I was listening to the Diane Rehm show as they discussed biracial people with respect to President Barack Obama. Although he is obviously of African descent, people refer to his ethnicity as biracial. I’m of the opinion that the vast majority of black people in America are biracial. It is a sure as fire bet that people in my family are. But I consider myself African American or black just like Mr. Obama considers himself African American or black.
For me, it’s a comfortable arrangement because I look African American or black. I’m not trying to be anything else. So when people look at me, they see exactly what I’m trying to promote myself as, a black man. I would imagine that it would be uncomfortable if people looked at me, recognized me as a being what we traditionally know as a black man, and I’m doing my best to be something else. Obviously black people like Tiger Woods have the ability to promote themselves as not black and people will buy that argument because these previously known as obviously black profiled people can use their notoriety to muddle the issue and transcend their race.
The problem comes when black people who may look like me but would rather not be considered part of the black community don’t have the resources to change their racial identity with a nationally televised press conference. Not too long ago, I remember watching a commercial for one of those dime store People’s Court knockoffs. There was a woman of obvious African descent shaking her head in stereotypical black fashion while telling the judge that she didn’t care for black women. The judge responded that if she didn’t like black women she didn’t like herself. The woman responded, I’m not black. The judge responded with an incredulous, What! It was the kind of “What!” that makes your face scrunch up as you say it while your body is being jerked back a tad by an invisible hook. Obviously, the judge didn’t get this woman’s memo.
Honestly, what can we expect when we live in a society that promotes such disdain towards black people and such emphasis upon race? This is a society founded on the racist principle that if you are black then you are white people’s property. And if you aren’t white people’s property but a freed man person then you are only three fifths that of a white person. And even after institutionalized slavery was stopped, the practice of Jim Crow stepped right in to keep the racial divide as wide as possible. And even after the institutionalized discrimination of Jim Crow and other laws were declared illegal, blatant racial discrimination simply converted itself to the down low kind where the sign saying “no blacks” was taken down but black people still weren’t welcome. The burden of proof falls on the victim’s shoulder and the fact that an organization is void of black people isn’t proof. You have to find a smoking gun like a memo that says something like we don’t like black people and we will never hire black people and we hope all black people will die tomorrow.
So now that we try to pretend there is no racism towards black people and that the fact that black people in any and every social measure fall short of their white counterparts, why would people want to consider themselves black when all they have to do is find that one ancestor or elder in the blood line that proves their otherness. It’s nothing for some black people to say something like they found out that their great grandma Suzie on their dad’s mother side was white so therefore they are no longer black but biracial! They find their get out of blackness card!
If only it was that easy. As I continued to listen to the Diane Rehm show, a caller told her story about what happened to her biracial daughter at some store preparing for a birthday party. There was a white woman with her white daughter in the same aisle looking for party favors. At some point, the little white girl turned to the little biracial girl and said, you can’t come to my party because you’re black. The mother of the biracial girl countered this early lesson on racial discrimination by letting her daughter know how special she was.
The mother never said what her ethnicity was but I doubt if it was black. Most black people know that telling your daughter that she is special doesn’t always make up for the fact that little white girls don’t want her at their birthday parties. If anything the mother of the biracial girl that is obviously black should have told the mother of the little white girl that she’s raising quite the social racist. The mother could have demonstrated to her biracial daughter first hand that she shouldn’t tolerate such blatant forms of racial discrimination.
Being told she’s special won’t keep her daughter from being excluded from future job opportunities. That’s why some black people are so happy to kick their blackness to the curb at the first opportunity. Did I say opportunity? They’ll do it even if there’s no opportunity to do it. Why wait? The little biracial girl may look like a black girl to the little white girl. But she’s not black at all but biracial or, even better, she’s special. Teaching her daughter to say nothing is to teach her daughter to tolerate the racial discrimination that comes her way with platitudes of feel goodness.
Regardless, it’s just a matter of time before special becomes a racial category. Some time in the future there will be no black people. From a strictly technical perspective the vast majority of people who look black will actually be considered biracial or multi racial. Maybe along with the question to identify your ethnicity there should be second question, have people ever looked at you and assumed you were black? In the future little white girls might say something like, you can’t come to my birthday party because you’re special and you look like you’re black.
The last thing I see when I see a black woman is my opponent. The first thing I see when I am in the presence of a black woman is an ally. My first inclination is someone who shares my strengths and weaknesses, my joys and pains, my likes and dislikes, my future and my past. At least, that is what I see when I meet black women. If I’m fortunate enough to start a conversation with a black woman, I will learn whether or not any of my assumptions hold water. The last thing I see is someone who is beneath me, a black man. When I see a sister on the street, the last thing I see is someone that needs to submit to my will.
Recently, maybe a few months ago, I wrote an article titled Elk Snout Mayor For Vice President about my misfortune of discussing politics with a black woman at work who I discovered was a staunch supporter of everything Republican having voted for George Bush to be President twice. The woman was unsure whether or not she would be voting for then Illinois Senator Barack Obama or Arizona Senator John McCain. When Mr. McCain selected Alaska Governor Sarah Palin the woman made the choice right then and there to vote Republican again. I was seriously disappointed. But now that I had a better idea of who or what I was dealing with, I understood that we weren’t two black people with the same goals but two people who happen to share an ethnicity and little more.
When Mr. Obama made his Father’s Day statements that were thick with the perception that black fathers are somehow less responsible than fathers of other ethnicities and cultures, my friend responded with one of her rare moments of support for the black candidate. My friend had a seriously low opinion of black men. She was a single mother with a son whose father abandoned the two a long time ago. I asked her about her choice of partners to copulate with, what attracted her to him. He was tall, he was fair skinned with a good grade of hair, he had an attractive build, and he had an air of excitement. Never once did I hear her say anything like he was responsible, he was intelligent, he showed courage to do what was right, or he was family oriented. This woman was ready to use her experience with this man as the prime definition of what it meant to have a relationship with a black man. So when Mr. Obama says black men need to be more responsible, she was simply too supportive of that single perception.
I wrote another article about Good Orgasms. In it, I made reference to a black young lady back in college who made a decision that led to her having a child with a young black man who was a sexual predator. No doubt, this was a woman who also felt black men were irresponsible.
Both of these black women feel the need to define their problem of being single mothers as the product of trying to have a relationship with black men who failed to appreciate these women for who they are. But whether or not these women can lay the blame for their choices solely at the feet of black men is a matter of contention. They can’t even lay blame for their choices on the poor excuses for the black men they chose for themselves. They both made the choice to have a relationship with black men who were less than ideal partners for the development of a meaningful relationship. They both chose to have relationships with men who did not value them as meaningful partners. But by no means does this type of behavior define all black men or all black women or all black relationships.
Nevertheless, a powerful force is being used to promote an idea into the minds of young impressionable black people the notion that black people should not, must not, and cannot unite in any reasonable fashion to take the black community into the future. Where can this notion manifest itself best than in the idea that black men do not see black women as equals in our struggle for equality? A house divided cannot and will not stand. Ever since black people have been brought to this land against their will, black men and black women have been programmed to see each other as scapegoats for the failures of the black community.
Right now, the overwhelmingly negative misogynistic and antisocial behavior of the black community’s hip hop phenomenon is the only flavor of the black community some people can see. And all too often, this image has been carefully nurtured by the racially generic dominant community that is predominantly white to help project a negative perception of black people in general. A black man that disrespects black women is promoted as a new musical phenomenon by the music industry. Images of blacks as people with questionable ethics and morals are constantly being promoted throughout fictional and actual media broadcastings. And instead of us turning our attention on the music industry or the movie industry or whatever you may have that promotes these images and helps to shape the idea of what it means to be black in America, we turn our wrath on each other.
The black community sits inert as people focus on such phenomenon as black on black crime and HIV/AIDS running rampant through the black community without ever hearing what the relative numbers are for white on white crime or for what the HIV/AIDS numbers are in the white community. Too many black fathers are not participating in their children’s lives? Interestingly we never hear what the numbers are for white men not participating in their children’s lives. Anything that is promoted as a black problem is consumed hook, line, sinker, rod, reel, waders, boat, pier, dock, and etcetera. If it is about black people it must be true.
Black women feel that black men do not respect them. It should be no surprise that black men feel the same way. Too many black men want to promote the idea that black women are difficult to get along with and life is just easier and sweeter with a white woman. I don’t buy that malarkey either. Not to say that some black men do not have it rough with black women or vice versa. If anything we should take those rough times and learn from them so that we can build better relationships the next time. Certain brothers are a headache. Black women should take the lessons learned from the bad relationship and apply them to a new relationship.
When black people make general statements about other black people we do the racist propaganda for the dominant community for them automatically. I refer to this as racism on cruise control. I hate to see people from the dominant community used general statements to describe black people. I hate it even more when black people support negative stereotypes about other black people simply because they had a bad experience with another black person or a series of bad experiences with other black people. We don’t like it when we are collectively simplified into a single caricature of behavior. We should refrain from simplifying each other so.
If a black woman learns from her experience with a black man that black men use their penis as some kind of weapon then she should learn to use her head as a shield for protection. Use your head to think about what you’re getting into and you will not have to suffer that wrath again. Brothers don’t like sisters that are emasculating? Don’t get with emasculating sisters would be my first word of advice. Black people need to think more about our behavior and our choices that leads us to other black people who may do us wrong. When we discover that our choices are not right for us we should remove ourselves from the situation. But we should refrain from blaming other black people for our poor choices, especially when we use other black people to justify the choice to separate ourselves from the black community.
I have a love of cars that keeps me looking through the classified section of the local paper looking to see what people are charging for new cars these days. The other day I was looking at the paper and was surprised to see a version of the Nissan Versa going for something ridiculous like nine thousand dollars, about the same price as a Hyundai Elantra. Although I would loathe buying either one, their prices are so low that I really couldn’t justify spending another six thousand on a fifteen thousand dollar Honda Fit. It seems the little Honda is recession proof.
At the end of the automobile classifieds was the Dating Page. Each ad was done in big bold print in order to fill the entire page. While the regular classified would have a font size of about six, the page of people seeking relationships looked like it had a font size of about fourteen. It appears that the newspaper advertising for dates is dwindling in this part of the country but the newspaper insist on filling the page, if not with more ads then with bigger ads. The extra large font and bold print caught my eye and before I realized what I was doing I was reading the Dating Page.
There was one ad in particular that caught my eye. A single black woman was looking for a single white male for a long term relationship, black men need not apply. Although it was expected, nevertheless I was disappointed to see a black woman spending good money to find a relationship specifically with a white man. I saved the Dating Page to the dismay of my partner. Ms. Peacemaker wanted to know why I was bothering to look. I wasn’t it’s just that this page caught my eye.
So why are you bothering to save it?
There’s this one ad from a single black woman looking for single white guy. I thought I wanted to do an article about it.
So when are you doing this article?
I’ll write it as soon as I can.
Look, if you have something to say to me why don’t you just come out with it and stop doing this sneaky shit?
Hey, if I was trying to sneak I certainly wouldn’t leave the paper lying around like that. And even if I did I wouldn’t tell you, at least not yet.
For some reason or another she didn’t find that last part funny. That conversation was a few weeks ago. I’m just now getting around to writing.
I don’t fault black people for dating outside our race. A lot of men are attracted to women of various races. A lot of women are attracted to men of various races. But I am always saddened to see black people who simply refuse to date their own. I know a lot of black people will say that the number of good black people to develop a solid relationship is so dismal that they have to go outside the black community or run the risk of not dating at all. That’s just one of the reasons why black people have to make sure we stipulate that other black people need not apply. The other reasons black people date exclusively outside our race is a learned dislike for black people as potential relationship partners.
And by what measure are black people considered inadequate candidates for other black people? I remember seeing a black man complaining that there was not a single black women who shared his interest that he wanted to have a relationship with. What was his interest? The black man wanted a woman who could discuss things in detail such as the television show Friends. Having an in depth knowledge of the characters on this show that seldom showed a black person in the background, let alone a substantial guess character, disqualified black women to the point he had to date outside his race.
The single black person that is interested in only single white people has given up on the black community. There is no interest in helping to keep the black community strong. There is no interest in helping the black community survive. There is no interest in raising black children who are strong in their black identity to help assure the future of the black community. The way some black people act the hooded wooded spotted owl of the Amazon basin has a better chance for a future than the black community.
Interracial relationships that happen as the result of a random act of circumstances are one thing. Two people from the opposite sides of the racial track that can manage to develop a relationship despite their differences can be a wonderful thing as long as care is taken to respect each other as honest equals. Too often I’ve seen a situation where someone of obvious African descent will downplay their association with the black community by referring to their self as brown or interracial or biracial or multiracial or mocha or cocoa colored or anything else that might not be so black. But the same person will not hesitate to recognize their white partner as a fully fledged member of the white community. White people in an interracial relationship never refer to themselves as peachy or creamed or pink or rosy. But then again it isn’t very often a white person suffers from an association with the white community.
Black people who want to date exclusively outside the black community do themselves, their ancestors, and their future descendant, if they are lucky enough to have any, a serious disservice. For every black person that works specifically to develop a relationship with anyone other than another black person, the black community will simply have to exist with one less black person to help in the effort to end this racial disparity. It is unfortunate, but the black community will do better without people who want to undermine what it means to be black.
There is a commercial that has a little white girl walking by a billboard with an extremely thin white woman modeling black bikini underwear. The girl stops and takes a look at the billboard. From the perspective of the viewing audience we are suddenly pulled into the bikini clad billboard to see another billboard of a close up of a photogenic white woman with professionally applied makeup. Without stopping we’re pulled into that billboard to see another billboard of another bikini clad, thin but athletic white woman. And after that we’re pulled into another billboard of a white woman in bikini clad underwear caught running along the beach. We are pulled through into another billboard of an image of a white woman barely dressed, and then another billboard of a white woman in makeup, and the process is repeated over and over again with young women with standards of beauty from a European perspective.
The images stop. The commercial suddenly shows the little white girl sitting on a couch in a living room. The little girl is apparently unhappy and looking a little insecure with herself. She is wearing baggy clothes and is in a pose with her legs pressed against her body trying to minimize how much people can see of her. A message appears on the screen that says girls are under more pressure than ever. The commercial is for a self-esteem workshop created by Dove beauty products.
Obviously the concern is that we are feeding our little girls images of beauty and female body standards that not many people can ever hope to achieve. The images of the women on the billboards have probably been manipulated to make their waist smaller, their bosoms rounder, their stomachs flatter, their legs longer and their smiles whiter among a number of other things. The little white girl is made to feel inferior and insecure with her own body image. That’s unfortunate.
But what about the little black girl? In the Dove commercial, not a single image of an extremely beautiful, obviously black woman was played. What affect does such propaganda have on the development of the little black girl’s self esteem? What affect does the constant barrage of white beauty images combined with the absolute lack of black beauty images have on our collective psychological makeup and in the development of our racial relationships?
Little black girls see the same images of European standards of beauty that the little white girl sees and will develop an even more inadequate sense of self esteem over their inability to meet the minimum beauty requirements. And then we wonder why our beautiful black women spend so much time trying to bleach their skin to appear lighter. We watch and wonder why so many curvaceous black women work so hard to achieve near anorexic levels of body mass. It’s why so many black women work so hard and spend so much time trying to transform their naturally kinky hair into something that resembles the covering of a horse’s ass. Our culture is one that regularly rejects black people for embracing hairstyles that more accurately reflects our ethnicity. Black women who wear an afro to a job interviews might as well wear a sign around their neck saying angry black ho’.
Generally speaking while white girls have at least something in common with their high fashion white role models. But black girls are the furthest removed from such images. And while there may be unreasonably high standards of well known European beauty images paraded in front of the little white girl, there are a large number of other white female role models helping her develop her self esteem. A white women came very close to clinching the Democratic nomination for the White House, a white woman is currently running for Vice President, and white women operate in both houses of the Congress as well as operating as Governors and other state level capacities.
There are white actresses that run the beauty spectrum from Angela Lansbury to Dakota Fanning. There are a number of white women in business as chief executive officers such as Carly Fiorina and Arianna Huffington and Meg Whitman of eBay. But who do black women have to serve as their role model to help them develop their self esteem? Oprah Winfrey? The last time Ms. Winfrey did anything to help anyone in the black community develop their self esteem was last never. I don’t think Ms. Winfrey even knows that she’s black. Her magazine O is the very epitome of European beauty standards. But who can blame the rich, formerly black, female billionaire? Ms. Winfrey is just as much a product of this culture that pretends black people don’t exist as anyone else. Like most black women, Ms. Winfrey has embraced this culture that plays so heavily to the European standards to the point that she, like many other black celebrities who know their place, will perpetuate the stereotypical images of American beauty and poison the self esteem of little black girls along with little white girls everywhere.
It is wonderful that Dove is taking steps to help little white girls resist the stereotypical images of beauty and accept who they are. It’s a daunting task considering the broad spectrum of propaganda that oozes from every orifice of media that says conform, consume, and obey. But given that the restoration of a little girl’s self esteem is an awesome challenge, it pales in comparison to the challenge of helping little black girls develop their sense of self esteem without so much as a single powerful black image to help them not only accept who they are, but to accept their black community as well.
“[The] Black AIDS Institute reported that if African-Americans with HIV/AIDS were their own country, they would make up more HIV/AIDS cases than seven of the countries currently receiving emergency funding for… AIDS. Think about that. There are almost 600,000 African-Americans living with HIV, and there are still 30,000 newly infected cases every year. As things stand now, AIDS remains the leading cause of death among African-American women between the ages of 25 and 34, and the second-leading cause of death among African-American men between 35 and 44 years of age.”
“As Jesse Milan, board chair of the institute, said, ‘When the world wasn’t looking, the AIDS epidemic refused to go away.’ AIDS has always been a disparate African-American problem. Even at the beginning of this epidemic in the United States, when there were only a few thousand cases, more than a quarter of them were among African-Americans.”
“Today, 47% of the HIV cases in the United States are in African Americans, even though African Americans make up only 13% of the population. If you peer deeper into certain cities, you find of all the HIV cases in Washington DC, 80 percent are among African Americans. In Jackson, Mississippi – 84%.” – Doctor Sanjay Gupta
Mr. Gupta went on to say that the AIDS rates in the Latino community is also on the rise. Although Hispanics make up about fourteen percent of the population, they account for about twenty two percent of new diagnoses tallied as reported by federal officials in 2006. Mr. Gupta never mentioned what rates or numbers were for the white community or how much of a problem it truly is. It appears that this disease isn’t an issue for the country until it becomes a problem for the non white communities. So I decided to go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for myself to get the information I wanted.
According to the table I found (click here), at the end of 2006 there were 439,693 cases of HIV/AIDS in the United States. Of this total 154,495 cases are in the white community and 191,590 cases are in the black community. That’s a breakdown of 35% for the white community and 44% for the black community.
Unfortunately I couldn’t find a state by state breakdown for 2006 (click here for access to all the 2004 tables). I had to go back to the 2004 tables to find a breakdown across the states, District of Columbia, and other United States territories such as Guam and Puerto Rico. While it is true that areas like Washington, D.C. and the state of Maryland can have black infection rates of about eighty percent of all cases, I discovered that states like Montana, Maine, Idaho, and Oregon will have white infection rates that can go as high as ninety percent. Would Mr. Gupta be willing to go public and say that there are areas where white infection rates are so high that they mimic what is happening in some of the worse places in Africa? Would the good doctor be willing to say that the number of HIV/AIDS cases in the white community appears to be just behind the numbers for the black community? Is anybody making the claim that if white people were their own country they would out number six of the countries currently receiving funding for HIV/AIDS?
I went through the numbers and added them all up in a spreadsheet. In between 2001 and 2004, over a four year time span, there were 365,444 new infection cases of HIV/AIDS in the white community and 360,860 cases in the black community, a virtual tie. And yet, at the end of 2006, there are only 154,495 white people living with HIV/AIDS and 191,590 black people with the disease were still alive at the same time. Although the black cases are high, higher than the numbers in the white community, it is far less than the six hundred thousand reported by Mr. Gupta. Nevertheless, it could be assumed that even with more access to better healthcare, more white people appear to be dying from the disease than black people.
But Mr. Gupta was not talking about numbers, he was talking about rates. Black people are only thirteen percent of the population but make up forty four percent of cases. Therefore, black rates are many times that of white people who only make up thirty five percent of cases and about seventy percent of the population. Rates are the only things that matter.
And if Mr. Gupta was truly a man of medicine, which implies he’s a man of science, he might have put some context on these numbers. Poverty plays a large role in the proliferation of this disease. A lack of education and a lack of opportunities play significant roles in the spread of HIV/AIDS. A lack of healthcare and a lack of family planning are huge factors. And all of these contributing factors runneth over in the black community.
But what’s the objective of Mr. Gupta’s story? Is he actually trying to help the black community or is his objective is to reinforce the stereotypical negative sentiment most people associate with black people and our behavior? Where was Mr. Gupta when HIV/AIDS was more prevalent in the white community? Did Mr. Gupta ever do a program where he talked about how the white community is so ravaged? Why is the black community his sole focus for this disease? Are we to believe that white people do not suffer from HIV/AIDS?
And why the focus only on HIV/AIDS? According to the Florida coroner that examined the body of Martin Lee Anderson, latent sickle cell traits are killing fourteen year old black males in boot camps. Why isn’t Mr. Gupta advocating something being done about all of these so-called dangerous latent sickle cell traits? Or how about a little help bringing attention to the black community’s susceptibility to hypertension or diabetes? Better yet, why doesn’t Doctor Gupta do something to help the black community obtain something that resembles racial equality in America instead of contributing to the negative stereotypes that makes the black community the subject of everything bad?
HIV/AIDS is a problem for the entire country. No one should be focusing on any single segment of the population. Any modern man of science who tries to give solace by saying only black people are a problem is a fraud and a quack. Mr. Gupta needs to hang his head in shame.
It should come as no surprise that I didn’t expect much out of Soledad O’Brien’s earth shattering documentary Black in America being featured on CNN. Ms. O’Brien has never given me the impression that she recognizes or understands or sympathizes with the issues that plague the black community. In fact, none of the reporting on the CNN network has given me the impression that these people are aware that the black community even exist.
I remember watching CNN when Tony Harris was reporting breaking news on the incident that became known as the Jena Six more than a year after the incidents were initiated. While CNN was busy reporting on such perils as the dangers of people having fat pets or Roland Martin reporting on What Would Jesus Do to talk about the commercialization of Christmas or some other nonsense from Jenny Moost, six young black men were being railroaded by an overzealous prosecutor for second degree murder for a school fight with a young white man. The network could have given a rat’s ass about this first class example of racial prejudice and racial discrimination. And instead of the network reporting the facts of the case, the article simply reported the opinion of people living in Jena, Louisiana. We were given a chance to hear what the white people of Jena think and then we were given a chance to hear what the black people of Jena think. Then we were allowed to formulate our own opinion about what actually happened.
So when CNN started promoting its Black in America series with the tag line, everyone will learn what it means to be black in America, I honestly didn’t expect much. But I could have been wrong and waited with everyone else to see what CNN thinks being black in America means.
I’ve seen four of the segments. There was the one that started with the report from the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee talking about Doctor Martin Luther King, Junior and his dream for the black community. There was the report from the town hall where some notables from the black community got together to discuss issues of education in the black community. Wednesday was a report about individual experiences of a handful of black people in America. And Thursday night’s broadcast focused on a few stories about how some black men can make the American dream and make it very successfully while some black men will suffer the American nightmare of incarceration, drugs, alcohol, and poverty. I watched these shows and I’ve come away scratching my head and wondering what exactly is the common connection all these people have that makes their experience exclusive to the black community.
I know for a fact that there are white people who suffer with poverty and poor education. I really don’t think the black community has an exclusive on this experience. I know that there are white people in America who have to deal with losing their homes and being evicted for not being able to pay the mortgage or paying the rent. I know there are white women who are raising their white children alone because the white father is absent. I know there are white people who are looking at dating outside their race. I know there are white people who are doing well while their siblings are doing poorly. I know for a fact that there are white people who suffer with issues of drugs and alcohol. Believe it or not, I know there are white people who get thrown in jail. Are we to believe that these white people are now experiencing what it is like to be black in America?
These shows do little to show me what it means to be black in America. Ms. O’Brien has simply taken the experience of a handful of black people and pasted their stories into a documentary. If somebody did the same thing with people from the white community, who would come away with the impression that they now know what it is like to be white in America? While some people might find the program entertaining not every white person would relate to these examples. There really is no reason to think these stories define what it means to be black in this country.
I was hoping to see something that would help to explain what people in the black community are going through as a collective. Black people have to deal with higher rates of school dropouts. Why? Black people have to deal with higher rates of unemployment. Why? Black people have to deal with higher rates of incarceration. Black people have to deal with higher rates of home foreclosures. Why? I was hoping to learn what the main components were of the complex social issues that all of these black stories share in common.
The purpose of the program was never to show the issues facing the black community. The program was designed to show instances of how black people choose not to respond responsibly to their environment for whatever reason. I came away thinking that we are depicted as simply surviving instead of assessing our situation and planning to act accordingly. Many of us simply refuse to pick ourselves up by our boot strap and instead simply adapt to our circumstances. The majority of people in the black community continue to do what we do and simply hope for the best outcome or we simply fail to better ourselves for our future and the future of our families. And all of this of course happens in a vacuum without any external influences from outside the black community. As far as being an eye opening documentary on life for black people in America, this piece of work falls terribly short.
But in at least one respect, Ms. O’Brien really does hit the nail on the head on what it means to be black in America. To be black in America is to be depicted in the most simplest of terms. Negative experiences of most black people are the result of a stereotypical lack of planning and black people’s refusal to take responsibility for developing their own solutions. Some black people made it. Black people who study hard will get the good job and the nice house and drive the nice car and will become examples of how it can be done for others in the black community. Because we all know that if everyone in the black community gets a doctorate today come tomorrow unemployment will drop to zero. Black people who make the choice to stop acting like typical black people will stop being typical black people in America.
I will admit straight off the bat that I know little of fashion. About ninety five percent of my fashion repertoire consists of polo style shirts and casual slacks from Targets balanced by T-shirts and sweats from Walgreen’s. One of my brothers once laughed at me and said that I looked like Carlton Banks when I dress for work and looked like a homeless man when I didn’t go to work. But I’m sorry. I’ll be damned if I ever use credit to buy my clothes. The closest I’ve ever come to watching a fashion show is probably the time I watched Mahogany featuring Diana Ross and Billy Dee Williams and the other time that I watched the Devil Wears Prada featuring Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway.
When I first heard that Vogue Italia had come out with an all black issue it barely registered on my conscious. It was in an article in the AfroSpear written by ageorgegal published just a handful of days ago. My immediate reaction was one of, “And? What does this have to do with the black community?” I remembered the scene in the movie Mahogany where Tracy, a new supermodel in the world of fashion played by Diana Ross, arranged a photo shoot in the black ghetto. High dollar fashion models were being photographed along with some of the locals from the neighborhood. When Brian, a community activist played by Billy Dee Williams, visited Tracy at the shoot, he looked disgusted and asked how much some of the local people in the neighborhood being photographed were getting paid.
I never thought the world of fashion was a world that was inclusive of the black community. From what I have seen of this ground breaking, all black, Vogue Italia issue I would have to say that I have seen little to assuage my opinion. The only ground breaking, all black, concept is that this issue features all black models. The high dollar designers, photographers, editors, and all the rest of the people who typically work in the development of these issues are still at work behind the scenes. It is the same look and the only thing that has changed is the fact that the ethnicity of the people starring in the pictures is now all black.
Black women are beautiful. And the beauty of the black woman runs the gamut of the beauty spectrum. Like most articles of fashion that includes the occasional black person, this new all black issue focuses primarily on the wickedly famous, high profile, black people who are virtual doppelgangers of their waif thin white counterparts who look emaciated from serious food procurement challenges. While doing some cursory research for this article, I actually read that Carole White, co-founder of Premier Model Management, believes that one reason for the under use of black models may be the collapse of former Eastern-bloc, which led to a new gaunt look fueled by an influx of “white, bland, and very skinny girls” from countries where real food is a bit close to being considered somewhat of a luxury.
I have not seen this issue and I seriously doubt if I ever will. From what I have read the featured women are the typical black models associated with fashion such as Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, Alek Wek, and Liya Kebede. Somebody even blew the dust off of the relative antique Iman and put her back in front of the camera. All of these women are the rather thinner than average, taller than average, keen nose, high cheek bones, large doe eyes, small chin, and straight hair when there’s hair regardless if it is natural or not. Black women run the gamut. However, all too often black people are relegated to the often promoted concept that provocative black beauty is that which best mimics the standards of European beauty.
As a black person I hate the idea, the fact that people will judge me based on what they see without actually getting to know me. I am shorter than average, rather stout for my height, and about as far from a male model as one can get. On the beautiful human scale, I would register more on the Quasimodo or the Hunchback of Notre Dame side rather the Tyrese Gibson and Tyson Beckford side. I would have to work considerably harder than I do just to be considered average. Now I have to ask myself, why in the world would I spend my time and my dime to support a corporate industry that actually works exceedingly hard to make me feel even more insecure than I am already? On top of that, the fact that I am black obviously is something that does not go over very well in the fashion industry. I’m about as close to looking European as Mr. Potato Head without the moustache.
Why black people would knock themselves out to support Vogue or Elle or Mademoiselle or even Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine, which unsurprisingly does little to promote concepts of true Africans in the Diaspora beauty, is truly beyond my ability to fathom. These books are designed to do nothing but prey on our individual vanity and help guide us in our never ending quest to promote facades of status and materialism on our friends and families and whoever else happens to look our way while we wear our status symbols of fashion. Instead of somebody looking at me and thinking that I might have my act together I’d rather people get to know me. My act does not depend on what I wear or what people who don’t even know me think about me based on how I look. I would like to think that I am deeper than that.
With all that said I cannot help but remain hopeful that the Vogue Italia issue does well with all the people who care about that kind of thing. I would suspect that there are a lot of people waiting for this issue to flop. An unsuccessful result would confirm people’s suspicion that black skin, black people, does not sell well. An unsuccessful result would confirm that the fashion industry is correct to keep black models on the outside or the down low because the market can only tolerate a few black subjects.
I hope this issue sells more than any issue in Vogue’s history. Unfortunately, I seriously doubt if a wildly successful run would put to rest all the nonsense that no name black models would scare away business or is just too much of an issue to be confronted. In an interview with Cathy Horyn, Italian Vogue photographer Steven Meise put it best. “[It’s] ridiculous, this discrimination…It’s so crazy to live in such a narrow, narrow place. Age, weight, sexuality, race, every kind of prejudice.” Some people are just simply working too hard to make true diversity just a distant dream or hope.
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama addresses supporters during a campaign rally at Kettering High School in Flint, Michigan. Mr. Obama has made the choice to forgo more than eighty million dollars in public financing for his White House campaign, leaving him free to tap unlimited private cash against John McCain. In so doing, Mr. Obama becomes the first black man in American history to anger the dominant society by not taking a government handout.
Today is the fortieth anniversary of Doctor King’s murder as he stood outside his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. For the past week, anybody and everybody whose path crossed Doctor King’s path is coming forward and expressing the pain they felt when they heard that Doctor King was shot. Andrew Young was interviewed by Soledad O’Brien on CNN, Jessie Jackson was with another reporter expressing his sorrow over Doctor King, Doctor King’s speechwriter and former neighbor Doctor Vincent Harding has released a number of books and recounted what he was doing the day when Doctor King died.
It is truly amazing how emotionally sensitive we can become when we think of the civil rights icon. The percentage of people who still get teary when they think of the loss of Doctor King is extremely high. You would think they’ve never suffered any other loss in their life. I was listening to a discussion on National Public Radio about Reverend Jeremiah Wright and his relationship with Barack Obama when the conversation was momentarily directed. Somebody made a comparison between Reverend Wright and Doctor King. A caller recounted how she met Doctor King the day before he was murdered and she started to cry over the air. She was fourteen when he died. She is fifty four now.
Forty years later so many of us are still connected to the moment we had with Doctor King. What is really phenomenal is the fact that today there are so many white people who identify with Doctor King and his message of equality and empowerment for the black community. So many white people like to reflect on Doctor King’s messages of love and forgiveness but choose to overlook his messages about how corrupt the American government was with its attack on the Vietnamese people and the continued disregard for the rights of non white, non European people. A lot of white people want to conveniently forget that the dominant community was persecuting Doctor King. The man that was preaching love and understanding and patience was the same man that was being beaten, stabbed, attacked with dogs, sprayed with a water hose, spat on, stoned, and jailed. He was being investigated by the FBI. He had his phone tapped. And he was shot by white people.
While Doctor King was preaching non violence and talking about turning the other cheek his house was bombed. His life and the life of his family, his children, were threatened. Doctor King may have been an icon of peace but he was in fear for his life. Doctor King may not have carried a weapon but he had bodyguards to help ensure he kept his life as long as possible. But Doctor King also knew that every time he stepped out in public he was gambling with his life. He had dodged death a number of times. It was only a matter of time before he would be murdered. This country couldn’t protect one of the most popular Presidents in America’s history, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. How the hell could a handful of black people protect one of the most hated black men in America?
When Doctor King was assassinated forty years ago the vast majority of people in the dominant community celebrated. The voice of the most dangerous black man in America has been silenced. The status quo of white privilege and black subjugation would continue indefinitely. Let people everywhere know that black people who don’t know their place in America will pay the ultimate sacrifice for their impudence. Combined with the assassination of Malcolm X, the ability of the black community to organize was utterly destroyed. Like a chicken with its head cut off the black community thrashed around headless, without a purpose, and without a thought. When Doctor King paid the ultimate price no one was willing to step forward and continue the fight. Every one of his disciples scattered to the wind even though they all said they had, or say they have, the same goals in mind. If Doctor King’s death taught subsequent civil rights leaders anything it was the fact that you do not put yourself out there if you are not willing to pay the dominant community’s price.
Forty years later the black community is still running around like a chicken with its head cut off. When people in the black community are attacked by people in the dominant community, the black community turns inward and attacks each other. Michael Richards stands on stage and launches into a vicious racial tirade on black people in the audience. Don Imus uses his radio show to ridicule a predominantly black women’s basketball team as a bunch of nappy headed ho’s. Duane Chapman rebukes his son for having a nigger girlfriend. And what did the black community do?
Black children across the country are receiving seriously heavy prison terms for the most innocuous of crimes while white children are running amok. Famous icons from the white community attack black people and are given passes from so called black spokesmen. Black leaders want to stand in front of white people and berate the black community for not doing enough to end the subjugation of black people. But these same black leaders are as quiet as a church mouse during a funeral when the black community is clearly under attack. Pat Buchanan says black people should be on their knees thanking the white community for their subjugation. Where are the leaders of the black community to refute this racist opinion? Chances are the famous black leader that is beloved by the dominant community just as much if not more than the black community is simply too busy focusing their wrath on the black parents and people to notice the racism from the outside.
Forty years later the black community is still trying to come to terms with its relationship with the dominant community that works so diligently to protect white privilege. A lot of black people who have done well have become complacent and self satisfied with the current racial dysfunction. People like John White of Long Island, New York, who probably thought he and his family had ascended their racial handicap of blackness, received a painful reminder when he defended his family and property from a drunken white mob that showed up at his house to confront his son. John White now faces jail. And more black people will find themselves a victim of far from blind justice.
Many well to do blacks have separated themselves from the black community. Unfortunately, the dominant community that is mostly white will have a way to remind the well to do black people that they would do well to remember their place in the racial structure of things. In essence, the message is one of, you might be better than the average black person but don’t think you are the equal of the average white American.
The dominant community, predominantly white but with plenty of black people who believe that they are above any affiliation with the average black person who simply refuses to get their act together, will say that it isn’t their fault black people are too lazy or black people aren’t educated enough to compete with non blacks or black people don’t have a work ethic or black people don’t have the gumption to do what it takes to earn their way out of their predicament. However, as Stephen B. Oates quoted Doctor King, “A society that has done something special against the Negro for hundreds of years must now do something special for the Negro.”
The dominant community is quick to keep another Doctor King from obtaining a grasp and firing up the black community’s imagination. As soon as someone steps forward and unleashes a condemnation of the American establishment, the establishment recoils in an imitation of genuine horror. People from the establishment stand in their position of privilege feigning shock and surprise and say, those ungrateful black people are dissatisfied with the condition of the black community in this land of opportunity that opens its arms to all. Reverend Jeremiah Wright has the nerve to speak ill of America and the way this country subjugates its black community and denies the African American an equal share at the various opportunities of America.
Reverend Wright spoke truth and the dominant community came down hard on him in order to minimize his message. He is a crackpot. He is a throwback to an era that no longer exists. He is a bitter man stuck in the past. America is no longer like the society that would brazenly subjugate an entire community simply because of the color of their skin or their belief system. America is now much more sophisticated and subtle in its racist practices. And with much more sophisticated tools thanks to social science and more effective management of propaganda, our society can be engineered to be racist and the vast majority of people will be content to exist in this environment of disparity. Yes America is racist but what can you do about it? Yes America is racist but black people want special treatment.
Reverend Wright is not a crackpot living in the past. The disparity he spoke of didn’t happen just in the sixties. The disparity that Mr. Wright spoke of is a product of America’s society here and now. Reverend Wright isn’t speaking from some type of victim mentality perspective. He is a very successful religious leader who has given spiritual guidance to the American President. Reverend Wright was speaking about police who are quick to beat and kill black children. Reverend Wright was speaking about black people dying in a hail of bullets for walking home with groceries or going home to get dress for a wedding. Reverend Wright was speaking about black children being prosecuted for second degree attempted murder by an overly enthusiastic district attorney or of a black young man suffocated to death by seven boot camp guards. This is recent history, not sixties history.
And instead of the black community coming together to support Reverend Wright, and give credence to his message, he is allowed to whither away and disappear in a cloud of obscurity. Where are all the black leaders that are now crying today forty years after King was assassinated? Where is the support of King’s children who supposedly hold the welfare of the black community dear to their heart? Where are all the people who are working so diligently to establish the ninety million dollar King Memorial in the nation’s capitol? Where are all the high profile blacks who profess to have the black community’s wellbeing dear to their heart? Where are all the average black joes that revel in our blackness and long for the days when the black community had some kind of unity?
The hypocrisy of America is thick. It is thick enough that if a black person of Doctor King’s ilk was to try and bring attention to the racial disparity of America he or she would be dismissed as having a victim mentality or for being rooted in the past or whatever cliché can be employed to minimize his or her effectiveness. Every media outlet would attack with the full force of the corporate community moving as a single entity. And instead of the black community coming together to protect somebody who speaks on our behalf, we meekly abandon Reverend Wright to his retirement.
Doctor King would not be so quick to abandon Reverend Wright or anyone else who spoke truth so well. He would not be quick to tuck his tail between his legs and pretend all is well. This man who feared his life being snuffed out every single day had the courage to do what must be done anyway. These days, black leaders have too much to lose to speak out about disparity. Reverend Wright spoke his mind and now he’s retired. Black leaders, managers, well to dos, and others have too much to lose to speak about disparity with the same strength as Doctor King or as Reverend Wright.
We constantly refer to the day we have true racial equality as Doctor King’s dream. We forget that it wasn’t just his dream. It should have been a dream for all of us. Black people should remember to take ownership of this dream so that, now that Doctor King has passed on, we will continue to work diligently and do everything within our power to make sure we exist on a level comparable to the level people in the dominant community enjoys. It wasn’t Doctor King’s dream. It didn’t die when he died. We, the black community, are still dreaming.
I was surfing the internet looking for photos I could use for an up and coming article regarding movies for the black community and how they have changed over the past twenty years. One of my favorite old school black movies featured Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier and so I wanted a suitable photograph of the two. I go to Google and type in the appropriate parameters and start my search. Low and behold I found this photograph of Bill Cosby yukking it up with George Bush in some ceremony where the President is presenting Mr. Cosby with some medal for his service to the country. The date associated with this photo is sometime in 2002, a few years before Mr. Cosby embarked on his “Black People Ain’t Doing Shit” tour of America. I looked at the picture and all the disappointment with Mr. Cosby came roiling back to the surface of my mind.
Back in the day, knee high to my dad, I used to watch Bill Cosby with the rest of my family when he was a young comedian doing his stand up routines. It must have been part of the Flip Wilson show or the Ed Sullivan Show. He would talk about the fat kid in his neighborhood named Fat Albert. I vaguely remember when routine when he talked about how they would open a fire hydrant to cool off in the summer and how Fat Albert could sit on top of the hydrant and direct the water with his body. Fat Albert had such control he could use the water to knock a cigarette out the mouth of the driver of a car passing by without getting the vehicle wet. I didn’t fully understand all the jokes. But I understood enough to make a connection with Mr. Cosby. I grew up thinking this man understood me.
I watched the cartoon Fat Albert when it was a television special that only came on television once or twice a year. I celebrated our good fortune when we were able to watch the Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids cartoon every Saturday morning. I watched Bill Cosby as he pushed Jell-O down our throats and made us thirsty for Coke Cola. I watched Bill Cosby when he did I Spy with Phillip Culp. I watched the original Cosby series when he played a bachelor high school coach. I started watching the Cosby Show with the Huxtables from the very moment the show appeared on the NBC television network. I watched a lot of Bill Cosby.
But one day I was watching the Huxtables go through their motions of playing a black family in America and I realized I had no connection with these people. Somewhere along the way we took two different directions. The Cosby Show went Middle American and I stayed black American. The Cosby Show never showed anybody who could have remotely considered themselves from a Fat Albert type neighborhood. The problems of the people in the Cosby show were never the problems for people in the black community but the problems from a Middle America perspective. The Huxtables might as well have been the Brady Bunch. Even when the show was adjusted to bring in their wayward cousin the show never showed problems from a uniquely black perspective. That and the fact that the show stopped being funny were enough for me to stop watching. Yet I continued to support Mr. Cosby and give him the benefit of doubt.
But then Mr. Cosby had to get high and mighty and share his contempt of black people by standing in front of his rich white mindset peers and declare the black community as a failure. Mr. Cosby made very broad and general strokes of criticism about the black poor and the black underclass that gives credence to some of the worse African American stereotypes. Mr. Cosby stands in front of the upper crust of society, people who have the disposable income to pay a couple hundred dollars to have dinner and hear Mr. Cosby speak, and then rakes the people in Fat Albert’s community across the coals. Maybe he though he was being clever and funny. But in actuality he was being judgmental, narrow minded, and racially dishonest. Mr. Cosby’s betrayal of the black community runs deep. His blatant bigotry hides under the cover of some claim of concern for the black community. Then again maybe his point was to demonstrate and reinforce the other stereotype that black people have no loyalty to other black people when money is involved.
Mr. Cosby doesn’t hesitate to say that the black poor and the black underclass use incorrect grammar. But he hasn’t said jack about the President and his inability to correctly pronounce the word “nuclear”. Mr. Cosby won’t say a thing about a man who is more than willing to spend a half trillion dollars of the national treasure and four thousand American lives on the quagmire in Iraq but won’t spend a hundred dollars for his own copy of Hooked on Phonics.
Mr. Cosby and his collaborator Dr. Alvin Poussaint blame black parents for the conditions of the black community because black parents don’t guide black children. But the truth of the matter is that if any black people are to blame for the condition of the black community it is black people like Mr. Cosby who do a masterful job of distancing themselves from the black community. Mr. Cosby, and many other black who do financially well, will take their fortune and runaway from the traditional black community into the waiting arms of neighborhoods that are far less dark racially speaking. Black property values plummet while home values in other neighborhoods are enhanced. And the black middle class do less fortunate black people a disservice to focus only on personal accountability and responsibility of black people but are mum to the fact that the lower class black community is often saddled with inferior medical care, inferior legal representation, lack of government services and representation, racial profiling by police, inferior educational services and opportunities, and discriminatory employment practices.
And when black people like Mr. Cosby turn their back on the black community they get medals of Honor from Presidents that are apt to ignore an entire city of black people drowning and suffering in the aftermath of a hurricane. So yuk it up Mr. Cosby, you’ve done very well. The white mindset community will hold you up as the role model for all black people. Following your example all black people have to do is convince other black people that they have no one to blame for the subjugation for themselves and they too can be rewarded for keeping the status quo. But Mr. Cosby, it saddens me to say that I hope you choke on that medal around your neck. I used to look up to you. We had a connection. Now your connection is with people who wouldn’t even care to know Fat Albert or any other of the Cosby Kids characters you created. People who just so happen to be just like you.