a 4 minute primer in contemporary American political rhetoric…
Yesterday was a nasty day for America. This video letter by Baratunde Thurston, from his post With President Obama’s Birth Certificate, Klansman Trump Reminds Blacks They Will Never Be American, explains why.
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-Yo my man, how much would it cost me to get you to turn up the grease on that chicken?
-One white president.
So. By now we should all know that MLK is beautiful and Auto-Tune is culturally complicated. A lot can be said about this video, from the elemental power of oratory to the ways in which technology can amplify or disperse political potential to the notion that rewiring history is an act aimed at future change.
But what keeps running through my head is a paraphrase from Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. here: I’m trying to tell America about a dream that I had.
Timeblind on Avatar vs Nirgendwo in Afrika:
Anyway, in case you haven’t seen Avatar, its about a white (American!) dude that goes native and becomes their most awesome leader and achieves an improbable, lo-tech victory (but with soul power! and the animals help them!). Awesome battle sequence ! Good vs. Evil, get it ?
In the real world you live in a complicated global capital network that sometimes deliberately but mostly inadvertiantly leverages injustices so that your locality can exist with the wealth and convienience it enjoys. You cannot opt out. You can’t just choose the right items on the Health Food store shelf.
You can use your influence to convince specific companies to change behavior and you can make the best decision when you personally have a decision to make. Don’t just say “fuck it”.
That’s the resources issue. The other issue is racial and cultural understanding. Most of the people who see Avatar will not be White Americans. But we get it, its supposed to be a character you can relate to.
I saw Avatar on it’s opening night here in New York. At first I wasn’t going to write about it, but in retrospect I should have, for reasons Dan Visel mentions here, referencing the Economist piece I upped yesterday, emphasis mine:
A lot of people wanted to talk about Avatar, and there’s a fair amount to discuss there: how pretty it is, how it works as mass spectacle, the film’s deeply muddled politics, how ecology and religion are connected. What stands out to me is how rarely this happens any more. .. The sheer ubiquity of Avatar changed how it could be discussed: something so big can cut across our individual interest groups, enabling broader conversations.
But the inevitable question arises: what does it mean if the only cultural object that everyone can talk about costs $300 million?
[wikipedia: white noise]
White Noise was played to detainee.
broad shoulders, 225-230 lbs, black hair, sometimes wears glasses to read and write. No mustache or beard, dark brown eyes, fair skin [...] looked educated and good in business.
White noise. He was offered a drink of water and he refused.
You don’t need to be so precise with mythic time.
“I’d like them more if the white men were wearing the red thongs and bodypaint, and the black guys had on jeans and polo shirts,” I said.
World music festivals will pay good cash for groups from “remote” places whose presence reinforces the idea that our planet is still filled with the kind of mystery that allows indigenous traditions to continue without interference from cellphones or multinational corporations.
So you take off your sneakers and hoodie, and put on the facepaint.
I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.
– Wallace Stevens, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
Perhaps you didn’t know that the soft drink Tropical Fantasy is manufactured by the Ku Klux Klan and contains a special ingredient designed to sterilize black men. (A warning flyer distributed in Harlem a few years ago claimed that these findings were vouchsafed on the television program “20/20.”) Perhaps you didn’t know that the Ku Klux Klan has a similar arrangement with Church’s Fried Chicken—or is it Popeye’s?…
People arrive at an understanding of themselves and the world through narratives—narratives purveyed by schoolteachers, newscasters, “authorities,” and all the other authors of our common sense. Counternarratives are, in turn, the means by which groups contest that dominant reality and the fretwork of assumptions that supports it. Sometimes delusion lies that way; sometimes not. There’s a sense in which much of black history is simply counternarrative that has been documented and legitimatized, by slow, hard-won scholarship. The “shadowy figures” of American history have long been our own ancestors, both free and enslaved.
– Henry Louis Gates, Thirteen Ways of Looking at Black Man
A 5 minute piece from William Kentridge. Doctors multiply over a body ribcaging the apparatus of business. Animus. Animation. Smudges define us.
The train ride out to Bard College is lovely – green things everywhere! water! So the conference happening there this weekend may be worth your while (perhaps especially if you have a car…)
Confronting the ‘Race Doesn’t Matter!’ Moment: Rethinking Race after Obama.
Keynote Speaker: Kendall Thomas, Director of the Columbia University Center for Law and Culture
AVERY AUDITORIUM 12PM-8PM, MPR 8PM+
RECEPTION with complimentary lunch for conference attendees (Salvadorean, Indian, Jamaican)
KEYNOTE SPEECH and Q&A with Kendall Thomas
PANEL: Pop Culture, Politics, and the Personal: Confronting the “Race Doesn’t Matter!” Moment
(Kalup Linzy, DJ Rupture, Otis Gaddis Kendall Thomas, Baratunde Thurston, Lara Stapleton, Greta Edwards, Carmen Oquendo-Villar )
DINNER (requires complimentary conference ticket)
PANEL: Race After the “Post-Racial”: De Facto vs. De Jure in Public Space (Law, History, Architecture)
(Jesse Shipley, Tabetha Ewing, Ashwini Sukthankar, Michael Tan, Binyavanga Wainaina , Mitch McEwen)
COFFEE BREAK: change
with Kalup Linzy, DJ Rupture, Sienna Horton, and others