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