Black White Man

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

Archive for the ‘In the News’

Confederate Monuments

Protesters Say Monument Stands For Racism, Bigotry

I spent a lot of time growing up in the South, and I’ve seen how pride in being a Southerner gets all wrapped up in pride about the Civil War.   I’m sensitive to it, and I can see the other side.   Especially since our country still grapples with the tension between states’ rights versus the power of the federal (or even international) government, the values of the Confederate uprising aren’t entirely something of the past.  Theres a mythos there that persists.

On the other hand…

Near my house here in northern Virginia there’s a plaque on a tree which memorializes that Yankee spies used to be hanged there.   This is directly on my way when I take my family out for our weekly Sunday brunch.    It’s both morbid and disturbing.   As much as I sympathize with the ideals of the Civil War extending past a battle over slavery — it was also about slavery.   As a “mulatto,” if I had lived at the time, I would certainly have been fighting on the side of the North, and I would also certainly have been ‘passing’ as white.   And who’s to say I wouldn’t have been discovered and strung up on that tree?   For that matter, whose to say that any of my white friends wouldn’t have been caught as spies and strung up on that tree.   Regardless of what the real underpinnings of that war were, regardless of what it means for cultural pride, there are appropriate ways to express your culture and commemorate history and there are inappropriate ways.   I’d like to think that the issue of confederate monuments would be a prime example of something that we could compromise on as a culture… but maybe I’m wrong.

A woman sets herself on fire to protest racism

The Internet is an amazing place, full of flash-in-the-pan memes which spread in an instant and are seemingly everywhere all at once.   For some reason, a story about a poor Congolese woman who set herself on fire in order to protest racism in her home country of Belgium broke out over the Internet late last year with the false impression that it was a recent event.   In fact, the tragedy occurred in 2001.


Omo Alagbede’s Blog (warning: very disturbing graphic pictures)

A poem to memorialize the event

The best coverage I could find of the event, plus some disturbing insight into how racists in Europe took up the event online

Some insight into what led to this tragedy (French language)

Regardless of when this happened, it’s one of the most tragic stories I’ve heard.   Not only did Belgian society systematically wear this woman and her family down with double-standards based on both gender and race, but when she finally did break down completely she was failed by the police, the news media and her own husband.     While in many ways overt racism is worse in Europe than it is here, I don’t think the pressure of daily racism is any less.   I could imagine any of the things that led up to the stress which brought her to the brink happening in this country — being denied her rightful sick leave, being told that she couldn’t run the car dealership that she bought because of bureaucratic problems with her license application.    When I try to imagine being an African woman with an strong accent, trying to get by in this country… I shudder to think.

AIDS statistics

When I talk about how raw statistics prove a cycle of racism, I’m talking about statistics like these: 

Now, of course the situation is a hell of lot more complicated than just chalking it up to racist.    There’s a popular conspiracy theory that AIDS was invented in order to perpetrate genocide in Black Africans.    But the truth, I fear, is a lot scarier.   An organized conspiracy can be dismantled.   People in power can be ousted.   Covert operations can be exposed under the light of journalism.    I think the truth in the case of AIDS, as is the case in a lot of racism, is a lot of people making similar assumptions or bad decisions in a completely unrelated and unorganized way.    And that, that is difficult to fight.

Some of the major contributing factors to the spread of AIDS in the Black community: poverty, widespread distrust in the Black community for government employees including public health officials, widespread incarceration of young Black men, homophobia in the Black community, and drug use … just to name a few.    But we have to apply Malcolm X’s doctrine of the root cause.   A doctor does not fight the symptoms, but the disease.   And in the same way, I think you can look at any single one of the contributing factors that I listed above and find at its root cause the history of slavery and apartheid in this country, and the continued systematic problems in our society, educational systems, and economy.    It’s these systems which perpetrate the poverty, distrust, incarceration, homophobia, and drug use, which then, in turn, create such a tragically fertile ground in which AIDS and other diseases can spread.

Comic strips: the same old struggle on a new page

Funny Business on the Funny Pages

As some of you who read this blog know, I’m a huge fan of the Boondocks, both the original comic strip, and the current cartoon.    So, I read this link about “Black” cartoonists with great interest.

Lying within this post about the representation of Black artists and subjects in a traditionally white media is a broader and more important principle — that Black artists writing about Black subjects need not be typified as “Black” art.    As much as I have mixed feelings about the Cosby show, it’s the perfect example of what I’m talking about: that a Black family can tell stories that appeal to everyone.   The idea that ‘hyphenated Americans’ can’t appeal to the ‘mainstream’ belies the seriously disturbing assumption that the definition of mainstream America includes being white!   If you can get around that for a minute, then you can see that a cartoon like “Curtis” is really not much different than “Dennis the Menace”.   Neither of them are particularly funny, but that has nothing to do with race.   And I would hope that the people who find the one funny would also find the other funny…

“The Race Card” vs. “Real Racism,” part two: starting at the beginning, a book called “The Race Card”

A couple of days ago, I was watching the Colbert Report and saw an interview with the author of a book called The Race Card, about how ‘race scandals’ are actually hurting civil rights in this country.  Something sat poorly with me about that argument, and I wasn’t really able to distinguish it until a couple of days ago.  Now, let me clear at the beginning before I really get into it, that I haven’t yet read Mr. Ford’s book.    I am basing most of my argument on the interview I saw with him, a couple of reviews I’ve read since then (mostly from lawyers), and the title + blurb.    I do think that a discussion about the marketing of the idea is useful however, and to that extent I think it’s fair for me to blog a bit about my impression of the book.    It may be that my impression is far off base, but I would then say that the marketing collateral around the book was off base.   I value the concept of the pre-review, but I want to be as fair as possible to Mr. Ford in being clear that that’s what this is.

Toward that end, I think that the book has an unfortunate title.   I think I’ve blogged about this previously, but I believe that the race card is a myth.    The title of the book seems to indicate that minorities ‘playing the race card’ hurt the struggle for equality by obscuring the real issues.   I would agree if Mr. Ford said that “sometimes race scandals only create straw men which can later be used against us”; but invoking the concept of a “race card,” to me, insinuates blaming the victim.    I don’t think that there’s an enormous problem with minorities getting advantage by decrying racism.   In my life I’ve never known it to happen, and if it does happen to some small extent, it must be overwhelmed by complaints against real racism being largely ignored, which myself have seen over and over again.

Yesterday I spoke briefly about how the concept of “real racism” diminishes certain crimes, and the concept of the “race card” minimizes the victims of those crimes.   Well, I think that the real problem with this book (or at least, the thesis as I understand it), is that by positing that people who “play the race” are in fact creating harmful background noise which minimizes efforts to combat “real racism,” what the author ends up doing is conflating both concepts into one and blaming the victim not only for the crime that victimized them… but for other crimes as well.

Needless to say that I’m going to have to read this book.   And I will, once I get a little more money.   I tried to resist commenting on the fact that Mr. Ford is a Black man, but I do have to point out the irony that Amazon is offering a discount if you order both his book and a book entitled “Sell Out”.

One things that separates the races is “news”

Brooklyn High School students get mobilized about the Jena 6

I’m a cynical guy, especially when it comes to matters of race.   I wasn’t at all surprised following the story of the Jena 6.   I wasn’t surprised that a bunch of dumb white high school kids thought that hanging a noose would be a kick.   I believe that a very hostile kind of racism is common among white people of all ages.  I wasn’t surprised that a bunch of dumb black kids thought that kicking their asses would be a good response.   Don’t get me wrong, those white kids deserved a good ass-kicking … but part of being Black in this country is realizing that shit isn’t fair and knowing when to kick an ass and when not to.   And it didn’t surprise me that the courts were completely unfair in throwing the book at the Black kids while slapping the wrists of the white kids.   I mean, that’s really my point about ass kicking.

What I was surprised about was that this was not at all a story for people outside the Black community.   My white friends, as a rule, have never heard of the Jena 6.    Which is shocking to me.    This article shows that high school students (of color) pretty much all knew what was going on at the time.    I doubt you’d find that level of knowledge among white high school students.

I really feel like we exist in separate countries sometimes.   Our views of current events and of history are often so divergent.   It makes me very sad; but it also makes me wonder how we as a culture, disseminate this information without the mainline news media to back us up?   I really don’t remember where I first heard about the Jena6 — once I had heard it was going down, I actively followed it; but I don’t remember it ever being covered in the main news media.    How does Black news and history get communicated?   Is it all word-of-mouth?  Or is it that we are keeping a better eye on the non-front page stuff?   Or some combination of the two?

Perspective on Mumia

I live in a bubble, I really do. And occasionally I get shocked out of this bubble and I’m forced to look at the world around me. Both elections for G.W. Bush were like that for me: I only know *one* person who voted for the man, and yet I also know that half the country voted for him. Ergo, at least half the country is completely outside of my social circle.

Well, when I saw this posting:

… it was a similar moment for me. In the things I read, the music I listen to, the friends I talk with, there is no doubt about Mumia’s case. When I first read that someone was fighting for the equal representation of ideas, I assumed that meant allowing people who think he *should* be in jail a chance to talk. When I realized that they were talking about getting a voice for people who think that he should be free, it took a long time for me to wrap my mind around it. I had really thought that there were two types of people: people who supported his freedom, and people who didn’t know that much about it. I clearly have to get out more.

Clinton Surrogate Makes Creepy Reference To JFK Assassination – Politics on The Huffington Post

Clinton Surrogate Makes Creepy Reference To JFK Assassination – Politics on The Huffington Post

In light of the recent accusations against Bill Clinton for “playing the race card”, I think that this story about one of Clinton’s aids is a little more relevant than it was when it posted.

But really… the interesting thing to me about this story is that I think more people should be talking about the chances of assassination.    One of the things I dislike about race relations in this country is that the fear of being called a racist stifles important and relevant conversation.   And I do think that a conversation about whether Obama is seriously risking his life is both important and relevant.

I don’t think I’m saying that he shouldn’t run.    I think I’m saying that we should all be prepared for what will happen in this country if he’s elected and his presidency is … short.    No doubt it was callous and extremely cold-hearted for this aide to be so flip on the subject, but he’s the only guy I’ve seen in the media who’se talking about this!

“Tolerance Fatigue”

Obama’s Victory Speach – Iowa Caucus

For those of you who may have missed it:

Good speech. He yet again managed to move me emotionally without saying anything in particular. But, the more I think about it, the more I think that that may actually be the job of a president. The president doesn’t actually do much. He sets tone. He makes speaches. He’s a leader. But the people getting the job done are in the capital building. So, maybe an Obama is just what we need.

Plus I think it’ll do wonders for the confidence of both African Americans and Black Africans.

Is it just me, or is Obama consciously trying to emulate the Revered Dr. Martin Luther King in his vibrato intonation of “they SAID…”?