Saturday, June 17, 2006

Ya Can't Win For Losin'

When I was small and something didn't go the way my parents wanted it to, they would shake their heads sadly and say to each other: "Ya can't win for losin'." I basically understood them to mean that no matter how hard you try and no matter how things look as if they're going in a positive direction, they never, in the end, turn out well.

Now, obviously, this wasn't true for them and eventually, I knew it. I mean, we started out in the mountains of Kentucky in a house across a vacant lot from a coal mine. And by the time I was in high school, we were in northern Illinois, living in a three-story house with a working fireplace and wall-to-wall carpeting (not minor accoutrements in the early 1960's).

But the saying stuck in my mind and I thought of it again today as I opened my new Jet magazine and saw the stunning young Togolese beauty queen who was named Miss World Cup in Germany the first of this month (see this.) Weird, huh? During World Cup matches, footballers of color are spit on, while "fans" make monkey noises and throw bananas onto the field. But Miss World Cup is a warm caramel color with a broad nose and large, dark brown eyes.

I'm sure that there are some who read my last post who would find this a wonderful thing. "See?" I can just hear them saying. "Things are getting better!" And that might be true for Togolese student Edwige Madze Badakou, who beat out 31 other contestants to win $2,500 and the use of a convertible for a year. But one can't help but wonder what this might or might not mean to a world class soccer player who's wiping some stranger's spit off the side of his face as he takes his position during a crucial moment in the game.

I know that this is going to make me look like somebody who can't see the positive even when it has a big red neon arrow pointed at it, blinking on and off. But the problem is, in my opinion, that White folks feel guilty about letting Black folks get brutalized, so they do things to make themselves feel better and give themselves an excuse to look the other way when the Hitler banners are unfurled. Like voting for a Black beauty queen.

Don't get me wrong. She's gorgeous. But that's not my point.

People of color (Africans, African-Americans, Asians, and a whole raft of other indigenous peoples, such as the Native Americans) have always earned their share of the awards, distinctions, and accolades, even when they didn't get them. The first thing you notice when you start studying real history (and herstory?) is that since White males had the power to decide what got published and disseminated, then White males got all the credit for everything, even if they didn't actually do it. Or it just didn't get reported at all. Tidy, huh? And, over time, in the United States, at least, people of color actually began to believe the hype themselves, waiting to "someday" be "allowed" to achieve something, when people just like them have been achieving all along.

Anyway, so here's this lovely young woman who had just as much right to win as anybody else, but there's no real way to know how many votes were cast "in solidarity" with people of color in the face of the vicious racism that blights the World Cup competition or because some White voter feels guilty about not doing anything else about it. The point isn't whether or not she should be or deserves to be Miss World Cup. She has as much right to be in that position, certainly, as any White queen who ever served because she met the Euro-centric standards of beauty that held such contests in their thrall for so long. The point is that her election can be used to placate White guilt that footballers of color still have to deal with violent attacks on themselves by White people during soccer matches. And that puts a whole new spin on "Ya can't win for losin'," huh?

I'll bet if the officials shut down the match the second a banana hit the field, that crap would cease. I'll bet if the officials had to pay 5000 Euros to every footballer that got spit on, the Hitler youth would stop being allowed into the games. But while on the one hand, Miss Badakou is enjoying (and rightfully so) her moment in the sun, official responses that would be strong enough to stop demonstrations of oppression against people of color at the event over which she ostensibly "reigns" are unlikely to occur. I wonder if it's hard to maintain her regal smile from time to time, watching her brothers continue to suffer because of their skin tone when it's the same as hers.

12 comments:

iaintlying said...

On the surface, your view might appear to be a paradox but it's not. You are dead on. Promoting people of color here and there or making them figure heads in or of particular institutions, does not absolve the crimes that have been and/or are being committed against them, nor does it necessarily change the negative perception of the world at large towards them. Hey, I'm as krunked as the next person of color about any progress that we make but I know better than to get lulled into a false since of security. This whole situation as some crazy, mad irony to it. I wish the sister the best and I pray the she CAN affect some change for the brothers balling in the World Cup.

douglass said...

Interesting.

Ok, it seems that on one hand, you denounce white bigotry. (That’s good)

But on the other hand you denounce attempts to include people of color as PR stunts that serve to candy coat racial tension. (In this case, I think you are correct)

Your solution:

"I'll bet if the officials shut down the match the second a banana hit the field, that crap would cease. I'll bet if the officials had to pay 5000 Euros to every footballer that got spit on, the Hitler youth would stop being allowed into the games."

Nazis will be Nazis.

The best we can do to stop them is stigmatize them, ostracize them, and inoculate the youths against them.

Officially banning them and their politics might have some 'blowback'.

Think about it, do you want the Nazis to trade in their bananas for AR-15 rifles?

Changeseeker said...

From what I can tell historically, the automatic weapons ride in on the bananas, regardless. I'm not talking about "banning" racists. I'm talking about stopping their freedom to attack people of color in broad daylight on global television at will. The message the racists, the footballers of color, and our youth are receiving is that what the Nazi's do is acceptable to the society at large.

Hitler ate most of Europe and directed a horrible attack on millions of people before it was decided that he was "serious." In my estimation, bananas, spit, and bullets are just various manifestations of the same twisted mindset.

douglass said...

Changeseeker:

You said: " I'm not talking about "banning" racists. I'm talking about stopping their freedom to attack people of color in broad daylight on global television at will."

Well said.

But "The message the racists, the footballers of color, and our youth are receiving is that what the Nazi's do is acceptable to the society at large"

That's debatable.

(i.e. Jackie Robinson)

"In my estimation, bananas, spit, and bullets are just various manifestations of the same twisted mindset."

Do have an emotional investment in denouncing power, or, are you ideologically selective in applying that tar brush?

(Or is there some other explanation for your choice to associate the application of power with mental illness?)

Changeseeker said...

It sounds as if you may have some emotional investment in my not denouncing the way power is being used to oppress people of color, Douglass...? (I don't denounce "power"--just its manifestations when they are abusive, especially when they are abusive for 400 years against one group of people, no matter who those people are.)

The individual experience of one person of color (Condoleeza Rice, maybe, or Clarence Thomas?--both of whom are poster children for African-Americans who have "made it" by selling their souls to the power structure) in no way mitigates the overwhelming evidence of oppression as indicated by carefully drawn statistics from such conservative sources as the U.S. Census Bureau, for example. Or the blatant demonstrations at the soccer matches.

Bananas, spit, and bullets all become "weapons" under the law, Douglass, when projected by someone in rage at another person. You don't think so? Throw a banana at a police officer and see what happens...or better yet, spit in a police officer's face one time like the soccer "fans" have been doing routinely--and without sanction--to the footballers of color. The tar brush that gets used in White-controlled societies is the tar brush that allows, in the cases about which I've been blogging, assaults that would most certainly not have been similarly tolerated against White folks over such a long period of time, calling it all "good fun."

And I'm not sure how you got from twisted mindset to mental illness. A twisted mindset can be as simple as a firm commitment that certain people are superior to others or have a right to more protection or more privileges under the law. And God knows, there are more than a few of those around, none of which would qualify for a diagnosis of insanity. Necessarily.

douglass said...

Nope, no investment in that.

RE: Condi and Clarence, I wasn't trying to say that POC were included just because of a few tokens here and there.

See, the part I disagree with is your assertion that allowing Nazis into the stadium wit their anti-POC antics somehow expresses pubic consent for their racist nonsense and abusive actions.

My point about Jackie Robinson is that unlike bagger Vance reenactors Clarence and CRice; JR showed whites their oppression and rubbed it right in their face, much like Hitler’s oppression was rubbed in his face when Jesse Owens won the 100 meter dash in the 1936 Olympics.

Any POC athlete who get's hit with a banana, spit on, or yelled at by Nazis will probably have the last laugh in a history book or ‘educational’ video.

(psst I don’t think that the average white racist approves of the Neonazis; Hitler was allied with Italy and Japan while fighting the US and Britain, and um, that doesn’t mesh well with the notion of white supremacy.)

RE: legal significance of bananas spit and rifles.

Right, once I use a banana to assault, it becomes a weapon.

But, when it comes to a minority of rabblerousing neo-Nazi agitators, the best thing to do is to provide equal opportunity fruit tossing.

Give Anti-Nazi fans complimentary access to tomatoes and sauerkraut… see how many Nazis escape with out being hit.

Changeseeker said...

Well, I have to admit, D., that equal opportunity fruit tossing has an certain up-beat lilt to it, but it doesn't address the overall issues, which are far from as simple as a handful of political extremists or even just what happens at soccer matches. I shouldn't necessarily as used the short-hand of referring to Nazi's as if they were the problem.

If you re-read my first post on the World Cup situation, you'll note that I'm more concerned with folks that call these activities "good fun" than with the Hitler-ites, which as you and I both point out, are already understood in their perspectives anyway. But, the officials let it go on and the other fans let it go on and the footballers of color are expected to just keep handling it somehow, indefinitely, as if that's the answer. Would you really let yourself be spit on for 400 years and still be satisfied to have it work itself out in the history books? History doesn't work things out. It just reports how people work things out...if it tells the truth. And it's been 70 years since Jesse Owens' win, you know.

Did Hitler see the Italians as people of color? And weren't the Japanese allies of convenience, a matter that could easily be attended to later?

Free-for-alls are exactly what the Nazi's want. They believe that when push comes to shove, if they can goad people of African-descent into aggressive reactions, White people in general will see the wisdom in banding together (with the Nazi's) against the people of color who after all have been patient, now, for way longer than many others would have been.

Is that how we want it to go down? In a free-for-all? Is that in anybody's best interest?

The bottom line, of course, is that if White people are not racist, then why do they allow people of color to continue to be brutalized?

Douglass said...

“Would you really let yourself be spit on for 400 years and still be satisfied to have it work itself out in the history books?”

Nobody lives to 400, and no I would not be satisfied.

CS: “Did Hitler see the Italians as people of color?”

CS: “And weren't the Japanese allies of convenience, a matter that could easily be attended to later?”

These two need to be answered together. Hitler didn’t actually believe in the Aryan Ideology and neither did his cronies. About the Italians, Hitler copied

They knew all they had to do was apply PR techniques and the techniques of social and depth psychology to the Spiesser-ideologie and attach that to the Platonism Giovanni Gentile’s Fascism.

I forget which one said this, Gobbles or Goring but: “we speak not to say something, but to produce a certain effect”

CS: “Is that how we want it to go down? In a free-for-all? Is that in anybody's best interest?”

D: Come on now, tolerating noxious views is a sign of freedom. “a free for all”?
I never mentioned being an anarchist. The police do what they do and additional measures are a step in the direction of Authoritarianism.

CS: “The bottom line, of course, is that if White people are not racist, then why do they allow people of color to continue to be brutalized?”

D: That’s a flash question you got there, professor.

If POC are not racist, then why do they allow whites to continue to be brutalized? (i.e Mugabe)

[the last two questions here are specious and loaded questions that establish something (in this case that whites are responsible for the plight of POC and vice versa) in the form of a question.}

P.S. look up the type of violence that happens in the crowd at soccer games and compare what you learn to spitting and tossing fruit.

Changeseeker said...

Mugabe, et al, are operating in a world system that was originally established for White people and their benefit. There is backlash, yes. Which is just one of the reasons it would be good to address this whole thing now instead of later (now being 400 years into the process, after all, and later enough, for goodness' sake, by anybody's standards.) Many folks in Africa are less than mesmerized by Mugabe, anyway, and apparently feel that he's an equal opportunity abuser...for his own purposes.

As for the violence at soccer matches, there was a major crack-down a couple of decades ago related to this, but the bananas fly on. If the officials saw the point in addressing the ridiculous (and dangerous) nature of the generalized attacks, where is the moral will to do something about these more particular ones?

douglass said...

About mugabe, your assertions are true.

But, my point was that I feel spun by a statement wrapped in a question; so I spun back with a poor example, so how about this one: If POC are not warlike and imperialistic, then why do they allow the African World Wars to rage on?

Anyway,

Moral will?

What is this, the Vatican?

In terms of sporting Arenas and their sales; it's more about money than it is about moral sensitivities.

That’s why boycotts are a tool in moral fatwa, er… activism.

Changeseeker said...

When the world system has been established by people of color so that all the social institutions operate in their best interests for a period of 400 years and people of color have the institutional power and privilege, we can have this conversation again. Otherwise, I'm not talking about a country or an incident or an alternative example of the same old thing, I'm talking about oppression by oppressors of oppressed.

And the Vatican is about religion and capitalism more than morals, from what I can tell. By morals, I mean what's in the best interests of the human race.

douglass said...

aha.

The will is not there.

But why should Government incorporate this moral will?

The role of the state is to guarantee and oversee capitalist production.

Baby-sitting the population is not the task of the Government.

Perhaps Churchill said it best,

“We have not journeyed across the centuries, across the oceans, across the mountains, across the prairies, because we are made of sugar candy.”