Black White Man

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

Archive for the ‘Racism’

What is the deal with people thinking that a noose is not racist?? 

When I was in college in Boston there was an incident of a police officer leaving a noose over the parking space of another officer.    I was shocked by how little press it got.     Recently there was the Jena 6 incident.    And as I troll the Internet, I’m seeing more and more incidents of people leaving nooses out, and then being shocked when it’s taken seriously.

Really, America?    Do you not understand that gravity of that symbol?    In a country that’s so sensitive around the images of terrorism, I find the lack of sympathy around what are symbols of a older terror tactic to be staggering.

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…

What kind of a card is race?

During the whole tear that I took a few weeks ago on the concepts of “real racism” and the “race card,” there was one link that I was thinking of and trying to find and trying to remember, so I could quote it.    Well, better late than never I suppose, but I finally found it, here:

I think that my overall emphasis in that thread (beyond rambling) was that a lot of America is locked into an endless cycle of, “there’s racism” “no there isn’t” “yes there is” “no there isn’t”, and that the best way to deal with a situation like that is to take a step back and try to show your work by bringing up real statistics (not just anecdotes).    I think that Randall does an excellent job of citing some of the relevant statistics that there’s a real situation going on here.

My favorite line, and the one that I was trying to remember:

This is the conclusion of Tim Wise in an article called “What Kind of Card is Race?” (To view this, go to his web site: The reality, he says, is that the race card is “not much of a card to play,” sort of like playing the two of diamonds.

That’s rhetorical gold.   For now when someone mentions “the race card” I am going to point out that the race card is not much of a card to play, sort of like the two of diamonds.

Surprise surprise: Racism is stressful

I didn’t need a Harvard professor to tell me this, but I suppose that some people do, and I’ll just accept that and move on.     Many have mocked the concept of Black rage, and so forth, but I wouldn’t.    Now what I want to see is studies being done on the stress of being poor, and maybe some cross-referencing.

“The Race Card” vs. “Real Racism,” part eight: Eric Stoller on ‘real racism’

As I wind down this very long thread (and thanks to everyone who’s been along for the ride with me), I definitely want to refer to Eric Stoller’s awesome post from the end of the last year on a similar topic — the topic of “real racism”.   He’s talking specifically against the idea that the occasional blackface on Halloween, or the occasional noose left in your parking space, isn’t really racism.  Of course it’s not comparable to slavery, apartheid or lynching… but it’s still racism nonetheless.

“The Race Card” vs. “Real Racism”, part seven: Allowing the Majority to Define the Crime

The heart of the issue around the concept that some racism is “real racism” and that we minorities should therefore not complain about lesser cases is that it allows the majority to define the crime.  Of course, this is the exact same thing that the majority accuses us of, that the very concept of “racism” and “sexism” allows the victim to define the crime, and therefore opens up avenues whereby someone can abuse the system.   But my point is that isn’t allowing the alleged perpetrator to define the crime worse?   If we could approach the situation with a fresh mind, wouldn’t we prefer to err on the side of the potential victim?   First of all, the perpetrator can perpetrate by mistake (and I think this often happens).   One person can be honestly victimized, while the other is oblivious.   In this case, we clearly can’t let the perpetrators ignorance of the crime define it!   Secondly, even if the perpetrator knows full well the damage he is causing, if we define a real crime as not being so, there’s very little that the perpetrator can do to betray himself later on.

“The Race Card” vs. “Real Racism,” part four: fighting straw men

I think my deepest problem with the “race card” argument is that most of the time it’s use depends heavily on hypothetical straw men.  First of all, it posits a world where the allegations of racism hold more weight than they actually do in the world we all live in.   Ironically, the very concept of a “race card” makes allegations of racism much more difficult to bring up.  Most organizations are particularly hostile to the very idea of bringing up racism as an accusation, and so very rarely does it ever help.   And we know this.   I think that most minorities (myself included) would be hesitant to bring up legitimate concerns, not to mention schemes to further some agenda we might have.   Simply put, crying “racism” rarely helps — so the “race card” doesn’t help… and therefore doesn’t exist.   People who argue along the lines of the “race card” bring up hypothetical situations of people getting reprimanded at work, or sued, or what-have-you.    But, very rarely do they bring up actual cases.   I’ve never heard a real case in an argument.   It’s simply too hard to effectively argue racism.   It’s far more likely that a real issue will be ignored than a fabricated issue be taken up as a real cause.

Now, my argument here is tricky, because people who believe in the “race card” and “real racism” are basically accusing naysayers like myself of constructing straw men.   In other words, it may boil down to whether you and believe that specific incidents amount to real problems or someone crying wolf.    First of all, I’m mostly talking about people who are arguing from a point of using no real evidence whatsoever.   Lots of arguments on this topic that I’ve been in involve only hypothetical situations: and to people who want to argue a hypothetical, I challenge you to bring up real cases.    I’m also not close-minded to the idea that some few people do take advantage (just because I’ve never known it to happen doesn’t mean it never does…) — but I would maintain that the weight of statistics that most people would agree on is in my favor.   Looking at it objectively, if the “race card” was on average a successful card to play in court or in the workplace, wouldn’t there be fewer minorities in our penal system and more in the middle and upper echelons of our workforce? – BETWEEN THE LINES: The Pew Study — Black Pathology or The Legitimization of Mainstream Colorblindness? – BETWEEN THE LINES: The Pew Study — Black Pathology or The Legitimization of Mainstream Colorblindness?

More and more I’m encountering the argument that Black people are responsible for the descrepancies in America today, because things have been equal since the civil rights movement, and we as a culture should have been able to pull ourselves up out of poverty by now. It’s disturbing enough that a large majority of white people feel this way, but even more disturbing is that a growing number of Black people feel that way. In the link above, Dr Samad cites a recent survey covering this topic and argues persuasively against it, more eloquently than I ever could.

The one addendum I would make to the Doctor’s essay is that I believe that there a popular philosophy in the Black community (posited by the likes of Malcolm X and WEB DuBois) that we should take responsibility for our own development despite the realities of racism. I haven’t seen the actual survey that the Doctor cites, but I suspect that it may collapse that philosophy, with the philosophy that Black people are responsible for their own plight because racism is a thing of the past. To me, these two concepts are entirely different, although they might both answer “yes” to the question of whether Black people are responsible for their own situation.