MANSFIELD: A Confederacy of Dunces

 

Donald Glover’s recent release, “This Is America” was an instant Internet sensation that garnered over 10 million hits within the first 24 hours of its release, and for good reason: It’s the work of a true cultural genius. Forget Kanye, he’s already been replaced by someone of substance.

The video shows Glover as his alter ego “Childish Gambino,” in a warehouse dancing and killing up a storm. The multi-layered video offered up a searing — and accurate — commentary on the America we currently inhabit. It simultaneously brutal and yet beautiful. But you should click on the link and judge for yourself.

The controversy, however, is not over the message in the masterpiece, but who the artist chooses to spend his life with: You see, his significant other (and mother of his two children) is white, or perhaps white/Asian — but what the hell does that have to do with the flat-out genius of the video?

Alas, for some haters, it has everything to do with it. Panama Jackson, a normally very incisive wordsmith, let the cat out of the bag early on in his recent polemic trashing the video when he stated, “I’ve had so many conversations at this point and heard so many disparate opinions on its goals and purpose that I’m just going to stick with what I know: Donald Glover made a video in which he dances a lot and some folks die and others don’t. Because this is America  Because we, the people, like to project our issues onto people who create — fight your mom, bro; all of us who create deal with other people’s bullshit in the interpretation of our works — the fact that Glover’s longtime partner, with whom he has two children, is white has come into play in determining both his right and ability to craft and tell such authentically black stories.”

Gee, sounds like the sourest of grapes to me.

Virtually the entire online world (which I’m only marginally a part of) is blowing up with accolades over Glover’s genius, but Jackson, and others of his jealous ilk raise the specious issue of the “not-quite-black-enough” mother of his children, as if somehow that waters down the message the video projects. In fact, it might make it even stronger.

It’s been said that blacks cannot be racists simply because we don’t possess the power to influence outcomes — but that’s not true. Panama Jackson — who, by the way, is the progeny of a black father and white mother — is proving that racism can infect outcomes, if we allow it.

But here’s where Jackson’s argument falls apart: He evidently supposes that the whiteness of Glover’s partner is so strong that it will influence a black artist’s thinking in regards to his work. That’s conferring a tremendous amount of power to whiteness, isn’t it? Why couldn’t it be the other way around, that Glover would influence the thinking of his white partner on matters racial?

For over two decades my partners and bedmates were of European ancestry, but I can assure you that if anyone changed due to the relationship it was them, not me. In fact, they had already had come over to the black side by the time we hooked up. But in the real world we inhabited race was never an issue. We floated above it like bumblebees and hummingbirds. Those kinds of racial concerns — even back in the day — were for the suckers that we fleeced.

If you know any true artist — and Glover truly is one — the one thing you know about them is this: Nothing, absolutely nothing, that isn’t legitimate is going to influence their work. It simply can’t happen. If it did, they would no longer be a true artist. Duhhh.

I’ll leave you with this: “When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign … that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.” — Jonathan Swift.

From CoolCleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier mansfieldfATgmail.com. Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author at http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.

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One Response to “MANSFIELD: A Confederacy of Dunces”

  1. Kate Klonowski

    Thanks, Mansfield. When I first saw this video, I was greatly impacted by its message, its musicality and its artistry. It’s a superb piece of subversive music and I am grateful for all it has given me to think about. It has also introduced me to some of his earlier works (which were unknown to me before now, regrettably) that speak often to this racial ambiguity you mention where many blacks deal with not being “black enough” to fit in anywhere. I hope he continues to bring these issues to the forefront of American reckoning.

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