Black White Man

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

Archive for February, 2012

“Everything is about Racism”[_id]=31431

I’ve always had a great affinity for South Africa and its history. I feel that its similar to America in many ways. But it’s also different in many ways. Sometimes its too tempting to draw parallels.

Since I don’t know that much about South Africa, I will give Mr. Manyi the benefit of the doubt and assume he is right that everything in South Africa is ultimately seen through the filter of racism.

Is that true of the United States? I often feel that way. But, I worry that I am biased by my experiences — that I’ve been hurt too many times, and I’ve become cynical. To a man with a hammer, as they say, everything looks like a nail.

President Obama’s election was world-altering for me, and not just for the ways that people usually articulate. On top of being moved that we had finally elected a Black man as president, I was also humbled by my lack of faith in us as a culture. I had expressed early on that we weren’t ready for a Black president, and that if we did elect one, he wouldn’t have a weird name. I had also expressed that if he were elected, he’d be assassinated in short time. I didn’t take my son to the rally here in Chicago after he won, because I was worried about bombs. I was too obsessed with racism in this country to see what was possible. And so now, I often doubt myself when it comes to seeing racism everywhere. It certainly still exists, but maybe it’s not as universal as we sometimes make it out to be.

More thoughts on Key & Peele, and darker skinned multi-racial folk.

So, I’ve been watching the new sketch comedy show “Key & Peele”. It’s great. Very entertaining. A recurring theme is that both comedians are multiracial. I find myself shocked by how surprised I am. I am not at all surprised that either of them is multiracial. I am very shocked by how much they identify as multiracial, rather than Black.

I think deep down inside I consider myself Black more than multiracial. I think that Black Americans are by their very nature mixed — none of us are “pure” Africans. So, I’m mixed more recently than others. But, I think of myself as basically being the same tribe.

But, my skin is undeniably white. So, I often describe myself as multiracial because I have to explain to people where my “Blackness” comes from. But, here you’ve got two guys who look Black, and so, in my ignorant mind at least, don’t have explain themselves to anyone. So, it boggles me a little bit that they do, anyway.

When I think about it a little more deeply, though, it makes more sense. Part of the reason that I think of myself as Black, and spend so much time explaining my background to people, is that my mom is Black, and I can’t help but think of myself as being part of what she is. She’s my mom. I imagine that the same might be true of darker skinned multiracial folk as well. Both Key & Peele have white moms. They might simply have a deep drive, as I do, to identify with the tribe their mothers come from. And that makes sense.

Key & Peele

I’ve always been a fan of sketch comedy, all the way back to watching “Kids in the Hall” and “The State” as a kid. I was a huge fan of “Mad TV” when it was on. So, I was super-excited about “Key & Peele”. I’ve been looking forward to the first episode for months.

It was funny as hell. Very funny, good stuff. But, the real treat for me was that they opened with jokes about them both being multiracial. I had no idea. I assumed they were both Black. It was nice to hear some jokes about my situation.

And it got me to thinking… I spend a lot of time musing about people like me who are multiracial but look white. Despite some of my best friends being multiracial and having darker skin, I haven’t spent a lot of time really thinking about that as a reality. How that feels, and how it’s different from my experience. If anyone visiting this page wants to comment, I’d love to hear your perspective.

Trying hard not to be in defense of Newt and Santorum

During this heated Republican Primary campaign, both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have gotten in trouble talking about jobs, welfare and the Black community. I definitely think that both of them are guilty of what in some circles is called “race baiting” — talking in a kind of coded language designed to appeal to the racist elements of the Republic base. But, I also think that we Black liberal types need to be careful when criticizing them, that we don’t end up speaking out of both sides of our mouths.

Many Black intellectual luminaries, from Bill Cosby to Malcolm X himself, have talked about the need to create jobs in the Black community, to escape from the cycle of poverty. And specifically, many have talked about how we need to create these opportunities for ourselves, rather than looking for hand outs from the Establishment. The theory goes–and I see a lot of value in this line of thought–that the Establishment is only going to give enough to bring the poor up a little bit, never enough to bring the poor up all the way.

We also need to be careful of hypocrisy when we jump to the conclusion that the likes of Newt and Santorum are assuming that all Black people are poor. While it’s true that we have a thriving Black Middle Class, plenty of Black people at Harvard, and a Black president; it’s also true that Black people are over-represented among the poor. Not all Black people are poor, and not all poor people are Black. But, there’s certainly a serious problem of poverty in the Black community.

Look at it this way: it may seem racist for conservatives to suggest that Black people are poor because they are lazy. But, they often suggest that poor people of every race are poor because they are lazy. So, perhaps it’s not as racist, per se, as it seems. Similarly, while it may seem racist for Mr. Gingrich to offer to speak at the NAACP on the topic of job creation as a preferable to welfare, he and conservatives like him speak on that topic in lots of places. At least he was offering to open a dialogue with the NAACP.

I actually wish that the NAACP had taken him up on it. I think he was bluffing, personally.