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‘Nappy Happy’: Radical thinker Angela Davis interviews Ice Cube, 1991
02.11.2016
09:12 am

Topics:
Feminism
Hip-hop
Music
Race
Thinkers

Tags:
Angela Davis
Ice Cube


 
Before the release of Ice Cube’s Death Certificate, renowned black radical Angela Y. Davis interviewed him for Transition Magazine. It’s probably the first and last time a magazine has used a Gramsci quotation to introduce its readers to Ice Cube.

Davis, a former student of Herbert Marcuse, had been targeted by Governor Ronald Reagan in 1969 and 1970, when she was an assistant professor in UCLA’s Philosophy Department. At the governor’s urging, she was fired (twice), and Reagan vowed that she would never teach at the University of California again. Because who was better qualified to evaluate the work of philosophy professors than like Ronald Reagan? (Today, Davis is Distinguished Professor Emerita in the History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies Departments at UC Santa Cruz, and “Reagan” is a pair of syllables that stands for mental decay.) In ‘80, a decade after she was arrested because of her association with the Soledad Brothers, and again in ‘84, she was the vice-presidential candidate on the Communist Party USA ticket.

Ice Cube was coming from a different place. You couldn’t call his analysis Marxist, and “feminist” would have been a real stretch: he was reading The Final Call, not People’s World. This was during the period of Cube’s loudest advocacy for the Nation of Islam—before Friday, long before Are We There Yet?—when he was advocating black self-reliance (“We’ve got to start policing and patrolling our own neighborhoods,” he told Davis), endorsing an anti semitic NOI book called The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews, and arguing that the Hon. Elijah Muhammad was more important than Malcolm X. He and Davis had plenty to talk about.
 

Angela Davis and Ice Cube in Transition #58
 
Hip-hop historian Jeff Chang, who thinks this meeting likely took place in July of ‘91, writes in Can’t Stop Won’t Stop that publicist Leyla Turkkan set up the interview, hoping it would position Ice Cube as “an inheritor of the Black radical tradition.” Chang continues:

The interview was a provocative idea—one that both Davis and Cube welcomed. But none of them had any idea how the conversation would turn when they got together in Cube’s Street Knowledge business offices.

To begin with, Davis only heard a few tracks from the still unfinished album [Death Certificate], including “My Summer Vacation,” “Us” and a track called “Lord Have Mercy,” which never made it to the album. She did not hear the song that would become most controversial—a rap entitled “Black Korea.” In another way, she was at a more fundamental disadvantage in the conversation.

Like Davis, Cube’s mother had grown up in the South. After moving to Watts, she had come of age as a participant in the 1965 riots. While Cube and his mother were close, they often argued about politics and his lyrics. Now it was like Cube was sitting down to talk with his mother. Davis was at a loss the way any parent is with her child at the moment he’s in the fullest agitation of his becoming.

Cube sat back behind his glass desk in a black leather chair, the walls covered with framed gold records and posters for Boyz N The Hood and his albums. Copies of URB, The Source and The Final Call were laid out in front of him. Davis asked Cube how he felt about the older generation.

“When I look at older people, I don’t think they feel that they can learn from the younger generation. I try and tell my mother things that she just doesn’t want to hear sometimes,” he answered.

There’s more, after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
‘Pistol shots ring out in a barroom night’: Bob Dylan’s riveting performance of ‘Hurricane,’ 1975
02.02.2016
03:28 pm

Topics:
Crime
Music
Race

Tags:
Bob Dylan
Rubin Carter


 
Yesterday, right after I’d finished reading an article on The Daily Beast about it being the 40th anniversary of Bob Dylan’s 1976 album, Desire, I clicked over to YouTube where I dialed up “Hurricane,” Dylan’s powerful narration of the story of middleweight boxing contender Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, which was the lead single from it. Carter was imprisoned for almost 20 years on flimsy evidence (a random bullet and a shotgun shell found in his car) and sketchy testimony (that the perpetrators had been black, pretty much) for a triple homicide “race killing” in a Paterson, NJ bar in 1966. I still had the Wikipedia page on Carter open on my browser when I saw, in another tab that New York attorney Myron Beldock, who worked for over a decade to free Carter, had died at 86.

Throughout his long career Beldock, who described himself as “a creature of my time, liberal, progressive and idealistic” had a reputation for taking on legal lost causes. One such case was representing George Whitmore Jr., a black teenager who was arrested in Brooklyn in 1964 for the rape and knife-killing of several women. Whitmore claimed he was beaten by NYPD officers until he signed a falsified confession. The outcome of this case would become highly influential in the Supreme Court’s 1966 Miranda decision, which required police to advise suspects of their right to remain silent and be represented by an attorney, and in overturning capital punishment in New York State. But Beldock’s most famous client was Rubin “Hurricane” Carter.

Carter’s case had been boosted by copies of his 1974 autobiography The 16th Round, which proclaimed his innocence, being sent around to notable lefty-types who might want to lend their celebrity to his cause. Esquire magazine’s art director George Lois organized a campaign to support Carter and Muhammad Ali was vocal in proclaiming that Carter was innocent. (Joni Mitchell, however, who was also one of the books’ recipients, passed thinking “This is a bad person. He’s fakin’ it.”)

Her friend Bob Dylan felt differently. Dylan read Carter’s book during a 1975 trip to France, and visited the boxer—who was then incarcerated in a New Jersey penitentiary—in May. The two met for several hours and Dylan agreed to help him.

Having difficulty cracking the lyrics, Dylan enlisted Jacques Levy, a New York-based theatrical director who had worked with Sam Shepard (and who’d staged the nude comedy review Oh! Calcutta! off Broadway) to help. Levy said of the song:

“The first step was putting the song in a total storyteller mode, the beginning of the song is like stage directions, like what you would read in a script: ‘Pistol shots ring out in a barroom night… Here comes the story of the Hurricane.’ Boom! Titles. You now, Bob loves movies, and he can write these movies that take place in eight to ten minutes, yet seem as full or fuller than regular movies.”

 

 
“Hurricane” was premiered to an audience of about 100 people in Chicago on September 10th, 1975 during the taping of Bob Dylan’s performance on the PBS TV series Soundstage. This particular episode was titled “The World of John Hammond,” being a tribute to the retiring Columbia Records executive and civil rights activist who’d signed Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Aretha Franklin and Leonard Cohen (among many, many others) during his fabled 45-year-long career in the music industry. The show, broadcast in December would be Dylan’s very first TV appearance since his duet with Johnny Cash in 1969. The 8:33 single was recorded on October 24 and released in November.

Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue was used by the artist as a platform to campaign for Rubin Carter’s release and the first leg of the tour ended at Madison Square Garden on December 8th with a benefit concert dubbed the “Night of The Hurricane.” Roberta Flack and Muhammad Ali, who called Carter in his jail cell from the stage, also participated. A second event, Night of the Hurricane II, took place on January 25th at the Houston Astrodome and featured Stevie Wonder and Stephen Stills.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Moms Mabley, the original wise old black lesbian comedian: ‘Comedy ain’ pretty’
01.13.2016
06:31 am

Topics:
History
Queer
Race
Television

Tags:
comedy
Moms Mabley


 

“He said, ‘Now what would you do if I died?’ And I said ‘Laugh.’”

If you have the opportunity to see the 2014 HBO documentary Whoopi Goldberg presents Moms Mabley, don’t pass it up. Clearly a labor of love, Goldberg recreated Mabley’s act as a young performer at Berkeley in the ‘80s and was obviously very inspired by her work. The doc was originally called Moms Mabley: I Got Somethin’ To Tell You and was supported by Kickstarter donations. Then HBO bought it and no doubt asked for a title change to include Goldberg’s household name due to the relative obscurity of its eponymous subject some forty years after her death in 1975.
 

 

“What’s she got that I ain’t had thirty years longer?”

Unless you’re a real comedy nerd or over the age of, say, 55-60, you probably have little direct experience of Jackie “Moms” Mabley or remember seeing her on television. She could be seen mostly on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, maybe Laugh-In and various talk shows doing a toned-down version of her “blue” stage act. She was billed as “the funniest woman in the world” and was one of the first female stand-up comics, black or white, if not the very first. (Even Phyllis Diller claimed to be indebted to Moms Mabley.) I only really knew of her via seeing her albums in the comedy album cut-out bins of the late 1970s or hearing snippets of her stand-up on a long-running radio show called The Comedy Hour that used to air after The Dr. Demento Show back then. Her act was that of a straight-talking, dirty-minded, toothless old black lady who made jokes about chasing young men around. I had but a vague awareness of her at best, so I can be forgiven for assuming that her comic persona was something akin to the way she might be in real life, but exaggerated a bit, like say Minnie Pearl.
 

 

“Did you know I was on President Nixon’s enemies list? Yes darlin’, I told Tricia that if the Pilgrims had shot bobcats instead of turkeys for food, we’d be eating pussy for Thanksgiving.”

Nothing apparently could be further from the truth: The mismatched old lady clothes and the Gilligan hat merely clothed a character that Jackie Mabley had developed—and aged into—from the late 1920s onwards on the black vaudeville touring circuit, or the “Chitlin circuit” as it was called, including the big rooms of Harlem, like the Apollo Theater. “Moms” had a costume, the character’s “look” completed when she took her false teeth out. In real life Jackie Mabley was a proud and defiantly out butch black lesbian woman, at a time when the very concept of such a person would probably not have computed even to people who worked with her on a day-to-day basis. Offstage the dresses she claimed to buy from the S&H green stamps catalog were exchanged for the sort of smartly cut men’s suit that Janelle Monáe might favor. (She can be seen in a man’s suit in 1933’s Emperor Jones.)
 

 
Moms Mabley was one of the great 20th-century comedians, up there with any of them, although she’s little recalled today. She’s also someone who figures into the civil rights movement and the nascent gay liberation movement, too. (Even if few actually knew it at the time. It’s not like she was trying to hide her sexuality from the world, because she obviously wasn’t.)
 

 

“That man so old… he’s older than his birthday.”

As Goldberg states at the beginning of the doc, the reality is that not all that much is truly and factually known about Moms Mabley’s life. One can surmise certain things, or know what sort of money she made ($10,000 a week, which was a fortune then and not too bad by today’s standards either) or find posters of her on a bill at the Apollo and YouTube clips of her TV performances, but the details of her life are quite scarce and ephemeral at this point. Most people who would have known her or worked with her in her heyday would be long dead. Goldberg deserves thanks for rescuing this fascinating woman’s life story and helping restore her rightful place in comedy history, not to mention her role in helping white TV viewers and nightclub audiences of the 1960s to understand the POV of a wise old dirty-minded black woman. Had she been a few years younger, it’s easy to imagine Moms Mabley in a Norman Lear-produced sitcom of the ‘70s and as well-remembered today as say, Redd Foxx is, another risque black comic who was lucky enough, for posterity’s sake, to be born 26 years later.
 
Continues after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
(Way more than) Everything you always wanted to know about the Nazi Skinhead music scene


 
Today’s post is about the new book The White Nationalist Skinhead Movement: UK & USA, 1979 - 1993 released last month by Feral House publishing.
 

 
It should be noted that the use here of the term “Nazi Skinhead” is my own broad-brushstroke, informed by being at numerous ‘80s punk shows ruined by “White Nationalist Skinheads”—sometimes at the wrong end of a Doc Marten. This is not a term used by the authors of The White Nationalist Skinhead Movement to describe their subject.  Having just admitted my own bias on the topic of “Nazi Skinheads,” let me add that as a student of the history of youth subcultures and countercultures, I am endlessly fascinated, as a topic of study, by the Skinhead movement and its extreme right-wing offshoots.

When I first heard that Feral House was publishing the definitive guide to Nazi Skinhead history, my curiosity was piqued because I was fairly certain they would get it right. Feral House’s Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal is the go-to reference on the Satanic fascist Black Metal scene and is an absolutely compelling read. I was hoping for a similarly riveting examination of the White Power Skinhead scene.

Before going into where the book succeeds and fails, I feel the need to point out that the title, The White Nationalist Skinhead Movement: UK & USA, 1979 - 1993, may be a bit misleading. The book is more specifically a history of the “Rock Against Communism” (or RAC) music scene than an overview of Nationalist Skinheads as a political counterculture. Indeed, the original (more appropriate) title of an earlier self-published version of the book was When the Storm Breaks: Rock Against Communism 1979-1993.

It should also be noted that the majority of the enormous 610 page book is devoted to the British RAC scene. Only about 60 pages at the end of the book discuss the American RAC bands, and seems to be an added afterthought compared to the extremely well-researched history of the UK bands such as Skrewdriver, and Brutal Attack and their ilk. Actually “well-researched” is kind of an understatement. And that leads me to the pros and cons of The White Nationalist Skinhead Movement —which are mostly one in the same.
 

 
When an author goes about compiling information for the definitive history of a subject—particularly a subject they may have an affinity for—they are forced to decide between paring that knowledge down to a narrative which would make for a fascinating read to the novice, or sharing every shred for the like-minded obsessive seeking an authoritative reference. Authors Robert Forbes & Eddie Stampton took the latter route here. The wealth of information culled from interviews and historical records (mostly fanzines, naturally), would be a boon to those already immersed in the White Power music culture—not simply your basic Nazi Skinhead, but your Nazi Skinhead music über-nerd. If you are a member of this small target-audience, then you will likely find no fault with this weighty tome. If you happen to be taking all of this in as someone with a passing interest in the history of the Oi! music scene and its racist offshoots, then you are likely to become bored with plowing through the minutae of every RAC gig and band-member change. Because it’s ALL in there. I’ll be honest, this book was a struggle for me to make it through—simply because it was just TOO MUCH. Sure, it’s fascinating to see how the popularity of a group like Skrewdriver unfolded from their beginnings as an “apolitical” punk band, through line-up changes, to finally finding a rabid audience among White Power Nationalists; but entire portions of interviews with scenesters are reprinted describing “what it was like the first time I saw Skrewdriver,” when one or two pull quotes would have sufficed. The whole premise is bogged down under the weight of trying to include EVERYTHING.
 

 
The authors seem close to their subject matter. One of them perhaps too close for comfort, if you are the sort of person who is a stickler about giving your money to those who hold opposing ideologies to your own. According to this review of When the Storm Breaks, “Eddie Stampton is involved with the Nationalist movement, Robert Forbes writes from a neutral position, intrigued by the subject but not involved in the dogma.”

The end of the book contains the following disclaimer:

The political views expressed in this book may or may not necessarily be those of the authors. No hatred is aimed at any people or races mentioned within, however, for realism when relating to certain events or situations, the authors feel some quotes from others will need be entered into the text to make the mood or feelings of those at said events or situations as true as possible. The authors must stress their own aversion to any acts of hatred or violence towards others. This book is a historical commentary, nothing more and nothing less.

At the same time, the front of the book contains a “Rest in Peace” dedication to notable Nazi Skinheads, including Clive Sharp of No Remorse, Ian Stuart of Skrewdriver, and Nicky Crane (famously violent Skinhead who later came “out” as homosexual). Some may be bothered by the inclusion of such a dedication, while others will overlook it in the interest of having an authentic insight.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
‘Thomasine & Bushrod,’ the blaxploitation Western with music by Arthur Lee and Love


 
Thomasine & Bushrod is one of four movies Super Fly director Gordon Parks, Jr. (son of the director of Shaft) made before his death in a plane crash at the age of 44. Written by its leading man, Max Julien of Psych-Out and The Mack fame, the movie—often called the “black Bonnie and Clyde”—costarred Julien’s longtime girlfriend, the formidable Vonetta McGee. Julien had previously written Cleopatra Jones for McGee, who appeared in the contemporary genre pictures Blacula and Shaft in Africa, but after Warner Brothers cast Tamara Dobson in the title role, the couple undertook this collaboration, a revisionist Western in which two sexy fugitives deal out justice to despicable white sadists.

(Incidentally, this was not McGee’s first Western. A decade after Thomasine & Bushrod, Alex Cox cast McGee in Repo Man on the strength of her performance in “the greatest of all Italian westerns, Sergio Corbucci’s Il Grande Silenzio.”)
 

Love circa 1973
 
Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson’s score quotes the melody of the film’s lovely theme song by Arthur Lee of Love, first heard at the 29:20 mark. I assume Julien and Lee knew each other through Hollywood circles; all John Einarson’s Love biography Forever Changes has to say on the subject is that Lee sold Julien his house on Avenida del Sol in the Hollywood Hills before moving to Sherman Oaks in 1975. Lee’s “Thomasine & Bushrod” is now available as a bonus track on the CD edition of Black Beauty, the 1973 album recorded by an all-black lineup of Love that sat on the shelves until High Moon released it in 2012. This less-than-optimal-quality sound file is the only version on YouTube:
 
Arthur Lee, “Thomasine & Bushrod”:

 
As for the movie, you can now rent it for $2.99 (in SD) or $3.99 (HD) on Amazon or YouTube (embedded below). Lee’s song doesn’t play in full until the end credits. I hope the rattlesnake that bit McGee during filming got a taste of outlaw justice from Jomo’s pistols.
 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Ghetto Man ‘roasts’ the SuperHeroes, 1979
12.11.2015
11:14 am

Topics:
Race
Television

Tags:
Batman
DC Comics
Hanna-Barbera


 
Legends Of The SuperHeroes was the name given to two Hanna-Barbera-produced live action TV specials from the late 1970s. Batman’s Adam West and Burt Ward once again donned their capes and cowls (which fit a bit tighter by that time) for these lowbrow atrocities which were about on the same level as Donny & Marie and featured an obvious laugh track.
 

 
In the second special, “The Roast,” Ed McMahon himself served as the master of ceremonies while various lame insults were leveled at the chuckling, good-natured costumed do-gooders.

In this clip, uh… “Ghetto Man,” an, er… “inner-city,” “urban” superhero (who has the most shit super hero costume ever) tries to bring the funny and (for the most part) fails miserably. I did like the joke about how all superheroes look the same to him, though.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Judy Garland doing ‘blackface’ two years before ‘The Wizard of Oz’
12.04.2015
09:45 am

Topics:
Movies
Race

Tags:
Judy Garland


 
No, this is not Judy Garland auditioning for the part of “Crazy Eyes” in the original 1938 Orange is the New Black.

It’s amazing that this was not considered unusual in 1938. Two years before she became an immortal megastar with The Wizard Of Oz, Judy Garland performed in blackface in Everybody Sing. This is one of the many ways that Hollywood helped institutionalize racism and there she is, America’s sweetheart, dancing around like a nappy-headed Golliwog and singing goofy lyrics about Uncle Tom’s Cabin! (The year before this, Garland did a number in Babes in Arms as a light-skinned black girl complete with an entire blackface men’s chorus.)

As jaw-dropping as this is, Garland and other performers (like Al Jolson and Mickey Rooney) obviously weren’t conscious of how history would perceive this sort of thing. D.W. Griffiths’ controversial 1916 Birth of a Nation (original title The Clansman) is regarded today as much as an example of a historically significant silent film epic as it is a record of what beastly and commonly held attitudes towards blacks, slavery and the Civil War that Americans held and that Hollywood was portraying well into the 20th Century! (The Ku Klux Klan were the good guys in what is, adjusted for historical and present day monetary value, a film that’s only truly been bested at the box office by Titanic and Avatar.)

In 1938 blackface was still a completely acceptable theatrical convention. But today’s Hollywood knows exactly what it’s doing. Case in point: This year’s No Escape, a xenophobic gore fest starring Owen Wilson in which the bad guys are hordes of bloodthirsty generic Asians from an unnamed country (it’s Thailand). Anybody who isn’t white in No Escape is deadly, faceless and you know, simply brown-skinned. Racism still lives and thrives in Hollywood.
 

Owen Wilson and the Yellow Peril.
 
Coming soon: Adam Sandler’s Ridiculous Six, in which the terrifically unfunny “funnyman” pokes fun at Redskins. I really thought we had outgrown this kind of tone deaf bullshit. You can thank Netflix for bankrolling this turd. We’ll never know if this will be the box office bomb that most of Sandler’s films have been in recent years because Netflix doesn’t publicize any numbers, particularly when something fails.
 

Rob fucking Schneider finally gets a gig… as a Native American?!
 
In light of the recent events in Paris and San Bernadino County, I fully expect a glut of Hollywood movies in which Muslims will be brutally dispensed with as casually as those savage Injuns in the old cowboy movies. But why be surprised? We’re living in a nation where we award prizes to movies like Zero Dark Thirty, which was nothing more than CIA propaganda with a pro-torture agenda. We were meant to feel more for angsty CIA sadist Jessica Chastain than the innocent victims of waterboarding. None of whom, despite what the film would like you to believe, gave up Osama Bin Laden.

Yes, Hollywood is and always has been a useful propaganda tool. Hell, when the hippies started to make waves they killed off two of them in Easy Rider and a whole fucking commune in Joe. Damn peaceniks!
 

 
So yeah this Judy Garland clip is wildly racist—dig the post song scene—but have things really changed that much? I fully expect that the critically praised Beasts of No Nation will be celebrated and receive several awards this season. It’s a well-crafted film with some terrific performances. It’s also a shallow depiction of the brutal violence taking place in West Africa and virtually every African character in the film is a murdering sociopath. What drives the violence is never dealt with in any significant manner. Who cares about that? The movie’s main function seems to be violence for violence’s sake. “Things are hell in parts of Africa.” Period. End of fucking story. The last time I saw a film that depicted Africans as one homogeneous killing machine was Ridley Scott’s lamentable Black Hawk Down. At least the racism in Everybody Sing is out in the open. The new blackface is harder to see, but it’s there.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
‘Good… and long’: Blaxploitation ads for Winston cigarettes, 1970-1973


 
The term ‘Blaxploitation’ was coined by NAACP head/film publicist Junius Griffin in the early 1970s to describe the genre of African American action films that followed from the examples set by Cotton Comes to Harlem and Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, but the term certainly could have had other applications—racially targeted marketing that sought to move destructive commodities like malt liquor and menthol cigarettes to underclass populations has long been, and justifiably remains, a highly contentious matter, and is inarguably more literally exploitative than any “exploitation” film. Flashbak.com compiled a lode of eye-popping examples from a print campaign for Winston cigarettes.

After World War Two American tobacco companies started to explore new markets to maintain their not insubstantial prosperity. The growth in urban migration and the growing incomes of African Americans (called at the time the “emerging Negro market”) gave the tobacco companies what was sometimes called an “export market at home”. Additionally, a new kind of media started to appear after the war when several glossy monthly magazines including Negro Digest (1942, renamed Black World), Ebony (1945) and Negro Achievements (1947, renamed Sepia) began to be published.

These relatively expensively produced magazines were far more attractive to the tobacco advertisers than the cheap ‘negro’ daily newspapers of the pre-war era, with glossy pages and a far wider national distribution. The magazines meant for a purely African American audience also meant that advertisers could produce adverts aimed and featuring African Americans away from the eyes of white consumers.

 

“Rich.” “Long.” Got’cha. Wink wink.

The juxtaposition of aspirational fashion, rogue-ish male confidence, and burning cigarettes carries an unmistakable message so old it’s hardly worth spelling out. The longing looks from the women in the near-backgrounds aren’t terribly nuanced in their subtext, either. But all the problematics of death-dealing aside, these are objectively awesome photos, amazing snapshots of a time and place when African American culture was asserting a more prominent place in the US mainstream. Airbrush out the cigarettes (or don’t) and change the captions, and these would be amazing menswear ads, too.
 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
After Voter ID law—SURPRISE—Alabama closes DMV offices exactly where most black people live!
10.01.2015
12:39 pm

Topics:
Politics
Race

Tags:
racism
government


 
You remember in high school history, when the teacher brought up the old, bad days of Jim Crow? With tales of poll taxes and literacy tests to ensure that access to the ballot remained exclusive to white people?

We like to think that those days are gone, that the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s remedied the worst abuses of systematic white racism. After all, the current occupant of the White House is a descendant of Kenyans. It has to be better.

Right?

Well, no.

Those days aren’t gone. They aren’t gone at all.

Most readers are aware that the Republican Party, given to using to a race-baiting rhetoric of resentment that alienates many of the demographic categories required to gain office in many jurisdictions, has adopted a bullshit agenda to fix the scarcely existent problem of “voter fraud” to justify restrictions on voting that—what do you know!—just happen to benefit an electorate that is whiter, older, more affluent, etc.—in other words, more Republican. 

Since Republicans are having trouble winning elections, they are trying to reduce the voting population to the citizens that vote Republican. Nice trick, eh?

Cut to yesterday, when the website for the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency announced that it would be closing 31 of its offices throughout the state, leaving 29 counties without a place where teenagers can take a driver’s test. (For convenience, I’ll using the term “DMV” to stand for such offices.)

As it happens, in 2011 the Alabama state legislature passed a voter ID law as described above, making it impossible to vote in Alabama without a government-issued photo ID. For most Americans, of course, the most common form of government ID—by far—is a driver’s license.

From here, Alabama journalist Kyle Whitmire picks up the thread:
 

Look at the list of counties now where you can’t get a driver’s license. There’s Choctaw, Sumter, Hale, Greene, Perry, Wilcox, Lowndes, Butler, Crenshaw, Macon, Bullock ...

If you had to memorize all the Alabama Counties in 9th grade, like I did—and even if you forgot most of them, like I have—you can probably guess where we’re going with this.

Depending on which counties you count as being in Alabama’s Black Belt, either twelve or fifteen Black Belt counties soon won’t have a place to get a driver’s license.

 
Now, I’m going to be honest with you. When I read Whitmire’s article yesterday, I instantly became skeptical. It did not look, to me, that the overlap between the Black Belt and the affected, soon-to-be-non-DMV counties was that strong. After all, if you eliminate services in 29 counties, some of the counties are going to be in the Black Belt, that’s only fair and not necessarily an indication of shenanigans. In fact, to my eye, the map of the affected counties looked like it might be a fair distribution in geographical terms to spread the inconvenience around the state equally.

But I may have underestimated how devious the planners were.
 

 
I decided to crunch the numbers, with the help of the 2010 census results for Alabama, which of course have demographic data on race associated with each county. You can find that data here

What I found was extremely concerning, if you are troubled by the rise of a new Jim Crow.

Alabama has 67 counties. Of that set, 29 of them are going to find themselves without DMV services, while 38 counties will continue to have DMV offices. If you take the 29 counties that will not have DMV services, the average percentage of black population is 35.2%. For the other 38 counties, the ones that will still have local access to a DMV office, the average black population is considerably lower, at 22.2%.

I’m going to repeat that:
 

29 counties without DMV: 35.2% black
38 counties with DMV: 22.2% black

 
It gets worse.

Of the top 10 “blackest” counties in Alabama (Bullock, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lowndes, Macon, Montgomery, Perry, Sumter, Wilcox), fully 8 of them will no longer have a DMV. If you restrict the set to the 6 blackest counties (Bullock, Greene, Lowndes, Macon, Sumter, Wilcox), none of them—repeat, none of them—are going to have a DMV office.

Meanwhile, of the top 10 whitest counties in Alabama (Blount, Cherokee, Cleburne, Cullman, DeKalb, Franklin, Jackson, Marion, Marshall, Winston), only 4 will be deprived of a DMV office. For the more restricted set of the 5 whitest counties (Blount, Cullman, DeKalb, Marshall, Winston), only 1 will have its DMV office taken away.

As I indicated, I didn’t want to take some journalist’s word that there were electoral shenanigans going on (although in principle I was perfectly willing to believe that such things do happen, of course). But a quick look at the numbers does suggest that some nefarious things are going on with the closing of these drivers’ license agencies.

If you are the powerful interests in a state, and you cannot win elections legitimately, then you will find illegitimate ways to win elections. Such shenanigans are legion, and almost always concentrated among conservative interests. My favorite for sheer dickishness are the myriads of leaflets that get distributed in impoverished and minority-heavy locations that helpfully remind citizens “to vote this Wednesday!”—i.e. one day AFTER Election Day, or the ones in the same neighborhoods that imply that outstanding parking tickets may cause one to be ineligible to vote—which of course is nonsense.

Remember, nowadays, whenever you hear of anyone complaining about voter fraud, they’re actually trying to deprive Democratic voters and minorities and lower-income people of their right to vote. And when you hear about the closing of driver’s license offices, it’s likely that there is some connection with VoterID laws that require a driver’s license to cast a ballot.

After the jump, helpful maps and demographic data so that you can crunch the same numbers yourself!

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Provocative photos show Flemish traditional costumes worn by men and women of color
09.16.2015
10:46 am

Topics:
Art
Race

Tags:
Maxine Helfman
Flemish art


 
For anyone who has spent much time in museums gazing at canvas after canvas of pasty and wealthy snoots from the Low Countries, Maxine Helfman’s “Historical Correction” series of photographs is likely to seem a breath of fresh air. Helfman, who is a white woman in her early sixties and has always adored Flemish portraiture of the 1400-1700 period, started thinking about the people who never qualified for inclusion in the works of Jacob van Utrecht and Bernard van Orley. So, in her series of photographs, Helfman has replaced the faces of those pasty Flemish nobles with those of modern men and women of color.

The power relations inherent in 1542 Flanders, with white Europeans plundering the globe for resources, land, labor—things aren’t so different today, Helfman’s portraits seem to say. Why do these stately portraits seem odd? Do they seem odd? Why aren’t we used to that? The most powerful man on the planet is the direct (and recent) descendant of a Kenyan citizen, and yet that template doesn’t seem likely to recapitulate itself in the future. (And the senseless tragedies of Ferguson, Staten Island, Baltimore, Cleveland still ring in our ears.)

To the Huffington Post Helfman commented, “My intention is to produce bodies of work that look at history and issues of inequality. ... My projects are always shot from a point of respect for my subjects.” In other recent projects, Helfman has worked with black women posing as geishas and boys wearing dresses as a way of fucking with our expectations regarding identity.

Helfman’s fictional narratives provide a different view on history and culture. By blending subjects of color from today with the inescapably classist modes of expression from the distant past, she implies that disentangling race and class might not be possible at the present time. This is not an irreverent project, commented Helfman to CNN. “I never want to create something that’s tongue-in-cheek because that defeats the purpose. ... It’s disrespectful to the [statement] I’m trying to make.” 

And of course, it’s not the final word, by any stretch: “All of my projects begin with that concept,” she says. “It is the conversation that is generated that is fascinating … positive and negative.”
 

Yelrah
 

Esales
 
More “Historical Corrections” after the jump…...

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