The Coonery Paradox
I have a quandary that perhaps you enlightened readers can help me with. I call it “The Coonery Paradox.”
Much like the String Theory or the elusive Theory of Everything, it is a puzzle that baffles the mind.
A paradox is defined as “a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.” What I am about to describe is exactly that, two sides of reality that seem completely contradictory but at the same time is our current truth.
It boils down to a simple question: Why is it ok to BE a coon or portray a coon in mainstream media, but if you call people out for being coons in mainstream media, you are vilified?
[Warning: This is a VERY black issue and I know we have a diverse readership, so others, just follow along as best you can.]
Why does the black community turn a blind eye and meet with absolute silence some of the most coonish portrayals of black folks in the media, but when those same people or stereotypes are challenged for the coonery they are, the community gets into an absolute uproar and the challenger becomes the villain? The Coonery Paradox.
I look at shows like ‘Chocolate News,’ ‘The Boondocks’ and the’ Dave Chapelle Show,’ both of which got heat from the black community about their portrayals of black folks and black culture. These comedians cleverly satired some of the less flattering aspects of the culture. They parodied people and situations we all know and exposed them in all their ridiculousness in a humorous way. But the message was clear: come on y’all. They held the mirror up, added some humor, and went over the top, often in an effort to challenge the very stereotypes we supposedly hate so much. However, both shows seem to rub many black folks the wrong way. I read articles that even celebrated the fact that ‘Chocolate News’ was canceled. …
I look at my show ‘We Got To Do Better’ which aimed to do the same by calling out coonish behavior for what is was, a hot, embarrassing-to-us-all ghetto mess. It offered no-apology commentary about the images of ourselves we were promulgating all over the world.
It even had the nerve to have statistics and positive profiles as part of the show. And as you may or may not know, the show sparked a NATIONAL PROTEST! Rufkm?
The NAACP was having “watch parties,” there were online petitions, panel discussions, t-shirts and God knows what else. Gina McCauley, a completely misguided idiot who runs some pro black woman bullsh-t. blog, made protesting the show her personal cause de célèbre.
The logo above was the original logo for the show, but was yanked because of the “racial controversy.” What better symbol of ANTI-Cooning is there? We wanted make our purpose abundantly clear. Alas.
My point, and I do have one, is that I am noticing something very disturbing about black community “activism” (or fake-a– activism as I like to call it).
Where the hell are these pro-black self-proclaimed protectors of the black image when ‘Flava of Love’ was on? When Ray-J was on? I can’t think of two shows that denigrated black women like these did.
This summer sees the launch of two new reality shows featuring Keyshia Cole’s ex-crackhead mom and her alkie sister, both of whom’s claim to fame are their over-the-top ghetto-, alcohol- and crack-brain-fueled behavior. (Crack brain is what people who have been on crack a long time have, even if they’re no longer using, they just ain’t right no more). The show is called Frankie & Neffie. It’s a reality show showcasing a crackie and an alkie, both with several children by several people!!!
Where are the protests now? Where is the alarm? What about all the daughters that will watch these shows and think they are accurate representations of black women? Where’s the boycott of the sponsors? Hello???? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
Crickets from the protesting class.
Oh wait, there’s also a show featuring a jailed rapper’s girlfriend and another rapper’s baby mama who had their child at 15, both of whom sound like they just learned to read last week. So now we have a show that many young women will watch and then aspire to be illiterate rapper teen baby mamas.
Where is the outrage now? Gina McCauley? Other random idiots??? Hellooooooo???? Where are your letter writing campaigns now? Are y’all going after the sponsors of those shows too?
BTW, the show is called “Tiny and Toya” and debuted this week with the highest ratings in the history of its network.
Seen Maury “You are Not the Father” Povich lately? What makes women look any worse than that? (though that sh-t is funny) ‘I Love New York’? Proteeeeestors….come out and plaaaaayyyyy…..
Vintage Racist Ads vs. New Black ImagesGetty Images / Corbis / Authentic History Center / AP43 photos The following photo essay examines the historical and contemporary expressions of racism, buffoonery and parody. It is not intended to incite hatred for anyone whose ancestors fostered Jim Crow and other racist systems. This overview only serves as a didactic resource to the generations who don’t ‘understand what the big deal is’ in terms of current pain over racism from the past. (Note: Please disable your pop-up blocker)
Vintage Racist Advertising
Top left LOS ANGELES – DECEMBER 1: Brigitte Nielsen and Flavor Flav present onstage at the VH1 – Big in ’04 on December 1, 2004 at the Shrine Auditorium, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images) Top right: 1899 — Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Topsy Illustration — Image by © CORBIS; Bottom right: 1930s AC spark plugs ad in The Saturday Evening Post — Photo by The Authentic History Center; Bottom left: This cartoon image provided by the New York Post appeared in the Post’s Page Six Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009. The cartoon, which refers to Travis the chimp, who was shot to death by police in Stamford, Conn. on Monday after it mauled a friend of its owner, drew criticism Wednesday on media Web sites and from civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton. (AP Photo/New York Post) ** NO SALES ** Credit: Getty Images / Corbi / Authentic History Center / AP
Getty Images / Corbi / Authentic History Center / AP
Advertisement for an African-American slave sale.
Although the enslavement of mankind in general has been recorded as early as 1200 BC; the first African slaves were reportedly transported to the ‘New World’ in 1517. This is 76 years after the first black slaves were captured and taken to Portugal.
Bettmann / Corbis
African American Stereotypes: Products and Advertising c.1880s Tin of Nigger Hair Tobacco
For decades this product was sold in stores as chewing tobacco or for smoking. It was advertised as ‘pure, unadulterated, fine old burley leaf.’
Photo Source: The Authentic History Center
The Authentic History Center
1888 — Seal of North Carolina Tobacco – The Darktown Bowling Club Poster — Image by © Swim Ink 2, LLC/CORBIS Seal of North Carolina Tobacco – The Darktown Bowling Club Poster
Swim Ink 2, LLC / Corbis
ca. 1890 — Zoulou Powder Poster (French advertisement)
Because offensive advertising was permeated throughout the world for many years, (and still is, as you will see in a few upcoming slides) it should come as no surprise that in more modern times ‘racism has become the scourge of European soccer stadiums.’
Swim Ink 2, LLC / Corbis
ca. 1899 — Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Topsy Illustration — Image by © CORBIS Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Topsy was a stereotypical pickaninny character in the book, ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin.’ Uncle Tom was a slave in the book. The term ‘Uncle Tom’ is recognized to be offensive and a derogatory name for a black man who is abjectly servile and deferential to whites.
ca. 1899 — George Thatcher’s Greatest Minstrels Poster — Image by © CORBIS George Thatcher’s Greatest Minstrels Poster
Early definition of minstrel: a medieval poet and musician who sang or recited while accompanying himself on a stringed instrument, either as a member of a noble household or as an itinerant troubadour.
The black-face minstrel act was a very popular form of entertainment in 19th-century America. White audiences were receptive to the portrayals of Blacks as singing, dancing, grinning fools. T.D. ‘Daddy’ Rice, the original Jim Crow, became rich and famous because of his skills as a minstrel. Interestingly though, when he died in New York on September 19, 1860, he was broke.
African American Stereotypes: Products and Advertising 1899 Durkee’s Salad Dressing advertisement, Harpers Magazine
Notice the broken English purportedly spoken by black Americans, ‘We’re gwine ter live high ter-night …’
Photo Source: The Authentic History Centerr
The Authentic History Center
Advertisement for Clarence Brooks and Co.’s Fine Coach Varnishes uses racist stereotypes to depict a group of African-American adults and children as they cheer and watch two shirtless boxers, one of whom appears unconscious, accompanied by the text “the Championship Fight, Sullivan Wins,” late 1800s. The Sullivan in the text is a reference to boxer John L. Sullivan, who fought bare-knuckled in several famous bouts.
Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images
Advertisement for the St. Louis Beef Canning Company features an illustration of a stereotyped African-American character sitting on a can of beef, accompanied by phonetically rendered, stereotypical dialect-style text that reads: ‘No Sah! dont jine no Exodus so as dis Beef lasts,’ late 1800s.
Showing blacks to massacre the English language, further perpetuated the false idea that African Americans were somehow unable to be educated.
Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images
Why are critiques of negativity condemned while we welcome actual negativity with open arms and high ratings and top record sales? The Coonery Paradox.
Bomani Armah’s animated music video “Read a Book” aired last year was a brilliant parody of the stereotypical rap video and parents and viewers and protesters went NUTS. So wait, you are mad at the parody, but you let the real thing air all day everyday without a peep? I don’t want that nasty parody on my television for my kids to see, show the Rick Ross video instead. The Coonery Paradox.
We rarely publicly castigate those who are in the media making us all look bad, but God help you if you ever point out the fact that they’re making us look bad. Then you are automatically a self-hating, Uncle Tom, elitist, wannabe-white sell-out who is exploiting their people. The Coonery Paradox.
I am, by no means, saying that critiques of culture shouldn’t be subject to the same artistic and intellectual criticism as everything else. Lets face it, ‘We Got To Do Better’ was no ‘Frontline.’ There should be a vigorous debate about all art all the time. So why do some things consistently get a pass? I just cannot wrap my mind around the lack of public galvanization and critique of the things that are REALLY destroying the minds of our youth.
Of course, I’m close to this issue. Maybe its just me. Maybe I’m trippin’. Maybe I’m completely off base here. Maybe I’ve just had too much wine.
‘We Got To Do Better,’ despite the highest ratings of the summer, was taken off because of the “controversy” surrounding it. Yeah, we wouldn’t want to have any show that actually tells people to get their shit together. But it’s cool, we have “Frankie and Neffie” now. The Coonery Paradox.
This isn’t about individual artists, specific channels or record labels. I don’t want to get hung up on specifics. I used show examples just to make my point. I just don’t understand the odd response we have to representations of ourselves in mainstream media. We get mad if white people call us coons, we get mad if black folks call us coons, but straight up coonery? Bring it on. The Coonery Paradox.
You figure it out.
*UPDATED (had to add The Boondocks and explain the graphic)