Home > Uncategorized > If you want to know why some people were offended by the Compton Cookout Party, watch this short documentary

If you want to know why some people were offended by the Compton Cookout Party, watch this short documentary

February 20, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

This message is intended for all those uninformed, misguided UCSD students who insist on defending the Compton Cookout as a legitimately humorous party idea. This is basically like a really dumbed down version of parts of the Ethnic Studies statement posted below. -J.F.

***

Ever seen one of these cartoons?

These are “humorous” depictions of Jews during the times right before the Nazi holocaust (the were at funny at least to Germans in those times). No historian would dispute the fact that cartoons like these were in part responsible for cementing the notion that Jews were evil in the minds of the common German folk, and that therefore, they had to be “gotten rid of.”

How about this kind of cartoon. Do you know who this guy was?

His name was “Jump Jim Crow. ” According to wikipedia:

Jump Jim Crow is a song and dance from 1828 that was done in blackface by white comedian Thomas Dartmouth (T.D.) “Daddy” Rice. The first song sheet edition appeared in the early 1830s, published by E. Riley. The number was supposedly inspired by the song and dance of a crippled African in Cincinnati called Jim Cuff or Jim Crow. The song became a great 19th century hit and Rice performed all over the country as Daddy Jim Crow.

Jump Jim Crow was a key initial step in a tradition of popular music in the United States that was based on the mockery of African-Americas. The first song sheet edition appeared in the early 1830s, published by E. Riley. A couple of decades would see the mockery genre explode in popularity with the rise of the minstrel show. It was also the initial step in the still extant tradition in popular music of incorporating African styles and subject matter.

The tune became very well known not only in the United States but internationally; in 1841 the USA ambassador to Central America, John Lloyd Stephens, wrote that upon his arrival in Mérida, Yucatán, the local brass band played “Jump Jim Crow” under the mistaken impression that it was the USA’s national anthem.

As a result of Rice’s fame, Jim Crow had become a pejorative adjective meaning African American by 1838[1] and from this the laws of racial segregation became known as Jim Crow laws.

Like in Germany, in America, it was stereotypical representations like these (sometimes “humorous” according to white cultural notions of what was funny then but certainly not funny to blacks) that led to a system of racial, subjugation, segregation, lynchings, and psychological terror known as the “Jim Crow” era that lasted about a hundred years and that ended just two generations ago, when most of our parents had already been born. That means that all of our grandparents were adults when this system was in full swing. If your grandparents had been black, they would have been formed as children and young adults under it. The memory of these times are fresh in the minds of African-American families… yet this doesn’t mean these sort of things don’t endure in post-Obama America.

Contemporary representations like the ones we see in the Compton Cookout event or in the Jigaboo Jones videos are the direct descendants of blackface minstrelsy. They are as demeaning, and dehumanizing albeit in more subtle ways. Through repetion, racial stereotypes reproduce ways of oversimplifying the way we conceive of human behavior and cultures tied to certain racial phenotypes. Even if a person does something with a stereotype for amusement and without the intention of painting a negative picture of anybody, that person cannot control what that stereotype leads others to belive about the racial group that’s being depicted.

Also, the fact that a person of color (e.g., Jigaboo Jones) performs an offensive racial stereotype doesn’t make it any less problematic or harmful. Back in the old glory days of blackface minstrelsy, there were plenty of African-Americans themselves who would perform these stereotypes as a way of attaining some degree of fame and recognition. This Jigaboo Jones character seems to be assuming role of the contemporary blackace minstrel (or rather ghettoface minstrel).

It is stereotypes like these about “life in the ghetto” that lead many in this country to believe that most African Americans are lazy, stupid people who are born into a “dysfunctional” of poverty, criminality and welfare dependence. It’s no wonder then that surveys show that racial profiling in police departments is rampant. It’s no surprise that of the people in this country (the nation with by far the biggest prison population in the world), almost 50% are African Americans when these comprise only 13% of the general US population. These are the US’ present incarceration rates broken down by race: Whites: 393 per 100,000; Latinos: 957 per 100,000; Blacks: 2,531 per 100,000. In a social scientific statistical analyis, this would count as a HUGELY significant difference. One in three black men between the ages of 20 and 29 live under some form of correctional supervision or control. Let me repeat that: One in three black men between the ages of 20 and 29 live under some form of correctional supervision or control. Something funny is going on here, right? Either African Americans committ way more crimes than whites or they get arrested way more. So which is it? Are the stereotypes of “ghetto life” true or not? Are most people in Compton, esp. most black males, criminals after all?

I should note that most of these convicts are in jail for nonviolent drug offenses. Considering that 15% of drug users in the US are black (72% are white), how do you explain that 37% of those arrested in the US for drug abuse violations are black? Black people (esp. black men) are the ones being pulled over by the police, searched, arrested, and processed (ever heard about “driving while black”?). And it’s all partly thanks to stupid stereotypical depictions like the ones we’ve seen in UCSD over the past week. It’s not that people in the black ghettos use more drugs than people in the white suburbs necessarily. It’s that they get caught more doing it (like the old saying goes, “if you don’t get caught, it ain’t illegal”). Imagine if all UCSD kids would get pulled over by cops in La Jolla and searched… how many of them would end up in jail and with a criminal record for drug possession, or for DUIs, etc?

And it’s not just a black thing: Latinos are about 13% of the US pop. yet they are about 25% of those in jail (the same thing happens with drug consumption v. drug arrests).

When you look at the statistics of blacks and Latinos in US universities, the opposite happens. At UCSD between 1-2% of students are black when African Americans are 6% of the SD pop and about 13% are Latin@ when Latin@s are about 25% of the SD pop.

So the bottom line is: stereotypes are not innocent – if you just take a quick look at US history you will begin to understand that stereotypes always go hand in hand with racial oppression. They are twins.

Hence. There is nothing funny about making fun of black stereotypes. If you asked people in Germany in the 1930s-40s if they thought of caricatures depicting menacing Jews with big nose, they would have all defended these as legitimately funny artistic expressions.

Oh, and one more thing: the fact that Dave Chappelle did sketch comedy depicting some of these stereotypes doesn’t excuse people reproducing these, esp. if they don’t get what Chappelle does. Chappelle is a smart guy (If you don’t believe me, go HERE). He knows all this history of minstrelsy and he knows how to play with it with tactful and subtle irony that is meant to explode the absurdities of racism in America. His comedy is like one of those “kids: don’t try this at home things.” If you don’t get it, don’t mess with it because you’re going to burn other people and in the end, it’s going to come back at you. Oh, and also, let’s not forget that Dave Chappelle backed out of his $55 million contract with Comedy Central for a reason. If you listen to the interviews he did after this, he says he stopped the show in part because he was tired of people wanting to see his show not for his satire but because they just wanted to see him say “I’m Rick James bitch.” He was fed up with people turning him into a minstrel.

Anyway, watch this video if you want to get a sense of where all of this is coming from.

For part 2, click HERE.

For part 2, click HERE.

For part 4, click HERE.

For part 5, click HERE.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. adrian
    February 20, 2010 at 2:23 pm | #1

    excellent essay and citations. please keep up the good work. i will be cutting and pasting and showing to my students the history and ideas behind this type of work.

  2. E
    February 21, 2010 at 2:18 am | #2

    you’re really comparing a party at UCSD with nazi germany. bra vo.

  3. John
    February 21, 2010 at 7:13 am | #3

    who made this video? is it available on DVD?

  4. White Male
    February 21, 2010 at 5:33 pm | #4

    If there was a White Trash Cookout would it have got this much attention?

    Would a “white” club be accepted the same way that latin and African American clubs are?

  5. An Asian Male
    February 21, 2010 at 7:37 pm | #5

    @White Male

    that’s the thing, who the fuck would be as disrespectful to even throw a “Honkey Cookout” or a “Cracker Bash” in the first place? the whole idea was conjured up to create controversy out of some misplaced feelings of an “overly oppressive” PC culture. like the writers of the Koala they don’t do it out of some academic pursuit, to further the discourse, or to be upstanding Americans exercising their First Amendment, they do it for shock value because they’re a bunch of privileged pricks that think their way of life is somehow under attack.

    it wouldn’t bother me if there was an italian, irish, british, german, etc club one bit. i’ve got an italian co worker, he’s straight up g, and if there were some party trying to equate his heritage with the orange tanned morons on jersey shores, just tell me where to sign up to kick the shin of whatever numbnut thought that’d be a hilariously fun idea (i don’t give a fuck if that person was italian himself.)

    yes there are poor whites that do have extremely difficult lives, but there’s this prevailing notion that somehow if you’re a minority you don’t have to work as hard because of affirmative action. more often than not this idea is touted by the extremely privileged whites that didn’t get into the school of their dreams but are still in a very great school. so there’s this bitter resentment and desire to be black, while at the same time a need to reaffirm their line of thought that blacks are undesirable. that’s what i think is the root of this party.

    Paul Mooney said it best: “everyone wants to be Black, but no one wants to be Black.” the party was a way for them to get out their inner desires of expressing all the incorrect notions of Blackness they think Blacks are afforded, while getting none of the negatives actually being Black has associated with them.

  6. Paan
    February 21, 2010 at 10:57 pm | #6

    White trash cookout woulda mostly been attended and started by whites . White ppl make fun of white trash but even white trash doesn’t think their white trash. The difference is it’s white kids probably from the suburbs showing a level of unintelligence that is making our school look bad and our educations worth less than before . Therefore I think we should get rid of these white kids because they obviously aren’t at the level of intelligence and member of the collegiate community

  7. Archibald
    February 24, 2010 at 6:18 am | #7

    These privileged frat-boy fuckers are lucky to be getting an education. If they’re going to abuse the unique social and academic opportunities that their society gives them because of their white skin and privileged family background, they can get the fuck off my campus. There are plenty of students on the waiting list who will appreciate an education more than these alcoholic shitheads with livers like swiss cheese.

  8. ucsd alumnus
    February 25, 2010 at 12:34 am | #8

    I believe this video is called, “Ethnic Options”

  9. Mariechka
    February 25, 2010 at 4:10 am | #9

    I am surprised this article doesn’t mention the CIA selling crack to the African American community, nor the disparity in sentencing for crack-cocaine vs powder cocaine (they are pharmacologically identical)… two facts which are (1) obviously related and (2) an obvious conspiracy on behalf of the government.

  10. Mike McGee
    March 1, 2010 at 3:16 pm | #10

    Sure, it’s blackface minstrelsy. Got it. And the woman who hung the noose is not white. So, it seems the way to stop racism in this case is to deal with the black community’s own portrayal of itself and address the problem of racism hoaxes perpetrated by non-whites. I encourage you to continue THAT good work. And you can stop complaining about white, male power now, because white, male power isn’t unique, nor is it particularly hegemonic in California, and nor was it the source of this absurdity.

    You all need to have a conversation about race, but I don’t need to be there.

  11. kk47herz
    March 2, 2010 at 10:18 pm | #11

    Thank you for posting this excellent material. @John and others who are interested: these video clips are from a 1987 film called Ethnic Notions by Marlon Riggs and narrated by Esther Rolle. More about it at the website of California Newsreel.

  12. March 3, 2010 at 2:37 pm | #12

    These clips are excerpts from the documentary film, Ethnic Notions produced by the late Marlon Riggs. You can find uot more about the film from California Newsreel (www.newsreel.org). There is another film on stereotypical images of African Americans in television called Color Adjustment, which is also helpful for these conversations. You should also check out a new film about white participation in Hip-Hop and the historical use of blackface called Blacking Up. Check the Newsreel website for that film which will be available soon.

  1. February 22, 2010 at 1:01 pm | #1

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