Musings of a Postmodern Negro

"During times of war, hatred becomes quite respectable, even though it has to masquerade often under the guise of patriotism."- Howard Thurman

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Location: United States

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

What is Ghetto Crackery?




Anthony Bradley, a research fellow at the Acton Institute, has some provocative thoughts on this. I have serious reservations about characterizing the black urban poor as "ghetto crackers". However, I understand his point. It is a debate and discussion that needs to happen within black culture. But...will this kind of message endear the masses of "ghetto crackers" across the cities of America and "rednecks" in the hills of rural America to his timely message?

Maybe his words will start a revolution among the young black urban poor to throw off the chains of ghetto crackery. Maybe they will chance his article on the Acton Institute's website. Maybe. I hope that is brother Anthony Bradley's goal and not to simply revel in what he see as absurdities in aspects of black popular culture. At least I hope so. If not, then why even play like that?

Of course there is one aspect of ghetto crackery he left out. I just want to throw one more image out there to capture this occurrence of strange bedfellows:


Surprised? You didn't think ghetto crackers were alone in producing their own absurdities did you? I mean...somebody has to market this stuff...right?

15 Comments:

Blogger St.Phransus said...

Ant,
Bradley's article is really thought provoking. I grew up in a black neighborhood in North Nashville and a couple of years ago I took a break from working in the church to run the family grocery store that is still in the neighborhood.

One of the things that I noticed in this urban neighborhood is how EXTREMEMLY needy kids are- not physically/economically (although they were) but emotionally and socially. They would hang out at the store simply because I enjoyed having them around and enjoyed chatting and kidding with them.

It seems that although all youth/young people need and want a communal identity to be a part of- urban kids need positive expressions of identity a lot more.

And in North Nashville unfortunately the Ghetto Cracker identity is widespreaed- many of the kids that I've met are talented, with a lot of potential and spirit, but have little or no direction other than that of their peers. A lot of the adults in the community are either older and out of touch or really young single moms who are just trying to survive.

thanks.
jn

July 26, 2005 7:48 PM  
Blogger postmodernegro said...

jn,

the work in these communities is hard work. i know people that work in communities like this. i work with the urban poor myself. that's why i find it extremely un-helpful to use terms like "ghetto cracker" to describe these young people. i understand bradley's point. he is trying to get people's attention. i can dig that. cause...what is glaring about alot of black youth culture is the self-hatred that comes from living a nihilistic existence. i mean what do you do when you have liquor stores on every corner, freakin billboard signs next to your house advertising for big tobacco, and so forth? i don't want to minimize personal agency but i think throwing the gauntlet down and saying, "you ghetto crackers betta straighten up!" is quite unhelpful. Its like you said...there is a lack of direction and mentorship in many cases. As much as I love hip-hop I cannot help but feel like it is very much a boy-culture. it keeps young men in some kind of perpetual youth. Something is wrong, in my opinion, when you are 40 years old wearing your britches down to your ankles. Of course there is a flip side to that as well. In a culture where young black kids get marketed to death...thus being shaped and formed to be conspicuous consumers they are also taught that wearing your britches down to your ankles is cool as well...that's the way it is marketed. Who sells these britches?

So while I have no problem with demanding personal agency and responsibility on behalf of my brothers and sisters...I would love to have Big Tobacco take their billboards down from the ghetto. You ever noticed that billboards are never up in the burbs?

Thanks for hitting me up J.

Ant

July 26, 2005 8:01 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

This article and topic did nothing more for me but then to cause irritation. I think ghetto folks and white trash folks have more in common than they think. They both live in conditions with limited opportunity, limited education and extreme poverty. I guess what bugs me most is that this man (pictured in a suit and glasses) compares definitions of blacks “selling out” in a scenario that pins the educated against the uneducated; the Tiger Woods type against the Ying Yang type. Sounds like a “them” vs. “us “ situation in which the measuring stick is placed up against a white standard. What is the point to all of this? If you are black, you will be black until you die – no matter what the world’s interpretation. It just seems as if this article does nothing more than perpetuate ignorance and accentuate the divide between educated blacks and blacks who are poor and not as well educated. Plus, who is to say that the Ying Yang twins are as ignorant as they appear? They are simply another group taking advantage of the exploited stereotypes promoted by corporate America – stereotypes that are bought into not only by blacks but by mainstream America as well.

July 26, 2005 8:40 PM  
Blogger postmodernegro said...

kristine,

I understand your point here. I think the tact in which alot of conservative voices take in pointing out the negatives of black culture needs tempering. The love doesn't come across the way it should, at least in my experience. Assuming of course all of this discourse about ghetto crackery is motivated by love for poor urban blacks. There seems to be a distance between this kind of discourse and the actual world of poor urban folks. But I think Bradley's point is valid in that we cannot consign ourselves to be cogs in the wheel. At some point we have to exercise some agency and responsibility for the negatives in our culture. I am all for speaking truth to power, but if I am stand in the center of the tradition of the Hebrew prophets they told "everyone" to throw down their idols...not just the rich but also the poor as well.

Of course, I don't hear this that much in conservative or liberal discourse. A balance needs to be struck between pointing out the systemic issues and issues relating to personal agency and responsibility. I believe there is a place for hearing conservative voices when they place emphasis on agency and responsibility. But I wish they would be more willing to acknowledge the greater systemic issues at play here as well...plus looking at the broader context beyond the individual.

Such a balance will demand that one move beyond the limits of their particular ideology. For conservatives that means being willing to move beyond various interpretations of rugged individualism and liberals moving beyond a kind of systemic determinism to recognize when which is which and what is what.

We'll see.

Thanks for your thoughts Kristine.

Ant

July 27, 2005 5:31 AM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Anthony, I hear you. As you sensed, the lack of love and the accusatory manner in which this commentary was written evoked my reaction.

I agree with your remarks about everyone throwing down their idols.
I, too wish they would be more willing to acknowledge the greater systematic issues in a broader context. Just off the cuff I see the idols of materialism, power and celebrity as driving forces in this matter. While some people may have gone about achievement through a means of college education and others have taken the roles of being "ghetto fabulous", the bottom line is that everyone is working toward financial success in many different forms.

For some the desperation and drive for this type of success may override any thoughts of maintaining a sense of dignity or taking responsibility for how they or others are perceived when it comes to being black in America. The image that comes to mind unfortunately as I reflect on what I read in the article and the responses here is one that harkens back to the early 1900’s when blacks were no more than racist caricatures. These images reduced blacks to being subhuman, full of foolish exaggeration, clumsiness and ignorance, totally unaware of the fact that they were being seen as inferior and in fact, comfortable in their circumstances.

Minstrel shows “presented the black character as being stupid, as being comical, as being basically a frivolous character. Now, how that impacted upon society itself was that they embraced it. They loved it. This was what people had thought about blacks all along. So Rice's [Thomas Dartmouth Rice- the initiator of blackface] characterization of blacks then reaffirmed what mainstream America had been thinking all along.” -
American Experience - Blackface Minstrelsy

While the idea of a compromised view of blacks is scary in that it is evidence of the clock turning back with regards to all of the negative stereotypes that blacks have worked against, it is also disheartening in that this issue points to something greater than race issues; it points to the importance placed on materialism, power, and celebrity and the disillusioned belief that these things will provide satisfaction and fulfill us in a way that only God can.

July 27, 2005 2:42 PM  
Anonymous Carlos said...

>>>So while I have no problem with demanding personal agency and responsibility on behalf of my brothers and sisters...

"Personal agency"? Is that what conservatives have been referring to as 'personal responsibility' all these years? You can say it, it won't kill you.

Someone will market that stuff and make a buck, but is that really the point? That's only relevant if we assume that marketing that trash is what causes it-- I don't think it does. Every movement is co-opted by those seeking to make a buck-- the beatniks, the flower child, punk, etc. But those dudes in the boardroom don't cause. They don't create it. They just make a buck off it. It's homegrown in the ghetto. So let's not confuse correlation with causation and find yet another way to blame whitey and thereby avoid "personal agency".

August 09, 2005 8:53 PM  
Blogger postmodernegro said...

Carlos,

Thanks for responding to my post here. A few comments.

You say, "Someone will market that stuff and make a buck, but is that really the point? That's only relevant if we assume that marketing that trash is what causes it-- I don't think it does."

I say yes and no to your point here. To ignore the effects of consumer culture on youth is to have a serious case of myopia. When white kids in the suburbs have shooting sprees in public schools people want to get tough on violence on TV...put parental labels on music. But when black kids act out...its their own personal choices that has caused this mess. We are told they need to take personal responsibility for their trash. I often see a hypocrisy come into play with such rhetoric. On one hand you hear Christians say, "well we are becoming consumerist and materialistic in our gospel...there are these broader cultural forces that shape us middle class Christians to have a consumerist gospel...in fact the institution called "church" forms aides and abets our formation into consumeristic and materialistic people...and it effects our theologizing and self-understanding as church."

But when negros go about the bling bling and dirty south culture it becomes a culture of their own making. I think such analysis is hypocritical. The same conservatives that will point out the systemic issues of no prayer in schools and no ten commandments on public buildings as a reason and a symptom to the moral decay in our country quickly gain amnesia. Which reveals to me a selective ethic when it comes to systemic issues. When it comes to negros...its totally their own fought, we are told. As you said about this particular aspect of culture, its "homegrown". As if no one else is complicit in the emergence of this kind of culture.

Then you say:

"Every movement is co-opted by those seeking to make a buck-- the beatniks, the flower child, punk, etc. But those dudes in the boardroom don't cause. They don't create it."

Just like the marketing of violence and hyper-sexuality doesn't effect white kids in the suburbs right? or to suggest that the marketing of secular non-theistic values in popular culture has no effect on youth. Is that what you are suggesting? I mean these corporations that market and sell this stuff pour billions of dollars in advertisement and marketing for what? Just to get the word out. Study any book on marketing. A part of marketing is to create a desire...to create consumers of specific products. And this is a complex reality I'll admit, but to suggest that "ghetto cracker" culture is solely the making of poor urban blacks is seriously myopic.

They just make a buck off it. It's homegrown in the ghetto. So let's not confuse correlation with causation and find yet another way to blame whitey and thereby avoid "personal agency"."

Its unfortunate that you would characterize my comments as blaming "whitey" and an avoidance of personal agency. Quite unfortunate. For these issues have their causes beyond pigmentation. We are dealing with principalities and powers. Lest we forget there are larger spiritual forces beyond the individual's choices that effects people. You know that's in the bible right? I mean the bible affirms both personal agency and larger forces.

This is where conservatism becomes myopic and leaves the biblical story. Just like liberalism tends to leave the biblical story by eschewing personal agency for larger forces. And those larger forces are explaine to us by liberals often as purely materialistic/sociological forces...that have no spiritual reality to them.

The gospel affirms both larger forces that shape individuals and communities AND personal agency. But it demands personal agency within the context of the ekklesia. That's why both conservatism and liberalism are myopic in their social visions.

Ant

August 10, 2005 1:48 PM  
Anonymous Carlos said...

Ant,

It's unfair to cite Columbine unless you know for a fact that people in that community go around excusing that kind of behaviour. They don't. Can you say the same thing about bling bling?

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to blame kids in the ghetto because after all, they're kids and don't know any better.

I don't blame the kids, I blame on the so-called leaders in the African American community who will excuse and defend this kind of trash as legitimate expressions of black culture, or frustration against the system, etc etc, blah blah blah, instead of taking a principled stand like Bill Cosby (thank you!!!) has been doing. And look at the flack he's taking!

I understand what you mean by the principalities of darkness, and in the case of the black community it's the destructive culture they've allowed to fester in their midst-- not white boardrooms.

Blaming whitey hasn't done a damn thing for the African American community. Wake up.

August 10, 2005 7:30 PM  
Blogger postmodernegro said...

Carlos,

You say,"It's unfair to cite Columbine unless you know for a fact that people in that community go around excusing that kind of behaviour. They don't. Can you say the same thing about bling bling?"

Do you normally project stuff onto people's comments. Nowhere did I say that those in communities like Columbine "exuse" that kind of behvavior. My comments, maybe I wasn't clear enough, was suggesting that when it comes to suburban pathologies by white kids both the personal the systemic issues are raised. Cassie Bernal's dad went to Washington D.C. to talk about the promotion and marketing of violence in our culture to children. He's conservative. My point being that pathologies in "particular" communities, such as Columbing, get a fair and balanced assessment whereas poor urban blacks get wholly blamed for the ghetto cracker culture that has been created (and on second though Anthony Bradley's op-ed piece suggests that ghetto cracker culture doesn't originate with poor urban blacks...but that it originated with white redneck culture...is he blaming whitey as you obviously accusing me of doing.)

I am just being "biblical" by recognizing all entities and individuals involved. Both individuals, communities, society, and ultimately what the biblical narrative calls Spiritual Forces of wickedness or Principalities and Powers. But maybe issues like this don't come under biblical scrutiny for you. I could have wrongly assumed that you were a Christian. Maybe your not. I apologize if I made that assumption. Maybe you think that such issues are purely "individualistic" the conservative belief in "rugged individualism"...which isn't biblical. That's more like Stoicism than Christianity.

My point being that I am not making excuses for anyone. I am simply recognizing the complexity of issues like this.

"Don't get me wrong, I don't want to blame kids in the ghetto because after all, they're kids and don't know any better."

And honestly all ghetto kids aren't like this so I don't want to get into the habit of ghettoizing "all" poor urban blacks. There are responsible children and parents..AND leaders in urban black communities all over the country. Take the time to research it.

"I don't blame the kids, I blame on the so-called leaders in the African American community who will excuse and defend this kind of trash as legitimate expressions of black culture, or frustration against the system, etc etc, blah blah blah, instead of taking a principled stand like Bill Cosby (thank you!!!) has been doing. And look at the flack he's taking!"

I don't know any prominent black leaders that "excuse" negative social pathologies in the black community. What you do have is a diversity of opinion as to the ailments in the black community and a diversity of ideas as how to remedy this situation. The whole Cosby debate is a debate that needs to happen in the black community AND has been happening for quite sometime actually. Cosby isn't saying anything new...really. There have always been leaders in the black community that have spoken like Cosby. The novelty of it is is that it hasn't been broadcasted on places like Fox News or MSNBC.
And black leaders get flack, whether liberal or conservative, by the black community. I personally know many black folks that agree wholeheartedly with Cosby. I largely agree with Cosby, but disagree with the tact he has taking to a large degree with this issue.

"I understand what you mean by the principalities of darkness, and in the case of the black community it's the destructive culture they've allowed to fester in their midst-- not white boardrooms."

I think everyone is complicit with this stuff. From the boardroom, in the name profits, to individuals trying to get their groove on. And if my memory serves me correctly the spiritual forces of wickedness can only be combatted by the power of Christ through the Holy Spirit. Do you believe that there is any other way to combat these spiritual realities? Do you believe that individual self-effort alone can remedy this?

As a gospel-centered Christian I believe the remedy in many parts of the black community are places of refuge...the church...where human responsibility can be shaped and formed through the development of specific Christian practices and virtues that shape and form people enabled to do war against the Powers. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but are mighty through God...not through individual self-achievement alone.

"Blaming whitey hasn't done a damn thing for the African American community. Wake up."

I don't think it does either because it locates the problem solely on white folks. I don't think that's rational and more importantly I don't think its Christ-like.

But I have a question for you since you know what the African American community ought to do and you seem to display a "concern" for these poor urban blacks...what are you doing? Are you contributing at all in remedying this situation? to foster awareness? to build alliances? contributing monetarily to projects in urban environments that are trying to creates spaces of refuge and flourishing.

Or are you simply secure in your caricature and myopic understanding of ghetto realities. I'd study this issue broadly...rather than limit myself to conservative ideologues.

Thanks for the discussion.

Ant

August 11, 2005 1:39 AM  
Anonymous Carlos said...

>>>Do you normally project stuff onto people's comments. Nowhere did I say that those in communities like Columbine "exuse" that kind of behvavior.

Ant,

I didn't say that you were suggesting people in Columbine excuse that behaviour. I said that unless you believe they do excuse that behaviour it's unfair of you to bring it up. But I'm glad you did bring it up because it illustrates how both communities treat their own dysfunctions.

You speak of personal responsibility as well as systemic issues. Fair enough, especially because kids in general have little or no personal responsibility. It's up to the grownups.

But notice how in Columbine they didn't go looking elsewhere for someone to blame. Their gaze remained fix on the systemic issues in their own community. In your case, however, the systemic issues are not homegrown in the ghetto-- they come from the white boardroom! See the difference? You're just doing more of the same ol same ol that Cosby has been railing about. And he's right.

What am I doing personally? I'm nobody, I'm scum. And I don't know crap about the black community other than what I've said about your blog post and what I hear the so-called leaders of the black community saying.

cheers

August 11, 2005 9:18 AM  
Blogger postmodernegro said...

Carlos,

Firstly, I don't think the project of Cassie Bernal's dad of going to DC as "locally" handling systemic issues. Columbine is long way from DC. Right?

Secondly, I think you have an oversimplified caricature of black leadership. Stop watching Fox news and MSNBC for information on black leadership. Do you your research. As a matter of fact talk to some of the black leaders nearest your community so as to shatter some of the caricatures you have of black leadership.

Thirdly, I have presented what I believe to be more 'biblical' view, as I understand it, that presents a more balanced perspective as it relates to sinful ways of living in the world. The biblical story teaches us that the ways of the world are on a continuum between personal choices and larger spiritua/social forces that shapes way of living for both individuals and communities...and ultimately nations.

Its not an either/or for me. Its more like a both/and when it comes to the individual and the social...as far as their being influences on how people live.

Ant

August 11, 2005 12:24 PM  
Anonymous Carlos said...

Ant,

try telling Bill Cosby it's just a "caricature" and that he should stop watching Fox and MSNBC. Sorry, accusing me of watching "Fox" isn't an argument.

I'm not aware of anybody going to D.C. to blame somebody for Columbine (and I looked).

And if you went to D.C. to appeal for help about something in your community, that's not the same as blaming people. There's nothing wrong with asking for help. It's the blame whitey syndrome that has done zero for the black community. And that's what Cosby is talking about, and that's what I'm talking about, and that's what I see in your little picture of a whitey boardroom.

August 11, 2005 2:09 PM  
Blogger postmodernegro said...

carlos,

I would advise you to talk to a couple of black leaders in your own community. Check it out locally. See what they are doing. Forge relationships with black pastors...unless you have already. Have you? Do you personally know any black leaders in your ocmmunity? And if Cosby is painting black leadership with such a broad brush then he is presenting a caricature as well.

I noticed that you haven't mentioned anything I have said about the biblical narrative's picture about personal and social bondages AND their causes.

And I never said that Cassie Bernal's dad went to DC to blame people. I said he went to DC to deal with the systemic issues as it relates to violence in youth culture, especially the marketing of it.

August 11, 2005 3:02 PM  
Anonymous Carlos said...

Ant,

If you're not looking for someone to blame then that's great. The only reason I raised the issue is because that's the impression I got from your post and I don't think it's conducive to redemption. I don't deny someone's making money off it, and I still don't think that's the source of the problem. But we can agree to disagree.

Regarding your comments about "biblical narrative", I like very much what you have to say about the role of the church in the black community. I personally think that returning to their christian roots is their one best hope. I'm not a theologian like you though so I don't have anything to add in that regard. I'm just a regular lay guy with old fashion horse sense.

August 11, 2005 7:04 PM  
Blogger postmodernegro said...

carlos,

do you have a blog?

Ant

August 11, 2005 7:47 PM  

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