I feel like I’ve just stepped into a modern day Twilight Zone.
I’ve never liked Toby Keith. In fact, being a ‘city boy’ has kept me relatively disconnected with most things country (though I would at least argue that Keith’s version of country is a far cry from some of the country greats. Then again, what do I know?). But even my ignorance of country can’t make me completely dismissive of his latest antics.
First, he went on the Colbert Report (and apparently a few other outlets) to perform one of his latest songs “Beer For My Horses”; which has been accused of being nothing short of a salute to lynching.
Well a man come on the 6 oclock news
Said somebodys been shot, somebodys been abused
Somebody blew up a building
Somebody stole a car
Somebody got away
Somebody didnt get too far yeah
They didnt get too far
Grandpappy told my pappy, back in my day, son
A man had to answer for the wicked that he done
Take all the rope in texas
Find a tall oak tree, round up all of them bad boys
Hang them high in the street for all the people to see that
Justice is the one thing you should always find
You got to saddle up your boys
You got to draw a hard line
When the gun smoke settles well sing a victory tune
Well all meet back at the local saloon
Well raise up our glasses against evil forces
Singing whiskey for my men, beer for my horses
We got too many gangsters doing dirty deeds
Weve got too much corruption, too much crime in the streets
Its time the long arm of the law put a few more in the ground
Send em all to their maker and hell settle em down
You can bet hell set em down cause
I was pretty forgiving of good ole Keith with this one. Many people (including a lot of folks in the black blogosphere) suggested the song was riddled with racist undertones (particulary with how Keith’s “Grandaddy” – presumably from Jim Crow south – ‘hung ’em high, for all the people to see’). But I was willing to pardon Mr. Keith. From what I gathered, this song was a reflection of the system of justice (albeit warped, immoral – IMO and ridiculously biased) practiced in places like Texas. Lynching followed no such law and was usually carried out as a form of domestic terrorism toward blacks and anti-racism whites who stood to challenge the racist order of things. So I gave him a pass in that regard. I certainly don’t think he was referring to stringing black folks up for doing silly things like looking at white women the wrong way or — worse yet — trying to vote.
But then the Tobster went to visit our old pal Glenn Beck.
During the July 30th broadcast of the Glenn Beck Show, Mr. Keith (and I use “Mr.” very loosely) decided to target Sen. Obama in a way that shocked even the infamously shocking Beck. Said Keith: “I think the black people would say he [Obama] don’t talk, act or carry himself as a black person.”
“What does that even mean?” Beck replied. **Side note I don’t particularly like Beck either. I think he can be pretty astute on some things, but I see him as another obnoxious conservative talk host. Still I have to give him kudos for calling Keith out on this. Well, at least he sort of called him out.**
“Well, I don’t know what that means,” Keith responded. From that point, I thought he was going to err on the side of caution and leave his comments at that; or possibly even try to clean up his mess. I thought. But rather than engaging in damage control, Keith’s commentary continued: “But I think that that’s what they would say. Even though the black society would pull for him I still think that they think in the back of their mind that the only reason he is in [the general election] is because he talks, acts and carries himself as a Caucasian.”
Like his ode to lynching enforcing justice, I was almost willing to give him another pass for his comments on the surface. I mean, the “acting white” issue is one I’ve dealt with myself. But I had to really think about this one before I completely absolved him of this clear display of ignorance. Who the HELL gave this guy the endowment to be the authoritative voice of all things black?! I wouldn’t even be brave enough to be the voice for black Americans…and I ACTUALLY AM BLACK! Even though I was born and raised in Flint, Michigan (the hood capital of the world) and could make some conclusion on how black people are, I haven’t lived in Atlanta, LA, Chicago, or any other places where there is a different kind of black person. I haven’t been able to assess how all the black people in Flint are; let alone collecting enough conclusive data about the tens of millions of other blacks populating this country. I’m sure the Tobster has never set foot on the campus of an HBCU; where the diversity is abound even within the singular ranks of black people. I’m sure he’s never talked to the millions of black people who obtained success without dribbling a basketball, reciting rap lyrics, or “acting White.” Unless there is some standard forumula we can use to caluculate blackness, this joker really needs to start sporting a muzzle, lest he spews any more ignorant drivel.
I tried to contact Mr. Keith, but it’s not likely that I’ll get a response. But here’s what I wrote to our dear friend:
I’m quite sure you won’t ever read this. The hundreds of people you’ve hired to screen your email won’t let this even reach your eyes. But in the off chance that I’m wrong and you actually do see this, I have a quick question for. I don’t want to take too much time away from your “God Bless America, but fuck everywhere else” tour and burden you with a load of questions. So I’ll keep this short and simple:
When you said that Sen. Obama was acting like a Caucasian, what exactly did you mean? What kind of signs should I look for? Is there a particular kind of Caucasian I’ll turn into? Will I be a corporate type with a three thousand dollar custom-suit and a private plane? Will I be able to use good grammar; less any hint of an accent (if so, does that make most of your white country fans non-white?)? Whatever [additional] insight you can provide on black people being white will be much appreciated. Thanks. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.
On top of that, when you decided to crown yourself the spokesman for all of black America (including some of us who apparently ‘act white’ since we can string words together to form sentences) were you also speaking for the millions of educated, socially aware, free thinking blacks, or just those who may echo your sentiments? If you’re only speaking on behalf of the latter, I think it’s time you turned in your resignation. You’re not very good at being a representative of the people. Oh, that’s right! You can’t be. One: you’re sorta not black. And two: no one can accurately convey the sentiments of all of black America because – contrary to your proclamation on Glenn Beck – BLACK PEOPLE ARE NOT MONOLITHIC. I keep forgetting to add that part. Sorry.
Guitar work, driving pick up trucks, and counting your “working man’s” millions is more up your alley. It doesn’t require social commentary. Play songs (as insipid as some of them might be) and be done with it. Leave the black commentary to people who are…uh…black.+
– Andre C. Louis
OK. So this wasn’t the most effective piece of writing I could come up with. But I didn’t want to exude too much of my whiteness. After all, I apparently have an image to maintain.