Sunday, May 20, 2007

Playing the Dozens: Your momma, your poppa, and your greasy-greasy grannie.

--Yo momma is so fat, when she jumped into the air she got stuck.
--Yo mama's so ugly, when she looks in the mirror, the reflection ducks.
--Yo mama's so ugly, well.. look at you!
--Yo mama's so ugly, she looks like you.
--Yo mama's so ugly, she could only be Yo mama.
--Yo mama's so ugly, they filmed "Gorillas in the Mist" in her shower.
--Yo mama's so ugly, they push her face into dough to make gorilla cookies.
--Yo mama's so stupid, she got stabbed in a shoot-out.
--Yo mama's so stank, that her shit is glad to escape.
--Yo mama smells like hot ass on a cold day. (from

1982: my eighth-grade year in our blunderful educational system in America. This was when there was a lot of court mandated school busing (due to Brown vs. the Board of Education, 1954), and our school was no exception. In the case of my experience, all of the rich kids from Jefferson School got bused to our crappy little Edison Elementary, away from much better teachers and resources. The reaction of many Jefferson parents--most of whom were doctors, lawyers, business owners, etc.--was incredibly vocal and racist.

When their kids came to our school, they'd boxed-up some of those resources, while shunting the rest of us away from them. This escalated when we all went to the same high school, where you basically had two separate educational-paths that kept most all of us from having a decent learning environment (while the rich kids got an excellent one). I can remember skipping-classes to go home and read something relevant, and it was common for us to be taught the same thing year-after-year! But they couldn't do it with every required class, either at the elementary level, or high school.

That was when the fun began, and we'd pillory the lone punks and the jock-stragglers. Our school had more Black and poor kids (like myself), and Edison could be seen back in the 1970s-1980s as a dumping-ground for lousy teachers, so-called administrators, and "problem students" (meaning "not white," or from poor or "broken-homes"). The best part of all this was that many Black kids got to go to the better Jefferson!

But many of us "problem children" stayed at Edison, both Black and White. The mix of White rich kids, poor White, and poor Black kids was pretty explosive, with most of the Jefferson kids constantly complaining at how they were getting shafted at our shitty school. Well yeah, welcome to our world assholes.

Every morning--it seemed--there was a major fight between Blacks and Whites when everyone was getting off of the buses, and it was repeated when they got back on at 3 PM. Almost all of the fights surrounded the waiting-time at the buses. The racial tension wasn't just palpable, there were parents coming out and yelling racial-epithets at Black students, their children doing likewise, and the Black kids sending it right back at them (and more stinging).

You had Polish-American students (an extremely racist group at this time in Michiana), Hungarian-American (a little better), Irish-American, all the WASPs, and me and my little brother (German-Czech-American). Where did we fit in? Nowhere really, but most of the Black kids knew we were getting shafted too, so we got treated better by them. To this day, I can say Black people have generally treated me and my family better than White America ever has or ever will.

Naturally, President Reagan, the GOP, and even many Democrats in Congress were opponents of both providing adequate funding for predominantly-Black schools, and mandatory busing as a cure for that lack-of-funding. We heard tales of the single-parent Black families (headed by mothers) being the cause of Black poverty, and other such ridiculous arguments. It was all just racism and racist-assumptions about Black Americans.

It was this kind of racist wrongheadedness that created the
need for mandatory crosstown busing, and yet what he really wanted to give Black Americans was nothing. He just couldn't get away with it at that time. Reagan was truly a horrible human being, and he wasn't alone in his racism, it was (and is) still deeply-rooted in White mainstream thought. What was so exhilarating about all this busing though is that we got to have first-hand experience fighting those lily-white motherfuckers from Jefferson in every possible way.

There was some real unity between groups of us Black and White kids who fought these scum. The fights were verbal and physical (I'm not one to duke, so I had to use my wits). It was literally a front-line class war that had all the shades of race and class that typify the American experience. Of course, there were sell-out Blacks who were already bourgeois-types before all of this, but the worst ones were the White sell-outs who were basically working-class--the suck-ups, the sycophants, and the social-climbers. All of us Black and White kids would endlessly attack these morons and ass-lickers. The best way was by-insult: Playing the dozens (also known as cutting or snaps).

Compared to the Black kids, I wasn't shit at this, but they were ingenious in their comebacks. You couldn't top them, it was impossible. How could you? They invented the dozens, it comes from West African traditions. It's older than old. The rich kids couldn't cope with it at all, until the lure of sports hypnotized everyone, and George Lucas united a divided nation (snicker). However, the fights continued into High School anyway, and the real divisions never went away. Playing the dozens was frequently the prelude to a fight, but it was also a way to avoid all of that. As brutal and vulgar as playing the dozens is, it's more civil than kicking someone's ass.

And so, J-7 is really a part of this tradition: I'm belittling people with power because there's no choice in the matter. One of the best approaches to taking-down the abusers of power is to confront them and denigrate who and what they are, it works. There is a tradition of this in our own history, and Black Americans are a part of this, they more than compliment it.

From the Ranters' written attacks on the monarchy and the aristocracy, to the Levellers and Diggers and their communalism, from the pamphlets during the run up to the American Revolution, to the Abolitionists, the rise of the unions, to the attacks by cartoonist Thomas Nast on Boss Tweed and Tamanny Hall's corruption, reviling and mocking power works.

NEA (National Education Association) school integration timeline:

Your home for the dozens:

The Ranters (brief histories):

The Profoundly Racist Moynihan Report (1965):