Monday, August 2, 2010

Branding Black: A Cultural Divide



Black people live by the curriculum of Lauryn Hill’s Miseducation, and pursue love as it relates to a Maxwell record. They tolerate Tyler Perry, but know that they can do better. They do not watch BET, and are sure to complain about VH-1’s Hip-Hop Honors. Aaron McGruder is their scholar of satire, and The Boondocks is a black pop-culture prerequisite.

If you’re black, educated and worthy of a platform these are the rules that you follow. Otherwise, join the rest of the coons at KFC –and don’t forget to leave your copy of The Coldest Winter Ever as you exit the elite.

Wait, what?



If the above seems offensive, generalized and wildly disappointing -it should. But given the responses to my recent work, it seems that for a few people the tenets of black intellect aren’t far from what I’ve described.

In the past month I’ve written articles concerning (what I considered to be) problematic depictions of homosexuality in The Boondocks; as well as my personal frustration with the gimmick that is Janelle Monae’s music. As a writer I welcome discourse regarding my work. In fact, I thrive from such. But the nature of the comments that I received for my Boondocks and Monae pieces in particular were disappointing for a very distinct reason:

On Monae-

“see what black radio does to a persons mind..it clouds a persons judgement when it comes to authentic talent, that you’ll never hear on “black” radio.”


“The Black Community is not open minded enough to understand what a real artist is. Janelle Monae is the most talented black female in music since Lauryn Hill. Her music are telling stories and we know majority of black people dont like to read.”

On Boondocks-

“Rest assure the majority of men of color are not gay and this show depicts how men of color view the [homosexual] society and raises questions on different topics.”

These comments (which I haven’t edited for spelling or grammar) represent a decent cross-section of responses to each article that attempt to define what “black” is in the most painfully subjective manner possible. Black radio. Black men. Black people. –all among phrases that tend to introduce an atmosphere where black culture is a brand afforded to just a small group of pre-approved consumers.

Somewhere between blogging, social networking and Kanye West albums enthusiasts of black media have reached a divide –one where intellect and education are synonymous with cultural complacency.

But here’s a wild notion: Black people –regardless of class, cultural literacy or educational background- are capable of original thought. I know that statement follows the trend of generalizing black Americans that I bemoaned earlier; but I think it’s time to cease attempts at standardizing intellect and insight. Especially as they pertain to race.

There isn’t a credential in the world that qualifies an individual to determine rules of practice for an entire demographic. “What black is” doesn’t cater to any one specific notion; no matter how widespread, lauded or disapproved. Like any other culture, the black experience is organic by nature.

Instead of facilitating a space where one is either praised or condemned based on the intellectual worthiness of their pop-culture indulgences, why not encourage a generation of media consumers to thoughtfully engage their cultural pursuits? Because Tyler Perry, Nicki Minaj and BET will continue to exist until they’re replaced by similar mainstream fixtures. That won’t change –so perhaps it’s a matter of changing one’s reaction.

Any product –no matter how thoughtfully constructed, or effectively presented- has the potential to harm someone who doesn’t use it properly. Following that logic, even if every black person in the world sat down and agreed to enjoy Janelle Monae, it wouldn’t eradicate social impropriety. Nor would it drastically shift America’s perception of the black experience. Because the black experience is more than just the consumption of black culture –but also the internalization and response.

Not that everyone will get it right. There are certainly plenty of people across the country that engage black culture and still miss the message (or develop an appreciation for the wrong message). But adopting any widespread assumption that “black is this, and you’re foolish for liking that,” without any further engagement of that individual, is only useful as it relates to being counter-productive and embarrassingly arrogant.

So, “Pretty Boy Swag” anyone? (Oh, that actually does suck)

29 comments:

Abby said...

Beautifully written! I am not one who has experienced "black culture" and would never dream of speaking on behalf of that personal experience. Instead, I am mesmerized at your poetic depiction of a subject that is clearly hard to articulate and to relate.

I do feel that minorities in general all struggle with the right to define themselves for themselves. This is a task that I have yet to of seen done outside of the paradigm of the majority, unfortunately. I offer no solution because I have none, but I believe discussion on the matter is still important.

Star said...

So, does this mean I can enjoy my secret Lil' B collection or no?

I think the thing that does need said is that there is a difference in "experience" for Black people than other races. Let's not pretend that music is excluded. One thing I will say in agreement to your post is that there needs to be some sort of understanding (and not in a condescending way, like Lil' Wayne lovers are coons) between your militants, scholars, elitists, new Negros, afro-punks, etc and snappers, video models, strippers, drug dealers, weedheads, and overall coons. Or is it bad to say coons? Just kidding...

*turns on Lil' B new based mixtape*

Star said...

...and another thing! I feel like there does need to be a balance in what is exposed to the Black target audience. We ALL (Black, white, whatever) need to know about every musician out there in Black music - from Janelle Monae and J*DaVey to Drake and Mary J. Blige. The Black experience is an array of things, and people should not be limited to just a saturation of one thing... Everyone should have an equal ability to hear ALL Black music has to offer. And to think your 107.5 and hot 129 or whatever hiphop/r&b station isn't Black radio is pretty odd... Because for your average Black person, that's all they got.

Reggie said...

Good shit, B. This is the shit I be saying all the time and people don't take me seriously because I am crazy as hell.

So I will enjoy my "Pretty Boy Swag" in peace.

Anti-Intellect said...

I'm always wary when I see people using the word "real" to describe a person, place, or thing. The whole notion of what makes someone a "real singer" or a "real actor" or a "real thinker" is subjective as hell. I think many of us have a tendency to anoint the things that we like, and then use that to build a hierarchy of sorts. It starts to become another way for some to privilege themselves over others.

I always say that blackness is everything and nothing. I'm very suspicious of those who try to insist that it is absolutely this or absolutely that.

I'm glad that you wrote this post because a lot of people idealize blackness, and that can be dangerous as hell.

A.Miller said...

Brandon, I found the post to be comically written and 'real', yes I said it, real. It's real because it's your opinion and no one else's. Everyone has their opinions about the gamut of black art, from music to literature, myself included.

They have a right to decide what they like and dislike, which is the beauty of being subjective. I enjoy enough Lil Wayne music, and believe me I'm not your stylish hipster, or coonerific KFC-goer toting The Coldest Winter. It's all about what you like. Be dynamic, but be yourself. Happy Monday.

Pramod Negi said...

Wonderful post, really great tips and advice. I was interested by your comment,
Cheap Flights to Nanjing
Flights to Nanjing
Nanjing Flights to

Easy Cool said...

The"Branding Black: A Cultural Divide" A Nice Blog..............

Atlanta Home Security said...

Very cool post. I just recently started following your blog, but I look forward to contributing more in the future

Atlanta Home Security

R.A. said...

"But here’s a wild notion: Black people –regardless of class, cultural literacy or educational background- are capable of original thought. I know that statement follows the trend of generalizing black Americans that I bemoaned earlier; but I think it’s time to cease attempts at standardizing intellect and insight. Especially as they pertain to race."

LOVED this! And your writing is brilliant - I know your post is more than a year old, but I'm going to follow you in the hopes that you pick this blog up again.

ikizleratesh said...

sahihhadits.blogspot.com

Learn more info about Islam

Net Life Sciences said...

Nice Blog -This blog is beautify my info and required details which really great matter of admiration and worth praising - Net Life Sciences, Net Life Science, Net Life Science Coaching

maddsolutiononline said...

Even though your credit is bad, poor or nonexistent, the people in charge of our bad credit loans will put their best effort in giving you the optimum deal. The bad credit loans in Brisbane will meet your expectations by helping you get the financial help you need. Our clients shouldn’t feel stressed about not being qualified for a loan when the Bad credit loans brisbane are here to handle their issue.

sabinel Aussie said...

If you choose to get car insurance you should come to Aussie Car Loans and in this case you have the advantage o choosing from a wide range of car insurance products that will make you and your family feel safe. Even if you are careful on the roads, the accidents happen and the car insurance that we offer comes with protection and reliability.

maddsolutiononline said...

First impressions are always important for all of us, especially for people which are constantly accessing web pages looking to be informed by the content marketing Brisbane. For those ones, the content marketing is really important. The web design brisbane will attract them but if there is nothing solid they will lose interest and maybe they will never visit your website again. The content marketing is helping you in building or improving your image and also in highlighting your products and services.

marius articles said...

Running with style is now possible if you have the right womens running clothes. Browsing our collection of classic and durable originals, you will definitley fiind the Womens running clothes that best fit your personality and lifestyle. Make your running time confortable and worth your effort by chosing the best quality womens running clothes.

sabinel Aussie said...

Caravan insurance will guarantee you the wellness of your asset in any kind of situation. There is nothing you can when it comes to avoiding the risks. For that we will take of your future with caravan insurance. Your loved ones will be protected and your worries will vanish using the caravan insurance.

maddsolutiononline said...

We are working with famous home builders and designers from Brisbane that are making a great job in offering an extraordinary view both in interior and exterior of your dreamed house. There is nothing more important than our clients comfort when it comes to home renovations in Brisbane. To end up doing an extraordinary piece of art the home builder brisbane needs your help and more than that his brilliant mind.

marius articles said...

In terms of performance, our school is one of the best Private schools in Brisbane. Most of the private schools in Brisbane like ours are interested in providing to the students confort, access to information and integration. In general private schools in Brisbane offer a large set of subjects and activities in different domains. In this way private schools in Brisbane will help students to integrate in the society.

sabinel Aussie said...

In case of a loan for personal use, the boat finance interest rates is a fixed one. Compared with the second chance products which have a boat finance interest rate higher than other related with the risk that it covers, Aussie Boat Loans offers our customers an ideal boat finance interest rate to suit your needs.

maddsolutiononline said...

Brisbane hotels
guarantees you high quality of services even if you came for business or for leisure. In both situations, the personnel from hotel Brisbane CBD will take good care you. Facilities that we provide will contribute to a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Choosing with your heart, you will find a perfect location in our Brisbane hotels to spend a great evening or to start a good morning.

marius articles said...

Tax lawyer Brisbane will take good of your business when facing legal issues. The tax lawyers will provide high quality services for your company making you needs a priority. Based on their experience and actions, the tax lawyers are convinced that will meet your expectations. All their training and knowledge will be shown in the final results.

sabinel Aussie said...

When it’s time to purchase a new Truck but you are worried about your poor credit, consider our offer of truck loans. Providing a wide range of finance solutions, we can guarantee you the best deal in Truck loans. The Aussie Truck Loans personnel will put their best effort in giving you the optimum deal, taking into consideration your needs and possibilities.

maddsolutiononline said...

Suntem constienti de responsabilitãtile pe care le va avea un inspector resurse umane la primul sãu loc de muncã, de aceea le venim cursantilor în ajutor cu cel mai bine pus la punct curs de formare profesionalã. Expert Training asigurã toate informatiile necesare unui inspector resurse umane în drumul sãu spre succes. De la cele mai recente modificãri legislative, pânã la competente sociale si civice, cursul de inspector resurse umane Expert Training contine tot ceea ce are nevoie un cursant pentru a ajunge pe primul loc.

marius articles said...

Facing with more than just superficial scars, our clients come to us for Botox treatments. Botox not only is giving the image of a younger you, but also is rebuilding your body, offering it something that is missing. Correcting the imperfections and making you younger, Botox is generating more than image a self - esteemed person, a happy one.

sabinel Aussie said...

Dacã vrei sã atragi atentia asupra afacerii tale, apeleazã la serviciile Dehalo pentru creare site. Oferta noastrã de creare site îti asigurã traficul dorit, punându-le la dispozitie vizitatorilor cea mai plãcutã experientã de navigare. De la site-uri web de prezentare la magazine online, Dehalo îti asigurã cea mai bunã optiune de creare site.

maddsolutiononline said...

Realizam usi la comanda , dupa cerintele si standardele clientilor. Usile la comanda vor avea dimensiuni, modele si culori variate. In functie de structra constructiei si a grosimii peretilor, usile la comanda pot fi cu pervaz pe o parte, cu pervaz pe ambele fete sau incastrat in perete, fixat cu spaleti.

marius articles said...

Experienţa noastră în serviciile de expediţie şi transport de marfă, aduce în atenţia clientului cea mai vastă gamă de oferte. Dorind să ne ridicăm la nivelul aşteptărilor clienţilor, punem pe primul loc profesionalismul şi asigurăm cele mai înalte servicii de expediţie mărfuri. Echipa noastră vă asigură cea mai bună variantă de partener de afaceri pentru o expediţie de succes. Pentru că realizăm importanţa găsirii celei mai bune oferte, vrem să aducem în atenţia clientului necesitatea apelării la casa de expediţie.

FIFA 15 Coins said...

I create a morgue too.should.The injured rioters are carted off to the infirmary and that i await your next batch of prisoners.Stabshank is sort of full.so a few of these guys should be put into temporary holding cells.It dawns on me that everything that's happened so far has been a consequence of the environment.not the prisoners.Pritchard escaped because I foolishly opened his cell door; Cadwallader started rioting due to a food shortage.Despite their detailed bios.FIFA 15 Coins PS3
FIFA 15 Coins Xbox 360