Has anyone ever noticed that “biographers” like Terry Teachout always attempt to tear down great Black legends in the spirit of “making the subject more human”? This actually comes closer to dehumanizing them. They always go after the guys for whom there can never be enough praise, like Duke Ellington or Louis Armstrong. Who they should go after is overrated White musicians like Nick LaRocca, Frankie Trumbauer or Bix Beiderbecke.
Their time would be better served bringing their great White Ancestors down a peg or two. Oh yeah, that’s right, there is no such thing as a White Ancestor because the White race is an imaginary construct that was designed by the elite solely for the purpose of creating a race of people to promote the false idea that the whiter your skin, the better you are. The elite don’t want to do the dirty work so they dole out free passes called “White Privilege” to their subjects and to the peasants.
I think the fact that there is no such thing as White Ancestry is the base of the problem for most of these types. Whites have no culture of their own besides colonization. It must be hard to be White and to look around at a world of people with a deep heritage and a connection to their community and feel empty inside because you have none. Ah, the perils of White Privilege. I guess you can’t have everything.
To be Italian, Spanish, Jewish, or Polish, now that means something, but what does it mean to be White? It means that the basis of your history starts with a lie. Black is synonymous with being African, but being White is synonymous with no nation or culture in particular. To be White is to align yourself with centuries of violence and oppression. To be White is to say that you’re a part of those who went into Africa and told them your White Jesus is more powerful than their Black Ancestors. You came into our villages and told us we would go to hell if we didn’t serve your God. You separated children from their families, you emasculated and effeminated our boys and men, you raped our girls and women — and on top of it all — had the hubris to tell us you were doing this in our best interests. I suppose it’s not called a White Lie for nothing.
This is not just the domain of white-skinned people, though. Plenty of so-called Brothas and Sistas vying to get a stamp on their White Supremacy card will quickly sellout their colored constituents for a few pieces of silver. Manning Marable did the same to Malcolm X in his book, A Life of Reinvention. Even his title speaks to the revisionist edict of these academy folk. He likewise defended his work by saying he was attempting to make Brother Malcolm more “human.”
These biographies are problematic and are indicative of a Western way of thinking. “Human” to these types means separating one’s spiritual nature from the physical. They separate intellect from intuition, which is counter to African and ancient thought. They are one. It’s the same kind of thinking that suggests one needs to dissect an animal to understand what makes it work within. The problem is when you separate “God” from man, you engender an incomplete narrative. The result is a dualistic split that creates a conundrum for which there is no mathematical solution.
The binary nature of American politics is another example of this. Democrat or Republican are two evils; a point between Scylla and Charybdis, two equally harmful entities who serve the same White Porcelain God. Either choice leads to the same end. The creation of this dualistic dilemma yields a distortion of truth, thus, fundamentally flawed and the only cure is to make the subject whole again by a reconnection to ancestry and the supernatural.
The latest in these shenanigans is the recent piece in the New York Times by James Gavin called, Big Band, where he makes more than a few racist assertions about Ellington. He starts by calling him a “black jazz titan in a racist age.” So, Black jazz as opposed to what? White jazz? And when did this Racist Age end? Then he continues by saying Duke’s mission was to “lift jazz to the level of concert music and to win respect for his race.” This statement alone makes the rest of the piece lose any shred of credibility. It’s another way of him saying that Nigger music is beneath the European standard.
Now granted, Gavin said Ellington did triumph on both accounts of lifting jazz to the White standard and that he won respect for his race, which I find curious because not only is it an admission that Blacks were not respected but it presupposes that the race is over and that we Blacks have won. It reminds me of a tweet from a couple of days ago where the GOP shouted out Rosa Parks for ending racism.
“Well, how come we overcame and nobody told me?”
— Marla Gibbs as “Florence Johnston”
I have a hard time even dignifying these guys by making reference to them, but I can’t just sit here and let these White dudes disrespect our masters without saying anything. That would be unconscionable. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “To ignore evil is to become an accomplice to it.” One of the most egregious things Gavin said was that “Ellington was no great melodist.” Really, dude? Thelonious Monk patterned a part of his melodic style based on Duke Ellington. There are few musicians in any time that had the ability to conjure and interpret a melody like Duke Ellington. He is a central part of the 20th century melodic landscape. Music today would not be what it is were it not for Ellington. If Duke had never written a note after 1940, his place would still be solidified as one of the greatest melodists of any time in history.
What gets me about dudes like Marable, Teachout, and Gavin is that they pose themselves as objective biographers, but they use every bit of information they can to substantiate their hidden, self-serving agendas. They’ll use words of the masters themselves or others who were close to them to paint them in the most unflattering light possible. I won’t bother going into the rest of the details of this dishonorable review of Teachout’s biography. But once again the New York Times has shown itself to be a proponent of institutional racism. This is what happens when Black people don’t have ultimate control over the narrative mainstream media is intent on perpetuating.
“You can’t stay in the conservatory and play Negro music… Negro music is what we’re working on. Not as a component of jazz, but as a definite unadulterated musical entity. Conservatory theories can’t be applied to the Negro idiom. You’ve got to realize that the Negro is emotionally different.”
— Duke Ellington
Articles and biographies like these are one of the reasons why Duke Ellington shunned the word “jazz.” It allows people to overlook the fact that this music is a cultural contribution from a people who are forced to live and be in servitude to a system that is designed for them to fail. The very existence of White Privilege and Supremacy is predicated upon a slave class of people for its survival. People like Teachout and Gavin have been brainwashed to see the Black American as nothing more than lazy and shiftless thieves who are incapable of contributing anything more than entertainment or being a nuisance to society. And they’ve made it their job to convince you of the same. But what significant contributions are they making to the world besides treading on others’ legacies?
The White Critical Establishment is not a mouthpiece for Black American culture — never has been, never will be. What you say made hold some weight in the racist publications that indulge your ignorance, but you know nothing of what we do in our community.
It’s really simple: Constructs like the NYT are not in the business of serving the greater good of the Black community, and because they get it right every now and then doesn’t excuse them for attacking one of the greatest exponents of Black American art that ever lived. Even plantation masters were kindhearted to those they enslaved every now and then; doesn’t make them any less racist.
They wouldn’t give Duke his full due while he was here, and now that he’s in another dimension they still won’t let him rest. They don’t respect us alive and even less in our ancestry.
Anyone can be a conduit of racism — Black, White, or other — but there is only one ruling class and no matter the messenger’s race, either your humanity serves justice or racism. When I speak of the Black Narrative, I speak of the authorship of our people in our language, and just because a writer may be Black doesn’t mean his or her words are in service to our community. There are plenty of Black writers who are just as brainwashed by colonialism as these racists Gavin and Teachout who pose themselves as authorities of the Black aesthetic.
It is clear from their words that not only do they lack respect for Black life, but they know nothing of it, and it is only because of White Supremacy and Privilege that they even have a platform.
These Racial Assailants do not speak for the Black Ancestors.
— Nicholas Payton aka The Savior of Archaic Pop