Hollywood's Enduring Myth of the Black Male Sexual Predator
The Selling of "Precious"
By ISHMAEL REED
“A niche market could be defined as a component that gives your business power. A niche market allows you to define whom you are marketing to. When you know who are you are marketing to it's easy to determine where your marketing energy and dollars should be spent.”
Defining Your Nice Market, A Critical Step in Small Business Marketing by Laura Lake
One can view Sarah Siegel on “YouTube” discussing her approach to marketing. During her dispassionate recital she says that she sees a “niche dilemma,” and finds a way to solve that dilemma. Seeing that no one had supplied women with panties that were meant to be visible while wearing low cut jeans, she captured the niche and made a fortune. With five million dollars, she invested in the film Precious, which was adapted from the book Push, written by Ramona Lofton, who goes by the pen name of Sapphire, after the emasculating shrew in “Amos and Andy,” a show created by white vaudevillians Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll.
(Ms. Lofton also knows a thing or two about marketing. Noticing the need for white New York feminists to use black men as the fall guys for world misogyny, while keeping silent about the misogyny of those who share their ethnic back-ground, she joined in on the lynching of five black and Hispanic boys, “who grew up in jail.” She made money, and became famous. They were innocent!)
When Lionsgate Studio and Harvey Weinstein were quarrelling over the rights to Push, which has been marketed under the title of Precious, about a pregnant 350 pound illiterate black teenager, who has borne her father’s child and is assaulted sexually by her mother, Sarah Greenberg, speaking for Lionsgate, said that the movie would provide the studio with “a gold mine of opportunity,” which is probably true, since the image of the black male as sexual predator has created a profit center for over one hundred years and even won elections for politicians like Bush, The First.
But politicians, the KKK, Nazis, film, television, etc, had done the black male as a rapist to death. The problem for Sarah and Lionsgate and her film company Smokewood, was to solve “ the niche dilemma,” which they saw as selling a black film to white audiences (the people to whom CNN and MSNBC are referring to when they invoke the phrase “The American People.”) An article in The New York Times ,2/4/09, reported on the confusion among the investors as they fumbled about for a marketing plan.
“The studio prides itself on taking on marketing challenges, but “Push”…is one of the biggest to come along in some time, marketing experts say. African-American audiences of all demographics could wince at the film’s negative imagery. As films like “The Great Debaters” and “Miracle at St. Anna” have shown, a release labeled a black film by the marketplace — and
“Push” already has been — can be an incredibly tough sell to mainstream white audiences.
“Lionsgate already seems a little befuddled. On Monday the company initially agreed to discuss the inherent marketing challenges. A few hours later it backtracked, rejecting any marketing talk but saying executives would be happy to speak broadly about their delight in nabbing the movie. Before long that offer was also rescinded.”
Three standing ovations given Push’s test run at Sundance convinced some of the business people that although white audiences might decline to support films that show cerebral blacks, The Great Debaters, in which Denzel Washington plays the great black poet Melvin Tolson, or Spike lee’s Miracle at St. Anna, which shows heroic blacks, they would probably enjoy a film in which blacks were shown as incestors and pedophiles. White audiences continuing to give the film standing ovations and prizes and critical acclaim indicates that when Lionsgate’s co-presidents for theatrical marketing, Sarah Greenberg and Tim Palen said of Precious, “There is simply a gold mine of opportunity here, “they were on the money. It was Geoffrey Gilmore, director of the Sundance Film Festival, who enhanced the sales potential by providing the marketers led by Ms. Siegel with another selling point. In an interview he said that Push might hit “a cultural chord” because of all of the discussion about race prompted by the election of President Obama. It was after their cynical manipulative tying of a black president to their sleazy product that I wanted Sarah to change the name of her panty company from So Low to How Low.
Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck who engage in a sort of corny 1930s styled racist rhetoric could learn from Sarah. At times they look as though they’ve lost their minds and are not pleasant to look at, while a manicured, buffed Sarah, who doesn’t go lightly on the eye shadow, looks better. She is salmon colored and though middle-aged wears baby doll clothes and if you Google her name, Sarah Siegel, along with “images” you’ll find her posing in photos some of which have blacks smooching her.
The Nov. 22 blog “Gawker” points to the way Limbaugh, Beck and Savage have tried to associate Obama and his administration with rape imagery. Ain’t they out of touch. Sarah Siegel has joined an innovative marketing plan that couples Obama’s name with the most extreme of sexual crimes.
This woman, who hangs out with Hollywood stars and unlike Bill O’ Reilly, an Irish American who has lost his way, knows that blacks are able to handle table utensils-- she’s dined with them—might have invested in a movie that some are calling the worst depiction of black life yet done.
New York Press critic, Armond White, in a brilliant take down of the movie, compares it with Birth of a Nation. I would argue that this movie makes D.W. Griffith look like a progressive. Moreover, I’ve looked at a number of pictures that show how the Nazis depicted blacks and though Jewish and black men appear as sexual predators in many, I’ve never run across one in which minority men are shown as incest violators.
The black sexual predator is represented obsessively in the novel that inspired the bombing of the Oklahoma Federal building and the recent murder of three Pittsburgh policemen. But not even The Turner Diaries, by William Pierce stigmatizes black men as violators of the incest taboo at a time when the black male unemployment rate is 25% in some cities, 50% in New York. It took Hollywood liberals and their pathetic black front people to do that. Is there a role that black actors won’t perform? One that celebrity blacks won’t lend their names to?( If the white Oscar judges perpetrate a cruel joke by awarding this film Oscars, will the black audience members
stage a walk-out even though it might mean never working in that town
again?) Indeed it was Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement of the film that convinced the investors that they were on to a hot property.
The Times’ reports:
“A deal did not emerge for “Push” until about a week after the festival ended, with potential distributors balking over the price insisted upon by Cinetic Media, a New York marketing and sales company for independent film, according to two people with knowledge of how the deal came together but who were not authorized to speak publicly.
“A spokeswoman for Cinetic declined to comment, but bidders said Ms. Winfrey and Mr. Perry had been crucial to the deal’s coming together.”
Indeed, the business model for both the book, Push, by Sapphire renamed
Precious, for the movie by Lionsgate, which beat Harvey Weinstein for the rights in court, was the black incest product, The Color Purple, which has been recycled so many times that comedian Paul Mooney says that he anticipates a Color Purple on ice. But even that incest film doesn’t go as far as Precious, which shows both mother and father engaged in a sexual assault on their daughter in graphic detail, Sarah Siegel’s way of solving her “niche dilemma.”
TheRoot is The Washington Post’s black zine, among whose bosses is Jacob Weisberg-- he says that he helped to launch it and has considerable influence, like deciding who gets hired and fired. The zine’s black face is Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Since the beginning of the movie’s run TheRoot has provided cover for Precious probably because Gates is tight with Oprah Winfrey and wrote a kiss up book about her. (Now that Joel Dreyfuss has taken over, TheRoot will quit being a shameless promoter of stupid
NeoCon “tough love” ideology. He is journalist with integrity).TheRoot’s support for the film is at odds with the furor that has erupted among blacks across the country about this film.
Famous journalists like Jack White and Dori Maynard of the Maynard Institute say that they, like thousands of blacks, won’t even go see it. The whites who are behind this film didn’t have a black audience in mind when they drew up the business strategy for the film. Their “niche audience” got their money’s worth. The naked black skinned man Carl of medium built who rapes a 350 pound daughter, who elsewhere in the film goes about flattening people with one punch, is little more than an animal. A vile prop. A person with no story and no humanity. Writer, Cecil Brown, said that Carl
is the real victim of the movie during an interview with Aimee Allison, a KPFA interviewer who has brought POVs that up to now have been missing from the Pacifica Network.
Sarah’s “niche audience” is well served. The white characters are altruistic types, there to help downtrodden black people and are among those who are to be admired. They’re there to correct blacks when they make mistakes, like a white girl who shows up in a special education class out of nowhere to explain to the character Precious the difference between the word, “insect,” and “incest.” This also follows the Nazi model. Aryans were idealized; hated minorities were degenerate.
According to this film, if you’re a lucky black woman, a white man will rescue you from the clutches of evil black men, which is why white male critics are slobbering all over this film, giving it standing ovations and awards every day. Even white critics at hip places like The Rolling Stone, a place where Elvis gets credit for “changing American music.” This reminded me of Alice Walker’s appeal to white men to rescue black women, printed in a London newspaper and Steven Spielberg’s comment that when he read The Color Purple all he could do think of was rescuing Celie, the abused heroine (while he has yet to make a movie about the Celies among his ethnic group).
(The Huffington Post’s embrace of the film probably explains Arianna Huffington’s continued scolding of the president. During the week of Nov. 23, she called the president, one of the hardest working presidents in history, “lackadaisical,” which, to black people, who know the dog whistles, means lazy. Shiftless.)
The movie says that if a white knight is not around to sweep you up, maybe a fantasy light skinned boyfriend will do the job. The light skinned literacy teacher, whom the camera favors, and a firm welfare worker of the same skin tone, played by Mariah Carey, who has welfare recipients at her mercy, are among the movies positive characters, while black and brown skinned women are shown as petty, sullen, quick tempered and violent. They romp through the movie scowling and glaring at people and telling people things like “you ain’t shit.” This film includes the worst portrayal of black women I’ve ever seen, which makes TheRoot contributors-- young black women professors- -endorsement of the film puzzling.
These are the types who are using the university curriculum to get even with their fathers and teach courses in black women’s literature, but can’t identify more than three. (The great novelist, the late Kristin Hunter Lattany, who was driven out of her college teaching job by a racist campaign [see her novel, Breaking Away] did not receive a single retrospective from these women.)
They don’t seem to read criticism by black women either. During an endorsement of Precious, one of them, writing in TheRoot, repeated the canard that only black men opposed The Color Purple, when the book and the movie offended some of most prominent literary stars. Barbara Smith, Toni Morrison, Michele Wallace, and bell hooks, who described the film as “aversion therapy” for white women, are authors of scathing comments about the book and Steven Spielberg’s interpretation. Trudier Harris, next to Joyce Joyce, the most prominent of black women critics, said that she discontinued criticizing the book after retaliations from the powerful white feminist academic lobby.
Haven’t these TheRoot contributors read Walker’s “Stepping Into The Same River Twice” where Walker herself objects to Spielberg’s treatment of that book’s incestor, Mr.? Indeed Walker, Tina Turner and bell hooks have observed that in the hands of white male producers directors and scriptwriters, the black male characters in the texts of black women writers become even more sinister. TheRoot accompanied its brown nosing of the movie with a picture of Celie, played by Whoopie Goldberg ( who said that what Polanski did to that child was not “rape, rape”) holding a knife against Mr.’s neck. That scene doesn’t appear in the book. Spielberg put that knife in Celie’s hand. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. who has been appointed Commissar of African American culture said that those who criticized “The Color Purple” were “misguided.” Was he referring to Morrison? Wallace? hooks?
I suspect that the whites who are behind Precious monkeyed around with the text as well. A film in which gays are superior to black male heterosexuals
(“They don’t rape. They don’t sell crack.”). Next to the whites, the male who treats Precious and her dysfunctional friends with the most understanding is John John, the Gay male nurse.( Lee Daniels, the Gay “director” of the film once ran a nursing business.) In this movie Caribbean Americans are smarter than black Americans.
Oprah Winfrey is listed as the “Executive Director,” along with Tyler Perry, whose movie efforts have been described by writer Thembi Ford as “coonery.” This is the third black man as sexual predator and the second black incest film that Ms. Winfrey has either endorsed or performed in, yet, only a few titles by black male authors have been adopted by her book club. On Sunday, Nov. 23, during a phone interview with Keifer Bonvillin, author of Ruthless, an inside look at the Oprah operation, I asked him about her embrace of the black male as a sexual predator trope. He wrote:
“Last year, I published ‘Ruthless’, (a true story based on conversations I had with Oprah Winfrey’s office manager). The book detailed the unfair treatment African American men received from Oprah Winfrey and the negative stereotypical images of African American men that Oprah sent out in her films. The office manager also gave me a rare glance of Oprah Winfrey’s private life.
“This was the first time one of Oprah Winfrey’s employees spoke openly about her as they are prevented from doing so by strict confidentiality agreements. Oprah tried hard to block publication of the book. She and her attorney went so far as to have me arrested. The charges were dropped and the book was published.
“Since the publication of ‘Ruthless,’ I noticed several profound changes in the way Oprah Winfrey is doing business.
1) Oprah produced ‘The Great Debaters,’ which was the first film produced by Harpo Films (in my opinion) to not have negative stereotypical images of black men.
2) This season, JayZ, became the first African American rap artist to perform on the Oprah Winfrey Show.
3) This season Oprah’s book club selection, ‘Say You’re One
of Them,’ was written by a black man, Liwem Akpan. This was the first time in years a black man who is not one of Oprah’s friends was featured in the book club.
“I was very encouraged by what I was seeing. Then came ‘Precious!’ Like her addiction to food, Oprah does well for a little while but she just can’t help herself.”
Another reason that Ms. Winfrey supports the film is because she endorses the policy points the movie makes about welfare recipients. Precious is encouraged to take a job as home care worker for $2.00 per hour. Throughout the movie, poor women are guided to WorkFare. The movie almost becomes a commercial for the program. The policy message is that welfare recipients are black women who wish to avoid work, who use their time having sex with their daughters, watching television and dining on pig leavings. They don’t intervene when their boyfriends rape their children (even the grandmother refuses to intervene). Oprah’s attitude toward welfare recipients was described by Pat Gowens, editor of “Mother Warriors Voice.” She said that “Oprah Winfrey” is “someone who reinforces the U.S. war on the poor and unequivocally supports white male supremacy.” She writes about what happened to welfare mothers who were invited to appear on her show after threatening to picket the TV megastar.
“For 30 minutes before the show, Oprah’s cheerleader worked the audience into a frenzy of hatred against moms on welfare. When the show started, Welfare Warriors member Linda, an Italian American mom with 3 children, was sandwiched between two women who attacked and pitied her. The African American mom on her right claimed to have overcome her ‘sick dependence on welfare’ and bragged about cheating on welfare and allegedly living like a queen. The white woman on her left was not a mom but had once received food stamps. Both women aggressively condemned Linda for receiving welfare. Throughout the show Oprah alternated between attacking Linda and allowing panel and audience members to attack her. Poor Linda had been prepared to discuss the economic realities of mother work, the failures of both the U.S. workforce and the child support system, and the Welfare Warriors’ mission to create a Government Guaranteed Child Support program (Family Allowance) like those in Europe. But instead Linda was forced to defend her entire life, while Oprah repeatedly demanded, ‘How long have you been on welfare?’
“Later we complained to Oprah and her producer about the false promises they had used to lure us onto the show. (We had engaged in extensive negotiations prior to agreeing to appear. We said yes only after they agreed to discuss welfare reform, not our personal lives.) The producer shoved an Oprah cup (our pay) into our hands and pushed us out the door, angrily denying their treachery.
“By the time we arrived home, we had received calls from moms on both coasts warning us about the promos Oprah was using to advertise her show: ‘They call themselves welfare warriors and they refuse to work. See Oprah at 4:00.’”
Well, as my great grandmother often said, “If you dig a ditch for someone, dig two.” Kitty Kelley, winner of a PEN Oakland Award for censorship has an Oprah biography due from Crown. This might be Oprah’s ditch. The publication of this book is the real reason why Oprah is quitting her show. Kelley has never been sued for libel and her book about the Bush family was so hot ( and useful) that the Bush Klan succeeded in shutting it down with the help of Bush 1st’s golf caddy, NBC’s Matt Lauer. Editors of The New York Times Magazine section hold the same position about welfare recipients as Oprah.
I stopped reading The New York Times Magazine years ago weary of its parade of flesh eating black cannibals, lazy and shiftless welfare mothers. (The Times’ coverage of Africa could be written by Edgar Rice Burroughs.) It is a section of the newspaper where Daniel Moynihan is treated as some kind of Celtic god. This is the guy who accused unmarried black mothers of “speciation.”
A book promoted by the magazine in which all of the crack addicts were black and in which one photo showed a black crack addict, a mother, fellating a John while a baby was strapped to her back even offended Brent Staples, a black member of the editorial board. That crack is a black drug, exclusively, is just another media hoax meant to entertain whites of the kind that dates to the very beginning of the American mass media.
So I wasn’t surprised that the magazine section featured a spread about “Precious” featuring Gabourey Sidibe, the 350 pound actor in the title role, on the cover certainly an act of black exploitation. However the interviewer, gossip writer Lynn Hirschberg, did perform a service by catching Lee Daniels, the “director” of Precious in a couple of exaggerations. In an effort to follow the marketing plan, the title of the article was “The Audacity of Precious,” after Obama’s “The Audacity of Hope” subtitled “Is America Ready For A Movie About An Obese Harlem Girl Raped And Impregnated By Her Abusive Father?” Lionsgate spent big bucks to advertise the movie in the Times.
During Lynn Hirschberg’s interview with Daniels, he claims that he directed Monster’s Ball, about a black woman so dimwitted that she begins a relationship with her husband’s white executioner (though as a porn movie it was superior to Co-Ed Confidential). The husband was played by Sean Puffy Combs.
Turns out that Daniels didn’t direct the film. It was directed by Marc Forster a white director. So, did Daniels direct “Precious” or is really he playing the flak catcher for this heinous project like Oprah Winfrey and Perry? When he went on the set to exercise his role as “director” did the white people who own the movie and provide the crew for this film call security? Hard to say.
He also said that he grew up in the ghetto. His aunt disputes this.
The Times has printed no less than four articles all of which have either praised Precious, or gave those who defend the movie the most lines. Two were written by A.O. Scott, who said that this movie about fictional characters was part of a “national conversation about race.” This is the problem with films like “Precious.” White critics like A.O. Scott, who hog all the criticism space as black, Hispanic, and Asian American journalists are being fired in droves, get a chance to pick and choose which cultural products that will ignite a discussion about race usually ones that show blacks as depraved individuals, individuals that are used to blame black men and in this case black women, collectively. He suggests that based upon a movie adapted from a fiction, all black males are incest violators, the kind of group libel aimed at the brothers when Gloria Steinem said that The Color Purple told the truth about black men.
Why didn’t Dexter, Paris Trout or Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out Of Carolina, begin “a national conversation,” about race? Ted Turner tried to suppress Bastard Out Of Carolina, this white incest film and only through the intervention of Anjelica Huston was the film aired. Turner pronounced it too graphic to be shown on his network CNN, which poses blacks as degenerates 24/7. In several states, Bastard has been banned from classrooms and school libraries.
Also, why doesn’t the Times open its Jim Crow Op Ed page so that a member of Precious’s target, black men, as a class, could respond to this smear, this hate crime as entertainment, this Neo Nazi porn and filth. There are hundreds of black male intellectuals (yes, black men are more than athletes, criminals and entertainers) who would take up the challenge. But the Op Ed page is only open to one black writer, consistently--Orlando Patterson--, who, like the ‘20s writer Claude McKay, is the kind of Jamaican who has nothing but contempt for African Americans.
Sapphire (Ramona Lofton), who wrote the novel Push, also has a biography like Daniel’s that shifts about. First she told Dinitia Smith of the Times (July 2, 1996) that Precious was an actual person. “She lives there,” she said, “pointing at a dowdy building over check cashing store.” Don’t you think that if such a person existed that Lionsgate wouldn’t include her in its marketing plan so ubiquitous that an ad for this film appears on my email screen when I sign in at AOL. It figures? AOL’s expert on black culture and politics is DNesh D’Souza .Their coverage of black culture is limited to black NFL and NBA athletes who get into trouble outside of strip clubs.
Part of the packaging of both the novel and the film has been to cash in the culture of recovery. Sapphire says that she was a former prostitute and a victim of incest (Lee Daniels does his pity party routine during the Times’ interview). She also said that she is a recovering lesbian. In 1986, she began to “remember things.” “An incident of violent sexual abuse “ when she was “3 or 4.” Her father, an Army Sergeant, denied her claim. He died in 1990. (Lee Daniels also “remembered” abuse by his father. I wonder what his aunt would say.)
Her “remembering things,” and being inspired by two other profitable black incest products led Alfred Knopf to give her a $500,000 advance for two books one of which, entitled “American Dreams” included a poem called “Wild Thing,” which blamed the rape of a Central Park Jogger on black boys.
As Steven Spielberg put the knife in Celie’s hand, Sapphire put a rock
and pipe into the hands of boys who spent their youth in jail for a crime that they didn’t commit. She has her narrator say: “ I bring the rock down/ on her head/sounds dull & flat/like the time I busted/the kitten’s head/the blood is real and red/my dick rises.” She has one of the defendants,Yusef Salaam, participating in the rape.“Yosef slams her/ across the face with a pipe.” Yusef Salaam served 5 and ½ years. Do you think that Sapphire might make up to Mr. Salaam for destroying his reputation in a book for which she received $500,000. And what about Naomi Wolfe and other millionaire
feminists whose agitation helped to convict these innocent kids. Maybe
they can join Sapphire in setting up a trust fund for these victims “who
grew up in Jail.And what about Linda Fairstein? She got rich, too.
Called a “Zealot, Crusader, and Megalomaniac,” Linda Fairstein, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Sex Crimes Unit, often shown as an “ultra-blond” in an “air-brushed” photo, saw prosecuting these children as a step toward fame and fortune. In the words of Rivka Gerwirtz Little, author of “Ash-Blond Ambition, Prosecutor Linda Fairstein May Have Tried Too Hard” (Village Voice,11/19/02) they were convicted as a result of the zealousness of the ambitious prosecutor, the Jim Crow media, which found them guilty and contributed to the hysteria surrounding the case ,and by New York feminists, black and white. (Donald Trump wanted the children to get the death penalty.) Little writes,
“The men in all of these cases, who were convicted despite the existence of exculpatory evidence, still see Fairstein and her minions as either zealots or headline seekers, pursuing verdicts that would appease the outraged public. Oliver Jovanovic thinks Fairstein was also making literary hay from her cases.
“Jovanovic, the Columbia University microbiology Ph.D. candidate had dubbed the ‘cybersex’ attacker, who was convicted and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for kidnapping and sexually torturing a Barnard undergraduate ‘had his own run in with Fairstein.’ After he served nearly two years of his prison term, an appeals court overturned his conviction in 1999, again saying that crucial evidence was withheld during the trial that could have shown Jovanovic and his accuser had a consensual sadomasochistic relationship, or that she simply fabricated the story. Morgenthau dismissed the case before a pending retrial in 2001.”
“Each time one of these cases occurred, her books probably went flying off the shelves,” says Jovanovic.
“She used what happened in that unit to make money, and that is wrong she earned, according to The New York Times, $2.5 million in sales by 1999.”
Little also questioned the rush to judgment of feminists in the case in her, “How Feminists Faltered on the Central Park Jogger Case” (Village Voice, 10/15/02)
“Feminists who rallied on the courthouse stairs outside the 1990 trial of five African American and Latino youth accused in the Infamous rape and beating of the 28-year-old Central Park jogger made It painfully clear-there was a choice to make: gender or race. With flimsy evidence and an almost immediate indictment by the public, advocates for the teens believed they were easy lynch victims and demanded further Investigation and fair trials. But to some feminists, bringing up ‘the race issue’ muddled the case and detracted from the bottom-line issue-violence against women and justice for the victim.
“Thirteen years after the teens were convicted, DNA evidence and a confession to the crime by Matias Reyes, a convicted rapist behind bars, indicate a strong possibility that the five accused-who walked into prison as boys and emerged years later as men-would have been a worthy cause for any left activist group to champion. In the jogger case, no one even considered their five mothers a cause for feminists, though with little money or proper representation, they saw their sons railroaded, and the media portrayed them as out-- of-control ghetto mamas.” The young men, who went to prison as children, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Kharey Wise, and Yusef Salaam, received from 5 ½ to 13 years.
Because of his defense of the poem “Wild Thing” by Sapphire (Ramona Lofton), printed in a literary journal, the Portable Lower East Side, which “was a graphic depiction of the thoughts of a participant in the rape and beating of a Central Park jogger,” according to The Washington Post, John Frohnmayer, was fired as head of the National Endowment of the Arts. During an appearance before the National Press Club, he warned that “the political battle over the NEA [was] part of a broader cultural war and invoked the specter of the Nazis' takeover of Europe to underscore his point.” Another technique the Nazis used, whether Frohnmayer knows it, was to blame their enemies for crimes they didn’t commit like the burning of the Reichstag, which is what happened in the Central Park Case. The “wilders,” it turned out were innocent. When Little called to ask feminists who judged the children guilty, when no forensic evidence tied them to the rape, and after Matias Reyes confessed to the crime (his semen matched that collected from the jogger) only one would respond. Susan Brownmiller, who libeled all black men as rapists in her book, Against Our Will, was a holdout.
She said that regardless of the scientific evidence pointing away from the guilt of the five, she still believed that they were guilty. I wonder was Sapphire called. I wonder how she feels about her poem. I wonder whether we would have found out if Katie Couric had given her the kind of grilling that she gave Sarah Palin. One of the reasons that Bryant Gumbel left NBC was that Couric was chosen to interview O.J. Simpson instead of him.
Sapphire, who helped to set up these children ,the way that she and her cynical backers like Sarah Siegel, whose depiction of black men is worst than those found in American Renaissance magazine, have set up black men. In Precious the out of control ghetto mama whom they market is played by Monique. Carl, her husband, who commits the unspeakable, is Sapphire and Sarah Siegel’s “Wild Thing.”
I asked D. Scott Miller, a writer for the San Francisco Bay Guardian his take on the different biographies of Ramona Lofton. He said,
“I would say that her bio has been shortened and extended when it's convenient.
“Here’s the opening of her Amazon Bio:
‘Sapphire was born in 1950 and spent her first twelve years on army bases in California and Texas. As a teenager she lived in South Philadelphia and Los Angeles. She graduated from City College in New York and received an MFA from Brooklyn College. From 1983 to 1993 she lived in Harlem, where she taught reading and writing to teenagers and adults. She lives in New York City.’
“Here's the opening of her bio post-push, but pre-Precious:
‘Ramona Lofton, better known to her readers as Sapphire, was born in 1950 in Fort Ord California. On the surface, her family was characterized as normal and middle class. Her father was an army sergeant and her mother was a member of the Women's Army Corps. As a child, Sapphire's family relocated several time to various cities, states, and countries. When she was only 13 years old, Sapphire's mother became the victim of “alcoholism and eventually departed from her life. Her mother died in 1983. In that same year, her brother, who was then homeless was killed in a public park.’
“I would not say that she is lying, or even stretching the truth. But I see a difference. Don't know which one she's using right now.”
I wasn’t surprised that NPR’s Terry Gross would become part of the film’s promotion. I stopped listening to her years ago because she seemed to have a thing about casting all black men as sexual predators.
She once maneuvered a famous black writer into directing her wrath against her father toward all black men and when a woman from South Africa was brought on to discuss the rapes occurring in that country, Gross asked whether rape in that country was interracial. The woman answered that white men rape too, which seemed to come as a surprise to Ms. Gross. When whatever is bothering Ms. Gross about black men gains entry in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, maybe the editors will name it after her. Gross’s Syndrome. Or maybe she and Ms. Brownmiller can flip a coin.
I only tuned into Ms. Gross’s interview with Daniels because poet Al Young called and asked me to do so. It was instructive. The NPR airwaves were full of giggles as they carried on their dialogue. At one point, she asked whether violence among blacks is cultural. He said that it was hereditary, thereby signing on to about two centuries of quack race “science” and a Neo-Nazi line promoted by the Times’ Sam Robert’s who once wrote that blacks were “prone” to violence and by the Op Ed pages’ token black contributor, Orlando Patterson, who wrote recently as though violence is black.
This in a country where the National Rifle Association owns or intimidates every politician but Michael Bloomberg; where one hundred million guns are available and where accidental deaths by gunshots in white homes dwarfs those occurring in the inner city, which is not to excuse such deaths, which lead to high homicide rates.
One of the reasons is that the police, white and suburban, have a poor record of solving urban crimes and as a result of NAFTA, thousands have joined the underground economy (in Oakland ,where I live, only 37% of homicides are solved; in nearby Danville, an affluent city, when a white youth’s murder resulted from a drug transaction gone wrong, 11 detectives were assigned to the case, and the killer was caught the next day).
Daniels and Gross’s discussion about the black violence gene occurred at a time when The National Association of Black Journalists was criticizing NPR for its firing of black personnel. And so when the Times and the producers of Precious are profiting from stereotypes that reach back to the Enlightenment, they receive an endorsement from NPR whose “Ghetto 101,” produced by the late Ellen Willis, was one of the most offensive of black pathology ratings boosters and money makers. Violence?
The white majority has given mandates to policies that have resulted in the murders of millions of people since World War II.
While white male critics are campaigning feverishly to land one of two Oscars for Precious, the dissent from some black critics has been blistering. Most notably Armond White who, as a result of his review printed in The New York Press has become a folk hero among young black cyberspace intellectuals of the kind who are making a comeback after about twenty years of the left and right establishments laying black intellectuals on us who sing from the song book as they. One of those who praised White’s review printed in The New York Press, was Kofi Natambu the brilliant young editor of The Panopticon Review. I asked him what he thought was behind Precious:
“The withering contempt and sheer malice for black people (and especially black men) that this film represents and embodies is an integral part of a very disturbing and destructive trend among a number of cultural hustlers, thieves, and conmen and women in film, literature, theatre, and the music industry that is being vigorously promoted and marketed by white corporations and Madison Avenue. It's no coincidence that the increasingly casual and overt racism that is routinely displayed in advertising and the media generally is working hand in glove with the contemptible and venal likes of artistic pimps and prostitutes like Lee Daniels, Tyler Perry, and Oprah Winfrey. This development has been dismissing, marginalizing, and destroying the impact and influence of genuine African American artists in all the arts now since the mid '90s and has in the past decade reached its vicious apex in the heinous "work" of such black retrograde and reactionary assholes as the people producing and directing this film. Remember Percival Everett’s brilliant novel from 2001 called “Erasure?” Remember his devastating critique of this nexus of white racism and black minstrel confidence schemes in his rendering of the phony black author (who sounds a LOT like Sapphire!) called ‘My Pafology?’ as now this is what this ugly marriage between the white corporate media and Uncle Tom/Aunt Thomasina minstrelism has come to in the modern world. If something is not done to stem this tide it's only going to get worse and soon.
"My Pafology indeed.”
Armond White wrote:
“Winfrey, Perry and Daniels make an unholy triumvirate. They come together at some intersection of race exploitation and opportunism. These two media titans—plus one shrewd pathology pimp—use Precious to rework Booker T. Washington’s early 20th-century manifesto Up From Slavery into extreme drama for the new millennium: Up FromIncest, Child Abuse, Teenage Pregnancy, Poverty and AIDS. Regardless of its narrative details about class and gender, Precious is an orgy of prurience. All the terrible, depressing (not uplifting) things that happen to 16year-old Precious recall that memorable All About Eve line, “Everything but the bloodhounds nipping at her rear-end.’”
As a result of his dissent A.O. Scott dismissed Armond White as “a contrarian” which means that his conclusions about the film differed from those of white critics. The late Tillie Olson, a genuine progressive, had it right when she pointed out, sagaciously, in The New York Time’s Magazine, that many whites engage in a perverse voyeurism when viewing black culture.
They want to peek behind the curtains of black life to seek confirmation that all of the myths they’ve heard about black life are true. Richard Wright said that “The Negro is America’s metaphor.” More like America’s anti-depressant. People who are miserable in their own lives getting off by consuming black depravity, a big business. The audience at the 2:00 matinee that I attended was 90% white, the marketer’s “niche” audience. Not only did I have to swallow this seedy material for the purpose of entering this review in my forthcoming book, Barack Obama and the Jim Crow Media, subtitled The Return of the Nigger Breakers, but was assaulted by two offensive previews: Clint Eastwood’s movie about Nelson Mandela and Disney’s The Princess and the Frog, a black Princess this time, which, judging from the trailers, will be a remake of Song of the South. In the film, Iku (“eniti ile re mbe lagbedemeji aiye on orun”), the top- hatted mythological figure from the Yoruba religion is depicted as evil (in the film he is Doctor Facilier, “A schemer, a conjurer and a sorcerer of sorts”) ,and a follower of Oshun, a water spirit, with thousands of followers in this hemisphere, is caricatured, in the movie. In the movie her name is Mama Odie. It’s bad enough that Oprah endorses the stupid and mindless Precious but then she has to go perform for Disney. A project that demeans African Religion. And has already criticized by some blacks for the black Princess lacking a black male love interest. The Daily Mail reported on 18th March 2009
“With America’s first African-American president in the White House, Disney is counting on an African-American princess to be a big hit in Hollywood.
“But even though The Princess and the Frog isn’t released until later this year, it is already stirring up controversy.
“For while Princess Tiana and many in the cartoon cast are black – the prince is not.
“Which has led some critics to complain that Disney has ducked the opportunity for a fairytale ending for a black prince and princess.”
Both directors and all of the screen writers for this movie are white men.
I recommend that they an Oprah read William Bascom”s “ Sixteen
Cowries, Yoruba Divination From Africa To The New World.”
This kind of ridiculing of black culture is nothing new for Disney. In a 1932 cartoon Mickey and Minnie were pitted against “fierce niggers.”
The opinions of black movie goers about Precious probably concur with those of White and Courtland Milloy. Courtland Milloy of The Washington Post wrote:
“I watched the movie at a theater in Alexandria where showtimes are nearly around the clock, from 10:15 a.m. to 12:15 a.m. The audience was mostly black women and teenagers. When the lights came up, all of the moviegoers appeared sullen and depressed that I attended.”
“After escaping the abuse of her home life, Precious ends up in a halfway house. She is still functionally illiterate and has two babies to care for, one with Down syndrome.
“Strangest of all, many reviewers felt the movie ended on a high note. Time, for instance, wrote that Precious "makes an utterly believable and electrifying rise from an urban abyss of ignorance and neglect.
“Excuse me, the movie ends with the girl walking the streets, babies in her arms, having just learned that her father has died of AIDS -- but not before infecting her.”
As a weak justification, and following the prompting of Geoffrey Gilmore, Lee Daniels told the Times interviewer that he was mindful that the movie contained stereotypes but that was ok because we have a black president, which must thrill the birthers, the tea baggers, those who create posters in which Obama appears as witchdoctor, a Muslim and the joker. On Nov.23 some wingnut put up a picture of Michelle Obama as a monkey at Goggle. The haters of the Obama must really feel in vogue thanks to Daniels.
Another part of the pitch is that the men in the film could be men of any ethnic group a sales pitch used by Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage for her theatrical products, praised by some the same types who are crazy about Precious. Atlanta Constitution columnist Cynthia Tucker received a Pulitzer for referring to black men as “idle” and “bestial” and they awarded Janet Cooke one for making up a story about black parents who were so rotten that they made heroin available to an eight year old, over the objection of a black panelist who smelled a fraud.Three great playwrights, Adrienne Kennedy, Ed Bullins and Amiri Baraka have never received a Pulitzer. These black men on the screen or on the stage doing terrible things to women could be Bosnians so the line goes.
In her interview with Daniels, Lynn Hirschberg said something similar: “Precious is a stand-in for anyone — black, white, male, female — who has ever been devalued or underestimated.”
To which Milloy answered:
“Let’s see: I lose my job, so I take in a movie about a serially abused black girl and I go, ‘Oh, swell, she’s standing in for me.’
“Maybe there is something to the notion that when human pathology is given a black face, white people don't have to feel so bad about their own. At least somebody's happy.
“Sexual abuse is certainly an equal-opportunity crime, with black and white women similarly affected. But only exaggerated black depravity seems to resonate so forcefully in the imagination.”
Will the “niche” audience for which this movie is intended ever become weary of the brothers being symbol of universal male misogyny? The face on the bull’s-eye at which disgruntled feminists from all ethnic groups aim their arrows, women who are scared to challenge the misogyny practiced by males who share their background? Judging from the box office receipts,
maybe not. As of Nov. 22, three weeks after the debut of the film, box office receipts totaled a gross of $21,277,521.
What is the solution offered by the people behind this film for the millions of blacks who are suffering from a depression during white America’s recession? After a hurried flurry of images belonging to Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Shirley Chisholm, Precious becomes redeemed by semi-literacy and black pride. The film’s true ending occurs when Precious and her mother engage in furious battle; the black pride part seems forced. After the mother/ daughter battle, the movie lingers like a wounded animal that nobody has the nerve to put out of its misery. Even more dreadful was somebody’s idea to tack on one of these trite sistuh solidarity songs.
What else do the film makers recommend that the underclass do, people who in the movie go into stores and rob and down a whole bucket of fried chicken, an image borrowed from The Birth of a Nation? Go to church and get sterilized which is the subtle Eugenics message that appears on a sign, “Spay and Neuter Your Pets,” as Precious and her two children travel to their new apartment.
According to Stefan Kuhl in his book, The Nazi Connection, Eugenics, American Racism and German National Socialism sterilization is an idea that the Germans borrowed from the United States as a way of ending the reproduction of unwanted groups. People who possess a violence gene?
In the mid-seventies, the late Chester Himes predicted that the Establishment was trying to start a war between black men and women. They succeed by treating both groups as opposing sports teams. And so while Armond White has been denounced by defenders of the movie, many of them women, and whites who consider him “contrarian,” the woman who put up the money, Sarah Siegel, has chosen to remain in the background. None of the exchanges I’ve read even mention her name. While the print and blog war over Precious rages on, she relaxes in her mansion, counting the profits from her Gold Mine of Opportunity: Precious; which is to blacks what Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ was to Jews.
Finally, who will market the next black movie that white audiences will pay to see? MSNBC has been drawing a lot of laughs from the same demographic by running a story about a black man who has been arrested twice for having intercourse with a horse and infecting the horse. Even the token progressives on MSNBC favor this story. I’ll bet somebody is working on the screenplay and the niche marketing for the film. Sarah, you listening?
Ishmael Reed’s “Barack Obama and the Jim Crow Media: the Return of the Nigger Breakers” will be published in the Spring by Baraka publishers of Quebec. He is the editor of Konch. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org