RBL: On Rich Raving Black Lunatics

Ed’s note: This entry comes from one of my favorite bloggers of the last few years, Big Man of The Raving Black Lunatic. It’s about an article written by Toure concerning the Obamas pending trip to Martha’s Vineyard. Toure’s effort is lazy. Big Man’s first sentence sums up my thoughts quite well. The rest of his rant is on point, too. Oh yeah, vote for TMCY in the Black Weblog Awards. It’s kind of a big deal.

“As liberal as it is, the Vineyard is about as racially integrated as a college dining hall—blacks and whites get along fine, but they generally don’t socialize.”

I’m shaking my head right now.

The above quote comes from this article (“Black & White on Martha’s Vineyard,” New York Magazine). The piece uses the Obama’s potential plans to vacation at Martha’s Vineyard as a jumping off point to discuss the vacation spots segregation.

And everything goes horribly wrong.


Toure ...

Unfortunately, the article falls victim to all of the traps that present themselves when someone tries to talk about racism and racial dynamics using broad generalizations. It utilizes convoluted logic, (like the example I pulled out up top), it simplifies complex issues and it does just enough editorializing to blur the line between column and news article. Some folks will surely herald it as a masterful, but it just left me cold.

Let’s start with the quote I pulled out. I’m wondering how something can be liberal, but still be racially segregated. Wouldn’t segregation pretty much eliminate the whole liberal definition? Sure, the folks at the Vineyard may like to drive hybrids and wear hemp, but if they can’t stand to be around people of different races, then I’m going to question their liberal bonafides.

There is also the attempt to pretend that segregation in the Vineyard was a byproduct of the standoffish attitude some rich black folks naturally possess (Damn those uppity [negroes]!). The author points out that even when black people first started coming to the island in 1912 they kept to themselves.

Wait, you mean that in 1912, when lynchings and the like were a normal form of justice, black folks coming to a majority white environment stayed to themselves? Despite all the white folks welcoming them into their homes with open arms. You [negroes] know you have some nerve!

Then there is the idea that blacks and white people get along fine, but they just don’t socialize. Huh? Ok, quick quiz for y’all. If I’m married to a woman and I tell you we get along fine, but don’t socialize, what are you going to think? Yeah, you’re going to think I’m either a liar or an idiot and avoid me either way.

The article continues its confusing logic by explaining to us that the black folks who visit the Vineyard “aren’t assimilationist; they’re ascensionist.” The fact that they rapidly attempt to assimilate various aspects of white culture into themselves isn’t a bad thing, it’s proof that they are only truly concerned with self-advancement.

I get it. If you only assimilate because you understand that’s the best way to succeed, you’re OK. It’s only when you assimilate because you actually think white folks are better, that there is a problem. Lacking morality is much better than being confused. Much, much better.

I still haven't figured out what Toure's piece has to do with the Obamas visiting Martha's Vineyard? Have you?

I still haven't figured out what Toure's piece has to do with the Obamas visiting Martha's Vineyard? Have you?

I was also treated to an explanation of how hard life is for bourgie black kids. Apparently, other black people don’t want to be your friends when you refuse to hang out with them because they are poor, dark-skinned or too religious. These black folks have the nerve to question your “blackness,” which is always an affront even if you admit that you are doing your best to distance yourself from the popular stereotypes about what represents blackness. Imagine that, people don’t like you because you think they are inferior. That’s a novel concept indeed.

The author also manages to add some colorful quotes that affirm that white people don’t mind being called honkies (Make sure you write that down) and that black folks can be just as racist as anybody else (This info will come in handy during your next attempt to deflect conversations about race).

The climax of the piece is a story about how black and white residents of the Vineyard banded together to remove “loud [negroes]” from the island when they became a problem. It’s a heartwarming tale of joint discrimination based on class and race that will make everyone feel wonderful. Kinda like Birth of a Nation.

Look, I’m not a big fan of slamming folks for their writing cause Lord knows I make enough mistakes myself. But, this piece does more harm than good when it comes to race relations and informing the public about the black experience. I’m saddened by the way it presents black and white interactions, and I’m angered by the myths it promulgates.

Well, I hope the Obamas enjoy their vacation.


32 responses to “RBL: On Rich Raving Black Lunatics

  1. Great post. I read the original article when it first came out and found it to be a bit disturbing. I agree with Big Man. If people don’t socialize then they probably don’t get along “just fine”. I wonder how realistic this article is; too bad I don’t make enough money to visit the vineyards and see for myself, LOL.

  2. Oh yeah, make sure you read the comments on the original article because they are more interesting than the article itself.

  3. The worst part of the article is one of the final quotations … Big Man doesn’t delve into it, but he breaks down the story fairly well.

    “Obama is more a man of the people,” says a Vineyarder who’s part of black high society. “He doesn’t seem to identify with affluent black people. His wife definitely doesn’t; she is basically a ghetto girl. That’s what she says—I’m just being sociological. She grew up in the same place Jennifer Hudson did. She hasn’t reached out to the social community of Washington, and people are waiting to see what they’ll do about that.”

    What’s in the quote isn’t cool. But the bigger problem is that there is no attribution. You don’t give anonymous sources to fluff pieces for magazines.

    This is done/written/printed in an attempt to incite and attract attention to the quote/story. An anonymous source is used to gain useful information, not to rag on the First Lady.

    The rest of it is a lazy, too. There really isn’t much about the Obamas going to the Vineyard, which is what the story champions itself as being about.

    It’s a story kit, which for Toure — who isn’t bad at what he does, but is completely full of himself — should be elementary.

    I’m glad to see Big Man’s perspective, though. It’s different from some of the others I’ve read on this piece.

  4. “aren’t assimilationist; they’re ascensionist.” ”

    What???? When people start throwing the -ist terms around, I side eye them. I strongly disagree bc I don’t think people ever fit into one die hard category, we are more situational.

    ***I know my post has nothing to do with your comment but those words make me itch! lol ***

  5. Damon,

    Have you read ‘Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class’ by Lawrence Otis Graham? This stuff is very real and there’s an agenda behind it (I know you don’t like it when I go there) that is very real. Have you heard of the boule?

    • No to the first question … you’re right to what you wrote in parenthesis … and yes to the third question.

      No matter what, i’m still not a major fan of rich bourgeois people pontificating about the world as they see it and making little sense. That’s as scary as giving Soulja Boy Tell’em a mic. IDK.

      • lol…right right…

        • have you read the article in question?

          • haven’t read it but I’ve heard about it. Alot of the blacks up in Martha’s Vineyard are like that though. They look down upon other poorer, uneducated blacks as well as some poor and uneducated whites. If they only knew that they still aren’t viewed as being on the same level of bourgeois whites they’d get a clue and work to unify more…

            But, it’s not just Martha’s Vineyard. There’s a reason for organizations like Jack & Jill, the Co-Ettes, the Comus Club, the Girlfriends, the Rainbow Yacht Club, the Urban League, debutante cotillions, being the right skin complexion, pedigree, religion and education. It is being a part of the elite. Sigma Pi Phi wants to be the black version of Skull & Bones…etc. It’s all really intriguing and makes you sit back and think long and hard…

            • @jlbd:

              I think we all look down on people at certain points. And I wouldn’t take all of those groups and lump them into what is in that article. You should read it. It’s intriguing and shows a different level of snobbery that you and I and the rest of us could only hope to aspire to. lol.

              In the end, they depict themselves as 100 times worse than any of the societies/orgs listed.

              • @damon

                I’m not gonna lie, you along with other people thought I was stuck up. I’ll admit I’ve looked down on others that may have not chosen the same path as me, but there’s a line between having genuine concern for the decaying of our people as a whole and being perched up on a pedestal and thinking you are better than others. Unfortunately I know people like these black elites and a few of them are in my family. In the end, snobbery is the ULTIMATE state of insecurity….

                • I agree with you. I just don’t think we should stick all of those groups in the same category. I’m speaking specifically to the people of the Vineyard who opened their mouths in a negative way toward Black America as if to say “We’re better than you.”

                  If there foolish enough to believe that having money makes them better than others, well … they have hard lives to lead that will lack understanding of the world’s simplicity.

                  • I hear you, but Martha’s Vineyard is not where it ends with that attitude…

                    • @jlbd: You’re right … but lumping the Urban League and company into that same category is almost to negate what the UL and other orgs have done for the advancement of black people.

                      There may be a few bad seeds in it. But they’re are bad seeds everywhere. There are also good sensible black people on Martha’s Vineyard, I’d assume …

                    • Yeah, I’m not necessarily crapping on these organizations, just the principles on which they were founded which involved ‘these kinds of people’ makes me wonder. Sure they’ve done many things for the advancement of blacks but their history and origins are hazy… I used to belong to the Urban League in my area…lol

  6. The beginning quote gave me a Brady Commons flashback that had me on the floor.

    While the article was intriguing and distribuing at the same time, there were some valid arguements that as much as I wanted to dismiss, I could not. For example, “aren’t assimilationist; they’re ascensionist.” I remember the comedy routine about the “face” black professionals put on at work, in church and in the community. Yet, sometimes there is a different communication style, mannerisms, etc. that occur in the home, regardless of how affluent of a neighborhood that home is in.

    While the writing is not the best, it did achieve the goal of making people aware of the black on black segration of yesterday and today. Maybe if we looked at this as an opportunity to learn from history instead of just passing judgement, we could all move one step forward.

    • @monet: The quote makes you think of Brady Commons? Me too.

      The finger pointing does as well. We saw ourselves as different because of where we went to school versus people who went elsewhere. Thing is, we were still wet behind the ears even when we were 22 or so.

      These are grown people who are talking down about other blacks in a public space. I think there are pieces of the story that are intriguing …

      But for these people to want to separate themselves from Black America even, and lay claim to not be understood anywhere at the same time?

      They’re all Pedestal Pattys and Patricks who need America to kick them off of their perches. It’s one thing to separate yourself from foolishness. But it’s another to separate yourself because you’re an ascensionist. No, learn how to walk with kings and talk with crowds. just my thoughts … smh.

  7. I saw Toure going back and forth a bit on Twitter. I read the article but it wasn’t until I saw his comments that I realized he’d written it. His attitude, to me, seemed very much “Look, this is what I was given, don’t shoot the messenger.” At that point, I completely dismissed the article altogether. If he didn’t think enough of what he had in front of him to use the NY Times to make some good points, then forget the whole thing.

    There is a LARGE disconnect between rich black folks and the rest of us. In some ways it is akin to the disconnect betwen the same gr0ups in the white world, but it’s a bit more disheartening for us, I think, because we all know white people aren’t truly a group, they’re all just individuals doing their own thing (<<<— tongue-in-cheek; plays into how white folks are the norm from which we all deviate).

    This idea that because a black family has money they can no longer relate to what it means to be black is a slap in the face to that very idea. Money will never change the fact that you are black and that there are people out there who will always feel superior. Just ask Oprah.

    I'm also always amused by how far "up" black folks will go and still be shocked that no matter how much they shun the rest of us, how fly their houses and cars are and how well they speak some white folks just won't play with them.

    I tangented (I sure did just make tangent a verb….) forgive me.

    • @ASmith

      ‘I’m also always amused by how far “up” black folks will go and still be shocked that no matter how much they shun the rest of us, how fly their houses and cars are and how well they speak some white folks just won’t play with them.’


      This has been my argument all along. Sure it’s ok to strive for the best and achieve success and status but when people have these kind of snobbish attitudes they look downright stupid…

  8. I heard Soledad O’Brien is going to go in detail about the black elite and cover alot of what they do on ‘Black in America 2’. I was watching a panel discussion on the second installment of this show and Malaak Compton-Rock (Chris Rock’s wife) exposed how ridiculous she felt being exposed to alot of this elite black behavior growing up. She said that when she applied to Howard University they were still using the paper bag test. She made some very valid points and basically in a nutshell said, ‘how are you going to act stuck up and like you are better than others when you are still a part of a group of people who have been oppressed and are still suffering from the past oppressions???’. She expressed that all these organizations and black high societies were bullish…lol

  9. natural nubian

    RBL is another blog site that helps my work day go by faster so I read this when it was posted there. I grew up in the south under Caribbean parents who so I find these secret societies formed by blacks intriguing only to keep out the same folks they donate money to. Cash relieving one’s conscious seems to be the theme lately.
    My grandma always said confusion is contagious. Anyone who calls our First Lady ‘ghetto’ needs a serious reality check. But when one’s surrounded by self-praising “elite” I see why it would be difficult for one to even know what REAL really is.

  10. Thanks for posting the piece Damon.

    I didn’t realize Toure wrote it until after I wrote my response. But, I wasn’t surprised.

    A friend of mine once asked Toure about underrated rappers at a some music expo. My friend and I are both huge fans of Cee-Lo and my friend mentioned him as being criminally underrated. Toure said he didn’t really count because he only had one album. This was when Cee-Lo had two outstanding albums.
    Now, being unaware of the second album wasn’t a huge crime, but when my friend pointed out his mistake, Toure refused to even admit that this might have to change his opinion and instead denigrated my friend for expecting him to know about “random” artists.
    So the man is willing to express an opinion on topics but unwilling to take full responsibility for his opinion. He wasn’t just “given” the info in that piece. As a journalist i know exactly how much control we have over information, and I know magazine writers have more control than most.

    • ‘Now, being unaware of the second album wasn’t a huge crime, but when my friend pointed out his mistake, Toure refused to even admit that this might have to change his opinion and instead denigrated my friend for expecting him to know about “random” artists.
      So the man is willing to express an opinion on topics but unwilling to take full responsibility for his opinion.’


      And, this is part of the reason why he annoys me at times…

    • Which goes back to a point Damon made on the All American Muzzle Team post… Toure doesn’t seem to be open to changing his mind.

      This is all ironic because he just recently (like this week) said on Twitter the exact opposite. I quote “If I say s’thing on TV that you think is incorrect I don’t mind you sayin hey, you might need to rethink that and here’s why I say that…”

      Guess he’s ok with you saying that, but he won’t actually do it…

    • @bigman: Sorry for the delayed response. No problem on posting. Got make sure other voices are heard …

      I’m not a fan of Toure. But I don’t think he’s dumb. I think he’s snooty as can be and lacks humility in public domains.

      Not being able to admit that you’re wrong without qualifying statements is elementary. For real, I did that in the third grade.

    • I stopped listening to Toure when he did an interview with Jay-Z and tried to chastise him for listing Scarface as one of his favorite rappers saying, “How can you, Jay-Z, like Scarface so much when he only had one unoriginal style of rapping?” Jay looked at him like he was all kinds of stupid then quoted the lyrics and flow of “Mary Jane,” to which Toure had not much of a reply.

      …he also provoked that pause-worthy, neck swinging, finger waving rant that Little Bow Wow (yeah little) did on BET a while back when he had the show with Omarion. That was pretty funny. LOL!

  11. Hey, y’all.

    Good post and interesting topic. Great comments too. I heard about this article but hadn’t read it until now.

    @ASmith: It’s interesting that Toure took the “Don’t shoot the messenger.” approach to this article. I agree that someone like him (someone who has been doing this for awhile, has name recognition and at least some credibility) has more wiggle/roaming room to work with and it could have been presented better. Now if it were a newcomer writer that no one had ever heard of and this was only his or her first or second piece, maybe then I would accept the “this is what they gave me to work with” rationale but even then I think a newbie would have organized his or her thoughts better than Toure did here.

    @Natural Nubian: I like your grandma’s saying. Don’t grandparents have the best way of making things plain and simple? Love it.

    @Tam: I agree that if there is no socilization and interaction people are not getting along “just fine”…they’re merely co-existing.

    @jlbd: I know a lot of people don’t care for Soledad O’Brien and they definitely don’t like her Black In America (BIM) series but I like her. I first paid attention to her during the Hurricane Katrina & Rita coverage. Although I wasn’t over the moon about the first couple of segments of BIM, I do plan to watch the upcoming segments.

    @BigMan I agree that no one should be so full of themselves that they can’t take any direction and refuse to stand corrected. It’s his (and anyone else’s) right to stand on their original opinion but everyone should at least be receptive and open to hearing another’s opinion and willing to be schooled in something we didn’t previously know. I know this is ideal and we’re far from an ideal world.

    “learn how to walk with kings and talk with crowds.”

    @damon: I love this quote. Everyone should strive for this. No one person should be so out of touch with reality that he forgets where he came from. Some upwardly mobile people are so out of touch they can no longer relate to issues, let alone help to resolve them.

    @Mo’net: I agree that black on black segregation is real and still exists. I wish it didn’t and I hope (maybe naively so but still I still hope nonetheless) that one day it won’t.

    Sidebar: It’s interesting that on the same day I read references to the paper bag test on two different blogs discussing two completely unrelated topics (one discussing upper-middle class blacks & the other discussing Drake’s “Best I Ever Had” video). Socio-economic status, pedigree and skin complexion has been used to divide the black community for so long.

    • @Shawnta’

      I agree with you about the BIM series. It did not impress nor did it inform me about anything new. I really hope she does better this time because I really like her as a journalist. My favorite projects that she’s recently done are ‘Escape from Jonestown’ and ‘Eyewitness to Murder: The King Assassination’.

    • @Shawnta’

      ‘Socio-economic status, pedigree and skin complexion has been used to divide the black community for so long.’


      Yeah, and somebody decided it was a cool idea to blame it on a fake slavemaster called ‘Willie Lynch’ and even decided to irresponsibly incorporate this fictional idea into the movie ‘The Great Debaters’ as fact. The bottom line is that we have been hated so much for so long that we hate ourselves in many aspects and we can’t come to terms on how to overcome this disease…

    • @shawnta: sorry for the delay … that quote comes from the poem ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling … It’s one of the most important pieces of the poem, I think …

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