Thursday, February 10, 2011

Mandingo (1975)

21st Century Schizoid Man

directed by Richard Fleischer
starring James Mason, Susan George, Perry King,
Richard Ward, Brenda Sykes, Ken Norton


When it comes to defending the "indefensible," I'm like the crazy old cat lady at the dark end of Culture Street, taking stray bits of musical and cinematic refuse under my wing and nursing them into full-blown obsessions. Just ask anyone I've exposed to the "racist" country songs of David Allan Coe or the tragically uncool dork-rock of Rush or Yes — things invariably shat upon by hipsters nipping at the prune juice of assumed irrelevance, too safe inside their bubbles to actually expose themselves to what they're ridiculing. The biker-bar vernacular of those notorious Coe numbers is — like the slang of the projects or the Guido-ese spoken in Brooklyn or Jersey — a tradition-forged American tongue sanctioned neither by social propriety nor Strunk & White; a tribal self-portrait whose warts-and-all honesty one needn't embrace but which only a philistine would want silenced. Censorship via "political correctness" — say, the campaign to de-"nigger"-ize Huckleberry Finn — is one way to Windex the bum's fingerprints of a now-embarrassing past from our collective American windshield. Smugly relegating viable works of art to the trash heap of Bad B-Movie Night is another.


Such has been the fate of Richard Fleischer's ballsy 1975 slave epic Mandingo, a film that merits a place at the table with the Nashvilles and Barry Lyndons of its year, not shunted off to a crappy seat next to Dolemite over in the colored section. Set on Falconhurst, a slave-breeding plantation in 1840's Looziana, it ostensibly tells the story of rheumatic old slaver Warren Maxwell (James Mason) struggling to keep his business afloat when son Hammond (Perry King) buys Mede (boxer Ken Norton), a strapping Mandingo buck prized as the biggest and strongest around. Mede turns out to be a walking ATM for his new owners — whether ripping the Maxwells' stable of wenches in half with his Nubian man-snake and siring top-dollar babies in the process or decimating his fellow slaves in high-stakes death-matches. It’s odd — for a movie that’s been trying to scrape critical consensus off the bottom of its shoe for almost forty years — how restrained Fleischer’s direction actually is. He’s interested neither in preaching nor in soppy liberal hand-wringing — the moral rot of the characters’ milieu is already coded into the visual design, the tone, the pacing. Richard Kline's appropriately moody cinematography makes decrepit old Falconhurst the haunted house from a national nightmare, the stand-in for a barren way of life that's withering on the vine — its rooms and hallways cloaked in suffocating shadows, scarcely inhabited by people or with only the barest semblance of furnishings. This is no place to call home. Not even the midday Louisiana sun gives off any warmth here.


Look at the film through twenty-first century goggles, though, and the axis of tragedy becomes clearer. Forget about black folk in chains — Mandingo is the tragedy of a white man with a yen for dark meat, born in the wrong era. Hammond is introduced to us as a man utterly unmoved by sexy blonde prostitutes pawing at his crotch, a slaveowner for whom the right of Massa to deflower and impregnate his wenches is personal gospel. Papa Warren wants grandbabies more than three-fifths human, though, so he presses Hammond to take a white wife (Susan George) when Hammond's perfectly happy spilling the remainder of his fertile years inside Ellen (Brenda Sykes), the brown sugar he saves his sweetest nothings for — his real wife.

Of course, the antebellum South was a bit early for a white man with the predilections of Robert De Niro. Hammond calls up every excuse in the Good Book — white wimmens ain't s'posed to like sex, wifey Blanche lacked cherry on their wedding night — to explain away his lack of interest in his blushing bride, to justify the spot his beacon of Southern womanhood holds on the totem pole beneath Mede and Ellen. Compare each couple's consummation: the tenderness he shows Ellen (at least, she's a virgin) versus the way he cruelly rebuffs Blanche — clearly smoke and mirrors to hide the fact that Blanche's severe melanin deficiency has left him limper than a wet newspaper. Poor Blanche — even Daddy Maxwell (of all indignities) shows more excitement at the sight of Mede than he does at meeting his new daughter-in-law. Not even relieving Ellen of the burden of bearing Hammond's mulatto spawn can sew up that quivering gash in her pride. Booted from her perch of privilege and landing in the mud next to slave quarters, a seething Blanche finally demands a little sugar from new neighbor Mede — forcing Hubby to take up arms in defense of affronted white male supremacy and hastening, in one fell swoop, the very end to the Falconhurst empire that her presence was supposed to prevent. Hell hath no fury like a white woman scorned.


It's a tragedy worthy of Shakespeare — however overripe its Lady Macbeth — and what's obvious, once you hose off the shit-stew of derision and nervous titters that tastemakers have sprayed Mandingo with for over three decades, is what a powerful film it is. The American history book shows race relations as a bunch of disparate, and possibly incompatible, ingredients tossed willy-nilly into a pressure cooker, sealed tight, and cranked up to 165 degrees — thusly, so is Mandingo. Our enlightened, college-educated, post-Martin Luther King minds can't conceive of a society where the ability of li'l nigger boys to drain the rheumatism out of the feet of old white men was casual dinner-table conversation. Our enlightened, college-educated minds can't conceive of a world where the impossibility of blacks having souls was common knowledge.

And yet, there it is — the hairy brown maw of unsanitized history that Mandingo spreads wide and shoves in our faces, complete with its own set of rules: 1) never kiss a nigger wench on the mouth; 2) niggers never look a white person in the eye, or address one, unless given permission first; 3) blinding a nigger in one eye is the perfect punishment for said nigger having learned to read since it learns 'em real good and, with one eye left, they can still perform their duties; 4) breeding a nigger with his own relatives isn't incest any more than it is with farm animals; 5) it's not like niggers'd know their own family, anyway, since they were most likely sold off as babies; 6) if the progeny of a nigger fornicatin' with his own kin turns out some kinda retard, well, you just kill it.

We howl with our friends at Susan George's overwrought Southern-belle jive because we're dancing on strings held by thirty years of "it's a trashy B-movie!" orthodoxy. Certainly, it's easier than breaking from the pack of hipster hyenas. Certainly, it's easier than pausing to consider George's bug-eyed hyperventilating as a performance that Blanche herself would undoubtedly give in order to maintain the chaste-maiden-of-the-South image that antebellum society expected of its white women. When your rich new plantation-heir husband figures out that you've had cock before his and calls your purity into question, you pound your fist into the bed and take your umbrage in declamatory shrieks — it's the only way to convince.


We tell ourselves to laugh at the mondo bizarro world that Mandingo presents because if it ain't funny, then it's true — and if it's true that human beings actually lived and prospered and slept soundly in a world like this, then it's too fucking horrible to contemplate. It's horrible enough to make you forget that your own ancestors didn't arrive at these shores from Europe until the 1930's; horrible enough to make you offer up your own fat middle-aged wife as sexual reparations for boneheaded, irony-free Negroes who blissfully trumpet their own status as prized bucks for the gratification of flabby white suburbanites, and then slap high-fives with their homies and crow about how the times, they are a-changin'.

All the so-called "tawdry" elements of the film? Trashy interracial sex? Whites using blacks as disposable sexual objects? White women who feel unappreciated by white men and spitefully use black cock as a two-by-four with which to bludgeon the "straight" society that rejected them? Blacks basing their self-worth on Massa's approval? Blacks maiming and killing one another for white America's entertainment? Blacks happily assuming control of the whip that keeps their own people in line? Well, that, my friends, is nothing less than the whole sorry-ass Southern-fried Gothic melodrama that's written the script for our American theater right up to the present day — a text from which we have yet to deviate. It's a history of elbows chafed from rubbing — of attempted coexistence futile enough to make the Hatfields and McCoys look like Frisco bathhouse-buddies and volatile enough to make a veritable rainbow of weary Americans toast both pre-hajj Malcolm X and George Lincoln Rockwell. It's a nation of black men nodding out on the opiates of white club pussy and juvenile braggadocio, conjuring up images like the ones in Mandingo to justify sagging pants and grills and thug badges worn proudly to the Church of Blame Whitey, while the poise and dignity of the Civil Rights Era shrinks in our rear-view mirror like Wile E. Coyote gone off the cliff. It's the big black dick that put a drop of piss in David Allan Coe's glass of Jack Daniels. It's a white male ruling order that was destined, from day one, to push black males and white women together, rendering them strange bedfellows in the boudoir of mutual disenchantment. 


Mandingo doesn't call the collision of black and white on the minefield of capitalism "combustible," it sketches race in America as a fucking wad of nitroglycerin packed up the ass of a Parkinson's-afflicted mule that's trapped inside a rickety old truck speeding over a very bumpy road in the mountains — a bomb so potent, it's exploded again and again and again. 1863 New York, the summer of 1919, 1923 Rosewood, 1943 Detroit, Watts '65, Newark in '67, Memphis '68, L.A. '92, Cincinnati in '01, Emmett Till, O.J., hell, the election of Obama — Ken Norton's dong lit the fuse deep inside Susan George's disarranged guts, gracing each successive chapter of the American saga, both black and white, with ashes and rubble.

If you live on the South Side of Chicago, open your window — you can still smell smoke. If you're living near the burned-out shell of what used to be Detroit, or anywhere in L.A. where homeboys and cholos compete for demographic superiority and their every dialogue is a fatally serious version of the old Reese's Peanut Butter Cup commercial (one where Latino peanut butter and African-American chocolate don't seem to go so well together), then open your window — smell the smoke. If you're living in Oakland — smell the smoke. Baltimore — smell the smoke. St. Louis? Jackson, Mississippi? Birmingham, Alabama? Cleveland? N'awlins? The Bronx? Flint, Michigan? Camden, New Jersey? Gary, Indiana — or anywhere else in America where the few remaining whites endure tentatively in a growing sea of black like weather-beaten old statues commemorating the Dutch settlers who founded Harlem, where the "burn, baby, burn" of past riots can still be heard, carried on the wind like the klaxons sounded at the dawn of desegregation? Smell the smoke.

And a question lingers. As the voices of Medgar Evers and James Byrd, Jr., of Reginald Denny and the victims of the D.C. Sniper, of Nicole Brown Simpson plus whatever old lady just got her purse snatched this week, all rise from the smoke to offer a hearty "thanks, guys" to the Hammond Maxwells that struck the first match under America's racial cauldron way back when — a question lingers. That question: is all this smoke the remnant of the last dying fire or the beginnings of a new one?

©2011 Scott Is NOT A Professional Film Critic

18 comments:

Marybelle said...

This film was difficult to watch. The scene where Mede is thrown into the caldron is just horrific. And when they use the little boy's warm stomach on that gross man's feet to cure his arthritis...that was just awful. So many disturbing scenes in this film.

Great review! Although, I got lots of violent flashbacks from the film :(

Scott Is NOT A Professional said...

It's just ridiculous that a film made with such artistry should be buried beneath years of derision and snickering. Even Paramount, which made and released the film back in '75, licensed it out to some B-grade home video company named Legend Films for the DVD release.

The quintessential shot in the film: when Hammond takes off in a carriage bound for the next auction, with Ellen in her place of privilege just behind him. The camera pulls back to reveal this as the POV of Blanche looking down from her perch on the balcony, drink in hand, left behind to simmer and wait. One look at her face and you know what's coming next...

Desiree said...

I remember renting this film from Netflix and when it arrived it sat for several days until my sister pushed me to watch it. I thought it was going to seriously be a blaxploitation film. But, it was actually pretty good.

The reason I think it's good because I believe it's an accurate representation of slavery. It's so grotesque in it's rawness and so saddening. I was enraged, especially if you believe--and I believe--in it's accuracy.

The most disgusting part of the film was how they so effectively portrayed black=chattel. I felt for Blanche, as well. It was a white man's man's man's world.

I have to disagree with you re: Hammond, massa's son. I felt no sympathy for him, a white guy born in the 'wrong era', not able to really be with the black girls he 'loved'.

Ah, it was all so sickening! And Ellen, she annoyed the shit out of me. I wanted to punch her most of the film; I had no sympathy for her because she was such an idiot, wearing that fucking necklace in front of those white people! When Blanche came after her, I said, 'Beat that bitch's ass!' It bothered me because this is such a reflection of how black people think, both her and Mede.

That's how blacks act when they are chosen. You see this in republican politics all the time, the black conservative. Nothing wrong with having a different political opinion but it gets to the point of Uncle Tomming, that's when there's a problem. I used to be a Republican until they baited Wright and Obama. It just slaps you back into reality that equality and colorblindness may always be unattainable.

So, Mede and Ellen were fools. The barbarism of Mede having to be a fighting buck was too much. In hindsight, I am surprised I actually didn't fast-forward through the scene.

The whole film is an analogy to black struggle in my opinion, that fight scene being the climax, the best representation of it all. From your article (I was a little confused by the final bit), you may have grown cold to the idea of The Man. I realize that it may be more of a crutch at this point but I do believe blacks are, to an extent, still victimized by a system.

What I am saying is, here you had both Ellen and Mede believing that this perceived 'favor' made them more than a 'black slave'. But this was never the case. Ever. Hammond chose these individuals based on what they could do for him, not based on anything else.

The 'love story' between Ellen and Hammond was not tender nor did it fill within me a sense of sweetness or 'Awww...'. Hell no; I thought it was sick. He only seemingly preferred black girls because he was the one that broke them in, not to mention he--if I am recalling the film correctly--lost his virginity with one. But did he not 'love' them; he did not see them as equals.

All in all, it was a good film, definitely not deserving of the crappy movie category. I have to wonder about the goals of the film. Doubtless to say, I believe they wanted to show interracial sex on screen but I wonder if they were intending to also shock the public, that they were a bunch of political leftists saying: 'This is what we did to them; don't ever forget it.'

Interesting review. Hmm... I cannot figure it out. To Blame Whitey or to not Blame Whitey... what are you trying to say?

Desiree said...

But did he not 'love' them; he did not see them as equals.

That should read: But he did not 'love' them; he did not see them as equals.

My mistake.

Scott Is NOT A Professional said...

Well, I'm not one of those B-movie fanboys who think that "everything is, like, totally, the coolest movie ever made, MAN!" but don't sleep on all blaxploitation as a whole -- I'll be on my deathbed, surrounded by loved ones, and STILL defending "The Mack" and parts of "Super Fly." Plus Isaac Hayes in "Truck Turner". And though I really do feel that parts of "Coffy" and "Foxy Brown" are absolute crap, I'd dropkick an old lady in the head just for the chance to travel back to 1974 in a time machine and suck Pam Grier's left titty.

Anyway, Blame Whitey is certainly an answer that no serious person would advocate. Entire segments of the black community have been taught to do that since sliding out of the womb - for decades now - and yet, as a community, where has that gotten black America? Has continuing to spit fire and brimstone about the injustice of the past, while refusing to do anything about personal accountability in the present day, improved the fortunes of the black community as a whole? Certainly, the historical horrors shown in a film like Mandingo can't be laid at the feet of any living, breathing whites walking around today - many of whom have ancestors that didn't even come to these shores until WELL after slavery ended (as I said) - so where is the Blame Whitey mentality really getting anyone?

I've always been amused by the fact that you have whole swaths of black youth today who care little to nothing about their own musical and cinematic and literary traditions. Music, to them, goes back no further than whatever was going on in hip-hop a couple of years ago. Go to a jazz club or a live blues show here in L.A. and I guarantee you'll be able to count the number of black folks there -- who are under the age of fifty -- on one hand. Who actually listens to electric Miles Davis and Ornette Coleman and Howlin' Wolf and bothers to sit around debating the merits of movies like "Mandingo"? White people. Asians. Europeans. Definitely not -- by and large -- black folks.
(Part 2 below...)

Scott Is NOT A Professional said...

My point being this: it's dreadfully amusing to see segments of the black community that generally seem to care nothing about their own past remain so worked up about injustices that befell their ancestors in the nineteenth century -- injustices they've never personally experienced, which happened to people they've never met. And they cling to this, to the extent of excusing their own lack of accountability in their life. Apparently, U.S. history is to blame for their own refusal to learn the King's English and stop fathering babies they can't take care of and pull their pants up off their asses.

On one level, sure, they do it because it's easier to blame society than it is to start with that "man in the mirror." (As your man MJ once said.) But also, we have a culture today that teaches black kids that it's okay to go through life with the lowest possible expectations and blame all your failures on Da Man, who had his foot on your neck from the moment you were born. "You can't win, anyway, so why bother trying?" is what this mentality teaches black kids to embrace as their mantra. And it's coming from segments of black culture - AND - a white liberal orthodoxy that still sees itself as The Great Benefactor, The Norm, The Corrector of All Wrongs. A white liberal orthodoxy so hellbent on absolving itself of the sins of the father that it actually believes the answer to be, "hey! let's do all we can to keep Black America ignorant and dependent on US and sucking off the government teat! Sure, Tyrone, go ahead - keep blaming Whitey! You'll go far in life!"

I recently had a debate with a black female friend about racial tension. And I told her that, frankly, black Americans are operating with a bit too much tunnel-vision when it comes to only looking at the racial situation as a "black and white" thing. I guaranteed her -- based on personal experience -- that there are large segments of the Latino and Asian and Middle Eastern communities (etc.) who feel the same way that your stereotypical white conservative does about black folks. Hell, since I've been here in L.A., the only "nigger"-type comments I've heard from people have been from Latinos and Asians. I think it's funny how the racist American system still somehow doesn't seem to hold back blacks who emigrate here from other countries, work their asses off, and still manage to own their own businesses/be successful. I knew someone who had done just that - come here from the West Indies - and was just as mystified at the attitudes of many Black Americans as whites tend to be.

My friend then started in on the global conspiracy to keep blacks and browns in their place, and how the Powers That Be know that the brown folk of the world have it in them to come together for a common good, and they don't want that, so they keep everyone in their place with media stereotypes and tearing apart the black family and blah blah blah.
(Part 3 below!)

Scott Is NOT A Professional said...

I told her it was bullshit.

I said: ultimately, it doesn't matter what's going on, on the GLOBAL level. Everything starts on the INDIVIDUAL, PERSONAL, DAY-TO-DAY level. Now, if YOU are the one who's making the choice to slang rocks and break into people's cars, knock up girls you have no intention of sticking around with, shun education and refuse to ever break out of the bubble of "blackness" that you were born into - that is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY, YOUR fault. Not the white man's.

I said: black folks can go to the library and look up shit here on the Internet and read books and LEARN just like ANYONE ELSE CAN -- fuck some bullshit about "underfunded inner-city schools" and that crap.

Then, I gave her this analogy: "let's say you and I are enemies on the job, and I know that you have it in for me. That you're talking shit about me to the boss and trying to get me fired. And I know that there's at least a possibility that I might be going down.

"Well, how do I handle this, knowing there's a conspiracy against me? Do I start coming into work on time and doing extra stuff around the office, and going above and beyond the call of duty to show the bigwigs what a valuable employee and good worker I am, so that I can keep my job and invalidate what you're saying about me?

"Or do I act like a 'nigger' and keep coming into work on CP Time, and spend all day yapping on the phone and doing as little as possible, and then blame YOU when MY ass gets fired for being a shit employee? Where do I lay the blame then: on the conspiracy that you cooked up, or my OWN failures?"

Desiree said...

Well, I disagree with you about underfunded inner-city schools. That is a real problem. I am from Las Vegas and, while this city is not exactly old and slummy like cities in the Northeast, I always found it annoying that throughout school we never had the materials to do things. I imagine it is a lot worse in the inner city. There were several 'rich' public schools in the District and many teachers bemoaned at the new computers, equipment, etc. these schools got. Education is shit in this country.

Anyway, the point is not whether or not you agree with the Blame Whitey mentality. Yes, I do believe that there is a GLOBAL white supremacy and I will never, ever disbelieve that. But what can we do about it? How can we change the mentality of blacks in this nation, who you believe are socialized into the Blame Whitey mentality?

What we typically see is blacks blaming a system--hate to break it to you, it does exist, personal responsibility or not--and whites eagerly blaming blacks for their own failure, sometimes in pretty bad ways (DNA talk, anyone?). My view is no side is entirely correct.

A so-called victimhood mentality is multi-generational; blacks pass it on and on and on. It begins as a warning to stay on your Ps and Qs because you will always have to work '2-3X as hard' as a white person to get to the same end result. But when a black 'fails' to achieve the same end result--the real reason notwithstanding--it is not exactly a surprise that they think, on some level, 'Whitey' had something to do with it.

The real question is whether or not that is a bad thing.

I should mention, I have never worked, as I am quite young and never really had to. I tried to get jobs but was never hired because I didn't have previous experience. So, I cannot vouch for workplace racial dynamics.

What I think is the problem here--and this is where white racists repeatedly get it wrong and should shut the fuck up--is the psychology. And we all know that a psychology is mutable.

Many of your so-called 'failing blacks' were children once, raised in environments inhospitable to 'growing and flourishing'. (I know the conservative likes to harp on the blacks who do make it out of the ghetto and do grow up to be, well, the black conservatives, lol...but these people really are the exceptions to the rule. Most people need help to move beyond the multi-generational psychology.) This is a factor that people either refuse to understand for political expedience or just don't understand. A child grows and grows and what is important to do now in preparation for later life is cast to the wayside for other things. This is especially hard for the teenager, who's confused enough already and high school is prison for a teen, I imagine hell for a teen who doesn't have the right support or at-home motivators.

So, where does Blame Whitey fit into this?

Well, it doesn't on the personal level, the day-to-day level. At the end of the day, America is an individualistic society. We are all essentially sent out into the world to fend for ourselves.

But the preparation level is not the same, which is my biggest gripe.

Desiree said...

Foreigners will do well because they are of a different psychological background than Americans, which would be, traditionally, whites, blacks, and Native Americans (those with the longest and most detailed histories in this nation). A comparison of these groups reveals that whites have it 'best'. This is not even a debatable point; it is true.

I want to know why this has always been true. The racists will say because blacks are inherent less-thans, but then you see, as you mentioned, blacks from other lands (different psychologies), achieving more so than American blacks. So, it is not a blackness thing, a DNA thing, an immutable race-IQ thing.

It is something else: the black American psychology. I have read a great quote from a black man at the end of the 1800s but I cannot locate it, dammit. But it basically said 'how can whites call us inferior, incapable of real thought, and illiterate when the paths to intellectual pursuits have always been closed to us, so much so we have never been able to even read the Bible, let alone develop to our full potential.'

It's a butchering of the quote but that's the gist. The black American psychology is the direct result of white racism and slavery's ugly legacy. Whites are responsible for this, regardless if you believe that today's white is not complicit in its formation. Yeah, they aren't but naivete would tell you to disbelieve in the idea that they benefit from it. They do.

But what is the point-in-sum?

I agree, you cannot Blame Whitey. You have to work hard. 2-3X as hard, like we've all been told by our black parents, that is, if they had ever heard it themselves. Some of us don't have that luxury. But when, and only when, true equality takes place, I will stop thinking of outside factors also contributing to black failure.

By the way, I think many people overlook the difficulties in being poor and black and, especially, male. I'm a middle class black female with educated parents, it's 'easier' for me. It's harder when you have to start with nothing and have the black American psychology. I remember watching some TV show and a black male youth was looking for a job and he'd cleaned up himself in the way all interviewees do and he had his resume and no one would hire him. No callbacks. Heartbreaking.

There's still a hierarchy of worth. I am not going to absolve whites of this. I don't give a shit what anyone thinks. Black people in America have fucked up heads and I don't know how we can fix this. So many blacks are operating at different levels.

Oh and yes, I do believe powers that be are trying to prevent organization of respective minority groups. Maybe not a rainbow coalition, but we all know that from chaos comes opportunity. Divide and conquer. If there was no white supremacy, there would be no colorism, no one cutting their eyelids, bleaching their skin, people with the belief of marrying white equals an elevation in social status, etc.

You'd have to be blind not to see it, babes. It's the hard reality.

That's enough meandering for one day, good God...

Desiree said...

Oh, a lot of people talk about this nebulous white liberal and his paternalism which keeps blacks down. I guess I just don't see this in reality. I am of the opinion all white people think the same, regardless of politics. After all, they are all from privileged milieus.

Race is such a stupid topic to me and I don't understand why it has to be important. The Pan-Africanist and the Klansmen cannot exist without the ridiculous, unprovable belief in the racial inferiority of the black.

Everyone really is the same. I don't care what anyone has to say. Black people are called racists by white racists but it is only a reactionary position predicated upon the original anti-black racism.

Just no kind of introspection on their part... I for one hate that my color makes my doing well a surprise.

Stereotypes are a bitch.

Scott Is NOT A Professional said...

Yes, education tends to be "shit" in many parts of this country. And that's whether you're black, white, brown, butterscotch or peppermint. My question is: why hold Da System - a system in which you already hold no faith - responsible for educating YOU? Why not take your own education - your own life, really - into your hands? This, in a nutshell, is what people of all colors fail to understand about black folk: you bemoan Whitey's system every chance you get, and yet you still rely upon it to give you everything you need. What about standing on one's own feet? I realize we're discussing formal education here, but - in a broader sense - is it really the fault of the American school system when kids in an information age (*cough* the internet) know little to nothing about anything that's going on in the world?

"All white people think the same" because "they are all from privileged milieus." This is horseshit. But I guess you've never heard of poor whites or working-class whites who have had any kind of struggle or back-breaking work to deal with in life. Again, it amazes me: many blacks will be the first to point out that the majority of welfare/public aid recipients in the country are actually white - and yet, many of those same black folk will turn around and make a statement like yours. Well, which is it? Contradictory and confused, to say the least.

Again, what you're talking about is on the global level, largely. I understand: you're still in school and you're speaking more from a place of ornate intellectual theories you might have picked up from this social critic or that social critic. I'm talking day-to-day experience - in the real world, not on a relatively cushy college campus. And that global level doesn't explain why increasing numbers of Americans - of ALL colors - are coming to the exact same conclusions and having the exact same feelings about black Americans. It's sad, ultimately. And extraordinarily frustrating for blacks who don't exist within those narrow parameters.

Most Americans, of whatever background, are certainly aware of this country's history of injustice. Most Americans realize that black America has been dealt a shitty hand, historically.

But that doesn't necessarily make it any easier to actually BE around and LIVE around and WORK around black folks, on the day-to-day level - for many Americans. Again, nobody today is personally responsible for the fact that Africans were dragged here in chains - and the general feeling is: "Why should I have to pay for it? I understand it might very well take another generation or two for Black America to get its collective shit together - and I sympathize - but do I have to put up with 'em in the meantime? Do I have to live around them and watch the neighborhood go to shit and deal with rising crime rates in increasingly black metropolises and put up with crappy performance in the workplace, which brings down the whole department but management won't do anything about it because they're afraid of a discrimination lawsuit? How much longer do we have to deal with black people and their rudeness and loudness and belligerence and their apparent feeling that social norms don't apply to them?"

I still think you're focusing too much on Whitey. What about all the members of various ethnic groups in this country (brown, tan, yellow and otherwise) who share Whitey's opinion of black folks? Is that also because of their "privileged milieu" and sense of entitlement?

Desiree said...

Are you black?

I only ask this because I see the 'negro alert!' picture as your avatar but you talk like an observer to black, not in black. If you've mentioned it, sorry, I didn't catch it...

You say: increasing numbers of Americans - of ALL colors - are coming to the exact same conclusions and having the exact same feelings about black Americans. It's sad, ultimately. And extraordinarily frustrating for blacks who don't exist within those narrow parameters.

Absolutely (regarding the last part). I do not like to be regarded with surprise when I turn out to be an excellent student. Nor do I want to be followed in a store where I've shopped for months and months and months.

I can only imagine this is much more difficult for black males. And it breaks my heart.

An endless cycle of hating Whitey...

You asked: What about all the members of various ethnic groups in this country (brown, tan, yellow and otherwise) who share Whitey's opinion of black folks? Is that also because of their "privileged milieu" and sense of entitlement?

I would first like to know who is the keeper of these views. Are they Americans or foreigners, those 'fresh off the boat'? I have noticed, as a young person, that American youths of all other minority hues do not hate blacks. I have a lot of Asians at my university and they are always hip-hop dancing and taking in black culture. Something has to be the vehicle. My generation will change all of this shit, God-willing, although young Justin Beiber fans were calling Esperanza (something) racist slurs because she stole the Beebs' Grammy. That's a little distressing.

I am more of the opinion that the other minorities holding negative views of blacks are not far removed from their homelands.

So, for this reason, to answer the 'why', whether you believe it to be horseshit or not, I blame it on the transmission of media images to foreign countries.

How can some FOTB Southeast Asian know to avoid blacks if he's never met one in his life? The transmission of American media.

Also, it is not a surprise to me these foreigners have a bad opinion of blacks when they plant their fruit stand or chinese food/mini-mart in the proverbial ghetto. Hello? People of lower classes, regardless of race, tend to act similarly: not good.

Most black people--the majority--do not act the way the racists believe we act. That is a fucking myth and I will challenge it until I die.

You found my site through SBPDL, where I am quite active, so you should know I have an incredibly low tolerance for ridiculous, racist stereotypes. In your 'example', you mentioned a couple of them: loudness, rudeness, lack of belief in social norms, etc. What the hell is going on here, Scott?

That is the problem with this country! Those are not true and indicative of blacks (probably another class thing). Why can we not be treated as individuals? What, shall I chastise my people for what Whitey believes as our collective sins just so he can delineate me from my fellow negro? Is that what these people want?

I disagreed with Bill Cosby's methods of chastising blacks (not so much the message, of course) because white conservatives repeated what he said and used their black lackeys to beat up on black people.

Desiree said...

When everyone attacks us from all angles, the natural and predictable response is to become rigid and unchanged. No one wants to be told what to do. It's not the right way to go about it.

I wish blacks did not have to be on the bottom; it's hard to fight against everyone's belief in you being a less-than. That was put into motion by whites. Again, this is not a debatable point. On the individual level, my wish would be for blacks to get together and work on our community and help one another and everyone who isn't black shut the fuck up and back off.

I don't know how this will happen, of course. Black people hate other black people. No other race has so much in-fighting. Black conservatives hate rap music and they hate poor blacks and black liberals question blackness of the former group (I won't sugarcoat it: some blacks are self-hating, not all, but some; recall the foolishness of Mede and Ellen).

So, yes, I blame a 'system' for transmission of images to foreigners about blacks. And you should know who I think the system is ran by.

I should mention that everyone beats up on poor blacks. This angers me to no-end and I am protective of all poor individuals. Poor people don't know what they do. They need help. American culture is middle-to-upper class white. If you do not conform to this, you are considered a less-than.

Equality of opportunity; please. People need tools to be better, to break the cycle.

By 'privileged milieus' I mean the best day-pass in the world, white skin. Poor people are poor people, regardless of race. But someone will always higher a poor white over a poor black any day of the week, affirmative action or not. This is fact.

Please note: my opinions may seem cookie-cutter liberal college student but I used to be conservative, fairly right-wing. I would have said what you are saying now a few years ago until I realized individualism and social darwinism was not the proper way of looking at life and looking at others.

Race is the most distressing way to evaluate the world and that we have a race-based hierarchy of worth kills me. Maybe you can get along in life living your own life of comfort with whites liking you (if you are minority) and having shit to say about other blacks (if you are black) but being a chosen one for me is akin to being Mede and Ellen, foolish, naive, and selfish. I cannot and will not live knowing that blacks are seen as less-than. They can not 'choose me' because I happen to be a privileged black, middle class, etc., and I make this crystal clear to my white friends.

Ultimately, it's a big thumbs down to individualism in the face of others' suffering. I hate this about American culture. I wish I could ensure that every black baby would not have to be stuck with no father or a ghetto black mother or a shitty neighborhood. And it breaks my heart that this is the case for some. I know where it could/will lead.

I love black people and though I sometimes dislike being around certain segments for various reasons (really, they are stupid and trivial), I want us all to do well. Having a knowledge of post-Civil War black struggle for something as simple as voting and just gaining humanity, it is a great failure if we let just one of us fail.

So, Scott, where should blacks take it? What should they do? So much finger-pointing by everyone, all sides, but what's the solution? Or how can we get to a reasonable one?

Scott Is NOT A Professional said...

No, the people of other ethnic backgrounds I'm referring to are American-born, not foreign. And this "transmission of media images"/media stereotypes thing does, indeed, seem to be a favorite bogeyman for black folks these days. But I honestly don't think it holds up.

Take music and film, for example. You can blame the record execs and the studio heads and the white men who promote and distribute demeaning images all you like. But the problem -- the responsibility -- ultimately lies with the black artists who write, produce and perform the material in the first place. It's self-applied blackface, in many cases. Do Snoop and Fiddy stop to think about the images that THEIR music transmits to other nations around the world? Whose fault is it when kids in Japan pick up on all these images produced and perpetrated by black artists -- black artists who make a huge point of "keepin' it real," by the way -- and said images paint blacks as nothing more than oversexed, violent, drug-slinging savages?

Again -- "blame whitey, blame whitey." It's the kind of mentality that makes many people look at blacks -- fairly or unfairly -- as the perpetual whiny babies of American society, forever clinging to the white man's nuts for sustenance, unable or unwilling to wean themselves from him and grow, even as they damn him and curse his name. That was why I mentioned the fact that a negative view of blacks isn't solely the province of whites.

So some Asian kids you go to school with listen to hip-hop. That's not necessarily indicative of any larger cultural changes taking place, nor is it necessarily indicative of any larger section of the Asian community. It's hip-hop. Hip-hop is the mainstream now -- virtually everyone listens to it. It's not like someone has to be super-dedicated to black culture to seek the stuff out. Hell, some of the most overtly racist people I've known in my life? Guess what type of music they tended to bump in their rides...? (Three guesses.)

I think black folks tend to have a skewed view of just how whites or other groups tend to see them, because many blacks get an incredibly limited exposure to non-blacks. By that, I mean: black people are generally only exposed to those who WISH to be around them, who feel comfortable around them. And they sometimes mistake that certain segment of whites/Hispanics/Asians/whoever as indicative of changes taking place within the greater majority.

So, of course, some of the other groups who might hang around you, or other blacks, might be the type to show an appreciation for black culture -- but it doesn't mean that a larger segment of that particular racial/ethnic group feels the same way. I know plenty of people who have stated an aversion to being around "too many" black people. Of course, most blacks wouldn't be exposed to THEM in many social settings -- not if those people could help it.

Also, far be it from me to rain on your "my generation is gonna change the world!" parade, but you DO realize that EVERY generation has said the exact same thing since at least the '60s -- right? Asian kids listening to hip-hop does nothing to invalidate anything I've said.

It's the old liberal trope -- something to the effect of, "eat a man's food and listen to his music, and you'll learn to live with him in harmony." Well, to paraphrase the music writer Charles Shaar Murray -- any early to mid-'70's British skinhead with a jones for reggae and a taste for Indian food could have told you that was horseshit.

Desiree said...

Hmmm...

You still did not answer my question: are you black?

And the other: finger-pointing and the exhortation for blacks to be introspective aside, what is the solution to the problem of black?

I am not going to convince you as to why you are wrong, so I won't even bother. Because I do think you are wrong, and my skin crawls at the lack of caring. Why should blacks care what other people think, anyhow?

Ah, yes, because we live in a white world. Damn.

Re: hip-hop images, many a Pan-Africanist laments over what these rappers do and how it impacts the way black is seen. But I find it funny that the blame is on these rappers. I guess it depends on what side you fall on. All I am saying is don't hold up capitalism and in the next breath diss someone like 50 Cent. Only the naive person--or someone with thick-as-hell blinders on--would blame the product, not the producer.

If suddenly it was cool to 'respect women' (white men don't respect their women, by the way) and to wear fitted clothes and set videos in suburbs instead of ghettos, 50 Cent and his counterparts will do this.

It's about what sells and if you want money, you will conform to what sells.

I am not going to sit here and blame the rappers and the rappers only. Ha! However, I have always wondered why they are complicit in the destruction of blacks via the media (this goes for the actors, too). I have chalked it up to them being to 'ghetto' to know better and that they like money.

Do they need a reality check? Yes.

The sad thing is that the groups of blacks that I believe can uplift the black community are the ones that blacks cannot stand the most, en masse. That's the Pan-Africanists. You don't have to be a black conservative to be successful, which is what they tell you: act white and you'll be fine.

No.

Anyway... ease up on the term 'savages'. It makes you sound racist. And if you are black, self-hating.

I think Mede and Ellen are great examples of what never, ever to be for black people: foolish sellouts who, even though 'chosen', are just worthless 'niggers' to whites.

This is how I live my life. The simplest goal is peaceful coexistence. We don't need a damn kumbaya. But, for some reason, white people, covertly or overtly, want to bring race into it.

At the end of the day, black behavior and collective psychology will always be reactionary to white racism. Or, as you want to include, non-black minority racism.

Desiree said...

I don't know how people want blacks to act. 'White'? I will never tell someone to become a pawn in the white man's (and he runs everything) twisted Crayola Fantasy, where there are a whole lotta colors but they are essentially carbon copies of a white paradigm.

But I will tell people to get their lives together. Just don't sellout; please God. I haven't. It ain't that hard to do what I do...

Malcolm X--both pre-Hajj and post-Hajj--is a great example for all black people, all minorities: self-discipline, structure, intelligence, but he never once sold out.

That's my biggest thing. You will be used. But, and I blog on Michael Jackson and his pedophilia, sometimes these 'racists' get lucky and find minorities who want to be used, want to sellout. (Many of MJ's victims 'wanted it', so I am drawing from this as a parallel.)

Well, damn. I know you can't help those people.

Just don't sell out. You'll end up like Mede and Ellen... I imagine this mentality bothers you, and you'll probably see it as 'crabs in the barrel' mentality but, yeah, it's what I believe. Shit, be like the Cosbys; they're black! (White racists will agree with me on the 'race traitor' aspect.)

That's all I've got... I don't need to Blame Whitey but I won't sit here and pretend I don't believe he set the ball into motion. Because I do.

Don't forget: I strongly believe in personal responsibility. But it's a learned thing; it must be taught. I won't expect a kid from the darkest, most dangerous ghetto to know what it takes to function in 'proper' American society. He needs to be taught.

I'll butcher MLK, Jr. but he said, 'You cannot tell someone to lift himself up by his bootstraps when he does not have any boots.'

That's psychological, too. I agree with you: no more blaming Whitey; but he must pay to some extent for setting this shit up, for putting blacks at the bottom of the totem pole.

I don't care how that sounds to you. Crazy? Well, you know, I'm about as crazy as Colin Powell, and he's not crazy...

Scott Is NOT A Professional said...

I used the term "savages" to make a point, regarding the way that these artists present themselves to the world at large. And I stand by it. You listen to Biggie Smalls rap about robbing pregnant women and snatching even their "#1 Mom" pendants (or whatever the line was, I'm probably paraphrasing) -- and you tell me you don't see the overall point I'm making.

And, hey, I'll be the first to say it: fuck white people, black people should "care" because it's about getting their OWN lives together.

You contradict yourself. "No more blaming Whitey; but he must pay." So then, you believe in blaming Whitey. Nobody owes anyone SHIT in this world. And white America owes black America zip. To use a random example out of many: it's not Whitey's fault that Detroit and Baltimore and black neighborhoods all across America have fallen into such chaos and disrepair. And if you're saying that White America in 2011 should shoulder some of the burden for cleaning up messes they had nothing to do with, then you're essentially validating the viewpoint of many racists: that "simple, childlike" black folks can't get by without good ol' Whitey and his tax dollars swooping in to save the day -- as usual.

You also make a lot of blanket statements which make it hard for me to respect your arguments. Things like "white men don't respect their women" -- what, did you take a poll around campus on that? Of course, you know that it's just as idiotic as saying "all black men do this, all black men do that" -- but because you're black and still "suffering" under Whitey's boot heel, I suppose you feel it's justified.

And again, I'm just curious: all this finger-pointing in White America's direction -- has it improved the lives of black folks in any way, shape or form since it became the cultural "in thing" in certain quarters? People who actually want to make something of their lives know the difference between yelling "fire, fire" and grabbing a pail of water to put the fire out.

Black America would shoot skyward in a week if the Blame Whitey Brigade put HALF as much energy into bettering themselves as they put into cooking up bizarre conspiracy theories to explain why blacks consistently seem to be the only group in America that just CANNOT get their shit together.

And my race? Well, you tell ME what I sound like: a very self-aware black guy or just a white/Latino/Asian/whatever guy having a goof on an old Rolling Stones album cover with his avatar.

"Mandingo" aside, I intended for this blog to concern itself with cinema, not about the state of black America in the 21st century. So how 'bout this: I'll inform you of my ethnic lineage when you can tell me what you think about the films of Sam Peckinpah -- or those of David Lynch or Werner Herzog or Lars von Trier...

Deal? :)

Anonymous said...


Just a footnote: "Mandingo"'s screenplay was written by Norman
Wexler, who wrote "Saturday Night Fever" for Paramount two years later.

Wexler once threatened to assassinate Nixon, and was a
legendary character in his own right.

 
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