Tuesday, September 17, 2013

In Search of Authentic Black Identity: A Journey and Discourse of Kanye West, Fried Chicken, Black Love and Neo-Negritude

Riddle me this: The Guardian' scritique of Yeezus included a lyric quote in which they spelled out one lyric as "nigger" even tho Kanye was deliberately referencing "nigga". I pointed this out in the Comments section and received a thorough drubbing from an African gentleman who challenged my blackness, my education and my general right to exist as a human being. But somehow *I think* it is rather significant and important to recall that all this drama is occurring because of a Kanye West music revue. Kanye West says ''nigga'' about as often as some people say the word ''the''

 My issue was simply that the Guardian ought to know the difference between the hip hop usage of ''nigga'' versus the racist usage of ''nigger''. But it also raised questions in my mind toward individuals who hold to strict Politics of Respectability in regard to the use of "nigga": Why the F*CK are you listening to hip hop?!! If you feel strongly that use of "nigga" is an indication of self-hatred in the Black American wo/man then perhaps you should not support hip hop, and Kanye West in particular. Because present day hip hop has a whole thing with Bling culture and Capitalism and stuff. You know?

Five people gave big ups to the  African gentleman's comment to me in the throwdown comments section: "You and you Afro-Americans are no brothers of mine!". I just don't understand why the lot of  you are all up in here lurking in the Kanye West music review comments section, mostly. So you're down for the whole thing with  returning the world back to its former sense of order and sensibility  when ''nigger'' just meant ''nigger'' and no one had to be confused?  No. I'm sorry but, no. And guess what? If you feel deeply opposed to the whole reclamation thing about "nigga" then really you need to  STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM HIP HOP MUSIC REVIEW SECTIONS AND HIP HOP MUSIC/STYLE/FASHION ETC as well. 

Africans feel very strongly on this issue and it's not that I don't understand it. Of course I do. But there is no such thing as a monopoly on authentic Black experience. I know a lot of people insist otherwise. A lot of people contend that authenticity means everything. (And yes I am going to finish this essay by citing "a lot people" rather than naming every single one. I do not know every single Black person who feels this way. I could perhaps look in Wikipedia but somehow I think they also do not know all the Black people who feel this way. Hence, I shall lean on the statement that "a lot of people" do feel this way so that I can make my point.)

But can we have this argument about the pros and cons of nigger/nigga and what that says about the Black experience somewhere other than a Kanye West-inspired comments section? Only because it is a discussion of such deep and critical nature that it needs to be open to all participants in the Black cultural experience so if we have the throwdown right here in the Guardian's review of the Yeezus album then a lot of folks will miss out. ("A lot of folks": I can name some of these individuals, but not all. 

It's sort of like being a PETA supporter while chilling at, say, a  Best Fried Chicken In The World Contest. Personally, I love fried chicken - which is also constantly under attack by hateful racists who seek to degrade Black folk as ignorant animals who love greasy chicken. I do not understand why the love of fried chicken can be specifically tied to such an un-logical conclusion but there it is. 

However,  I will not stop eating fried chicken because of some other person's hate, and I will not pretend to not enjoy fried chicken just if another black person tells me that enjoying fried chicken only encourages racism. As a matter of fact I have disobeyed my very own parents regarding this issue who forbade me at a young age from ever publicly acknowledging fried chicken as my preferred nourishment for this very reason. 

"That's tacky," they said. "You can enjoy fried chicken but you can't go  around telling people that! It's country and common, and it make us look bad." they said. "Us" being Black people but also my parents, in particular who were fretful of the consequences should it become known that I practiced such distressingly, revolutionary disobedience. But  what, I should be oppressed by their standards of culinary class simply  because they think certain food is  "low class" and "common"? Can I live? I mean, can I just be allowed to LIVE? 

Similarly some folk in the Black experience are not about to release ''nigga'' from the reclamation of 
the the word's origin. This brings up powerful and necessary discourse on what is the role of obedience and dis-obedience from an intra-cultural perspective as well as from the bondage of white expectation. How can we as Black people practice a politics of self-definition without bending to the poisonous elements of those former white masters and how they wish we would define ourselves for the sake of their comfort; in order to salve and relieve their  conscience in regard to historical wrongs and  present day social wrongs that borne out of white supremacy and privilege which continue to oppress non-whites, non-males, non-heterosexual Christian Capitalist-loving Americanss? Nevertheless the issue of cross-cultural bonding community-building transcending the divisions of race, class, religion etc is one more discourse that may have to be put aside until such time as Black people in all our own ethnic diversity can come to a place of healthy and authentic self-definition.

But the question of how one determines the means of said "agreement'' remains. Then there is the urgent discourse and process of actively rejecting and removing the most vile of the stimulants and depressants, hallucinogens, delusions, definitions, practices and assorted poisons of our white cultural inheritance. The inheritances of white domination and the systems devised to prop up the privileges of white supremacy are legion. Scratch the surface of historical white supremacy as an active systematic tool of nation building created to serve white privilege and white profit and you will discover the basic horrors of African colonialism via King Leopold of Belgium;  Caribbean colonialism and the extreme, torture based brutality of its slavery system; the scientific precision of American nation building beginning with the slave experiment and legally modified into Jim Crow, Black Codes and the prison system as  the foundation and primary substitute of Black oppression and continuation of  free labor system  after the Civil War. 
Blues Is Alright by Cheryl Chavee Banks Ferguson

This is merely a random and tiny portion of critical study that waits to  be researched and interrogated in the historical and often tragic collision during the initial encounter between white and black. This is merely the laziest detail that the most apathetic of researchers can discover in regard to the history Black oppression via slavery yet make no mistake it is the  critical, requisite, essential  starting point for consideration of that history. It becomes apparent very early how deeply complex is the task to pick out every nit as a process toward self-definition,  establishing authentic identity and self-hood from the singularities which have been imposed and impressed unwillingly upon Black identity during the periods of captivity. 

Further, this identity formation must necessarily occur while crimes and injustices are continually committed against Black person-hood, while that person-hood in formation is still being challenged from without and questioned from within. It is a discourse that must continue even as we suffer pains and passions from re-memory, rehabilitation, from reclamation of this Self. This intra-cultural consciousness raising for Blackness' own sake and survival by its own people can never be abandoned, not even at after a successful nation is built by and for Blackness. (Never Forget! Never Forget!!) The ultimate badge of Black Love is the dedication to community building and consciousness raising. To raising our own consciousness, overcoming the oppression in our history, instilling revolution and rebellion  in hearts and minds for the sake of an authentic, self-definition based on love, truth, freedom and survival -- even when this task demands the exclusion of well-intentioned and truly devoted brothers and sisters of other colors, from other mothers.

Do I feel that the world was a better place without the existence of N-I-G-G-A? No, actually I don't believe it would necessarily demonstrate any marked social improvement or heightened consciousness. Not really. When Emmett Till was murdered in 1954 the Politics of  Black Respectability tended to discourage usage of N-I-G-G-A  -- certainly at least in terms of its common usage by people of all colors as it is used today -- among black folks themselves but that didn't check racist torturer, murderers from torturing and murdering that young boy all those years ago, whose murder so vividly mirrors the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin. Of all the Trayvon Martins whose names are unknown but whose violent deaths occur everyday. Back in the day. Today. Tomorrow. 

I would love nothing more than a  return to  Frantz Fanon's meditations on Negritude. Perhaps I was naive but in 2008 when Obama fever swept the nation I dreamed of a neo-Harlem Renaissance, a period in which all that was best and beautiful in Black American culture would flourish abundantly. i was forever telling my friends and family of the coming revolution in art, writing, music, theatre, intellectual thought. ''It's coming! The Neo-Harlem Renaissance and resurrection of Negritude and -- Ah!! Just you want and see! It will be beautiful!" My own eloquence and emotional celebration of this evidence of Black Love moved me to tears. But somehow - I don't understand it! - the neo-renaissance did not happen. Unless you count Jay and Bey hanging out with the Prez. (I do not count Jay and Bey hanging out with the Prez as a neo-Renaissance.) Perhaps, I shall stay positive and say instead that it has not happened yet. But it will happen I tell you. It is inevitable...or something. 

No matter,  I will always  encourage examination Blackness, the consciousness raising on Blackness.

I'm going to preach Black Love til I die. And I do believe there is intrinsic self-worth in the African-American experience despite the troubling trend and re-birth of Nigga, despite divisions in thought, history, belief and heritage by Blacks of diverse cultures and ethnicity. African-American's are no less immune from  hideous inheritances and harmful practices than Africans are from their own colonial heritage. 

But there's little achieved  by finger the pointing exercise of whose experience is better, more authentic, more Black. The bottom line is that it's a circular argument which  exists for its own sake and achieves very little. There is so much else to question and discuss. Is it possible to have a Politics of Revolution minus acts of Terrorism, which Fanon and Nelson Mandela ultimately embraced as the only means of freeing Africans from European colonialism? (And indeed, it is worth noting that it proved the only successful  method in the end.) Can there be  a Politics of Pan African Heritage minus the false but well-meaning self-esteem building mythology of Afrocentrism? Is it in fact true and necessary that "It's a Black thing and you wouldn't understand"? Is there such a thing as Black Power without the demonization and eternal expulsion of Whitey? How do we manage to be obedient to a Politics of Blackness while practicing  dis-obedience to  the self-destructive tenets planted by former white masters for the taming of the wild African nature? How do we root out  self-destructiveness practices among ourselves as Black, liberate ourselves from evident self-hatred and caste-like conditions such as colorism for instance, or black on black crime which is presently destroying South Chicago this very moment?

So the continued discourse about the NIGGA/NIGGER is a rich, powerful and ultimately healing  discourse that presents the potential to unearth so much  of relevancy and pressing need in Black culture across its spectrum from Africanism to Afican-Americanism to Caribbeans and on. It has some power in the potential of forcing ourselves to look in the mirror and describe ourselves as we are now. There is more at stake than just the inheritances of the Past and it is so easy to confine the discourse to the origins of these issues but at the end of the day we must also face who we are in the Present. We cannot change the Past but we can alter the Present....and the Future.  And who knows it might even be a good thing if such discourse is able to eliminate both words Nigger/Nigga - as ideas and as actual cultural personifications. 

 When I was reading the reply to my comment in the Guardian's comment section I didn't mean to  encourage anyone to use either word, but it is a tiny point that carries deeply significant meaning depending how the words nigga/nigger are used, personal feelings aside. But still - call me stubborn - but it seems to me that if you are so militant in your beliefs about That Word that you are required to Attack! complete strangers over its politics and its poisonous origins from the word "nigger'' then perhaps you need to focus more on  backing up you bite and Step Away From the Hip Hop!! In most cases, present day hip hop is not going to lend you much support for a Politics of Anti-Reclamation nor any support for Black Community Building Based on Self Love because that would distract from the Bling Ethic and Capitalism focus.  Ergo, a Kanye West music review is not the best place to start the  movement of Negritude. 

Kanye can maybe do the after-party once we re-establish the neo-Black Renaissance and Neo-Negritude movements but I'll have to get back to you on that after the Congress of Black Love and Power meets to hold a vote. And doubt not that there is an existing Congress of Black Love and Power, because there is. Right now, however,  there's just so many crises that we haven't had the time to meet and determine the specifics on matters such as this. And, frankly, you may have to get comfortable with the fact that Blackness is not, in fact, about a meeting of minds into one central mind, in one tent, but a rather a diverse community built upon varied experiences and people who share a common characteristic, which includes color in this instance -- and more. No doubt it would be so much easier for everyone -- who is non-black -- if Black people would just elect a leader to tell the Rules. To explain what's okay and what's not. Wouldn't that be wonderful and so pleasant? It would simply get rid of so many misunderstandings particularly the ones made by allies of the Black community who often take some harsh and hurtful beat-downs sins of presumptuousness and the like. And that creates rifts and hurt feelings and--

But wait. Blackness doesn't exist to give definitions to the curious, nor to elect leaders, nor to issue issue Important Proclamations and Official Statements to allies, opponents, apathetic outsiders or even to ourselves. Blackness is an experience, vast and old. You just may have to school your heart that it is okay for Blackness to be vast and diverse and deep, with many gradations of ideas and actions. 

Just... let's not leave it to Kanye to be the announcer, if an announcer is needed. You know to say about the diversity and vastness and depth-thing. I mean, if Kanye is going to be the one to do that announcement then we need to get together and agree on that stuff like ASAP because I want to nominate some other folk whom I think are better suited. Kanye....just...Look, there's some other folk more qualified is all I'm saying. Not that we must have a leader. But let's not fall out and start having intra-warfare over disagreements on who will or will not make the Big Announcements On Blackness, or who hosts the After-Party following Big Important Announcements.  I mean, Kanye--- man, whatever! And you know he'll insist on bringing Kim Kardashian with her couch dress wearing ass. 

Just - I'm saying, can we do some other stuff on the docket first? Come back to Kanye later, my African brother? Even though you was wrong to say I'm not your sister, I'ma not have a grudge. We've got bigger chickens to fry. 


I can so have fried chicken at the After Party! You can't say that there can't be fried chicken! And maybe if we do a buffet then ---

Look!! That is all. 

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