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The book, has since been withdrawn by its publisher.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 –

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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.

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