thought not even well-formed enough to be a half-assed post.

The decline of the cultural primacy of rock ‘n’ roll occurred because it had come to side with the unum over the pluribus, in direct contradiction to its foundational mythos of representing the disenfranchised.

Expanded point 1: This is not related to, nor does it imply, a creative decline.

Expanded point 2: And nor could it buy into a new identity of representing the unum, though country music was happy to co-opt it for that purpose.

Expanded point 3: And, and, nor was it prepared to give itself over to the pluribus it had been itself marginalizing? E.g. Riot girl?


Randy Newman , “New Orleans Wins the War,” Land of Dreams (1988)

Here’s something it would be easy to read too much into: The first record I ever loved was Randy Newman’s Land of Dreams. I discovered it because I’d heard my father play a song with the refrain “Honest you do.” I thought that song was pretty great, so I described it to my father and asked him what it was. In a rather felicitous failure on my father’s part, he identified the tune not as Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me,” but as “I Want You to Hurt Like I Do,” a Newman song that ironically quotes the Cooke tune.

I would have been about six years old; I know because when I was in first grade, I drew a picture of the Dixie Flyer, a train that apparently went from Los Angeles to New Orleans and gave the opening track its title and chorus motif. I am not sure what my teacher, Mr. Johnston, thought of my choice, but I’m pretty sure I explained my artwork to him in detail.

"New Orleans Wins the War" is the second track on Land of Dreams, and it’s a knowingly naïve portrait of New Orleans before the Civil Rights Era. Newman wrote it from the perspective of a child — it’s an autobiographical account of his early life in Louisiana — and it’s perhaps fitting that I first understood it through a similar perspective. The unreliability of memory plays a part here. “Mama used to wheel me past an ice cream wagon: one side for white, one side for colored,” was, I’m sure, a lyric I once thought was about segregating different flavors of dessert. But I’m also pretty sure my father explained how the song addressed racial conflict. What could it have mattered though? For a kid in the late ’80s, the late ’40s might have been the 14th Century, and New Orleans might have been Mars, no matter how precisely Newman evoked “Willow in the Garden District, next to the Sugar Bowl.” Besides, at the time, apartheid was a real thing in South Africa — as I knew. Bad things happened in other countries.

So I understood, at some level, the race stuff, even if I didn’t know what an octaroon was anymore than I could identify a macaroon or a copy of the Picayune. What I couldn’t have understood was the song’s sly humor.

1948, my daddy came to the city
Told the people that they had won the war
Maybe they’d heard it
Maybe not
Probably they’d heard it but they just forgot

I knew the war had ended in ‘45 and thought it was strange that people would forget such a thing. The funnier parts, which I could not have understood, were the following lines: “New Orleans had won the war!” — and then an interjection — “We knew we’d do it!/We done whipped the Yankees!” For the South, every war victory was a victory in the one war that mattered more than anything. Who cared about Germans when the memories of defeat at the hands of the Union still hung so strongly over everything?

And it was a long while before I understood New Orleans well enough to understand Newman’s father’s account of the city:

People have fun here, and I think that they should
But nobody from here ever come to no good
They gonna pickle him in brandy
Tell him that he’s saved
Then throw firecrackers around his grave

The closing refrain is one the song’s producer, Mark Knopfler, said should have been attached to a Levi’s commercial: “It’s a blue, blue morning; blue, blue day/All your bad dreams drift away.” No tension at all.

20 plays

Iggy Azalea

I just received this comment on my post on Iggy Azalea and I thought some of you might find it informative. The commenter calls herself The Baroness:

I just came across Iggy Azalea for the first time today and I have to be honest, I’m conflicted. I read her article in ‘Complex’. I understood when she spoke about being picked on and targeted by other kids as I was however, the difference is though I am Caucasian I am a ‘wog’ and was condemned and assaulted for that by Anglo school peers (not to mention the fact I’m quite artsy and eccentric) so there was a racial/cultural element to my experience which made be quite a politival person. The same ‘Complex’ article made it appear that this chick thought she could find ‘something’ in the States that was missing in Australia, which I also relate to however seeing as I grew up close with black folks I don’t believe that Hip-Hop and ‘ghetto’ depictions are ‘black culture’ period which she seems to. I’m not sure I believe  about her moving Stateside at age 16 as from memory I had to be ‘adult’ age to apply for my passport and travel unaccompanied so I left when I was 19. However, most of my friends in Australia were American (mainly black) or ethnic, where it seems Iggy lived predominately around other Anglos and moving to the States afforded her the irst exposure to black culture for real (versus constructed bia media). I spent 12 years Stateside, I have a hybrid accent (European, Australian vowels, American roll) but this chick has a GLARING Anglo speaking accent, with those trademark high pitches at the end of her sentences. However, when she raps it’s with a full Southern accent (sounds Houston to me, def not Atlanta as I lived there for 2 years). This chick has NOT spent years in LA, trust, I lived in Ghost Town and Palms. That is a chick who copies southern ish and that ‘Complex’ article confirms she lived in Miami, Atlanta and Texas. You know what irks me the mo, though? I wear high ponytails and have a tonne of the long-sleeved, high neck chest cut-out blouses (I’ve always had a thing for more ‘fetish’ clothing) and am dreading going BACK to the States, to LA, and potentially hearing someone say I remind them of Iggy Azalea. I look at her and see a young girl with identity issues and a fetish for ‘ghetto blackness’ images and I just cringe. Looks hella uncomfortable in her own skin…



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