Sunday, August 06, 2006

Field-Negro 101


I am always amused at how sensitive some blacks-particularly black conservatives-get when you talk about the house Negro field Negro dichotomy among black folks. Black conservatives are always quick to lash out at the house Negro moniker as if it's directed at them. They see it as a straw man and red herring set up to distract from the real issues confronting black America. Well it's not. The moniker is one that was created by Malcolm X in one of his more famous speeches to make a point about certain blacks not giving their all to the movement because of their so called stake in America. That speech is so inspiring and so on point, that it is from where I find the inspiration- not to mention the name- for this blog. I use it because I think it's still relevant for today's discourse in matters of race, as well as the black political movement in this country.

When I post on other blogs I always use the handle field-Negro, and the vitriolic responses I get for my handle alone -from whites and blacks- is at times frightening. "Why must you use that handle, it's so degrading to blacks?" "Shame on you for such a despicable handle", "you embarrass yourself and all self respecting black people by using such a handle". And so it goes. This is just from the black folks. You can imagine what I get from my fellow white bloggers on the web; or, for that matter, the fringes of the web. [You might have noticed the vermin and rats crawling out of various trailer parks to post on this blog of late.]

But, once again,I would like to set the record straight about this house Negro field Negro metaphor-and yes it's just a metaphor-and where I stand on this issue. Think of this post as field Negro 101 for your self improvement:

First, being a house Negro has nothing to do with how you look, how much money you have, where you live, or, for that matter, where you work. The same can be said about being a field-Negro. It's not about how radical you think you are or how militant or African you may appear in your features. It's why I explain my background in detail to all who come to my blog. It's important to understand that in spite of my upbringing and background, I am firmly entrenched in the fields. It's not about my credentials or how I grew up, or even what privileges were afforded to me. Rather, it's about my state of mind at this point in time, and how I choose to engage in the struggle to uplift black people in modern day America.

For instance, I consider wealthy people such as Bill Cosby and Denzel Washington field Negroes. On the other hand, I consider some not so wealthy people, such as Jessie Lee Peterson and La Shawn Barber, house Negroes. I consider certain sports icons such as Jim Brown, Magic Johnson, and Muhammad Ali, field Negroes. But I consider icons such as Michael Jordon, O.J. Simpson, and George Foreman, house Negroes. Oprah Winfrey, in my book, is a house Negro; while her good friend, Maya Angelo, belongs in the fields. Jessie Jackson-yes Jessie Jackson-is a house Negro, but John Lewis, the congressman from Georgia, is a field Negro. In terms of appearance, the very dark Clarence Thomas should have his picture in the dictionary beside house Negro, while the fairer skinned Thurgood Marhsall was a big time field Negro. So it's certainly not about how you look. It's all about who I think is contributing to the cause of advancing black issues in the right way. Period.

Now let's look at this phenomenon literally for a moment: I have no problem with someone living in the house, and wanting the things the house offers for his or her family: The better schools; the safer neighborhoods; and a better quality of life. Only a fool would think otherwise. I don't even have a problem with the house Negro running to put out the fire if massa's house catches on fire, or if he tries to save massa's life. After all, if massa and his house are gone, where is the house Negro going to live, and who is going to hire him to work? On the other hand, I do have a problem if the house Negro tries to save massa before his own. That type of house Negro is a problem, and he is the one I speak so disparagingly of when I make fun of the house Negro. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of house Negroes like the latter around today. They are the ones who write the books for massa's ears only, kicking black folks harder than massa would ever kick us by telling us how bad we are. They are the ones -insert Thomas Sowell here- who write about America and her problems, as if the white man is blameless, and we, black folks, brought all the problems on ourselves. They are the ones-insert Clarence Thomas here- who we all know just wish that they not only worked in the house for massa, but wish that they were a part of massa's family as well. That is the dangerous house Negro, the self hater, who will do anything to be more white than the very white person himself, because just working and living in the house is not enough for him. That house Negro wants a stake in the house, and he will sell the rest of us out to get it.

I will give you an example: I have a black colleague who does very well for himself and his family. He recently purchased a home in a very affluent predominantly white neighborhood, and has from time to time bragged of being the only black in his development. Now this individual is a classic house Negro. And living in his all white subdivision didn't make him one, but being proud that he is the only black in said subdivision does. Like the "house nigger" in Malcolm X' s speech, he was proud to be the only Negro living among the whites. This is the inclination and fixed way of thinking of an individual who has fled from his people and would not mind if he never sees a black neighborhood or anything associated with black people again. This Negro didn't flee to white suburbia for better schools, safer neighborhoods, and cost effectiveness. No sir, this Negro fled to white suburbia because he wanted to be around massa and his house. This house Negro is the one I refer to when I make my lists, and speak of when I try to point out the Negroes that are holding us back by projecting to white folks-insert Oprah here- a false image of what black folks are going through. The field Negro, given the same circumstances, would find himself going back to the old neighborhood, volunteering his time, and helping when and where he can. He would not care about how many other Negroes lived in his development, as long as his family was receiving the benefits I outlined above.

So for all of you who see the handle, and wonder why a field negro. Think about that for a minute. Think about what makes a field Negro: Hard worker, cares about his family and his race, always with the masses so he knows what it will take to improve our plight, understands -because he works so hard in the fields- that it will take more than just talk to make things happen. And, finally, that the house is not his, and, ultimately, he will have to build his own. That, my friends, is the essence of the field Negro, and that is what every Negro should strive to become.

Folks, you will notice that I have not been reading from the massa's paper for the past few Sundays. Why? Well, quite frankly, the news has been depressing to the field negro, -war, inner city murders, heat wave,global warming, serial killers, doping scandals,accusations of drug abuse by Lark Voorhies. (Ok maybe in the bigger scheme of things that's not so important)-and it's all just more of the same. So until things change a little in the world, I think I will stay away from writing in depth about the news for awhile.

Peace.

23 comments:

TNB Alerts said...

FN, Malcom X was a hatefilled racist and so is anyone who worships him as you seem to do. Now, here are some more stats to gratify youz.

Though only 12% of the population, blacks take 38.3% of the total of all welfare payments. Whites are 72% of the population, and take 30.5% of the total.

http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/leavers99/race.htm#fig1

Though only 12% of the population, blacks take 38% of taxpayer-subsidized housing

http://www.huduser.org/datasets/assthsg/statedata96/descript.htm

In 2000, 39 percent of families receiving TANF assistance were black, 31 percent were non-Hispanic white, 25 percent were Hispanic, 2.2 percent were Asian and 1.6 percent were Native American.

http://www.prcdc.org/summaries/poverty/poverty.html

Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

08 06 06

Hey FN:
How are you? Good article and I can see why you are taking a break from the news...I take issue with you citing Oprah, given all of her philanthropic work, particularly in supporting HBCU's!!! If ever there was someone who Valued education for her people, it would be her despite whether you like how she runs her show.

As to people feeling like you degrade yourself by calling yourself the Field Negro-well they are misguided and have issues and clearly that is their problem and not yours. I also think that Clarence Thomas is an undercover field negro. Looking at his dissent in the Kelo case confirmed that for me.

Curiously enough, you didn't mention Ward Connerly...I have exceedingly mixed feelings about him because I feel as though he, and those of his ilk deny racism-or rather minimize it at every turn. The results of this are disasterous because we see a real polarization among Black conservatives, moderates and liberals.

Your comments about Rev Peterson, I am afraid are correct. Every chance he gets, all I have seen him do is degrade Black folks. His assertion that the moral poverty of the Blacks in New Orleans causing the hurricane was the most foolish and insensitive rhetoric I have ever heard.

I also had to separate myself from another blogger who did an article dedicated to debunking "so called first black inventor myths".

I am quite saddened that the only Black conservatives who tend to get press are the ones who minimize racism, and constantly coddle the ego of the previous order of things...There are some Black conservatives out there who really do care about the plight of Black folks, but I feel as though their alignments with these ig'nant folks take away their credibility.

I think Cobb is an excellent example of an elightened Black conservative, but alignments with people like Rev Peterson will lose some voting power. Although if Cobb ran for office, I would vote for him:)

Sorry for rambling, stimulating article!!!

field negro said...

Thanks for the post Mahndisa, and although I disagree with you, I respect your opinion on Oprah. As for Ward Connerly,I prviously posted a list of HN's which he is on, so I did not forget him. I find your thoughts on Clarence Thomas interesting, and I will read his dissenting opinion in the case you mentioned.

BTW, I also think Cobb is a bright guy,-even though we butt heads from time to time- although I don't think I would ever vote for him ;)

Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

08 07 06

Hey FN:
Thanks for the response. I recalled that list, so do apologize; I think it was one of the first posts I read by you:) Regarding Justice Thomas's dissent, here is the URL from the Cornell Law Library and a snippet:
"Those communities are not only systematically less likely to put their lands to the highest and best social use, but are also the least politically powerful. If ever there were justification for intrusive judicial review of constitutional provisions that protect "discrete and insular minorities," United States v. Carolene Products Co., 304 U.S. 144, 152, n. 4 (1938), surely that principle would apply with great force to the powerless groups and individuals the Public Use Clause protects."

I think history will show that this man is far more complicated than we give him credit for. Sometimes, I like to think about the Spook that sat by the door and wonder if he is the spook.

plez... said...

Interesting post and quite thought-provoking: a class within a class. I see that you limited your comments to Black folk, but as I've witnessed during my travels, a similar article could be written about House Hispanics, House Asians, and House Indians.

field negro said...

Mhanisa, I read the dissent, and you are right. Justice Thomas seemed to have gotten this one right. I agree with his interpretation of the "Public Use Clause" But you know what they say about a broken clock...:) Seriously, this was an easy call, I think the court clearly made an error with this issue. (Allowing public use of private property for economic reasons)This was not in the true spirit of an "Eminent Domain" taking, as I think there might have been just compensation,-not sure- but it was certainly a reach to say this taking was for public use.

So nice try, but I am still not feeling Clarence:) I just don't think he is as complicated and as intelectually curious as you think.

Anonymous said...

field-negro:
you clearly are committed to your beliefs/ and i respect your beliefs.
but tell me field-negro who is really going to win the next mayoral election in your fine city? shall it be the party chairman? perhaps the other congressman who they say is leading the pack-mr. fatah? it is my belief that the voters will choose- and that you and i will be successful in whatever our endeavers happen to be--!! good luck field-negro with your blog-i may not be back to visit so soon-but ill check back in with you when the next mayoral poll comes out---maybe that 6 figure income will be there for both of us?
love R----!

Khalid Gibran Ali said...

Good comment, brother. I've been thinking about that same sort of dichotomy. I can tell you one thing-- Condi Rice is definitely of the "House Negro" type. To be the public voice of an Administration slaughtering colored people by the hundreds of thousands in Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon, she's sold out just about any human quality that would have made her work worthwhile.

http://khalidali.bravehost.com/the_nubian_manifesto.htm

Asabagna said...

Hey FN... I just returned from my honeymoon... did a cruise of the eastern caribbean...

Interesting commentary... I don't remember exactly how I came upon your blog page... but it was your moniker that caught my eye... I feel and identify with your "field negro" ideology... plus as a fellow "yardie", you know we come from a long line of rebellious "field negroes"...such as Paul Bogle; George William Gordon; Nanny of the Maroons; Samuel Sharpe; Marcus Mosiah Garvey; Robert Nestor Marley; Peter Tosh; Capleton; Sizzlah and Asabagna Alatentou (wink) to name a few!

Blessings.
Asa.

T. said...

I think the thought that Black conservatives write for "massa" is disingenuous. It's not like self-flagellating guilty white liberals don't eat up everything poverty pimps like Dyson and bell hooks write either. One could argue that black studies intellectuals are just as guilty of writing for "massa."

The difference between black liberals and conservatives is easy, and as someone who's been on both sides of the ideological divide I can sum it up much easier than your overcomplicated field negro/house negro analysis:

Black liberals focus on what sounds nice and will win them easy support in their community, regardless of whether it's based in reality. Black conservatives focus on reality, regardless of whether it sounds nice and will earn them scorn in their community.

Aulelia said...

Oprah -- that's a tough one. I don't think she is a house negro by choice, she knows she has to cater to them to get what she wants...but then again when she does have certain white celebrities on her show, i'm like, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING? lol, i dont mean to discriminate but sometimes she does try and bring the races a little *too* close together. maybe she should try and bring the field and house negroes together?

field negro said...

Asa congrats my man! And ys, I am feeling you on the rebellious "yawdie" thing. It's why the field-negro displayed on my blog is a Maroon.

"T" I hear what you are saying about the black conservative, but I think your analysis of the rift in our community is being over simplified. I too have been on both sides, and I actually think it's easier to be a black conservative these days than it is to be a liberal. -Certainly white america loves nothing more- Most black people don't buy into the old black radicalism stuff anymore and are searching for real answers to everyday problems. Not just clenching our fists and crying "fight the power". So blacks who are crying the same old "poverty pimp" lines like Jackson, Dyson, et al.are not being felt right now. The problem with conservatives, is that they offer no real answers, just more of the same;"pull your boot straps up, the government can't help crap". I think conservatives need to focus on more practical and grass roots efforts and solutions-Maybe through the churches-and then they will gain some legitimacy among the masses.

brotherbrown said...

That black liberal-black conservative difference is better defined this way:

Black liberals see and celebrate the good in the black community and work on the bad without public fanfare.

Black conservatives ignore the good and try to shine a light on the bad, offering suggestions that only tend to prove how detached they are from the black community.

field negro said...

Interesting point BB, I never thought about it that way.

BTW, can you give me the pot calling the kettle analogy -the white version- again?
I remember reading you on another blog and it was perfect. But I forgot it :)

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