Thursday, June 26, 2008
You Will See Two Sides of Me Now
Recently, I was having a discussion with another comedian about Tookie Williams.
Stanley "Tookie" Williams, if you don't know, was the founder of the Crips who was put to death in San Quentin a few years ago. In the late 70s, he killed a convenience store employee and then, a few days later, killed a Korean family of three. In the weeks before he was humanely put to sleep at the expense of non-murdering taxpayers, Tookie blamed "white people" and the "white man" and the "racist system" and the "racist prison guards" and the "racist jury" (which actually had three blacks on it), and the "racist judge" and "systemic racism" for his unfortunate predicament as a guilty man on death row.
Wisely, Governor Schwarzenegger denied him clemency and the world was rid of this opportunistic pig who only succeeded in selling the ghetto back to itself.
In the discussion with my comedian friend, I was following up on some statements I had made earlier from the stage on my theory regarding the "fork in the road" of the civil rights movement.
In a nutshell, the "fork in the road" of the civil rights movement is as follows:
Martin Luther King: Southern, Christian, nonviolent, integrationist. He had it right.
Malcolm X: Northern, Islamic, violent, separationist. He had it wrong.
Martin Luther King: killed by a white man. A martyr for freedom.
Malcolm X: killed by black people. A martyr for what?
Sadly, though lip-service is paid to Martin Luther King from all corners of our globalized world, the civil rights legacy that survives and thrives in the streets to this day is Malcolm X's. And before him, Elijah Muhammad's. Without Elijah Muhammad, you don't get Malcolm X. Without Malcolm X, you don't get Farrakhan, the million-man march, Nation of Islam, black separatism (read "black segregation"), gangsta hip-hop, Black Panthers, Stokely Carmichael, Huey P. Newton, Angela Davis, H. Rap Brown, the Soledad Brothers, communal groupthink, white guilt, black opportunism, censorship of free speech, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Rev. Jeremiah, unfair and unrepresentative racial quotas, affirmative action, lowered cultural standards, the proliferation of the welfare state, the cult of Mumia Abu-Jamal, and, of course, Tookie Williams.
The tragedy of Martin Luther King's legacy is that it's very difficult to witness as a sociological phenomenon because it is a legacy of integration. When blacks integrate into mainstream society--as was the thrust of the civil rights movement before being hijacked by X and his clan--blacks cease to be "black" and become individuals. That is the magic of integration. You transcend race to become an enlightened individual.
Since X's legacy, on the other hand, is rooted in grievance and presented as de facto ideology for the community, it is much more publicly visible and therefore much more dangerous to the preservation and maintenance of an enlightened culture.
That is the fork in the road. One is reminded of Robert Frost here. The road less traveled, and more spiritually rewarding, was, and will forever be, the domain of Martin Luther King. The wider and easier path was paved by Malcolm X and has been carefully gardened for over forty years by a chaingang of guilty whites and opportunistic blacks.
So my comedian friend asked of me, "But do you know why Tookie killed those Koreans?"
"Cause he was a thug," I said.
"No," he responded, "do you know what his motive was?"
"I don't know," I said, "I think he took around $150 from them." (Tookie had been robbing the Koreans' family-owned motel at the time of the murders)
"No, no, no," insisted my comedian friend, "He did it because he was angry at all these Koreans who come into the ghetto and buy up businesses and take money out of the African-American community."
By now, my jaw has stopped falling open when I hear ridiculous (and racist) assertions like this. I understand this is the world in which we live. But I still argue about it. It is not only my right to argue these erroneous suppositions. It is my moral duty.
Immediately, others who had not been directly involved in the conversation jumped in to aid the comedian (who, incidentally, was black), "He's not saying that justifies the killings. He's just saying that explains them."
The problem is, sometimes an explanation IS a justification.
LIBERAL (Jeffersonian liberal, not postmodern)
If I were a businessman--which I'm not, I just play one in small coffee houses for tips--but if I were a businessman and I was looking for a cheap place to set up a business, the first place I would look to would be the Ghetto.
Because Ghettos always look alike: They look like nobody is using them for anything.
Can you fault a Korean family for looking at all the broken glass, the vacant lots and the crackheads; listening to the endless whining about victimhood; hearing all the piteous rants of not being able to stand on one's own feet, and NOT come to the independent conclusion that no one is going to complain if you should waltz right in and set up your own small business in the barren wasteland known by all mankind as the Ghetto?
(Notwithstanding the simple moral notion that Korean families shouldn't be shot in the back with a sawed-off shotgun for simply owning a motel in the first place. A lot of black people don't do this sort of thing. Let's stop making academic excuses for those who do.)
But this is how the racket works and why it flies contrary to FDR, Jeffersonian, and Rousseauian liberalism. In X's legacy, man is never free. He is always a victim of outside circumstances beyond his control.
It's the Koreans' fault. It's white America's fault. Or, according to the Nation of Islam, it's all the fault of the Jews. Those grubby little Zionists that are forcing you to spend your welfare check on Superlotto and 40-dawgs.
It's amazing how much sympathy you can get by lying around in your own shitty diapers and pointing upwards at some convenient racial stereotype perched in the white, white clouds above.
Gentrification is decried by the Left. I decry gentrification as well, which puts me in cahoots with the Left. I like nothing more than to see communities, municipalities, states and countries retain their identities. But in the case of Harlem, for example, I do NOT think that Harlem's identity is broken bottles, street gangs, and Nation of Islam indoctrination centers. I think Harlem's identity is the Cotton Club, the Apollo Theatre, and the other vestiges of the faded Harlem Renaissance.
But if a community makes zero effort to better themselves--not as a "community" per se, but as a gathering of enlightened, motivated, and transcendent individuals--gentrification is going to happen whether its citizens like it or not. That is one of the basic domestic laws of post-60s economics. The aftershocks of Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society", if you will. (Old-school liberalism officially died on Nov. 22nd, 1963 when an old-school leader was killed by a new-school loser.)
"Oh, you're not going to do anything with this area right here? Well, how about we get the government to get the taxpayers to build you another stark complex of ugly-looking projects over there and me and my wife--the lovely Mrs. Yang--will set up a little motel over here. Hey, we've all got to eat, right?"
Wrong. Boom! Boom! Boom!
Or so goes the general academic line of illiberal thought. "Yes, murder is bad. But so is owning a motel." Jesus. I know we're not THIS stupid.
Actually, I'm not so sure anymore.
One of the major items decried by modern liberalism is big business. We all hate big business. Big business is bland. Big business is sameness multiplying into sameness. Big business is globalization. Big business is sanitized nihilism. Big business is Starbucks and all the rest. Big business is culture acting as call-girl to economic trade.
If outside gentrification is going to happen to a community because of the ongoing neglect of its citizens inside, it is preferable that the gentrification at least come from individuals; small business owners who, like it or not, may be Korean, or Jewish, or even white. But that's tricky (and dangerous) because it's easier to point a finger at an individual and individual business than it is a nameless, faceless corporate conglomerate.
"Mr. and Mrs. Yang are racist slant-eyed Korean Chinks who came to rob us of our money! Rufus, get my sawed-off shotgun!"
So, if native blacks have abandoned perfecting the ghetto out of grievance and victimhood, and small-business owners of different ethnicities have done likewise out of fear and sanity--only one option remains:
Big business comes in to do the work of individuals. And the convenient thing for big business is that there's nothing you can do about it. You can't really shoot four McDonald's employees in the back and assume that that's going to rectify the "stolen money from the community" issue. There's nobody at the top. Big business is an unfeeling, uncaring monolith. There's nobody to point a finger at. And even if you did find out who was running the show--they wouldn't stop anyway. That's the power of big business. It makes all your decisions for you with absolute impunity.
This is not to say that native communities will no longer stand up as one and shout with preening self-righteousness at big business: "STOP GENTRIFICATION!" But these are hollow shouts. There's nobody to kill. Business will proceed as usual. You lose.
So problem solved, right?
I went to McDonald's last night. They know me so well over there. There's a real cute black girl who always smiles and flashes me two fingers to signify that she knows I'll be wanting my usual--two Angus Mushrooms and Swiss. A few times, she's even let me skip to the front of the line--much to the chagrin of the other assembled blacks and Latinos. She makes me feel special. I know her name, but that's my secret.
Usually her and I chat for a little bit as she takes my money. She's very nice. I often find myself wondering how old she is and what it would be like to have sex with a black girl, for I have never done so. I usually have to wait a little bit for my sandwiches--I think it has something to do with letting the mushrooms simmer or some preparations they have to take with the 1/3 pound of Angus beef--the fundamental layer of an Angus Mushroom and Swiss. But talking with my delectable ebony friend at the front line (fast food slang for register) helps me kill the time.
However, last night she wasn't there and I found myself impatiently waiting in silence as my sandwiches were being slowly prepared.
"Am I the only one who orders these things?" I asked the manager, another black woman who is also familiar with my order, but does not offer special treatment and polite conversation like my frontline friend. The manager is not unkind, however. I think she's just busier, being a manager and all. She wears the yellow buttoned top of higher office. My absent friend wears the infantry color of the red shirts.
But it was near closing and the store was empty, so the manager had time to answer, "It's just cause we can't keep the meat out cause we end up wasting it."
"You should keep it out for me," I said jokingly.
"Seriously, I'm in here all the time," I said, "Just have two of them, ready and waiting, lined up to go."
She laughed, "But sometimes you don't come."
"Most of the time I do. I'm here about 5 times a week."
"But on the days you don't come, we waste it."
"That's all right," I reassured her with a wink, trying to soft-sell my idea, "You'd only be hurting McDonald's."
She gave me what I would later describe in this sentence as a coy look and reiterated patiently, "But we would waste the meat if you didn't come."
"I know. But you're only hurting McDonald's. So nobody gets hurt. You can't hurt McDonald's. It's just another big business."
By that point, my sandwiches were ready. I said my obligatory thank-yous and reminded the manager that it was okay to hurt McDonald's every now and then.
On the way home, I thought about how fun it had been making oblique references to a class struggle in the presence of a black woman. For it is moments like these wherein I feel unity.
Race divides. Class unites.
Posted by Will Franken at 8:13 PM