Yassuh, or how to become a racial icon
Poor Aunt Jemima. Gone from the syrup container, she is mourned by everyone who mourns Amos 'n' Andy, Stepin Fetchit, Birmingham Brown and every other comforting image of Black people as kitchen help, slightly larcenous goofballs or paragons of laziness.
That was back when Black people were comfortably nonthreatening, back when they "didn't know nothin' 'bout birthin' no babies."
Back before Malcolm X, back even before Joe Louis, and his white-man-murdering right hand.
All I can say about the first woman to portray pancake-flipping Aunt Jemima is that I won't use her full name because she was just one in a long line of Jemimas, all of them mammy-ish, all of them ready to whip up some flapjacks at the sound of a simple command.
"Dang that lazy Jemima," says the courtly white man in the seersucker suit, sitting at a long mahogany table covered with a tablecloth as white as his unblemished wife, Miz Ann. "Where ARE my flapjacks."
"Why, suh, Ah'm sorry I'm late wit' yo flapjacks," Jemima says, waddling in from the kitchen with a steaming plate of flapjacks. "I dun fo'got it wuz time fo yo breakfast."
Yeah. Nothin' sops up last night's bourbon like a bellyful of flapjacks.
The tragic loss of connection between white people and Black people began when Black people could no longer be employed as household servants for $10 a week. How can white people love their darker kin unless their darker kin is in the kitchen, whompin' up a mess o' flapjacks?
Still, Black people are always useful to white people in the more entertaining aspects of life, performing with balls, dancing, singing and rapping about guns and hos for the little white children of the suburbs.
And the Black commentator of the Candace Owens variety remains ever-ready to grin as she serves up a steaming platter of ideological flapjacks.
The Black commentator who says there is no real racism in America is where the spectrum bends to link up with the white commentator who says there is no racism in America. The only difference between the two is that the white commentator can afford to be wrong. The Black commentator is playing for his or her life.
Still, American society has always provided a comfy living for Black people who say what white people want to hear. The mythical Aunt Jemima no doubt had her snug cabin out behind the big white house. She was miles above the "field hands" who dragged the cotton sack. She and her terminally lazy husband, Rufus, could sit in front of their cabin on warm nights, playing their banjos in tune with the whistle of the overseer's whip.
As a white man, I am horribly embarrassed by my suburban white brothers and sisters who, just two or three generations removed from tenant farming, or the grimier aspects of annual labor, now raise the Stars and Bars over the bake sale, supporting the new masters, the corporate overseers.
I am not embarrassed for Black commentators who tortuously explain away the racism that has dented their own lives. I'm 63 years old, and I've been working since I was 14. You think I don't know how to suck up to the boss? I do, and not once was it ever worth the paycheck and the pat on the head.
To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com. Dion's latest book is a strictly segregated collection of his best columns entitled "Devi's Elbow: Dancing in the Ashes of America." It is available in paperback from Amazon.com, and for Nook, Kindle, GooglePlay and iBooks.