This is my first Father’s Day after the passing of my father. Ours was not the closest relationship but we did have one, of a sort. Finding the perfect Father’s Day card always required a bit of a search, as I could not honestly pick one from the pile that spoke to Dad’s golf game, grill-master skills, date vetting or funny dad-isms. My father’s life was difficult after my parents divorced and his relationship with me became strained. And yet he was always my Dad, never a “baby daddy.”
One of the recent Father’s Day offerings from American Greetings, a 100 year old greeting card company who aims to create “innovative social expression products that assist consumers in making the world a more thoughtful and caring place,” is a card featuring a Black couple and the words, “Baby Daddy” printed on the front. After a blast of social media hits, American Greetings offered half an apology and requested stores pull the offending card.
Here is the official “apology”:
This particular card was created for, and addressed to, a loving husband — which the inside copy makes clear. However, we now see that the front page, taken out of context, can communicate an unintentional meaning that we are strongly against perpetuating and is not consistent with our company purpose and values. We should do better in the future, and we will. We have notified our store merchandisers to remove the card from the shelves and apologize for any offense we’ve caused.
I’m Just Playin’
In some stores, this was the only card featuring an African-American couple. American Greetings says the intention was a “playful” card for a husband. Can I just call that out for the blatant lie that it is? There is nothing about the phrase “baby daddy” that lets the viewer know it is intended for a loving husband. Additionally, if I’m looking for a playful card, I don’t look in the romantic-photo-embossed-and-foiled-fancy-lettering section. Playful cards have bright backgrounds, quirky lettering, and funky drawings or pictures. One hundred years in business and American Greetings doesn’t even know its own brand!
American Greetings appropriated a phrase without knowing its actual definition. Just because people say “baby daddy” with a smirk on their face and a lilt to their tone doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for a card from a company who claims to inspire thoughtfulness and caring. The excuse of communicating an unintentional meaning is a paltry cover-up because they never attempted to determine the actual meaning of the phrase. AG lacked both awareness of their audience and context of how and when the phrase is used.
I have a White friend who uses the B-Rock and the Bizz song My Baby Daddy as her husband’s ringtone. It’s hysterical. One, because it is a personal joke, not a national campaign (awareness) and two, because she knows the phrase means deadbeat dad and her husband is the opposite of deadbeat (context). The song lyrics are clear – the “baby daddy” is not an active part of the singer’s family. He is not the “loving husband” American Greetings says they are targeting.
Had American Greetings used the same phrase over a photo of a White man in a suit and marketed the card in the humor section, I don’t think the outcry would have been quite as fervent. It becomes a joke of parody (which still has its issues since it would be based on the perceived unlikelihood of the White man being a deadbeat dad when compared to a Black man). By appropriating the phrase without bothering to look up its history, American Greetings shows its hand as disconnected, outdated and wholly lacking in a vetting process consistent with its mission statement.Trying so, so hard to be woke American Greetings comes across like your 60-year-old CEO busting out his Cabbage Patch moves at the Christmas party. It’s embarrassing for everyone. Click To Tweet
Trying so, so hard to be woke American Greetings comes across like your 60-year-old CEO busting out his Cabbage Patch moves at the Christmas party. It’s embarrassing for everyone. In the recent past greeting cards would exchange the photo on the card from a White couple to a brownish one, but now card companies, struggling to remain relevant, yet keep their upper ranks Caucasian, do not understand the market. Will we next see anniversary cards with “side piece” in fancy, embossed script across the front or the “puta” line of Latinx Mother’s Day cards?
Know Your History
It’s not as if they don’t have stellar examples of what not to do. 2018 began with retailers H&M’s major snafu of putting a Black boy in a “coolest monkey in the jungle” shirt. Dove’s body wash turned a Black woman into a White one and was compared to racist soap ads from the 19th century. Nivea had to cancelled their “white is purity” campaign. Heineken pulled their “lighter is better” ad after Chance the Rapper called them out on Twitter. In every corner of the earth, Black people shake their heads and wonder who approved these campaigns? Even the tiniest bit of common sense should make manufacturers question their choices. At the very least AG should have checked Merriam-Webster or even Urban Dictionary. The DUH factor is so large it makes you doubt the qualifications of these CEOs. That they didn’t recognize a prejudice of stereotype for this card is an indication of a much larger problem.
American Greetings thinks this is what we want. They hear the phrase in Black popular culture, see it’s become a part of the Caucasian lexicon, hear Becky from HR use it in a sentence and decide “baby daddy” is cute and mainstream. Believing this card will provide a reasonable turn on investment and itis added to the collection. Green-lit through sales representatives to the store buyers who cleared it for the shelves of Target, Walgreens and other major stores, everyone thought it was fine.The fact that @amgreetings didn’t recognize a prejudice of stereotype for their 'baby daddy' card is an indication of a much larger problem. Click To Tweet
American Greetings is a company (it includes Carlton Cards, Gibson, Recycled Paper Greetings and Papyrus), and companies like to make money. They don’t particularly care what color that money is. They offer African-American products not because they feel we are beautiful, valid human beings, but because they want to increase profits. From their market research, they know we are out here, dollars in hand. We are a commodity harvested for gain; a spice to their banality. “Baby daddy” allows them to feel as though they are The Bomb. Fresh-to-Death. On both Fleek and Point. It’s the 21st-century version of “some of my best friends are Black.” But when those best friends aren’t represented on your board of directors or executive teams, it’s impossible to believe your company purpose and values are inclusive and thoughtful.
I want to believe American Greetings, Dove, H & M and all the others have learned their lessons, but this just keeps happening. The decision makers live in a whitewashed world where contact with marginalized people is at a minimum. As a result, these incidences will continue to happen until executive teams reflect the diversity of the world at large. Thinking ahead to the next infraction, I offer this slightly more genuine apology for any company who crosses the line:
Dear (offended people group),
We are heartbroken about our offense and apologize for our ignorance. We thought we were being clever and didn’t think at all about your lives, feelings or contributions to the human narrative. Reducing you to a stereotype was a quick and easy way to make a buck. Now we’re in the spotlight and it’s uncomfortable and embarrassing. We will do whatever we need to do to avoid this kind of negative publicity in the future, including letting some people go who aren’t in step with our mission. If we mess up again, please call us out because no one should be made to feel less than.
Big Conglomeration Who Pays a Lot of Money for PR
Finally, even though it is late, here are three Etsy sellers who offer cards celebrating Black families:
Deborah Carrie Studio – https://www.etsy.com/shop/DeborahCarrieStudio
PiCs by Adrione – https://www.etsy.com/shop/PICsbyAdrione
Stacey Ann Cole Art – https://www.etsy.com/shop/StaceyAnnColeArt
“I Still Know What You Did Last Summer: Pandemic, Pride, and HIV Afterlives”
Atlanta Black Pride began as a picnic.
Once upon a time in 1996, “a small group of African American lesbian and gay friends held a picnic over Labor Day weekend to celebrate their unique experience in Atlanta’s LGBT community. Each year, the group grew with others from the community and neighboring cities.” This swelling group would become the non-profit, volunteer-led 501(c)3 organization, In The Life Atlanta (ITLA). As a founding party to the International Federation of Black Prides, ITLA annually hosts upwards of 100,000 Black queer people in Atlanta, Georgia–comandeering almost every major club, the entire metro area, and, the city’s heartbeat, Piedmont park.
Atlanta Black Pride is the largest pride event dedicated to Blackqueer people in the World.
Of course, everyone who attends is not affiliated with ITLA, nor is every event held in the name of Atlanta Black Pride on Labor Day weekend engineered with the consultation or even knowledge of ITLA. However, I find it imperative to properly situate what can be considered a kind of Blackqueer Hajj into the larger, historical context of the “Black (gay) Mecca”.
As I write this, cases of COVID-19 and resultant deaths are on a relative decline in Georgia. Yesterday, September 4, 63 people died; ten less than the number who died the day before on September 3. There were 2,066 cases discovered yesterday as well, which in comparison to the 2,675 found the day before seems like progress–seems.
Either unwittingly or out of sheer moral dereliction, Blackqueer people have, nonetheless, crowded the concrete corridors of downtown Atlanta in the name of “Pride”. Fulton County, in which Atlanta resides, has the most cases of any county in Georgia with 25,540 confirmed cases to date. Footage from inside clubs packed passed capacity proliferated Black twitter. Bodies move as if welded together; the building heaves as it holds them–constricted and ecstatic. Sweat and swisher-soaked shirts find their way up over heads, tucked into jeans or draped across clavicles, couches. Tongues untied touch, mouths unmasked meet. Exhales no longer waited; they breathe each other in, eliding every edict to distance. Under these conditions, death is imminent, intimate.
In 2018, WSB-TV reported that, according to Emory University’s Center of AIDS research, HIV infections had reached “epidemic” proportions for Blacks in Atlanta, with every 1 in 51 Black people at risk of diagnosis. 42% of new HIV diagnoses in the country in the same year were among adult and adolescent Black people. Black queer men–the demographic majority of Atlanta Black Pride, I must add–make up for 37% of new diagnoses among all queer men in the United States.
One of the very few things known about COVID-19 is that it disproportionately impacts the already immunocompromised–the Elderly, the infantile, the asthmatic, the seropositive. Hence, it would seem to behoove the Blackqueer attendants of Atlanta Black Pride–who by no means nor stretch of the imagination are solely responsible for the intracommunal increase of HIV diagnoses nor by majority, themselves, seropositive–to be vigilant, not simply about their own health but about the health of their larger community. Put differently, Atlanta Black Pride 2020 seems blissfully ignorant of, not merely this current historical moment but, moreso, itself; its attendees–against the backdrop of 5,000+ deaths, 263,000 cases and counting, impending eviction crises, mass unemployment, abolitionist unrest–begin to appear almost morally bereft.
I’d be remiss if I did not mention that most of the event fliers appeal to cisheteronormative cultural appetites with well-oiled and scantily clad, light skin men/mascs who titillate the impoverished desirability politics of its viewers. Consequently, thin, conventionally desirable, cisgendered, homonormative Black men get to feel most hailed and at home. This may possibly clarify why it looks to be the case that, for Atlanta Black Pride and her benefactors, the pandemic is not to be taken seriously; to whom/what do cisgay men ever feel accountable?
On the other hand: it is, however, simply empirically untenable, outright false to assert or even suggest that Black cisgay men are the only Blackqueer folks present for Pride. Anything else would be or border erasure. This, then, raises an even more harrowing question: for whom/what is the Blackqueer responsible? If cases rise in Atlanta post-Pride, even if only within Blackqueer commons, are Blackqueer people, even partially, responsible? Who is the onus on to defend Blackqueer life or stave off Blackqueer death and dying?
Cultural historian Saidiya Hartman, in her trailblazing monograph Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-making in Nineteenth Century America, looks at the Black codes and Freedmans’ Bureau handbooks to illuminate how postbellum America incorporated recently emancipated slaves through liberal ideologies of consent, responsibility, and culpability. The “ex-”Slave demonstrated their appreciation for emancipation through self-mastery, discipline, and hard work. After 400+ years of free labor, idleness and lethargy in the Black was shamed and eschewed as “the body no longer harnessed by chains or governed by the whip was instead tethered by the weight of conscience, duty, and obligation,” writes Hartman. In a constant performance of ethical sophistication and proper conduct, Black bodies were ushered into a more modern regime of servitude in which they would perpetually genuflect to the behavioral dictates of the State and its White majority in always already foreclosed attempts at making good on the promises of manumission: national incorporation, sociopsychic recognition, juridical protection, and legal equality. To be irresponsible–meaning both without anything to be responsible for (property for instance) or to be accessed as negligent vis-a-vis what one is supposed to be responsible with (personhood and other persons)–was to be unfit for freedom.
Under these on-going conditions, the Blackqueer remains precluded from recognizably responsible behavior at least insofar as Blackqueerness yet marks the racially abject and sexually deviant imposition on and threat to the very notion of the public and every concept of the proper, good, and socially acceptable on which it relies. Stuart Hall’s Policing the Crisis, Michael Warner’s Publics and Counterpublics, and Saidiya Hartman’s Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments come into chorus beautifully on this point. Blackqueer responsibility is a misnomer because Blackqueer propriety is impossible. As Hartman further advised in 1997, the Blackqueer is the constitutive outside of citizen-subjectivity, or the Blackqueer is only a political subject to the extent to which it is criminally culpable. The Blackqueer capacity for responsibility, within a legico-juridical order to which it has no place or legitimate claim, is always a precondition for Blackqueer criminality.
The Blackqueer is ontologically ir/responsible: at once, made to be responsible for their own bio-political damnation and irresponsible with their ever-pending redemption. “Sin is Negro as virtue is white,” writes Frantz Fanon in Black Skin, White Masks. “All those white men in a group, guns in their hands, cannot be wrong. I am guilty. I do not know of what, but I know that I am no good.”
What might it mean to understand Blackqueerness as the refusal of the politics of the proper? What if the politic of Blackqueerness is to dispossess itself of the proper, which is to say the appropriate and the “responsible”, which is to say place and/in state? Can we look at the refusal to be withheld from each other as that dispossessory politic? Maybe getting together is the only or originary politic of the dispossessed; those dispossessed, first, of the very possibility to get together. If what poet-philosopher Fred Moten reminds us is true, if “we get together to fight,” can we see within all the fighting, the “fighting to maintain our capacity to get together”? Must we be responsible for the conditions that coproduce our constriction and our ecstasy? Whither might Blackqueer rage and release be permitted? What would it look like to shift the penologic of responsibility back on the “authors of devastation,” whose “innocence,” Baldwin tells us “constitutes the crime.”
Before the U.S. government decided to rescue Wall Street from COVID-induced collapse, it refused to democratize access to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis while defunding the Global Fund to Fight AIDS. Blackqueer people, particularly in Atlanta, have long occupied a state of [non-]emergency, with nothing to show for it besides a well-lit stadium and a Mayor with Bottoms for a last name. Therefore, when we ask Blackqueer people to be “responsible” for their contribution to the pandemic, be held accountable for COVID’s role in community, we must first ask how “responsibility” itself is a request for a comportment that consents to the current medico-juridical paradigm that engineers Blackqueer death–both, premature and belated. Blackqueer riskiness, ethical irresponsibility, was not why HIV/AIDS became an epidemic and, in the same way, it will not be why COVID-19 never loosens its grip. A government that capitalizes off of catastrophe; that chooses profits over people; who–right before entering a $1.95 Billion deal with Pharmaceutical company Pfizer and biotechnology company BioNTech, a $2.1 billion deal with French pharmaceutical company Sanofi and British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline–allowed the ban on evictions to expire, permitted schools to reopen, began disseminating “back to work” plans, and “phasing-out” travel restrictions: the U.S. government will always, in every instance, be responsible for the rise of coronavirus and its asymmetrical presence in Blackqueer and poor communities.
Furthermore, if to be Blackqueer is to lose the right to one’s own body or the right to own one’s body; if Blackqueer bodies are always “public texts”, as Karla Holloway might suggest, then we must take into our analysis how Blackqueerness has been written into the general political body, the hegemonic commonsense, the collective unconscious as, in itself, a biological threat, as negrophobogenic as Fanon later puts it, as sheer pathogen. This discursive-material conceptualization–Blackqueer systematic vulnerability to disease/death conterminous with disease/death as the universal sign of Blackqueerness—rebuffs performative concealment or “proper posture”. There is nothing the Blackqueer person can do to not be a figure of epidemiological scandal. The Blackqueer is the ghost of every pandemic. The Blackqueer occupies the political role of bioterrorist, in advance. Borrowing a Hartmanian locution: this is what it means to live as the afterlife of HIV.
Still there is the very real risk of acquiring (and dying by) COVID. The lives of Blackqueer folks, disproportionately immunocompromised and/as disabled, hang in the balance. Their vulnerability to death seems eclipsed–as it is already more generally–by an intracommunal propensity to play with precarity. There is no question that a dearth in political attention to the Blackqueer disabled structures Blackqueer responses (or lack thereof) to the pandemic. Yet, I want to suggest that play can also be a Blackqueer disabled response. I want to suggest that Blackqueer disabled folks attended Atlanta Black Pride, against their best self-interest and though it might not be an ethics to universalize, it is not a politic to minimize. Amidst the ongoing War on AIDS, Blackqueer lifeworlds–crowded nightclubs, dilapidated bathhouses, un/protected penetrations—become articulations of summers refusing to be stolen, bodies refusing to behave, backs going unbent. Blackqueer folks–disabled and otherwise–engage in risk irreducible to the apolitical or asinine. There is a politics present in Blackqueer folks’ refusal of the ways precarity precludes play. If we think about the war on AIDS as war on the Blackqueer disabled/immunocompromised, how might Blackqueer disability always entail the negotiations of play and precarity; how might those negotiations proliferate to unforeseen, counterintuitive and counterproductive ends? A politics of Blackqueer commons might also look like where touch persisted, when pleasure insisted under the pressure of pandemic and antiBlack public, especially as the difference loses all distinction, especially since “we have nothing to lose but our chains.”
Twitter Reacts to BlackLoveDoc’s Shortage of Dark Skinned Women in Promotional Video
#BlackLoveDoc returns to OWN on September 5th, and they’re being dragged through the Twitterverse because of their promotional video, which dark-skinned women are largely unaccounted for.
If you’re unfamiliar with what #BlackLoveDoc is, it’s a docuseries where a collection of black couples—queer and hetero—have discussions about love on camera.
The promotional video sparked a debate about colorism. One Twitter user replied, “When I say that ‘Black love’ is nothing more than a lie this is what I mean. The women had to pass a paper bag test to even get the so-called ‘Black love.’ This is why I’m [a] firm believer in Black women opening their options and dating the right person for them regardless of race.”
Whoever runs #BlackLoveDoc’s Twitter account, probably Gayle King, replied: “Hey Ella! We agree. This is why we show Black men and women of all shades in loving relationships – we even show them in relationships with someone who isn’t Black Flushed face And some folks are mad. It sucks. But we [still] show US being loved. Because that’s what matters.”
Bad response to being called out for colorism. Surely a billionaire like Oprah can afford better social media editors and public relations training for her staff.
Enjoy these tweets of #BlackLoveDoc’s promo getting dragged:
Cori Bush Snatches The Missouri Primary From 19-year Incumbent William Lacy Clay
A little positive political news is coming our way. Cori Bush, who’s running for Congress in Missouri has snatched the primary vote from Lacy Clay, who has held the seat for 19 years. For the past 50 years, the Clay family has held the seat. Today, Cori ends that streak.
Of importance is that Cori is not only a Black woman, but one of the better-known organizers for Black Lives Matter. The Congressional Black Caucus was very vocal about their disapproval of her “radical” stances, but it seems their clucking has meant absolutely nothing to the final result. She punctuated her victory with a simple tweet:
Boom! Haha. Ya girl has sass. I’ll remind you all that she was one of those protesting for our lives at Ferguson and has lead her public life with a raised fist ever since.