Celebrating the Post-Racial All StarsCourtesy of The New York Comedy Festival and Blake McElrath
Our “Postracial All Stars” are politicians, personalities, artists, athletes, etc. who are best at helping us deal with where we are on race relations today. They keep it real, when others can’t. A Barack, a Jon Stewart/Daily Show, a Chris Rock, a South Park, a Lorne Michaels, a Modern Family, a Louis CK (mentioned below), as past and current examples, don’t ignore the “race” elephant in the room. Nor are they cornered by it. They show us old racial profiles in new contexts (i.e. rappers using the n-word, who are young white females). Or a new wrinkle in the current conversation (NBA millionaires premised as “plantation workers”). They are actively engaging, often embracing the nuanced scenarios of today. And making it fun for us to keep tabs along with them.
See, now you get it! This week in order to kick off 2012 proper we’re honoring some of the new blood: herewith, a lineup of Postracial All Stars from 2011.
Louis CK: Chris rock calls him “the blackest white guy I know”. This is not a reference to his skin tone. But Louis has become a quasi-point guard for the postracial all stars. Or maybe he’s the gunner launching himself into the wedge when Team Racism tries to return a touchdown in the fourth quarter? Regardless our choice of metaphor, his being white bit, “I don’t want to go to the future and find out what happens to white people. We’re going to pay hard for this shit. You gotta know that” is textbook primer on how to self-efface and influence people as a privileged Caucasian male today. And it’s one thing to work it in the safe confines of your own show, but Louis ups the ante by leading with this material on VSFW television like, say, Leno: “I’m not saying if you’re white you can’t complain, I’m saying if you’re black you can complain more.” Bingo! Done and done. I don’t know if there’s another comic today more comfortable with putting down his own kind.
Kreayshawn: Nothing would make Dave Chappelle’s old black white supremacist character, Clayton Bigsby’s head explode like overhearing a heated debate between Kreayshawn and her White Girl Mafia over whose ovaries the swag is coming out of, and their fight to liberate the n-word from the shackles of censorship. But this shouldn’t be limited to Kreayshawn, in 2011 the landscape of female emcees and code scramblers like Nicki Minaj, and Azealia Banks and Iggy Azalea et. al were doing a lot of dismantling and rearranging our perception of hip hop and all the post-racial contained therein. Let’s hear it for the girls, (n-word)?
Patrice O’Neal (RIP): Please see his breakdowns of Radiohead and Fight Club for All Star post-racial performances from “Professor Whiteness.” His voice will be missed.
Das Racist: Talking about race can be likened to a terribly uncomfortable staring contest. The conversation, by design, is alienating. Enter Das Racist: “We strive for alienation,” they said in their Spin cover profile. They stare longer, harder, faster(?). Who knew heavy-handed Wesleyan University-style conversations about race and politics could go mainstream? (somewhat mainstream). In this case the Trojan Horse, or candy for the medicine, is the aesthetics of hip-hop and comedy in the form of Relax, the De La Soul Is Dead of 2011 race relations.
Herman Cain: As the Bizarro Obama, Cain gave the country an unprecedented opportunity to be united in making fun of a black political candidate. Everyone from Jon Stewart and Wyatt Cenac to Tavis Smiley and Tracy Morgan could “Kanye shrug” at this guy. Sometimes togetherness can come in (against) strange 9-9-9 packages.
Drake, Donald Glover: Drake and Donald get lumped together for raising the bar and giving us first time access to guys with money, women, fame, and youth all on their side, and still they emo-rap from the perspective of sadface unfairly-treated black dudes. Awww, these guys need a hug, some champagne, and some models. They’ll bring the models and champagne.
Big Ghost Chronicles: We’d be remiss to not mention how crucial the GQ co-sign is here: in so doing a blog that drops the n-word and is incredibly sexist in its metaphors becomes a subversive mirror on the culture — a gonzo black Hunter Thompson of the 2011 blogosphere — instead of being racist and cordoned off with the rest of the NSFW section of the internet.
Tim Tebow: Little explanation needed. The luster is coming off, but Tebowing obviously bridged cultures of race, color, creed with every quarterback draw/prayer moment.
NBA Stars: Lebron, Carmelo, et. al deserve props for giving us the chance to talk about NBA owners as billionaire plantation owners, and millionaire stars as plantation workers. Slaves would have killed their masters for slavery like this!
The Throne: Similarly, with the “Otis” video, and the “Ni**as in Paris” tour, Kanye and Jay gave us black cultural self-indulgence and opulence that we’ve never seen before. Back in the days this guy might have dogs chasing him, now he’s a viral phenomenon.
Thanks to all the Postracial All Stars of 2011! Seems only fitting we go out with a clip from the Martin Luther King “I have a dream” speech. Did he know we would one day wake up to Kreayshawn and Nicki Minaj? Holla!
Patrice Evans is a Grantland staff writer. Check out his (excellent) book Negropedia: The Assimilated Negro’s Crash Course on the Modern Black Experience.