DOUGLAS OLSON on 'Uppity Negress'


The Olson file

"Uppity Negress"
The ultimate truth in advertising


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It is not at all difficult to imagine the pure, unshirted hell that would ensue if a white businessman refused to sell his wares to someone simply because that individual happened to be black. The "victim" would soon be rich and celebrated and sanctified in the pantheon of black heroes with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Tawana Brawley, and Prof. Rodney King; the offender would lose his livelihood and be fortunate indeed to escape death at the hands of dusky vigilantes or imprisonment (which might result in the same thing).

Unfortunately, it is not at all difficult to imagine the shoe on the other foot — a black person of business rejecting attempts by whites to purchase her merchandise. While not (yet) attaining the lofty status of a Parks or a Brawley, Ms. Andrea Carter of Washington, D.C., has so far been largely successful in maintaining her racist policy of refusing to sell to non-blacks.

For the past nine months, Ms. Carter, 32, has proudly peddled a line of T-shirts (13 different styles for men, women, and children), tote bags, hats, and coffee mugs boldly emblazoned with the logos "Uppity Negress" and "Uppity Negro" at $20 to $25 a pop. According to a full-page story in DC City Paper (June 11, 2004), the items sell "briskly" at colleges and festivals, a few boutiques, and her Website, Moviemaker Spike Lee, certainly no stranger to black racism, and often-funny comedian Dave Chappelle are said to wear her shirts, and the Al Sharpton for President campaign was also a customer — no surprise there. The notoriously racist pastor of a D.C. church has even pimped Ms. Carter's products from his pulpit.

Uppity Negro is a "movement," says the newspaper article. Ms. Carter considers it "a sense of pride." At Temple University in Philadelphia, a young white man attempted to buy some of her precious cargo. After talking to him "and gauging his understanding of the black condition," she magnanimously consented to sell him a shirt. "I thought he was pretty brave — there were like four black guys standing right there," she says, tacitly admitting more about race relations than a year's worth of the Washington Post, the New York Times, and all of the broadcast and cable networks' programming put together. In an encounter with an Asian would-be customer, the paper says, Ms. Carter "talked him out of buying" a shirt.

She admitted to City Paper that she has sold to whites, but, as the article puts it, "only if it is for a black friend, co-worker, or significant other — or if Carter deems their understanding of what Uppity Negro represents to be sufficient. Only African Americans, she says, can truly understand its full meaning." How mighty white of her!

"Uppity Negress" sprang from some of Ms. Carter's unpleasant experiences as a waitress at a D.C. coffee house. (She was eventually fired, she claims, for talking back to white customers — note the racial specificity.) "The customer isn't always right," she says, "especially when they're hurting my feelings." In its story, City Paper unwittingly describes a classic case of what the shrinks call "projection" — laying your own unfavorable attributes off on others: "White Americans in particular, [Ms. Carter] says, unlike any other race or nationality, need to feel special."

Oh, really? In fact, ordinary whites are the only group who don't display a pathetic need to wallow in massive "pride" demonstrations, inane mantras such as "Black Is Beautiful" and "Gay Is Good," legal "protected" status, and other props to continually reinforce what, at bottom, is quite obviously a very shaky sense of self and self-worth among the louder groups. (Of course that doesn't mean that all is well in the white self-esteem department.)

In any event, "Uppity Negress" is an unabashed, in-your-face challenge to whites. "I got to the point where I didn't want to talk behind white people's backs anymore," Ms. Carter told the paper. So, apparently, she started the business in order to insult them to their face.

Last spring, she says, a white businessman sought to invest in her enterprise. Racist even where money is concerned, she turned him down. City Paper: "I said, 'I can't let you profit on the back of blacks, especially considering blacks were killed for being [uppity Negroes].' "

But being so actively uppity has taken its toll. All the work and success has given Ms. Carter a stress-induced ulcer, for which she was treated at Howard University Hospital earlier this year. She told City Paper that she was not going to restock until she had some assistance in running the business.

Not to worry. Any imprint as blatant as "Uppity Negress" is far too provocative to disappear. Unless Ms. Carter has properly trademarked her brainchild — and, in all probability, even if she has — it will be ripped off by other urban "entrepreneurs" around the country and the world in the very near future. Like Spike Lee's "Malcolm X" logo, "black studies" programs, and rap song lyrics, it will be a symbol of resistance against idiotic whites who believe that coddling and encouraging such attitudes will somehow lead to the first successful "multicultural" civilization in the history of mankind.

June 30, 2004

© 2004 Douglas Olson.

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