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Grace Slick’s insane and mercifully short-lived blackface phase
04.29.2015
07:48 am

Topics:
Music
Race

Tags:
Grace Slick
Smothers Brothers
blackface


 
The values dissonance all over this is staggering: in 1968, the Jefferson Airplane appeared on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour to sing the title song from their then-new album Crown of Creation. For this appearance, the band’s almost totally uninhibited singer/provocateur Grace Slick sang in blackface and ended the performance with a black power salute.
 

 

 
Slick maintained that the gesture was one of solidarity with either the Black Power Movement generally or Angela Davis specifically (online sources differ, and the difference is sufficiently moot that I don’t care to spend all day Encyclopedia Browning so fine a point), but I can’t imagine how anyone could think that the intent of solidarity could possibly trump the massively offensive history of minstrelsy ineradicably attached to blackface performance. But it could have been just a blip if Slick hadn’t doubled down, appearing on the January 1969 cover of Teenset magazine in blackface. Giving a black power salute. (Irony abounds in that mag: other articles in the same issue include “Jimi Hendrix, Black Power, and Money,” and an editorial by Pat Paulsen about censorship on The Smothers Brothers’ Comedy Hour.) In an article titled “Grace Slick is an Attention-Getting Device,” Slick claimed to have had “about forty different reasons” for the stunt, but specified six of them. Hold on to your hats, people:

1. “If you listen to the words of ‘Crown of Creation,’ think about a spade singing it. It makes a lot of sense.”

2. “Women wear makeup all the time, so why not black? Next time maybe I’ll wear green. Makeup is pretty silly anyway…”

3. “I did it because it was a trip; it’s weird to have blue eyes and a black face.”

4. “The whole thing started when I was watching TV and someone said that blacks look better on television in closeups, so I wandered around the house wearing blackface and flashing on myself in the mirror. Perhaps a bored socialite can do the same thing and go shopping in blackface and maybe pick up some bargains.”

5. “There weren’t any blacks on the show and the quota needed a little readjustment.”

6. “I knew nearly everybody would object to it.”


I get that this, like the original stunt, was a youthful acid-head’s deliberate exercise in provocative audacity. And I’m not posting about this to harp on someone’s decades-old misstep, but because the implications and associations all over this are fascinating to me. But I can’t shake that not-even-a-thing drop of a racial slur in the very first list item. But then I consider the appalling R. Crumb character “Angelfood McSpade,” and I wonder just how prevalent WAS such casual racism in the ‘60s counterculture? Or was “spade” somehow considered OK then? In the wake of the Civil Rights Movement? I can’t even imagine, but then, I wasn’t born until 1970 and was never a hippie, so what do I know? If we’re to believe this was an expression of solidarity—and apart from what seems today like shocking tone-deafness, there’s little reason to believe it wasn’t one, the Jefferson Airplane’s radicalism wasn’t posturing—then the slur would seem way out of bounds. Like I said right up front, values dissonance all over this. But after that issue of Teenset, perhaps realizing she wasn’t doing anyone any favors, Slick seems to have let the blackface stunt drop and went back to being more productively badass. Until Jefferson Starship…

After the jump, the controversial performances of “Crown of Creation” and “Lather”...

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Watch what happened the day Malcolm X was assassinated in Ken Jacobs’ ‘Perfect Film’
04.21.2015
04:22 pm

Topics:
History
Movies
Race

Tags:
Malcolm X
Ken Jacobs


 
The capricious career of experimental filmmaker Ken Jacobs has produced a lot of inscrutable cinema. His best known movie is Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son from 1969 and it’s the sort of avant-garde project that is probably best experienced on drugs. Jacobs re-cut and altered part of a 1905 silent film, at points actually filming projections of the film so the viewer is watching a movie of a movie. It’s all very meta I suppose, but it goes on for 115 minutes, and the novelty wears down to crushing boredom after the first ten. His 1986 project, Perfect Film, was a far less avant-garde—and far more watchable and entertaining—use of found footage.

Of course, this is probably because Jacobs’ source material was way more interesting. Perfect Film consists of footage and interviews from the day of Malcolm X’s assassination, including an off-the-clock journalist who actually witnessed the shooting, a local Harlem man, a besuited police investigator and clips of Malcolm himself just prior to his death. It’s really an unnarrated documentary composed entirely of unedited raw footage, and it’s compelling as a historical artifact (rather than art), just as Jacobs intended. He explained his decision not to edit thusly:

I wish more stuff was available in its raw state, as primary source material for anyone to consider, and to leave for others in just that way, the evidence uncontaminated by compulsive proprietary misapplied artistry, “editing”, the purposeful “pointing things out” that cuts a road straight and narrow through the cine-jungle; we barrel through thinking we’re going somewhere and miss it all. Better to just be pointed to the territory, to put in time exploring, roughing it, on our own. For the straight scoop we need the whole scoop, or no less than the clues entire and without rearrangement. O, for a Museum of Found Footage, or cable channel, library, a shit-museum of telling discards accessible to all talented viewers/auditors. A wilderness haven salvaged from Entertainment.

Perfect Film was actually released in 1986, well before the modern Internet and its tendency to catalog a de facto media archive. At 81 years of age, Jacobs is still kicking—perhaps pleased to witness this dream take shape.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Ansel Adams’ photos of a Japanese internment camp are beautiful, yet disturbing
04.14.2015
07:06 am

Topics:
History
Race

Tags:
WWII
Japanese internment
Ansel Adams


Ryie Yoshizawa, center, teaching a class on dressmaking
 
The relocation and internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War 2 is one of the more baffling atrocities committed by the U.S. government. Not only was it relatively recent, two thirds of the detainees were U.S. citizens, and this was all done on U.S. soil. In addition to the sheer Big Brother terror of such a massive abuse of human rights, internment wasn’t even dealt out consistently. The government did not, for example, feel the same impulse to throw actual American Nazis into a camp—maybe because they already had camps of their own? Or maybe it’s because Germans are generally white, and governments are historically more sympathetic to the populations that most physically resemble their ruling class? (Nahhhh…)

At any rate, some beautiful and strange records of detainment exist, including Ansel Adams’ beatific photographs of Manzanar War Relocation Center in California. Adams openly sympathized with the Japanese, including many of the photos in his ironically titled book, Born Free and Equal.The book had limited circulation, likely due to reactionary, racist wartime sentiment, but Adams held fast on his principles, saying:

The purpose of my work was to show how these people, suffering under a great injustice, and loss of property, businesses and professions, had overcome the sense of defeat and dispair [sic] by building for themselves a vital community in an arid (but magnificent) environment.

You’ll notice Manzanar had a lot of resources—the volunteers who helped build the camp were actually the first interned. At its most populous, it had 10,046 inhabitants, and it was a bustling, organized community—of sorts. Although Adams’ work focuses on how people at Manzanar seemed to thrive, the conditions were awful. Families were cramped into tiny “apartments” divided from larger buildings—the partitions between “rooms” didn’t reach the ceiling, so privacy was unthinkable. The latrine was coed, with no partitions between toilets or shower stalls. The rickety buildings did very little to protect detainees from scorching summers, freezing nights and winters, and the dry, violent winds that coated them in desert dust while they slept.
 

 

 

Painter C.T. Hibino.
 

 

Many of the detained were actually decorated members of the military, like Corporal Jimmy Shohara.
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
The actual Ku Klux Klan application form
04.10.2015
10:22 am

Topics:
Belief
Crime
Race

Tags:
terrorism
Ku Klux Klan
white supremacy


 
The Ku Klux Klan are America’s leading terrorist organization—there isn’t really much competition, it wins that contest by a wide margin. If you want a quick ‘n’ easy way to find out everything about the darker side of our country’s history, you really can’t beat a tour of the KKK, and if you have any real problem with my description of the KKK as a terrorist organization, you need to go read any random four pages of Eric Foner’s Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877.

Rebecca Onion at Slate posted this incredible find yesterday—it’s an application to the Ku Klux Klan from (most likely) 1921. The KKK’s status as America’s foremost secret organization obscures the fact that in the early decades of the twentieth century, the Klan was almost respectable—it was the second resurgence of the group, the first obviously coming right after the Civil War (the third would come during the Civil Rights Era). Bolstering the theory that this application derives from 1921, we have this chunk of text from Wikipedia:

Starting in 1921, it adopted a modern business system of recruiting (which paid most of the initiation fee and costume charges as commissions to the organizers) and grew rapidly nationwide at a time of prosperity. Reflecting the social tensions of urban industrialization and vastly increased immigration, its membership grew most rapidly in cities, and spread out of the South to the Midwest and West. The second KKK preached “One Hundred Percent Americanism” and demanded the purification of politics, calling for strict morality and better enforcement of prohibition. Its official rhetoric focused on the threat of the Catholic Church, using anti-Catholicism and nativism. Its appeal was directed exclusively at white Protestants. Some local groups took part in attacks on private houses and carried out other violent activities. The violent episodes were generally in the South.

According to the same page, by 1924 the enrollment of the KKK had risen to nearly six million from almost nothing. Just a few years earlier, D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, which extolled the KKK, had become the world’s first monster box office hit; President Woodrow Wilson famously described it as follows: “It is like writing history with lightning, and my only regret is that it is all so terribly true.” Baseball fans interested in history get upset about supposed racist Ty Cobb while generally ignoring the KKK membership of Hall of Famers Tris Speaker (allegedly) and Rogers Hornsby. The point here is that KKK membership in the 1920s was not incompatible with being one of the most famous athletes in the country. In his book The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, James notes:
 

The KKK in the 1920’s had a populist phase in which it toned down its racism, and drew in hundreds of thousands of men who were not racists, including Hugo Black. When Larry Doby broke the color line in the American League, Speaker was strongly on his side, worked with him daily in the outfield, encouraged and supported him, and was remembered by Doby in his Hall of Fame induction speech…

 
Doby’s speech, by the way, is here. That, more than anything, explains the semi-official and semi-innocuous tone of this document. If not for the content, the form is in many ways indistinguishable from the kind of information HR’s gonna need for you to start getting a weekly paycheck for your cubicle job. Of course, at the same time, simply reading the questions will tell you pretty much everything you need to know about the Ku Klux Klan.

Here are the questions:
 

1. Is the motive prompting your inquiry serious?
2. What is your age?
3. What is your occupation?
4. Where were you born?
5. How long have you resided in your present locality?
6. Are you married, single or widower?
7. Were your parents born in the United States of America?
8. Are you a gentile or a jew?
9. Are you of the white race or of a colored race?
10. What educational advantages have you?
11. Color of eyes? Hair? Weight?
12. Do you believe in the principles of a PURE Americanism?
13. Do you believe in White Supremacy?
14. What is your politics?
15. What is your religious faith?
16. Of what church are you a member (if any)
17. Of what religious faith are your parents?
18. What secret, fraternal orders are you a member of (if any)?
19. Do you honestly believe in the practice of REAL fraternity?
20. Do you owe ANY KIND of allegiance to any foreign nation, government, institution, sect, people, ruler or person?

 
This is a weird thing to confess, but I was always a good test-taker in school, and as I read through this list I find myself idiotically looking for the smoking gun question that will disqualify me. “Aw, shoot! My mom was born in Austria, was half-Jewish and a socialist! Darn! Just missed!”

Here’s the application itself—note that clicking on the image will let you read a larger version.
 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Elvis Costello’s daddy writes to Rolling Stone insisting his son is not racist
04.07.2015
02:24 pm

Topics:
Punk
Race

Tags:
Elvis Costello


 
June 14, 1979: trumpet player Ross MacManus, father to Declan Patrick MacManus—better known to his fans as Elvis Costello—defends his poor, persecuted son against charges of racism in a letter to Rolling Stone that they actually published. In case you’re wondering, this was after Elvis got punched in the face by Bonnie Bramlett at a Holiday Inn bar in Columbus, Ohio for calling James Brown a “jive-ass n*gger” and Ray Charles a “blind, ignorant n*gger”. Macmanus the elder was apparently either unaware of the incident, or preferred to ignore it, defending only Elvis’ use of the phase “white n*gger” in “Oliver’s Army.”

For his part in that little incident, Elvis didn’t really apologize, saying he was drunk, and that “it became necessary for me to outrage these people with the most offensive and obnoxious remarks I could muster to bring the argument to a swift conclusion and rid myself of their presence.” (Sure dude, whatever.)

Now I’m not sure if Elvis Costello ever actually held racist views, or if he was just being a snotty-ass, petulant, drunk little shit who thought it subversive to use racial slurs—though I don’t really care because I don’t expect Elvis Costello to be smart or politically sophisticated, I just want to hear “Pump it Up”. I do find it hilarious that a nearly 25-year-old man has his daddy writing lame apologias for him to Rolling Stone…

FIRST OF ALL, MAY I thank you for the review of my son’s LP (“Elvis Costello in Love and Way” RS 287). It is the most perspicacious of all the reviews in any paper (and I have the cartoon of “El” framed on my wall!). “Oliver’s Army” is an important track for me, and your reviewer, Janet Maslin, so quickly picked up on the “white n*gger” significance. My grandfather was an Ulster Catholic, and as a child, I lived in an area where bigotry was rife. So we are those white n*ggers.

This brings me to the disturbing reports that I have seen branding Elvis Costello as a racist. Nothing could be further from the truth. My own background has meant that I am passionately opposed to any form of prejudice based on religion or race. And El’s mother and I were both branded as hotheads and Marxists or anarchists.

So you can see that we don’t have any chic, white liberal attitudes (and El has publicly despised the latter many times). This is the water that Elvis has been born and bred in, and he swims in it as naturally as a goldfish. His mother comes from the tough multiracial area of Liverpool, and I think she would still beat the tar out of him if his orthodoxy were in doubt.

Ross MACMANUS
Twickanham, England

 
Via ROCKCRITICS.COM

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
There is an all-Jewish Skrewdriver cover band called ‘Jewdriver’
03.30.2015
02:39 pm

Topics:
Punk
Race

Tags:
nazis
Oi
Skrewdriver


 
Aside from actual Nazi skinheads (and those petulant, “ironic” listeners who fancy themselves “edgy”), Skrewdriver presents one of the more divisive ethical conundrums in punk. There are those who abstain entirely from their music, arguing that even their pre-Nazi album is tainted by an eventual embrace of fascism, there are fans who maintain that all non-Nazi material is fair game, and there is the camp who argues that—providing you’re not actually putting cash in Nazi pockets—no art should be off-limits. I tend to agree with the third philosophy, and while I don’t really listen to Skrewdriver anyway (and certainly wouldn’t crank it outside the privacy of my own home), I don’t see how critically listening to Nazi punk is any more an endorsement of Nazism than listening to Wagner is (though it’s a bit of a moot point anyway, since unlike Wagner, Nazi punk pretty much all sucks, and isn’t really worth listening to for anything other than educational purposes or curiosity).
 

 
But what if you’re really, really in the mood for the infectious meathead Oi! that only Skrewdriver provides, minus the revolting white nationalism? Enter Jewdriver, an all-Jewish Skrewdriver cover band—sort of. The brainchild of 90s Oakland punks, Skrewdriver was formed with the express purpose of ripping off Nazi licks while ridiculing Nazi dicks, with songs like “Hail the Jew Dawn"and “Our Blame is Goyim Glee”, the band mimics Skrewdriver’s sound really well. They’ve had a few line-ups over the years, but they keep popping up for the odd show—they even have a following in Germany (these days, the country tends toward a certain redemptive Judeophilia, embracing all things of “the Tribe”)! It can be hard to find their records, but you can hear their EP below.
 

 
As far as I’m concerned, Jewdriver is a win-win. First of all, you can’t really understand most of Skrewdriver’s lyrics anyway, so it’s not like you’re distracted by parody kitsch (thought the odd joke about circumcision does bring a smile to one’s face). Also, you can now listen to a reasonable facsimile of Skrewdriver in public! Most importantly though, the band probably really pisses off some Nazis, and isn’t that a valiant pursuit in its own right?
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
‘Separate Cinema’: Unsettling and gorgeous posters from the age of segregated movies
03.20.2015
11:16 am

Topics:
Advertising
Movies
Race

Tags:
posters
segregation


Birthright, 1939. A black Harvard graduate confronts racism.
 
The images on this page come from a remarkable book that came out late last year, Separate Cinema: The First 100 Years of Black Poster Art, by John Duke Kisch; it’s an incredibly wide-ranging look at the posters of “black cinema” writ large, a category that includes not just the “race films” shown here but also Birth of a Nation, earnest Hollywood dramas, The Jazz Singer, Blaxploitation flicks, South African movies addressing apartheid, breakdancing movies from the 1980s, and much more. The book’s credibility couldn’t be greater, insofar as Henry Louis Gates Jr. supplies the foreword and Spike Lee the afterword.

The posters depicted here tell a tale of true segregation, a “separate but equal” industry, so to speak, that served up gripping melodramas to its chosen audience just as surely as Warner Bros. did for white audiences. The undisputed master of this period is Oscar Micheaux, who directed a couple of these movies. By Kisch’s lights “the most successful early black independent film producer and director,” Micheaux was the son of a Kentucky slave before working as a railway porter and homesteader; around World War I he started directing and producing movies, of which he directed more than 40 before he was done. Kisch describes his basic formula as follows:
 

Micheaux’s features were usually far superior to those made by other independent black studios, largely because he took a familiar Hollywood genre and gave it a distinctive African-American slant. Committed to “racial uplift,” he cast black characters in non-stereotypical roles, as farmers, oil men, explorers, professors, Broadway producers, or Secret Service agents.  … He brought to the screen diverse social issues that faced black America, and also portrayed an ideal world in which blacks were affluent, educated, and cultured. In the 1930s, his films represented a radical departure from Hollywood’s portrayal of African Americans as jesters and servants.

 
In our age, posters like this are simultaneously dazzling and upsetting, almost as taboo as the interracial drama The Exile (below) was in its day. Underlying so much of the rhetoric surrounding the racial situation in America is the understanding that all those bad things belonged to and are limited to the past; the horrors of Ferguson, Staten Island, Cleveland in 2014 showed everyone that no such assumptions are safe—even as Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave (it’s included in the book too) both harks back to these unsettling movies and signals the potential for lasting change. 
 

Bosambo, 1935. British District Officer in Nigeria in the 1930’s rules his area strictly but justly, and struggles with gun-runners and slavers with the aid of a loyal native chief.
 

Black Gold, 1928. A town abandons its previous ways of life for the glamour and drama of the oil drilling trade.
 

The Flying Ace, 1926. A veteran World War I fighter pilot returns home a war hero and immediately regains his former job as a railroad company detective.
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Vincent Price has some thoughts on racial prejudice and religious hatred
03.20.2015
07:09 am

Topics:
Heroes
Race

Tags:
Vincent Price


 
As if anyone needed any further proof of the ultimate badassery of Vincent Price…

In this crucial speech from the conclusion of the “Author Of Murder” episode of The Saint, which aired on NBC Radio on July 30, 1950,  Price lays out his feelings on prejudice being antithetical to a free society. Price denounces racial and religious intolerance as a “poison” which fuels support for the nation’s enemies. These are powerful words for 1950, but just as important, necessary, and applicable today.

And, of course, Price’s delivery always guarantees chills.

Ladies and gentlemen, poison doesn’t always come in bottles. And it isn’t always marked with the skull and crossbones of danger. Poison can take the form of words and phrases and acts: the venom of racial and religious hatred. Here in the United States, perhaps more than ever before, we must learn to recognize the poison of prejudice and to discover the antidote to its dangerous effects. Evidences of racial and religious hatred in our country place a potent weapon in the hands of our enemies, providing them with the ammunition of criticism. Moreover, group hatred menaces the entire fabric of democratic life. As for the antidote: you can fight prejudice, first by recognizing it for what it is, and second by actively accepting or rejecting people on their individual worth, and by speaking up against prejudice and for understanding. Remember, freedom and prejudice can’t exist side by side. If you choose freedom, fight prejudice.

From the original broadcast:
 

 
From: The Vortex of Our Minds

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
White supremacist heavy metal murderer’s secret to picking up white chicks


Varg in his younger days.

Unless you’re a big Burzum or Mayhem fan, probably the only context you have for Varg Vikernes is that he’s that one Norwegian black metal dude who murdered that other Norwegian black metal dude and then became a white supremacist—and you’d be right! But with all the murders and church burnings and virulent racism (and possible attempted terrorism) that surround such a polymath of a man, it’s easy to forget that Varg is first and foremost a romantic at heart… but like, a really, really racist one.

Vikernes regularly communicates with his fans via video and blog, but black metal neo-Nazis have more on their minds just than heavy tones and the Zionist conspiracy—namely, they want some o’ dat fine white Aryan tail! In what appears to be a car with his kids in the back, Vikernes reveals the key to winning your very own alabaster bride—be a hero! Chicks love that shit! And remember, the fitness of the race is on the line here!
 

Present day Varg, with the little woman…

So let’s not forget ol’ Varg’s partner in whiteness, Marie Cachet. She has also written on the subject. From her blog post/polemic, “The Role of Women”:

It is terrible to see some “pro-white” defending the fact that the white woman is first and foremost a free woman, and that she has the right to go around half-naked in the street if she wants. This is not why we fight, this is not freedom. We are not fighting for what they call “progress” we are fighting to save the heart of our forebears.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Young, Black and Victorian: Wonderful photographs of Victorian women of color
03.09.2015
11:29 am

Topics:
History
Race

Tags:
Victorian


 
Here are some photographs of Victorian women of color that date from 1860 to 1901. Unfortunately, a lot of these photographs have no names attached to the women posed in the photographs.

I’d love to know the stories behind each photo. What each woman’s life was like. Sadly, we’ll probably never know.

According to the website Downtown LA Life:

Photos of Women of Color from this era are hard to come by, especially “family” photographs.
~
A couple of these photos were taken when there was still slavery in the United States.


 

 

Aida Overton Walker
 

 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
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