Of Despising the Minstrel

Listen Siblings, I come in peace,

“The events which transpired five thousand years ago; Five years ago or five minutes ago, have determined what will happen five minutes from now; five years From now or five thousand years from now. All history is a current event.” – Dr. John Henrik Clarke

A Minstrel Show was a theatre show during slavery until segregation which featured Black actors in Blackface playing the part of Black fools for Europeans. This has been most all Black entertainment in America since. It’s no longer in Blackface but it’s also no longer in the theatre. From our sitcoms down to our music, our entertainment continues to reflect and inspire self-hatred. All the while we as a people, even during slavery, are notable patrons. We need to consider whether we should despise not only minstrel shows but the minstrels.  Today it seems that we love both.

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Of Despising the Minstrel
By Onitaset Kumat

Em Hotep Siblings,

The quest for knowledge is the quest for instruction.

From page 168 to 172 of “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander, the sub-chapters “The Minstrel Show” and “The Antidote” deal with addressing “the cruel hand” dealt to Africans in America.  The sub-chapters begin with retelling ‘gangsta culture’ in the broader context of minstrel shows and in the middle suggests how typically people of any race do not hate the minstrels despite disliking the minstrel show.  This latter opinion, following her otherwise superb analysis, produces a misgiving that we Africans ought address: namely, ought we despise the minstrels?

The retelling of gangsta culture in the context of the minstrel show has a profundity unusual to mainstream appeals.  As minstrel shows involved Africans in America covering up in pitch-black paint, covering their mouths with white paint in a clownish manner and prancing and posturing for a White audience; gangsta rappers adopt “pitch-’Black’” personalities and speak clownishly for Whites as the rappers prance and posture for a European audience.  Further as Africans in Jim Crow may have seen minstrels as ‘successes,’ so too do Africans in “The New Jim Crow” see gangsta rappers as successes.  “The more things change . . ..”

However one important point ought be interjected.  Though some entertainers are dignified in the U.S., most all mainstream entertainers are ‘minstrels’ even from the era prior to ‘gangsta rap.’  Entertainment by and large is something funded by Europeans for Europeans and insofar as Anti-Kemetism, as Dr. Jeffries would call it, is unaddressed, there isn’t truly any dignified “mainstream” African entertainers in the Western World.  Certainly there are exceptional songs: “Say it loud!”, “Young, Gifted and Black,” “The Black National Anthem” et al. but the music that Africans produce for themselves are different from the music they produce for Europeans (compare Negro spirituals and modern gospel) and most music is produced for Europeans.  Moreover, the positive messages for Africans require a scholarship atypical among even African professors let alone musicians.  There are exceptions: Rass Kass’s “Nature of the Threat” and KRS-One’s “You must Learn” but exceptions do not make rules.  Certainly, one should not conflate ‘gangsta rappers’ with our golden age singers, but art that doesn’t address the ethical yearnings of a people, but merely reflect the times in a way comfortable and comforting to oppressors and the oppressed is a form parallel to the minstrels of yore.

That out of the way, with Africans in America bearing a terrible affliction of self-hate and an unrelenting untold suspicion of inferiority, ought one despise the minstrel?  If we look upon the question through the lens of ethics rather than from a stance of ‘pity’ then it behooves us to feel toward this ‘artist’ hatred.  After all, what is the minstrel but a liar who lies for personal financial gain at the expense of a suffering, beat down people?  Just imagine the nerve of some Africans to, during a time of slavery, segregation and lynching, seek profit from dismissing the pains of their ancestors and ridiculing their friends, family, community and self.  And of course, this doesn’t stop with literal minstrels.  Music artists of today absorb themselves in the misogyny, violence and degradation of European culture: artists like Beyonce literally expose themselves while Europeans, as from the barrels of unemployment to the leader of the IMF, rape and assault African women under a sense of entitlement.  How dare they?  Yet we Africans, like we did one-hundred years ago, sit back, applaud and patronize.  Ought we despise the minstrel?  Yes.  Ought we despise modern mainstream entertainment?  More so!  But this is an unpopular viewpoint.

Such is the matter of despising the minstrel,

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13 thoughts on “Of Despising the Minstrel

  1. Zipporah

    I hate the new minstrely coon-c/rap shows, where they look androgynous; guys with pierced ears,platts and putting us black women down. BTW I just remembered when i seen the saggy pants look last (before in mainstreamed) –you have to be at least 50+ to remember: a small child in cloth diapers full of caca; back then they used safety pins and plastic pants and some older children under 10 couldnt change them, so they sagged there pants: but since the oldest PAMPERS babies are at least 42 (1969) few people remember…..

    Reply
    1. Onitaset Post author

      “Then we define a “non-corrupted culture,” or “pure culture” to be “those mannerisms that represent a continuity from ancestor to descendant.””[1]

      I thank you for your wisdom Zipporah. You are rich in culture, but without our own governing structures (politics), you represent the case of culture without politics. “the [ . . ] driftless historians; as African people, we are all too familiar with African people with storehouses of knowledge and no [official] positions in the community.”[2]

      In J.A. Rogers’ “From Superman to Man,” it’s revealed that Africans of his generation called one another the n-word; yet today’s youth use the same wording as their grandparents and it’s seen as a novelty.

      If anything, we do not see the African’s culture in saggin’ (which is backward for “ni . . .) but European and Asian culture, wherein, with our poor memory of both the ancient and the recent, we continually fall into their depraved fetishes. Fetishes they constructed to prey upon the African woman.[3][4] Lo, it is spoken “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” I promote the African Blood Siblings as a means that we no longer plan to fail. This European and this Asian are continually our predators; Maroon and Build For Self.[5]

      Hotep (Peace)!
      And Thank you for your wisdom,

      [1] https://africanbloodsiblings.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/dialogue-one-of-five-on-race-culture-defined/
      [2] https://africanbloodsiblings.wordpress.com/join/the-trinity-of-liberation/
      [3] https://africanbloodsiblings.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/the-allegory-of-the-three-salesman/
      [4]https://africanbloodsiblings.wordpress.com/2012/02/12/the-effeminization-of-the-black-male/
      [5] https://africanbloodsiblings.wordpress.com/book-maroon-and-build-for-self/

      Reply
    2. sittinducks

      Don’t forget Pony tails and Afro-Puffs. It is worth noting that these minstrel shows didn’t start until BET became White owned. Before that, BET was about news occurring in the entire Black diaspora, reported to us on the hour. There were forums for discussion. Two that I remember were Tavis Smiley and Tony Brown.
      It’s funny you mentioned the saggy pants look and baby pants sagging when cloth diapers were used with safety pins. I have often thought the saggy pants look copied by the young boys and men, looked like babies and toddlers. In the video I notice Ludacris reverted back to the cloth and safety pins diaper.

      Reply
      1. Onitaset Post author

        “Knowledge” is not the end goal. Neither is “Being.” But “Completing” oneself.

        This is why the Instructions of Life are “Know Thyself, Be Thyself, Complete Thyself.”

        One is only down a third of Life’s Journey with only Knowledge of Self.

        You must Know yourself as “Loving, Knowledgeable and Wise,” but then you must “Be” that Loving, Knowledgeable and Wise African.

        The ancestors said it this way,

        “By knowing one reaches belief. By doing one gains conviction. When you know, dare.”

        https://africanbloodsiblings.wordpress.com/2012/02/04/kmt-self-knowledge-and-cosmic-wisdom-quotations/

        What do you mean by “Amen O(M)-tep (“,)?”

  2. TorontoGirl

    That’s true, music changed as it became more famous…it explains a lot when I found out many black shows were writen by wm, explains why they act so “exaggerated” and stereotype themselves…compare Fresh Prince of Bel-Air writen by a wm, who ironically had Will calling Carlton “white” for being smart and had an exaggerated “ghetto black” personality to The Cosby Show. Like I always something was funny about how Will acted, it was a little too much sometimes…but I loved both shows either way.

    Reply
    1. TorontoGirl

      I started realizing as many of my black friends didn’t listen to much modern rap music anymore that it was mostly the non-blacks who loved rap music (I go to an international school and that’s all you hear in the hallways). That’s when I realized rap music wasn’t made for blacks either, I mean only a stupid white kid or non-black would believe these rappers were actually thugs, I mean “started from the bottom now we’re here” -Drake. The guy used to live in a mansion in a rich Jewish neighbourhood. What bottom? And most of these white boys say that Lil’ Wayne is their favourite rappers…yet when u ask black boys I know it’s another story…this is how they view blacks, this is how they think we act. That’s why they think “black ppl say the n-word, why can’t WP?” No one I know goes around saying the n-word like that, unless it’s in one of these rap songs…smh, I just knew something was wrong…

      Reply
      1. Onitaset Post author

        Kandake (Warrior Queen-Mother),

        “By the time the fool has learned the game, the players have dispersed” — African Proverb

        Before we realize we should turn off the television, we already disrespected our next generation.

    2. Onitaset Post author

      Kandake (Warrior Queen-Mother),

      “There has never been a white historian who ever wrote with any true love or feeling for the Negro.” — Marcus Garvey

      The Cosby Show may not have had a Black writing staff; rather Cosby may have been the only Black writer on a White staff. I personally found neither show good, because neither really exemplify the African family–only the Europeanized family.

      See: https://africanbloodsiblings.wordpress.com/2012/09/27/an-african-literary-family/

      https://africanbloodsiblings.wordpress.com/2012/07/25/what-is-parenting/

      Reply
      1. Onitaset Post author

        Kandake (Warrior Queen-Mother),

        “Man must learn to increase his sense of responsibility and of the fact that everything he does will have its consequences.” — African Proverb

        Even the basic family unit was off. The family was European-styled (Patrilineal): Mother, Father and kids; as opposed to African-styled (Matrilineal): Mother, Father, Uncle, Aunts and Kids.

        See:

        https://africanbloodsiblings.wordpress.com/2012/05/28/how-you-can-save-the-african-family/

        https://africanbloodsiblings.wordpress.com/2012/03/11/what-is-a-sibling-shouldnt-brother-and-sister-have-a-meaning/

        https://africanbloodsiblings.wordpress.com/2012/09/27/an-african-literary-family/

        https://africanbloodsiblings.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/african-femininity-and-masculinity/

        It was a European Family with African actors.

A reading man and woman is a ready man and woman, but a writing man and woman is exact.

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