Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Jamie Foxx: "I Get To Kill all of the White People"

Jamie Foxx recently hosted Saturday Night Live, and made a few comments that once again have gotten conservatives in a bit of a fury.

My name is Jamie Foxx. Give it up, give it up, New York City, Saturday Night Live. Come on, make some noise, man. New York City, New York City, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens, it’s crazy. I'm black, and I’m dressed all black cause it's good to be black. Black is the new white. I’m telling you, how black is this right here? Nice fly, I’m saying. You know how I know black is in right now? Cause the Nets moved to Brooklyn. How black is that? They got black jerseys, black court. I mean, how black is that? And Jay-z is the owner, a rapper. How black is that? And Jay-z only own about this much of the team. But he act like he own all of New York. How black is that?

And I got a movie coming out, "Django," check it out. Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson. “Django Unchained” I play a slave. How black is that? And in the movie I had to wear chains. How whack is that? But don't be worried about it because I get out the chains, I get free, I save my wife, and I kill all the white people in the movie. How great is that? And how black is that?

But I'm going to tell you right now, speaking of blackness, my President, President Obama is back up in the White House four more years. How black is that? And not only that, he’s so black, he was playing basketball during the Election Day. How black is that? But he was also late for his acceptance speech. Okay, all the white people, this is your turn - how black is that?

But he going to be extra black this next four years. He going to get everything black, and white people, don't get nervous about that because he is mixed. Now the first four years was the white side of him, because I don't know if you saw him on Ellen when he was dancing and everything. I don't know what this is. That wasn't President Obama, that was President Barry Gibb Obama. But the next four years he's even changing his name from to President Barack Dikembe Mutombo Tupac Mandela Hussein Obama X. How black is that? And the next time you see him dancing on Ellen, he gonna be dancing like this.
I am sure that you have figured out that the line which set them off is, "And in the movie I had to wear chains. How whack is that? But don't be worried about it because I get out the chains, I get free, I save my wife, and I kill all the white people in the movie."  This statement, in the minds of the conservative commenters at NewsBusters, was damaging to race relations.  They further inferred that if a White actor was joking about killing all of the Black people in a project they were a part of, that it would be career ending. I am going to address this in a few parts because there is so much to break down here.

White actors don't have to joke about actors of colour being killed off on their movies or television series because it is a regular occurrence. Characters of colour are constantly erased and put into what I like to call the plot box, or outright killed off to advance the storyline for the White protagonist.  Race is written directly into the text but because it has become so normalized, unless a discussion is specifically about the treatment of people of colour, it goes unremarked. The death of characters of colour is an everyday occurrence and far from the rarity that NewsBusters implies from its commentary.

When we aren't dying to advance the plot, or serving the White protagonist, we are often erased altogether.  Consider for a moment Seinfeld, which ran from 1990 - 1998 and Friends, which ran from 1994 -2004. Both shows were set in New York City of all places and failed to have Black reoccurring characters of note.  There are many things one can say about NYC, but what you will never hear is that it is some sort of White utopia, where people of colour do not exist. More recently, there is  HBO's Girls, which again is set in NYC, and is once again filled with navel gazing Whiteness.  Leah Dunham, the writer and creator of Girls, has made it clear that she didn't mean for the show to be so White and that it was merely accidental. Uh huh.
"I really wrote the show from a gut-level place, and each character was a piece of me or based on someone close to me. And only later did I realize that it was four white girls. As much as I can say it was an accident, it was only later as the criticism came out, I thought, 'I hear this and I want to respond to it.' And this is a hard issue to speak to because all I want to do is sound sensitive and not say anything that will horrify anyone or make them feel more isolated, but I did write something that was super-specific to my experience, and I always want to avoid rendering an experience I can't speak to accurately." (source)
If we don't even get to make an appearance on these popular shows, how exactly can they kills us? You can't kill, what you won't let live.

There have been extremely few television programs that are considered mainstream, which involve a largely Black cast or a Black protagonist. Treme has managed to make it 3 seasons on HBO, but has struggled each year to capture an audience with it's political message and promotion of Black culture. As a result, season four, which is comprised of 5 episodes, will be the last season. There is also Shonda Rhimes and her project Scandal, starring Kerry Washington. Black actresses lined up to play this role, fully aware that a Black female protagonist in the mainstream is a rarity and not commonplace.  In fact, not since The Cosby Show, which ran from 1984 -1992, have we seen a mainstream television show, largely staring people of colour be extremely successful.

Jamie Foxx's new movie is Django and it was directed by Quentin Tarantino - a White man, who as far as I am concerned, is far too comfortable with the N Word.  Be that as it may, Django is unique among slave narrative stories in that it includes a slave becoming violent and seeking justice from a White slave holder.  It is hardly surprising that Whiteness finds the very concept of this unsettling. We have long been subject to the deification of the antebellum south, as though it was a glorious time in history, when in fact; it was a brutal soul crushing regime, filled with crimes against humanity.

Black anger inspires fear and rage, not because it is wrong, but because unconsciously Whiteness is very aware of not only the crimes committed against us, but the ongoing assault against our human equality as well. Consider for a moment, the White co-option of pre 1963 Dr. Martin Luther King, and how his words have been used by Whiteness to lecture Blacks about racial inequality, as though we live in ignorance of the horror of racism. Dr. King had a lot of things to say after 1963 but the radical nature of the commentary in question, has subjected it to erasure by Whiteness. Malcolm X, whose intelligent message was filled with much more virulent rage, is still despised to this day.

The antebellum south has been reimagined as wonderful, simply because it was unabashedly about White supremacy, though slavery negatively impacted poor Whites economically. Black rebellion was most certainly a part of the antebellum south, though you will not learn this outside of very specific historical texts. Cooks poisoned slave owners, and Blacks did indeed fight back against repression in various ways, but to hear White people tell the story, Blacks waited around until kind White northerners decided to free the slaves.

The ongoing economic punishment of Haiti has everything to do with the fact that Haitians emancipated themselves.  It is not an accident that after the Haitian revolution, even more restrictive laws were passed to further control the American slave population.  It did not go unnoticed that in an effort to breed an exploitable class that White slave holders found themselves outnumbered by the very people they deemed property. The racial rhetoric became even more heightened, as Whites considered being murdered in their beds. Black rage was and is a direct threat to White supremacy.

On a final note, the very fact that Whiteness seeks to take Foxx's comments out of context is extremely telling.  Jamie wasn't just talking about killing White people, he was talking about killing White slaveholders.  Anyone who trafficked in human bondage for profit was not morally ambiguous; they were pure evil. It's not as though the institution of slavery was even remotely positive because there was no such thing as a benign slaveholder, though it was often suggested that slavery was a moral good because Blacks were deemed to exist with childlike simplicity.  In a country where the slave holding founding fathers are deified, is it any wonder that slavery is often subtracted from the equation, as though it does not say something morally specific about the person in question? The shock and rage regarding Foxx's statement is what is racial divisive, because it plays into a familiar refrain of Whiteness once again claiming to be oppressed and failing to be accountable for its history of violence against people of colour.