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‘American Gods’ and the Case of The “Happy-To-Be-Here” Negro

This ‘American Gods’ Saga shows that “Happy-To-Be-Here” negroes only ever give a fuck about injustice when it’s happening, you guessed it, to them.

I know.

I totally missed the opportunity to name this something along the lines of “The Sleepy Hollow-ing of American Gods II: Electric Boogaloo” or some shit. But trust me when I say that the current title is apt and worth the detour.

Why?

Well, essentially, actor Orlando Jones blew up the spot, pulled Ricky Whittle’s card, and revealed him to be a “Happy-To-Be-Here” negro.

Escandalo! But wait, there’s more! To explain, on the very last day of Black History Month (wee!), Jones rolled up to us Twitter denizens and told us that he had tea to spill. And within an hour, we were staring at DMs between him and actor Ricky Whittle… wherein Whittle went on to use the term “race card” 23912382323049 times and accused Jones of being “angry”, of “inciting public trolls”, and of “burning [his] friends house down”… which I take it to mean putting him, Whittle, in the unavoidable position of either backing Jones up or playing house negro. And he obviously chose the latter, considering the fact that if it were somehow possible to read those DMs with my eyes closed, I would have assumed that a caucasian man from the Caucasus mountains wrote that. This was mighty interesting considering the statement Whittle released back in December about “hoping to work with Jones” again.

But, I mean, when you willingly wear your hair like that, it makes sense that your thinking would be highly caucasian-adjacent… and that you would also move like a caucasian.

Of course, it’s tempting to stop at the juicy nature of such a revelation and be content with roasting Whittle’s bad perms, stilted acting, and recently-discovered penchant for shucking and jiving. But, because nothing in popular culture happens in a vacuum, reading Whittle’s pathetic pleas for Jones to shut the fuck up reminded me that three years ago, Whittle was in a similar position on The 100. Homeboy (and his mother) was telling everyone who would listen—the show’s fandom—that he had been “bullied” off the show by EP Jason Rothenburg… with his character, Lincoln, slowly getting less and less screen time until he was killed off.

Sound familiar? Maybe it’s because we just watched this happen in real-time to Jones and his role on American Gods. Sure, Whittle doesn’t explicitly name racism as the catalyst for his exit (I can imagine why), but for a show that was plagued by criticisms of being anti-LGBTQIA+ AND racist, it was likely for that very reason. And Whittle, I assume, felt very justified in calling out Rothenburg’s “disgusting” behavior and definitely received sympathy for doing so. So what makes Jones’ case so different to him?

Well, it’s gotta be that pesky “happy-to-be-here” syndrome he’s suffering from. Which is so interesting because we watched this happen with Terry Crews and Gabrielle Union… with the latter inspiring the invocation of “the happy negro” in this piece.

RECOMMENDED: 25 THINGS THAT ARE MORE SUPPORTIVE OF BLACK WOMEN THAN TERRY CREWS

Like with Jones, we watched Crews throw Union under the bus publicly (although not via DM) to secure his “happy negro” status with America’s Got Talent at Union’s expense… even after she went to bat for him when he came forward about being assaulted by a Hollywood executive. And I’d argue that this was mainly to gaslight her and undermine her assertions of dealing with racism from AGT… and, you know, make sure he still had a job with Massa after this uppity negress had apparently upset the balance. And make no mistake, Whittle is doing the same thing here. Because by fixing his over-permed mouth to pretend he understands Jones’ anger (which is rich considering Jones’ former character, Mr. Nancy, and his iconic “Angry gets shit done” line) and then turning right-the-fuck around to basically tell him he’s doing too much (I.e inciting trolls), like Crews, he is following the “happy negro” playbook to a tee in that he is trying to save his own ass even if it comes at the cost of another Black person.

That, and the fact that “happy negroes” like Whittle and Crews only ever give a fuck about injustice when it’s happening, you guessed it, to them.

I mean, it’s no wonder Union and Jones have been bonding on our collective timeline. I can only assume there’s an exclusive club for The League of Extraordinary Negroes Who Have Gotten Double-Crossed By Other Shucking and Jiving Negroes. Or, rather, The LOENWHGDCBOSAJN.

And I wonder who else will be joining that exclusive list as 2020 continues.

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