Everybody knows this one – it’s easy.  YOWSAH MANAGEMENT is merely a phrase that uses an eager affirmation from the earlier days of the American South. 


Ben Bernie

YOWSAH can imply an eager, enthusiastic endorsement of another’s suggestion.  YOWSAH was “reformulated” from the African-American culture by Ben Bernie in the 1920’s, to mean, in hep jazz language, that something was excellent.

Apparently, in original African-American culture, YOWSAH was a sardonic expression, and that is what piques my interest.  When a White person would tell a Black person what to do, it was common to show an enthusiastic and mindless interest in performing the task.  It seems that every oppressed culture formulates a language for responding to the oppressing authorities – a language that is perceptibly phony within the subculture, but serves to deter violence and victimization.  (Sometimes.)

When an oppressed class is under serious and constant threat, they construct the sometimes life-saving defense of mimicking a cartoon personality.  For American Blacks, the life-saving mythos was that of the harmless, simple-minded Darky.  We owe some degree of thanks to Lincoln Perry for preserving this mythos on film.  He was Stepin Fetchit.

Many Black entertainers and audiences cringed at Perry’s depiction on the silent screen.  It perpetuated the shell of YOWSAH social characterization of Blacks in 20th Century America.  But when a subculture is under such a degree of immediate threat and vulnerability, it is sensible to create a false shell of inferiority, so as to gain some peace.  As American Blacks continued to gather wealth and power, they finally developed enough authority to cast off the YOWSAH personality, the Jim Crow that is now, thankfully, of museum fame.  The shame heaped upon the character of Fetchit is only fairly new – it is the revolutionary change from a pretense of inferiority, to the declaration of equality.  Declaration, it does not equal achievement of equality – but the declaration is now not as certainly suicidal as it was twenty years previously.

Like the Eastern European Jews savaged by the pogroms, like many other subject peoples, the fictive, inoffensive culture might protect the people from further attacks, that would ensue if genuine resentment and anger were shown, as finally happened in the 1950’s and 1960’s, from Malcolm and Elijah Muhammad and other Angry Negroes who were used again as a foil to hide from the fact that just about every American who was Black, was pissed off about injustice.

The legends of Black laziness and dishonesty were promulgated to make it seem to the White majority that a whole people as a character were blemished, rather than sometimes deliberately acting seditiously, in a manner of quiet resistance.  As for laziness, think of how many courthouses in how many counties were built by people who could not rely on achieving justice therein, and you might gain an inkling of what laziness in the South meant.


The American corporation has given rise to the same survival technique that every beleaguered population seems to invent from anew.  The Corporate people come in scowling, holding performance charts, threatening to give this lazy branch or clinic a righteous lickin’ for poor performance.  The Corporate people, of course, are fools.  They do not recognize it, but the clinical staff does; much the same as the blustering absentee landlord of the 19th century arrived in Darktown yelling about the poor yield from the sharecroppers.  They are met with wide-eyed silence from the majority, and sho ’nuff apologies from the local management house-servants, a mock seriousness often enhanced by feigned punishment of the staff in front of Corporate.  I believe in you, the clinic manager says, but look at the trash we’s got to work with.

And then Corporate drives off – they always have an afternoon flight out, and it’s best to keep them away from anything important until the deadline strikes, and they dash to their rented Beemers for the haul to the Airport.

Yowsah, Boss!  Sho ’nuff, and the idiots have departed, the roving bandits from afar who come in shrieking about things they don’t understand, so as to afford nice shoes and silk suits.

That, it’s YOWSAH MANAGEMENT, in a nutshell.  It’s why American corporations are little more efficient than the good old days of the cotton plantations.