David Mills: The Undercover Black Man Interview
 

The Undercover Black Man Interview

Emmy-award-winning David Mills is now the Undercover Black Man. Our most unwelcome opinion here in the kinté space is that David Mills is one of the few mainstream Hollywood professionals “of color” who have successfully embraced current Web technologies, especially the Blog. My personal guarantee is that you will not have trouble finding a self-described writer “of color” thinking that it is “crazy” to write “for free” and would elect to languish in ‘safe’ obscurity while struggling for the next Old World backroom deal—rather than writing something to keep the blood supply for the writing muscles flowing. David Mills, the Undercover Black Man, should provide some inspiration to free a few sisters and brothers from a self-imposed exile of artificial scarcity.

Bryan Wilhite : As a professional journalist and screenwriter from the traditional, bricks-and-mortar world of media, did you have to go through an ‘evolutionary process’ to approach the Internet constructively?

David Mills: There was definitely an evolving sense of readiness on my part. But also the Blogosphere itself has evolved rapidly, in terms of richness of content and the technical ease-of-use. I’m all about the ease of use. I am not computer-savvy. Matter of fact, when I started Blogging in December, I didn’t even know how to put JPEG files on my Blog. I figured it would be all text.

Seeing how easy it is now to upload audio files or to embed YouTube videos, this is the perfect time for me to step into the mix. As with newspaper journalism or screenwriting, I view the Blog as a means of packaging and presenting information in an entertaining way.

I got online in 1996. Back then, in terms of content, it was a lot of fanboy stuff… which was cool. Being a funk fan and a TV fan, I enjoyed swapping information and opinions on those topics.

But it blew my mind to discover the breadth and depth of knowledge being transmitted in Blogs today. Black Bloggers especially are delivering a quality of political and cultural commentary that I can’t find the in traditional media. It’s a “happening” that I want to be part of.

The articles I wrote when I was a journalist belong to the news organizations I wrote them for. But the interview tapes and my notes belong to me. Even before the Blogger boom, reporters would recycle some of their reporting to get a freelance piece out of it. I’ve got boxes full of old interviews—including people now dead, like Cab Calloway and Alex Haley and James Brown and John Johnson. That’s another reason I felt ready to Blog...

Mother Nature likes race-mixing rasx(): What’s the story behind the Undercover Black Man Blog?

UBM: Back in 2005, I started hanging out on a white-nationalist website, American Renaissance. I’ve always been a student of the racist mind, and am fascinated by the higher-end intellectual aspects of it… not so much the crude, nasty neo-Nazi side.

White supremacy, of course, is part of the intellectual tradition of the West. So it makes sense that some well-educated whites would still be drawn to that ideology. Those are the ones I think it’s fun to engage and challenge, using the language of reason.

So when I started posting comments on the American Renaissance discussion boards, I chose to do so anonymously. I wanted to call myself “Undercover Negro,” but AmRen—which filters racial slurs from its discussions—didn’t allow the word “Negro,” because it has a derogratory taint (supposedly). Thus, “Undercover Black Man.” I commented semi-regularly, and a persona emerged… an interesting voice.

My recent Blog post about genetic diseases among Afrikaners, Icelanders, the Amish, etc., is an example of the sort of stuff I would drop on the American Renaissance boards… to challenge those who are obsessed with race-mixing. That entire post was drawn from one of my earlier AmRen comments.

I had so much fun researching my comments and defending my positions on AmRen, I decided to go the next step and launch my own Blog.

The other thing about the name is, I’m very light-skinned. When I’m around a bunch of white people, no one assumes I’m black. If anything, they might think I’m Hispanic. So I’ve occasionally had that feeling of being an “undercover Negro” in real life.

Attack of the GIANT NEGROES!! rasx(): Did you make a conscious choice to ‘make your Blog Black’? Did you have concept of a “price to pay” for making your Blog in this political context?

UBM: My choice was to write about what I’m most interested in, and what I think about the most. The mainstream media barely represents the breadth and depth of the black American experience, or black American thought. It ain’t about Al Sharpton over here and Ward Connerly over there.

Race is fascinating. Blackness is fascinating. You can spend your life pondering it and never run out of things to say about it.

I can’t imagine there’ll be a price to pay. I don’t have a “political” agenda, per se. I’m not a radical. I’m not a black nationalist. I simply want to explore all aspects of black American thought, and to shine a light on some hidden areas of history and culture.

rasx(): Do you think your Blog will affect your business life? Aren’t you scaring away potential customers with your politics?

UBM: I honestly have no sense of how the Blog might affect me professionally. I have a half-baked mystical notion that if I put out some good energy into the universe, something good will come back. My TV writing career isn’t exactly red hot right now anyway, which is why I have the time to devote to Blogging. It’s not like I’m putting anything at risk.

This is a personal process I need to go through right now, and creatively speaking, as a writer, only good things can come from it.

rasx(): Some of the most epic battles that I’m aware of occurred on the Undercover Black Man Blog. Can you share some of the highlights of these Blog-style flame wars?

Buy this DVD at Amazon.com! UBM: The big one was with Lawrence Auster, a fringe right-wing Blogger whom I still read. He’s another one I tried to challenge on his own Blog, when I felt he was popping bullshit. In particular, he takes offense at any implication that he’s a bigot—even though he has proudly written that black people, as a group, are ill-equipped mentally and morally to succeed in white society.

At the same time, he’s quick to hang the label of “anti-Semite” on conservatives such as Pat Buchanan and Robert Novak because they’ve been critical of Israel. To me, Auster has a double standard when it comes to bigotry. When I pointed this out to Auster, he dismissed me on his Blog as someone incapable of rational thought, and he cut off any further discussion.

Well, one thing I do not like is having my intellect belittled. So, long before I ever thought about Blogging, I wrote a long letter cataloging his anti-black writings, and sent it to David Horowitz at FrontPageMag.com… which was the closest thing to a mainstream media outlet that Auster had. Horowitz agreed with me that Auster held “racist and offensive” views.

Auster didn’t find out about any of this until a few weeks ago, and that precipitated a flame war in which Auster labeled me a “character assassin” and a “leftist hit artist,” and he called out Horowitz as a coward.

All in all, fairly entertaining. But it was a sideshow in terms of what I want to accomplish with my Blog.

rasx(): According to Technorati.com (in June of 2007), your Blog ranks at about 120,000 among all Blog sites on Earth. To add further perspective, The Assimilated Negro ranks at 17,000, FrontPageMag.com ranks at 190 and, of course, the kinte space Blog ranks at 516,288. To me, given the politics of this time and the unfortunate elite nature of the Internet, your Blog is doing quite well. Do you actively nurture your audience?

UBM: I definitely want to build an audience, but so far I’ve been fairly passive about it... hoping word of mouth will spread, and that I’ll get added to more and more Blogrolls as time goes by. But even though I just added the SiteMeter counter, I’d hate to become obsessive about the numbers. It’s enough of an obsession just filling the thing with content.

I’ve recently become aware of the “Blog carnival” phenomenon, and have submitted a few posts for inclusion in appropriately themed carnivals, and that has brought new viewers my way. But the big bumps in readership have come from serendipitous things, like James Wolcott talking me up on his Blog.

I’m like: If I build it, they will come. So it’s all about the brick-by-brick building of a space that will earn a devoted readership.

Buy this book at Amazon.com! rasx(): How would characterize your audience? There are several people that I know personally that read my Blog regularly but would not leave a comment for a Blog post because they don’t care to see their comment in public, they are technically uninterested in learning how to do it or it is just not their style. Clearly your audience has plenty of comments to leave for you. Do you sense another silent cohort out there just lurking?

UBM: I know that a number of writers read me. Many of them are friends. Others are friends of friends. Some choose not to comment, and that’s fine. I read quite a few Blogs, and I don’t always comment. I’m keeping half an eye on the stuff that draws the most comments... and usually it’s stuff that pushes political buttons, like race-mixing. Or anything about The Wire, which has a rabid fan base in the Blogosphere. But my four-part post on the legacy of Malcolm X got almost zero comments. Oh well.

But it’s not all about the comments. The thing about the Web is, once you put it up there, it stays there. And maybe some college kid six months from now will do a Google search on “Betty Shabazz“ or “A. Peter Bailey,” they’ll find my stuff and consider it valuable. I’m just into the fact that I can put stuff out there to be read a year from now, two years from now, not just the day I posted it. That’s the true value of the medium... adding to the vast cultural/historical database.

rasx(): Africans who actually live in Africa taking on Blog writing was very eye-opening to me. Since you have entered this world, what are your international relations? Something new here?

UBM: I need to start reading some African and diaspora Blogs. I’m especially interested in South Africa. But no doubt there are people in Nigeria and Uganda and Jamaica and Guyana doing something interesting with the medium. But that’s the thing about the Net... not enough hours in the day to see all there is to see out there.

But it blew my mind to discover the breadth and depth of knowledge being transmitted in Blogs today. Black Bloggers especially are delivering a quality of political and cultural commentary that I can’t find the in traditional media. It’s a “happening” that I want to be part of.

rasx(): You were very thoughtful to save many of the professional print interviews you completed over the years and share them with us on the Internet. Were there any legal concerns from the original publishers here?

UBM: The articles I wrote when I was a journalist belong to the news organizations I wrote them for. But the interview tapes and my notes belong to me. Even before the Blogger boom, reporters would recycle some of their reporting to get a freelance piece out of it. I’ve got boxes full of old interviews—including people now dead, like Cab Calloway and Alex Haley and James Brown and John Johnson. That’s another reason I felt ready to Blog... I knew I wouldn’t run out of material for quite a while. Now it’s just about making time to transcribe them. That’s an arduous process.

rasx(): Looking at your record on the Internet Movie Database, clearly there is another writing project in you! Do you think that your Blog writing and screen writing can work together? To me, using a Blog to journal a behind-the-scenes, DVD-commentary track for a script is useful (even in spite of the tradition of competitive secrecy), what’s your view?

UBM: At this moment, I’m so burned out on trying to sell my own TV ideas that the Blogosphere is my place of refuge from that business. When I feel ready to get back into TV, there’s no way I could Blog at the pace I’m doing now. All that obsessive energy would be going into the script. So I don’t know what’ll happen if I ever get something cooking in TV again. For now, I’m just about one day at a time... brick by brick by brick. The future will work itself out.

The Undercover Black Man