I had never heard of this website until Michael Fisher over at AssaultonBlackFolksSanity posted about it’s increasing popularity and it’s salacious content. I had been meaning to check it out for awhile – but I do have other things on my mind. Last night, I tried to get access to the site but the download times were slow. I was only able to check out a few of the features. The site offers a cornucopia of images and videos depicting individuals in various stages of what is presumed to be moral decay. The site must be getting tremendous traffic because everything moved at a snails pace.
From what I could see, much of the imagery focused on movement of the posterior anatomy. Then again, maybe that’s what caught my eye. When they purchase some more bandwidth, I’ll check it out again.
“If you’re not appalled, you haven’t been paying attention.” – that’s the tagline. It’s interesting. I had a discussion not too long ago (online) about the distinction between separation and segregation. I find that delving into the root of a word is often illuminating when seeking to understand the meaning of the author or speaker.
Appalled – “struck with fear, dread or consternation” – from the Latin to grow pale.
Oh, that’s not me. I don’t get down like that.
I’ve read a few postings by the site manager and can understand the perspective. I am left wondering, though how that moral posture fits with the economic value derived from that same ghetto mess. In other words, if residents of ghettos in Warsaw, Harlem, Chicago, New Orleans, Detroit and elsewhere have, through their experience, generated some of the world’s most valuable cultural treasures, how do we know what is a mess and what is to become a collectible?
Given that there is a time and place for everything, was it not appropriate for Dinah Washington to sing about getting sexual healing from her dentist in 1948? Was it appropriate for Marvin Gaye to do the same thing? Was it inappropriate for Redd Foxx to record the albums he did? Should those classics be discarded because they offend a pale sensibility? What to do with Richard Pryor? And this tapestry is woven tightly together. You can’t have Redd Foxx without cheap liquor and pressed hair and finger rolls and spandex on overweight women. You can’t have Billie Holliday or Dinah or other legends without the pain and suffering that has been heaped on the collective…and you can’t make it all go away by being appalled.
Michael Fisher points out that not all representations logically qualify as HGM’s. If there is room to debate these depictions, don’t we need a context? And when a context is not a justification, does not the Black who has become white (their word choice, not mine – “appalled”) need more than their fear, dread and consternation. Don’t they need a plan and resources to transform the object of scorn into something worthy of their gaze? And don’t they need to create a relationship of mutuality with that object of scorn so that they have permission and cooperation to begin the work of transformation?
I don’t doubt that the hosts of the site have a larger objective in mind. The website could be the first prong of a layered approach that seeks, much like the Nation of Islam did through speeches, to highlight all that needs to be addressed in the Black community. Perhaps the website simply uses the technology at hand to SHOW what was being said in the early 1960’s by men under the leadership of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. If the website is the sum total of the “intervention,” I suspect the architects of HGM will find themselves living like Dave Chappelle.
Chappelle trod down this path a few years ago. He found, much to his surprise, that people had not been paying attention and they were not appalled. In fact, they simply wanted to traffic in stereotypical images and farcical representations for reasons he lacked the capacity to address. Chappelle manufactured his images (in part). He seems to have “figured out” a piece of this maze, if not all of it.
For HGM, the jury is out. HGM reflects individuals in various stages of life – but it’s not all “real.” Some of the content clearly depicts aspiring entertainers (artists, musicians, porn stars, etc.). Some of the depictions of Black hair styles as HGM’s implies a misguided aesthetic has taken hold of Black women. What are the implications of attaching personal aesthetics to the Black hair industry? It depends. If you’re easily appalled and your preferences approach those of white women, your “choices” could be disastrous. Not everyone wants to look like Ms. Ann. Moreover, no one can make a better Ms. Ann than Ms. Ann. Following this path would facilitate entree of deep-pocketed interests in the Black hair market. Black women have done an incredible job of sustaining this profitable business PRECISELY because they cater to an aesthetic that cannot be replicated by corporations and white folk. However, and this is a big however, the role of salons in providing direct services to customers is limited in its overall service to the Black community. Salons are limited because they are not exclusive providers of their services – and because women make purchases from supply stores dominated by South Koreans. So, the ethnic hair dollar is leaking on the supply side. The leakage is worth millions. I guess Michael Fisher and I are on the same page today.
The same spirit of hair care and innovation that was so attractive when associated with Bo Derek and so funky when associated with Madonna derive from the same cultural ethos. Bathing in that ethos and wearing braids could get you fired from your job if your master disapproved. The master actually liked the braids. It was the wearer, the Black wearer, who was so appalling. (History of Black Hair)
What appears to be an HGM could actually be a collectible in its nascent form. The practice of pissing away billions of dollars is something that elite and middle class Black folk (of a social climbing, easily appalled bent) are expert. These “classes” were uniquely positioned to capture, consolidate, coordinate and cultivate Black cultural production into vertically integrated wealth to be put to service in the community. This has seldom been the case because these classes are too often “appalled” at the persons who generated viable economic products in music (blues, jazz, rock, hip hop) and other areas of life.
There has always been a group of “elite” Black folk who prefer to castigate rather than communicate, cooperate and dominate. I won’t ascribe any motives to the folks who run HGM. I haven’t spent enough time there. Surely, they’ve learned these lessons – otherwise, this exercise would constitute an abject and bankrupt exercise engineered to comfort a weak psyche.