Black White Man

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

The sad state of internalized racism in Africa

We here in the States often talk about internalized racism in our (the African-American) community. We talk about Black men dating White women. We talk about the use of the n-word. We talk about Black on Black violence, and the need for support within the community for Black owned businesses. All of these are important conversations.

But, I think, our community suffers from the same kind of egocentrism, isolationism and, in some cases, xenophobia that American culture at large generally suffers from. I think we don’t know enough about modern Africa. And, sadly, a lot of understanding about the modern state of Africa has to do intense internalized racism.

White people are a minority in Africa. And they are often immigrants, those who are wealthy enough in their own country to travel to Africa for business, charity, or tourism. So the perception equating White people with power and privilege is even more strongly felt. When I lived in Africa I would often hear people compliment each other on light skin (“Comment il est si claire!”). I once heard a policeman doing a routine search of a public bus at a highway checkpoint warn the passengers that although his skin was dark, he “thought like a white man”, that is to say, he was smart. At one point a friend of mine had a friend who had moved to America come back to visit, and everyone remarked about how he had lightened while there — as if living in rich, White country literally rubbed off on him. As a very light-skinned man with ancestors from the area (in fact, more ancestors from that area than from any other in the world), it made me very sad.

Most of it, like many things, has nothing to do America. But some of it, like many things, does. I think a piece of it is that everywhere around the world they consume huge amounts of American media. Even out in the bush near where I lived, where people don’t have electricity and running water, they would come together in the local church to watch DVDs of movies like Die Hard and Rapid Fire. They had Manimal and Columbo on TV. And through American media they absorb our messed up ideas about what makes women (and men) beautiful, smart and successful. And part of that, unfortunately, tends to be having lighter skin.

My well intentioned father-in-law

My father in law often recommends shows to me. I’ve noticed a trend when he recommends stuff from when he was a kid. First it was Charlie Chan mysteries. More recently, it was Gunga Din. Both outdated attempts to make minorities look heroic, which are now kind of painful to watch because of the extremely accentuated stereotypes. Charlie Chan is a smart guy, and a great detective. But that slanty-eyed make-up and the crazy thick (and not at all accurate) Chinese accent! Gunga Din is a loyal and brave. But, Kipling is not the best poet to quote from regarding race equality (cf. “White Man’s Burden”). And, while Gunga Din himself is good, most of his country men are portrayed as fanatical and bizarre cultists. All in all, I feel better off for having watched these, but I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it. It was more cringe-worthy than it was entertaining.

LMFAO, a band of black white men

The two guys from LMFAO are both mixed like me, as is obvious if you listen to their lyrics:

Where the drank? I gots to know
Tight jeans, tattoo, cause I’m rock and roll
Half-black, half-white: dominoExplain
Game the money out the door

The two members of the band are actually related, and they are both related to the venerable Berry Gordy, founder of Motown, and perhaps more importantly responsible for maybe the best movie ever, “Bruce Leroy: the Last Dragon”. The two guys in LMFAO go by the names “Redfoo” and “SkyBlue”. Berry Gordy is Redfoo’s father and SkyBlue’s grandfather.

My family is quite complicated, so I sympathize with the complexity of what I’m about to explain. So, Redfoo’s father is Skyblue’s Grandfather, but by different women. Redfoo’s mother is a lady named Nancy Leiviska. SkyBlue’s grandmother is Berry Gordy’s first wife, Thelma Coleman. Berry Gordy and Thelma Coleman had a son named Berry Gordy IV, who married Valerie Robeson, SkyBlue’s mother. Nancy Leiviska and Valerie Robeson are both White. I assume that Thelma Coleman is Black. So, even though SkyBlue and Redfoo are in different generations, they both have a Black father and a White mother.

Why are so many multi-racial folk so sexy?!

I’m beginning to feel a little cheated here. I may have known this already somewhere in my head, but I just found out that Alicia Keys has one Black and one White parent. Her, Halle Berry, Vin Deisel, Slash, Barack Obama, Soledad O’Brian, Rashida Jones… am I the only Black White person who isn’t drop dead amazingly hot? How did all these folks end up totally smoking, and I’m a short, gangly hairy hobbit-looking dude? Sheesh.

Racist asshole rants about Obama pre-empting football, and I am not suprised

“Take that nigger off the TV we wanna watch football” (via Deadspin)

I was surprised to see this news article that some idiot was spewing racial epithets on Twitter, not because I’m surprised by racism on Twitter, but that I’m surprised it was a news article. I’ve always kind of assumed that this sort of thing goes on on Twitter (and the rest of the Internet) all the time, all day every day. To me, this headline seemed like a story about a man getting in an accident on his way to work, or a co-worker hitting reply-all by mistake and embarassing herself. Perhaps they are interesting stories in themselves, but not at all unusual enough to be considered newsworthy.

But, is it possible I’m wrong about the amount of vitriol that gets spewed at the president? Maybe it’s more eccentric than I give it credit for. I’ve been known to over-predict racism (I didn’t think Obama had a chance to win the presidency, for example). So, sometimes I have to check my assumptions. I’d like to think that the Internet is a less racist place than I give it credit for — but I doubt it. Maybe this is news because the guy is ostensibly a member of a major college football team?

Rise of the Black Nerd (via CNN)

I’m the very proud son of a Black scientist. My older sister is a Black filmographer. And, I’m a Black computer professional, not to mention a huge fan of comics books, video games and Dungeons & Dragons. I’ve heard a lot of talk the last couple of years about the so-called Black Nerd. I love it. I don’t really put a lot of stock into it. I think that it’s really just a synergy between the general zeitgeist, nerds and “in” right now, and the eternal coolness of the Black experience in America. There’s been a certain image of a Black Intellectual for a long time in America. The likes of Malcolm X defined the political intellectual. Langston Hughes and his contemporaries showed the artistic type intellectual. And of course, you’ve got George Washington Carver, a real Renaissance Man. But the more narrow “nerd” type — the math-class, pocket-protector, 4-eyed type — seems to have been applied to Black folk more often more recently.

I credit Wu Tang for being the first Black nerds, at least that I was aware of growing up. I loved that they were hard core rappers, but they loved comic books and played chess, and were fans of Chinese kung fu movies and Japanese samurai dramas, just like me and my friends. More recently, of course, there’s Donald Glover who’s quoted in the above clip. I would also add Key and Peele, among many many others. Among the more hard core nerds, there’s of course, Neil Degrasse Tyson, who puts us all to shame with his uber-nerddom. To all of these, and more, I salute you!

Obama and the Black Community: Four Years Later, has much changed?

This is an interesting article from the Christian Science Monitor: As Obama meets black leaders, four facts on race and the economy. I would be interested to see how much these stats have changed in the past two years, to compare one presidential cycle to another. My guess is that the three economic indicators–employment, income and housing–have not changed much, but that the rate of optimism has dropped significantly.

All the reasons Romney lost

Today, while I was listening to morning radio, I heard three different commentators talking about why Romney lost to Obama. One said it was because he failed to get enough of the Hispanic vote. One blamed it on a lack of traction with young voters. One said it had to do with non-Christians not voting for him. Later, a friend of mine showed me at length how he had lost because Ron Paul supporters didn’t vote for him.

The interesting thing to me about this is the assessment that’s being made by Bill O’Reilly and others — that no longer are old, rich, White Christian men the majority. “Traditional America” is going the way of the dinosaur. As much as I would like this to be true, I don’t think it’s really the take home message. I think if Mitt Romney had won over one or two of these aforementioned groups, then he would have won. So, it’s not that Republicans need to cater to the entire diversity of American culture in the future (although, that would certainly be nice!). Rather, it’s that they can’t continue to piss *everyone* off. It’s not that those old, rich, White, Christian men are no longer the majority. It’s that they are no longer what the Senate calls a super-majority. They still have enormous power, both because they are the largest voting block, and because they have more power proportional power for their numbers. They simply no longer have enough power to push a candidate through unilaterally.

Shit people say to transracial families

Recently, I’ve been making good friends with a family of White parents who have adopted two daughters, one who is White and one who is Black. I find that, although our stories are very different, I find I have a lot in common with them. I’m a multiracial guy in an interracial marriage. And they’re a family with a transracial adoption. Somehow, being on the margins of racial identity, though, puts us in a similar place. It must be the same kind of glue that binds together the diverse elements of the LGBT community, or “people of color” type groups.

Anyway, here is a funny YouTube video about some of the shit that transracial families have to put up with. Enjoy.

One guy’s humble insight into why Obama and Romney hate each other so much.

Watching these past few presidential debates, I am struck mainly by the visceral hatred that, it seems, the candidates have for one another. There’s always a great gulf in policy and style between Democrats and Republicans. But, I never got the impression that Obama and McCain didn’t get along personally, nor Bush and Kerry or Bush and Gore. All of these guys seemed, to me, to be guys who might share a drink after all the dust settled down.

Not so with Romney and Obama. Something about this campaign has really ticked each other off. They at times seem to be seething at each other, just holding back from coming to blows. As a multiracial guy who was raised religiously, I think I have some of a reason why.

Like Obama, I was raised by multiracial parents, trotting all over the globe as I grew up. Being raised multiracial and Black automatically gives you something to prove. Because of centuries of slave culture, which pitted Black people against each other, modern Black culture is rife with all sorts of images of race traitors — either because you are light skinned or affluent. “House negro”, “hill negro”, “high yellow”, “passing”, and a whole slew of other monikers can be used against you. At some point, you start to internalize these images, and most people I’ve met in our position work hard to avoid them. When you are actually affluent, growing up in other countries and attending Ivy League schools, then it becomes harder work to avoid these images.

I think that the most effective way to get under most people’s skin quickly is to present them with an image of whom they are most afraid to be. Strong, honorable men hate bullies. Fashionistas hate shallow women. Doctors had bad doctors and so forth.

So, I think, when you’ve been told your whole life not to think you’re better than working class Black folk because of your white ancestry, jet setting, and Harvard education, one type of person that tends to get on your nerves quite a bit are white, jet-setting, Harvard elites … like Mitt Romney. Many of my friends have noticed this in my personality, and call it my reverse snobbery.

Like Mitt Romney, I was raised very religiously in a smaller and more obscure faith, founded in the 19th century (in my case, the Baha’i Faith, which is outwardly very different than Mormonism, but has a lot of similarities on closer inspection. But that’s a story for another time.). One of the things that I find often comes up in religious folk, is a sense of self-assuredness or moral confidence. I don’t think this a bad thing in particular. I wouldn’t call it “arrogance”, for example. But, I think that when you live your life by certain prescribed rules, it’s easier to think of oneself as a basically good person. When you’re raised in a religious community, that sense of inherent goodness can become a pronounced character trait. And then, if you are raised in wealth and privilege, and go on to successful academic and professional careers, this can become a kind of basic tenet to ones internal dialogue. I think that this helps explain the defensiveness that the Romney family has shown during the campaign cycle. They not only believe that they have something to offer this country in the Presidency (obviously, every candidate does), but they seem shocked and offended that other people don’t agree. And I think somehow Obama has become a kind of poster child for that perceived ingratitude, which is really psychic dissonance on the part of the Romneys.

Anyway, obviously I’m not an expert. Both of these men are quite a bit older, and way more experienced and talented than I am. So, Dear Reader, you should certainly take my armchair psychology for just that. But, I did have an unusual upbringing, which I think bears some insight into each other these men in its own way.