Tuesday, September 29, 2009

White Supremacy

I was aked via email to respond to the following quote.

"The word racism ceased to be the term which best expressed for me the exploitation of black people and other people of color in society and... I began to understand that the most useful term was white supremacy"

I was not told who said it or what they were talking about. Only told that the original emailer was offended by the statement.

Am I offended? Not at all.
Do I agree? I couldn't say without more context.
I think the key word in the statement, at least to me, is "useful".

We white people, especially white ones with a rightward lean, are far to thin skinned when criticized generally on matters of race. We, who place high value on personal accountability, or agency, and hard working thriftiness, have an Achilles heal with all things racial. We see all accusations of racism or wrongdoing as personal attacks and unknowingly begin defending our self, which leads to blaming minorities for their own problems, or at the very least fostering an attitude of skepticism when accusations are made.

I will not respond with anything I have read or learned academically, but only with my own personal (admittedly anecdotal) experience.

Racism is alive and well from both black and white. I would even say in equal proportions. Till the current President's campaign, I will strongly forward that black people were very accepting of overt racist comments regarding white people. Chris Rock is famous for his barbs, Rev Wright, etc etc... while Trent Lott, Imus, and others get in trouble far far more subtle remarks.
How unfair. White people are growingly upset by the double standard.

Not me. Why?

For starters, I have heard what white people say about black people when we are alone. I have heard the "N word" tossed about casually. I have heard elements of black culture condemned while the negatives in white culture go unmentioned. There are plenty of white racists, a fact which is scary once you realize that white people outnumber black people more than ten to one.
Who has more cause to be worried, black or white?
Which group has been actually injured by racism? Any white person who complains they have been injured by racism in any lasting way is lacking in understanding of the black experience. HUGELY lacking.

The general black populace is so far behind proportionately when compared with whites in general that one would have to ask why.

Here is where I think it could be argued that an attitude of white supremacy prevails.
A conservative white, who thinks racism is now impotent and the system now offers opportunity equally, must find some way to explain why blacks lag. Since it can't be racism or the system, it must be the irresponsibility, laziness, and immorality of the blacks themselves.
The more I look at it this is the root of most conservative arguments when dealing with issues of race.

To think that those who suffer are their own problem, while believing that you yourself are not enjoying any favoritism, that you have what you have simply by your hard work and aptitude, is inherently finding ones self superior.

Simply put, if the system is fair, and blacks lag while whites advance, than whites are simply superior to blacks.
Most would never say it, but most, whether they realize it or not, propogate that idea.

I, from experience, know that man for man (or woman), black and white are the same.
I know from experience, that as a group, life is much, MUCH, harder for black Americans.


I would be interested to know who the author of the quote is and in what context it was written. If the term is most useful I would naturally ask useful toward what ends?
Useful in helping white people understand the inequity in our system and history? No, we aren't ready to hear it.
Useful in mobilizing the left? No, it is no longer the 60's.

Useful in exposing the intellectual inconsistency of arguing that the system is fair, black people continue to fail, and not considering ones self racist?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Color vs. Culture

I read a blog today written by a mixed race man, explaining how his Grandmother hated his father’s race, but loved him (the grandson) despite him sharing his father’s DNA.
It seemed to be an illogical inconsistency in racial bias. Was it shared blood? Maybe.
More likely it’s more than that. Its race, plus culture.

I have written before about instances where one claims to have no racial bias, pointing to a black/white relative, who they love, as proof. How can one be racist when they truly love someone of a different color? Easy. Because it is really culture not color.

Many who claim to be racially blind will point to ideals or tendencies in the “others” culture that they see as unacceptable to their own, or detrimental to society at large. White people point to disproportionate crime rates, lower test scores, and unwed motherhood statistics as the root of what ails the black community. Racism is dead and no longer an issue. It’s their own shortcomings that hold them back now. Stop whining about racism and fix your own behavior… your own selves are the problem!

Many of the criticisms leveled by one race at another have a level of legitimacy. Single parenthood is a problem. Criminal behavior is a problem. Bad behavior is one’s own fault and consequences should be suffered.

But legitimacy of the accusations, or critiques, does not make one free of racial bias.

I would like for one race to find one single misbehavior, or social ill, that they see as a problem in another’s race, which is not also a problem in their own.

Does black or white have a monopoly on drug use, infidelity, or crime? Is either group free from hate, greed, or selfishness? The answer is obvious that any human or human group, at the root, is the same.

So when one finds themselves looking at numbers that skew one way or another at an unusual rate, or one begins to think that a particular problem is more prevalent in a single group, don’t stop there. Go the next step and ask the important question why? Why would a problem have a greater affect on one group rather than the other? Is it DNA or is it social?

If you think it DNA, we are done here. If it is cultural, then how did it get that way? How and when did our cultures form? What shapes who we are and what we find acceptable? If one does not identify with another group, ask why not. Ask what it is that separates one from another, and then go the next step and ask how that separation was created.

That is not racism that is cultural. Here is where culture gets tinged with race:

When one blames Hip-Hop for the poisoning of our youth’s morals but ignores Rock n’ Roll.
When one rants about the race based hate coming from the “others” but ignore when your own do the same.
When one ignores the color of a friend when they act in a way you approve of, but then wonder at or disparage the actions of the greater group.
When one cries out against crack use in the inner cities, but ignores the meth in the suburbs.

We are all the same. So ask yourself why things affect us differently? Are you looking out while ignoring the mirror?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Is it a black thing and Kanye West.

Back before I even met my wife, I was asked a question.

A family I know had just returned from a Disneyland vacation. While there, they found themselves in a long line of mostly black people. After waiting in line for some time, they watched a small group of black kids trying to sneak in front of them in line. They were not really that sneaky and apparently no one made any attempt to stop them.

“Brohammas, you have been around black people before. Was this a black thing? Did everyone let them butt in front of us because we are white?” the mother asked in all sincerity.

This was years ago and I recall being somewhat stumped on how to answer. Not stumped because I didn’t have an answer, but more shocked at the question.
Why would the actions of these kids cutting in line be somehow related to race? Have you never seen a white kid do the same? Seriously?

Why did the family watch, closed mouth , expecting everyone else to do something? Why the expectation that bad behavior by black kids, was somehow out of your personal jurisdiction? Why not simply stand up for yourself and demand fairness? Did they assume all the black people knew each other and should police themselves, or were they simply intimidated, thinking any attempt to correct a black kid would rouse all the others to come to the defense?
Why would you assume they cut in front of you because of your race? Were they the last ones in line? Didn’t they in essence cut in front of all the black people behind you as well?

This memory came back to me, inspired by Kanye and Serena’s recent tirades. I have seen and heard observers ask similar questions. Its both sad and interesting to me that the actions themselves have nothing to do with race, but the reactions to the events are tainted by it.

I have not followed tennis seriously, but I do not recall anyone EVER attributing John Mcenroe’s behavior to his race. I’m not sure I have ever heard anyone reference Mcenroe’s race at all, unless it was in conjunction with a reference to a black player (ie Williams sisters).

Kanye West’s behavior set off an impressive flurry on twitter. Even more impressive is how quickly the “N” word was used and repeated. I do not care how badly you want to insult someone, or how much they deserve to be insulted, the use of that word is to insult someone because of their race.

Back to the Disneyland vacationers:
I would not consider myself tight with these folks, but close enough to have a general impression that they are good people. The question was asked honestly, not accusingly. An event occurred and they did not understand it. They are not the type that hate black people, or hate anyone for that matter. They would never consider themselves racist and would never give someone else reason to accuse them of racial hatred.

They are prime examples of today’s racial issues.

We are so inexperienced that ignorance prevails. Never thinking of race at all, but being intimidated and frustrated when dealing with it. Thinking all instances in which black people are involved is a result of race and representational of black people in general, or every isolated incident being a representation of a larger societal one. Better yet, many of these people do not think they attribute the actions to race while assuming all black people will defend other black people, no matter how wrong. Its a sort of blanket attribution, once removed. To call those with this mindset racist would shock them and be rejected, while at the same time placing representational burdens on all black people is inherently unfair.
That is where we are. Otherwise good people who simply don’t get it and thereby make things worse.

(on a related note I should mention that I have never kissed a dog on the mouth, find the idea of that repulsive, can dance and sing, can’t jump but know white guys who can, have never met anyone named Muffy, but I do wear boat shoes)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Thank you officer

My wife woke me up at 5:30 this morning with a sharp elbow, saying someone was at the door. I stumbled down the stairs to find our neighbor, open Miller-Lite can in hand, talking about how he caught a guy breaking into our truck. Our other neighbor was at her door, we share a stoop, excitedly asking if the cops caught the guy. I excused myself to go put on pants, so I could join the fun outside.

I found the truck’s driver door open, we had mistakenly left the window open about three inches to let the air and passers-by into the cab. The center panel of the dash was off, the stereo was still there, the contents of the glove box were all over the passenger seat, and on the floor was a cell phone I have never seen before. Mr. Miller time told me how he saw the guy in the truck so he called 911, three times. A police car showed up coming the wrong way down our one way street, the burglar took off on a bicycle, and the cop went after him. Upon discovering the discarded phone, neighbor man began urging me to use it to call 911 again to get the cops back, or to call the last dialed number as he saw the guy in the truck using a phone.

I was scrolling through numbers in the phone when the cops came back.

The first guy back had a shaved head and a smirk on his face. “ya get ‘im?” inquired my also shaved headed, yet drunken, friend. “Yeah. Not me, but we got him down around the corner.” More cops began coming up the street, two squad cars in front of the house, one at the end of the block. They looked in the car again, asked me about how I left it, took the phone, and then began talking with each other about paperwork.

The original shaved head cop, who chased the burglar from the car, said, “we got the guy back in the car. You wanna work him over?” Two other cops who heard the offer volunteered, “Yeah, we didn’t see nothing”. My lady neighbor chuckled at the proposition saying, “not this guy. He aint’ one of those, not like us,” referring to me, as well as herself. She went back inside to put on coffee. The cops shrugged and asked the other neighbor, still nursing his beer, if he would come down to give a statement. “Naw, it’s his car,” again referring to me. A young cop smiled at the neighbor remarking, “5:30 and you’re still hangin in there?” “F you, I work third,” and he went back to his own stoop.

I agreed to go down to fill out the paperwork and crumpled myself into the unnapholstered back of a cop car. As the cop and I were in the elevator at the station I asked if that was a tazer in his belt. “He replied, “yeah, but I haven’t gotten to use it yet. Maybe if I can catch someone where no one can see.”

I answered two brief questions, signed my name at the bottom, and headed back home.
I was glad they caught the guy. The whole block is happy, the guy had gotten many of us before. I was grateful the cops showed up and caught him. Part of me wanted to take them up on their offer of some ‘alone time’ with the criminal, but the rest of me was thinking about the tazer, the offer, and what the morning would have been like if the cops were in a bad mood.