Posts Tagged ‘Notting Hill Carnival’

Adele’s Adoption of Black Style Is In a Long Tradition of White Anti-Racism and ‘Allyship’

September 1, 2020

One of the controversies that has now broken out in the wake of Black Lives Matter has been over the dress and hairstyle Adele adopted yesterday. She was hoping, like many folks, to attend the Notting Hill carnival. But it was cancelled due to the restrictions on large gatherings imposed by the Coronavirus. I’ve heard that they held a Virtual one online instead. Adele decided to signal her support for the carnival by posting a picture of herself in a bikini showing the Jamaican flag and with her done in a Black hairstyle. So the league of those wanting to find any excuse to be offended have accused her of ‘cultural appropriation’.

I really don’t accept this. I believe that she wore the bikini and the hairstyle as a genuine gesture of support to the Carnival and the Black culture that created it. And moreover, without people like Adele adopting Black fashions and Black music, Black culture would not have the acceptance it does among Whites and the racism Black people experience would be much, much worse.

Real Appropriation of Black Music and Culture

I am very much aware that cultural appropriation has occurred. Black people have complained for a long time that ‘the White man stole the Blues’. One of the great stars of the Big Band era, Benny Goodman, is a case in point. Goodman was a White man, but all his hits were written by Black Jazzers. One of the most notorious cases is that of ‘Tar-ra-ra Boom-de-ay’ in the 19th century. It’s credited to a White musician, but he heard it from a Black lad singing it on the streets. And cultural appropriation also doesn’t just apply to Blacks. Native Americans are also uncomfortable when Whites adopt their traditional culture, like some of the New Agers and pagans, who have adopted aspects of their religion. And I can’t say I blame them. But what Adele has done is the opposite, and goes right back to the 1920s and before when White youths began adopting Black fashion and music.

The ‘White Negroes’ of Jazz and Rock-n’Roll and Anti-Racism

One of the first in the 1920s was ‘Mezz’ Mezzrow. He was a White kid, who first immersed himself in the emerging Jazz scene. He adopted Black culture to such an extent that he has been called ‘the first White Negro’. Later on, one the ‘White Negroes’ – I’ve forgotten which one, painted himself with melanin in order to see what being Black in America was really like. I think he got an unpleasant surprise. But this didn’t stop him writing a book pleading for reconciliation between Whites and Blacks. And after Jazz faded with changes in youth culture, it’s place was taken by rock’n’roll. The books on music I’ve read state clearly that it’s a hybrid musical genre – a mixture of White Country music and Black barrel house Jazz. I’ve got a feeling that the primacy given to the guitar in rock and pop, rather than the piano or keyboard, comes from the old Blues master Howlin’ Wolf when he was performing in Chicago. Little Richard, who passed away recently, once claimed in an interview that it was thanks to him Blacks and Whites started dancing together. Before he started performing, he noticed that White the dance floors were full of Blacks tripping the light fantastic, the Whites just stood around the edges watching. ‘White spectators, we used to call ’em’, he reminisced. Then he started playing and they suddenly joined the Blacks on the floor. ‘So a decade before Dr. Luther King, we had integration’.

Nazi Hatred of theĀ  White Adoption of Black Culture

And those Whites that did adopt Black music got real hate for it from the real racists. It comes from the old biological determinism that sees culture as the product of biology. By this standard, Whites are somehow betraying their race and degrading themselves by adopting Black music and fashion. Back in the 1980s there was a book, The Best of Signal, which published articles from the big popular Nazi mag of the Third Reich. It was published by a mainstream publisher as I think one of the very many titles on the Nazis, the Third Reich and World War II that appear every year. I found a copy in a secondhand bookshop. One of the articles in it was an explicit attack on the contemporary Jazz scene in America. It showed a groups of American youths – I can’t remember whether they were White or Black – wearing the characteristic ‘Zoot suits’ and made it very plain what the writer and the vile regime he served thought of them. When White kids in the 1950s started listening and dancing to rock’n’roll, Conservative voices accused them of taking over ‘Negro sensuality’.

And the same criticisms was still being voiced in the 1990s. That was the decade that saw the emergence of the Militia movement in the US and the gathering of various neo-Nazi outfits in the Hayden Lakes area, where they started building communes and compounds. These are real Nazis, not the casual racists who are often simply called it for their vile opinions. I think Louis Theroux went to one of them in his Weird Weekends. It was built like an armed fort or concentration camp, complete with watchtowers and barbed wire fencing. The obergruppenfuhrer Theroux interviewed proudly showed him the stack of greeting cards he’d had printed for his storm troopers to send. For most people, it would have been blasphemy, as it showed Adolf Hitler as Santa coming down a chimney bringing presents. In the interview I read, the writer tried to tackle one of these Nazis on the subject of Whites. The reply they got was that contemporary White culture had been corrupted by Black. They listened to Black music, wore Black fashions and danced like Blacks. Except he didn’t say Blacks. He said ‘N***ers’. It’s the same sentiments David Starkey got rightly panned for in 2012 or so when he was asked what was responsible for the riots. He blamed Black music. When it was pointed out to him that a fair proportion, at least, of the rioters were White, he stated that ‘they have become Black’. I don’t doubt that same White racists would condemn Adele for her choice of dress and hairstyle yesterday.

Blacks and Musical Apartheid

And these sentiments are contributing to apartheid in music. One of the complaints that has been voiced in the wake of the Black Lives Matter has been by Black musicians about the racism in their industry. I remember reading newspaper interviews 25-30 years ago by Black British musicians complaining about the musical apartheid they found when they toured America and parts of the continent, like Austria. They found there that music was strictly compartmentalised between ‘White’ and ‘Black’. One section dealt with Black performers another with Whites. I can’t remember who the Brit muso was, but she was really shocked because back here in Blighty she performed for people of all colours. But when she went to America, there was an expectation in the record company that she’d only perform for Blacks. At the same time, she and other Black musos, when they toured Austria, found their CDs and records put in the section of the music stores devoted to Black music.

I’ve also heard since then about the racism and abuse Black artists have had to face when they’ve tried performing in ‘White’ genres. A friend of mine told me a little while ago about the amount of hate the founder of the Heavy Metal band, Living Colour, got. Living Colour was an all-Black band, who wanted to produce awesome Rock. And apparently they got a lot of hate from both sides, Blacks as well as Whites, for daring to play a ‘White’ style of music. A month or so ago Radio 4 one started broadcast a piece about a Black American Country and Western performer. I can’t remember who he is, but I think he’s pretty old and has been playing it for a long, long time. And he’s suffered the same kind of abuse from the same type of people. It’s hard for me not to think that by accusing Adele of cultural appropriation, her critics are supporting the same kind of racist attitudes that would keep Whites and Blacks from appreciating and performing music outside very strict racialised boundaries.

Whites and Black Fashions and Hairstyles

As for Whites adopting Black hairstyles, I’m old enough to remember the ’70s and the big Afros that were in style then. From what I understand, they did so as part of the ‘Black is beautiful’ movement. Instead of adopting White hairstyles, Blacks in America and Britain wanted to wear their hair more naturally. And because of the influence of Black musical culture, so did many Whites. Leo Sayer had one, and when I was child I honestly thought he was Black. I don’t know if anyone from the Black community complained, but as this was also when the NF were back on the rise over here, along with organisations like the ‘Anti-Paki League’ – that’s what they called themselves – I think people had colour had worse to worry about.

I only came across the accusations of cultural appropriation for Whites adopting Black culture in the 1990s, and that was only in the American satirical comedy, Spin City. This starred Michael J. Fox in one of his last roles, as the head of the communications team for a fictional New York senator. In one episode, his Black co-workers are upset because one of the Whites has moved into a Black neighbourhood. And to fit in, he’s started wearing stereotypically Black clothes. Like turning up in an African robe. Fox’s character tries to explain that the man isn’t trying to be racist. He’s just trying to identify with the people of his new community. He also tries to explain to the man that he is, inadvertently, causing offence. The next day the guy comes in very obviously wearing a hat. Fox whips it off to reveal that the guy’s had his hair dressed in dreadlocks.

At roughly the same time that was on, I knew White people with dreads. As there still are. And the Black people I’ve known and worked with had absolutely no problem with it. They told me they had White friends, who looked good with it. Victor Lewis Smith, the satirist, TV critic and practical joke responsible for such shows as TV Bile and Inside Victor Lewis Smith, used to wear dreadlocks. Now I’ve got very mixed views about Smith. Some of his material I found funny, but in other ways he could be anything but. And he was an ex-public schoolboy, and so could be accused of cultural appropriation. But I don’t think anyone did.

Western Black Traditional Culture, Hip Hop Fashion and Ethiopian Dreadlocks

It seems to have begun with some Black Americans claiming Whites were stealing Black culture when they took over Hip Hop fashion in the 1990s. But I also remember one Black celeb scornfully pointing out that expensive trainers and the designer accessories also aren’t a traditional part of Black culture. And then a few years ago there was a video clip going round on YouTube of any angry Black female student haranging a young White lad in an American university because he had his hair in dreads. It was clipped and repeated in posts by Conservative Whites attacking the aggressively intolerant anti-racist culture in parts of American academia. And now that same attitude appears to have crossed the Atlantic.

But what was said about Hip Hop style not being part of traditional Black culture, could also be said about dreadlocks. Don’t mistake me – they are an authentic part of African Black culture. They were taken over by the Rastafarians from the hairstyle worn by Ethiopian warriors. They did so because at the time – I don’t know if they still do – they revered the Ethiopian emperor, Haile Selassie Makonnen as the Black messiah they believed was foretold in the Bible, who would liberate western Blacks from their bondage. But it’s a hairstyle that was introduced from Africa, not one that was preserved in the traditional culture of Black slaves and their descendants. And many of the Blacks who wear it just do it because they like the style, but aren’t Rastafarians. Which, if we’re strict about the issue of cultural appropriation, raises all kinds of awkward questions. If it’s wrong for Whites to adopt Black styles, it could be argued that it’s also wrong for western Blacks, as the same dress and hairstyle properly belongs to its original African people.

Black Performers in White Makeup

And then there’s the question of how you judge Black performers, who have adopted White hairstyles and makeup. There are a number of videos, for example, where Beyonce actually looks White. She has straight hair, which appears blond rather than brown or black, and her skin has been made up to appear very pale. Certainly much paler than she appears in other videos, where she appears much darker. I am not accusing her of racism. But if people start flinging accusations of cultural appropriation around, then it could be applied to Black musos like Beyonce.

Skin Whiteners and the Damage to Black Skin

And incidentally, I am also very much aware of the harm being done to Black people by the feeling that somehow they should try to make themselves appear more ‘White’. Akala apparently discusses his book on race and racism the use of skin lighteners by many Blacks in a desperate attempt to appear Whiter. It’s nasty stuff. These chemicals work by taking off the top layers of skin. Other Black and ethnic minority writers have attacked their use. And there was a nasty incident that got into the pages of Private Eye’s ‘Funny Old World’ column. It was during a boxing match in Ghana. One of the boxers had been using these wretched potions, and as a result he lost the skin on part of his face after a particularly vicious blow from his opponent. Which provides an extreme, and very graphic argument why people shouldn’t use them. Skin has its own natural beauty, whatever shade it is.

I realise this is a long article and that some of the outrage is understandable coming after the condemnation of certain comedians for appearing in makeup as Black characters, like Bo Selecta and Lucas and Walliams in Little Britain. But Adele was not in Blackface, and she is nowhere near the Black and White Minstrels, who were subject of massive controversy in the ’70s before being axed in ’80s because they did perform the old Black minstrel songs in Blackface.

But Adele seems to be coming from a completely different direction. She’s following a century-old tradition in which the White aficionados of Black culture have shown their appreciation by adopting it. People like Mezzrow, who would now be viewed, using the jargon of intersectional feminism, as ‘allies’.

White Youth, Black Music and the anti-Racism Campaigns of the 1980s

It was people like Adele, who helped push back against the NF and BNP in the 1980s. Rock Against Racism before it collapsed thanks to a takeover attempt by the Socialist Workers Party brought Black and White youth together through a series of concerts by some of the great bands of the day. But I’ve friends, who are worried we’re losing that musical culture. I was watching the old episodes of Top of the Pops one of the cable/ satellite channels has been repeating. Yeah, I know it was cheesy and some of the bands that appeared were jokes even in their time. But some of the bands were awesome. The first pop video I ever bought was UB40. In case you’re too young, they were a reggae band with Black and White performers. I bought the video of their tour in Russia. They were one of the first western groups that were able to play when Gorby gave the country glasnost. And they rocked! The video shows the crowd dancing after their translator tells them that they can. This was the country that banned Boney M’s ‘Ra-Ra Rasputin’ as evil and subversive. There were other bands, too, who mixed White and Black performers. Quite apart from White groups like Madness, who played Ska- more Black music – and wore the characteristic suits. Yes, they took over Black music and culture, but it came from a place of affection and solidarity. The kids of my generation saw them bands like them on TV, in concert, heard them on the radio and absorbed the general anti-racist message as it was coming out.

A New Apartheid in Music?

But my friend was afraid that this is being lost because of hardened attitudes that Black and White performers should stay to certain genres within very racially defined boundaries. So racially mixed bands can’t come forward and perform. Because it’s cultural appropriation, or somehow betraying Black culture or some nonsense. Whatever it is, it’s still segregation.

Conclusion

I think before accusations of cultural appropriation are directed at people like Adele, there are some, who should do a bit of reading first. About Mezrow and the adoption of Black culture and music by alienated Whites. There are some classic studies of it. I think one of them has the title ‘White Youth and Black Culture’. They should understand why the Punks took over the Pogo – it came from the jumping style of dancing of the Masai. And at the same time they did so, they were mixing it on the streets giving the real Fascists – the NF, BNP and the rest of the scumbags the hiding they deserved.

Adele’s trying to show anti-racist solidarity. And it’s the people denouncing her for cultural appropriation who are strengthening real racism.

Because the opposite side of that coin is that the Whites, who do adopt Black culture are somehow betraying their Whiteness. And that’s always been an argument for real racism and apartheid.

 

 

Useful Books and Articles on British Fascism

May 6, 2017

Since Brexit there’s been an alarming rise in racism, which has resulted in a spate of verbal and physical attacks on Blacks, Asians and eastern European immigrants. The openly Nazi fringe has shrunk to a handful of feuding grouplets, whose membership has also fallen dramatically. Unfortunately, these groups have become increasingly radical, and their Nazism and racism is now much more overt. The banned British Nazi youth group, National Action, as I’ve said, used to march about in cod-Nazi uniforms while making speeches full of the Jewish world conspiracy twaddle. And they’re not the only clowns. There’s another Nazi group, which also dresses up in quasi-Nazi gear, and whose leader seems to desperately fancy himself as the new Oswald Mosley.

With this occurring, I though I’d post a piece about some of the books and articles I’ve found useful on the history of British Fascism. These are

Richard Thurlow, Fascism in Britain: A History, 1918-1985 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell 1987).

This is a comprehensive history of British Fascism, from its origins in late 19th century reactionary Conservativism, racial theorising, Eugenics and bizarre evolutionary speculation, to the mid-1980s. The groups covered include notorious anti-Semites like Arnold Leese’s the Britons, the arch-Conservative British Fascisti, who acted like a kind of paramilitary wing for the Tories in attacking trade unionists, members of the Labour party, and other dangerous and subversive working class radicals; the BUF and Oswald Mosley, and other notorious Fascist and radical anti-immigration groups like the League of Empire Loyalists, the BNP, National Front, British Movement, Column 88, and lesser organisations. It has the following chapters

1. The Twilight of the Gods, 1890-1914
2. the Lost Generation, 1914-1932
3 The British Fascists and Conservative Fascism, 1918-1934
4 The Jew Wise, 1918-1939
5 The BUF and British Society, 1932-1939
6 The Boys in Black, 1932-1939
7 The Mutiny against Destiny
8 The Hitler Fan Club
9 Internment, 1939-1945
10 New Wine for Old Bottles, 1945-1960
11 National Socialists and Racial Populists, 1960-1967
12 The Grand Synthesis, 1967-1985
Conclusion: The Sawdust Caesars.

The British parapolitics magazine, Lobster, has also published a number of articles about British Fascism and its denizens. Lobster is a ‘conspiracy’ magazine, but it isn’t about stupid and murderous rantings about Jews and freemasons. This is about real conspiracies and clandestine groups that are documented history, and have been trying covertly to influence British and global politics, such as the various front organisations set up by the CIA during the Cold War and the type of pro-Nazi groups set up and organised by the Republicans in their long campaign against global Communism. The articles on British Fascism are by anti-Fascist writers and activists.

Larry O’Hara published a series of articles, Notes from the Underground on British Fascism from 1974 to 1992. These ran from issues 23-25. Part 1, published in Lobster 23, was on the period 1974-83. Part 2 in Lobster 24 covered the links between British Fascists and their counterparts on the continent, including Steve Brady, the political soldier faction in the NF, the safe-housing of German and Italian Fascists in Britain in 1983, and the plot to bomb the Notting Hill carnival. Part 3 in Lobster 25 covered the four years from 1983 to 1986 including the removal of Martin Webster as the head of the NF and the resignation of Joe Pearce and Nick Griffin,, the attempts by the NF to set up Instant Response Groups to organise rapid campaigns against marches by Irish Republicans, and a brief occupation of the offices of the Daily Mirror. In the same period they also tried to present themselves as Green and eco-friendly, organising demonstrations against vivisection. They also mounted a campaigned against the kosher slaughter of animals. This prefigures the recent campaigns of some of the far right factions against halal slaughter by Muslims. They also tried to set themselves up as being for the miners in the miners’ strike, a series of prosecutions in 1984, which resulted in several of their members being jailed for various offences, and their foiled attempt to infiltrate the National Council for Civil Liberties. O’Hara followed this up in Lobster 29 with an analysis of the NF’s split in 1986. He also wrote a piece in issue 30 examining the possible links between Combat 18 and MI5. He also reviewed the books Contemporary British Fascism: The British National Party and the Quest for Legitimacy, by Nigel Copsey (Palgrave MacMillan 2004) and The Radical Right in Britain by Alan Sykes, (Palgrave MacMillan 2005) in Lobster 49. There was also piece in Lobster 46 by Kevin Coogan on the League of Empire Loyalists and the Defenders of the American Constitution.

The issues from Lobster 58 are online and free to read. Earlier issues are only available in hardcopy, and have to be ordered from the editor, Robin Ramsay.

This obviously is a very limited and dated list of material on modern Fascism. Nevertheless, it helps give the perspective to the contemporary antics of the British Far Right and their campaigns to beat and terrorise people simply because of their ethnicity or colour.

After Godfrey Bloom, Another Crazed UKIP Loony – Patrick O’Flynn

September 21, 2013

Just after the media reported the misognynist comments by UKIP’s Godrey Bloom yesterday about women being ‘sluts’ comes this report in Pride’s Purge of the intention of Patrick O’Flynn of the Daily Express to stand for them for parliament. The internet political purgative notes that Flynn also seems to have some of Godfrey’s own views regarding Non-Whites. Pride’s Purge states that he ‘is after all the person who once called for the Notting Hill Carnival to be banned.

On the grounds that the cost of policing the event is too high you understand – nothing at all to do with the fact that Notting Hill is a celebration of afro-caribbean culture.’

Bloom, you may remember, was the UKIP politician, who criticised Britain sending aid to the developing world, calling it ‘Bongo-Bongo land’. He also seems to share Bloom’s contempt for women. Pride’s Purge states that ‘in a 2008 Express article criticising maternity rights, Mr O’Flynn also once described women in employment who get pregnant as a ‘disaster’.

Pride’s article attacking O’Flynn can be read here: http://tompride.co.uk/ukip-candidate-notting-hill-carnival-should-be-banned-and-pregnancy-at-work-a-disaster.

Now O’Flynn’s comments aren’t about pregnant female employees putting extra expense on their employees aren’t by any means confined to him. The Daily Mail has been running stories like this since, well, as far as I can remember, as did the Express itself long before O’Flynn came on board. You can find the same attitude amongst certain members of the American Libertarian Right. Reactionaries like O’Flynn would like to return us to the traditional gender roles in which women stayed at home and men went out to work. I’ve no doubt that on this, as on their views about the Notting Hill Carnival and Africa being ‘Bongo-Bongo land’, Bloom and O’Flynn don’t see themselves as being racist or misogynist. They probably see themselves as simply solid Brits standing for traditional values against the encroachments of ‘political correctness’. This is, however, what they are. Unfortunately, I can see UKIP gaining even more popularity because of their comments, for the same reason that a lot of people would vote for Jeremy Clarkson. In the meantime, these two remind me of nothing more than Alas Smith and Jones’ ‘Just a Bigot’ sketch. This was a spoof panel game in which four swivel-eyed loons competed to have the most outrageously offensive bigoted views. Questions included ‘they’re sick, evil, I hate them and they ought to be banned’. That, however, was simply a bit of satirical TV. UKIP unfortunately are the living reality.