Black White Man

My mother is black, and my father is white. I walk among you.

Archive for December, 2007


What we can learn from Paris

A very interesting post about racism in Europe, here:
http://ashalynslifeandtimes.blogspot.com/2007/11/la-belle-city-du-paris.html

I’ve often had this kind of argument with foreigners from all over the world (from France to Japan):
Foreigner: “Wow, you Americans have a lot of racism.”
Me: “Yeah, we sure do. But then, you guys don’t treat your [Arab, Roma, Palestinian, Korean, etc.] population very well, do you?”
Foreigner: “Oh, that’s different. You don’t know what *those people* are like.”

I’ve found that, for the most part, racism is a problem all over the world. In some places it’s worse, for sure. Not many places have the history of segregation, slavery, concentration camps, and genocide that the US has — but then again, more places do than you might predict. Certainly, Americans ought to be spending more attention to the race situation going on right in France, for two reasons: firstly because there are too many parallels to the plight of minorities in our major cities, and secondly because Sarkozy is so comfy with our President. If we’re going to be better friends with France, our electorate oughta understand it on a level deeper than “they’re cowards because they got their asses kicked in WII ha ha ha”.

Mulatto Queen

Here’s something a little lighter for this upcoming holiday season:

http://elegantdiva.blogspot.com/2007/12/queen-charlotte-descended-from-warlike.html

As a biracial person I often have a hard time envisioning history the way it seems most people do. I can’t easily imagine myself even existing in previous eras — but when I come across biracial people in history, like this fine lady or the great Russian poet Pushkin, it helps me to contextualize that multi-racial relationships and therefore multiracial people are nothing new.

“Keeping it Real” from the perspective of someone who grew up outside the ‘hood.

An interesting article at ESPN about the quest for street cred, in particular as a retrospective on 2007. From T.I. to Vick, this article explores how affluent Black Men are destroying themselves in this quest to retain their own ideas of Blackness.

This is something I’ve struggled with a lot over my life, and in particular since launching this blog. I wasn’t raised in the ‘hood. I was born in the ‘hood, and my earliest memories are from there, but most of my formative years were spent either in wealthy white communities, in truly impoverished areas around the world (Haiti, Seirra Leone, the Navajo reservation). I don’t think that this makes me any less of an African-American. But it does mean that any attempt on my part to rep the hood would be completely inappropriate. If I’m really going to keep it real, I have to be real to my experience, which is more about private school than public, more Hootie and the Blowfish than Snoop Dogg, more Jeffersons than Sanford and Son.

That being said, I have family in Watts, family on welfare, family doing life for trumped up federal murder charges. I’m not completely unfamiliar with how the other half lives. I understand all too well that it’s hard, and that people who didn’t grow up in it are often too quick to make value judgements without trying to understand. I’m not about to go so far as Bill Cosby et al, and blame the Black Man entirely for the predicament he finds himself in.

What I will say, from my perspective as in insider/outsider, is that the way that _rich celebrities_ often carry themselves is totally out of control. It’s one thing to be struggle: to be facing low incomes and hard choices, to be a product of failing schools, to be caught up in the gang culture that permeates most of our metropolis’. It’s one thing to be young and poor. It’s something completely different to be a wealthy and famous celebrity.

Now, I definitely think that young, suddenly wealthy people are going to be prone to foolishness. And I don’t think that Black Men have a patent on this by a long shot. You’ve got Richard Pryor, but you’ve also got Willie Nelson. You’ve got T.I. and Vick, but you’ve also got Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears. And there are plenty of popular, rich, Black celebrities that stay out of trouble. So, I don’t think that the issue here is really the celebrities in and of themselves. I think the problem is the way our community approaches these scandals. Rather than denouncing or ridiculing these Black Men, we all too often glorify them. Because they’re “keeping it real”. But what is “real” for a young Black man struggling in one of our urban high schools is a very very different animal than what is “real” for a young celebrity. And I think that the T.I.s and Vicks of the world have to face up to the same kind of analysis that we dish out (probably too harshly) to their white counterparts. They are young, spoilt, and out of control; they need help, rehab, and often criminal punishment. They are not a reflection of “us,” but a perversion, a kind of unflattering caricature — and when _we_ embrace it as our own, we’re doing just as much damage as the shuck-and-jive artists did to our collective image back in the day.

What to do with racist politicians…

Yet another political email scandal.

The thing that I find interesting about this article isn’t the exposure of racism, which I perhaps cynically assume is ubiquitous anyway. The thing I find interesting is the suggestion that having a racist elected official resign may not be the best way to deal with him. I’m not thoroughly convinced about this, but I do think there are good arguments for keeping politicians in place after a scandal.

— Capital Hill is like some horrible hydra. There are so many old, rich white men. Hundreds if not thousands of potential future politicians graduate from ivy league schools every year. If a politician resigns because he’s been exposed as a racist, some other racist politician will just get elected in his stead.

— The politician who has been in a scandal has a strong motivation to reverse his behavior. He’s atonement to perform, a reputation to live down, and maybe, just maybe, he’s learned a lesson and had a guilty conscience to deal with.

— More broadly then politics, I think that we, as a culture, focus too much on flipping out when someone slips. The whole idea of a “scandal” over racism predicates that racism is rare. If it’s common, then the appropriate solution is to get it out into the open and deal with it … to heal. The correct response isn’t exile and ostracism, because then people just bottle up their racism and keep it hidden… you know, like in private emails.

Should Black women vote for Obama, because he is Black, or for Clinton, because she is a woman?

The answer is, “neither.” If we, as a nation, are going to get past race and gender as way of judging people, then we, as a Black community and (I presume, being a man) as feminists, have to get past it as well. And I think that, for the most part, Black women understand this a lot better than the white media do. They keep asking leading questions, like the one above, instead of simply asking, “Who are black women going to vote for, and why?”

Take this article, from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, as representative of hundreds of articles I’ve read, glanced at, or seen the headlines for and flipped the page in the last six months. The reporter continually focuses on race and gender, and many of the “experts” interviewed as well. But the people being interviewed bring up a diversity of reasons far beyond race and gender:

They admire [Clinton’s] intellect and political acumen.

They like [Obama’s] intelligence and willingness to work across racial and party lines.

Vivian Creighton Bishop, wife of U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), said she has admired Clinton for years.
“Senator Clinton is a brilliant woman,” Bishop said. “She’s very stately. She’s independent and strong.”

“I think he’s smart. I think he’s capable. I like what I’m hearing from him,” [Henrietta] Antoinin said.

Patricia Wilson-Smith [of blackwomenforobama.org], a 42-year-old information technology specialist who lives in Lawrenceville, contends that Obama would be the best leader because he reaches out to all Americans. She argues that Clinton is too divisive and too much of a Washington insider.

Alston, the president of the Spelman chapter of the Young Democrats of America, explained that she supports Clinton because of her strong stance on health care reform and women’s rights.

Now, granted, I just pulled out all of the quotes that didn’t have to do with race, and there were several — but my point is that the average Black woman has a *lot* more to go in making her decision than simply deciding whether she’s a woman first of Black first.

The whole suggestion that someone should have to choose between their race and gender is absurd. Do people not read Alice Walker anymore? You can’t extricate the one from the other, and you can’t directly compare them. For example, the expert cited asks whether Black women feel more oppressed as a Black person or as a woman. Well, again, I’m not a women, but I would argue that the discrimination that Black women feel as women and the discrimination they feel as Black people is entirely different and not easily compared. Are you talking about catching a cab in New York, or respect in a conversation about football? Are you talking about fear of being lynched or raped? A lot of it is really apples and oranges. And then there’s the stuff that’s specific for Black women. The sum is larger and different than the parts.

Anyway, I’m on a bit of a tear here. My point is really that the media is not only reducing the candidates to their race and gender here, but also the constituency. As a Black community, we’ve gotta prove that our level of discourse is a lot higher than they think it is. We know it is. But they don’t.

The death of race?

As a light-skinned/ mixed-race/ multi-racial/ what-ever-you-want-to-call-it Black man, I am sick sick sick of people using the growing number of multi-racial people to herald the “end of race”. “We’re all becoming one race” people cry. As if. I wish.

Despite a growing number of multiracial people and a growing number of middle- and upper-class Black people, please, take a step back people and look at the larger picture. How can you say that race no longer exists when you look at corporate boardrooms and prison yards? How can you say that race no longer exists after Hurricane Katrina, the Jena 6, and the current public discourse over immigration? It’s a ridiculous assertion.

A variation of this assertion is that the black-white divide isn’t relevant anymore, having been supplanted by a new racism against (insert arab, hispanic, or some other group here). My fellow reverse-oreo brother over at halfricanrevolution had an excellent rant against this line of thinking here.