Black Pop Culture As the Tool of Empire
“They tryna lock niggas up
They tryna make new slaves
See that’s that privately owned prison
Get your piece today”
– Lyric from Kanye West’s 2013 single “ New Slaves.”
Popular culture in American society serves multiple functions. Viewed by many as simple artistic expression seeking to provide entertainment for its audiences, throughout American history popular culture has been deployed by the ruling elite as a means to solidify the imperatives of American capitalism and empire in the minds of the nation’s citizenry as well as the world abroad.
“President Dwight D. Eisenhower helped lead the foundations of global jazz diplomacy in the aftermath ofBrown v. Board of Education--a decision that provided impetus for a world wide United States Information Agency (UNIA) propoganda campaign.” – ”Jazz Diplomacy: Promoting America During the Cold War Era,” by Lisa E. Davenport
Black Jazz Musicians were recruited by Eisenhower and subsequent administrations to be the ambassadors to American Capitalism in third world countries that were recently gaining independence and flirting with Communism as a political and economic model at the height of global Soviet prominence. These Black musicians were being recruited at a time when America was only making slight overtures to crack the walls of Jim Crow Segregation. Yet, the recent Supreme Court Decision of Brown vs Education led some in the Black community to naively believe that a transformative victory had been won as opposed to a judicial policy choice to improve America’s image abroad in the face of Communist expansion.
“Starting in the 1950's, the U.S. State Department solicited jazz artists such as Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones, and Louis Armstrong as ‘cultural ambassadors’ to third world countries and the African continent to try to ‘rehabilitate’ America's racist image and offer the American way of life as an alternative to the increasing post-colonial popularity of Communism. Armstrong was performing in the Katanga Province in the Congo the same time as Patrice Lumumba's capture and torture with American complicity. He was on the continent when Lumumba was killed.
In today’s political age with the browning of America, the ruling elite understand the importance of having the pop culture/media arm of the Black mis-leadership class endorse empire in Black face. Politicians like Barack Obama and Cory Booker are crucial to ensuring that people of color embrace the empire’s agenda as their own. Celebrities ranging from Oprah Winfrey, Samuel L. Jackson, to Jay Z swear their loyalty to the Booker/Obama types in fulfillment of a ridiculous Black redemptive fantasy. Racial kinship politicsbecomes a tool of empire.
Currently all the rage in the Black community, the Kerry Washington political intrigue program “SCANDAL” is about a Black Woman whose job is to help Washington DC politicos through damaging and embarrassing dilemmas. The show is an excellent example of the way Black popular culture is deployed to breed reverence for American empire and those who benefit from it. “SCANDAL” The result is a kind of female Obama Effect, shrewdly creating a sense of collective racial necessity for placing Brown faces in high imperial places. The most oppressed segment of American society is encouraged to fantasize about becoming the most effective agents of the same empire that is destroying them. Very shrewd indeed.
What’s most interesting about “SCANDAL” is that it’s based on the real life story of a Black woman who got her political start in the Reagan administration and played a key role in getting Clarence Thomas confirmedto the U.S. Supreme Court despite Anita Hill’s charges of sexual harassment. She also helped clean things up for the Republicans during the Iran Contra Scandal. As recently as May of this year, the real life character behind “SCANDAL” represented Paula Deen, the White TV Cooking Show maven who outraged Black America for allegedly admitting she fantasized about “owning slaves”. So dramatically speaking, this is the woman Black America is cheering for while watching “SCANDAL.”