Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I am black...

Let’s jump right on in, shall we?

I was going to post about some of the Supreme Court rulings that came down in the last couple of days – the one about not illegally searching students (love it!), the other one about supporting Fred Phelps and his rancid church’s right to protest at military funerals (they are the hate that’s gonna keep on hating, y’all) and the ruling overturning Judge Sotomayor’s ruling against firefighters in a discrimination case (this isn’t fuerte enough to tear down the Civil Rights Act but it will have long term implications).

I was going to dive into all that but a comment posted to yesterday’s post caught my attention and reminded me of a rather common comment posted to this bitch’s blog that requires a rather constant response.

The comments I refer to share the opinion that people need to cease viewing themselves as different...and that once we come to see ourselves as part of the human race the world will get along more better.

I’ve also heard the phrase “transcended race” so much in the last year that a bitch suspects a huge amount of the population has been eagerly waiting for the opportunity to pronounce the world…wait for it…post-racial.

Pause…roll eyes…continue.

When a body sees transcending race as an achievement they need to pause and consider what that is saying about the value of acceptance by the dominate culture and come to understand that they are really saying that success is based on acceptance by the dominate culture…and true success comes from not being seen as different by the dominant culture.

And that’s fucked up from the floor up…empowering to a group that honestly doesn’t need any more empowerment…and insulting as hell.

I am black.

I say that without the baggage so often associated with it...without apology or shame.

I wasn’t raise to like being black. I was raised to fret when the sun made my skin dark chocolate brown…to straighten my hair for fear that my lesser natural texture would be noticed…to devalue the music, food, religion, language, history, stories, regional truths and etiquette that come together with so much more to make up my blackness.

I was taught to blend…to down play the difference as much as possible…to make white people comfortable with the differences I couldn’t downplay, hide or chemically alter.

And it took decades for me to learn…

…think about that, I had to fucking learn…

…to love what others try to "not see" so they can "get past it" and "tolerate" me.


My history is black American history…a part of America history that should be honored not ignored.

If you require assimilation to deal with difference then you have a lot of inner work to do.

As for humans - humans are a species of bipedal primates. Wink. Some are homo sapiens and others, well they may still be homo erectus…cough…but humans are a species and that species presents a lot of diversity.

The problem with the world isn’t diversity and it sure as shit isn’t my blackness.

The problem is that some seek to value some difference while they devalue or outright dismiss other differences…and, as a result of that, others can only conceive of peace in a world without difference.

In other words, some seek to simplify the complicated rather than do the hard work that is social justice work.

Being black isn’t about living life as a color…it never has been, isn’t now and never will be…and I feel sorry for anyone who can’t see that.


Middle Girl said...

Say it...loud!

L. Jackson said...

"If you require assimilation to deal with difference then you have a lot of inner work to do"

Yes, yes, yes...so much of self confidence is wrapped up in trying to be what a person isn't...that the soul has never been free to become the real person. Great post!

QQ said...

This post just made my day. I was having a conversation (with a white person that wants very much to identify with black people)last night about being black that just didn't sit well with me..and this post was right on time.

I'm just gonna sit at my desk and ponder and reflect.. ;)

Unknown said...

Hallelujah Shark Fu! You speak the truth woman, thank you.

Unknown said...

I like your blog. It sure isn't easy being a black and conforming to set standards each and every step of your life. You have put together the feelings very nicely. This is Elizabeth from Israeli Uncensored News

brian said...

Preach, Shark Fu!! Someday I'd like to experience the other side of 5-4!

drfantastic said...

Your post is related to some of my thoughts about learning that many people's favorite MJ song is "Black or White." I've posts by self identified people of color, not just white people who feel that way. And man, that misses the whole point of being anti-racist. Insisting something doesn't matter is pretty much erasing it.

Delux said...

"Being black isn’t about living life as a color…"

*raises praise napkin*

AOB said...

..conceive of peace in a world without difference...

SOMEWHERE there is a picture of what human beings are supposed to look like, act like, dress like, talk like, have the educational level OF, you get the idea....

Are we not all just sick to death of being compared to this WTF ideal? The world is not post racial, it's not post anything, it is still filled with small minded bigots who have nothing better to do than try to make themselves feel better while disparaging others...

super post....

Miss Trudy said...

Many people just don't "get" difference because they have never REALLY been treated as the "different ones."

We can't live in a post-racial world because (and am I not sure there is such a thing) even if there is some post-racial utopia out there, we live in a society that to this day asks us to mark a box defining us as black, Hispanic, white, whatever. Where my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters can't get married like everybody else.

IF we must to define ourselves according to such socially constructed lines--because many Hispanic blacks, for example, don't count themselves as African-Americans, and many Hispanics do count themselves as Caucasian, so just right there the skin-color bunching-together thing is already screwed up--then, how come there is a ruling FOR a group of white-skinned people (the firefighters) and a subsequent vociferating about a post-racial society? The whole thing is schizophrenic.

We are far, far away from being post-racial or anywhere near a place where being darker-skinned doesn't increase one's likelihood of living in a marginal neighborhood, going to a deteriorating school, getting killed by crime, imprisoned, receiving bad health care, being denied a job, being given a crappy loan or no loan at all, etc.

I mean, really, there is a willful blindness there. Why?

Time for some people to open their eyes and look around them. I am privileged, because I am lighter skinned and that has opened more doors for me than for way too many of my darker-skinned brethren. I benefit from being lighter-skinned, because society goes easier on me, makes more positive assumptions about me.

It doesn't take much mental effort to look around, to see it and acknowledge it. But this knowledge didn't come easy to me and makes me conflicted every day. It creates tons of guilt and pain for what others suffer and for the unwitting role we play in it.

And even so, I have suffered discrimination from others higher above in the social/race/gender totem pole, so where does this spiral end?

I understand that others don't want to live with the burden of such knowledge, so it is easier to just say "we need to move away from these discussions about race/difference/class" and pretend everything would be honky dory for all if we just did that. Ah well.

My little soap box rant of the day.


Hey there!

I think that many blacks view assimilation as a RENUNCIATION of black identity or a disrespect of black pride... I don't see assimilation as a change in identity at all... rather it is an ability to adapt to different types of socialization in different settings...

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

RMJ said...

Transcending races is an awful compliment. Why is race something that has to be left behind?

Anonymous said...

"Transcending race" is code for not wanting to recognize there white privileged. Its a tactic of typically lower to middle income whites who don't "feel privileged" to protect that privilege.

Good piece!


Assrot said...

Well said Fu. I hope my comment didn't offend anyone yesterday. My reference to the damage Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson continuously bring upon "their own people" was not in any way intended as an insult nor a racist comment.

I see that there are folks that think we should all transcend race and become one. I'm like you. I say fuck that.

I have always enjoyed getting to know people of different races and different cultures than my own. I want a world where everyone is treated equally no matter what race, culture, religion etc they are a member of.

I say take pride in who and what you are. Treat everyone as you wish to be treated. Who wants to live in a world where everyone is the same? Sounds rather boring to me.

Besides, if we all became the same and sat around the fire singing Kumbaya all the time, I guarantee that some of us would find something else to fight over. It's the nature of the beast.

I'd bet there are more than just a few homo erectus still among us. It doesn't matter what race we are. We all have our share of sorry asses.


Jeffrey Ricker said...

When anyone makes a case about being "post" anything, I automatically suspect that what they're actually saying is, "Stop being different." Which is the same as assimilating. And contrary to what the collective might say (see how I worked that "Star Trek" reference in? Did ya?), resistance is far from futile.

Lisa J said...

AMEN! You said it all.

Rachael said...

You said it. It's the difference between the mosaic vs. the melting pot. Lovely.

Anonymous said...

*wild applause for Shark-fu*
Well said.

@Miss Trudy -
"I understand that others don't want to live with the burden of such knowledge, so it is easier to just say "we need to move away from these discussions about race/difference/class" and pretend everything would be honky dory for all if we just did that. Ah well."

That attitude stuns me, and I run into it every time I try to acknowledge the breathtaking paranoia and stupidity of white people. Like, oh, every time I comment on (yet another) shooting of an innocent black man by a white police officer - an officer who will without any doubt retain his job, benefits and salary while the black man stays dead.

"So he's in the wrong just because he's white? I thought we were trying to get past that." Typical sentiment. Sigh. Even from people I know and like; progressive, liberal, diversity-loving feminists.

Yes, I guess if it wasn't absolutely effing predictable, maybe calling the white officer with the itchy trigger finger paranoid and stupid just because he's white would be the wrong thing to do. But it is, and dead men don't have the luxury of 'getting past' anything.

"Get past it" - I just don't know what this is good for. What are we supposed to be getting past? Our racism? That would be great. You work on that from your end and I'll work from mine, and when black men stop getting shot for the crime of having brown skin, I'll take back all the insulting shit I said about us paranoid, stupid white people. Pinky promise.

Anonymous said...

"When a body sees transcending race as an achievement they need to pause and consider what that is saying about the value of acceptance by the dominate culture and come to understand that they are really saying that success is based on acceptance by the dominate culture…and true success comes from not being seen as different by the dominant culture."

Can I just say (again) you're brilliant? The dominant culture thing is so freaking insidious. Its power lies in its tricksy transparency - it coats everything like Saran Wrap - clear and suffocating. Many people, including myself, miss or have missed how they are or have been manipulated by The Power. I think many white people want desperately to rid themselves of the guilt inequality presents in their lives. To that end, they fail to adequately investigate the layers of the message they're receiving from the "dominant culture." Most days they don't acknowledge (or truly don't realize) that, whether or not they want to be, they are a member of that DomCult. They hear sound bites like "transcending race," and they think, "Hey, yeah, that sounds like a winner! Let's do that! I feel like shit about endlessly circulating injustice, so let's just pretend we're all alike! That will make it go away!" It's the DomCult's scripted, easy way out. And the DomCult will continue to breed sound bites - as long as people are unwilling to do the hard work of looking at themselves and the differences between themselves and others that exist only because the damn deck is stacked It's hard to remember to question the language we ceaselessly receive through the media, and that's because language itself is privileged above action in this culture. I have an idea: Turn off the TV and act like you care instead of saying you do in a way that is, ultimately, careless and hurtful. Crazy, huh?

Thanks, shark fu, for reminding me that language is often loaded and thoughtless, but the thoughts and actions behind compassion are light as a feather and way easier to carry around in my purse.

Unknown said...

The ideal situation would be for us all to accept and love the things about ourselves the dominant culture would have us suppress, as you say. For example, it took me YEARS to finally love my kinky hair! I always wanted it to be straight like my mom's.

But that's not all. My best friend, who is White, loves different cultures, natural Black hair, and various things not associated with her race. But she is always reminded of how that isn't appropriate since she is White.

We should transcend race, in a sense. We should allow others to experience our cultural heritage, even if they are not part of it.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, we can value our differences while at the same time valuing our sameness. It doesn't have to be about assimilation. If we constantly build on our differences, we can easily create hatred. If we constanly build on our sameness, we lose our heritage.

There should be a happy medium.

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