Monday, June 24, 2013

The 'N' Word and Paul Deen

(This passage was composed from Facebook replies over the course of a day)

Paula Deen is facing the wrath of outrage over her use of the 'n' word and other racist allegations. Her Food Network show was cancelled and the Twitterse is engaging in picking over the media empire's corpse with snarky comments and satirically racist recipes bearing her likeness. I have no strong opinion for or against Paula Deen. Quite frankly an old Southern woman using the 'n' word is about as surprising as rain in Seattle. 

But I think the 'n' word thing is overshadowing the fact that Paula Deen was getting more and more flax for her 1) incredibly unhealthy food and the backlash growing from people 2) her diabetes confession and the backlash from her promoting a lifestyle she knows is destructive 3) Food Network not wanting to be involved in political discourse as its distracting away from its brand 4) she has 3 times brought a firestorm for issues not related to her show but her personality and lifestyle 5) the abusiveness of her family and hang'er ons in relation to her enterprise 6) the copious notes in the deposition of wanting an ol' fashioned wedding involving dressed up slaves 7) and the fact that she didn't see anything really wrong with any of this and shared this fantasy with others. 

It's not the 'n' word that's the problem. It's stupid, mean, unfortunate use by her and inappropriate. But the tragedy is the intent of the word with this person was to recreate a slave plantation and label it as the 'good ol days.' She was trying to recreate that atmosphere in a subtle way in your treatment of other Blacks you hire for your corporation and overtly in dreaming of costuming them as such for a wedding and delightfully referring to them as 'little niggers' as if they were pets for White patriarchy. The tragedy is to believe it was the 'good ol' days' and to completely miss the awfulness of the period of Blacks, women, the poor, the non-landowners, 99% of America; and yet many Whites (who would be treated no better than dirt back then) have bought into this mythology. Many of them vote Republican actively against their own best interests with these subtle and overt thoughts in mind, failing to realize the hypocritical bind they put themselves to that serves no one but the wealthiest, whitest, richest few. And someone like Paula Deen would be white swamp trash back then with little to no chance of upward mobility and abused as a woman. And she thinks of it as 'the good ol' days' because she could call black kids 'little niggers' and go to a restaurant where emasculated Black men wore white coats and tap danced; ignorance dressed up as Southern folklore.

I live in a neighborhood where everyone uses the 'n' word in reference to each other and almost no one is black. It's Latinos calling themselves that and Italians. Japanese kids on the subway talk about themselves endearingly as 'niggas' while looking at me carefully out of the corner of their eyes. Hip hop uses the word and gets a lot of grief from the media. 

But, to some extent, the 'n' word or 'nigga' is empowering. It's twisted endearment because there is no such thing as a nigger. It was an invention of White people. They used it in India for the natives, in South America for indigenous people, and here in America for the slaves of African descent. But the word itself makes no sense because it's built on the guilt of the privileged. It's only a mask of shame made in the image of the oppressor's darkest desires: sexually monstrous animal veering between 'good for nothing' and a terror to White women. It'That is why it's been taken up by Blacks. That's why it's in hip hop. That's why it's spoken by most of the Latin men in my hood, the Italians, that's why Japanese boys speak to each other that way. It's an invented monster, so when rap songs began reiterating different refrains of the mantra 'I AM THAT NIGGER' sexually violent, greedy, unstoppable force. It's a response to being pumped so full of toxic hatred and waste by a dominant culture that the act of rebellion is to take all that rage and turn it into "Niggas in Paris." (living in luxury and still your worst nightmare because now we're out of the gov-built ghettos and jetting around the world). 

Sean Carter (Jay-Z )grew up in the Marcy Projects where several forces were set into motion to 1) pump him full of self-hatred and doubt 2) kill him. Sean Combs in Harlem, Christopher Wallace, and all the icons grew up in these atrocious, terrible surroundings filled with danger, sex, and toxicity while being assured that they were a nigger and that's all they were ever going to be. So I can't fault them for taking that and flipping it.

What's keeping divisions between the races alive is racism; mostly by the privileged race. It's strange b/c when a White guy makes it from poverty, Black ppl cheer for him. Look at Clinton, Bill Gates, look at how rappers quote successful Black and white people. But when a Black guy makes it out of poverty, it's amazing how the same poor white people not only don't root for him, but hate him. Despise him, want to castrate him either metaphorically or literally. White male triumph is American. Black triumph is treated with suspicious, envy, and -in many cases- hatred by the majority that designed a system to keep him down. (Strangely White culture is more accepting of Blk female success as long as they fulfill some nurturing role within White paradigms). Talk to President Obama about what's holding us back with racism. I don't think he would tell you rappers are the ones threatening his life, screaming at him, trying to oppose him at every turn. The face of hatred is remarkably the same as it was 50 and 100 years ago. The responses to that -from Jay-Z's 'braggadocia to Ice Cube's 'middle finger' to Obama's smoothness, to Oprah's maternalism- has become more complex. But it seems to be in response to the same inexplicable, deep-rooted self-hatred that projects itself out on to Black people.

The whole Southern 'Dixie myth' that Paula Deen buys into is a very deceptive form of that same hatred. As long as Blacks are pets and servants then they are allowed to exist but only with the threat of severe torture and death hanging over their heads. And here is Scarlett O'Hara Deen spinning her parasol and saying 'fiddley-dee' past fields of singing and smiling slaves. And it's a mythology that is deeply rooted in the same hatred that's been twisted into some bizarre fable of noble White gentry and happy slaves. And yes, faggot is its own world and mythology also created by Straight patriarchy to do something slightly different to a 'caste of people' that they use for servitude, sex, and as pets.

 I can't judge what execs at TFN think or say in private. But I can say that every few weeks we're treated to something to be 'outraged over' that's racist, sexist, homophobic or any variation on discriminatory ignorance steeped in some hatred. And we usually get 'outraged,' call for punishment, make jokes on the outrage, have the person apologize and then engage in superficial discussion where the analysis goes something along the lines of 'who knew there was racism/sexism in (blank). I didn't know (Blank) could be so ignorant about (blank). Wow...we should do better. Anyway, up next Kim and Kanye's baby pictures.' And then the world goes on and the issue is never really addressed. It's treated as a weird anomaly or a freakish person when the only thing bizarre about seems to be that someone was stupid enough to get caught. 

The subtle message from these cyclical outrage/purges isn't to examine the problem but to hide it better and to keep your dirty awful thoughts to yourself or exercise them deep in the woods somewhere. While that makes for better etiquette, it doesn't uproot the ugliness which grows in our garden. So I'm a little less surprised at the harvest we continually reap from the hatred in America as I am by the amnesiac-response each time to the villain of the week pops up. If Paula Deen really wanted to do something she could take a huge stack of that cash and give it to the United Negro College Fund and then actually see and listen to African Americans long enough to remove those sick, disturbing fantasies from her head. So she no longer will have to watch her words because the thoughts that drive them won't be hateful.

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