Discover more from Stoic Observations
Black Cancellation on Clubhouse, Already.
Some oversimplifications that still makes sense
Perhaps the supreme irony of black American existence is how broadly black people debate the question of cultural identity among themselves while getting branded as a cultural monolith by those who would deny us the complexity and complexion of a community, let alone a nation. If Afro Americans have never settled for the racist reductions imposed upon them -- from chattel slaves to cinematic stereotype to sociological myth -- it's because the black collective conscious not only knew better but also knew more than enough ethnic diversity to subsume those fictions.
-- Greg Tate
A Drama on Clubhouse
Bracketing some older writing again, I’m revisiting some thoughts I had 12 years ago this month. It’s because I got smacked in the solar plexus with the kind of blow you never forget physically but on the daily your mind won’t let you remember. It’s like landing on your back and having the wind knocked out of you or getting a bee sting. It happened when you were a kid but you can’t bring yourself the experience without being in the same childlike situations. So I was in a blackfight the other day. Yeah on Clubhouse. I know. Actually two of them.
The first was tense as hell so it’s not fair to call it a fight because it never cut loose. A dude named Z was answering a hellacious series of questions as he sought to represent the voice of reason from the perspective of a black police officer. Since I had just published my LAPD story, I was vitally interested. There were about 150 folks in the room with 15 ‘on stage’. After about 20 minutes of hand-raising (there’s a button for this protocol) I finally got on stage. So basically there were 13 others coming up with questions from every angle, some reasonable, some baited, some on the verge of hostility. Everything was all on dude, and I felt sorry for him. For a number of reasons, some of them possibly technical, some possibly hostile, many of us on the stage were getting pushed off into the general audience and had to appeal again to the several hosts/moderators by raising our hands.
Since this particular discussion was controlled primarily by one individual it was quite orderly in that only the questions that individual wanted spoken were made and then (endlessly) followed up. It got to the point at which any interactive feedback was all on Z, and where he fell short, nobody else came to his defense. After an hour on stage with no opportunity to speak, I quit.
The second, more toxic affair, (is that word creeping up in my vocabulary?) came as a followup to something called the Scorch Trial, which was a remarkable thing. A riveting debate, more or less following the rules of debate, sorta, ended in a unanimous decision handed over by several judges to the defender of capitalism for black Americans against an ‘abolitionist’. The abolitionist aimed to, in the words of the winner of the debate, ‘sink the ship we’re sailing in’. It was because of my decision to follow the winner and a couple of the best judges that I came upon the room in question.
This room was entitled ‘Can we all just get along’, and it took me about 15 minutes to figure out that the question on the table was whether or not this black conservative capitalist should be cancelled. The winning debater and the most persnickety yet civil judge were present. The matter boiled down a claim by a woman, call her NYC was verbally assaulted and threatened in a prior Clubhouse room by the debater, call him DC. In this particular room, the stage was good sized. At least a dozen individuals were on stage, but there were at least 5 host/moderators all of whom had control over who could speak on stage. The audience surely had over 200 members. It should be noted that followers of the hosts have seats that are close to the stage whereas anonymous nobodies like me sat in the cheap seats which may require you to scroll 8 or 9 times to find your own face icon. I do wish this was an app I could use on my workstation. Then again…
I must have caught the early part of the debate in which the persnickety judge repeated his mantra that while he and DC disagree on just about everything, civility isn’t hard if that’s of value to you. This time I got on the stage and even heard one or two Amens as I repeat my often claim that black diversity is not respected and people, including black people, have no business trying to own other black people. Or pwn as the case may be when one communicates via computer. So when Judge and DC agreed that maybe a neutral topic like a book club or something other than capitalism was the subject maybe people could actually get along. But then the conversation took a strange turn in which DC started talking about ‘people of a certain gender’ who were fucking it up for everyone. When Dave Chappelle talked about the ‘alphabet people’ it was funny. By the third time DC iterated ‘certain gender’ it was quickly becoming clear that third rail was burning through his shoes and the smoke was getting thick.
At this point NYC raised her claim from an episode that happened weeks or months ago. So while DC’s unsubtle point about the certain folks who were working diligently to cancel him from Clubhouse landed with a thud, that very dynamic started up again. It must also be noted that he had either changed his Clubhouse handle, and he had certainly changed his icon so that it showed the image of another room where he got booted by some cabal before. As this is going on, many of the hosts were frantically signaling they wanted to talk and sending direct messages between each other invisible to all of us in the cheap seats. So every once in a while DC would get booted off stage by some of the host/moderators.
The prime moderator of the room finally took control from the others and ‘reset the room’ so that NYC could present to all of us her recording of DC that she claimed included that he:
A. threatened to shoot her
B. told her not to come out at night after 10pm
C. threatened to hack her CashApp
So while we all waited in silence awaiting this bombshell recording, DC managed to get in a word edgewise that he was talking about COVID curfews in Manhattan. OK I’ve heard that conservative gripe before.
As the recording finally arrived, it turned out to be an audio version of a McDonald’s fight on WorldStarHiphop. Several people were speaking, ahem, shouting at once. It was clear to me, even after several repeats of the lo-fi tape, the following things.
It could not be determined at all that the word ‘shoot’ was ever said. You’d need a forensic analysis.
DC called NYC a something bitch, most likely stupid bitch.
‘Watch your CashApp’ was definitely said by DC, the only male voice recognizable on the tape.
‘Out after 10’ was part of the male voice shouting.
What was not in question was this was a dumpster fire and that all of the people in the room had a difficult time understanding who started it, why and exactly who burned who and where. I suggested, but I don’t know if anybody had any reason to listen to me that NYC upload the tape to a public website where anybody could hear and decipher it. NYC decided that this room was sufficiently connected and influential to determine the fate of DC. When one of the host/moderators offered to share the tape with some unidentified 3rd party perhaps known to the two of them, presumably a Clubhouse bigwig, she vehemently disagreed. By this time, I noticed that DC was no longer on the stage or in the room any longer.
One of the folks on stage asked if in this day and age that we’re going to stand by and let black women be disrespect in such a manner. I decided to jump in and ask if this entire room was all about some beef between two people. I was summarily booted from the room.
After I caught my breath and calmed down, pissed that I had wasted my time over this personal pissing match, the Clubhouse app dutifully notified me that DC and one of the hosts whose name I recognize were in a new room. I caught snippets of DC saying ‘defamation of character’ and decided to hang up.
Three Kinds of Black
(from the archives: April 2009)
I was thinking about encapsulating what I think these days about being black and several old metaphors came to mind that bear repeating.
The first, and I think most steadfast is that being black is like being from a small town. Because no matter what you think about being black, the one thing you know is true is that it makes you a minority - from someplace other than from most people on this planet. Whether you loved or hated your small town, you can't change that you were from there and it shaped what you thought when you looked out into the rest of the world.
The second notion was a bit more complicated. It has to do with the back of the bus.
All educated Americans know that in the Jim Crow South, black Americans were forced through various laws and social pressures into second class citizenship. And before the success of the change of those laws and pressures, it was required of them to sit in the rear of public transportation. You almost certainly know the story of Rosa Parks at the tip of the spear in the heart of that particular abuse. She was a Negro and she was part of the solution of the Negro Problem. Rosa Parks was one of the last of her kind, and her often sung heroism is of a different sort than the attitude of blacks. Whereas most blacks march, Sister Rosa marched into battle. We often capture the cadence and the style, but rarely the stamina nor the prize. And because of the distance between ourselves, we blacks of the post-soul generation, we often ask ourselves about the nature of our blackness. Rosa didn't have to ask, because as I mentioned, she wasn't black, she was Negro and part of the solution of the Negro Problem.
The black problem is a bit more ephemeral which is why it isn't capitalized and why there are nary any statuary of men in the wake of Martin Luther King, Jr. We like to think of all African Americans in our histories as 'black', but we're merely grasping. I have come to accept that there is no black orthodoxy. But what is there? There is the back of the bus.
When I rode the 85, back before it was the 210, northbound on Crenshaw just before my stop at Jefferson all the best drivers would hit the tracks at Exposition at a good clip. The best place to be was the back of the bus because the bounce would send you two feet into the air. It was an ecstatic moment at the most energetic place on any bus through the 1970s 'hood. The back of the bus was where the three card monte games were played, where kids like myself played the trickster.
Black Type One - Trickster.
If you're academic, you know the drill. Brer Rabbit and some loas I've long forgotten circle around this archetype of blackness. I'm not going to get all elaborate into it other than to fill in the metaphor for the bus. We knew, black kids like me, that we sat in the back of the bus in defiance of the sort which goes to the heart of my kind of black - of taking the negative and turning it on its head. It's all about Perverse Pride. Of keeping the outer signs used against you intact but keeping an inner fire, of wearing the mask of compliance while doing the deeds of subterfuge. Think of that black kid, wisecraking and crafty, smirking at the back of the bus. That's his bus, and you only think it's being driven from the front.
Black Type Two - Prisoner.
The prisoner sings not we shall overcome but we are overcome. He never bothered to move to the front of the bus. He wouldn't be comfortable elsewhere. He never went anywhere, not even inside his head. He might be a prisoner actually overcome or one that never bothered to dream. The movement simply passed him by. He minds his business and it all enough. He is the eternal reminder, the rat in the maze - the one people point their fingers at. Like C J Memphis in A Soldier's Story, he is not uncomprehending of the Struggle, he's just not trying. He's on the bus where he belongs. Why make a fuss?
Black Type Three - Traveler.
The traveler is on the bus to get from point A to point B. Which seat makes no difference. He's not caught up in the symbols. He might sit in the back, but for him it's about the legroom, or maybe it's the warmest part in the cold weather, or perhaps he's avoiding a funky smell in the front of the bus. Whatever the reason, it has nothing to do with the Struggle. He is indifferent to the schemes of the Trickster and the plight of the Prisoner. He's on the bus because his car is in the shop, or he just didn't feel like walking today. Or maybe he saw a familiar face in the back.
As I was thinking about marking these three types of black, I was considering what is the roughest part of being black for myself. That is, I think, the problem of the time I have spent thinking about it all and the extent to which the expression of what I have learned is not, in fact, black. And black was what I expected it to be, and to a certain extent I am a bit saddened that I have come to learn about humanity in metaphors I somehow expected to be a siren call to my own people. It turned out that I have no own people, and it's the hardest lesson of all. No black Americans have their own people because we, of all people have striven the most against being owned. So I keep repeating that question which is a basic human question, is when are people going to realize that they don't own people? When are black people going to learn that they don't own black people? When is humanity going to realize they don't own humanity? I suppose never, which is when we'll all realize at once that we are God's children and we don't even really know God. The alternative belief is more comforting and wrong.
So it's easy to ask, where are all the black people? The answer is disappointing on the surface. The black people are still at the back of the bus. But they are not who you think they are and their reasons for being there are more than the simple answer implies. Besides, if you have to ask...
One more thing. I wrote about The Fungibles ten years ago and updated it about six years ago. Maybe we can add two more names, but I'm still right.
I was never the Prisoner and I did the Trickster thing naturally. It took me a while to figure out exactly which bus I wanted to take through America. As a profession, it became clear to me at the age of 21. A summer internship for the Country of Los Angeles finally crystalized my young life’s focus. It’s why I’m a data engineer today. I never fell out of love for writing code that focuses people’s attention and guides their actions. It’s the same passion that fuels my essaying.
Once I found that professional bus, I became the Traveler, and once I found out what I learned could be valuable to people in other countries I pretty much buried all of my Trickster ways as part of my personality. Yet I remained a Trickster in writing all the way up to 2008, roughly. When Barack Obama became president, the Trickster died, but that’s a long story. But yeah, he was a bit like Sgt Waters wasn’t he?
There are millions of Americans, God knows how many, who still believe that black behavior is up for discussion. They believe there has to be at least one more law, one more policy, one more social understanding to occur before we can all stop talking about slavery or Jim Crow or Trayvon Martin. Actually, poor old Trayvon has been replaced by St. George Floyd who to this very day represents the perfect black victim. Until the next one who can maybe replace Emmett Till. So there’s an eternally persistent and self-replicating, self-justified class of tricksters who all feel it there sacred duty to play Sgt. Waters and bury some black boogie man once and for all. They profess it to be their sacred duty to purge the system of all remnants of disrespect. Well, good luck with ridding the world of sin. Maybe you should do some situps instead, grow some intestinal fortitude and realize once and for all that you cannot control the destiny of African America. But that will never happen. Remember what I said about little bitches?
The little bitch is a man who feels that he is owed something and therefore spends a lot of time advertising his discomfort. He may or may not be a punk as well. A little bitch may refer to himself in the third person as though the very fact of his existence should compel people to care. Easily offended, little bitches are meticulous in their deportment and can't imagine why the rest of the barbarian world doesn't. Thus, a little bitch is always trying to explain things. They must get their two cents in about how the world should be, and what a damnable inconvenience that it is not. A little bitch will readily confess to being a little bitch but they have much more glorified labels for themselves. True patriot, keeper of the faith, defender of the weak and other such grandiose delusions.
The speech of our desire will never get enough airtime or distribution. Public space needs a balance between control and freedom. The best control is self-control. The best discipline is self-discipline.
He that [hath] no rule over his own spirit
His affections and passions, puts no restraint, unto them, as the word signifies; no guard against them, no fence about them, to curb his curiosity, to check his pride and vanity, to restrain his wrath and anger and revenge, and keep within due bounds his ambition and itch of vainglory;
[is like] a city that broken down [and] without walls;
into which the may go with pleasure, and which is exposed to the rapine and violence of everyone; and so a man that has no command of himself and passions, but gives the reins to them, is exposed to the enemy of souls, Satan and is liable to every sin, snare and temptation.
Is that Stoic or what?