Here’s an interesting side note to that viral video of the black couple hamming it up on Jay Leno, which might have you looking at how we define “cooning” differently.
According to The Smoking Gun, Will and Monifa Sims, who appeared on Jay Leno’s Pumpcast News segment and sang and dance to Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” and the Eurythmics’s “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” at a Costco gas station, are actually trained actors, who once had a theater company in their native Chicago before moving out to Hollywood. While The Smoking Gun article doesn’t explicitly state that the segment, which catapulted the Sims to Internet sensations, was staged, the article points out that Monifa has appeared on the same Pumpcast News segment, in the same car and seemingly at the same gas station pump more than two years ago. Writes The Smoking Gun:
“In the original segment, Sims is seen at the same Burbank gas station where she was filmed singing with her husband. In fact, Monifa conversed with Stack both times while parked at pump number 16, the area used for the “Pumpcast News” bits. On both occasions, Monifa was in the same Chrysler Pacifica (she drove during the first taping, while her husband was at the wheel during the recent shoot). Additionally, she is seen wearing identical workout pants in each segment.”
Videos of Monifa’s previous appearance on Pumpcast news is embedded in the article as well as an update, which includes comments from Monifa explaining that her twice-appearance for the same supposedly candid-camera segment was just “a fluke” and that she never saw the first appearance because she is not, “glued to [her] TV at night.” However, The Smoking Gun has a cache of Monifa’s Facebook post from the time when the first segment aired, which shows that not only was Monifa promoting the heck out of her first appearance but she also gave a shout out to the “hilarious” Jay Leno too.
So I know what you are thinking: so what? Can’t we just have a good natured laugh without worrying about the authenticity of what we find entertaining? I agree 100 percent however that hadn’t stopped a bunch of folks last week from being all butt-hurt over Charles Ramsey, whom folks were accusing of cooning it up for the cameras.
All last week, the blogosphere was buzzing, pondering the question if Ramsey – the man who helped rescue three women from a kidnapper’s home – was glorifying certain negative stereotypes of black men. Those objections to him being in front of the camera revolved mostly around his use of colloquialisms and cadence found among those who are predominately black and poor and his overall appearance, which included missing teeth and an unkempt Afro. Some folks have even hinted that Ramsey intentional “cooned” out in front of cameras in hopes of following a long tradition of enterprising black Internet sensations, including Antoine Dodson and Sweet Brown, who have cashed in on their 15 minutes of fame. Yet by Friday, the same ferocity to either condemn or disassociate from Ramsey had been begun to be overshadowed by the virtual smiling and praising for a young black couple, who it now appears might have been doing the very thing that some folks accused Ramsey of – and that is shucking and jiving for the entertainment of white folks.
Okay, they weren’t actually shucking and jiving but they were singing, dancing and smiling for the cameras of a television show, which I have never known black folks to be fond of (This may be a personal observation but no black person I know or have met has every said, “yo man, did you catch Jay Leno last night?” Because the obvious answer to that is: “What? No!”). But it’s okay though because they got all their teeth; she got a perm and he speaks English properly. In the words of Ramsey himself, I do believe that this is a Dead Giveaway! Or as Yvette Carnell, writer with Your Black World pointed out:
“The message here is clear: Poor Blacks embarrass bourgeoisie Blacks. The evocation here is…Please, per Vice President Biden, only put the clean and perfectly coiffed Blacks on TV. If the man who rescued these women had resembled Denzel Washington or Will Smith, all of Ramsey’s critics would be bursting with race pride. But bourgeois black folk don’t abide the unwashed horde of poor black folk, and that’s actually nothing new.”
Tough words there by Carnell but you can’t deny the air of cultural elitism seeping from the lips of some folks, who have clutched pearls and wondered aloud about why the “wrong” type of black person always seem to get chosen to represent the race in front of the television news cameras. Personally, I actually have no issues with the couples portrayal on Leno – real or staged; they were actually very entertaining. However if we are going to scrutinize the most marginalized among us for not representing us “right” then we need to hold that same mirror up to those among us with more education, more acceptable physical appearances and more so-called social class, and point out ways in which their behavior on television might too assume negative stereotypes as well as a need to see black folks perform for the entertainment of white people.
Or we can just stop throwing around the term “cooning” so gingerly. Not saying that cooning doesn’t exist. However unless you are standing on the corners, in your red, black and green, banging all day on the same system, which oppress black folks globally, there is a strong possibility that you can be accused of cooning too (and even in that network of system bangers are folks, who could be accused of cooning too). Matter of fact, some of you sitting at your desk, talking about “Yessir I’ll get that report to you right away sir. Do you want extra staples…” are cooning right now. And as long as we black folks live in America (and most places with intense hatred of black skin) there are going to be plenty of times in life where how we dress, act and speak will draw the mockery of those other folks (also known as racist, white folks), who find us inferior. And despite the odds of that happening, it doesn’t necessarily make you a fool; it just makes those who mock what they can’t have or understand, assholes.