Happiness in Slavery

Goes into playlist for an appropriate song

Time for some delicious cake

The recent release of the children’s book “A Birthday Cake for George Washington” has been met with outrage and derision, with what appears to be a depiction of American slaves a throwback to that of “happy darkies” cooning in in 1920’s era minstrel shows. In the book, two slaves of the first president of the United States, George Washington, try to figure out how to bake him a cake for his birthday. Both slaves, Hercules, and his daughter Delia, are based on real life slaves who were actually owned by George and Martha Washington. The tone of the book is joyful, Delia and George are constantly smiling, pleased that they have been able to please their white masters by cleverly figuring out how to bake a cake though they have ran out of sugar. None of the somberness or brutality of slavery is depicted, or even hinted at, much to the chagrin of the many readers. The story itself seems to have “ahem” sugar-coated the experience of slavery to an unacceptable extent.

The book, has since been withdrawn by its publisher.

The Big Picture(Book)

Let’s take a look at the makers of this……. rather interesting take on African-American slavery.

First up, we have Ramin Ganeshram, the actual author of the story. She has written three cookbooks, one novel, and one children’s book (see above.)

American born, half-Trinidadian, half-Iranian, history of organizational positions and television appearances, Food Network and CNN.

Now, here’s where things get interesting…. Next up, Vanessa Brantley-Newton. The illus-traitor.

Wasn’t expecting that. Among the books she’s illustrated are “One Love” and “Every Little Thing” with Cedella Marley, We Shall Overcome: The Story of the Song, and “Hoola Hoopin’ Queen.” Her art style –


Finally, we have the editor, Andrea Davis Pinkney:

On the right is her husband, who seems to illustrate most of her books.

OK , won the Coretta Scott King Award in 2013, writer of books like Sit-In: How Four Friends stood up by sitting down, Pretty Brown Face, and Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride. Not exactly a negropean sell-out, I would say.

So okay, what the fuck went wrong here? Of course, they are bunch of New Blacks who simply sold out so that they could get a bigger slice of the Master’s leftover pie, as well being the typical bunch of sellout black women who would sell their momma for five-inches extra hair to make their weaves with. Well, that’s the easy answer. We don’t do easy answers here.

Revenge of the Tiger Mom

Here is part of Davis-Pinkney’s response to the angry commenters and protestors, also posted by Bentley-Newton and Ganeshram:

Vanessa also took great care in her research, which revealed that Hercules and the other servants in George Washington’s kitchen took great pride in their ability to cook for a man of such stature. This why Vanessa chose to portray them as happy people. They were not happy about being enslaved, but there was joy in what they created through their intelligence and culinary talent.

The problem with the above statement, as well as the rest of the post, is that Pinkney confuses Happiness in Slavery, with Happiness with Slavery. Children simply do not have the intellect, depth of knowledge, or ability to separate a situation where one is happy with being slave, with someone coping with being a slave, especially if this is their first encounter with chattel slavery. But the fact is explanations don’t matter, these ladies have already done their job, and their cheques have already been cut:

Ka-ching. Bitches.

The System, and those who have turned the System to their advantage, have wants.

  1. The publisher wants to be able to sell to every conceivable market. Including places like Texas.
  2. Black Americans want to be able see themselves in a historical accurate light, but don’t want to pay the price associated with buying from a smaller (black-owned) publisher.
  3. The System mediates, unfairly of course.
  4. You get “A Birthday Cake for George Washington”, where Hercules is a “servant”, and a “head chef.”

The writer, illustrator and editor all have their share of responsibility, but their track record shows that this book was an anomaly, not the norm in their careers. Besides, the System would have had just found someone else. So let’s look at that aspect of the system. And to understand it properly, we need to look at Amy Chua.

Those for those of you who don’t know, Amy Chua (rap name Tiger Mom) rose to fame on the back of a Wall Street Journal article-turned-book that has her psychologically and emotionally abusing her children. She defends this as being a superior type of parenting passed down from China. Now, the important part I want to get here is from the Wall Street Journal excerpt:

They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it’s like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I’ve done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

• attend a sleepover

• have a playdate

• be in a school play

• complain about not being in a school play

• watch TV or play computer games

• choose their own extracurricular activities

• get any grade less than an A

• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama

• play any instrument other than the piano or violin

• not play the piano or violin.

I’m using the term “Chinese mother” loosely. I know some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish and Ghanaian parents who qualify too……………… Western parents try to respect their children’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment. By contrast, the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they’re capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.

Her children will love the System, and the System will love her children. Notice that whether it’s the excerpts, or the article, there is no talk about such silly Western things like “morals” or “values”, or “cultural history” or any of that silliness? Sure, the children will play only the violin or piano – but why just the violin or piano? Those aren’t Chinese instruments? What does the piano, violin, or not being in a school play have to do with “preparing them for the future, letting them see what they’re capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.”? This is clearly not parenting to raise children. This is parenting to raise college applicants. Those musical instruments are prized by college admission boards and barely anyone else. Anesthesia takes great skill to play, but the standard is Bach and Beethoven – not Burton. But why is that the standard? Who decided that classical piano should be something should be admired by college application boards? Who cares? That’s part of how the System recruits its members. You just have to be willing to jump through some very difficult hoops – no questions asked! Kinda like Boxer the Horse from Animal Farm –do whatever the System tells, you, it will work out in the end. Right? Right? Happiness in The System does have its rewards. After all, not everybody gets to appear in the Wall Street Journal.

But say the System finally catches up to you, and, unlike someone who is Happy with the System, you have an internal set of morals and values, whether you acknowledge it or not. You haven’t completely sold out. Yet. You don’t have to be Happy with the System, but while it has you, you can do everything in your power to be Happy in It. What alternatives are their? If you want your work to reach mainstream acceptance, you have to battle with the System. Perhaps one day you may get away from, but you have to deal with issues one at a time. Again, it’s easy to throw stones from the sidelines, you might even get some books withdrawn – but that’s the thing. The books are getting published in the first place. The people who actually profit from this sort of book, do not want to employ people who play bass guitar instead of piano for their college admissions. They do not want people who believe that instilling “skills” and “work habits” are not the main values that parent should instill in their children. But, if people are willing to compromise, then they will be willing to give you a place at the table. But they won’t be choosing the meal. They can help with the cooking of course, even help with making the menu, but step to the side when the time is right. And this especially applies to certain people. Like Kissinger to Nixon, Condi Rice to Bush/Cheney, and Obama to Larry Summers and the banking industry. Sure , they won’t get their Forty Acres and a Mule, but Thirty pieces of silver is still better than nothing.

2 thoughts on “Happiness in Slavery”

  1. You know Stan you really have outdone yourself with these posts.

    You are touching on so many things that are so nuanced and complicated it’s difficult to tackle them with any kind of brevity.
    What that “Chinese mother” is really saying is that she is training her children to be the perfect shapes that fit into white Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture, better known as wasp culture. Well, while I agree it is important to be realistic about the economic systems we live under, and, as a result, to begin training and instilling the tools a child will need in adulthood early on, I think by applying the kind of intense “boot camp regime” child rearing she’s discussing here, runs the risk of essentially diminishing the worth of character, confidence and character building, in favour of building a robot that can operate and succeed in the hyper capitalist, corporatist oligarchy we live in. A case of obsessively fixating on academic, and by extension, economic success at the expense of character, individuality and purpose. You’d absolutely succeed in that area as a young adult, but I do wonder what the tax is later on when all other areas that make a human being a human being, have been completely neglected and derided.

  2. On Obama, in my opinion, he didn’t give in to Larry Summers, he is Larry Summers.

    When Obama was running I was sceptical; I’ve never seen a politician go against their donors before. True to form, he didn’t, the first thing Obama did when he took office, had the momentum of the public behind him and a majority democratic house, he bailed out the big banks throwing them into a 17 trillion dollar debt, a huge deficit which middle class taxpayers are expected to pay for during austerity, and then he offered to ease the debt no by presenting a progressive tax plan, but by cutting Social Security, a safety net for the middle class, paid for by the middle class. It was only Republican extructionism that managed to thrawt.

    President Bush’s tax cuts for the rich which were supposed to be temporary, were made permanent, which was an early sign of President Obama’s penchant towards trickle down economics.

    Bush dropped, I believe, two to four drones, President Obama has dropped 400. Instead of cutting off the supply of guns to Saudi Arabia of which we provide 80% which is immediately passed on to Isis and other terrorist groups and placing an embargo on it’s cheap oil to Iran and Turkey and other countries around the Middle East to dry up their funding, instead he extended and intensified the military industrial complex by placing the drone war machine on steroids, drones which have a 10% accuracy rate which stomps out one terrorist group through terrorism, only to create another terrorist group in response. Instead of investing in a green economy over choosing to give a trillion or more a year in corporate welfare to hundred billion dollar multinationals which would do away with wars for oil and and the ability to bring the military industrial complex down from 9 trillion 160 billion dollars a years of which 8 trillion 260 billion goes to maintaining military bases to protect oil, creating annual funding to invest in the shrinking middle-class that actually pay their taxes unlike the 1% Instead let’s put the NSA on drugs and spy on American citizens which will not and has not prevented one act of terror. 10 whistleblowers have been charged in throughout history, 7 of which have been under Obama. Progressive my backside.

    When it comes to healthcare, he rejected the wholesale option which would bring the cost for prescription medications down considerably, and that’s an understatement, introduced Obamacare which was originally called Romneycare, a pro health insurance industry, pro big pharmaceutical Republican initiative where 95% of the funding goes to bureaucracy and profiting these Industries.

    He didn’t overturn citizens united, he didn’t close up the corporate tax loopholes, he intensified the war on drugs, and most of the jobs gained are part time and temporary corporate positions.

    Hillary Clinton, on the campaign trail, in an effort to show how progressive she is, is speaking down the practice of big business corporate players and Wall Street bankers swinging in and out of congress to create legislation that ultimately benefits their industry, the industries they truly belong to while also bragging about Dodd Frank created by Dodd Frank when they were brought into Congress by Obama. Both of whom are now working on Wall Street again, because the swing must continue, but she’s quick to profess she’s an extension of Obama to appeal to POC while pretending to be against the Republican lite president. Dodd Frank, a paper thin piece of legislation that does so little to regulate the banks and doesn’t even attempt to separate investment and commercial banks, we are bound to have another crash. But then again, while Hillary is bragging that she’s gonna be tough on Wall Street, the Wallstreet who scammed mostly senior citizens and poor African Americans with worthless mortgages to claim the insurance once they went into default, at least there’s video of her blaming home buyers not the banks. So of course she won’t be the candidate people choose and surely not most of all POC voters, because who would vote against their own interest. Like the wise man Father MC said sitting on the hill, “treat em’ like they wanna be treated.”

    Obama could have gone the Iceland route by bailing out the middle class and jailing the bankers which resulted in Iceland seeing consistent growth after the first year instead he rewarded them with 17 trillion dollars and created huge deficits (interest on the debt) which now has them 19 and a half trillion in debt. 60 percent of the recovery has gone to the top 1%

    What about the TPP? Quite possibly the most Pro Big business, anti consumer rights, anti-union, anti worker rights trade deal in the history of that country. There is a provision in there where companies can sue governments for interfering with their profit margin, meaning if a company is dumping toxic waste into a water system and the government steps in, they can be sued by these companies which are worth close to 1 trillion, for doing what they are supposed to do, that is, governing and protecting their constituency. I can’t exactly see government’s taking the risk. But President Obama knows tha, President Obama knows who he is that’s why he’s mocking Bernie Sanders as simply a new bright shiny thing that people are getting over excited about while giving a less than subtle endorsements of neocon Hillary Clinton, because he knows Bernie Sanders is everything he pretended and to be and never was and never intended to be. That’s why he’s standing with Mitt Romney in barring third party candidates like Jill Stein of the Green party and Justice party libertarians from being able to participate, he’s so establishment.

    Recently Obama, during an interview, said the Republican party has gone so far to the right dragging politics far to the right with it that the scope of American political dialogue has completely changed and not for the better. He stated that in the 1980s he would have been considered a moderate Republica. I find that fascinating and quite telling because if Obama is a moderate 1980s Republican, a post Nixon southern strategy Republican, then the closest thing to what Obama is describing would have been George Bush Sr who ran as a compassionate Republican. I appreciate that, I appreciate him finally being honest, (now that his presidency is coming to an end, mind you), because that Freudian slip was one of the most honest things Obama has ever said.

    Rant over.

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