Jokes Aside: Money, Race and Reality

Jokes Aside: Money, Race and Reality
By dmt.

“I say fuck the police, thats how I treat em
We buy our way out of jail, but we can’t buy freedom
We’ll buy a lot of clothes when we don’t really need em
Things we buy to cover up what’s inside
Cause they make us hate ourself and love they wealth
That’s why shortys hollering “where the ballas’ at?”
Drug dealer buy Jordans, crackhead buy crack
And a white man get paid off of all of that
But I ain’t even gon act holier than thou
Cause fuck it, I went to Jacob with 25 thou
Before I had a house and I’d do it again
Cause I wanna be on 106 and Park pushing a Benz
I wanna act ballerific like it’s all terrific
I got a couple past due bills, I won’t get specific
I got a problem with spending before I get it”
-Kanye West “All Falls Down”

In this consumer based society, money transcends race, religion, gender – you name it. In fact, you could say that money has helped weaken the barriers caused by racism. In the old days, anyone not-white might not get into in a certain bar or restaurant, but nowadays as long as you’ve got the ‘cash-money’ they’re falling over themselves to invite you in. One can only hope this carries on long enough for the actual racism to recede, because if what I see is true, then black people would be straight back to square one if money was suddenly taken away. A lot of people don’t realise that the only saving grace that black people have right now, is the fact that they’re consumers. It is purely the fact that you can pay ‘The Man’ that a lot of the freedoms that are present, stay present.

The reason this occurs to me is the highly acclaimed Dave Chappelle Show. I’m sure you’ve heard of him – if you haven’t, a summary is that he’s a record-breaking black comedian whose show you should watch. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that he is the most important (notice I stress important, not successful) man in black comedy right now. The fact that he has sold the most DVDs for a TV show is good, but also worrying. It’s worrying because I have a feeling that less than fifty percent of the people who bought it actually understand the layered messages in his comedy. When we hear the sketch with him in the ghetto, in a limousine, being afraid of a crack-selling baby on the corner, it’s not just funny because it’s an odd circumstance. In that one scenario he is highlighting flaws in black child-rearing (baby on the corner), race issues (the ghetto), class issues (the limousine) and finally, the conflict he has as a black man being scared of a baby in a black world that he doesn’t belong to, even though he is black.
Anyway, the reason I thought of that money issue, is that Chappelle also did a sketch on reparations. He sketched his idea of the outcome of black people receiving reparations in the format of a news story documenting the reaction of black people. He showed queues at liquor stores, stocks and shares of KFC, Cadillac, and other typical black-consumer driven companies, skyrocketing. People were going all out to buy as much shit as they could. One newsreader made a comment that no one was going to the banks, and it was pointed out that this was because “banks hate black people”, to which the reply was “well, I’m sure all that’s about to change”. However this wasn’t the most important part in the sketch for me. There was one line that hit me in the stomach and made me sick with realisation. It was a newsreader (white) who joyously commented in his interpretation of the fallout of reparations; “it’s as if these people are breaking their necks, to get this money back to us!” I can’t express what a nerve this hit, as the truth of it struck me. It was as if we secretly listened into the psyche of this guy’s mind, and heard something that was meant to be kept secret. The surprise at the stupidity of black people, the reassured glee he felt at their expense. It was as if he were a parent giving a child the keys to his safe, secure in the knowledge that the child would never be able to figure out the meaning of what it held. If there was ever a time for the postal worker in Don’t Be A Menace To Society While Drinkin’ Your Juice In The Hood to shout “Message!” …it would be now.

The idea of reparations is an extremely important issue as I personally believe that the inconceivable tragedy that was the slave trade is the sole reason for nearly every ‘black’ problem in the western world today. I don’t see how you can call for merit-based society when one race has got all the money, resources and capital. I imagine it to be like a long duration sprint – at the start line, we’ll personify the white and the black race into men to make it easier and we’ll make the world a racetrack also for simplicity. So, the black man and the white man started off equal, then to signal the beginning of the sprint, the white man shot the black man (slavery) and said “Go!” thanks to this, the white race got a headstart by sayÉabout four hundred years, making more and more headway, mostly at the expense of the black man (slave labour) and proceeded to make the law to suit himself so he could have the legal rights to everything in existence. (I’ll leave out the debate as to whether those four hundred years actually put the black race’s starting position into minus or not), and so the black man started running, and he kept tripping over these hurdles that the white man had left for him. These are hurdles that are still tripping him over today. These hurdles all had different names; liquor stores, guns, crack, judicial system, poor housing, no education, AIDS, racism, materialistic role models, rejection of academic ambition, etc. In fact, it’s quite difficult to see how the black man got anywhere at all.

The problem is nowadays, thanks to the C.R.E.A.M. (Cash Rules Everything Around Me) mentality, these hurdles can no longer be in the blatant forms that they used to be. Since racism is no longer in fashion, they need to not look, feel, or even smell like hurdles. A few ‘invisible’ hurdles I’d like to point out are low self-esteem (ghetto mentality) and character trait projection (Black Role Models). The outcome of that barrage of blatant obstacles I mentioned earlier will have obvious repercussions, such as low self-esteem due to the inferior position that the black race has been given. A reason I see this as important is the fact that it manifests itself in the form of over-compensation in nearly every area imaginable. Think of the stereotypical successful black man in relation to his material items. Does he have a gratuitous amount of everything? Does most of it shine in the light? Does he have a lot of female company? Is he well built? Roll with a squad? Does he have about thirty cars ‘sittin’ on chromes’, next to a yacht and a few mansions here and there? Is he sippin’ Cristal? The point I’m trying to make, is that he probably is. This is the stereotype that has been created through the black man’s innate need to show the world that he is not as worthless as everybody thought he was. He’s had nothing for so long, that when he does have something, he’s got to make sure everybody knows it.

It’s a perfect hurdle, because no longer do we have to be whipped by overseers on the plantation to do their bidding – we now do it for them. We regulate ourselves into aspiring to positions that don’t threaten the current system and keeps the class status quo. This, of course, is just one theory. It occurs to me that all of the major label CEOs (with the exception of Roc-A-Fella, and other labels that spawned from the dissatisfaction of being raped by a corporate company), music, television, and radio owners are not black. This may be the white man’s way of diverting the black idea of success towards being an impotent alpha-consumer, as opposed to a situation of any real power or status such as a senator, or teacher, giving to charity, building a community centre, investing in stocks and bonds/capital, or any such position which gives real access to change. This makes me think of all those shows that have little scenes of kids saying what they ‘wanna be’ when they grow up, and I don’t ever recall a little black kid calling for president.
The very few people who aren’t white and do have substantial positions, Colin Powell for instance, don’t seem to count as any type of role model, because for a start you’d have to look close to see that he is actually non-white, and secondly it is very hard to relate to him as a black person because, well he might as well have had a personality transplant with a white man. There is nothing about him that suggests ‘blackness’. A person you see on the news may be using Received Pronunciation and be a world away from the street vernacular that kids use. Not only that, but there has been an active black influence to reject ‘white’ use of language and it is seen as a sign of credibility to ‘keep it real’. This is obvious to see when we look at black people who have been said to ‘sell out’ for reasons of not conforming to ‘black’ culture. De La Soul, for instance, had their credibility threatened and even their sexuality, by a hip hop climate that wasn’t ready for anything other than hardcore rap. Hence the album De La Soul Is Dead. This was an active decision to move away from the music they arguably wanted to make, and a type of music they felt they had to make. It’s not hard to see where the real selling out is. And it’s also not surprising to see how a climate reacting so negatively to change can never grow, and that we’re going nowhere if nothing is done about it.

It seems that positions of power are seen as ‘off-limits’ to black people. Def Jam comedians are quick to joke about how the world would be different if there was a black president – that there’d be a three day working week, marijuana legalized, clocks would be put forward to compensate for black people’s apparent inability to be punctual, GMT would become BMT (black man time), and whatever other stereotype you care to think about becomes reality. I feel like whilst this was once intended to satirise the view of black people from a white perspective, to point out their ignorant stereotypes, it now seems like we’ve internalised these stereotypes and made them traits of what it is to ‘be black’.

The problem with this is that people identify with this and it becomes the expected behaviour of black people and so perpetuates itself. While people are sitting in the audience laughing, high-fiving each other because they identify with the comedian’s observations of black shortcomings, they are failing to realise that they are celebrating aspects of black culture that hold us back. It isn’t a good thing to be late and unreliable. It isn’t funny to not be able to pay your heating bill. It isn’t funny that little kids have to make dinner money the only way they know how ’cause the welfare’s gone into mum’s hair and nails. And it ain’t funny to be in jail. In fact, this should sit you down and make you actually think about what the fuck this funny man is telling you about your life, and how anything-but-funny it actually is.

Thinking about it should infuriate you to the point of making a change for the better, make you vow to do something different, something better. But no one’s gonna listen to that because people don’t want to think, they want to laugh. And change is too hard anyway; takes too much effort. And you know how lazy black people are.
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