Culture Feature

Why Terry Crews' "Black Supremacy" Stance Makes No Sense

For "black supremacy" to exist, the entirety of Western history would need to change.

UPDATE July 2020: Unfortunately, the massive backlash to Terry Crews' prior "Black Supremacy" tweet in early June seemed to teach him nothing.

Terry Crews is back at it again, posting to Twitter his new acronym for "coon": "Conquer Our Own Negativity." The message furthers Crew's strange warnings about the Black Lives Matter movement leading to a form of "Black supremacy," a view he's been vocal about since early June.

Again, Terry, "black supremacy" and "#blacklivesbetter" are not valid concerns. Nobody is saying or suggesting either of those things. You have a massive platform and a voice that many people look to for guidance. Instead of using that platform to push respectability politics and fictional notions of "black supremacy," why not promote the Black community's basic human rights in America?

The core question is: Who do you think of when you dance, Terry?!


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CULTURE

Americans Are Shocked At Terry Crews' Seemingly Pro-China Posts on Instagram

Whether the post was really intended to be pro-China remains unclear, but it wouldn't really be that shocking

Instagram

Americans love to have a villain.

Someone they can really sneer at and come together to root against. But Terry Crews is usually the furthest thing from the bad guy. He's a gifted painter, a former NFL player, and a fountain of positive energy and open communication whom we loved for his role in Brooklyn Nine-Nine even before he became a hero of progressive cultural change.

In 2017, when Crews shared his personal experience with sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood, he made himself vulnerable in a way that a lot of men—particularly men who are perceived as strong and masculine—would shy away from. His story became as clear an illustration of the toxic power dynamics in the entertainment industry as most of us could imagine—showing that even someone with the strength and confidence of a literal superhero could be taken advantage of and violated by the powerful figures in a system with such pervasive problems.

How could a man who has done so much to win our love provoke American society to suddenly turn against him? By siding—or at least seeming to side—with America's favorite villain du jour: China.

Crews is currently in Shanghai with his family and apparently having a great time. Some people would probably take issue with that alone—with an Instagram post asserting that China's largest city is "INCREDIBLE!!!" and "Truly a wonder to see in person!" Many American's have so thoroughly written off China as a force of pure evil that even innocuous positivity like this, delivered with a message of "WORLDWIDE LOVE," would be unacceptable, but it's not really surprising or out of character.

What really surprised people was when Crews posted a picture of himself, earlier this week, posing in front of the flag of the People's Republic of China, with the phase "POWER TO THE PEOPLES." This is the post that opened the floodgates on a torrent of negative responses, with thousands posting messages expressing their shock.

Most of the commenters seemed particularly concerned with the protesters in Hong Kong and with the perception that Crews was aligning himself with the mainland government, against the people who have occupied Hong Kong's streets for the past seven months fighting for autonomous democracy in their city. While it seems like a stretch to assume that Crews intended the post as an endorsement of Xi Jinping's government, the image was certainly suggestive of pro-China propaganda, with Crews looking buff and tough, with the red and gold flag framing his head. It's reminiscent of Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, posing in front of the flag of the USSR. And just like Ivan, Terry's post could not be more perfectly calculated to inflame American patriotism against him.

Ivan Drago "Rocky IV" 1985

It may be that Crews is not particularly familiar with the issues in Hong Kong—he's a busy man, with a lot on his plate. Or maybe, seeing the way people live in Shanghai, he doesn't think that Hong Kong has a great deal to fear in losing their autonomy. That's debatable, but there are other, more pressing reasons to maintain a strong critical stance when it comes to China. In particular, the "Vocational Training" that is being provided to Uyghur Muslims against their will in the Xinjiang re-education camps. There are reports about various atrocities—everything from rape to organ harvesting—that may be taking place in those camps. Without a free press in China, it's difficult to say for certain what's going on there—which is a problem in and of itself.

But if Crews had instead appeared in front of an American flag—or wrapped in a flag suit like his character in Idiocracy—would people have taken that as an endorsement of Donald Trump? Does the fact that he hosts America's Got Talent mean he must deny that America also has police violence? Does it mean he should ignore the sexual assault that takes place in our concentration camps at the southern border? Maybe flags in general just make for cool backdrops. Or maybe a person can express appreciation for a nation and its people without endorsing everything the government does there.

President Camacho "Idiocracy" (2006)

Meanwhile, Flint Michigan, where Terry Crews grew up, still has poison flowing from many of its taps. The NFL, where Terry Crews used to play, has—at the behest of President Trump—banned kneeling on the sidelines during the national anthem to protest police violence. Los Angeles, where Terry Crews lives, is suffering from a housing crisis, with 1% of the population living on the streets or in shelters. And the United States is still officially home to the largest population of imprisoned people on earth.

It's easy to attack China's crimes, because China is far away and their political problems seemingly have little in common with our own—and there is absolutely a lot to be critical of. Their problems allow even a divided country like ours a moment of unity—with everyone from Elizabeth Warren (who penned an article titled "It Is Time for the United States to Stand Up to China in Hong Kong") to the Trump family jumping on board. It may yet turn out that Terry Crews was unaware of some of these problems, or he didn't want to take the risk of expressing his own criticisms while his family is still within the country's borders.

Colin Kaepernick John G Mabanglo

That would be understandable. It could even turn out that "POWER TO THE PEOPLES," was meant as a subtle, pro-democracy message of solidarity—we can't really know right now. But if it's not, would it be that shocking to learn that, as a black man in the United States, Terry Crews knows better than to judge a nation simply by its worst crimes or its greatest achievements. Crews has achieved tremendous success for himself and his family, but he has also seen how badly his home country tends to treat people who look like him. Maybe he can celebrate the best of what he's seen in China—e.g. the hundreds of millions there who have been lifted out of poverty—without endorsing the worst of that government's evils.

Maybe Terry Crews is more capable of nuance than the people who break everything into heroes and villains—who praise Hong Kong protesters for throwing bricks and attack American protesters for throwing milkshakes or distracting us from football.

TV

Kodi Lee Is Amazing—The Media's Coverage of Him Is Not

Kodi Lee's appearance on AGT is wonderful, but his talent is not indicative of every autistic person's experience.

Kodi Lee on America's Got Talent

Singer/musician Kodi Lee is America's Got Talent's latest breakout star—and the media's latest subject of terrible autism-related news coverage.

Golden Buzzer: Kodi Lee Wows You With A Historical Music Moment! - America's Got Talent 2019 www.youtube.com


Make no mistake, Kodi Lee is an incredibly talented musician and performer who deserves every ounce of fame and fortune he'll inevitably receive. He also "happen[s] to be blind and autistic too," as he mentions in his Twitter bio. We've written about Hollywood's autism fetishization trend before, so it's important to emphasize the fact that, overall, it's wonderful Kodi is being featured so prominently this season on AGT––the problem lies entirely with the surrounding press coverage.

America's Got Talent has never been a show that shies away from exploiting people's individual hardships and personal tragedies for ratings, so it's no surprise they would go that route for a talented musician with autism. That being said, aside from the audience's collective "AWWW" at the first mention of Kodi's autism, AGT actually handled the topic pretty well, at least within the framework of their baseline exploitative model. Giving Kodi the Golden Buzzer felt deserved, given his excellent performance, and the hosts seemed to treat him with respect when they congratulated him afterwards.

The same can't be said for Newsweek's coverage of the contestant: "WHO IS KODI LEE? 'AGT' CONTESTANT OVERCOMES ALL ODDS, RECEIVES FIRST GOLDEN BUZZER OF THE SEASON." Kodi Lee is a self-described "musical prodigious savant," one of roughly 25 people in the world with a combination of perfect pitch, audio photographic memory, and a hyper-focused attunement for musical expression. This means that he has a natural inclination towards musical talent that's significantly greater than the average population. Newsweek's booming assessment that Kodi has "overcome all odds" to receive the Golden Buzzer is, quite frankly, inane. As mentioned on his official website, Kodi has been performing music for years. Music is not only his passion but something he is uniquely equipped to excel at. If anything, the odds he'd be great were strongly in his favor.

That's not to say Kodi hasn't overcome struggles related to autism––he surely has. But it's important to separate the inevitable struggles Kodi has faced due to autism from his musical talent. Kodi is a wonderful musician and a musical savant, who also happens to be blind and have autism. Conflating these elements only serves to "other" the majority of people with autism, most of whom are not savants and don't necessarily have the type of incredible talents that Hollywood loves to fetishize. This is the main problem with NBC affiliate News 3 Las Vegas's take: "AGT's singing sensation Kodi Lee inspires families living with autism."

The news segment included an interview with Dr. Erin Honke, a clinical neuropsychologist who works with children on the autism spectrum who said, "There's always hope as far as hidden strengths." This is likely true, but the doctor's point was that people with autism can often excel in certain areas, especially when those areas relate to their specific interests. She goes on to talk about how parents focusing on their child's interests can help with development, which is also true. The host, Renee Santos, takes this to mean something entirely different. "All children on the spectrum have strengths just like Kodi's," she says. No, Renee. No, that is not true. Kodi is a savant. Most children with autism are not savants––less than 10% of children with autism display any signs of savant syndrome at all, and 50% of savants don't even have autism. This is a dangerous myth to propagate because, at best, it misinforms the general population about autism. At worst, it completely erases the vast majority of autistic experiences.

Ultimately, Kodi Lee's appearance on AGT is wonderful. He's a skilled, hardworking musician whose appearance on the show displays how diverse people with autism can be. But it's important for the media and viewers to realize that Kodi isn't indicative of every autistic person's experience. He's simply one voice among many—albeit a very nice one to listen to.

Of all the movies to come out in 2018, from Alfonso Cuaron's poetic Roma to Yorgos Lanthimos's biting The Favourite, only two stood out as truly mind-blowing.

One was Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, a blend of extraordinary animation coupled with the best superhero script to-date. It was so good that even pervasive superhero movie fatigue couldn't hinder its buzz. Of course it got nominated for Best Animated Feature.

The other was Sorry to Bother You, the directorial debut of rapper Boots Riley. Watch the trailer below. Then we'll chat.

SORRY TO BOTHER YOU | Official Trailer www.youtube.com


The story takes place in an alternate version of Oakland and follows Cassius 'Cash' Green (Lakeith Stanfield), an African American telemarketer who discovers that using a "white person voice" makes him extra-successful with sales.

That's all you should know going in. Anything beyond that could ruin the surprise.

But trust that we're talking about the most original movie in years — one with a strong, angry, passionate political viewpoint that never speaks down to its viewers. It's a movie that puts you directly into the shoes of a young, poor black man struggling to make his way against the myriad disadvantages heaped on him by white society, all while maintaining an outrageous sense of humor and visual oomph. It's a movie that transcends category, at once comedy, drama, socio-political commentary, and horror, rife with magic realism.

Sorry to Bother You absolutely deserved a Best Picture nod. Lakeith Stanfield deserved a Best Actor in a Leading Role nod for his turn as Cash. But most of all, Boots Riley deserved nominations for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.

Boots Riley has stated that he's not bothered by the Academy's decision not to nominate because he "didn't actually run a campaign." While that may be true, it's still bullshit.


The Academy Awards are meant to be a celebration of the best movies in a given year, not the ones that spent the most on their Oscar campaigns. A movie like Sorry to Bother You getting left off a "Best Feature" list that includes Bohemian Rhapsody calls the entire endeavor into question.

If one of the best original movies in years doesn't get nominated for any Oscar, why the hell should we care about the Oscars at all?


Dan Kahan is a writer & screenwriter from Brooklyn, usually rocking a man bun. Find more at dankahanwriter.com


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Saturday Film School | 'Sorry to Bother You' Isn't Really That Sorry

Boots Riley's Directorial Debut is Wild, Uncomfortable, and Unforgettable.

Annapurna Pictures 'Sorry to Bother You'

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the uncanny metaphor both films explore, that is, the way black and brown bodies are seen as disposable and, as Riley's ending scene shows, mutable.

Sorry to Bother You is probably the wildest movie you'll see all year. Boots Riley, the lead vocalist for The Coup and Street Sweeper Social Club, makes his directorial debut in what will probably be this year's cult sensation. The film is at once a social satire, whimsical romance, and Get Out hybrid up until it's outrageously unsettling finale. Riley has created the type of film that eschews all the pretentiousness and formalities of a summer release; this is, without a doubt, one of the most unique and energetic movies of 2018 about race/sociopolitical relations in the States.

Part of its charm is LaKeith Stanfield who nails the drowsy, defeated protagonist Cassius Green (as in "Cash is green"), a man with horrible posture who becomes a telemarketer to make ends meet. He is paid only commission and his lively artist girlfriend, Detroit, played by a stunning Tessa Thompson, isn't financially better off. They live in the garage of Cassius' uncle, Sergio (Terry Crews), whose home is facing foreclosure. You can probably sense the set up here: the fam needs money and Cassius just got a job that promises upward mobility…that is, as long as Cassius uses his white voice (voiced by David Cross).

There are plenty of stand-up bits about the infamous white voice and its variations as a cultural phenomenon, but Riley revitalizes the joke. As described to Cassius by an older telemarketer (Danny Glover), the white voice isn't so much a cultural dialect as it is a mentality: it's the carefree voice, the I-don't-have-anything-to-lose voice. It is, quite literally, a verbal performance of superiority and power and, when performed by Cassius, it's his golden ticket to becoming a power caller upstairs: think Wolf of Wall Street. Armie Hammer plays Steve, the cocaine-fueled CEO of the company who's a textbook megalomaniac, and nothing short of a white supremacist. There, Cassius learns what the company is actually selling—hint: slave labor—and is given an ultimatum by Detroit, who rightfully calls his work "morally emaciating."

In between Cassius' rise as a power caller, Sorry to Bother You becomes a satire on our current state of fake news and, more importantly, meme culture. There's a running bit about a meme where Cassius is hit in the head with a can of Coke, and even a satirical show where people get beat up on national TV. All of this sounds like it's added for shock value, and it is, but there are nuggets of social commentary that land. But there are also scenes that are absolutely cringeworthy for the sake of being provocative. A film like this naturally covers incendiary topics, but at times, Riley forgoes subtlety and completely lights the film on fire as a raging critique of global capitalism and outsourced labor. The finale—which has everyone frazzled, divided, and undeniably uncomfortable—feels like a deleted scene from Jordan Peele's Get Out. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the uncanny metaphor both films explore, that is, the way black and brown bodies are seen as disposable and, as Riley's ending scene shows, mutable.

The chaos of Sorry to Bother You feels warranted. This is a poetic, layered film that responds to bigotry by highlighting the absurdity of its very nature. It's enraged. It delivers punchlines at the speed of light and doesn't slow its momentum till the ending credits. It wants to bother you, disturb you, confuse you. It's about race and love, but at its core, Riley has made a film that depicts America's class divide. One of the most visually captivating films of the year, Sorry to Bother You marinates its allegories in lighter fluid and waits until the very end to spark the match.


Shaun Harris is a poet, freelance writer, and editor published in avant-garde, feminist journals. Lover of warm-toned makeup palettes, psych-rock, and Hilton Als. Her work has allowed her to copyedit and curate content for various poetry organizations in the NYC area.


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