More over production of elites: once you go black, you can’t walk it back

The outrages that break the internet have reached asymptotic peak stupidity. The latest scandal is that some white chick from Northern Idaho got a black perm and a John Boehner tan job and ended up as the local head of the NAACP in Spokane. Rachel Dolezal’s parents got so fed up with her antics, including passing off one of their adopted black children (i.e., her adopted brother) as her own son, that they outed her as white. Let me reiterate how surreal this is: Spokane has made the national news because a white girl has been going around in blackface in order to insinuate herself into local black civics. The standup routines write themselves: Spokane is so white, its NAACP chapter is headed by a white chick pretending to be black! Even her parents are like, bitch, you a cracka! Noting her unnatural skin color, one observer wrote, “Orange really is the new black.”

Alternate post title: Once you go high yellow, you done bein’ mellow. Dolezal has gotten pretty cross over all the outrage and mockery coming her way. Being outed as white would seem to threaten her social standing as a Howard alumna and her position teaching Africana studies at Eastern Washinton University. She claims that her own African experience included a childhood living in a teepee and hunting with a bow and arrow, as one does in South Africa, as well as eight racially motivated attacks in Washington and Northern Idaho, none of them substantiated by police or prosecutors. The baser angels of my nature feel that university administrators and civic leaders who are foolish enough to believe that South Africans live in teepees deserve to be catfished by a white chick in blackface, that suffering such pwnage might teach them to stop being so credulous before professional grievance-mongers. Teepees were invented by Indians, and not the kind who live in Durban. Being told to hunt with a bow and arrow, most Africans would be speechless. This is especially true of black Africans; white Afrricans would be more likely to say, what the fuck, mate, we have elephants and lions here, you aren’t going out with kit like that just because you saw it on the telly. Unless you’re mixing it up with one of the really old-school tribes, like the Maasai, pretty much everyone of an outdoor inclination on the continent will put a suitable long gun in your hands before allowing you to join a hunt.

Sure enough, the Dolezals never lived in Africa, South or otherwise. Truth be told, cool stories about outdoor adventure in the Motherland like Dolezal’s slip past Americans’ bullshit detectors because Americans don’t know all that much about Africa. More informed ones may understand that Toto went down there to bless the rains, or that Wocka Flocka hey hey, it’s time. There are Americans who have lived, worked, or traveled extensively in Africa, and there are African immigrants in the United States, but these have little input in the crafting of “Africana studies” curricula. “Africana” could be about Africa, just as, say, European history is traditionally about Europe, but let’s be real: it isn’t. It’s about how certain ambivalent black Americans (who are no more culturally African fifteen or twenty generations removed from Africa than I am culturally Russian two generations removed from Lutheran converso Jewish life in Moscow) feel about Africa as a theoretical ideal of racial harmony allowing an escape from American racial problems, not about Africa as a real place with its own very real ethnic and sectarian troubles. It’s a feel-good exercise in thinking about how cool life would be without Whitey. Many African Christians would be baffled, if not offended, to be told that Kwanzaa is a more authentic holiday for Africans than Christmas or Easter. Many Africans would be equally baffled to learn that a low-class slang version of English such as Ebonics is more authentic for them as black people than standard English, the lingua franca of every Commonwealth country in Africa and of a number of non-Commonwealth African countries as well.

Imagine being a Ghanaian, raised in an Anglophone household and educated in Anglophone schools. You graduate high school with native fluency in English; Westerners may have trouble understanding your accent, and you may have trouble understanding theirs (although probably less trouble), but it’s the same language, the most widely spoken one on earth today, a language worth being able to speak. Now imagine being told that black people can’t be expected to speak English properly because they’re black. This is insane. Your whole fucking high school class was made up of black Africans fluent in standard English. They had to speak English because all the classes were taught in it. The textbooks and instruction in foreign language courses used English as the starting point. Martin Luther King Jr.? Malcolm X? Richard Wright? English speakers, of course. What else would one expect of Americans trying to reach to American audiences, of whatever races? Samuel L. Jackson demanded the removal of the motherfucking snakes from the motherfucking plane in grammatically correct, if rude, English. Can these people in the American ghettos not speak proper English because they have never been taught it at school? Maybe instructional standards should be improved at their schools and brought up to the standards of well-run schools in Ghana.

Of course Ebonics is (or was; it isn’t in the news much lately) a huge fraud. It would be too thoroughly ridiculous for most of Anglophone Africa, where huge numbers of people in 100% black African communities speak fluent English and can’t imagine why they would not, other than being poorly educated or stuck in some village where no one speaks English. It would make no more sense in English-speaking Caribbean countries, and none in England, whose native black residents have accents indistinguishable from those of any other Englishman of the same class and from the same part of the country. Stateside, however, it got some traction because black American English is quite distinct, in accent and often grammatically, from white English, and because the United States has a huge population of poorly educated black people.

We ended up with a class of highly educated black professionals, mostly in academia, using grammatically perfect English to instruct their white compatriots about how other black people can’t be expected to speak English properly on account of their race and should therefore be instructed in a grammatically degraded slang version of the language. Or, as this argument might be translated, dey tellin’ Whitey cain’t nobody in da ghetto code-switch! Black Americans understand whites better than vice versa, so it’s highly unlikely that an equivalent whopper about the white man would have gotten traction in black circles. Someone would immediately have called bullshit, and probably made fun of whoever retold the story for being so credulous. Some of the very same people must have cruelly made fun of Whitey for falling for the Ebonics prank, or at least of Whitey’s dumber constituents.

I ended up watching some crappy black sitcoms from the eighties at a laundromat in Fair Oaks the other night, and every one of these shows had at least one white dork serving as a comedic foil, in addition to at least one dorky black teenage boy. Imagine Sam Dotson and Phil Tingirides dressed up in chintzy suits and making asses of themselves in every scene while Ron Johnson and Emada Tingirides stare at them, like, what the fuck, white boy. That was the kind of television I was watching at the laundromat. It included some pretty bad plaids, too, and outfits that looked like what a high school drama department would pull out of its wardrobe closet for a play about Mr. Rogers. Come to think of it, Sanford and Son had that dorky white cop who talked about wanting “some of that spirit food,” although old Mr. Sanford was hardly any less out there. Half of that show seemed to be about watching grandpa lose it, an old man going inexorably but entertainingly senile in the midst of all his junk.

I like to think that I have not wasted my life watching television. If nothing else, the bits of time thus irretrievably lost offer a view into the thinking of the mass man. It ain’t pretty. I also listen from time to time to John Tesh, not only because he offers Intelligence for Your Life (TM) for the kind of people who believe that thirty-second summaries of self-help books, blog posts on how to beat others at office politics, and cherry-picked scientific studies rises to the level of Intelligence (TM), but also because he is the ultimate #BigBandStyle brony chick magnet of the Long Island diaspora. If he doesn’t have a harem of MILF groupies, no man has a MILF harem, and John Tesh has a MILF harem because #TeshTips not having one would be a breach of #BigBandStyle.

As the Last Psychiatrist always tells us, if you’re watching it, it’s for you. The Ebonics spat was for Whitey and the Talented Tenth. Actually, it was for the top socioeconomic and educational quartiles of all races, and that’s probably a generous estimate. It must have straight-up pissed off quite a few people in the middle and lower classes who wanted their children to be given a proper education without all the political bullshit from the surplus mandarins, but as a sort of factional entertainment and attention-seeking enterprise, it was aimed at Bougie. The dueling zealots got another excuse to spit venom at each other for the Nielsen ratings. Academics promoting Ebonics and think-tank types lowering the boom on it got book deals out of the donnybrook. They got the gold mine; the proles got the shaft.

Ebonics wasn’t just an academic con and media troll in its own right. It also served as a test of just how much crazy bullshit could be introduced into the official public discourse without provoking a catastrophic reaction, say, a Maoist agricultural adventure for the loudest useless eaters. As it turned out, Ebonics wasn’t too crazy for the silent majority. It pissed them off, but not to the point of setting the Cathedral on fire. There was much more space to push the envelope without driving anyone to burn a full Sherman on the racial concern trolls.

Now we have, so help me, “transracialism.” It’s a sort of blackface minstrel show resurrected as a fraud on universities and civil rights organizations and performed by one of the most dedicated method actresses alive. This Dolezal chick has been larping blackness for most of her adult life, to the point of severely damaging her relationships with her parents and siblings, and now that she has been exposed as a racial fraud, she has fairly powerful people arguing that, well, she felt black. Nick Gillespie is writing about her. He should have better subjects to discuss, and usually he does, but this crazy bitch from Spokane is in the news for catfishing the NAACP. My guess is that she pretended to be black because her adopted black siblings were getting more attention than she was. She seems to have understood that, in some perverse respects, black lives matter, and to have felt that she, too, should matter.

In some ways, her behavior looks much like the self-destruction of the “transabled,” insofar as she wanted to have a handicap, maybe a bit like blinding oneself for the free city bus fare. On the other hand, one can always pretend to be blind and bring along a (non-Braille) book. A friend of mine once alerted me to exactly such a stunt on a bus in Eureka, in which a chick with a cane was sightreading a book. Afterwards my friend texted me: “Blind people can’t goddamn read!” Rachel Dolezal didn’t disfigure herself; she got a black perm and a skin coloring treatment that possibly might put her at an elevated risk of cancer someday, but we have no way to know how the fuck she got that high yeller color. In what little I’ve heard of her speaking, she sounds like a generic white Midwesterner or Californian. She’s John Boehner’s color but with a much, much more neutral accent, and Boehner’s is neutral by Cincinnati standards.

Dolezal probably wanted to be a big fish in a small pond. As ponds go, the black activist community in Spokane has to be a pretty cozy one. It’s inconceivable that nationally known journalists are even writing about black life in Spokane. Apparently there’s little enough of it that white people are welcome to practice it. Maybe the NAACP chapter needed Dolezal to make quorum at its meetings. But with a surname like that, one I’d never in my life heard of before this story broke, and family in the Pacific Northwest, how the hell did no one in Spokane manage to do due diligence on her? A very light-skinned black woman with a very unusual Slavic surname who can’t produce relatives? Good grief. I could show up wearing a mustard-stained Star Wars sweatshirt from Goodwill and carrying a Thomas the Tank Engine lunchbox and convince these people that I regularly have trysts with Dagmar Midcap on a yacht that I dock at Coronado.

As Willie Brown was told by “one of my street people” (because he remains a city father to all San Franciscans who haven’t directly told him to get lost), “Caitlyn is a trans-Jenner!” I thought of this separately, but honestly, I’m kind of relieved that I have company in this case. Rachel, on the other hand, got herself into trouble by not becoming a trans-Dolezal. It sounds like some unfortunate displaced ethnic group from the remnants of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but it really means that homegirl might have done well to change her name. It might have at least briefly disrupted her family’s efforts to dox her out of sheer exasperation with her fraud.

Black community life in Spokane isn’t working out so well for Rachel Dolezal. Maybe she can do better by owning her whiteness and going down to East Colfax for an overnight lock-in with the Crips, including TIMMEH! She’s already living a South Park episode, after all.

*****

UPDATE:

This post isn’t as strictly factual as it might be. I shot from the hip and wrote away from the internet connection that I would otherwise have used to fact-check unclear details. The part about the teepee in South Africa, for example, was something that I heard on talk radio last night. I know that talk radio is an important platform for the telling of the cool story; in listening to it, I, too, became a teller of the cool story. Oops. According to an item I just found on Breitbart (not written by Milo Yiannapoulos, so not compelling enough for a link), the teepee was not in fact in South Africa. Neither were the Dolezals. Rachel Dolezal’s birth and early childhood teepee was in Montana, except that it wasn’t there, either, on account of it just plain wasn’t.

Too much has been written about this crazy bitch already. I’m mainly in it for the page views, just as I was with Ghomeshi. The pictures available of Rachel Dolezal online are a fucking hoot. This one, for example, is apparently legit:

rachel-dolezal-photo-3(1)__oPt

That dreadlock beehive is becoming an internet meme as I write. It’s the new dirtbag hat. Clip it onto a cracker’s head and your conversation-starter for the national conversation on race is ready to go.

Surely opportunities for Mexicans to grow our food shall not entirely perish in our time.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s