Coonin' Aint Comedy
TRUTH Minista Paul Scott
Once again it's Black History Month and there are a few things that you can count on. Martin Luther speeches. Stories about how "far" Black folks have come almost 150 odd years up from slavery. And a new Comedy Central Show to pimp slap us back 150 years...
When I first saw the obligatory slavery commercial for the new "Key and Peele Sketch Series," weeks back, I said to myself "we've been here before." Then there was the preview of the "Obama as Angry Black Man" clip on the Comedy Central website. (Yeah, that's original)
So, I wasn't really surprised when the show that had been hyped like the Second Coming of Stepin' Fetchin' for months lived down to be everything that I thought it would be.
The standard "talkin' black jokes," the Black men calling Black women the "B" word, " the "gangsta Hip Hop artist in jail skit" peppered with random muggin' and stabbin' jokes. Yep, they pulled out all the stops to once again use a comedy show to make white America more sensitive to the plight of Black men (or in this case half-Black men.)
But the question I kept asking myself was "why is 'that's how Black folk act' comedy even funny anymore?"
It's just so...70-ish.
I admit our parents thought the "shuckin' and jivin' of " JJ " on Good Times or "George Jefferson" was hilarious and I do watch a Sanford and Son rerun every now and then but those shows were from 30 years ago.
Newsflash! We have a Black man in the White House and little white kids in Iowa have the whole neighborhood shakin' , blastin' Drake and Niki Minaj. So the idea that white people are oblivious to Black culture on at least a shallow, superficial level is ludicrous.
Now, some folks may call Key and Peele comedy but where I come from we have another name.
"Coonin'" (making white folks laugh at the expense of disgracing their children, parents, great grandparents and 30 million other African Americans.)
In all fairness, I must point out that "coonin'" did not start with Key and Peele as the practice goes back to the 19th century.
The popularity of black folks actin' the fool has its roots in the mid 1800's with the black face minstrel performances. In the book, "Split Image: African Americans in the Mass Media," (Janet Davis and William Barlow) historian William Van Deburg is quoted as saying that in a time when many whites feared slave insurrections "the early slave image offered white audiences a comforting , psychological reassurance." He writes that "such intellectually inferior clowns posed little threat to white hegemony."
So, it reassures a white America that may still be a little shook up over the first Black president thing, that they don't have a thing to worry about.
It must, also, be remembered that barely a hundred years ago, African people were being locked up in monkey cages at zoos and forced to perform for white folks. According to Dr. Harriet Washington in her book, "Medical Apartheid," around 1903, a missionary explorer, Samuel Phillips Lerner, captured Ota Benga, an African "pygmy" and gave him to William Hornaday to put on exhibit in the Bronx Zoo. However, today they have stopped putting black men in cages but place them on stages.
As we enter into an era where some people are trying to "turn back the clock" on African American progress, the Key and Peele Show cannot be viewed in a political vacuum. In a time when some people want to put us back on the plantation we don't need black comedians to supply the whips to beat us into submission.
Really, in 2012 , who would think that something like Key and Peele is even the least bit funny...(OK. Maybe Newt Gingrich but that's about it.)
I wouldn't be surprised if old Newt brought Key and Peele out to do a tap dance routine during his weekly "diss a minority moment" at the next presidential debate as exhibit A.
TRUTH Minista Paul Scott's website is No Warning Shots Fired.com. He can be reached at (919) 451-8283 or firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter @truthminista