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ebogjonson's June 2006 archive

June 28, 2006

thank you, white jesus [updated]

[update below]

[updated again 07_09, just to clean a few typos up for the folks coming over from wayne's house. Because mom was really right about never hitting publish unless my knickers were clean.]


"Kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side of Chicago, I felt I heard God's spirit beckoning me," he said of his walk down the aisle of the Trinity United Church of Christ. "I submitted myself to his will and dedicated myself to discovering his truth." Sen. Barack Obama [Full obama jesus confessional] [hat tip atrios]

I dunno about re-connecting white evangelicals and the Democratic party, but Obama's god-gambit is certainly the law of the land when it comes to the marketing of commercial products to African Americans. You see, African American mass media comes in two basic flavors - urban and god-fearing, and woe be unto any black media professional meeting with white folks who isn't ready to go gully or gospel at a moment's notice. Jesus and street are the ultimate aces in a black media worker's hole, our version of going nuclear when it comes time to show white executives that we "get it." Unless you are down for one or another opiate of the masses you will always be dogged by a whiff of inauthenticity, a taint that like BO or bad dandruff can permanently mark you as the kind of person who can't be trusted to effectively represent, say, TW or Viacom, among the coloreds.

This bit of wisdom was re-affirmed for me just yesterday over dinner with a group of reasonably successful black editors and writers in NYC. Everyone at the table worked for some or another white owned "African American" media outlet - magazine, publishing imprint, teevee, interactive - and each and every one reported that over the last few years their venues have gone increasingly god intensive with their coverage, profiling ministers, crafting faith editorial, hiring spirituality columnists, doing jesus diet-plans and so on.

This completely dovetails with my own experience interpreting and building pixellated drums for white corporations. Although I am 100% certified heathen (i.e., I was raised a Catholic) I can say with some pride that I've had a hand in building more than one money-changing, interactive temple honoring the various Protestant heresies. (Save the email, my Protestant friends; I largely (semi?) kid.) Why would I get into the god business, you ask? To make money, of course. For one thing, there is an endless supply of marketing "data" that suggests there is an "audience" interested in soul/spirit material. For another thing, assuring a room full of white men that black folks are just desperate for 24-hour streaming video of Creflo Dollar is a handy way to fend off other black executives vying for the job of interpreting and building drums. Most white executives can't actually tell the difference between good and bad plans for targeting the AA audience, and so their decisions ultimately reduce to referendums on the planner: do they like you? Do you make them feel comfortable or virtuous or cool?

And most importantly: Do you strike them as a "real" black person? Since there are all kinds of constraints on playing the gully side - age or gender, for example, vocal presentation or a clean driving record - playing the "I heart white jesus" card is what dicks in the internet business like to call "low hanging fruit:" a fast, easy and unimpeachable way to don the mantle of authoritative blackness. Because while one can conceivably trash hip hop to white people (it's a sign of how "grown" you are, how suburban Atlanta) no corporate negro in their right mind comes out against LaShawn Barber's lord and savior.

(Apropos of nothing, the phrase "low hanging fruit" always cracks me up. Ostensibly straight managers love saying that shit, and it brings to mind an image of nuts every time I hear it--nuts as in male sac. You collect all those yourself and on your own time, Kimosabe.)

I will confess to certain sensitivities about that last, crucial referendum question, though. When I look back, it really is kind of a miracle that I ended up doing the work I do, in that I don't fit the profile. I don't look right. My family roots are in Haiti instead of the American South. I went to the wrong, pre-dominantly white schools. I am definitely not trying too hard to keep anything particularly real. And yet despite those obstacles, I have not only had the privilege of spending a ton of white folks' money in order to reach AA audiences, I've also actually succeeded in reaching a fair number of a folks.

Thank you, Jesus!

UPDATE: But to bring it all back to Senator Obama's comments, white commentators who are keying in on Obama's rehash of the right's "Why Do Democrats Hate Religion?" meme are correct, but they're also missing a (likely minor) nuance re: the specific use value the god thing has had for newfangled black politicians like Obama. No multiracial, Harvard educated, liberal pol gets anywhere near being taken seriously as a "black leader" unless he can put in credible church time. This makes Obama's comments less a case of pandering than of habit. Obama is applying a previously raced strategem to the non-raced (or at least less raced) problem of getting folks who are more conservative than you are to vote for you. This mean's he is not so much making a case for a new politics as for for an old marketing, which in the end makes his use of the moral-hoo-haa verbiage somewhat cynical in my mind. But he may believe it. I know a ton of internet ad sales people who genuinely believe they are providing a service to the race every time they sell our eyeballs off to the higest bidder.

Posted by ebogjonson in black presidentrace and other identities at 2:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 21, 2006

You have new Picture Mail!

ever since my GF brought this dress home from Downtown LA's Santee Alley it's been stalking her

Posted by ebogjonson in city of angels at 11:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 16, 2006

the perfect world of bill jefferson (D-LA)


So first the Democrats, then the full House voted to remove alleged crook William Jefferson from his House Ways and Means seat.

William Jefferson is a terrible, terrible excuse for a Democrat/black elected leader, and I kind of hope he goes to jail, or at the very least stops being a member of Congress. (Check his crap voting record here.) His refusal to step down pending resolution of the charges against him is what the old, alliterative folks like to call "both dishonorable and disgusting," and the subsequent ugly racial spill-over is 1000% Jefferson's fault.

Still, the forcible removal of someone from a committee seat is unprecedented (Jefferson is not under indictment... yet), and calling for new rules that respect due process while maintaining the highest ethical strandards for legislators is hardly unreasonable. In a perfect world, events would have played out differently and the following things would have happened:

1 - William Jefferson would not be in the pocket of every corporate interest or shady lobbyist from here to Nigeria ('Natch.)

2 - William Jefferson would not be some kind of (alleged) crook. ('Natch.)

3 - Accused of/and or caught being an alleged crook, William Jefferson would immediately give his committee seat up "in the best interests of the blah blah, in order to clear my blah blah" But barring that, in the absence of an indictment or formal House Ethics Committee investigation, basic fairness would demand allowing dude to sit there until an actual non-news cycle driven process produced additional results or milestones. Calling on Jefferson to resign is one thing, and I think "Resign, Bill Jefferson!!!" or "Lose, Harold!!!" would make great bumper stickers, but refusing to create rules and then using the power of the House Democratic Caucus to send pre-election ethics "messages" ("Dems super good," perhaps?) seems a mite like prematurely throwing a brother off the boat for atmospheric effect.

4 - The Congressional Black Caucus would have modulated its support for Jefferson, murmuring about due process and putting calls for a better procedural approach to open-ended ethics problems like l'affaire Jefferson front-and-center. What the CBC would not have done is talk pointless, hyper-aggressive smack about how there was going to hell to pay for the Democrats with black voters if anyone dared to lay a hand on one square centimeter of Jeff's gigantic, bald forehead. Black voters are loyal, but we give shits primarily about the treatment of our own, local machine hacks. Everyone else's hacks are under-serving the community and are generally understood as poxes on the race.

By putting race over rules in its defense of Jefferson, the CBC is acting as if the Democratic Party wasn't a political caucus but instead was some kind of corporation with different (i.e., potentially illegal) ways of treating black and white employees. There is certainly some cynicism in pointing out the Democratic leadership makes decisions like seeking today's vote at its discretion and according to highly complicated political rules, but none of that obscures the fact that it's William Jefferson, not Nancy Pelosi, that has been accused of breaking the laws of the land.The language of discrimination, of workplace inequality, of disparate treatment is powerful language, and evoking that language to defend one of the worst lobbyist-loving fatcats on the Hill cheapens us all.

5 - And speaking of cheapening us all: In a perfect world, progressive white folks (or at least, Daily Kos members and Huffington Post posters) would stop all the whining about how just pointing out the race angle in this story is harshing their gate-storming mellow. Like it or not, this story has racial implications, so deal with it, Kimosabe, and don't give me bullshit about how "dealing with it" involves bending over or kowtowing to "special interests." I don't agree with Nancy Pelosi's hard-line stance, but when she makes it a point to do a tour of black press to explain her logic, she isn't kowtowing, she's doing the difficult work of maintaining a valued relationship with a key segment of her coalition. (The so-called netroots are always down for "hard work" except when it comes to building bridges with people of color. I wonder why.)

But all that aside, in a perfect world, I would know what to call Bill Jefferson. I know what to call corrupt black conservatives - a talking android, 'natch! - but what funny, vaguely science-fictional tag do you give a machine hack black Democrat?

Posted by ebogjonson in politricknal sciencesrace and other identitiestalking androids at 1:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

it's hard not to boycott - it's like a full-time job, not to boycott

from CNN.com [hat tip boing boing]

Rappers have long proclaimed their love for Cristal, frequently mentioning the high-end champagne in songs and popping the corks of the clear, gold-labeled bottles in music videos and at nightclubs.

But the makers of Cristal don't seem to feel the same way about hip-hop -- at least that's how one rapper-turned-record executive sees it.

Multi-platinum rapper Jay-Z, now president and chief executive officer of Def Jam Records, has decided to boycott his once-beloved bubbly over comments from the managing director of the company that produces it.

Boycotting a champagne brand is a waste of time. How about a boycott of a telecommunications company for pushing overpriced, crap "urban lifestyle" MVNO's or undermining the free internet? (I really can't link to Black Commentator enough.) Or, if you're all mad about drinks and shit, how about boycotting Coke or Pepsi for putting profit over the health of schoolchildren?

The outrages above don't strike Jay as boycottable because they're not "racist" per se, they're just "business." And let he who has not made a quick dollar on someone else's suffering cast the first stone, right? This is a non-story, but hey: I'll link to it just the same. It's not every day I can slice off some "jay-z" searches without seeming like I'm going all sparkle and shiny.

Posted by ebogjonson in race and other identities at 11:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 15, 2006

ebog link dump 00002

Me, I'm still taking it light. Other folks seem to be on the stick, however:

    - jace/rupture is on tour with/as Nettle: "After umpteen hours in the airport, we leave limbo without a bandmember. The airport store stocks between 50 and 70 different varieties of what British people call crisps. Americans say potato chips. They sport titles like "savory moroccan lamb and gentle lime twists". Clear evidence of an empire in decline. London is the senile brain of an aging empire in decline, with fantastic bursts of color, activity, and memory in unrelated spaces and really bad transit."
    - digital Maoism?
    - post-Mao digital Maoism?
    - how about just plain post-Mao digital Maoist games?
    - in LA June 15-17? You might want to attend the first ever Nollywood Foundation convention and festival. [hat tip The Timbuktu Chronicles]
    - shame on the Congressional Black Caucus... again
    - Mixed Media Watch Watch: This kind of middlebrow yackity-smack really does crack me up. Someday I'm going to write a lengthy post about Mixed Media Watch, but for now let's just say that the constant "is it me, or what?" kvetching pretty much encapsulates everything that's wrong with the bourgie mixed race "movement." Lameness and hackery are no crimes in and of themselves, but come on, ladies: "Biracial Girl on Televison" or "Biracial Student Teased" or "White Mom of Trans-Racial Adoptee Gets Mean Stare" (I'm not making that last one up) are not news. That kind of narcissistic drool isn't "Mixed Media Watch" but "Mixed Media Slow News Day", or maybe "Mixed Media I've Run Out Of Ideas But I Have This Consultancy and Need To Justify Charging Fundamentally Evil Corporate HR Departments A Pretty Penny For Lawsuit Insurance Cloaked as Diversity Education." (But thanks for the America's Next Top Model updates! Jade really was completely insane!)
    - I mean, is it me or what?
    - this post brings to mind Chris Rock's joke that when you are alone at a cash machine in the middle of the night you do not keep an eye out over your shoulder for "the media." Or do you? Black ways of processing the media have become mainstreamed in ways that neither the (white) left or the right properly understands.


Posted by ebogjonson in link dump at 7:29 PM | Permalink

June 10, 2006

rips valerie

[...] Been too preoccupied to post the last few week or so, mostly because I've been thinking about a friend who passed recently. No great revelations or observations in my head, just the usual questions and sadness.

[...] It's funny how you can be preoccupied by "thinking about something" and yet have a head full of holes and ellipses and unfinished sentences. Some things are get thought but remain unspoken, some are unspeakable, some you recognize as being pointless as utterance in that there is no real audience for them except (of course) for the missing one, who, as far as you can tell, can't get the message. (Can you?) So you sit and keep thinking, and if you are particularly attuned to your own rhythms and pitfalls you find something to do with your hands. Blogging was obviously not one of those things. Instead I've been running my mouth to folks on the phone, I've been playing videogames and going to the gym - completely mundane and banal. I think crazy things on the elliptical trainer, like how getting hit by a train is such and awful, gruesome way to die. I stare out the gym window at the LA skyline and shake my head, think what kind of crazy guts it takes to kill yourself that way. I listen to music and the words make all kinds of unexpected sense to me. I stop in the middle of a set, rewind for a second listen. I am desperately grateful for every chance to pay attention, connect.

[...] Everyone is avoiding the word "suicide" except when they are using it privately. But we don't know what happened, do we? When there is so much ambiguity about an event choosing one possibility over another says more about the chooser than the event we are purportedly trying to understand. So what is it about me that makes me keep turning to one point of view, one interpretation? What do I get out of it?

[...] I don't think I've ever fully gotten over the death of someone I have known in any kind of intimate, liminal way, but that's no unique pain; it's likely the same for everyone. The literal and figurative arms that have held you can be those of a lover or parent or child, or maybe just those of a favored dance partner or fondly remembered teacher or trusted co-worker, but no matter the connection these are people that for the rest of your life you could put a blindfold on and still ID - from their smell, from the characteristic hang of a hand around your neck, from the particular, tell-tale route their mind likes to take from point A to B . Their loss is a tragedy in-and-of-itself and then on top of everything it goes and cuts you off irrevocably from the parts of yourself that were forged in partnership with the lost/gone person. These parts of you - memories, places, songs, offices, apartments, streets, friends in common, whole years and biographical chapters - go not so much gone themselves but become hazy and unstable. How can they ever be trusted again, all these people, places and things whose were either made or verified in common?

[...] You lose someone you have known particularly and you rediscover the hard way that your brain is a social organ, that X% of its circuitry, maybe more, was wired collaboratively. Even if those circuits have been sitting dormant for decades there is a sense in which they are at peace with their quiescence as long as the other coder (partner in code?) is still there in the world, doing their thing. And then they're not in the world and besides the sadness and anger and guilt there is all this feedback, a buzzing in your ears that indicates a node in the network is missing.

[...] You lose someone you once knew particularly well (but not so well lately) and you sit around wishing everything was different. That you had been there more, that you had reached out or checked in more effectively. And then you're dumbstruck - yes, of course. Everything already is different, has been for years. You should have grieved a little the morning you woke up and it occurred to you that you had not spoken to them in months and months and months. You should have

[...] I want to write "rest in peace, Valerie" but I can't. The words feel a formal affectation concerned more with the problem of ending this post than with anything to do with my grief or her life. I guess I want out of this post in a way that actually means something, but that's a taller order than I feel up to now. So how about I just stop?

[...] But rest in peace, Valerie. I miss you. You really did have a great, gigantic laugh. It burst out of you and made everything it attended yours.

Posted by ebogjonson in brain maintenancememory at 11:40 AM | Permalink