“May I just ask one fundamental question? Why are you equating Venus winning in tennis to race? Sure, she is a very successful black, female tennis player, but why even bother stating her race? Surely, she is a fantastic player, be she Black, White, Hispanic or whatever, why does it matter! I’m a proud black male, and just hate the fact people like you seem to be pointing flaws in equality these days. People are people my friend, ignore the color of skin and treat as you would like to be treated. By you pointing out flaws in equality, calling all white men racists, surely, aren’t you as bad as them? Please, lay off the preaching, and don’t expect a reply, I doubt I will visit this website ever again.” – Adam, a blog visitor in Amsterdam
So goes the latest comment to my blog in response to my article titled Call Me Anything But Black. I know a lot of people insist on thinking Ms. Williams isn’t black. A lot of people are comfortable thinking that many of our black celebrities aren’t actually black but some kind of amalgamation of humanity that defies description. When someone reminds people of the obvious, that Ms. Williams as well as her sister are in fact black people, people get offended on her behalf. Why is it necessary to remind people that she is black? Well, maybe it’s because she just so happens to be black and people have a tendency to overlook it. Why is it such a problem for black Adam, and other people, to hear that Ms. Williams is who or what she is?
Being black is not a curse or something to be ashamed of. Pointing out that other people are black is not some kind of insult I need to apologize for. Whether or not people want to acknowledge her as a black woman doesn’t hide the fact that she is a black woman. It is who she is. As a black man, I would expect the same courtesy. I would want people to respect me and acknowledge me as a black man. For someone to come up to me and say something like “when I see you I don’t see a black man” is not a compliment. If you don’t see a black man when you look at me then what do you see, a white man? If people don’t notice the fact that I’m black means either that I’m not doing something right or that people who refuse to recognize that I’m black are doing something wrong.
Does it matter that I’m black? It shouldn’t. But it does to so many people. A lot of people will see me, a black man, and reflect back on the stereotypical training that they’ve received from the various media sources all of their lives. This overt and subtle programming says that black people with dreadlocks are more likely to be gang bangers than talented or educated people who can be an asset to most any company. Therefore, when I go to find a job, as a black man, I have to contend with racial stereotypes that prevent me from being hired.
In order to counter this constant and consistent bombardment of negative stereotypes associated with being black, it would benefit black people to point to and focus on our black athletes and celebrities as role models for our children and for other people in the black community as well. However, instead of black celebrities contributing to the enrichment of the black community, they work hard to distance themselves from their blackness in favor of embracing a more racially generic persona. It should be obvious that black celebrities such as Venus Williams are guilty of this behavior.
What is truly ironic is to watch one of the more celebrated tennis tournaments when one of the Williams sisters plays. The crowd for these tennis matches, which is always overwhelmingly predominantly white, will give the white opponents standing ovations for beating Venus or Serena. The hostility in these environments for the Williams is close to being so real it’s tangible. But Venus and Serena will ignore the obvious lack of compassion from the fans and just chalk it all up to nothing more than a part of the game of people choosing their favorite.
Is the fact that Ms. Williams would like to dump her affiliation with the black community a flaw in Ms. Williams’ character? I think so. I’ve already made this point in the other article. The fact that other black people come to my blog and are so pained to read my opinion about black celebrities being black is just more irony. Would I like it if somebody were to point to me and call me black and say I should do my best to affiliate myself with the black community? In all honesty I must confess that I wouldn’t like it. I would have to admit that I would love it, especially if I was going down a path that required somebody to set me, a black man who was trying to downplay my blackness, straight.
And as far as calling all white men racist I will beg to differ. Not all white people are racist. If I’ve led people to believe that I think that all white people are racist I’ll have to do better in the future. Everybody shares some form of prejudice. All of us have food preferences. All of us have people preferences. The problem comes when we allow our preferences to influence our choices to a point where diversity suffers. I have seen too many all white business environments or corporate environments where the black to white ratio is akin to a raisin in the sun to believe this happens by accident. Yes white people are racist. Does this mean all white people are racist? Not at all. I have worked with a number of white people who were willing to give me an opportunity.
Does this make me a racist? I will admit I have my own prejudices. But would I allow my prejudices to influence me to contribute to the subjugation of a race of people? I know for a fact it wouldn’t. If I ever get the chance to influence who gets hired and fired at a Fortune 500 company I seriously doubt if I’ll throw all the white applicant resumes in the trash or write memos of rejection referring to somebody as trailer park dude (see Ghetto Dudes Need Jobs Too to understand the reference).
And finally black Adam, you doubt that you will ever come back to my blog. I am really torn to hear that. And to think we just met when? Has it really been never? Shame.