Barack the Magic Negro Song, the GOP, and African-Americans

by Latoya Peterson

From the Washington Post:


Republicans who are vying to lead the national party offered a mix of reactions yesterday to the decision by one candidate for the job to mail out a music CD including the song “Barack the Magic Negro.”

Chip Saltsman defended his actions, telling the Hill newspaper that the song — and others on the CD, which was mailed to party members — was nothing more than a lighthearted parody. But his rivals in the contest to chair the Republican National Committee said it carried an inaccurate message about what the GOP stands for.

My favorite quote:

And former Ohio secretary of state Ken Blackwell defended Saltsman and attacked the media.

“Unfortunately, there is hypersensitivity in the press regarding matters of race. This is in large measure due to President-elect Obama being the first African American elected president,” Blackwell, who is black, said in a statement. Continue reading

A post where I – again – talk about black republicans

Guest Contributor Jamelle, originally published at Postbougie and the U.S. of J

Ericka Andersen:

I continue to hear — from politicians and their constituents — that Republicans must start connecting with voters on a cultural level or they are screwed. It was reiterated again this morning by Saul Anuzis, the Michigan Republican Party Chairman running for Chairman of the Republican National Committee.

He had a story for us: On a bus ride, he struck up a conversation with two African-American women who’d just come from a church event in the city. He said they spoke of traditional values and many conservative principles they all shared. When Anuzis asked them what it was like to be black Republicans, they were taken aback. They weren’t Republicans, they said. It was clear to Anuzis that the women possessed principles of the Republican Party but that Party had not reached out to them on a level they related to.

“You can’t ignore groups of people and expect them to vote for you,” he said. Republicans have not done a good job with African-American voters, as we’ve seen. Culture has been put to the side in favor of political agenda but now there is an opportunity to change that.

Frankly, this is (or should be) obvious to anyone who has actually taken the time to analyze African-American political views. The plain fact is that there is – always has been – a natural constituency in the African-American community for conservative ideologies. And I’m not only referencing gay marriage or abortion here. Despite high rates of single motherhood within the African-American community, plenty of black people – I’d say most – are really committed to the idea of two parents and a stable marriage. Indeed, our history almost dictates that we should be; one of the great injustices of slavery was the refusal on part of slave owners to recognize slave marriage vows. What’s more, slave owners purposefully tore slaves apart, sending husbands, wives and children to separate plantations. As such, when the opportunity to marry freely came, blacks cherished it and still do as a community.

It is also worth adding that there is a strain within African-American thought which can be accurately called “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” conservatism, where “yourself” refers to the black community as a whole. Until the 1930s, blacks (at least those that could vote) were a fairly reliable Republican constituency and in the early 20th century, men like Booker T. Washington and Marcus Garvey had wide followings. Even the “Black Power” movement was focused – mainly – on black empowerment and black self-sufficiency. Hell, the famous Malcolm X image “By Any Means Necessary” could stand as an advertisement for the NRA if you simply replaced Malcolm’s image with a slightly heavy-set white guy. Continue reading

A Footnote on Australia

by Latoya Peterson

Last week, I picked up the new issue of Script Magazine looking for some information on script reviewers . However, what I found was Baz Luhrmann talking about the planning and writing of Australia.

The lengthy article describes the thought process involved in creating a script of epic scope, and reveals that Luhrmann wanted to write a film encompassing the history of Australia. Script explains:

There were a number of issues that Luhrmann knew he wanted to explore, including those related to the continent’s Aboriginal peoples as well as those related to Australia’s to achieve self-determination and self-governance.

After spending six months immersed in research and historical documents, Luhrmann decided to set the film near the beginning of World War II, due to “the transitional period” that it represented in Australia’s history. Also of note:

Another reason Luhrmann chose this time period because it allowed him to shine a light on what he describes as “probably the most heinous and difficult part of our history” – a period that marked a low point in the relationship between Australia’s white majority and the indigenous peoples with whom they share their land. In the time between the two World Wars, so many white Australian cattle stockmen were having relationships with Aboriginal women that the population of mixed-race children was causing a dilemma for those concerned about the country’s racial purity. A government policy was instituted in which mixed race children were taken from their parents, placed in Christian monasteries, and, in Luhrmann’s words, “basically trained to be white. This decimated large sections of the indigenous population – you can imagine the spiritual decimation and the pain. So, it was an extremely dramatic problem that has haunted this nation for a very, very long time and it really began in that period.”

Luhrmann wanted to deal with this issues in his film, not as its primary focus, but woven into the fabric of the piece in much the same way that slavery – while certainly not the main subject of the movie – was an indelible part of the texture of Gone With the Wind.

I find the journalist’s recounting of historical events extremely interesting. Continue reading

Ballad of the Magical Half-Negro (by Baz Luhrmann)

by Guest Contributor SLB, originally published at PostBougie

I could never be a real militant. Because there’s no way a real militant would’ve sat through Baz Luhrmann’s latest epic, Australia, which clocks in at a superfluous 3+ hours, and dug it as much as I did. It’s a film rife with knee-jerk infuriation potential. It’s got everything to rankle the revolutionary: racial slurs, a brother taking bullets for Hugh Jackman, an abusive white-on-black relationship, the phrase “I’m as good as Black to those people out there,” and even a little blackface for good measure. But I’ve yet to mention the race-baiting facet that receives the brightest spotlight: the magical Negro (and Half-Negro, as it were) archetype.

From the first frame, a puerile, adorably accented voice works overtime to endear you to what will inevitably be another racist tale of White colonists winning the day. But even so, the charms of that voice are hard to resist–especially when you see the chocolate-drop face it belongs to. Nullah (Brandon Walters) is a biracial pre-adolescent (maybe ten? eleven?), happily living on rundown property called Faraway Downs with his aboriginal mother, a few other servants, and a villainous White rancher named Neil Fletcher. Aboriginal mom, villainous White rancher… you probably already see where this is going.

Enter Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. All you need to know about them is that, by the second hour of the film, Nullah is in their custody and by the third hour of the film they’ve lost him to the desolate Catholic mission camp where all mixed-raced Aboriginal children in a priest’s or policeman’s plain sight were herded, after being stolen from their secure, healthy Aboriginal households. Will the stubbornly feuding, but madly in love Kidman-and-Jackman reunite to reclaim their “creamy” boy, Nullah, by the film’s
bombastic ending?

This is a Baz Luhrmann flick. Come on, fam. Continue reading

The Holiday Chill List

by Latoya Peterson

*Yawn*

Hello readers. I’m surprised to see how many people still frequent the site over the holidays. I was going to chill on posting, but it appears that most of you are raring for good conversation. So, we’re back on something resembling regular content. I’m still technically on staycation though.

It also occurs to me we haven’t had a reading/watching/listening/doing thread in a while. One of my favorite things about holiday breaks is that I get to catch up on my reading.

I just finished Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, and it reminded me why I love Haruki Murakami in the first place. I’ve got some back issues of various magazines to catch up on (most notabley Edge, a UK based gaming magazine and Shojo Beat, the Viz manga magazine) and I hope to dive into Kenji Yoshino’s Covering, and Drifting Towards Love: Black, Brown, Gay, and Coming of Age on the Streets of New York by Kai Wright. Continue reading

One More Go-Round: The Racialicious Heroes Roundtable Chat

Hosted By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García

Heroes pulled off something rare for its’ fall finale, ending its’ third storyarc with both a bang and a whimper. How bad was it? Your friendly neighborhood Roundtable members were warning me about it before it even aired on the west coast. Take this message, for instance, from Mahsino: “I just finished watching it the ‘superior way’ an hour and a half ago … um, yeah.”

Suffice to say, the episode ended up being everything she had me expecting – and less. On the bright side, it gave us a lot to talk about in our final installment of the fall, including:

* The general sense of disarray that undermined the conclusion to Volume III, “Dual”
* Our predictions for Volume IV, the much-ballyhooed “Fugitives”
* Ando’s new power and its’ potential beauty secrets
* The continuing misadventures of everybody’s favorite misfit of science, Mohinder

Arturo: Ok, here’s the thing: I got a couple of e-mails Monday night [about the episode] that didn’t sound too enthused, but I thought, “naah, it can’t be that bad.” I’m never doubting any of you *ever again*

Clara: LOL
Mahsino: if i could sum it up in one word, it would have been: meh
Erica: That’s absolutely the right word.
Clara: My short summary of the episode: eye-roll.
Arturo: I mean, even last year’s finale was sorta cool.
Mahsino: Classic Heroes:  characters of color die so that whiter, blonder, prettier characters may live.
Erica: It felt more like a “ok, we’ll just ignore all this volume and start over,” instead of the desired “exciting finale!” Continue reading

Cadillac Records

by Guest Contributor SLB, originally posted at Postbougie

I think if we’re all quite honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that the methods to approaching big-screen biopics are finite—especially biopics about musicians. In order for people’s lives to warrant the silver screen treatment in the first place, those lives have to possess extremes—a series of extenuating events that can be exploited for the highest dramatic impact the actors can generate. And face it: biopics are only as good as their actors. Sure, the writing has to be passable. If you’re lucky, the writing makes the actors’ jobs easy, but to our main point: the lives themselves provide the pathos. The writers need only heighten it. Yes, there are glaring historical omissions. Yes, there are all kinds of melodramatic liberties taken—especially in the film’s second to last scene of this film. But that, too, comes with the predictable territory of biopics, and good actors mine that melodrama for all its worth. That’s what makes a decent biopic so watchable.

Everyone involved in Darnell Martin’s Cadillac Records understands the pecking order of the biopic genre—which is precisely why this one works so well. Fortunately, the casting directors brought their A-game, tapping Adrien Brody as Leonard Chess, the Jewish-Polish immigrant who founded the most successful Blues and R&B label in Chicago history, Chess Records, and the incomparable Jeffrey Wright as Muddy Waters, Chess’s flagship artist.

With Brody and Wright anchoring the film, the substantial supporting cast had no choice but to tow the Oscar-caliber line and, with very few exceptions, they did. Granted, Cedric the Entertainer was probably miscast as songwriter Willie Dixon. He always sounds like he’s faking an accent, rather than playing a role. It’s as though his acting ability doesn’t extend beyond varying the tenor of his voice. But since he was only in a few scenes, total (even his role as the narrator didn’t yield him that many lines), he wasn’t distracting at all. Continue reading