My blackness has been called into question many times. Or even constantly. Back in the day — middle school and high school in particular — I was called nigger, coon, jigaboo, pickeninny in the hallways in school and sometimes on the street. And when I went back to my neighborhood I was called an Oreo.
It’s very possible that this is the reason that I don’t identify strongly with groups or organizations. It would explain a few things. Like why I think black people need to get over our/themselves.
Whose Slavery is It?
Por ejemplo, some of the Occupy Wall Streeters have held up signs saying that we, as a society, are sick of being slaves of a corporate dominated oligarchy. Subsequently, I heard a radio show host complain about privileged young white kids co-opting “slavery”. You know, like, they can’t understand what slavery really means.
There are black people who want to own the legacy of slavery?? The same way some — even a lot — of black people want to own the word “nigger”. I’ve been reading about that kind of a thing a lot in various ethnic and orientation groups. No one can use the word “nigger” or any variation except for black people? But black people can use it in the most derogatory ways possible against each other and that’s okay? Or even as a mindless filler or rhyme shim? It’s our word?
I want to own the word “nigger” for my own private use the way I’d want to be the only person who can legally declare himself bankrupt.
I am perplexed.
First of all, black people weren’t the first people to be enslaved on a massive scale. It used to be a de facto state of affairs. You go to war, you keep the people you didn’t kill and made them your servants/slaves. Sometimes it was more of an indentured servitude thing, I guess. Other times it was brutal and deadly. Sometimes it was unthinkable exploitation, sexual and otherwise. Sometimes it was an arrangement of skilled labor like a contract. Sometimes it was a holocaust.
The American form was particularly brutal and among the worst enduring episodes, I think, especially considering the period of history and the supposedly enlightened Capitalist Democracy. Okay, Democratic Republic. I know. Constitutional Representative Democratic Republic. Whatever.
I’m not denying any of the ongoing effects of a people being oppressed, suppressed, repressed and victimized. There are obvious and major ramifications: psychological, economic, spiritual, philosophical, legal. I’ve written about this stuff before so I won’t here.
Whose Nigger is It?
I was at a venue where rap music was being played. I just heard the word “nigger” more times than I could count. And no white people were involved.
I’m not going all Uncle Ruckus on you. I firmly believe that those who don’t know their past are doomed to repeat it. But we consider it important to pass on a legacy of outrage against America and white people.
Are we raising achievers or are we creating victims?
The Pacifica radio network, for example, is a great resource. It really is. Pacifica and what not. I may complain about it sometimes or disagree with things I hear, but it’s the same way you’d complain about an uncle with strong opinions. And that’s an apt comparison because the average age of listeners, from what I understand, is up there. A lot of the hosts come out of the Civil Rights Era or even the more militant approach from the late 60’s and early 70’s and they’re still holding it down. Impressive. Important voices to have around.
But every time there’s a pledge drive they play speeches and shows that are basically about how blatant racism was. No duh!
A young white friend said to me not too long ago, “What’s the point of teaching and talking about all of that if all it does is make people mad and depressed?”
He has a black friend who was outgoing and relatively carefree. Until they had classes where the legacy of racism was discussed. (I remember going through a Public Enemy phase in high school which kind of freaked out my white friends a little bit.) After that his black friend had a chip on his shoulder. And shame.
It’s a good point. What are we teaching and why? And how?
Are we empowering black kids with our history? Or are we demoralizing them and planting seeds of spite and resentment in their impressionable little minds and hearts?
Are kids — black kids in particular — learning to work hard and learn hard to achieve. To create a social backbone and begin or continue the process of creating wealth? Or are they learning to value trendy material things and to take what you want because you can?
Context is King
Whenever cultural(?) shortcomings are acknowledged by and about the black community (or communities), the question of context comes up.
How dare you judge without first acknowledging the racist, white supremacist, patriarchal system? It’s a worthy diversion or exercise, but NOT if it ends there. Because if that’s a conversation killer then I say, “Racist, white supremacist, patriarchal system? So what.”
You know what I mean?
“These flash mobs are out of control. What are these kids doing? Where are the parents? This has got to stop.”
“See. There they go again. Talking down to black people. A curfew/harsh punishment/new law? Racists. This whole system is racist.”
Drugs, AIDS, HIV, test scores or any other statistically unfortunate phenomena that affects black people in particular. I don’t mean to sound callous or completely detached. I’m only partially detached, to be honest with you. I care about these things.
What do I know?
Not much. All opinions here. Take ’em for what they’re worth or not worth.
I do know that “The System” is not going to solve these issues. The “racist patriarchal” system is not going to rush in and save the day. We already know that — whatever we think of the powers that be — our socio-economic-political environment is toxic. That’s cynical, I know, but it’s a given. I’m not arguing with that. And we should try to change it, influence it, improve it, participate in order to get a foothold.
There are also many non-profits and street level organizations doing their part. They’re doing their share and more.
It’s time to let go of bickering over semantics. It’s time to stop being shocked every time someone says something mildly ignorant or racist. Or even overtly racist. We are just shocked — shocked, I say — that someone would possibly say something ignorant and hurtful.
It’s time to move on. “Wow! That was racist. He just assumes that all black people grew up on food stamps in a single parent home. Wow. Logical fallacies, anyone? Now let’s see that math homework.”
When I was a we’en, I had black kids throw rocks at me because I was nerdy. I had white kids tell me that everything they liked about me was inherently white — intelligence, affability, articulate, uh, -ness, etc. I was a “good one” to them.
Maybe I’m still confused because sometimes I think my views about race are alienating. I’m glad to read comments that let me know I’m not alone, though. Oh. Context.
Speaking of Context
Black Voices on Facebook — I don’t remember subscribing to that page — had some thought provoking articles (and comments, of course) today. That’s what got this mental ball rolling for me.
Some Dutch Newspaper thought it was okay to refer to Rihanna as a “nigga bitch”. Kind of tongue in cheek considering that she referred to her inner nigga coming out during an altercation in a previous tweet. There were some other interesting ones, too. Terence Howard’s former wife was apparently a racist who would call him “monkey” and “nigger”. Haha. I laugh because that raises sooooo many questions.
My brain is all over the place tonight so I don’t know if this is cohesive. I’ll just say one last thing.
It’s like when the Church, Catholic or otherwise, gets all bent out of shape every time someone says/creates or does something overtly and intentionally offensive about Jesus. They’re counting on you to make a big stink about it in public so that they get more attention/hits/money/ads/play time/air time.
It makes me glad to read comments that are saying, let’s stop being reactionary. We’re past that. Let’s move on and get working being a better us.