Wednesday, April 24, 2013

For Chechnya Americans Who Have Considered Terrorist Suicide When The American Rainbow is Enuf & My Families First Theatre Experience.


For Chechnya Americans Who Have Considered Suicide By Terrorism When The American Rainbow is Enuf


The worst coverage of the "Boston Bombings" Suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was National Public Radio's Robin Young, ( surprise, surprise) who reported this tragic event through the typical NPR gaze of elite white liberal privilege, amplified from her chance meeting of Tsarnaev.  

Robin Young

Had Young been more objective, she probably would've ( like most NPR journalists) somewhat camouflage, her privilege and appalling lack of insight. Instead, she almost bragged about, meeting Tsarnaev, like a bartender enjoying their "twenty minutes of fame" by boasting publicly of serving whiskey to Jesse James,  before he shot up the town and got put down for the last time.  Clearly Robin Young must be a "Blue Stocking Bostonian",  as she gushed about hosting a "pre-prom party" in her back yard for her popular nephew ( I'm thinking gigantic gazebo action with a large pond stocked with rare Japanese Koi) where she "gathered dozens of kids and "rented a trolley car so the children could  party in the back yard" and take the trolley to the prom.  Tsarnaev was one of the lucky invites by her nephew, who then joined the interview to demonstrate more elite white privilege. 

When story broke nationally, reporters gave context by stating that Tsarnave attended Cambridge and Latin School, one of the most exclusive and affluent in Boston, that while public, is more desired than many of the local elite private schools.  Yet, both Young and her nephew described it in the Ellis  Island myth of, Give us your Tired, Hungry, and Poor. This is typical of America's white liberal elite  who vigorously deny their privilege -more than republicans- as oppose to telling the truth.  The famed "diversity" of this school is mostly children of the elite from around the world who come to be prepared for colleges like Harvard, both academically, they have both a Harvard Extension School and a Cambridge-Harvard Summer Academy, and socially, with sports like rowing, rugby, lacrosse, sailing, gymnastics, golf, etc. I wonder what the poor public schools in Boston get?

When I googled the school, I saw that multiple accusations of deeply ingrained racism during the 1980's and 1990's that lead to -so called- changes in the school's "infrastructure". Classism was not mentioned but the two generally go hand and hand. 

The august Cambridge Ridge and Latin School with two famous actors who are alumni  

 Some of the comments made by her nephew are funny in the way of white liberals with wealth, like when another reporter asked if he knew Tsarnave's father.  The nephew replied, "no", but he saw him often fixing cars on the street.  I'm sure the "Robin Williams crowd" certainly don't patronize 'side walk mechanics', a thriving industry for the poor and working poor. Indeed in most cities like Chicago, it's illegal, but the demand is too great, so mostly it goes overlooked by authorities.  

 Tsarnave also had college scholarships, yet did poorly, which speaks to isolation as opposed to how William's nephew described him like a man about town, because he was at their party. The fact that he was at the party was mentioned several times by Young and her nephew as if it were a "high bade of honor" for him, which it is now for them.

More telling and sad was when another journalist asked about Tsarnave's politics, his home life, or if he ever talked about his country, the nephew went quite, stuttered a bit and said no. This coming from someone who spoke about how close - in-detail often promoted by his aunt-  he was to Tsarnave.  Robin Young quickly dashed to his rescue by changing the subject back to how "diverse" the school is, adding that the school is "beloved" by her nephew,( asking him isn't that right?) which he quickly agreed. It seems she was less journalist and more damage control for the school.

Translation for those of us who got breaks to attend elite schools, in my case undergrad. We know what it means to find ourselves in institutions were discrimination, alienation, marginalization, and
ostracization arises not just from race, but also class. We know what it means to have to scrape, borrow, and beg and steal, while others rent trolley cars and have decadent lawn parties thrown for them by their families. We know what it means to exist in the halls of privilege while our family and friends suffer hardships back in the ghettos of our home cities or countries.  We know what it means to see the few of those like us who get accepted, fail, not do to intelligence, but do to the resources( and the added stress) taken for granted by the majority culture. More importantly we learn quickly not to talk about our homes and hardships to our affluent -so called- friends, if we want to keep their friendship
We know the anger that we must, keep in check.  

The picture above is of Robin William's nephew, Zolan. He of course is the one smiling.  At first he was not named during the interview. But this opportunity was to big to go to waste, so he is now a major media source for the curious American.  Zolan is a sophomore at Dartmouth and an intern at the Boston Globe. What's interesting is, he seems to have some Arab of even Black blood in him. But Frantz Fanon's "white mask" that he seems to wear so well- which is prevalent with those like him in his economic class, precluded him from forming genuine solidarity as cultural minority
with Dzhokhar Tsamaev, that could have provided possibly moored for this sad young man that clearly had major problems with America, that went ignored by his elite associates because they did not have to confront them and like Robin Young are complexly desensitized to them.  Zolan, a sophomore at Dartmouth and an intern at The Boston Globe, is now an up and coming journalistic celebrity because of his "association" with Tsamaev and his aunt during the interview gushed about how his voice is much needed as a journalist.  I beg to differ, clearly Zolan's voice is not that different than his aunts. The voices, we need to hear are the voices who don't have access, those left outside the halls of privilege or those who get in and refuse to wear the white mask of assimilation and even those who end up cracking up and going insane under the pressure.      

Make no mistake, the deeds done in Boston were beyond horrible and I in no way embrace or support, such actions.  But I find it pathetic, that NPR gets public dollars, while offering such white elitist coverage of these issues while masquerading as an "alternative voice".


For two years, my older cousin was immersed in high school theatre, providing distinction from the rest of us until her dreams died along the way, but not before her "big moment", when my family went to see her preform in “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow is Enuf” 

I was twelve and it was my first play until after college.  I remember its magic.  My mother and I didn’t attention church, ( Halleluja! ) but the experience, provided a similar yet "realer" cultural and communal connection between Black families, today still deeply split from the “auction block” of chattel slavery.  

It was a fall evening, with winter almost fully encasing Chicago, that my family along with similarly dressed Black families, -equally proud and invested by their loved one's participation, filled in a Black church gymnasium, settling in with grave dignity, -as if we were taking our places at a great table for a crucial board meeting,  instead of in small uncomfortable metal and wooden folding chairs. 

Now knowing what to expect, -my school didn't have plays, only talent shows performed on large plywood boxes in the lunchroom, - I fixated on the stage. The lights were cut, plunging the room into a dark and silent abyss.  I heard the sweep of the curtain, across the wooden stage, as the stage lights pop on with focused intensity, revealing a "dining room" setting for a “TV" like drama but with “ real Black people”  on stage, that immediately formed a symbiotic connection between the families in the audience and the actors, who first made us laugh with the Black tragic-comic humor, we knew so well from the beauty and barbershops, family holiday dinners, the front stoops and the corners, to the unemployment lines, to the funerals, grave yards, and the repasses, after the "mortal coils" of our beloved and no so loved ones have been left alone to settle and began their own journey of decay. During the second act pure tragedy was introduced, domestic violence, death, economic ruin, then in a bedroom, the women brought to life by my cousin, was both brutally beaten and raped, winding up in the hospital.  

At the end, our applauses "magically" made the curtains open again and again and again, demanding the actors take yet another bow until finally we could clap no more. Coffee, punch, and cookies were served until finally our "stars" now dressed in street cloths, appeared joining us mortals on the ground as we applauded, once more.  Our individual stars came to us, then immediately left to our disappointment, for they did not "belong" to us yet. In smaller groups that changed depending upon the questions -of our families- based upon their characters, they spent time with each family, who proudly fell into the ceremony of greeting all the actors and automatically asking each, to point out their own families, brining all of us, closer together. 

Finally my cousin brought over the actor who had brutalized her character on stage. My cousin and I had been discussing finding his car and breaking it's windows. Now my over protective uncle- a cop- eyed him with real anger, until my mother jabbed him in the ribs, causing him to remember that we were not at a crime scene.  My much much larger uncle then- more momentarily frightening, shot forward his thick strong arms,grasping then pulling the former slick, conniving, and brutal man on stage, who was now just a smart and shy boy- now terrified- into a great bear hug that caused all those near to stare, and applause one more time as every one instinctively understood what had transpired. 

My uncle returned to his overly gregarious self, demanding to be introduced to the young boy's parents, who mumbled that his mother didn't approve of his acting "because of her religious convections". Further probing by my uncle revealed that the boy had to take the bus home to the far south side, and stated he was deserving of a Jack in the Box meal and a police escort home, which made the boy beam, while making my cousin and I jealous.

Jack in the Box in Chicago closed during the early 1980's

Years later I read  “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow is Enuf” which consisted of  20 “Choreopoems” of seven Black women “strivers” boldly attempting to swim up stream to reach the social and economic "promise land" of stability as members of the post civil rights generation, during the "optimistic" time of the Black Bourgeoisie  "George Jefferson Moving On Up” Era, which also represented the secrete an not so secrete yearnings of the  Black “lucky poor”( my mother and I) with strong connections to the middle class, (my school teacher aunt) who hide their anxiety to maintain stability by conspicuous  consuming. My uncle the cop, today still remains a Black Nationalist, and still lives in my long deceased grandfather's house in Englewood.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Notes from a Post Race Society NPR( National Privilege Radio) again getting it wrong Post Race Coming of Age Story

When I heard the NPR piece "Playing the Race Card" by Michele Norris, I knew, it was gonna be bad.  The term itself is used to silence progressive Black folk , like the term "politically correct" is used to silence real feminist, when speaking truth to power.  

Michele Norris

NPR's"Playing the Race Card" is described as a series inviting listeners to send in "six word stories" about race, "....people take a complicated and controversial subject and boil it down to six words, what it means for them..

In my mind, red lights flashed, loud alarms sounded, and a mechanical voice blared, "Warning! Warning! Beware!  Banal Yet Dangerously Specious National Conversation To Erode And Erase The History and Consequences of American White Supremacy, Directly A Head, Warning! Warning! Beware 

Inviting America to "tweet" about race is highly problematic, trivializing an already increasingly marginalized emergency, that's stranded atop a frayed and thinning high wire rocked to and from by angry and uncaring winds of both; white conservatives and (subconsciously and now consciously, since the election of Barack Obama) white Liberals,  who both want to be done with the whole issue of  
race, once and for all, to move forward with clear consciouses.

I very much doubt that NPR would solicit tweets about the Jewish Holocaust, nor would NPR described it as simply "complicated and controversial", like a bad basketball call, especially if Jews were still deeply suffering and traumatized from it.  But such is the direction of Post Race America and that's what this series is about.

The story begins in North Carolina with George Washington III.  When I heard the name, I assumed he was an "ancient", as it was once common for enslaved Black folk to be named after philosophers and presidents by their captors, as jokes. Therefore, I was shocked when George Washington III  spoke, he was much younger than I thought . His name wasn't discussed for context.  It also wasn't discussed for context that both of his marriages were to white women.  His current marriage, added their mixed children to his wife's white children from her previous marriage, along with Washington's previous mixed children from his first marriage, including18 year old Jordan.

The story's marrow is that George Washington III took Jordan to an optometrist and based upon his own  experience as a Black man in America, checked the African-American box for a question asking his son's ethnic identify.  

Jordan said nothing, until the car ride home, where he explained to his father, that sometimes he doesn't check the African-American box. At this point the story becomes a Post Race Coming of Age Celebration as George Washington III,  both humbled and proud, admits his error to his son. George Washington goes on to state, he's not sure if he's up for the task of campaigning to change such questions  to include "mixed race" or to allow people to check multiple boxes. But he did later go back by himself to the optometrist and requested his son's paper work, so he could recheck "mixed race". I'm assuming he brought celebratory white-out for the mission.

This story just doesn't ad up.  A northernly State like Illinois hasn't advanced to mixed race categories, yet a southern state like North Carolina, which still has laws on it's books where oral sex is a crime against nature, supposedly does? 

I also doubt NPR, would run a story, where the son of a Jewish man, married to a Christian, tells his father that he doesn't want to be considered Jewish, and then describe the story as " wonderful"  as Michele Norris does.

George Washington III and Jordan

Michele Norris completely white washes the crisis of Black identity in America, rejecting Chole Ardelia Wofford aka Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, DuBois, Frantz Fanon, and every other intellectual who struggled to examine what it means to be Black in a country of white supremacy that since it's inception has equated Blackness with every thing negative and evil.  Indeed in Wofford's brilliant novel the Bluest Eye, the sad and doomed preteen  Pecola Breedlove, is raped and ultimately driven insane  for "blue eyes"  In Michele Norris's post race world, to escape Blackness all one has to do is check a box.

The fact that, Jordan is too dark to "pass", an infamous term used up until the 1960's, when very light skinned Blacks sometimes turned their backs on their Black identities to "become" white, combined with George Washington III's marriages and his remarks in this piece, makes me think this story is far more complex than about Jordan, not wanting to choose between his parents.  I'm not against interracial marriage, but in America, whiteness is status, consciously and subconsciously and this story is not just about sweeping it under the rug,  but white washing history in order to escape it.