Rhetorical Question and or Food for Thought:
What is a Classic (Black) Man without his Top General(s)?
Above: Transgression in Public Spaces a discussion with Arthur Jafa & bell hooks
Jidenna “Classic Man” (Remix) ft. Kendrick Lamar (Arthur Jafa: cinematographer)
The Following excerpt was written by Arthur Jafa:
Arthur Jafa was co Producer and Director of Photography on Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust and Spike Lee’s feature production Crooklyn. His interest in “Black Visual Intonation” is moving into the domain of painting. For a complete reading visit:
The New Black Cinema by Arthur Jafa:
The title Menace II Society misleadingly conjures expectations of a film short on complexity and long on violence. Violence it has, but what the film suggested to me was a brutal update of Killer of Sheep, a sublime standard to which any representation of black male victimization and its concurrent effects must be compared. Menace II Society covers much of the same terrain as Boyz in the Hood. It describes with ruthless efficiency the no exit quality of life in South Central L.A. What makes Menace II Society devastatingly on target is the relentless way in which it assays the cyclic nature of black on black violence and the pathological strategies employed by those for whom there is no escape. “Bitch, bitch, bitch . . . “: the characters obsessively use misogynistic verbosity as a means of dislodging their internalization of a fixed positionality in the continuing and nonconsensual s/m dynamic that characterizes black/ white relations.
I recently gave a lecture on the development of black film practices grounded in African American cultural assumptions. I pointed out the importance of “primal sites,” or those group experiences, such as the Middle Passage. that have determined so much of the psychic makeup of the African-American community- how formal reconfigurations of hegemonic norms into conventions and methodologies better suited to African American expressivity are dependent upon a sophisticated understanding of these sites. I was somewhat stunned when a questioner said that I seemed to be celebrating a sort of s/ m model of black culture. I replied, I wouldn’t call it ‘celebrating,’ but I am interested in trauma and s/m as frames within which to understand certain wide scale pathology behavior in the black community.” I also recounted a talk with a friend about trying to imagine a work that would function for black men as Ntozake Shange’s Colored Girls . . . had functioned for black women. But what I’d actually asked was, Could one imagine a work that functioned like Color Purple, not Colored Girls. The slip surprised me. It was hard to imagine a work that placed a male character in the Celie position. This, I decided, was because victimization, as a state, as an identity, was, in the black male psyche, feminized to such a degree that imagining “the male victim became a near impossibility. Adopting the identity of -victim” was de facto feminizing to the point of erasing one’s masculinity, revoking one’s status as a male. Of course there’s a long history of black men as victims, but this history has seldom been embedded in a black male subject position. The history of lynching and castration, for example, has rarely been articulated on the level of the pain of the castrated, or as the sexual violation that it is.
Contemporary black male articulation of victimization, notably in hip-hop, is typically constructed as a sort of insult to black manhood. The word “pain” seldom comes up. To speak of one’s pain would be to acknowledge one’s vulnerability- vulnerability in this context being understood as weakness. One can even read black cool- or its more recent configuration, being hard-as a sort of denial of victim status, a means of deflecting the insult generally added to injury. Menace II Society shows characters applying a number of disassociative strategies to the problematic of being victimized, being reduced to female status. One could say they resist being lowered in the food chain. What this communicates is a world view in which there are only two positions to occupy, that of the top or bottom, the victimizer or victim, the abuser or the abused. Bitches, male or female, are fucked.
Original Version: Jidenna “Classic Man” ft. Roman GianArthur (Arthur Jafa: cinematographer) Top General: Janelle Monáe ~ http://www.epicrecords.com/news/janelle-monáe’s-wondaland-records-and-epic-records-launch-landmark-joint-venture-partnership