Tag Archives: Uncle Tom

Suddenly colored television

Today Show-network now African AmericanImmediately after the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in 2001, the term “Nine Eleven” was already tripping off the tongues of TV talking heads as if it was more natural than saying “last Monday,” or “last week Monday,” before even we knew the attack was not going to last several days. The day after the election of Barack Obama, a suddenly large proportion of the TV talking heads were black, overnight, like it had become some sort of costume party theme.

Television has become colorized, and much more vigorously than Ted Turner might have ever intended.

Have you noticed? On post-Bush television, Black is the new focus of equal-time. When pundits are summoned, now there’s a black person among them. Nothing wrong with this development. Whatever years of seasoning these new African-American faces may lack, they make up for by being visibly brighter than the vacuous white-breads they replaced. There must be an entire class of Anglo-Saxon communication majors who are lamenting the great lost entitlement of 2009.

It’s a fine development, though certainly limited in its generosity. The proportion of African Americans to the total population, is vastly smaller than the new TV ratio. Conversely, over half the US public is progressive. But still almost zero percent of the corporate media personalities reflect that.

Where did all these colored faces come from? Had they been training in the wings, for just this contingency? It’s a wise move on the part of the networks. President Obama and his family would be looking pretty dark against the sea of white Washington DC. Someone could confuse him for security or kitchen staff, but for the media framing of black commentators to remind White America that there is no cause to panic, the new American lens is colorblind.

It should be, but is it? White man still looks upon dark-skinned people as requiring domination. American urban blacks are to incarcerate, African blacks are to rescue, and insurgent/Muslim/pirate blacks are to lynch. I’m not sure we don’t really long to lynch the bunch of them, if AIDS isn’t thinning their number fast enough for our taste.

Hitch your horse to this manservantObama meanwhile is the black man we invite to dinner. And these colored teevee folk too. They’re not poor blacks after all. They’re the Thomas Sowells, Uncle Toms, educated reformed black people. Rich black people are the new lawn jockeys.

Okay, so the corporate media wants to project an urbane sophistication about integrating racial harmony into its facade. We hope, I suppose, that by portraying it so, they can make it so. I think we have to wonder if that’s the real manipulation.

The day after September 11, the term “Nine Eleven” was coined before most of us knew what even happened. Flights were grounded anticipating more attacks. How curious that the experts were calling it “9/11” when it might still have turned out to be 9/11 – 17 or other. They’d gotten the memo about how to frame the “world-changing” development, complete with its catchy catchphrase.

Obama is just such another media campaign, to assuage the darker-skinned world that the Great White West comes in peace, see look, we love our Darkies. We respect them, we ask their advice, we put them up in the White House.

This year’s Clio Award, the advertising world’s Oscar, for best campaign, went to Barack Obama. What does that tell you about the collective effort involved, and the focused objective of the marketing?

Clansmen hold a rally in Washington DC

Uncle Tom’s Hotel Rwanda

Is the Don Cheedle?Let’s clear something up for the sake of poetic justice. Uncle Tom was a maltreated slave who bore his burden with dignity. He was no collaborator, no stool pigeon, no upper class of black slave that kept the lower savages in order. That “Uncle Tom” is what the term has come to mean: a white man’s black man, owing perhaps to the original character’s civilized humanity which a white reader might not have expected to be a capacity of an African slave. The neo-Uncle Tom is a Tutsi.

I heard the film Hotel Rwanda was just incredible, I’m sure it was. I watched the Frontline documentary to commemorate the anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda and so thought I knew the sad story already. Well I was right and I was wrong, but not about the film.

The mounting trouble in the Democratic Republic of Congo is causing leaders to forewarn of genocide such as Rwanda experienced in 1994. We’re told the same Hutus are marauding today. In addressing the issues of the Congo, do we have an understanding of what happened in 1994, beside the film dramatization?

The question to ask is whether what happened in Rwanda was genocide. That’s not to minimize the killings, but to scrutinize the motives. Was the fighting between Hutus and Tutsis racially motivated tribal warfare, or was it class warfare? Were the events of 1994 components of a peasant rebellion, distinguished by the opposing forces being from different ethnicities?

The distinction is critical. Behind the Hotel Rwanda imagery is the theme that African tribes need to be protected from each other. This happens in the form of UN intervention usually. The storytellers also know that if the narrative is bloody enough, a Western audience is just as ready to throw up its hands. Thus our impulse to join the Peace Corps or Medecins Sans Frontieres is quietly scrubbed in favor of calling in the cavalry. And then, only in the event of genocide.

Someone keeps wanting Westerners to believe that African tribes will continue to kill each other regardless what we do. Is it true? No, the Africans fight because of what we do.

The Tutsi victims of Hotel Rwanda were not just hotel keepers and clerks. The Tutsis were the administrative enforcers of post-colonial central Africa. The Hutus were the oppressed, and rose up against the Tutsis after generations of oppression and killings.

If Africa were let to develop autonomous states from its indigenous populations, its people could put their natural resources to use improving their lives. Instead, our post-colonial tentacles continue to stir up instability. Our business interests make sure that the native Africans never get their footing. We fund strong men to enforce violent rule over the inhabitants. It’s a controlled instability that facilitates the minimal societal infrastructure our traders require. But instability is difficult a balancing act. When the mayhem gets out of hand, peace-keepers are brought in at the people’s expense, to restore the disordered order.