The path of social progress can take loopy turns. In the week since the R&B singer Frank Ocean announced the not-such-big-news that his first love was a man, influential figures in contemporary black music have portrayed the not-so-big event as a major test of character in the world of hip-hop and R&B.
In the week since its release, The Help, a movie telling the story of a group of black maids in the South in the early 1960s, has been derided repeatedly in blog posts and reviews as a lazy collection of racist tropes, an irredeemable expression of naive bigotry. In an article in the New York Times, film critic Nelson George condemns the filmmakers for failing to properly “come to terms” with America’s racist past.
On Wednesday, TNR senior editor Ruth Franklin explored the way authenticity is played with in David Simon’s new HBO show, “Treme.” Here, John McWhorter offers his own, markedly different opinion on the subject. People can get irritating about their authenticity.
On the basketball courts of New York City, there may be no truer measure of a player's stature than his nickname. If a player is considered good, then his moniker will be something straightforward: "Pee Wee" if he is short; "Lefty" if he shoots with that hand. But if a player is viewed as great, then his talent can actually inspire poetry. He will be called "Half-Man Half-Amazing" for his superhuman dunks or "Skip to My Lou" for the way he hopscotches down the court as he dribbles past hapless opponents.