How Racists Cynically Exploit “Cute”

This anti-abortion billboard targets a black community in Oakland, California.  It’s  just been recently covered over because the actual mother of the little girl featured in the ad complained so much to the press that it led to a bit of an outcry.  The mother of this child obviously didn’t think she was signing up to support the suggestion that her child is in any way unwanted (though she gullibly signed the modeling release form).

Similar billboards have appeared in Atlanta, Georgia and Brooklyn, New York too.  I can see why the mother was so offended.  It’s a slick political tactic that appeals to certain religious and nationalistic discourses promoted in the African American community.  The idea that black people are endangered or are otherwise inherently self-destructive (as though there is some perfectly coherent racial “self” to destroy in the first place) is a common white supremacist trope that — perhaps not too surprisingly — circulates throughout some all-black discursive communities, like barbershops and beauty parlors, not to mention far too many black churches.

Of course, blacks are no more endangered than the rest of humanity, but it’s hard to convey that to our folk when we only see social disintegration on a daily basis while, unfortunately, lacking a critical analysis that myopically attends to a world view which highlights personal agency as the end-all-be-all of human interactions. Such assumptions are mistaken because they ignore the various forms of structural and social violence that occur routinely within and across black communities — of which this billboard is a perfect case in point.

Most insidious about this billboard campaign is the suggestion that black people don’t love their children like everyone else (and by “everyone else” I mean white people). And because of this underlying pathos, I believe the billboard’s combination of words coupled with this particularly cute image is patently racist. Moreover, this ad is clearly designed to garner culturally conservative votes from the typically liberal African American voting block. This is a wedge issue similar to that of gay marriage, which has proven to be an effective political ploy to encourage portions of the African American electorate to vote against their own social and economic interests.

Unfortunately though, too many black voters are duped by the disingenuous politics of this conservative agenda. By feigning a concern for the lives and well-beings of black women and children, the right wing can claim to subscribe to a “colorblind” concern for the lives of “all humans” when, in fact, they couldn’t care less. Indeed, if the right wing anti-choice lobby really cared about the lives of women and children — regardless of race — they would make gestational and infant nutrition measures, as well as early childhood education and daycare an integral part of their political platform. If they really cared about women and children, they would make extended parental leave the norm and not just a luxury for the well-situated few. And no woman would ever get fired from her job for being pregnant. Ever.

In the end, it would stand to reason that the only way to reduce abortions is to assure expectant mothers that they will be able to safely bring children into the world without jeopardizing their own futures as well as those of their already living children. Instead, the right wing engages paranoia and fear tactics in order to impede a woman’s right to determine her own outcomes and not be condemned to breed against her will.

The poem below is from 1945 and is called “The Mother.” The Poetry Archive has posted a beautiful recitation of it in Gwendolyn Brooksown voice.

Abortions will not let you forget.
You remember the children you got that you did not get,
The damp small pulps with a little or with no hair,
The singers and workers that never handled the air.
You will never neglect or beat
Them, or silence or buy with a sweet.
You will never wind up the sucking-thumb
Or scuttle off ghosts that.
You will never leave them, controlling your luscious sigh,
Return for a snack of them, with gobbling mother-eye.

I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed
children.
I have contracted. I have eased
My dim dears at the breasts they could never suck.
I have said Sweets, if I sinned, if I seized Your luck
And your lives from your unfinished reach,
If I stole your births and your names,
Your straight baby tears and your games,
Your stilted or lovely loves, your tumults, your marriages, aches,and your deaths,
If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths,
Believe that even in my deliberateness
I was not deliberate.
Though why should I whine,
Whine that the crime was other than mine?
— Since anyhow you are dead.
Or rather, or instead, You were never made.
But that too, I am afraid,
Is faulty: oh, what shall I say, how is the truth to be said?
You were born, you had body, you died.
It is just that you never giggled or planned or cried.

Believe me, I loved you all.
Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you
All.

February 28, 2011. Tags: , , , , . abortion, advertisemnt campaign, African Americans, children, civics, cute, economics, family, feminism, gender, literature, parenting, poetry, politics, rhetorics, sex & sexuality. 1 comment.

daddy-mommy-me

The image to the left is by Gordon Parks, called “Black Children with White Doll.”

The title of this post is “daddy-mommy-me” and is a quote taken from the introduction to Deleuze & Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia and is related to my cute theory of race. The baby subject feels loyalty to the primary [racialized] nuclear unit in a libidinal economy of desire. The cuteness of “daddy-mommy-me” is abject sentimentality in the most profound and fundamental sense. (This is something I’m not going to tease out in a few paragraphs — it’s Deleuze for crying out loud, people!) I have a year and a half before I have to trace this economy of family cuteness more fully.

Of course, there’s this lovely piece by Japanese theorist, Akira Asada “Infantile Capitalism and Japan’s Postmodernism: A Fairy Tale” that really has fun with notions of cute economy, infantile capitalism — to be specific,  and is all Deleuzianed out with wild proclamations about software & play v. hardware & hardwork. Very fun.

And then today I played around with I-Ching to focus on the question of a fruitful 2011. After six coin tosses, I built the 37th hexagram or ䷤ The Family (the family, in this case is according to the standards of traditional Chinese gender and birth order norms).  This notion of family, of course, operates from a particular logic of oikonomos quite different from the context of Western cultural site of oedipal exchange, but I believe there is a similarity. The Wilhelm and Baynes translation I use talks about the “family is society in embryo… the native soil on which performance of moral duty is made easy through natural affection… within in a small circle of moral practice… later widened to include human relationships in general” (144).  Hmmmm. Now I’m not saying I’ll be citing or actively using the I-Ching in my diss (though I’m fascinated by Gregory Ulmer’s ideas about the system’s flash logic as an ancient hypertext), but it’s certainly possible for me to appreciate this reminder of my social situation while also objecting to the basis of it on philosophical grounds. The oracular reading connects quite verisimilitudinally to this subject of “cute” in my dissertation, though. Or it just might be that I’m seeing “cute” everywhere because I’m so immersed in my topic. Either way, it can’t be too bad of a thing; I’ll need all the imaginative energy I can muster these next 18 months. (For realers.)

The line in the first place is 9 and changes 37 to the 53rd hexagram or ䷴Development/Gradual Progress. The image of 53 involves the gradual progression of a sapling on the side of a mountain.  Influence and weight develops over time. Need I say more?

I think this is an auspicious reading for a/cute growth

December 19, 2010. Tags: . cute, dolls, family, gender, I-Ching, Japan & Japanese, toys. 1 comment.

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