Tag Archives: boondocks

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Black Jesus Modest Proposal: Watch It At Church

(Editor’s Note: If you don’t know the history behind the term “modest proposal,” you won’t understand unless you read the whole thing.)

 

Well, last night happened and, as far as I can tell, the four horsemen of the apocalypse have yet to appear.

Which world-shattering event am I referring to? A new development in the Israel-Palestine conflict? A new executive order signed by President Obama? Another Mark Driscoll scandal? No, no… I’m talking about something important. 

Last night was the premiere of the new Aaron McGruder comedy, “Black Jesus.” For the uninitiated, here’s a trailer:

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“Jesus Walks.” And Now, So Does R. Kelly. Will You?


Pardon me if the headline is a tad too bitter, but I was given a rude awakening today as I walked out of the movie theater.

I was turning my phone ringer back on, and I noticed a text message from a friend of mine:

did u hear about r kelly?

I had to immediately hit the Google news aggregator and find out for myself. Standing right next to the double-door exit at the Lloyd Center cinemas, I was trolling for headlines on my HTC Mogul. I don’t know why, but I just had to know.

Now it’s bad enough that the dude was acquitted. I mean, it’s like the one time where you want the brotha to be found guilty, and somehow, he skates.

(I can hear the Fox News talking heads already: “First O.J., now this! What is this world coming to?!”)

But what I found to be most disconcerting was that buried somewhere in almost every news service carrying the verdict, Kelly is quoted saying “thank you Jesus” over and over.

I know that while He was on the earth, Jesus made a habit of associating himself with the outcasts of society, but how exactly did we end up in a situation where the name of Jesus has become the rallying cry for not only the biggest ego in hip-hop, but an R&B superstar acquitted of child pornography charges?

When exactly did we (and by we I don’t just mean Americans, I mean specifically Black people) reach the point of such low expectations that a child porn accusation not only doesn’t kill the remains of an entertainer’s career, but ostensibly enhances it?

I’m just imagining some storefront church on Chicago’s South Side:

“I got a praise report, y’all!”

*organ swell*

“A lot of folks said that it, huh…. wouldn’t happen, but…”

“Preach!”

“But I come to tell you today, that, huh… R. Kelly was acquitted! THANK ya JEEEZUS!!!”

Okay, maybe that was mean spirited.

As a matter of fact, if a White person had written that, it’s possible that I might have been offended.

But that, in my mind, is part of the problem.

Look, I’m not here to throw stones. I know, as Pastor Pops is known to say, that all of us have our own personal hall of shame, and most of us don’t have to read about it in the papers. Robert Kelly is no more or less worthy of forgiveness and redemption than any of us.

I also know that from a legal standpoint, the jury very good reasons for returning the verdict that it did, just as the Simi Valley jury did with Mark Fuhrman and the L.A. cops who beat Rodney King.

But I can’t shake the feeling that’s been coming on for awhile.

That the pride that I used to have in having roots in African-American culture, that pride is dwindling. That what once felt like my people’s firm commitment to Godliness turned out to be nothing more than religious naivete. And that our stubborn sense of loyalty in defending our pop culture heroes is compromising our ability to see the truth, especially when it relates to music and sexuality.

Lest you think I’m blowing this out of proportion, consider that in the Sun-Times reporter’s blog post that I linked to, there is mention of one of Kelly’s defense attorneys quoting Scripture in an effort to curry favor with certain jurors. When Aaron McGruder predicted this outcome two years ago, it was funny. Now, it’s just sad.

Maybe it’s a good thing that this sense of pride has been eroded. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so proud to be connected to a people with such a rich heritage of church life that engages community and helps to fight the status quo. Maybe these small irritations are God’s way of reminding me that He doesn’t play favorites, that churched Black people are just as needy of redemption as unchurched White people. Like with Peter and Cornelius, God can and often does use unusual circumstances to communicate his desire to see all people come to him.

Maybe I’m just feeling especially embarrassed by the misbehaving African-American youth in my own area, several of whom were arrested for brutalizing a White woman riding the light rail train through my neighborhood.

But either way, I can’t just tsk-tsk and move on with my life.

If you can, and you feel led to, then go right ahead. This is not meant to be a guilt trip. If this whole thing is too overwhelming, or if it honestly doesn’t impact you at all, then just walk on, do your thing, and I won’t be too upset.

But I can’t do that.

I don’t know why, but this acquittal has just affected me in ways that I don’t even completely understand. And I have to do something.

So lacking the PR connections to do anything more grandiose, I offer a few observations that, hopefully, will leave us all a bit wiser and more edified. If you so desire, feel free to quote me. You don’t even have to give attribution. I feel that strongly about this.

  • We should remember R. Kelly the next time our favorite celebrity is accused of something unseemly.

Not because their money and influence can and probably will help them resolve the situation and most likely avoid jail time, but because this is the most obvious example of blind infatuation clouding the collective judgment of a fanbase (in this case, African-Americans between 15 and 32). The irony of this is that Black people are often the best at seeing this pattern among White people, especially White fans of Black celebrities (see: Michael Jackson). I had a similar reaction many years ago when Bill Cosby was being blackmailed over paternity results. Not good old Cliff Huxtable… what would Sandra, Denise, Theo, Vanessa and Rudy think?

  • Concerned parents, mentors and citizens must do everything possible to invest a sense of worth in our young girls, particularly our young Black girls, because society will not do it for them.

I hope this point will not get lost amidst plaintive cries from the political right for personal accountability. Because obviously both parties, R. Kelly and the underage girl, bear some level of personal responsibility for their actions. I do not wish to obfuscate this point. Nevertheless, the identity of the girl on the tape is, for the most part, irrelevant, because obviously R. Kelly had underage sex with some underage girl. And it’s likely that he did it more than once, considering how many times he settled out of court in response to previous accusations. What this says to me is that little girls need the love of a father in their life, and if they don’t get it at home from their real fathers, they’ll get it any way they can, even if that “love” ends up being immoral, grotesque, embarrassing, and illegal.

  • Loyalists to any particular cause need to be careful about who they choose to rally around, lest they lose credibility in the eyes of the broader public.

Nowhere is this more clear than with R. Kelly, the man who was honored with an NCAAP Image award two years after being indicted on child porn charges. If nothing else, I hope this will help my people to avoid the temptation to cry wolf when it comes to racism in America.

Because R. Kelly, of all people, got off.

And it’s not like you can use the excuse that a lot of us used for O.J. or M.J., which was, “well of course he got off… he’s a sell-out!” By just about any racial or cultural definition, R. Kelly is not a sell-out. R. Kelly is not beloved by White people in the same way that, say, Michael Jackson was (and in some cases, still is). Robert Kelly is not Barack Obama. He’s R-freaking-Kelly. The man who immortalized the phrase “you remind me of my Jeep” — and guess what, he wasn’t talking about superior craftsmanship, either.

However, he had the best legal team money can buy, and they did their jobs. For him, this is obviously a good thing. But when Black people blindly rush to Kelly’s defense, there is a hidden cost, a trickle down effect, an erosion of public confidence. Eventually, people lose their ability to understand or recognize actual racism. Eventually, complex situations rife with real injustice that is connected to racialized behavior, get shrugged off as just the ramblings a few Blacks with an ax to grind, “playing the race card” again.

This, to me, was the real tragedy of the Don Imus /Rutgers women’s basketball team furor. The lesson that many White people walked out of that situation with was that Black rappers can call Black women hoes all day long, but a White man will lose his job over it.

This, friends, should not be.

Now that Kelly has been exonerated, Slick Rick has been pardoned, and Tookie Williams is gone, maybe my people will stop looking to celebrities for causes to champion. Because no matter how much we think we’re doing our part to support justice, there is always a backlash of opposition. The less credible the celebrity, the louder the backlash. And if you think I’m barking in the wind, check out this website, which purports to refute certain facts concerning the legacy of Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter.

(For the record, I don’t know if Carter is guilty or not, and I don’t so much care, but the fact that there are those devoted to upholding the idea of his guilt speaks volumes.)

In the end it will be Kelly, like the rest of us, who will have to live with the consequences of his actions. And say what you will about R. Kelly, but at least his conduct has proven that he doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk, too. Maybe that’s the one shred of positivity we can glean from his public persona.

So if you want to find a good example of White people using fear and guilt to engineer a wholesale character assassination and bring a Black man down, there are numerous examples of that very thing happening to Senator Barack Obama. (His campaign just introduced fightthesmears.com to counter the rumors that he’s a Muslim and other untruths.) By all means, speak up about it. Be passionate. Stand firm in your convictions.

But leave R. Kelly out of it. Because the last thing Robert Kelly needs is the enabling of more adoring fans.

Since he’s walking, let him walk.

Maybe after his walk, he can take a nice cold shower.

I’m Jelani Greenidge, and thanks for mixin’ it up with me.

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DIY Dilbert

Scott Adams has done it again. His brilliant idea not only finds a way to recycle old material, but guarantees himself a few more years of relevance with a brand that was starting to get stale.

Over at Dilbert.com, his entire catalog dating back to 2001 is available for public use, all completely free. Not only that, but users are encouraged to create their own “mashups” — taking old strips and creating new punch lines.

(He does lose a few cool points for misusing the word “mashup” but hey, it was probably some editor’s idea.)

Lets hope Aaron McGruder follows suit, because I could do a whole routine with his stuff.

By the way, here is my latest entry… feel free to vote for it here:

UPDATE: Okay, so apparently the “embed” option doesn’t work that well because it’s only including the last panel. Just click the link I included to vote with and you can see the whole thing.

This site requires Adobe Flash, please click here to get it.

var Vars = { BasePath: ‘http://dilbert.com/xml/widget.660’, QueryString: ‘?StripID%3D6357’ }; swfobject.embedSWF(‘http://dilbert.com/swf/v1/mashup.viewer.swf’, ‘MSH_MashupViewer_6357’, ‘400’, ‘121’, ‘8’, ‘http://dilbert.com/swf/v1/express_install.swf’, Vars);

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What If Dr. King’s Sniper Had Missed?



Like any responsible journalist or blogger, I feel that it is my duty to call your attention to the fact that 40 years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed on a hotel balcony in Memphis.

There are countless columns, editorials and news stories reflecting this truth. I’m not even going to link to any. I’m sure you’ve already seen or heard some already.

I’d just like to draw your attention to the work of the brilliant, if sometimes vindictive, animateur Aaron McGruder. In the first season of his animated series, “The Boondocks,” McGruder attempts to answer the question of how Dr. King might respond to our society were he alive today, in the Peabody award-winning episode, “Return of the King.”

Here’s a clip (WARNING — R-rated language), interspersed with commentary from another Youtube fan:

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If you must, lob your bombs with care

“Word to your moms, I’m here to drop bombs, I got more rhymes than the Bible’s got psalms.”

— Everlast, of the House of Pain, “Jump Around.”

So I’m noticing a disturbing trend.

(No, Kris Kross is not making a comeback. It’s not that disturbing.)

It’s become clear to me that in this media-saturated society in which we live, the fastest, easiest way to get attention (ratings, page-views, ad-clicks, sponsorships, whatever) is to go the route of the iconoclast, which is to attack the sacred cows of the establishment as often, loud, and outrageously as possible.

I call this phenomenon lobbin’ bombs.

Lobbin’ bombs is when you have something to say that contradicts some piece of conventional wisdom that other people hold dear. And rather than being tentative and hoping people take the right way, you just throw it on out there and see what happens. Which is usually an explosion of controversy. It doesn’t matter the issue you’re talking about. When you brashly throw out an opinion that you KNOW people will disagree with, and not only do you NOT care whether or they agree, but actually look forward to their hysterical reaction just for the fun of pissing people off… that’s lobbin’ bombs.

And I would be lying if I said I didn’t do it from time to time. In the right context, it’s loads of fun. But it must be done with care, because like any form of demolition, it’s dangerous if you’re not careful about it. if you have something to say that people aren’t looking forward to hearing, it’s possible to do it in a way that minimizes the carnage. But if you choose not to, then you bear some of the responsibility for whatever mass destruction ensues.

Case in point:

Out of Ur, the Leadership blog of Christianity Today, posted a review (and a follow-up post) of a book called Pagan Christianity. The controversy surrounding this book stems from an offshoot of its central thesis, that there are far too many facets of today’s organized-religion version of Christianity that have been appropriated from pagan rituals and practices… including the idea of having one person as the primary hub of teaching and spirituality being paid full-time as professional practitioner of ministry, a.k.a. “the pastor.”

Obviously as a PK I’m biased here, but that is a bomb if I’ve ever seen one. This cat is basically calling for the end of the pastorate as we know it. And the fact that he’s got the endorsement of (and shares co-author billing with) George Barna, one of the top names in religious market research, up til now a trusted name in evangelical circles… one would think they would’ve had the foresight to know this might make a few people upset.

Nevertheless, the tone of the book from the few excerpts that I’ve seen (and the Q&A from Viola’s website) lead me to believe that Viola is more concerned with deconstructing the established religious hierarchy and less with maintaining unity of the believers. Which is sad, to me, because it doesn’t have to be this way. If he had taken more of a conciliatory tone in an attempt to win over bloggers, emerging pastors and other cogent members of the Christian intelligentsia, then maybe his ideas would be received in a better light.

Of course, Viola’s defenders might say that this would be an ethical compromise tantamount to ideological treason, so maybe there’s some truth to that. I mean, bombs are bombs.

But obviously there are ways to lob bombs that are more destructive than others.

(I’m talking to you, Aaron McGruder.)

For those unfamiliar with his work, I’m thinking specifically of the first episode of The Boondocks’ animated series, where the lead character, Black nationalist ten-year-old Huey Freeman, walks into the middle of a nice, quiet garden luncheon and drops a few rhetorical bombs of his own. Intending to shock the people out of their bourgeois stupor, he says this:

“Excuse me. Everyone, I have a brief announcement to make. Jesus was black, Ronald Reagan was the devil, and the government is lying about 9-11. Thank you for your time and good night.”

The ironic thing about his episode (MILD SPOILER ALERT) is that Huey dreams up this very scenario in the beginning of the episode, and it ends in a riot bordering on anarchy. But when he actually gets the chance to try it out at the Wuncler’s garden party, it has the opposite effect. People just politely clap, quietly amused at such an articulate young boy.

This is actually a brilliant piece of writing, because not only does it show young Huey’s frustration about not being taken seriously, but it also shows the power of context. McGruder has proven with this show that it’s easier to digest the profanity and pointed leftist satire that The Boondocks is known for when it’s coming in the form of animation. By being drawn, it looks less real, even though the subject matter and dialogue is as real as anything this side of The Wire.

Now as I said before, bombs are bombs. They’re going to blow some stuff up. And to an extent, they’re going to hurt — regardless.

But sometimes there are nicer ways to do it.

I’m thinking now of one of the most popular web-based sportswriters of our time, Bill Simmons, the Sports Guy.

In a recent column, he pleads for people to come back to New Orleans, the site of the 2008 NBA All-Star festivities. It’s a great column, and according to Cosellout, one of Simmons finest moments as a writer. New Orleans is desperate for tourism to return, which is why it was such a great gesture for NBA commissioner David Stern to hold his flagship league event there, three years after Hurricane Katrina. And Simmons’ essential point is that people don’t want to return there because they don’t want their vacations interrupted with the emotional baggage of the worst national disaster in our history, but they should because the city needs our tourism dollars in order to continue the rebuilding process.

From there, Simmons launches into a discussion of the NBA’s perceived image problem:

As one NBA higher-up whispered to me last weekend, “People still think we have an image problem, I just don’t get it. Do they even watch us? Do they see the caliber of the guys we have now?”

That’s the issue gnawing at everyone working for the league right now. The NFL has considerably more thugs, Major League Baseball has a steroids scandal that basically has tainted the past 15 years of games, yet somehow the NBA is still perceived as the league with an image problem? For god’s sake, if the NBA can’t put that tag to rest this year, of all years, then it’s never happening, and we’ll have to accept there are deeper issues at work here.

(Well, one deeper issue. And you know what it is.)

If you’ve been paying attention to the NBA and to society in general, then you know exactly what he’s talking about: subconscious, institutionalized racism.

I can expand this discussion in a later post, because this is a huge issue that two or three sentences cannot adequately address. But many in the large cottage industry of sports related commentary punditry have been banging on the NBA for its “image problem” (a euphemism for being too Black, or too hip-hop) despite the fact that there have been way more documented instances of serious criminal behavior and drug abuse in the NFL and MLB, respectively.

Can something so understated still be called a bomb? When it comes to racism, I say yes. Racism is the third rail of polite discussion, something to be avoided at all costs. And many purveyors of ESPN content don’t want the reality of race relations injected into the fantasy and escapism involved with following professional sports. And so Bill Simmons has wisely found a way to bring race into the conversation, ever-so-briefly, yet without equivocation.

Nicely done, Sports Guy.

So all you folks railing against the man, eager to unleash your down-with-the-system soliloquies into the blogosphere… take note. There’s more than one way to drop a bomb.

I’m Jelani Greenidge, and thanks for mixin’ it up with me.