Category Archives: racism

The Clanging Chimes of Doom – Bandaid Remade and Remixed

Reposting to get you in the holiday spirit…. The original post appeared on Nov 20, 2010…. Enjoy! ūüôā

This is perhaps one of the most impactful and damaging songs in history. I heard it on the radio today and got pissed off like I do every time I hear it.

Apparently the image of Africa and Africans hasn’t changed much since 1984. Twenty years later comes Band Aid 2 — because every multi-celebrity charity pity song needs a remake…. Love the intro sound of a crying starving child and the astonished yet highly concerned British commentator.

I don’t even know where to start on the stereotypes and disservice that this song (and similar charity marketing and sensationalist journalism) has done to the image of Africa (the Continent) and Africans themselves. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in African countries and I could post photo after photo of rivers and rain there. And things growing. ¬†I never heard any clanging chimes of doom while there.¬†There are lots of people who are not looking out their windows onto “a world of dread and fear”. Many of my African friends won’t celebrate Christmas because they are Muslim, not because they are starving to death. And many others will celebrate Christmas, but not American or Euro style. Not everyone is sitting underneath the burning sun. Africa is not a giant desert. Can we please not show famine in Ethiopia and pretend it’s representative of the entire continent? There won’t be snow in Africa? So what? Gahhhhh!

Luckily there is the glory of social media to take the edge off the fury…. If you don’t like the original version, there are plenty of re-makes to be found on YouTube. I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry. Here is a selection of the, uh, finest. You be the judge on whether these are worse than the original…. Taking votes in the comments section.

Feed the World with Friends (I wish this were a joke) Version. Wow. Just wow. E for effort. C for caring. D for Do Gooders. But the singing makes me doubt the potential for quality in anything crowdsourced.

Bad 1980s Sponsorship Organization Commercial Photo Montage Version. The original didn’t have enough pictures of crying children and flies in the eyes so this kind person overlaid some of the best of the worst charity photos on to the video to encourage us to care. ¬†(Commenter: So, there won’t be snow in Africa this year? And you say the only gift they’ll get is the gift of life? So, no shoveling, and no commercial holidays? Sign me up.)

Singing Cartoon Turkeys Version (aka PETA Version?)

Dance Aid – Do they know it’s Christmas (Rave Mix) Instrumental so you can dance at your Christmas Rave without feeling guilty because of the lyrics.

Winnipeg Tea Party Version? “Dedicated to the poor children of Winnipeg School Division 1. Children whose childhood is less happy because schools run by tyrants will not say the word Christmas…. ¬†Christmas… A¬†holiday so terrible according to commies that it can’t be named….” Special appearance poster by the¬†Folsom Street Fair (the grand daddy of all gay male leather events) whose attendees “mock your religion while demanding that you get rid of the word Christmas…” ends with “glad this baby (Jesus) wasn’t aborted… stop the ACLU”.

2006 College Version complete with a lot of bare midriffs and self absorbed cleavage and blowing hair and dramatic effects which turn into…. a drink infested Christmas party… which ends up in a teenage mums against war protest slash terror attack… and ends with… um. Well if you make it through to the end maybe you can tell me what the point was?

Chris Brown feat. T-Pain laid over Karaoke Instrumental Version (?!?!) ¬†I’m still not sure which lyrics are more awful — these or the original…. this is as bad, maybe worse, than the homemade versions– hard to make it through til the end.

High School Christmas Concert Version with uh high quality filming. (comments section: 3 letters is all this will take. OMG. And 2 words: bloody awful)

1985 High School Talent Show Version. Has that Risky Business feel to it. As a child of the 1980s I’m digging the outfits:

Canadian Version with lots of Tim Horton promos in the background…. “In 1984 the top recording artists across Canada gathered to raise money from the famine in Africa… when the public viewed Canada’s version, the world decided it was best for Canada to just make a fincial (sic) donation instead.”

Hipsters in a Mansion Version (TV Allstars) (“Bless ’em, they seem to think the clanging chimes of doom are something to be cheery about.”)

People in a Toystore with Tambourine and Ukelele Version? Commenter: “Sick! Sick and WRONG! I LOVE IT! My favorite lines: “There won’t be snow in Africa this christmas” (nor in LA, nor Hawaii…???) and “Thank God it’s THEM instead of You” ??? and “Here’s to them underneath that burning sun” – the stupidest lyrics ever !! YOU GUYS ROCK”

Status Quo Video Vault Version (anyone else love and remember The Young Ones? “All the homos in the place goin’ mental now….” “HomeOwners you mean, don’t you….”)

The Clanging Chimes of Doom are Back and Better than Ever Version. Voice and video don’t sync. There’s a dude singing in a shower. There’s a fake adopted black baby. Make it stop.

I’m happy that at least some musicians in the 80s were on the ball. ¬†High 5 to Chumbawamba.

Feed the World.¬†Pictures of Starving People‚ÄúIn 1986, the anarchist band¬†Chumbawamba released the album¬†Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records, as well as an EP entitled “We Are the World”, jointly recorded with US band A State of Mind, both of which were intended as anti-capitalist critiques of the¬†Band Aid/Live Aid phenomenon. They argued that the record was primarily a cosmetic¬†spectacle, designed to draw attention away from the real political causes of world hunger.‚ÄĚ

*****

Update Nov 29, 2010: And hey, it seems like Bob Geldof would totally agree with me on this post! I’m starting to gain a little respect for him. According to this Nov 29, 2010, article in the Daily Mail. Geldof, who penned the song 26 years ago together with Midge Ure, says: “I am responsible for two of the worst songs in history. One is Do They Know It‚Äôs Christmas? and the other one is We Are The World.¬†Any day soon, I will go to the supermarket, head to the meat counter and it will be playing. Every ****ing Christmas….”¬†The former Boomtown Rats frontman, 59, added: “Sometimes I think that‚Äôs wild because I wrote it. Or else I am thinking how much I want them to stop because they are doing it really badly.”


Kings of Leon get their Aldous Snow on?

Someone who knows I dig old Kings of Leon quite a bit played this video for me.¬†He said, ‘You’ll probably hate it… and you are rubbing off on me because now when I see this stuff, it just seems wrong for some reason. ‘

(Unfortunately copyright laws don’t allow the video to play here on my blog so you have to click through to YouTube. And I apologize that there’s an annoying commericial that you have to sit through before it plays).

What could be wrong with that video? Well, I found a fabulous discussion of just exactly what is wrong…. starting with this comment and going on with a few other select ones I cut and pasted here. See the entire comments section here on this site for the full context of the comments. (Some people didn’t see anything wrong with the video at all)

Now, if you’re not getting the references to Infant Sorrow and African Child let me build your capacity here by sharing this killer video with Aldous Snow…. And then go see¬†Get Him to the Greek which does unfortunately have Puff Daddy in it but is still a fabulous movie.

Again, apologies that you have to click through to YouTube to see it — Don’t forget to come back to finish up reading this post – I know how it can get once you start following links if you have a digital native’s poor attention span and lack of focus….

 

Is there really any ill will?

Why assume the kids are “poor black kids?”

Not to get all Uncle Ruckus on you…

You can also hear Kings of Leon themselves talk about the Radioactive video here (good news is no clicking through to YouTube on this one)

My favorite quote from the interview is:

“After my grandma sees this video, she definitely won’t think we’re going to hell as fast, you know, as she did think we were going….”

So, are you also understanding that the Kings of Leon won’t go to hell as fast now because they spent some time running around in the sunlight with Black children in the South? Right.

Or am I being mad sensitive and uptight and he means because they are going back to their roots and including gospel music in the song? I’m not nearly as irritated by this video as many other things I see, but there is still something that bugs me here, as subtle as it might be.

Well, at least we know now that you don’t have to go all the way to Africa to get your Aldous Snow on.


Sizzlean

This is a story about when 3 college aged girls were put together in a dorm room made for 2 college aged girls. 2 of the girls were white and 1 was black.

1 of the white girls was a well-to-do young woman with a great sense of humor and a way with words. She was from the valley in Southern California. She had recently gotten over a cocaine habit. Her father paid her tuition at the private university where the story takes place by simply writing a check. She had a sister that she fought with all the time. Her sister had gotten a nose job recently and she was jealous because she wanted one too. She had been anorexic (or maybe it was the coke) but was starting to fill out again. She fit in pretty well at the private university. Let’s call her Olivia, or Liv for short.

The black girl was from Atlanta. She was also quite well to do. She had a huge wardrobe and had brought a TON of stuff with her to college. She had a big smile and used to wear one stud earring, and one¬†dangling¬†earring: a little plastic white baby doll. ¬†She was not of the skin color that made up the majority of this university. Nor was she blond, ¬†stick thin or blas√©. ¬†She missed her family a lot. Her mother used to ship her pies by Federal Express. Let’s call her Celine.

The other white girl was from a lower middle class family in the Midwest. She’d had a stereotypical upbringing. And I mean “stereotypical”. She’d never been to this big city in California before Super Shuttle dropped her off at the dorms, 2 days before school started. She was not used to so many Mexicans, or Mexican restaurants, or taco trucks, and had never eaten re-fried beans before. She was there on an academic scholarship. She was not of the social class that made up the majority of this university. Nor was she blond, tan, or stick thin. She had a death rock attitude, pasty skin, dyed black hair and a nose ring. Let’s call her me.

So, what happened to the 3 girls?

Well, Celine showed up last, and so she got the top bunk. Me, I showed up second, so I got the bottom bunk. Liv showed up first, so she took the non-bunk bed. That’s how it works.

I liked to smoke¬†cigarettes and listen to music.¬†Liv liked to play with words and sleep in late. Celine liked to eat fried foods and talk on the phone. Liv decided to nickname Celine “Sizzlean” as a way of making fun of the kind of food she ate, and telling her she was going to get fat. I went along with it. Celine protested for awhile, laughing, “aw, come on.” We didn’t stop. In case you are not familiar with Sizzlean, check out this ad from 1985: ¬†Move over bacon, it’s Sizzlean

Well, things got strained. Liv joked. Celine smiled and fended her off. “Jesus, Sizz! Your mama sent you a pie? In the mail? Did she send you grits and greens too?!” ¬†I laughed. ¬†Sending pies in the mail was weird.

Liv: What the hell? Why are you wearing that baby earring? Let me see that thing.

Celine: No, come on Liv, my best friend back home gave it to me. We both have one.

Me: Blink blink. Laugh. Thinking, “ridiculous baby earring.”

One night it got ugly. Liv took Celine’s earring off the desk, got her lighter out, and dangled the baby over the flame, taunting Celine. Liv shrieked in laughter. “Oh my God! it’s totally burning, ha ha!” I watched. Celine laughed, tried to get the baby away from Liv. Couldn’t. Laughed some more but looked like she wanted to cry. I felt uncomfortable. I didn’t step in. I laughed too, thinking the whole thing was stupid, but also knowing none of this was funny at all. The baby’s feet melted and the body got all charred.

Celine moved out.

I smoked cigarettes, listened to Bauhaus and Jane’s Addiction and went to all night clubs with my death rock friends.

Liv started snorting speed. She got really skinny and super sketched out. If you’ve ever seen that movie “Spun” you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Time passed. I moved to a campus apartment with a  new roommate. I took classes that opened my mind. I got used to the big city and the Mexican food and everything that went with it. I stopped being death rock and went for hippie and classic rock music.

One night there was a frat party. Not my thing but there was free alcohol for under-aged people like me. One of the guys took me and a friend upstairs to show us the attic. There were swastikas painted on the ceiling. “Niggers go home” was spray painted in bold letters on one wall. I was shocked and offended and went back down to the party. I didn’t know why this guy had taken us up to that attic. I didn’t know who to tell. I left it alone.

I moved off campus. I hung out with the SST punk rock skater kids and went to DIY parties in the desert and house parties where up and coming bands played. Added Gone, Sonic Youth, the Minutemen and Black Flag albums to the Zeppelin, Hendrix and Bauhaus already in the collection.

Liv had a revelation. Literally threw her speed out the window of the car in the rain, and became a born again Christian.

I moved further off campus. I hung out with people in my apartment building, some of them were Puerto Rican, Mexican and Black. I listened to the Chili Peppers, Parliament, James Brown, Ice Tea and N.W.A. I drank Cisco.

And one day, totally by accident, I ran into Celine out on the street near my new apartment.  She waved and called me over, as friendly and smiley as always. I was ashamed. It was hard to look her in the eye.


A Stereotypical Upbringing

I grew up in a mid-sized city in the Midwest. Most people there were white, including myself and my family. When we first moved there I was about 4. We lived on this side of the railroad tracks. “The Blacks” (said with wide eyes, in a certain kind of voice) lived on the other side.

My mother was scared of The Blacks.¬†She’d grown up in Chicago, the daughter of conservative and working class 2rd generation German immigrants.¬†My grandparents were kind to us. But they had stereotypes for everyone. My grandfather told “Polack jokes” and any time we passed a garishly painted house, someone would comment “looks like the Polacks moved in.” The Irish were either “lace curtain Irish” or “shanty Irish.” ¬†The beaches were not safe because the Puerto Ricans were there.¬†When we’d drive over the railroad tracks to the other side of town, my mom would say (in a sing-song voice that my brothers and I mock nowadays) “Lock your doo-oors! We’re in Jiga-boo land!”

To this day, my mom is still afraid of “the Blacks.” At family gatherings, she’ll sit at the dinner table and make statements like “Black people are very afraid of death.” (Yeah, and white people aren’t?) or “Black people steal because they have no concept of private property.” When she’s not around, my dad and my brothers and I go off on her. Where does she get this stuff? But there is no use arguing with her. Despite any rhyme or reason or facts or evidence to the contrary, she will keep her beliefs. So aside from the occasional outburst, mostly we just try to change the subject as soon as possible.

I wasn’t aware of my own racism as a child. I wrote things in my journal when I was 9 or 10 like “We went swimming with The Black Family that moved into our neighborhood.” Or “At the YMCA a Black boy liked me. But I don’t like him!!!!!” But we all played kick-the-can and hung out together in the summer, and the fact that some of the kids were from The Black Family didn’t matter then.

My best friend in 4th grade was a “boat person” from Vietnam who had brilliant drawing skills, and the most beautiful handwriting I’d ever seen. I totally wanted to be her. I’d go to her house almost every day after school. There was always a pot of rice cooking with meat or egg in it. We’d eat peanut butter toast and play in the small apartment where she lived with her parents and her 4 older brothers and 2 sisters. My first (very platonic) boyfriend was also a refugee. He used to call me up at night when I was about 12 and sing long sad, soulful songs to me in Khmer.

In 7th grade, a Haitian girl started at our Catholic school. No one talked to her and no one sat next to her if they could help it. She was quiet and proper. She was also from an unknown place with an unknown language. We didn’t know quite what to make of her.

Our 8th grade teacher Sister Mary Martha told us in a scandalous voice that people in Africa were so starving that they had to eat bugs. She showed us photos of emaciated, pot bellied children who had ‘cried so much their tears had dried up and they couldn’t cry anymore.” We prayed for them at church on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Considering my mother’s fears, I’m not sure why we took in K., an Ethiopian refugee, through church in the early 80s. Looking back I realize he was a really interesting person. He was incredibly handsome. He had a big afro and a nice, smooth scar on his warm brown cheek. We didn’t talk about why he was a refugee. I had no idea what the political situation was in Ethiopia, or why he had left his country. He would spend hours on the phone with his friend Moussa. One time we all went to eat Ethiopian food. As Midwesterners, we were not used to any spices other than salt, and a tiny bit of pepper. No one ate much, except for K. and Moussa.

By the time I was in high school, I had became more conscious of race. There were girls that dated Black guys, and none of the White guys would go out with them. The girls didn’t seem to really mind that though. I listened to Bob Marley and had no idea what he was singing about. I listened to Ska and new wave and tried to overcome my racist frameworks. I had a couple of Black female friends that I talked to a lot at school, but we didn’t hang out outside of school. I thought I’d achieved racial tolerance when I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t bad to date inter racially, you just shouldn’t have kids because they’d suffer a lifetime of discrimination, and that wasn’t fair to do to a child.

By the time I went to college, in a big city on the West Coast, I thought I was pretty tolerant. (I hate that word, by the way, as it’s normally used to gauge your willingness to put up with something that is not good.)

But there were 3 of us bunking in a dormroom made for 2 people, and one of us was Black.

And that, my friends, is a story for another post. ¬†A post that I’m ashamed to share.