I am over Skip Gates and his Cambridge beat down. I am going to take his advice and move on.
(That is, of course, until I hear the tapes that the Cambridge Solicitor's office is holding. Then we might have to revisit this bad boy.)
Still, given the tone of this debate, and the state of race relations in our beloved country, I find myself wanting to contribute to the dialogue and debate in a less emotional and passionate manner. I want to approach this race issue like an academic (kind of like Skip probably does) and try to understand the position of the folks in the majority population (as well as the black ones who side with them) who do not share my views.
Now living on the East Coast among a large cross section of non WASP whites, I hear this a lot: "I did not own slaves, I wish blacks in this country would just move on and stop playing the victim role. So they were slaves. The Irish were slaves, too, but you don't hear us bitching about it and making excuses." Or, "blacks are always playing the race card. Hell I am an Italian guy from South Philly, who likes to wear nice clothes and drive a nice car, and cops are always stopping me in my nice car, thinking I am a mobster or something." Or, "look at the Jews, they suffered, but look how much they have achieved. That is because they understand the value of a good education." Or, "before blacks start blaming whitey for everything, they should check their own neighborhoods. Blacks are killing other blacks in much greater numbers than whitey ever could." How am I doing?
And then there are the conservative blacks and right wing intellectuals. The folks who feel that the country white A-merry-cans built is under attack, and that the black victim card and the black animus for white institutions and white authority has been way over played. I will give you a little of that straight from the elephant's mouth. This is Elizabeth Wright, tearing down Debra Dickerson's book, The End Of Blackness: (Ironically, a book that is pretty much telling black folks to let go of the baggage of the past and move on)
"From the promotion of this book and from the first few pages of its Introduction, a reader comes to Debra Dickerson's The End of Blackness, expecting something other than an extensive catalogue of the sins and moral failings of whites. The author does get around to the book's supposed premise, which is a call to blacks to free themselves from obsession with past grievances and take responsibility for the choices and decisions they make, but not before she engages in a considerable amount of verbiage aimed at whites and their past crimes and present incivilities.
We first get, of course, a tour of the old horror stories of bigotry -- Emmett Till's murder, the duplicitous Tuskegee "experiment," Rosa Parks' humiliation, and so on. Then come the generalizations about whites, along with some peculiar contradictions. Whites refuse to accept the "full dimensions" of their wicked past. Whites subsist only on their "windfall of skin privilege," an implication that individual whites have achieved little through their own efforts. Whites believe so much in "their own infallibility," that when blacks fail to fit certain stereotypes, whites have to "build their own Frankensteins to fear and loathe." And this is why elderly white ladies clutch their purses at the sight of a black man, and why whites "tremble" when finding themselves in all-black settings.
She talks authoritatively about "white supremacy," which, apparently, like the term "racism," has been defined downward. In Dickerson's world, just about any behavior on the part of a white, that lacks at least some deference to the sensibilities of blacks, can get him slapped with the "white supremacist" label.
She saves her most accusative tone for white men, who are depicted as unreasonable belligerents, who stubbornly continue to resist sharing their piece of the pie with blacks -- an indication, somehow, of "masculinity" problems. She quotes a writer, referencing sports, with whom she agrees, who claims that black men have taken over the "symbols of manliness." To this, Dickerson observes that as long as black masculinity was kept "under lock and key," the "myth of white superiority" could prevail. "Why can't Walter Mitty identify with Walter Payton?" she asks.
As usual, this interplay between groups is not described in terms of the universal contest for power that exists wherever groups interact, but instead is interpreted as further proof of unique white malevolence. Why it would be normal behavior for any group of men, who have been dominant in their society, to allow themselves voluntarily to be displaced, is never a subject for discussion by such arbiters of castration politics.
Her depictions of the unyielding, recalcitrant white, who struts around like a know-it-all, egotistical peacock, had me wondering if she is paying attention to what's really happening in this society, or if her antenna is picking up signals from a distant era. Where are these preening whites, who are "insulated by privilege" from the problems of blacks and "simply choose not to know?" Is there really anywhere in this society where one can escape the relentless telling and retelling of the story of slavery, Jim Crow, lynchings, and colored water fountains? Set upon with the type of charges made by people like Dickerson, and eager to comply with the rules of the race game, most whites strive to keep their heads below the radar, so as not to be slammed with the potentially ruinous accusation of "racist" -- the ultimate smear of smears. "
Now the tragedy of Ms. Wright's critique is that she approaches the subject of race in A-merry-ca like people in the majority would. (Oh, did I mention that Ms. Wright is black? Yes, and girlfriend might have some issues. But I digress. I am trying to be nice tonight.) Trying to judge the black experience and the complexities of the black race as if it all just started 10 years ago. That is impossible. It has to be judged in the context of the entire history of black people in this country. It has to take into effect that history's effect on our psyche, our families, our work ethic, and our mental state. This did not happen over night. Many of the experiences black people are going through today is a direct result of that history. ---And yes, the institutions that made this country---- Ms. Wright seems to be arguing that white men should not be ashamed of this country's history and should not be ashamed for wanting to hold on to power. Fine. But if that's the case, her position is not logically consistent, because to hold on to power one has to do things that would hurt those who are seeking to get some of it.
But let me go back to the start of my post and my non WASP white friends: I have said this before, and believe me I am getting tired of saying it. But it goes to the heart of this debate. Whether you are Irish, Polish,Italian, Jewish, German, and....whatever. You can walk into a room filled with similar people and no one would know it. Why? Because you look just like they do. If you are black, on the other hand, (even if you look like Skippy Gates) you can't hide. Your blackness comes before you. Before you say a word the color of your skin says it for you. And everyone in that group assumes whatever about you based on a life time of prejudices and experiences. That doesn't happen to the folks in the majority population, it just doesn't. That is why when people in the majority population give you the my ancestors came to this country argument you have to just laugh it off. Because their ancestors had the privilege of white skin. Something that they could not have survived without or could have imagined living without. Remember that old Chris Rock joke? About the white guy not trading places with him, and he is rich? "Sorry Chris, I think I will stick this white thing out." Yeah it was kind of like that in A-merry-ca.
Wright ends her article by talking about a man I have met and admire, Kenny Gamble. You know the conservative speech by now: How he pulled himself up by his "bootstraps," and blah blah blah. (As if every black man and woman in these divided states who happens to be alive as I write this damn post didn't pull him or herself up by their bootstrap. Nigger please! ) What she failed to mention is the many obstacles Gamble faced along the way because he is black. Now that he has persevered and reached the pinnacle of financial independence, he is to somehow be thankful for something special A-merry-ca gave him? What about the thousands like him who failed because A-merry-ca wasn't so giving because of how they looked or where they came from? Here is a news flash for you Elizabeth: If it wasn't for his music Kenny Gamble wouldn't have had the financial resources to buy up all that land in South Philly. So let's not go making his story one of those "all you have to do is work hard" one just yet.
Wright wants to know if there is anywhere in society we can go without hearing about "Jim Crow, lynchings, and colored water fountains". (She can't be serious.) She suggests that Dickerson must be picking up signals from a "distant era". But Ms. Wright would be well served to listen again. I would suggest that it is her antennas that's picking up those signals. And sadly, I think she wants to go back there.
Anyway, this post was kind of long, so I apologize. But I think it's appropriate, because it's been a long week.
My white friends, I am waiting to hear from you.