There is a Yellowbook commercial on the airwaves featuring David Carridine of Kill Bill fame. Three men are sitting at a conference table trying to come up with a way to drum up business for their company. One of these men is black, the other two are white. One of the white men throws out the question of where to spend their advertising dollars. The other white guy suggests that they ask the advertising guru played by Mr. Carridine. One of the white guys peppers the ad guru with questions. The answer to all of their questions is Yellowbook. The black guy never utters a peep. The commercial pans to the following quarter and the same three men are now playing music in the office and dancing it up. They are celebrating because their [sales] have soared. Now the black man is front and center and the white men are in the background. The black man is doing what black people do best, dance, jig, and celebrate. The black man offers nothing in the way of how to do business. The black man is just the entertainment. And I used to like David Carridine.
My eleven month old son was in the room when this commercial came on. His mother covered his eyes so he couldn’t see the commercial. We are not ready to let the corporate culture have unfettered access to his psyche just yet. The baby needs an opportunity to find out who he is before others try to influence who he should be. We don’t have a fear that he’ll become a jigaboo ready to dance at any and all opportunities. Our fear is that he will subtly be programmed to trust white people to take care of business and to rely on black people for the monkey business. This is the clever brainwashing that leads people to accept as true the fallacy that black people are not as intellectually equipped as our white counterparts regardless of education or experience. If we get a job or if we are accepted at a school of higher learning, it is only because of some illegal affirmative action program that unfairly favors minorities at the expense of white people. Poor white people can’t even find jobs any more because of all the partiality.
My partner and I don’t want baby boy to learn anything about the hip hop culture that the corporate music industry wants to hammer down people’s psychological throats. White people like Bill O’Reilly have allowed themselves to be programmed to think black people carry pistols everywhere we go and are quick to anger at the most benign slight or misunderstanding. Some black are. But so are some white people.
There was a scene in the movie Crash where Cameron Thayer, played by Terrence Howard, was directing a movie or a television show or a commercial for all I know. Mr. Thayer and his crew just shot a scene and called it a wrap. Fred, played by Tony Danza, was somewhat dissatisfied with the shoot. One of the black actors spoke too articulately for Fred’s personal taste. Fred pulled Mr. Thayer to the side. Fred told Cameron that the scene needed another take. The black actor needed to be more black with his character portrayal. Being a black man Mr. Thayer is visibly taken aback by what Fred was implying. We never see who or what Fred was, but he was obviously somebody who had the pull to yank the director’s chain. Mr. Thayer reluctantly submits and calls the crew back for another take so that the black actor can be more black and slur his words or use a slang or just sound more black. The character has to jigaboo just a bit so that everybody would accept the notion that the character is the typical African American male.
The idea of coherent speech from black people is an exception is reinforced through fiction like the movie Crash as well as in our reality. It was a well known joke by Chris Rock that Collin Powel is a black man that a lot of white people think “speaks so well”. Senator Joe Biden described Senator Barack Obama as “clean and articulate”. I guess Mr. Biden was pleasantly surprised to find that Mr. Obama wasn’t funky and mush mouthed. And the previously mentioned Bill O’Reilly interrupted his daily television program on the FOX network to tell America how well black people behaved at the famous black Sylvia’s restaurant in Washington, DC. He was surprised to see no black people were yelling for their “mother fucking tea”.
On the flipside of this coin, the black community has allowed the dominant culture to define what it means to be black. Black people do not run the gamut but are narrowly defined by some of the most unbecoming of parameters. Black people are loud, intellectually inferior, incompetent, lazy, unethical, dishonorable, and more, or less depending on your point of view. Black men and women are supposed to be sexually starved and have insatiable libidos. The gangsta rap culture developed by the music industry does much to describe life in the black community in a lot of people’s eyes. However, one has to wonder what type of culture black people would have if we didn’t have the television, radio, magazines, movies, newspapers, and all the other mediums of propaganda doing their part to shape our view of ourselves.
Unfortunately, no matter how successful my partner and I are able to keep the influence of corporate America from our child so that he could learn his own identity, chances are overwhelming that he will still grow up in a world that will continue to see African Americans as stereotypical caricatures of human behavior. People like Joe Biden will see him and expect him to be funky and mush mouthed and yelling for his mother fucking tea.