Friday, May 26, 2017

I Support Black On Black Violence

I support black on black violence! I’m not talking about the World Star Hip Hop videos that get millions of views each month; I mean succinct, logical arguments made by any black person that systematically dismantle truncated and racially insensitive narratives parroted by another black person at the expense of our community. When black people act on behalf of white supremacy they need to be shown the error of their ways and given a chance to make amends; however, if that doesn’t work, they should be intellectually dragged throughout social media and the blogosphere as a sign of what happens to those who knowingly denigrate blackness in favor of their own socioeconomic advancement.

Every ethnic group has some internal criteria they use to create artificial hierarchies. The black community has used skin pigmentation, hair texture, and even eye color as the basis for these distinctions. The psychological effects of generational white supremacist indoctrination are so powerful that they still cause some of us to denigrate our own genetic code. The lie of white supremacy governs American society in implicit and explicit ways, but it also lives in the minds of too many black people. This cruel fact allows white supremacy to show up in places where white people are absent, and fuels the need some blacks feel to measure their intellect and success against white standards. This is a sickness many won’t be cured of. Too often the desire to be viewed as different causes fissures between individuals and community. The lies told about black people can harm members of other races, but they cripple the black people who believe them.

I understand wanting to rise above the negative stereotypes and imagery associated with black life. It’s stressful carrying around psychological baggage someone else packed for you. I’ve lived and worked in predominantly white environments the majority of my life. The temptation to succumb to the trap of white acceptance is as real as the air we breathe. No one’s ever overtly asked me to distance myself from the black community, but I’ve been in situations where the opportunity to slide into the “different than the others” category has been extended. These opportunities take the form of water cooler discussions about racial hot topics and/or other existential questions about blackness in America. You may consciously or unconsciously be asked to center white feelings about race at a time of black suffering. Almost 5 years after the death of Trayvon Martin our community should be united in saying Black Lives Matter, but too many professional blacks have retreated to the political and economic safe space called All Lives Matter.

All of the educational, political, and economic distinctions black people have created to distinguish ourselves from our community are imaginary. They have gravitas in our heads and maybe among our contemporaries, but they purchase very little in a society that stigmatizes black skin of any hue. Here’s a quick question: who had a higher net worth Walter Scott or Terrence Crutcher? It doesn’t matter because both are dead. Denigrating blackness in exchange for white acceptance isn’t a viable solution to America’s race problem. Denial can’t insulate you from racial profiling and discrimination. No level of self-aggrandizement can make someone who’s never accepted you accept you. Racism functions with or without black consent.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines an Uncle Tom as: a black who is overeager to win the approval of whites (as by obsequious behavior or uncritical acceptance of white values and goals). This term is almost exclusively used to describe the 5-7% of blacks who identify as Conservative or Republican, but the reality is: Progressives, Democrats, and non-political blacks are just as invested in the fruits of white approval. Dr. Michael Parenti once said, "a journalist who writes for a publication can write what they want, as long as what they write pleases their editor." This is analogous to the way a lot of black people conduct themselves in predominantly white spaces. We talk about freedom, but too many of our people aren't free enough to speak out against systems that disproportionately affect our community. If you willfully engage in the denial of racism or remain silent when a black voice is needed you should look inside yourself and ask what you are putting ahead of your ancestry and progeny.

My goal isn't to deflect or silence meaningful criticism of our community. I’ve intentionally avoided personally attacking my colleagues who willfully engage in this one-sided violence against poor and less educated blacks. The black community loses when our intellectuals and pseudointellectuals act like mixtape rappers. I don’t want anyone physically harmed for their beliefs; likewise, I don’t want people building and maintaining platforms on the back of black suffering. You can’t love people you constantly distance yourself from. As a community, we should welcome a variety of economic and political ideas into the conversation, but not if those ideas are focused on obfuscating the realities black people face. One sure fire way to avoid being labeled an “Uncle Tom” is to support black people in public: especially when It’s not the politically expedient thing to do.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Yes, The Statues Are Racist Symbols

Photo Courtesy of Allison Wrabel
If you live in the Commonwealth of Virginia and were able to enjoy Mother's Day without having to engage in a serious dialog about the white supremacists, Alt-Right Fascists, Neo-Nazis, and the Klan carrying torches in Charlottesville then you were the beneficiary of a gift many people of color didn't receive. The torch lighting ceremony happened the same day the president who emboldened many them gave the commencement address at Liberty University- less than 100 miles away. People think I'm talking about a historical period when I tell them I live in the heart of the Confederacy, but since the murder of the AME Emmanuel 9, and the subsequent removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state house, there's been a pronounced increase in Confederate flag regalia and white aggression. This weekend in Virginia was indicative of the advantageous societal predisposition white skin affords. Some people miss the point in discussions about privilege because they think there's a big tangible purchase they haven't received, but too often they ignore, or take for granted, the daily subtleties afforded to them.

I was hesitant to write another article about xenophobia (disguised as economic nationalism) and the racial hostilities perpetrated in the name of God by southern "Christians", but events like these deserve a full throated dissent. What happened less than 100 miles from my house in a city I've given talks in was active racism in our streets. This wasn't a peaceful rally. This was a gathering designed to instill fear. This was hate in our streets and there's no moral equivalence to any of the protest movements we've seen over the last few years. It's not racist when Black people protest because our unarmed brothers and sisters are being murdered by the police. It's not racist when people of color want their children to be treated fairly by law enforcement. It's not racist when people of color demand full access to all of the things citizenship purchases in America, but it is racist when avowed white supremacists gather to talk eugenics while chanting, "All White Lives Matter". The fact that people of color have to keep delineating between what is and what isn't racist is a testament to how invested some of our fellow citizens are in remaining willfully ignorant about race in America.

Being Black in the Blue Ridge Mountains means that I’m often the only Black man in a grocery store, restaurant, or public event. When you're Black in a community like this there's no hiding from race. There’s no amount of denial that can change the reality you find yourself in: you can't escape it. The Stars and Bars, Confederate statues, and the almost weekly Civil War reenactments are daily reminders of America’s dark ages. People of color are asked to make snap judgments about the intentions of people who have admiration for symbols synonymous with Black oppression. This is the equivalence of asking the Jewish community to pick out the good guy with a Swastika tattoo, yet this is how the heritage/hate argument functions when reduced to its simplest terms. Tearing down Confederate statues is a meaningless gesture if we leave the system of white supremacy in place they commemorate.

There are some white people who think of themselves as "good" because they don't engage in overt racism, but what they fail to realize is that willfully ignoring racism is tacit approval of racist behavior. Donald Trump was able to mobilize and activate white supremacists because there wasn't enough tangible outrage at the words he was using. The right tolerated the racist climate his campaign created because they needed the votes; this same quest for power has caused factions inside the progressive left to believe they can find common ground with avowed white supremacists. This could become the new normal because conservatives don't want to alienate a key portion of their constituency, and the left is too busy trying to court them. In the meantime people of color are forced to deal with increasing racial aggressions.