To the Editor
I am writing in response to an article by Brentin Mock in the October 2005 issue of Deek Magazine. I only became aware of the article by accident, while doing online research for a workshop program.
I am a musician and workshop facilitator, and have developed a concert/workshop program that I have brought to colleges, high schools, churches and other organizations across the country. In the program, entitled “Undercover White Man,” I use my music as a catalyst for starting dialogue about the issue of race in America. My mission is to bring people together through music.
One of the premises of my program is that America doesn’t really know how to talk about race. We don’t have the right language. We don’t have the right tools to negotiate the giant, weighted legacy of our shared past. We get stuck between political correctness and divisive talk-radio rants.
How do we have a truly productive conversation, one that could yield new insights and, most of all CHANGE? This question is at the heart of what I endeavor to do with my programs and much of my music.
You can imagine why I was greatly dismayed when I discovered the article written by Mr. Mock. For some reason Mr. Mock felt compelled to include me (and mock me) in his article about a hoax “demonstration” he and his cohorts staged in downtown Pittsburgh.
What a shame that I would get trashed by someone who did not even bother to take the time to find out what I actually do. Mr. Mock, why don’t you sit down with me so we can talk about some solutions? I actually agree with many of your points but I want to know what you are doing that is POSITIVE, not sarcastic and negative.
You also managed to slam Tony Norman at the same time. It’s a shame because Tony is the kind of journalist who writes with the courage of his convictions, and then gets grief from white people AND black people whenever he talks about race.
How ironic and disappointing that you would blithely put me in some derogatory category based on my race and not on the “content of my character.” When you do that, Mr. Mock, you are part of the problem, NOT part of the solution.
A response from Brentin Mock, Deek’s Editor of Color:
Forgive me for taking so long to respond. Um, my bad. I truly didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. When we planned the race issue for Deek Magazine way back when, we never sought to “trash” or attack any individuals but rather examine, fairly critique and indeed mock (no pun intended on my last name) the way race is approached in America. We, or at least I am well aware of your program that seeks to bring the races together in harmony through music and I sincerely applaud your efforts. But perhaps it is that you take your work so terribly serious that led to you becoming part of the punchline. My main point in that article is that perhaps America as a whole has been taking the issue of race way too seriously and that’s what’s led to more clashes than anything else. I sought to deflate race, “racial harmony” exercises and empty demonstrations that do little to change the social implications of colored people in this country in the same way that Richard Pryor did or David Chappelle does. I’m not saying that is THE answer to the race problem, but it was the way I chose to approach it. It just so happened as we planned our event and our article that we came across your press release, which told that you were up to a lot of the same stuff we were trying to do, namely through confronting race. The only difference was ours was more satirical and, yes, sarcastic, while yours was of course more professional and astute — I’m assuming you believe. You see, where you and I agree is that yes! America doesn’t really know how to talk about race. Yes! We don’t have the right language, the tools, etc. But your letter assumes that you do. That you and your Modo Mio Music program is the key and the answer, and that you do have the right language, and anyone else who chooses to look at it otherwise is “part of the problem, not the solution.” What you’ve just exemplifed is the typical, please forgive me, “white man’s” reflex when his solutions are critiqued or dismissed, because as we all know: only white men have always ever had the answers to the mysteries of race, life, society, philosophy, God, science, comedy and so on. If you want to put yourself in the position to be judge and jury of what is and isn’t acceptable critique on race then that, of course, would not be out of line with how millions of white men have thought throughout the history of the world. And yes I know you have a black wife and black friends. I know most of them.
I know and respect your wife. I don’t know you, but I respect what you’re doing, but it’s not above criticism, nor is it above jest. We did reach out to you for this story Mr. Boccella and both I and the editors of Deek have the emails preserved to prove it. I’d be glad to sit down and talk with you about what you’re doing, as I always have been. But that doesn’t mean I have to uphold it as some Bible or holy program or bulletproof Pope-mobile. I’m glad you’re doing your thing about race and you should keep it up. We’re not stopping your money, right? I’m sure our story was a bit of bad p.r. for your profit venture, but whether it’s City Paper or Deek Magazine you should know that NO institution is above or beyond criticism or accountability. And Mr. Tony Norman, who’s a friend of mine, is aware of my part in all of this and I’ve spoken with him about this. I wasn’t “slamming” him, though I have in the past, but on this particular occasion I merely pointed out his inconsistencies in reviewing our demonstrations. And that’s all these really are, Mr. Bocella — demonstrations, demos. Your music is good — far from great — but it’s good, and it’s doing good. But let’s not act like you’re out taking bullets like King, X or Pac; let’s not act like you’re expanding the canon of scholarship on race or building something that truly empowers marginalized races; let’s not act like you’re writing bills, laws and amendments. I’m honestly disappointed in the arrogance you demonstrate in your letter in believing you have the pedestal of power to determine who is part of the problem, the solution and who isn’t.
Overall, I don’t understand how you could be so angry when you seem to be making such good money off your demonstrations. For our part, we didn’t earn a penny for ours. But that’s not why we did it.
Dear Deek Magazine,
I thoroughly enjoy reading your magazine every month, and to this day there has been not one issue I didn’t like. The October issue was no exception. However, it was the article by Ms. Alexis Ryan that got me on my last nerves. What I thought would be an insightful and informative article turned out to be very ignorant and poorly thought out. Just because you are not born with injustice and bigotry against you at all times is no reason to be proud. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not accusing the author of the article of being racist. I’ve never believed in race, creed, or color, although they are obvious as day or night. I believe in the potential of humanity as a whole to triumph over past wrongs and change the world for future generations. But Ms. Ryan’s general lack of foresight and sympathy when regarding to dire issues like Amadu Diallo’s unfortunate death and Cesar Chavez plight for his people is disgusting. Many people haved suffered to put those $500 pumps on your feet, and it is obvious you choose not think about them. I have more white friends than black and they don’t think like Ms. Ryan at all. We’ve had many a laugh about racism and the mentalities that harbor racism. It comes down to the general conclusion that everyone is entitled to anything they want, regardless of who you are. Why? Because we are in America! Being a black male, I realized a damn long time ago that life isn’t easy, and the only way to benefit is to make something out of myself and to be successful, which is why I am in school getting an education instead of selling crack or stealing cars like a degenerate, like people expect me to be doing. The only thing I can say to Ms. Ryan is to look at the world before you spit in its face.
> You have not been removed, I couldn’t find your name on the list. If this wasn’t your intention or you are having problems getting yourself unsubscribed, reply to this mail now (quoting it entirely (for diagnostic purposes), and of course adding any comments you see fit).
Please look again. I just looked at the headers of the message I received today, and it was delivered to this address. I will be forwarding a copy with full headers shortly. I have no idea WHY I am on this list, as I don’t live in Pittsburgh and have never been there, and have absolutely no interest in the subject matter your publication appears to cover.
Dear Deek Magazine,
While rifling through my mother’s drawers the other day, I came across a tremendously disturbing photo.
I was ‘attached’, I guess the word would be, to a Chinese gentlemen, a fellow about the same height, same weight, but, nonetheless, attached.
In this not very clear black and white, somewhat damaged picture, at the side of the stomach, the midriff, my better (worse?) was enjoying a conversation, glass in hand at some sort of mixer, or scholarly gathering it looked like, maybe I was reading too much into it, but, he was seemingly unaware of my needs, of just how uncomfortable I was. I also appeared to be wearing a mammoth sombrero.
I couldn’t have been more than say, 9 or 10.
When confronted with this, my mother wrote it off saying it was one of those silly pictures that was taken at a theme park on one of our summer vacations, the kind you pay a couple quarters for, where two people put their heads in behind this big cardboard cut out, and on the front, the photographer takes a picture, showing you to be, appearing from the photo taken, that you’re either married or astronauts or cowboys on horses or whatever the harmless prank is that one has so chosen.
Long story short, I didn’t believe my mother, the liar.
Just what had happened?
Why would she cover it up?
What else had she lied about?
She was so clearly caught.
“How much have you had to drink now, Timothy?”
She knew I knew.
Changing the subject to my addictions wasn’t going to get her out of this one.
I could see a few beads of sweat jump off her forehead onto her sweater.
This opened up a complex defensiveness that I couldn’t even begin to chart out here.
While I let my mind drift away and imagine what life was like with Ching Woo, (I gave him a name) she came up with multiple excuses I wrote off as falsities.
Why had this fairly large part of my childhood been omitted?
How funny we would have looked at company picnics taking part in The Potato Sack Races.
Does DEEK have someone on staff that deals in digital Family Trees or even better, a doctor whose specialty is twins and the separating of such a pair, if a procedure of such a magnitude is at all even possible.
I have no other evidence, besides a pretty small scar that can’t be spoken for.
I have always felt weirdly lopsided, emotionally and otherwise.
Mind you, the pair we were, if this was in fact the case, made not for an entirely appealing buddy system.
My ‘brother’, from the not so hot picture I had to go on, looked as though he had another chaps’ ass stapled to his face, which couldn’t have helped his self esteem, I can only imagine, not to mention my own alarming curvature of a distorted perplexive sense of self.
This would be the answer to just why I had felt deeply deranged and incomplete for what’ll be, oh, about 30 years now.
Maybe this is one of the reasons in life why I have felt so alone, isolated, always feeling as if I was missing something. (I had no idea why it was in the form of a human Chinese counterpart growing off the side of me, but the lord works, plays and does wildly complicated medical stuff and then lies about it, in mysterious creepy ways.
Please let me know in your next issue of the magazine I so greatly enjoy and look towards for advice.
I’ve simply got to know!!!
Timber Masterson, “The Recently Found Out Identity Crisis Guy” or “That Guy who is Completely Dying to find out if he has a Missing Chinese Brother, thus a mother that covers up the most bizarre things.”
Howsabout a little earlier — I’m an old man and ten p.m. is WAY past my bedtime. Besides, my wife would kill me if she found out I was out so late. She remembers, after all, what happened last time I got drunk in Oakland (I married her). How about 8. Does 8 work? Wait... Actually, now that I think about it, 8 doesn’t work for me. And I’m not married. How’s 10? Does 10 work?
Read This, You Asshole: I am an average-looking white female college student who may or may not A.) smoke copious amounts of weed and B.) want to become a man. In short, I am just like every other white female college student currently alive. Except that I want to work for your publication. Because I am both a writer AND an artist I am going to spam you and your art department continuously until I get some sort of response, so you motherfuckers had better contact me unless you want one million messages like this per day. Thanks, and have a lovely, positive, uplifting day.
While each word excised from the middle was like a tiny piece of my soul set aflame, it feels good to have finally managed to squeeze myself into the magazine. Thanks.
In the words of the wise Mr. McInnes from the letter three inches starboard of my own: give me a column. =)
would it have your blessing if I listed Deek Magazine as a place of employment? (contributing writer, intern to be specific).
I’m trying to work at whole foods as a second job so i can afford a dentist.
what up, nigga!!!
was that not p.c.? anywho.
the doublebook is coming out mid-december. can we do anything to promote it? fashion spread, interview, excerpt, whateva................i’m flex. let me know. i can get a pdf file of it to you this week. what’s next issue’s theme?
Anyway, I’ll be home in a few weeks. Is Deek still around? What’s going on this month? I’ve got a couple days here between notes, I could write something.
What’s goin’ on?
So I’ve returned to the working world, where I’m wearing a pinpoint oxford in a cubicle among the Children of the Corn — no shit, I work out in a cornfield with some whiiiiiiiiite people.
I really miss not working already. How is it going for you?
Random quips from our readers:
-There’s a car on fire outside my apartment. Sweet. Bloomfield and Iraq: neck and neck.
-I’m game. Nothing goes together better than human suffering and clip art.
-That’s inspiration! I tried the megaphone thing at my last cube job (“Missus Farlane is a DREADFULLY SLOW TYPIST!), but everyone stopped talking to me. “What’s with that guy’s megaphone?” they’d ask each other in completely audible, hushed voices. And I’d just laugh and laugh and laugh until the Russians would siphon orange nerve gas into my little cubicle of hell, and then I’d pass out snoring, giving away coded information in unconscious gasps of air. “Snorrrrrrrrrrrr... snoooooorrrrrrrrrrrr... snoooorrrrrrrrrrrrr... snorr” — [translation: “the useless files you’re looking for... have been flushed down the toilet... by me, along with your precious gummy worms... byatch!”]
-Here it is .. again.
-With masterful concision, wit, and generosity, Lee Gutkind again expands the boundaries of how we view humanity. Some people call him “The Godfather,” but with this blog entry I think we can re-christen him “The Miner,” because he has struck gold. Or very, very eloquent oil. [Metaphor tbd.] Huzzah and kudos!
-Please keep him away from all children, forever.