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Race

Appreciation vs. Appropriation, featuring Adele

She’s that awkward white girl sitting at the Black girl table getting her hair braided at lunch.

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Adele in 2015: Hello….

hello

Adele in 2020: Watagwan!

adele carnival

I have a few words for Adele, but I want to throw some examples of previous discussions to remind y’all that this conversation ain’t new.

Miley Cyrus – Appreciation or Appropriation?

Miley Cyrus is the whitest of white child stars with absolutely no connection to Black culture whatsoever. That’s not an automatic barrier, but it’s a big hurdle to climb, and to do it, you need to prove your worth. She didn’t. She wore her grills and hobnobbed with rappers and “twerked” at awards shows, taking the most visible parts of Black entertainment culture and putting them on like a costume for headlines. And she got them…for awhile. When the shtick wore out, she took it off and gave interviews about “outgrowing” all of the trappings she had adopted when she wanted attention via shock and notoriety.

Appropriation, on the grounds of “oooh Black people are ‘dangerous’ so I’ll dabble in the culture to show how grown up and shocking I am now.”

Iggy Azalea – Appreciation or Appropriation?

Amethyst Amelia Kelly is a white woman from the backwoods of Australia who used Black culture to catapult herself to superstardom. She threw on a Southern hip-hop Blackcent that in no way resembled how she spoke or where she came from. Hip-hop is about authenticity. Give me an Australian twang and a kangaroo joke, not a Decatur drawl and a runaway slave master punchline. When she was called out on it, her answer was basically fuck y’all I do what I want you’re just jealous. She managed to set female rap milestones because the world loves Black culture in a white package and she used that to her advantage while she disrespected us the entire time.

Appropriation, on the grounds of “I’m just using y’all to make a buck.”

Kim Kardashian – Appreciation or Appropriation?

Kim Kardashian is a white woman who rode Black dick to fame and never got off. Everything about her is a manufactured bastardized approximation of Blackness made more palatable to the masses on a white woman. She DGAF about Black people, Black culture, Black lives, or her Black ass husband.

Appropriation, on the grounds of….duh.

Teena Marie – Appreciation or Appropriation?

Teena Marie loved us and we loved her back. Every Black household owned a record that had Teena Marie on it and we never doubted if she was coming from a good place. She is universally accepted as our White Soul Sister because she respected the culture and the art and it was evident in everything she did.

Appreciation, on the grounds of “You respect my shit, I’ll respect your shit.”

Eminem – Appreciation or Appropriation?

Eminem is one of the best rappers of all time, as he should be. If you are going to be white and venture into hip-hop, take it seriously. Study your craft. Be the best rapper you can possibly be. Don’t make it into a joke, don’t make it into a cash grab, and give it your all. Every Black kid learns that to make it into America you have to try twice as hard to get half as far. When a white kid decides to go into rap music, they need to try twice as hard (to get twice as far tbh, because white people love Black culture in white packages, but still…)

Appreciation, on the grounds of “I worked hard for this.”

Madonna – Appreciation or Appropriation?

“Vogue” is one of the biggest singles of all time and it brought ballroom out of the shadows and into the light in a way nothing had been able to do before, because the biggest white pop star on the planet was holding the lantern. Madonna cut her teeth in the East Village and Lower East Side with Black and Latino performers. Her first single didn’t have her face on it because it was sent to Black radio, and DJs didn’t necessarily know she was white. A few albums and mega singles later, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that Madonna would put “Vogue” out there because she wasn’t a stranger to the community — it’s where she started. Still, this cis straight white woman was reaping the benefits of an artform created for and by the Black & Brown queer community. She used a culture she was only loosely familiar with and made millions while the people who lived the life were left behind.

Appropriation & Appreciation, on the grounds of “Sometimes you love it so you participate in it but you don’t do enough to support the people who made it.”

So, Adele wearing Bantu knots…

Adele ain’t stupid and I’m sure Adele was prepared to be dragged and she did it anyway because Adele loves Black art and entertainment, generally minds her business, and shows her stan card for every Black woman in the industry. If Adele decided to release a rap single and throw some Bantu knots in there for the video, I’m upset. That’s appropriation. She, in her whiteness, is stepping into a highly competitive arena that does not belong to her and she’s putting on Blackness for capital gain. Adele doing rap music would shove her to the forefront of the genre because white buyers love when white women do hip-hop, whether it’s good or not. That’s appropriation. Adele participating in a celebration of Blackness (because she literally celebrates Blackness publicly and regularly) is appreciation, regardless of how awkward it is.

It’s not “look at my new style.” It’s “look at this style I’m wearing in appreciation for this event taking place.”

It’s not “Kim Culture Vulture Kardashian inventing cornrows on a Tuesday for Instagram likes.” It’s “Adele Mildy Awkward Akinds celebrating Carnival to the fullest.”

I’m not mad. She’s that awkward white girl sitting at the Black girl table getting her hair braided at lunch.

Appreciation, on the grounds of “It’s just a white lady celebrating us who does so regularly.”

 

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Race

Seneca Village, Black displacement, and the history of Central Park.

Let’s have a look at the first free Black settlement in NYC.

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Some tweets about Central Park have been going viral the past two days and they are missing valuable context and clarity. Yesterday, I saw this one:

Black people owned less than 1% of the land that would eventually become Central Park.

Seneca Village was about 5 acres of land. Central Park is almost 850 acres of land. So no, the area was not called Seneca Village. There were lots of little villages with their own names dotted throughout the area.

A third of the people in Seneca Village were white. In fact, most of the people in Central Park were white — they were Irish and German farmers.

The United States is a terrible country founded upon theft, greed, and subjugation. All of this land was stolen from Native Americans in the first place, so this is not an effort to impart any warm and fuzzy feelings about US history. Hyperbole is the enemy of truth, and exaggeration in one area of history serves to undermine facts in another. We live in a country where textbooks speak of slavery as a valid business model with a few mean employers. Because of that, when we are trying to force the reality of the horrors of slavery and racism into the American narrative, we can’t afford to embellish other injustices.

When you say Black families had their homesteads razed to make way for Central Park, the average person will picture roving bands of white people setting fires and violently chasing Black people with dogs and weapons. It happened all over the country throughout our history. Countless Black communities are forgotten today because the history of white America is written in Black suffering.

The location of Central Park wasn’t a decision made with race at the forefront. Seneca Village was indeed the first free Black settlement in NYC after slavery was outlawed. Free Black men could vote if they owned enough property, and around 15-20% of those property-owning men lived in Seneca Village. The city did take control of that property through eminent domain to make way for Central Park. All of these things are true.

These things are also true: At its peak the population of Seneca Village was less than 300 people and a third of those people were white. The total population of the area now known as Central Park was almost 2,000 people, and the majority of them were Irish and German farmers. The city used eminent domain to take all of their lands, but that doesn’t mean the lands were stolen from them. All of the residents who owned their property were paid for it — double or triple what the original selling price was — but they couldn’t say no to the sale. The city forced them to sell and move elsewhere. Aside from that though, most of the population of NYC lived below 14th Street, which meant much of the rest of Manhattan was semi-rural and people farmed land all over the island that they didn’t own. When the city decided to build Central Park, they forced the squatters to start paying rent to the city, and when they couldn’t pay, they were kicked out.

The image being painted on Twitter is that Central Park was full of communities of prosperous, land-owning freedmen who lost their voting rights when NYC decided to build a park where the Black people live. And that’s a fair assumption! NYC is full of racist building projects, and US history is full of racist legacies where successful Black towns were essentially punished or destroyed for simply thriving. That’s not quite the case for Central Park. Most of the displaced people were white. Most of the residents of Seneca Village were poor and 80% of them didn’t own the homes they lived in. Those who owned property, which in turn meant they could vote, were paid more than they’d originally invested.  They could use that money buy property elsewhere, which meant they could still vote.

But! This is still the United States. While racism may not be the central figure in the creation of Central Park as it was in other tales of yesteryear, it’s still there as a supporting character.

When NYC wanted a park, the original location chosen was a place called Jones’s Wood. The prosperous white families in that area successfully fought the city, so a new location was scouted and the city settled on the area now known as Central Park. Seneca Village was a very, very tiny portion of the land area and the Black residents there were a small percentage of the mostly white population that would be displaced, but there were very prominent Black families in Seneca Village. The majority of the residents were indeed poor farmers, laborers, and domestic workers who didn’t own land, but the people who did own land were important to the Black community in NYC at large.

The Lyons Family in Seneca Village were conductors on the Underground Railroad.

All Angels church was one of the few interracial congregations in the country. When riots broke out in Lower Manhattan as white racists attacked Black abolitionists, Seneca Village much farther north was spared any damage. As a result, this much more rural area attracted other prominent Black activists, and by the time Central Park was planned, 20% of the Black voters in the city lived there. The residents of Seneca Village put up a fight against the city just as the residents of Jones’s Wood had, but where those prosperous white families ultimately prevailed, the prosperous Black ones did not, and the city moved forward with its plans.

The two biggest takeaways from the creation of Central Park and the history of Seneca Village is the lack of violence and the displacement of white people. Those two factors counter the image most of us have when we hear the city took land from Black people to make a park. There are no stories of Black displacement where most of the people affected were white, and there are few stories of Black displacement from the 19th Century where the government engaged in protracted legal battles with the residents and ultimately paid property owners for their land.  Seneca Village should be remembered as the first free Black settlement in NYC, but we don’t have to paint it as another Tulsa to drive home the history of racism in the US. There are enough Tulsas to go around.

 

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Some sources if you want to read in more detail:
NY Times: Seneca Central Park
Columbia University: Seneca Village
CentralParkNYC.org: Seneca Village
Documents of the Assembly of the State of NY 

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Race

Leave slavery out of your abortion conversations.

Why do seemingly well-meaning white people like to compare various struggles to slavery

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Another day, another White Liberal unnecessarily using slavery to make a point.

(Twitter)

Joyce Alene is a professor at the University of Alabama School of Law. She has appeared as a legal analyst on various cable news channels and she was an attorney for the Obama administration. And she thought it was a good idea to compare abortion rights to slavery.

Not sure why this repeatedly has to be explained over and over, but it is very much possible to discuss persecution without bringing Black people into it. There is never a need to compare any struggle in this country to the worst atrocity in the history of the United States, and doing so makes you look unserious. What we are dealing with right now in regard to reproductive rights can be discussed on its own merit. We should be horrified by what’s happening, period. No hyperbole is necessary. No conflation with genocide is needed.

Why do seemingly well-meaning white people like to compare various struggles to slavery, when absolutely nothing the Modern White American faces has any similarity? Nothing the Colonial White American faced had any similarity. Leave slavery out of the conversation.

It’s a double insult. On the first side, Good Whites can’t come to grips with the foundation of America’s success in the world firmly resting atop slavery, so comparisons to modern struggles are subconsciously made to lessen the severity of what happened. Even the most liberal of White Americans has a difficult time accepting the fact that everything you see owes it existence to slavery. There would be no United States without the economic engine that was chattel slavery. From Yale to Bank of America to whiskey — the legacy of slavery is everywhere.

On the other side, too many Good Whites feel such a strong need to identify with the oppressed that they will manufacture similarities that don’t exist.

Or possibly a third side:

If you acknowledge that it’s a bad take and you don’t mean any offense, then you only said it to be shocking and to grab attention. You have trivialized slavery as a gotcha for clicks, and that’s even worse.

Women are being oppressed. Yes, restrictive legislation on reproductive rights disproportionately affects poor women and women of color, but all women are at the mercy of an evangelical government that believes it has the divine right to subjugate Eve’s daughters. That is enough to work with. Comparing it to anything other than that is a distraction and a disservice. Women deserve rights on their own merit.

 

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Race

We gotta invite Tigger to the Cookout now.

Maybe it sounds so much like n—-r some people just lose their minds.

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Some cartoon characters are Black because they’re created that way.

Some cartoon characters Black because we decided they are.

And some cartoon characters are just cartoon characters. I don’t recognize any Winnie the Pooh characters from my daily life, so they’re just animals to me, but we might have to welcome Tigger into the family. There’s no other explanation for why this white lady is so mad that he’s on a flag.

Tigger must’ve played rap music in her driveway or looked at her purse on the elevator or something, because this lady is acting like that flag says Black Lives Matter And Yours Does Not. I am very certain there are no rules (by this non-existent housing association) prohibiting a cartoon character flag and this woman feels like “rule” is the same as “I don’t like it,” which is unsurprising given the age and hue of the protagonist in this short film. My first retail job was at Bath & Body Works in a Southern shopping mall, and if there’s one thing I know for certain about that particular demographic it’s that they definitely believe personal opinions are facts, feelings are rules, and there is a manager of something somewhere who will side with them so they can get their way.

Bless the restraint of this homeowner. I probably woulda cussed that woman from here to Tara and then I would be gone with the police after she called 911 on me.

 

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