Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Nation of Cowards

I love the fact that Attorney General Eric Holder has a moustache. It reminds me of my own days of “cowardice”—in the days following college graduation when I was afraid to shave completely. Since the latter part of high school, I’d been rocking the Malik Yoba goatee; he was a big star back then on the TV series New York Undercover. Toward the end of college, though, tired of all the trimming and shaping up, I decided to nix the chin whiskers, but I just couldn’t let the moustache go.

Growing up, virtually every male in my family had a moustache, from the slim, trimmed back off the upper lip, Chappelle-esque ‘stache to the full-out, Richard Pryor, what-you-got-hiding-up-under-that-thing handlebars. It’s a sort of African American male staple. I suppose in a nation where, not even as far back as half a century ago, you were prone to be called “boy” on a regular basis, growing out a symbol of full-fledged adult masculinity was more than a matter of personal grooming—it was a political statement.

So you might imagine with all the self-affirming mustachioed figures of my youth, how I could honestly be afraid of shaving above the upper lip. It’s a fear not unlike that which Eric Holder referred to last week: the fear of looking beyond that which one is accustomed to, of stretching beyond one’s comfort zone for the sake of personal growth.

I did eventually phase out the mustache, and though I had one awkward day of self-consciousness, I had to admit, I liked it. And that’s all it took. My face wasn’t permanently naked, and I had expanded not only the range of visages I could achieve but my own mental self-conception, as well. As corny as it sounds, 86ing the ‘stache made me feel more dimensional in a way, like a more fully developed person.

So am I saying Eric Holder needs to lose the facial hair? Maybe, but not necessarily. Maybe I’m suggesting that some folks consider following the example of their boy Brad in the Quarter, to conquer that fear of running the razor below the lips but not above them, and to reach out to those who are different as a means to gaining a new perspective on life and, ultimately, on themselves.


A new comic is below!

The Daily Double Standard

This week, our pigmented protagonist forms questions on a quiz show where cultural context separates the successful from the suckers.

[And here's your host, Alec Trebex!]

Thank you, Tom. Let’s take a look at today’s categories.

Larry, our reigning champion, will choose the first category.

I’ll take White-Collar Cuisine for $100, Alec.

Clue: Produced in France, this—[Ping!] … Beau, the first to ring in.

What are specialty cream cheeses, commonly containing such ingredients as artichoke hearts, walnuts, and cilantro, often referred to as “shmears.”

No, I’m sorry that’s not what we’re—[Ping!]

What are grilled ham and cheese sandwiches called "paninis," often served with fancy kettle chips and coffee, that sell for six dollars per half-sandwich.

Sorry, Esther, not the correct—[Ping!]

What are all-natural cereals without preservatives but with loads of sugar that serve to keep the oat clusters from rotting in the box on the shelf?

No, not cereal—[Ping!] … Beau, we can’t accept any more—

What are granola, trailmix, hand-churned icecreams, and smoothie boosters?

That was actually the correct response, but—[Ping!]

What are freshly shaved, non-prepackaged deli meats and cheeses?

[Ping] What are prescription medications for conditions such as RLS—otherwise known as "I sit in a desk chair all day, so my legs are jumpy at night from inactivity" syndrome?

We have stop now—[Ping!]

Name-brand condiments!

Seitan, TVP, tempah, soy and various assorted meat substitutes sauteed with garlic and ginger!

$100 for you all … Larry, please select the next category.

Non-black Hollywood Actresses for $100, Alec.

Kinda redundant, isn't it?

[Clue: Which one of these actresses is Charlize Theron?]

[Ping!] … Yes, Beau?

Who is the one on the left?

I’m sorry. That is actually Katherine Heigl, female lead from the film Knocked Up … Close, but no cigar.

[Ping!] … Beau, again.

Who is the one on the right?

Oh, I’m sorry, Beau … Close again, though. That is actually Christina Moore, TV actress who has appeared on shows such as Two and a Half Men, Unhitched, and the new version of 90210.

This is actually a picture of Charlize Theron.


Heh, heh ... foiled by the Hollywood standard of beauty, huh bud?

Larry and Esther get $100 apiece for not ringing in for that trick question.


Larry, pick again.

I’ll take Eurocentric History for—

Wait, wait, wait … Come on, I mean, don’t you think these categories are a little culturally biased?

Why, whatever do you mean?

Archie Bunker-isms … Really?

OK, then Beau, why don’t you select the next category?

Alright, uh … hmm … let’s go with Music, I guess.

Clue: Name the world-renowned musician who wrote this timeless piece of music:

There used to be a graying tower alone on the sea. / You became the light on the dark side of me.

[Ping!] Larry?

Who is the immortal Henry Olusegun Kwassi Olumide Adelo Samuel …


… Otherwise known as Seal.


Jeepers creeps!

What? Is Seal not black enough for you?

… And that will conclude Round One.

Good, I need to, like, read a white people’s reference guide during the commercial break or something.

Anybody got a copy of Webster’s dictionary?

Round Two

[Top five categories are on the board …]

… This bodes well.

Beau, you have control of the board.

Final Jeoparody!

At the end of Round 2, the scores stand at … Larry with $10,500 … He really racked up with that "Be The First To Ring In" category.

Grumble … Hussein … Grum-grumble …

Esther is in the lead with $13, 400 … She scored big with the "Indoor Pets" category.

Nothing like Fido licking me in face after he’s spent all day rooting around in the garbage and tonguing the toilet like it were a giant Tic-Tac!

And Beau with a negative $47, 800 … The Friends category really hurt you that round, Beau.

So I was confusing that show with Seinfeld? … Wait a sec, which one of those had the black character?

And our Final Jeopardy! clue:

[Who is this person? … Your time begins … now.]


Let's see what everyone came up with. Larry?

That’s the gay guy from Dancing With the Stars, isn’t it?

[Nope, sorry. That is not Lance Bass. How much did you wager?]

Oh, ho ho! Looks like we’re going to have to strip you of your lingering misgivings about the inequities perpetrated by white privilege.

Yes! Free at last! … In your face, Trebex!

But … I, too, am white.

Yeah, but you’re Canadian.

… Your point being?


Dangit, I should’ve wagered American guilt, too.

Beau, your answer?

That’s the dude who played Wolverine in the X-Men movies, right?

[No, I’m sorry, Beau. That is not Hugh Jackman. Your wager?]

Well, say good-bye to your days of divided allegiances between your national and racial identities … You’re full-blooded American now!

Welcome to the master race.

Thanks … I think.

Finally, Esther?

Oh, that’s easy … Ryan Seacrest, host of American Idol.

That is correct! How much did you wager?

Congratulations! You’ve been awarded a mandate to view the world beyond your own cozy, middle-class “skybox” of a life, and to order your lifestyle decisions in accordance with what’s good for your community and not just what’s good for yourself.


I thought “cultural conscientiousness” meant that I would get to hang out with a bunch of cool-looking, comparably wealthy, brown-skinned people possessing an array of funky hair styles and textures, with whom I could drink bubble teas in public and be envied by my peers as being “down” with the black folk.

I’m afraid not.

Oh, my! What’s happening to …? The unspoken, but blatantly obvious physical tension that exists between bigoted Larry and black everyman Beau … I … I can’t … I am no longer able to willingly ignore it!

Yes, fellow American, Larry. I sense it, as well. What is your deal?

I can hate whomever I want, wherever I want, whenever …

… ever.

This is Alec Trebex signing off, saying good night, Godspeed, and God Bless the Republic of Canada.

Oh my gosh! I just noticed that there aren’t any people of color in the studio audience at all! Beau, you must feel so uncomfortable.

… I think I like this lady.

New 'toon on 3/6!