I got a good laugh when a friend sent me Shirley Q. Liquor’s comedy clip, ‘Ebonics Airlines’ wherein the comedian plays up a ghetto airline steward’s pre-flight checklist. I always feel bad laughing at this kind of stuff. Then I did a little online research and learned that Shirley Liquor is actually a persona performed by a white man in blackface. Now I feel terrible.
Liquor’s show in NYC Sept 2002 was closed down due to protests from the surrounding community. That link also has some other articles on Shirley and a little analysis of the act’s popularity with gay white audiences: (thanks Keith! Glad to have discovered your blog!)
There’s a long line of famous black celebrities who have gained their fame because white people decided they were black heroes. RuPaul may be one of them, and now writer Kheven Lee LaGrone takes on RuPaul as well. “Shirley Q. is paying homage to old-fashioned white supremacy. It is fitting that RuPaul would defend someone he calls one of his favorite entertainers,” LaGrone continues. “RuPaul himself does a ‘reverse minstrelsy.’ He is the ‘lowly’ Negro homosexual who dons blonde wigs to effect ‘glamour.’ RuPaul “projects to his largely white audience that their whiteness is desirable. His mantra to ‘love yourself’ speaks to an audience that craves validation. He seems to be coaching them to reclaim their white skin entitlement.”
Another interesting sentiment when I Googled Bernie Mac’s line ‘it’s raining white women’ from Charlie Angels:
His trademark big and rolling eyes, set in his ebony skin, take on a whole different meaning outside the setting of a Black narrative, setting and community, where we can laugh with him and not at him. In this film, he trips over himself with silliness while babysitting the angels.
That was sort of fascinating to me. That the same comedian’s style can be perceived totally differently when the context changes. Then there’s the minstrel throwbacks of Chris Tucker. Eek. I need to watch Bamboozled again.
Something Ron continually points out to me is how obsessed Americans are with boiling down race politics to black and white. That in other countries it just doesn’t fucking matter. I still think that underlying racial inequalities is a whole pink elephant of economic disparity that no one ever talks about. I think affirmative action should look at that and not at ethnicity.