Tag Archives: African American

Why Stanley Crouch is Wrong About Black People and Soul Food

29 Dec

soul foodThe hyperbolic sensationalism of Stanley Crouch’s article “Soul Food is Killing Black America” is laughable on its face. And the initial silliness I felt when reading the title was solidified by the nickname Crouch gave the filmmaker who is developing the soul food documentary – “Braveheart”. Just call me “Chuckles”, then. Because this is the funniest and most self-negating piece of trite I’ve read all week.

First, the notion that filmmaker Byron Hurt is somehow brave for “tackling” an issue which has been addressed a multitude of times is just daft.  Wasn’t the movie “Soul Food” based on the Sunday coalescing of black folks around a table of collard greens, fried chicken, corn bread, and ham hocks? And didn’t untreated diabetes kill Big Mama?

It seems that Crouch is nicknaming Hurt Braveheart not because he’s actually brave, but because Hurt’s assessment of the ills affecting the black community matches Crouch’s own assessment. We tend to view the people who agree with us as somehow braver and smarter than the people with whom we disagree. In this way, Crouch has fallen victim to a trap laid by his own ego.

But the larger issue is whether Crouch is right about soul food being kryptonite to Negroes. Crouch laments, “This is a common problem. There is no joke in the film about the frightening degrees of black illness from consuming too much ethnic food dripping in grease and containing too much fat, sugar and butter. Worst of all, people consume too many ethnic imitations in fast food places that are so prevalent in black and Latin neighborhoods.”

Maybe that’s true, but even if it is, that seems more an issue of moderation than anything else.  And if black people are consuming too many “ethnic imitations”, then the issue African Americans face is the same issue that all Americans face; limiting our intake of processed foods. Again, this is not a black thing. It’s not even a soul food thing.  It’s about eating too much of the wrong kinds of foods, and it’s probably also about leading sedentary lifestyles – an issue not addressed in Crouch’s article.

Additionally, in recent years several soul food restaurants have cropped up to meet the needs of African Americans who prefer less fat or even vegetarian alternatives to traditional soul food. But even at its worst, soul food is a rich part of our history  and if eaten in moderation and prepared with organic meats and veggies, it can be a part of a healthy lifestyle.

Is the soul food slathered in hog grease good for us? Of course not. But I doubt authentic Italian cuisine is actually good for you, what, with all its richness, creams, butter sauces and pastas, but you don’t see Italians making documentaries about how bad Italian food is or how stupid Italians are for eating it.

Soul food is not a problem for black America but self-negation, especially the variety espoused by Crouch and “Braveheart”, is debilitating. Not every issue that negatively impacts black people can be pigeon holed as a black issue. Now, we can of course discuss the issue of alleviating the health consequences of poor diets by doing things that work, such as adding to our dietary choices by creating permaculture gardens and sustainable communities, but those are real issues that require real thinkers. I suppose it’s much easier to grab headlines by insinuating that black people are just too stupid or too lazy to sort the good food from the bad.  “Put down that chicken wing and grape soda!” Yeah. OK.

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What Blacks Can Learn From Obama’s First Term

10 Nov
Obama shaking hands with mostly black crowd.

Stop being so thirsty.

by Yvette Carnell

In a meeting with over 100 community leaders at the White House on Wednesday, President Obama urged the mostly African American group to “stay unified”.  Unity implies that both Obama and black voters have been on the same page, speaking with one unified voice, up until now.  In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Until recently, President Obama had been evading African Americans and our respective surrogates in an effort to prove to the most puritanical segment of the white electorate that he’s no nigger lover, and no nigger favorer, and certainly no nigger indulger.  Now, with the 2012 campaign in full swing, he’s trying to pretend that all along, we misunderstood him. Whatever.

Anyway, I’m not going to try to convince you why you should or shouldn’t vote for Obama in 2012 because chances are, your mind is already made up. So, it’s really beside the point now isn’t it? But it is important that African Americans use Obama’s Presidency as an opportunity for learning to interpret the lexicon of power; how it builds, then permeates, and then shows its face.

Part of the reason we’ve “misunderstood” Obama’s relationship to us is because we’ve misinterpreted the pertinent indicators.  For example, in true peer to peer power relationships, where both groups (and persons) are stakeholders, the nature of communication is one of collusion. Stakeholders bump noggins and burn the midnight oil in an effort to hash out a mutually advantageous agreement or strategy. Mutual risk. Mutual agreement.

Not surprisingly, the key metric for exposing peer to peer relationships is fraternization. That’s why you’re more likely to see Obama on the golf course with bankers than at the White House with community organizers.  That’s why lobbyists are involved in the nascent stages of writing legislation. That’s why Obama chose former JP Morgan Chase top executive Bill Daley as his chief of staff. That’s also why Obama waited until 2011 to start paying attention to the African American electorate.

What black folks should be paying attention to is how Obama is bringing them in at the end, to seal the deal, rather than in the beginning to craft it.  When folks come out and tell you what decisions have been made and how they impact you without the benefit of your input, then it’s time to panic.  (And for the record, shuffling Al Sharpton and Ben Jealous in for a 30 minute visit to the White House where both men meekly emerged without promises or commitments from the HNIC – except for maybe, Sharpton’s new MSNBC gig, but that wouldn’t come until later- isn’t considered input.)

It’s all indicative of the fact that the black constituency is not engaged in a peer to peer, power broker to powerbroker, relationship with President Obama. Part of this is our own fault since we don’t seem to understand that we actually have the potential to wield a great deal of power. Part of it, though, is also Obama’s fault for yielding to racist factions within the American electorate; factions which insisted that Obama sacrifice African Americans in order to establish his genuine American bona fides. Now that they’ve gotten their pound of flesh, and now that we understand the lexicon, the question is; what should be our reaction?

Indeed, we’re in for a laborious period since gaining a renewed perspective requires casting Obama as the antagonist as opposed to a symbol of progress, or worse yet, a symbol of post-racialism. A symbol is a picture you hang on your wall in between MLK and  Malcolm X; a real life politician is a person you light a fire under until he does in office what he promised he’d do when he ran. A symbol is stagnant. A politician is dynamic. The mistake we collectively made was putting Obama on the wall before his term was over. We don’t know who or what he’ll become if he gets a second term, but that can’t matter to us. Meaning, insulating him against those who would besmirch his presumed legacy can’t matter to us. Why? Because it mattered to us from 2008 until 2011 and it didn’t gain us anything. Now’s the time for us to renegotiate the terms of agreement with this President in such a way that we’re included in the nexus of power. We can begin by asking this President what we get in exchange for a decision to “stay unified”. Hope, as it were, just isn’t enough.



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Obama Aide Calls Criticism from Black Leaders Bullsh*t

31 Aug

When members of the black community accuse the Obama White House of behaving disrespectfully toward the black community, this is what they mean:

“Is President Obama finally ready to bite back and throw down with black leaders who have ridden him nonstop for the past few months for his lack of attention to black America? Politico quoted an Obama insider as saying, “The whole thing is bull-[bleep] … We have met with [black leaders] more than any other group and we are increasing our outreach.”


If the mere injection of the African American community into a conversation prompts you to use swear words, then not only are you unsympathetic to the needs of the African American community, you’re openly combative.

I thought this White House was led by the only grown-up in the room? Much to the disappointment of many liberals, the Obama administration has never gone gangsta on anyone. They didn’t call bullsh*t when they were inexplicably held hostage by the Tea Party, but mention the African American community and watch the nasty words fly.

As I noted previously, President Obama recently met with the Urban League’s Marc Morial and the NAACP’s  Ben Jealous for all of half an hour. Compare that to the two to three day conference the White House assembled to discuss issues important to the Hispanic community.

And regardless of whom White House staff met with or how many times they met with them, the issue is one of results. What are they doing over there at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. to follow-up legislatively on the sparse discussions they’ve had with concerned members of the African American community?

It seems only fair that the reporter from Politico would follow up on concerns articulated by Smiley, West and others. It seems only natural that the White House would have on hand a canned answer to address such a question. Apparently, however, a discussion about the black community wasn’t the discussion that the White House official had in mind. In fact, a conversation on black issues is never the discussion that Obama and his surrogates are desirous of having.

If a reporter were to question a member of the Obama administration about an issue that impacts disabled veterans, Hispanics, or the Tea Party, one seriously doubts that “ bullshit” would’ve been the reply. These aforementioned groups are highly respected by the White House and deserving of a deliberate and well-considered acknowledgment of their concerns. African-Americans? Not so much.  We’re expected to be happy with the symbolic victory of having a black man, however far removed from traditional black values, in the White House. Any assertion that issues impacting the African American community be addressed with the same seriousness as those impacting other communities is met with unmistakable anger and condescension.

Obama and his surrogates must begin to make peace with the fact that the African American vote is all they’ve got. According to the August 30th Gallup poll, President Obama’s approval is at 40 percent. He has an approval rating of 44 percent among Hispanics, 32 percent among whites, and a whopping 83 percent among blacks.

I know it’s a hard pill for Obama to swallow, but he’s been largely unsuccessful at brownnosing his way to majority approval. A nice smile and goodwill only goes so far. The Tea Party and independents aren’t impressed with a President who stakes out the position of lackey-in-chief.

If President Obama has any hope of being reelected, he’ll need to play to his base instead of alienating his base. Feeding the hand that turns you away and biting the hand that feeds you (and votes for you) is, well – bullshit.

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Disappointment in Obama’s Performance

20 Feb

art_obama_gi It’s the one-month anniversary of President Obama’s swearing-in, and not surprisingly the Republican National Committee is out with its’ verdict: It’s been "disappointing."

"Obama’s first month has been marked by wasteful spending, failed bipartisanship, and questionable ethics," the RNC said in a document circulated to reporters.

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