Some Post-Mammy Questions For Today


Originally uploaded at cafepress.com

Dear Y’all:

I have really appreciated the many hits on my review of The Help, and the new readers who have found my blog. I thank y’all so much for the love.

And so, for those of y’all who don’t regularly read this blog, I’d thought I’d introduce you to the real me. And if you still like the real me, come on back and read again. And if you don’t, well, I’m not going to change, and it’s been a long time since I thought about doing so. I’m not going to lie to you.

Anyway, I want to complicate this issue of public representations of Black women and ask some very difficult questions that occurred to me this morning.

Do the images of the Black Mammy and the historical inaccuracies of the Civil Rights era–the past–depicted in The Help movie do any more damage to the public image or private self-esteem of Black women than, say, the following (below) rappers calling Black women (at least one of) the following (below) various demeaning, cruel epithets in public–on their Cds–in the present?

Demeaning And/Or Cruel Epithets

H*

B*tch

Trick

Jump-off

Hooker

.

Hip Hop Artists Who’ve Used At Least One Of The Above Epithets Frequently

Too Short

Ice-Cube

Dr. Dre

Snoop Dog

Biggie Smalls

Tupac

Lil Kim

Jay-Z

Kanye West

Lil Wayne

Common

.

Why will we Black people rally the academic and artistic troops and write all kinds of reviews and responses to The Help, when Watch the Throne by Jay-Z and Kanye West came out two days before that movie, and I counted at least 20 uses of the word “b**ch” on that Cd, and in one song, Kanye raps about throwing his personal body fluids on a woman’s face? How come that doesn’t work Black academics and artists into a blog-writing fury?

If Jay-Z’s and Kanye’s hearts are still considered to be in the “right place” when they demean (presumably Black) women, why can’t we assume that the heart of White southerner Kathryn Stockett (the author of The Help) is in the same “right place” when she produces a demeaning representation of Sisters?

I’ve heard the following excuse for Black male/female Hip Hop artists calling Sisters out of their name: “Well, if you know you’re not a [fill-in-the-blank demeaning epithet], it shouldn’t bother you.” Taking the same simple line of logic: If you’re an African American woman and you know you’re not a Black Mammy—or if you love  an African America woman and you know she’s not a Mammy–then why should The Help  bother you so much?

Sidebar: You do know I was put on this planet to cause trouble, right? I can’t help it. My great-granny was a root worker.

By the way, my regular readers know that I am not someone who uses profanity in my blog, and I do not like to publish comments that contain profanity, either. (Yes, I am a Southern Lady.) I didn’t want to water down the impact of the epithets by using asterisks, but I did, since 99% of us who are grown will know the word.

Ok, that’s all for now.

I’m hoping to have something you can feel–to quote from Sparkle for all you old heads–on Monday. Until then,  have a wonderful weekend and whether or not you come back to the blog, I hope I’ve done something good for you, even if only for a little while.

Love,

Honorée


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6 thoughts on “Some Post-Mammy Questions For Today

  1. hmm, I’ve asked myself this question a lot, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve found that the names do bother me sometimes, but not all the time. I find that if it’s a demeaning song that came out before I thought about such things, I can’t help but associated that song with whatever awesome time I was having while listening to it (cue Ludacris’ ‘Ho’ and every Three Six Mafia song made before 2002 — this is the soundtrack to this memory.) But now that I’m a mother, I’m little more selective with my hip-hop. Still, I can’t tear myself away from Eminem or Lil Wayne, but then when they call someone out of name “They ain’t talkin’ bout me,” I tell myself, so that pretty much makes it alright. And going along the lines of that mentality, I think it’s fair to say that if you’re even contemplating whether or not it’s appropriate to support artists of any genre who perpetuate negative stereotypes and images of black women (or any women) then you can probably with all confidence use the “They ain’t talkin’ about me” excuse.
    Even when talking about ‘The Help.’
    The truth is they’re not talking about you, or your mama or your great-grandma Lucy. They’re talking about characters and people from their experience — from their world. Just because it’s not projecting an image of the strong black women we’ve grown up around doesn’t mean it’s a less valid characterization, than some super strong Angela Bassett-esque character.
    There’s a time and a place for everything. There are hoes out there who are, as we speak, wiping bodily fluid from their faces in public places. That is not a reflection on my or “my people.” And at some point back in the day, a white boy was being raised by a mammy … also not a representation of “my people.”
    I’m not mad at any of these artists for getting paid to share their experience with the world.

  2. To all of you who are new to this blog because of Honoree’s blog on The Help, let me remind you that Honoree is a woman who usually gets right to the point on any of her blogs or discussions. Amongst the many things I have learned from her is to appreciate her open honesty and her careful research into whatever subject she is writing about. Sometimes I have to think long and hard to reply to her blog, just so that I make some sense. I hope those of you who have newly joined will come back, because this woman is a wonderful author, poet and teacher, besides I am sure many other wonderful thngs to her friends and family.

  3. Hi Sister! I will come back because I like troublemakers! Plus my momma’s from Erath La., and my daddy’s (rip) from New Awllins! So we may know a thing or two about roots and such.

    For me black men demeaning black women in videos and such is a battle that I don’t doubt that the academics ARE fighting—it’s just that it’s not being televised, like the revolution. So we can’t assume that numerous lone academics have not written numerous unread pieces in their blogs of all the hate that’s thrown at black women by black musicians.

    But as for “The Help”, all the people who have something to say are being televised, blogged, youtubed, and the rest, because it’s free publicity for the movie for one. It makes black folks look like rabid mad men and women when we call out this madness for another! That’s the unfortunate view that the greater white society has been conditioned to take, so when we do call it out these racist movies and articles, they gleefully publicize it everywhere. Two or three birds are being killed with one stone so to speak.

    1. They get the free publicity and black people then go to these movies knowing they will be insulted. Whites and others will be further lied to. It doesn’t matter because they got your money.
    2. When reading our opinions in all the blogs and magazines, whites and others will then get to see how “unnecessarily angry” blacks are, which plays into the hands of the oppressors.
    3. People in general will come to dislike blacks all the more and dehumanize us just that much more, so that no one will care when hatred comes our way.

    So it works to the oppressors’ advantage to publicize us when we fight against white racism. Not so much when we fight against black self hatred or misogyny.

    None the less, we have to still fight because we do get through to some who have their thinking caps on. Generally most people do not think for themselves.

  4. Among white racists, rap has taken the throne as “the Devil’s music” that was formerly occupied first by jazz and then later rock and roll. I mean if you want to hear condemnation of rap, watch Fox news or listen to Rush Limbaugh. Of course, they are using it as a racist “dog whistle,” so their criticisms are disingenuous at best (Limbaugh says just as many demeaning things about women as any of the rappers do, though he uses more “radio friendly” language to do it).

    The effect this has is to make rap fans “close ranks,” rather than gang up on the rap artists. This is not to say I don’t hear or read sarcastic comments by female rap fans about stuff that is disturbing in rap, but that’s done in the context of people who are insiders rather than giving fuel to outsiders. (Oh, and some rap fans don’t have a problem with the negative messages in rap, obviously, but I’m not speaking about them here.)

    Probably, there should be more open, honest criticism of the excesses of rap. It’s hard to do though, when you know that that your statement might end up on Bill O’Reilly’s latest, “let’s get the Black Folks” segment.

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