Media organizations and celebrities cannot simultaneously call for uplifting black voices while actively curating which ones are legitimate.
For many years I’ve observed with perplexity that many black people that hold divergent right-wing conservative or classical liberal opinions on various topics are labelled “coons” by their peers and even media personalities. The irony of this usage is that the term “coon” as a pejorative for black people dates to the mid-19th century, and was traditionally used to ridicule the black slave as ignorant, lazy, and subhuman. According to Dr. David Pilgrim of Ferris State University’s Jim Crow Museum, the “coon” was considered “a Sambo gone bad”. Pilgrim used the example of black minstrel performer Lincoln Perry AKA Stepn Fetchit as the “coon” archetype. In the slavery and Jim Crow era, the term “coon hunting” denoted the pursuit and apprehension of runaway slaves.
Other derivatives of this term from the period compiled in Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang express a disparaging perspective of the black American.
- Coon jigger – a black child
- Coon bottom/coon hollow – “within a larger urban area, that part recognized as reserved for the Black community”.
- Coon juice – “illegally distilled whisky”.
The same source leaves open the possible etymology of the term as originating with the black Gullah people of South Carolina who may have been using this as a colloquial bastardization of the word “cousin”. Regardless of the origin, the word was used prominently in order to lampoon and ridicule black people as poor, uneducated, and of shallow temperament. The conflating of black people with raccoons is also a way of associating them with a creature generally thought to be a slothful, thieving pest; almost as if they are beneath the level of compassion. The redeeming qualities of raccoons, such as their adaptability, intelligence, and acute senses of touch and smell are not the reasons that black people are labeled as coons. This attitude to wildlife also comes from a place where the natural world is deemed to be a soulless inconvenience for humanity. Two years ago I remember listening to the car radio in seething rage as conservative commentator Michael Medved defended a high school agriculture teacher who demonstrated to students the proper way to dispose of trapped raccoons by drowning them in submerged cages. Medved defended the teacher, claiming that raccoons are vicious and undeserving of even a humane death. As most that know me will attest, I also happen to be a fan of wildlife including otters, foxes, groundhogs, and yes. . . raccoons.
Sadly, the Medved perspective is the same one of people that use the “coon” epithet, even though they are more likely to be liberal than conservative. As Americans, our racist forebears would associate people that they hate with nuisance animals, and that theme is being adopted by supposed “anti-racists” rather than abandoned in favour of true equality and good will among neighbours and friends. It must be examined who are those shouting “coon”, and at who is that epithet directed. Recently hip hop artist Snoop Dogg denounced various right-wing black commentators and officials such as HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson as the “Coon Bunch” on his Instagram feed. Among the other people on that poster was former presidential candidate and Godfather Pizza CEO Herman Cain and Rev. Darrell Scott, whose church is adjacent to a former apartment building where I used to live.
The irony of Snoop Dogg’s contempt for these “coons” is that unlike them, he doesn’t have any core beliefs and seems to hop all over the place. In 2009 he joined Minister Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam, and remains a fan of his. This is despite the fact that Farrakhan condemn marijuana, Snoop Dogg’s favourite drug that he has made a career out of championing, a weapon of the CIA. He also claims sometimes that there is a “Pot Plot” to feminize black males. By this logic Snoop Dogg, who has been an avid smoker of marijuana since his youth, should look like at this stage of his life like RuPaul. In 2012 Snoop Dogg converted to Rastafarianism and was briefly rechristened “Snoop Lion”, but by 2013 his antics and lax commitment to the new faith led the religion’s Rasta Millennium Council to excommunicate him, demand an apology, and to cease from using the name “Snoop Lion”. Even former Bob Marley band-mate denounced him.
Of those featured on the “Coon Bunch” poster, only one (Angela Stanton) has a criminal history. Stanton was pardoned by President Trump in February for a served sentence for involvement in an auto theft ring, and recently made an appearance on the Breakfast Club in order to support his record on black issues. Snoop Dogg on the other hand was convicted of cocaine possession in 1990 and in 1996 stood trial and was acquitted for a murder in a drive-by shooting. In 2006 after a fight at an airport terminal VIP lounge, Snoop and his entourage were arrested and he was banned from the UK. That same year he was arrested for transportation of marijuana and possession of a gun by a convicted felon at yet another airport in Burbank, CA.
Thanks to the shallow, celebrity obsessed nature of mass media, Snoop Dogg’s labeling of others as “Coons” is deemed fair criticism, despite the fact that his relevance is based purely on record sales and media appearances rather than on his beliefs. Similarly, stand-up comic DL Hughley lashed out at three other members of the “Coon Bunch”, pundit Candace Owens, and North Carolina entertainers Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson (AKA Diamond and Silk). Hughley claimed that “it’s impossible to be humane and a black Trump supporter”. Hughley also told to Angela Yee in 2017 that he fathered a love child through a mistress while married to his wife LaDonna. The child was later killed by his mistress’s boyfriend according to Hughley, and he only later confessed to his wife. Hughley’s main claim to fame was as one of the “Original Kings of Comedy”, but since then unlike fellow headliners from that tour he has largely appeared in TV and film duds like Soul Plane (with Snoop Dogg). He also appeared in 2006’s direct-to-video animated film The Adventures of Brer Rabbit (see below), an adaptation of the Jim Crow era Uncle Remus story that has been panned as racist and is now leading to calls for dismantling the Splash Mountain ride at three Disney theme parks. Yet Hughley bears none of the blame for voicing along with a group of other black actors and comedians, like Nick Cannon and Wayne Brady in a much more poorly executed animated version with a hip hop theme. This is a adulterous husband and illegitimate parent, participating in films cheaply caricaturing black culture as licentious and minstrel-like, and yet he is considered a top-level commentator on black community affairs. Oh yes, and he had a failed “comedy” news show on CNN that lasted five months in 2008-09 before getting cancelled where he claimed that the 2008 Republican National Convention was like Nazi Germany. Syracuse University academic Dr. Boyce Watkins, a leading proponent of black financial wealth planning, claimed the program turned the Obama presidential campaign into a minstrel show.
Does Snoop Dogg actually have a record of performing high surgeries to separate conjoined twins like Dr. Carson, or counseling parishioners dealing with addiction or family crises like Rev. Scott? Not that I am aware of. Have Diamond and Silk and Candace Owens literally appeared in a cartoon film that is a superficially more modern rendition of Song of the South, a film deemed so racist that it hasn’t been available for sale by Disney since 1986 like DL Hughley? No. As someone who is not black, this type of culture of gnashing one’s teeth using his fame as a cudgel against those that are deemed wrong thinkers, is the essence of why I believe there is no such thing as a “community leader” in any minority community, let alone the black community. While the so-called “coons” are publicly condemned with direct ad hominem attacks on their character, a class of high income flamboyant court jesters parades around and points at them as immoral, inhumane, and traitorous and are deemed the “real” black leaders. In this type of environment, there will be no economic or social progress for the audiences of black households that listen to them, because all Snoop Dogg and DL Hughley do is recycle the bitterness of the poor blacks in order to supplement their own wealth.