Good For The Blacks
July 31, 2017
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Snoop Dogg has a television show with Martha Stewart. The Tyler Perry movie "Boo! A Madea Halloween" made almost $100 million at the box office. A Black man once held the nuclear codes for President Trump. Sometimes in life we have to decide if a thing is good or bad for the Culture.
Read Vinson Cunningham’s work at The New Yorker.
Follow Aminatou Sow on Twitter.
"The Politicization of Jay-Z" by Greg Tate, Village Voice
If you are struggling to decide if something is good for the Blacks, email us at goodfortheblacks AT gimletmedia DOT com.
The Nod is produced by Eric Eddings, with Brittany Luse, Kate Parkinson-Morgan, and James T. Green. Our senior producer is Sarah Abdurrahman. We are edited by Jorge Just and Annie-Rose Strasser. Engineering from Matthew Boll and Cedric Wilson. Our theme music is by Calid B. Special thank you to the Jerome L. Greene Space for hosting our show. And our DJ for the night, DJ GrandDru.
Because we are a new show, we would love if you could rate us on Apple Podcasts.
BL: From Gimlet Media, this is The Nod. I am Brittany Luse.
EE: And I am Eric Eddings.
EE: So, a few weeks back, we wanted to celebrate the launch of this very show with a live taping of The Nod.
BL: Yes and it. was. The definition of lit. Of popping. Of hopping. Of jumping. Of skipping. Everything. It was like the most fun that could possibly be had on a Wednesday night.
EE: All the verbs.
BL: Exactly. But you don’t have to be salty if you missed it, you don't have to be like that. because today we are going to share a portion of that live show with you--this game that we played with our panelists for the night: Aminatou Sow from Call Your Girlfriend and On She Goes podcasts. And the writer from the New Yorker, Vinson Cunningham.
EE: Yes. And the two of them were perfect guests for the very first edition of a new segment we are going to debut right here right now. Enjoy...
Eric: We like to call this "Good for the Blacks".
Eric: I love that music.
Brittany: It puts you in a mood.
Amina: It's so good.
Eric: I want it to play when I come to the club, like actually when I step out.
Brittany: I'm not gonna roast you for not going to the club though.
Eric: Alright, so I think we've all been in the position at some point where we're faced with like an awkward thing that is like somehow related to Black people. Like there's that time that we found out that the guy who carries the nuclear football for Donald Trump was a Black man. It was a little strange, caught me off guard.
Amina: I am still shook.
Eric: Or the fact that the Madea Halloween movie made almost $100 million dollars. I don't know how to feel about that. And like we're often forced to quickly decide. Is this phenomenon actually a good thing for Black folks? You're pressed at the water cooler. "How do you feel about Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart's talk show"? And you're like "I dunno". Frankly, these are really time consuming decisions to make.
Brittany: So that is where we come in.
Brittany: With Good for the Blacks, Eric and I, and tonight, our esteemed guests.
Eric: That's true.
Brittany: We break these phenomena down and we take an official vote to let you know definitively whether or not this thing is good or bad for Black people. We're doing all the work for you. We are saving you hours of Twitter searches and think piece scrolling, and sleepless nights.
Eric: Yeah, you're welcome. So today we are going to be talking about this season of The Bachelorette, which features Rachel Lindsay, and she is the first Black Bachelorette.
Brittany: Right. So, as she is the first Black Bachelorette, this season has been full of cringe worthy moments and also of very awkward racial conversations, but I will say, there has been some genuine romance. And what we're gonna do tonight, is we're going to have a nice little round table discussion and we're going to basically decide, like was this worth it? So Vinson and Amina, if you look on this table back here everyone has a church fan. Because we're about to take just a quick vote, because we keep it official around here. So basically, for the initial vote–this is how we're gonna do it–for the initial vote, if you think it's good, you're going to have a brown thumbs-up emoji with Obama's face. I know you guys can't wait to see who’s on the back with the thumbs-down. And on the other side, the thumbs-down, this is Ben Carson.
Eric: Yes. We try to make it easy for you. So, I think we'll just go down the line. Brittany, do you want to up down real quick the Bachelorette.
Brittany: Yeah. As of right now, and this could be controversial, I don't know, I still think it's good.
Eric: I'm a hard bad for the Blacks. I personally am, straight up.
Vinson: The entire phenomenon?
Amina: Okay, that's insane. It's amazing for Black people, especially for Black women. So, yes!
Vinson: I'm sorry man, I'm also going to also go with good. It's good for the Blacks.
Eric: You know, that's fine. Somebody's gotta go out on that limb. And I'm okay with it being me in this particular moment.
Amina: Okay, Ben Carson.
Eric: That really hurt. Like, that's worse than what Brittany says to me on a daily basis. Let's dig into the pros and cons. My only real pro is that this is the most amount of Black people, and especially Black men, I've ever seen in like one hour of network television. It's fascinating. But that actually is all I've got. So, Amina do you have a pro?
Amina: I mostly have pros. One, she's a Black woman, so like yes, that's always good. Two, like what other TV show do you have on like mainstream white TV where a Black woman just gets to do everything she wants. She's out here traveling, she like's buying these dummies watches. She's out here sweating in a weave just–
Eric: A good weave.
Amina: Just like living your best life. But also, she's said she grew up in majority white spaces, and I'm sure that when she was younger she was not the hot one in middle school or high school. And so, what a great scam to come back on TV and like kiss all of the boys who rejected you when you were younger. You know she's smart, she's beautiful. She's better than most of the other Bachelorettes we've had and even though the producers set her up for all of these really dumb conversations about, you know, they let a racist on the show and they thought that we wouldn't know. It's like, you guys do better vetting than the entire Trump Administration. There's no way a racist gets on here and they don't know. But at the same time you know, she's been able to have these conversations with Black men that I've never seen on TV. I've never seen two Black people on TV say "hi, I have actually never dated a Black women" and the Black women like doesn't flip a table and instead says "I didn't know that about you, that's fine". And then have a real conversation about that. so I think the Black Bachelorette is like net positive.
Brittany: Vinson, I want to know what are your Pros.
Vinson: Every aspect of the show is sort of like funny and kitschy and absurd. Like there was a part that I truly enjoyed where this guy’s ex-girlfriend shows up at a basketball game and it's just like "okay everyone, you're aware". And I just thought that it's kind of stupid and it's like a little bit banal and that's the true meaning of equality. When we can be just as absurd and stupid and occasionally crazy as anybody else. In some ways she’s–Rachel is more liberated and in some way more powerful than Obama, because he means something and has to do with politics. And the same people that watch the Bachelorette are like, "I'm sure there someone who hates Obama, has like burned him and effigy and is a Rachel fan. Right?
Eric: In noticed that.
Vinson: And there's this weird way in which this kind of thing is able by the way that is kind of weirdly antiseptic and it doesn't pretend to mean to much, that it can do more work than the like explicitly political.
Brittany: My pro is in this context unlike pretty much anywhere else in pretty much all media. Two things that this Black woman gets to do. Number one: she's the prize, she's the Disney princess. These dudes are sitting around playing ridiculous mind games with each other trying to impress her and get her attention. And, the other thing that she gets to do is, she is like making out with everybody. I've never really watched The Bachelorette before–
Amina: No, she's like serious horn dog.
Brittany: And I was sitting there–Yeah, no, I don't want to even want to talk about it. There's this guy on there named Peter. Peter–Thank you, Peter is fine, exactly. Peter is fine. Peter is fine. Peter is so fine, and also, I've done so much deep Instagram stalking of Peter. All Peter's friends are Black from back in Wisconsin. It's so deep. It's so deep. It's so deep. But, like in the episode from this past week, there's this date that she has in Switzerland, because that's what you do on a third date, and she's in the snow in the Swiss Alps snuggled up with Peter's fine ass, and she is making out. She and Peter spent three hours in the hot tub on a date a couple of weeks ago. I was like, "Whoa, this is amazing." But you have this thing called-Is it the fantasy suite? That's what it's called? And in the fantasy suite, it goes down.
Brittany: Right, and I love that this Black woman is going to have sex with all these dudes. You know what I mean? And all of them are like, "Man," they're like, "Hope she likes me after the fantasy suite." And no one's like, "Oh, this Black woman is a bed wench." Do you know what I'm saying? She gets to totally–This is a real Black woman right here, and she's going to have sex with four of you, and all you guys are going to be shaking in your boots hoping that she thought it was good, and that's amazing. [applause] But the thing that I want to know, though, from you though, Eric, is–I'm very curious. Why, for you, is the representation just not enough?
Eric: I think this gets us into the cons.
Amina: The one con.
Eric: I could go deep. But for me, the representation–I actually agree with almost all of your pros. Rachel is awesome. She's really fun to watch, she's really relatable, she looks like the people I know, and it's really exciting to see other people watch her be herself in this volume of people. But how they treat the people on this show, specifically the Black people on this show, really rubs me the wrong way in a way that other dating shows like, even For the Love of Ray J doesn't actually bother so much.
Brittany: This man has a PhD in Love of Ray J. He knows. He knows.
Eric: Classic peak TV, actually. But seriously, though, the people on the show, they put all the Black people in this really awkward position to the point where you can see how cognizant that they are being watched, and how uncomfortable they are that they're being watched. There was one bachelor, Kenny, and he was getting into it with Lee who's the racist bachelor. We just got to be honest about it. And, he was calling him aggressive and they were trying to tell the guy about it, and it was this weird back and forth. Actually we have a clip.
Lee: I don't know but tell me that's not aggressive. Tell me that was not aggressive.
Will: I'm not gonna say the words man.
Lee: But why? If you're gonna be honest.
Will: When you call him aggressive, there is a long standing history in this country of regarding Black men in America as aggressive to justify a lot of other things.
Lee: So, he's the guy that gets mad and plays the race card and tries to get away with everything he does, because he can't control himself.
Will: I don't think, listen I don't think he meant to play the race card. I think he truly was offended by it.
Will: By that choice of word.
Rachel: Being a–I'm going to get emotional. The pressures that I feel about being a Black woman and what that is, and how –I don't want to talk about it. I get pressure from so many different ways being in this position and I don't, I did not want to get into all of this tonight, and I already know what people are gonna say about me. And, judge me for the decisions that I'm making. I'm going to be the one that has to deal with that. And, nobody else. And, that's a lot.
Eric: So, that is good TV, I'm sure people really enjoyed that, that's a moment got probably shared around a lot, but I don't know how healthy that is. To put these Black folks in these position where they constantly have to do this work of educating the racist White folks around them. That's a lot for me personally to see them go through that and having to deal with that. And, sure maybe it benefits a few White people in Middle America who have never come across a Black person.
Brittany: Or, in New York.
Eric: Or, in New York let’s be real. But, it just seems like a lot. To me, I'm not sure that that's worth it.
Vinson: That clip makes me think because as that was happening there was this weird piano, boom, boom while this is happening, and it made me think that a thing that we grew up with that doesn't really happen anymore the very special episode. Where like Kelly is all of a sudden on speed and she’s a maniac. Right, I’m so excited? And, weirdly I think this goes to how we think people learn this kind of lesson. Because, weirdly the ways that we've been doing it, like whatever it is, my work with think pieces or whatever the ways that we've been trying to do this work, something's not happening. So, maybe the very special episode has always been the way. I truly do believe there are people who do not understand that the word aggressive is a coded, can be a coded word. I do believe it. And, I just wonder sometimes, and maybe that's a condescending thing to think, that the Bachelorette is the way that someone is gonna learn something that they didn't learn in any other way, but I do wonder.
Amina: I think that for me, having her on a show like this, even though the show itself is very mediocre, but I'm like my God we deserve to be mediocre like everybody else. Because, I think that the experience of watching television as a person of color and I think especially as a Black person is that you are always on this high alert for how the person on the screen is gonna embarrass you and the repercussions that it's going to have for you. And, my God, White people don't watch TV like that. They just get to enjoy it. And, so I just want to watch dumb TV. And, enjoy that too. And, it's the same reason I watch Love and Hip Hop, it's the same reason I love for the Love of Ray J. He's a mastermind.
Eric: He's beautiful.
Amina: Are you kidding me?
Eric: Yeah, I do love the VH1 shows. It's actually specifically the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise that feels off to me for some reason.
Amina: Do you like the other shows because there's no intermingling in the other shows? They’re separate–
Eric: Separate but equal?
Amina: Yeah, they're separate but equal. I mean let's be real. The Black shows are separate but better.
Eric: Are better, yeah. Yeah. It might be, for the most part and actually one of my favorite shows is The Real Housewives of Potomac. The Real Housewives of Potomac is fascinating.
Amina: I can't watch that show it really stresses me out.
Vinson: The paper bag tattoo.
Amina: That's a show that I think is actually bad for Black people, Ben Carson. That show is–
Eric: That show is intense, but they have similar conversations, but what is fascinating to me about it is it's happening within a lot of different class dynamics and even racial dynamics between different Black people. And, something about that feels more normal and a touch more comfortable if you will. Maybe it's just because having that conversation, even having another difficult conversation with another Black person honestly is not as taxing as doing that same work with someone who is White. Because, it's just like there is certain points that you just don't have to concede. There's a little bit of baseline, even with Ben Carson. We could probably get to some piece of common ground.
Vinson: Good luck with that.
Eric: Going out on hope.
Vinson: He's gonna tell you a story about getting stuck up in Popeyes. That's gonna be the end of that.
Amina: First of all, he called it the Popeyes Establishment, which is how I know he does not go there.
Vinson: As one does.
Brittany: Wait, but I want to hear what your cons are. What is not making you excited about the Bachelorette?
Vinson: If there is a con, I think it's the way that the Black guys are situated. Because, at the beginning there was this weird jocking where the guys are making alliances, it's like is this a pack of wolves, or are these–it's like weird sexually, but–So, their situation and my sense that these guys have an upper hand. The thing happened to me where I was thinking about them like they're gonna appeal to her on racial grounds.
Eric: Come on Rachel.
Vinson: Yeah, exactly.
Amina: Do it for the culture.
Vinson: Yeah. They're gonna make an oblique reference to church fans or something and it's gonna work on her, and this is–That, I felt that happen to me immediately. And, then after that I was like, oh that's kind of fucked up.
Amina: Well, one of the problems that compounds it honestly is class. I think that a lot of times when people think very simplistically about race they're just like, okay here are the things that divide us, but the thing on the show that has been really fascinating is this thing that you were saying with the men, is that Rachel clearly comes from a better off background. And, the truth is that a lot of the men do not. That dynamic also makes me really uncomfortable. They never talk about money on that show. They never talk about people of color and access to money. And, even the idea of a hometown date is crazy. If I had to take somebody to a hometown date, you're only meeting my framily, you're definitely not meeting my family. That's crazy. Not everybody comes from this weird cookie cutter functional idea of what a family is. So, they just culturally pit you against each other in a way that is - It's like the show has not caught up to where America is because even a lot of the white bachelors, they all have Black friends and Black family members. I did a deep dive on all of their social medias. And, it was like, they're all down for the swirl. I was like this is not shocking, they will all know what to do when they put their hands in her hair and there's a track. Nobody's gonna flip out. And, so I think that's what sad about the show to me, is that ABC is still stuck in 1950 and it just blows my mind to me that nobody's making a TV show that can appeal to people on multi-cultural grounds. I also like don't believe that somebody is watching the show and going, "I've learned something about Black people today." I think people are fairly set in their ways, people are good or evil for different reasons. TV is not the educational tool that we think it is.
Eric: That feels like a strong con.
Brittany: That does feel like a strong con, because my only con was like, "I think they could've picked her some better men." I was like, "There's some guy who left you now."
Amina: What kind of man goes on a TV show to meet somebody to marry. They're all idiots.
Brittany: If there's one Peter, there are more. But It is actually time for us to take our final vote. We want to get final vote. Starting with Vinson.
Vinson: My final vote remains, it is good, but I will say that actually I actually am very compelled by Amina's thing about, maybe I am a little bit of a Pollyanna about TV. I believe in TV, but maybe I believe in TV too much. Especially network TV, which is in this weird thing where I don't even get it. I'm one of these cord-cutter people. I watch this at my in-laws house. So I hadn't thought about this sort of diminishing power of TV in this at all. Part of what maybe I thought was a pro, may not be it, as much of a pro.
Eric: Come to the dark side. All right.
Vinson: Always an optimist, but you know?
Amina: I remain very pro. Get it Rachel, get all the things.
Eric: So, one I am here for Rachel. I think it is significant who she is and how she is on TV. But I still, I don't know Something still feels–I don't give them that much credit for doing this now, and while this season has been really enjoyable, surprisingly enjoyable, it still kind of doesn't do it for me. So, sadly my vote has not changed.
Brittany: You don't look that sad. You don't look that sad.
Eric: But I say bad for the Blacks.
Brittany: Y'all know how I feel. I'm here for Rachel. I think she is among the best for what America has to offer, and hopefully our society won't devolve to this point, but it's possible our children could be celebrating her in Black History Month in 20 years.
Eric: It could happen.
Brittany: You know what I'm saying? I'm riding the wave of the future. Good for the Blacks. So wait, what does that bring the final–
Eric: I think I'm outnumbered. I think that means that the Bachelorette is Good for the Blacks.
Eric: All right.
Brittany: If somebody asks you, you already know what the answer is, unless you're not Black in which you should deflect to another Black person.
Eric: Yes, please. Don't do it.
Brittany: If there are no Black people around, you need to take shelter.
BL: After the break, we are going to do a lighting round of...good for-for-for...the Blacks.
Brittany: So, we are going to do just one lightning round of Good For the Blacks. So I'm going to give one topic, really quick. there's an album that came out recently that is basically Lipstick Alley on wax. I'm talking about 4:44. Jay-Z's album, and he admits that he has been cheating on Beyonce since she was in her late teens when they met up until he–Some people say he turned 44, but basically up until Blue was born. He realized that you should treat your wife like a human being, and not cheat on her indiscriminately. But the beats are hot, shout out No I.D., shout out Guru. So, Vinson, what do you say? Good or Bad for the Blacks?
Vinson: It's a fantastic No I.D. album with occasional thoughts from Jay-Z; however, the things that me the album popular are bad for the Blacks.
Vinson: So I, as a Black man want more credit than to think that I need to be 40-whatever years old to learn how to be a human being. There was the love part, which is stupid, and then there's a part that's his whole economic thing.
Jay Z: You want to know what's more important than throwing away money in strip club? Credit. You ever wonder why Jewish people own all the property in america? That's how they did it. Financial freedom my only hope. Fuck living rich and dying broke. I bought some art work for 1 million. 2 years later that shit worth 2 million. Few years later that shit worth 8 million. I can’t wait to give that shit to my children...
I don't think that capitalism is the answer for Black people. So, bad for the Blacks.
Brittany: Amina, what say you?
Amina: I'm also squarely bad for the Blacks, because Black men, you got so many opportunities to grow up in a way that like Black women don't. That was really hard, but I agree with you. For me mostly it is all about the economics of that. I think it's like a smidge, anti-semitic, which is not cool. Just this, I don’t know, like Black people have an obsession with Jewish financial structures that make me very uncomfortable all of the time, and they just like throw out this anti-semitic sayings it's cool. I don't think that that's true, but I also–Yeah, I'm like capitalism is not the way that we are going to get free, and credit is obviously amazing, but Jay-Z needs to–He's not telling people why they don't have access to credit, right? I'm going to take him up on his new wisdom. In order to be good to my credit, I will not be participating in any of his live shows.
Brittany: I know! I know.
Eric: I'm not going to lie. I'm kind of struggling with this one. The thing is, obviously, I sympathize with all your criticisms, and I don't think he should get that much credit for realizing he was blowing up his life and fucking up his relationship. But I do think it's important that he did this publicly in this way. Seeing that was fascinating, because I honestly didn't–I thought he got dragged in Lemonade, and I thought that was going to be a little be the end of that. I thought he was going to shuffle off and keep trying to push Tidal and like we would go from there. I would say I didn't expect this. I think it is at least good to see it and that it happened. So I would be a little more generous with Jay-Z. It's just better than American Gangster and Kingdom Come, like–
Brittany: Ooh. Magna Carta.
Vinson: Wait. It's better than American Gangster? It's better than Magna Carta, which was–
Eric: Okay. American Gangster is argument to have,
Vinson: Ooooh yeah. Oh
Eric: It’s an argument to have.
Eric: I would say, squeaking by, good for the Blacks.
Brittany: I'm not going to lie, I struggled when I heard you guys' takes Vinson and Amina, but I'm going to be honest with you guys the album slaps, and it sounds good and when Beyonce shows up on that track like every time I'm seeing her I'm thinking–I go back and forth because I'm like, "Wow, this man really played the shit out of you, and you are rich as fuck, and you are so sexy, and you are so good at what you do. You've such great business acumen." And I'm like, "You should just leave him," but when she's on the song, when she's like "Ah!" I just want to throw out my windows and clean. It feels like Church, and that's a distraction, and sometimes I cry. I will say this. I remember when, I can't remember the name of the album, might be Life is Good, the Nas album, where on the cover, he has–He used to be married to Kelis for those who have been living under a rock. Another man who blew his life up and didn't survive. But um–He was married to Kelis. She divorced him, she filed for divorce when she was seven months pregnant. You don't file for a divorce with somebody at that point, if they –He fucked up. When she left him, the only thing she left in their closet was her wedding dress. And so he's on the cover of his next album, "I'm living good, I still have my wife's old, my ex-wife's wedding dress." I thought that was so emotionally immature. My boyfriend at the time was like, "Yeah, sticking it to this bitch," and I was like, "Okay, cool!" We broke up. He didn't actually say that. He didn't actually say that, but it was close. I was wondering, I’m like will ever publicly in hiphop any male rapper progress emotionally beyond this point, and I don't think that Jay-Z–I don't think anything he did was excusable. but what he did was beyond this bullshit that Nas put out five years, ago. I thought that was so toxic and so stupid. So actually, I think it's good for the Blacks.
Eric: Oh man.
Brittany: And now we're at a point where you got a tie. Split decision.
Eric: Split decision.I think we need to put it to the audience, right?
Brittany: Yeah. We do. We do.
Eric: Let's start with Good for the Blacks, audience? 4:44.
Brittany: I can't tell if that's thin or not?
Brittany: How many of y'all think it's Bad for the Blacks? Give me a boo.
Amina: Oh! Sizeable.
Brittany: I think that the good sounded a little bit more vigorous. So I think that actually the room has decided for the culture, 4:44 is Good for the Blacks.
Eric: All right.
Eric: Thank you.
BL: Thank you guys so much
EE: Alright. Thank you!
Amina: Congratulations you guys!
Vinson: Congratulations! You guys are good for the Blacks. The Nod is good for the Blacks!
BL: That was SUCH A FUN NIGHT.
EE: It really was. Vinson and Amina were great, and For those of you who are listening, you should definitely check out their work.
We will link to their stuff in our show notes.
BL: Yes, and don’t worry if you missed that live show–because there will definitely be more in the future! But if you want to be among the first people to know every time we have a live event, you should definitely make sure to subscribe to our newsletter which you can do by going to gimlet media dot com slash the nod. OR you can follow us on Twitter at The Nod Show.
EE: And Brittany.
EE: You know what else there will be more of?
EE: There will be more times when someone will come across something that they aren’t sure is good for the Blacks. And we are dedicated to help you in those moments of severe confusion and distress. SO if you are struggling to decide if something is good for the Blacks,
Email us at goodfortheBlacks at gimletmedia dot com.
Or you can tweet us at the nod show, just be sure to use the hashtag GOOD. FOR. THE. BLACKS.
EE: Be careful with that hashtag
EE: Could get dangerous
BL: But yes, we are here to help.
E: The Nod is produced by me, Eric Eddings, with Brittany Luse, Kate Parkinson-Morgan, and James T. Green. Our senior producer is Sarah Abdurrahman. We are edited by Jorge Just and Annie-Rose Strasser. Engineering from Matthew Boll and Cedric Wilson. Our theme music is by Calid B. Special thank you to the Jerome L. Greene Space for hosting our show. And our DJ for the night, DJ GrandDru.
B: And–we may have mentioned this once or twice before–but as we are a new show, you know we are trying to spread our wings, we are trying to grow, we are trying to bring more people into the fold so we would appreciate it ever so much if–when you go onto Apple Podcasts–you would just rate and review the show. And, you know i can't tell you what to do, I can't control you, but I can suggest politely that you leave us a five star review.