chrisette, steve and the coons at the table

February 1, 2017

Before America had even sworn in the Chucky doll turned commander-in-chief, opportunistic Black celebrities were already streaming into Trump Towers vying for power, money or a few more minutes of relevance. After they exited the elevators to pose for awkward poses with a man who had publicly and irrevocably aligned himself with the enemies of their people, they shuffled back to Black America and passed out excuses and flawed reasoning like lollipops at a day care center.

All over social media people hurled insults and leveled accusations against the fallen stars. Perhaps the most frequently and most inflammatory invective used to slander these celebrities—from Kanye and Chrisette Michele to Ray Lewis and Steve Harvey—was the word “coon.”

No one quite knows how “coon” became a racial slur. Some say it refers to Dr. Carleton Coon, a professor, and author whose racial theories concluded that Blacks were less evolved than Whites. Others believe the pejorative refers to raccoons, because they are known to steal food and take it back to other raccoons. Most cultural anthropologist, however, believe the word derived from the Portuguese word for the small cages where slaves were confined—barracoon.

By Michael Harriot* / NegusWhoRead, AFROPUNK contributor

Whatever the etymology of the word, there is no debate that it is highly incendiary. It is used by some as an attempt to measure someone’s actions as worthy of Blackness. It is the ultimate Black slur. A Black person calling another Black person a “coon” is worse than calling them the n-word (And by “n-word,” I mean nigger. We’re all adults here, right?) The word “coon” is reductive and it split the universe that curates the black zeitgeist right down the middle.

On one side were the people who believe that anyone who chooses to associate in any way with the cheddar antichrist should be made to walk the plank of the collective negro boat and drown in the unforgiving waters of the wypipo sea.
The other half present well-reasoned arguments. They believe in “getting that check.” They ask how many times the electric company allowed anyone to pay their light bill with “integrity.” Cash rules everything around them (dollar, dollar bill, y’all!).

According to them, no one should be allowed to define anyone else’s blackness. Besides, they say, we “need a seat at the decision-making table.” African Americans need someone in the places of power as a defender and advocate, or we risk being marginalized. This is Steve Harvey’s argument, as well as Ray Lewis. Apparently being the 3rd funniest King of Comedy and a 1979 mustache from the Whispers endows Steve with the supernatural ability to fix the ghetto. This is also Chrisette’s contention. She says she is “building a bridge” (presumably made out of low-charting R&B tunes and off-off-off Broadway Black circuit musicals) to greater understanding. Their logic is flawless, except for one fact:

They are liars.

Let’s dispense with pretense in favor of unmolested honesty. We all know Donald Trump doesn’t give a fuck about Black people. He might have an affinity for Don King’s hair, and like the way Omarosa’s thick, full lips feel on his buttocks, but he has made it perfectly clear that he couldn’t care less about the collective of Black lives he has taken an oath to protect and defend.

Steve Harvey knows he has nothing to offer to the Trump administration., unless we missed the reports of him beating down the doors of the Obama White house trying to offer his help to the inner cities. In Martin Luther King, III’s search for relevance, I wonder how he felt snuggling up next to a man who denigrated his father’s compatriot. When Trump raised interest rates, signed an executive order limiting women’s right to choose and derided the last living civil rights legend, I wonder if he did it from the edges of the bridge Chrisette built?

But let’s say they were all too stupid, oblivious, power-hungry or thirsty to know or contemplate any of this. Let’s say, with no expertise, education or professional experience, Ray, Steve, Chrisette, MLK III, et al. were really offered a seat at the table.

So there they were, at the table, next to the chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who served as the voice for White Supremacist. Maybe they were seated across from Kellyanne Conway, who coined the term “alternative facts.” Maybe their chair was next to Jeff Sessions, who called a White civil rights worker a “race traitor” and once told a Black attorney to “be careful how you to White folks.”

When Trump is finished building his White nationalist regime with Mexican walls, Muslim interrogation teams and Immigrant round-up vans, as Black people huddle in basements Anne Frank-style, wondering if the Fourth Reich officers are coming to get them next in the name of “Law & Order, I bet we will close our eyes as we hear the jack-booted thugs approaching and whisper to ourselves “I bet a Chrisette Michele song could’ve fixed this.”

As skilled as Steve Harvey’s oratory skills may be, as beautiful as Chrisette’s voice, and slick as Ray’s tongue might be, they can never convince me that sitting at the table of the people who openly seek to oppress me has any value or virtue. A friend of the devil is no friend of mine. There is a name for people who sit at the table and break bread with your enemy:

“Your enemy.”

They know they are only in Trump’s presence because they are Black, like slaves trapped in cages of narcissism and self-promotion. They are thieves, hoarding the goodwill afforded to them simply because of the color of their skin, and using it to cozy up to purveyors of white supremacy. Instead of inviting any sociologists, teachers, program directors or experts to help him understand and solve some of the problems, he invites athletes and entertainers as if they were lesser people, as if they were little rodents to whom he can throw insignificant scraps and watch them scuttle for it like…
There’s a word for it.

You know what it is.

This post is in partnership with www.neguswhoread.com

*Michael Harriot is a renowned spoken word poet, the host of The Black One podcast and the editor-in-chief of NegusWhoRead. He is perpetually just getting warmed up because he has no chill. He is on Instagram and twitter as @michaelharriot