Caught Between Corny and Snob Place

I hate to blow anyone’s grand illusions of my degrees of snobbishness, but I wasn’t raised a Negro “sophistocrat.” Sure, I was taught to assimilate and enunciate words correctly, I took piano lessons, but I’m not an actual stuck up person. Quite honestly, I hate uppity people.

Case in point, The Root.

I’m trying desperately to warm up to the site and while it is ten-thousand percent not as offense to me as, let’s say Bossip or MediaTakeOut, I’m just not feeling it. It’s just … how would one put it? A joy killer.

The Snob is trapped in two worlds, ya’ll. But my two worlds both exist in the black side of the universe. I feel so much guilt when I am not able to relate to certain members of my family because we grew up with such vast disparities in class, income and education that one us is speaking Pig Latin and the other Esperanto.

Yet, in my bland, suburban childhood all the black people I knew were these dull ass-clowns who only cared about name-brand everything and making fun of “poor” black people. I swear. If we weren’t all Negroes at least 75 percent of them could have become Republicans.

I shudder at the thought.

So this is what I’m dealing with here.

The Root has not one, not two, but THREE articles on the new Tyler Perry film. Two articles are about how Tyler Perry’s movies are bad for you and one why they’re kind of bad, but it’s OK, because it’s a good thing the chitlin’ circuit is going mainstream.

It’s all navel gazingly snooty.

Perry’s brand of evangelical entertainment may be unabashedly black, but is also unabashedly conservative. A Tyler Perry product, whether in film or on television, in play or book form, plays directly to his black Christian female audience by building on a simple synthesis of everyday black narratives with recognizable black characters and standard black church rhetoric.

The resolution of each piece of work is grounded in simply having a stronger Christian faith. But that message, while sold as an empowering populist articulation of the black experience, is ultimately not empowering at all. To the contrary, Perry’s formula seems to call for more docility from black folk, manipulating them to be more accepting of their social conditions, and encouraging them to turn primarily to God to solve secular problems.

No shit!

Tyler Perry’s encouraging black Christian conservative stereotypes!
Were you born black yesterday? The majority of black people are socially conservative. That’s why The Snob, a secular raised, urban friend-o-the-gays, does not like Perry’s films any more than liberal white people enjoy NASCAR and the humor of Larry the Cable Guy.

Please, The Root’s Andrew C. Willis. Stop clutching your pearls and jangling your heart medication. Save the outrage for BET. That’s were black women are being assailed every day. And aside from my issue with black men in drag, black women tend to be presented in a more favorable light in a Perry production. Like, they get actual speaking parts and get to look pretty and laugh and fall in love. If the shit weren’t so corny I would watch it.

I wish black people were more socially Liberal but you’re going to have to come a little hard than this to compete with Perry’s box office gross. Your energy would be better spent fighting to get blacks more integrated politically, socially, educationally and in the workplace. Your arm is too short to box with black folks love of Jesus.

Then The Root has this lengthy, “playa hatin’diatribe by Gary Dauphin where he tries to convince me that there is something sinister a-foot about “Stuff White People Like.”

I’ll confess that part of my antipathy is just old-fashioned player hate. Nothing gets under my (colored, nearly-middle-aged) skin like the spectacle of a twentysomething white kid doing what twentysomething white kids do all the time, namely, play on some or another aspect of their race for smug fun and profit. Lander has already reportedly been offered a $350K-plus book deal from Random House. (Can a VH1 Special be very far behind?) People of color are constantly accused of playing various race cards, but “White boy makes good by being white” is hardly a man-bites-dog story …

Seen in that light, SWPL’s innovation … is a classic blue-eyed soul (white) power move: take a colored discourse, eliminate the messy colored bits, and watch the hits roll in. Does every discussion about identity have to be about colored folks? No, of course not. Talk amongst yourselves, white folks, really. By all means.

By the end he’s referring to Greg Tate’s Everything But the Burden, but wait? Isn’t the Stuff White People Like guy making fun of … gasp … white people? Justin Timberlake wants to be black without the burden, grindin’ on Janet Jackson but dashing away from the nipple-gate fall out. This white dude wants to make fun of other nervous, yuppie white Liberals. Those left-leaning nervous nellies we’re all friends with!

You know? The nice white people. Why are we bashing the white people we like? Why is it not OK for them to make fun of the little guilty white Liberal who lives inside of them? My word, fellow snobby black people, sometimes it isn’t about you!

And see! This is where I live. I live with one foot in “Schlitz drinkin’, Flo-Rida-is-an-ass-jigglin’-poet” country and the other in “The Land of the Pretentious Jerks Who Occasionally Write For The Root.”

I don’t know who I can’t stand more. The hicks who call me bourgeois or the bourgeoisies who accuse me of not being bourgeois enough! I’m sorry. I don’t like hot pickles and Now-Laters. Especially not together! And I don’t want to spend hours dissecting Cornell West while pretending to be into Pan-African culture. I’m sorry I always forget to lock your car door because I’ve never known life without automatic door locks. I’m sorry that I don’t own an iPhone and that I eat pork. What do you crazy people want from me?

I swear, if I didn’t love black people I’d just run off and go hang out in the gentrified part of the city with the white middle class Liberals and Asians who’s idea of upper class is shopping at the Target across town instead of the Wal-Mart near us. Non-black people who couldn’t afford to get into the fancy colleges and had to go to state schools, who like literature but still enjoy comic books. Who shop at Banana Republic and eat McDonalds and like NWA. Those people! I will never press my hair straight again. I will let the naps run wild. Or maybe I’ll get a relaxer and wear it straight all the time. And I will marry a part-German, part-Dutch, half-Japanese Filipino American State Farm claims adjuster and live in a downtown loft apartment where our furniture was bought at a local Rent-to-Own and Pier 1. We will eat pizza and vanill
a milkshakes three times a week and will enroll our 2.5 children into nothing but Catholic School, soccer and math camp, so help me God, I will do it!

But I probably won’t.

The blackness has got me, ya’ll. It’s got me wide open!

OK. I’ll apologize, The Root. I didn’t mean those things I said about the Banana Republic and Target. I don’t like that hip hop junk either. Nah. Too funky. I like jazz now. But only Joshua Redman. And I love India Aire, but not Erykah Badu. And I’m going to send my kids to Jack and Jill and I’ll start wearing all my money on my back from now on. Nothing but Donna Karan this and Dolce & Gabbana that. Hair did. Nails done. Oh? You say you want to take me to an NAACP fund-raising dinner? Oh my. I guess that could be fun. I promise to drink tea with my pinky finger extended. Oh, what’s that? Say “Z-Phi” in a Whitley Gilbert accent? Sure!


Was that too much snark? I can get a little Shaggy from time to time. They call me Ms. Bombastic.

Seriously, though, The Root. I won’t dump blackness, but I might go back to reading only Slate again.

11 thoughts on “Caught Between Corny and Snob Place

  1. It’s your interloper friend. I feel like I am looking into a window when I should be looking over my shoulder to see who is looking at me. Two things. When I was in Nashville in the Student Interracial Ministry assisting Kelly Miller Smith (1961) most of the black churches in town had no interest in what we were doing. Kelly noted it and I noted it. This was a middle class — Kelly’s church folk — I had never encountered and to me it felt like a home I had never known. Nothing like the acquisitive images I pick up from your serene suburb descriptions. Whatever. Also wanted to flag a video by <A HREF="“ REL=”nofollow”> Darian Dauchan that I liked a lot.

  2. The only good thing about the website is that black female professor from Princeton and that Alice Walker essay about Obama. Where is bell hooks and the other scholars in present day black discourse? (and not Cornel West & Dyson either.No ground breaking reporting or discourse

  3. stephen: Black suburban life is nutty. I was often annoyed how people would try to straddle the buppie and the “gangsta” at the same time, bragging about going to the “city” and hanging with street kids, but then going on and on about getting into Washington University, getting accepted into In Roads (a popular business program for black high schoolers) and shopping at Nordstrom.It was just ri-god-damn-diculous. But just like black urban life, black suburban life can be pretty insular. Despite being raised in a mixed race, upper middle class neighborhood, all my friends were black and all my parents friends were black. All the black churchniks I knew would head back to the city to go to the predominantly black churches there on Sundays. In the cafeteria all the black kids sat on one side and the whites on the other.There’s a lot of self-segregation in the burbs.torrence: Being black in America can make you crazy. I think most black people suffer from this “two-ness” disorder where straddling between integration and segregation makes you nutty. Back in college there were times I felt like I was “cheating” on my blackness by wanting to hang out with one of my white J-school classmates more than my black because it was nice to talk to a person who was clueless as to whether I was the right kind of “black.”He was middle class. I was middle class. Let’s talk about hip hop and Nirvana and eat at Steak n’ Shake.I often refer to the five years I lived in California as a “racial holiday,” because in the integrated parts everyone was a little less tightly wound up. Although I still sometimes got the side-eye from black folks when they found out I wasn’t a hardcore McChurchy Church or that I liked both old school hip hop and “white” rock music.I know why black folks are so obsessed with racial co-signing. It’s out of hundreds of years of rejection and oppression. But some black folks really need to let up the Kung Fu grip on dictating what is and isn’t black. It’s gotten so convoluted it’s amazing anything gets done.anonymous: I know. The Root is hella lame. And have you noticed how shoddy some of the editing is? Sometimes the font will get wonky or things won’t flow right. It makes me think of how BET, for years, couldn’t manage to sync up the title of the videos at the beginning and in of songs. How sometimes the wrong title came up. Why does everything get all lax and shoddy when it comes to us? What the hell, Washington Post? You wouldn’t allow Slate to be all wonky!

  4. great article. the Root is definitely pretentious for the most part. I’m not into Tyler perry movies either, but if people want to watch them, go ahead. I think the real problem is that there is no voice for the black people that fit into the extremes and boxes that mainsteam media decides to put all blacks into. There are very few movies, tv shows, or books that represent my view of the world.

  5. I had heard about this site but never really sat down and read it (Slate is also good but can be very self-important). I do agree with the sentiment about Tyler Perry but pretension is pointless especially when it comes to things like opinions. there is no point!

  6. dewfish: I know. I get frustrated with the lack of variety as well. That was part of the reason I liked “Grey’s Anatomy” so much when it first came out. The black people were, dare I say it, normal. None of the minority characters were portrayed stereotypically. There aren’t enough Asian American on the show for it to be realistic, but it’s better than most.Both whites and blacks have always been attracted to the humor Tyler Perry is presenting. His plays are popular for the same reason vaudeville, blackface and “Sanford and Son” were popular. They appealed to a broad base using broad ethnic humor. Black people laughed at themselves and some whites got a glimpse of a world they normally didn’t experience. There was nothing to challenge the intellect.The last two movies about black people that I could relate to were “Eve’s Bayou” and “Mixing Nia.” I like most Spike Lee films and hate most John Singleton films. I liked “Girlfriends” and “A Different World” but they’re aberrations in a world of “The Parkers.” There really is a limited amount of varying voices in black film and popular music.

  7. aulelia: I like Slate too, but God it can be snooty too. And in the past I have loved, loved, loved, but even they are starting to grate. Primarily because the readers, writers and commenters are into this trench warfare over Clinton and Obama. It’s like Jerry Springer but with white Liberals and better vocabulary.

  8. What struck me as odd about the Tyler Perry articles is how angry the writers are with Tyler but they give so many others who make questionable art (to the writers) a pass. People like Ice CubeJohn Singleton (Hustle & Flow, anyone?)Keenan Ivory Wayansto name a few.The corny/snob place divide…I used to live there but I decided I couldn’t afford the toll it took on my psyche.People are just going to have to know that I love Thin Lizzy, Prince and the Pet Shop Boys.And that having designer clothes, car and address is nice but not my main reason for being.

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