Friday, March 20, 2009
In this clip he makes a distinction between two types of black people. He says there are normal black people and then there are Ns [I do not think I have to spell this out for you to understand what it means, and I will later address the issue of the actual use of this word]. He basically says that black people are civilized, and Ns are the criminals that "normal" people [black and white] are afraid of. Rock even addresses the effect of media. He basically says that the media can not be blamed because it has a lot of truth in it--he says he is not afraid of the media when he is getting money out of the ATM, he is afraid of Ns. Uneducated, ignorant, on welfare because they will not get a job, etc are ways he describes Ns. Rock emphasizes how much he hates these people, and that if he could, he would join the Ku Klux Klan so he could do a nation wide drive-by shooting. This "civil war" between black people and Ns is very interesting, and although a lot of what Rock says is just for entertainment purposes, it made me think.
Just like Chris Rock made the distinctions between black people and Ns, I have heard white people do the same. These white people say they do not have a problem with black people, they like them; it is Ns they do not like. These people often like to say that they are not racist, but I definitely consider them to be racist. I suppose it is because I think that it is alright for black people to make the distinction because they are within the group, but it is not ok for white people to make that distinction. White people, especially in the South, often make the distinction between white people, rednecks, and white trash, but if a black person made that distinction I would not consider them to be racist. So maybe, in reality, it is just that word.
Chris Rock expresses his feelings about the N word in this clip:
The most important quotes from this clip are: "It's the same philosophy of soul food--they gave us the scraps and we made it into cuisine. And we took this word and we made it into poetry. Yeah, it's horrible, but put some sauce on it and now it's poetry." ". . .in the wrong hands it can hurt, but if you give it to the right scientist a Dave Chappelle, an Ice Cube, an Eddie Murphy. . .it's art. It's Mark Twain." His opinion is very interesting, especially his comparison to soul food.
I also came across videos of the Dr. Phil show that discussed the use of the N word, who should or should not be able to use it, or if it should be used at all. If you get the chance, watch the clips; the show and discussion is very interesting.
part 1:: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4hVRxc-EIs&feature=related
part 2:: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAigJ6PZqCg&feature=related
part 3:: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FsGT61U1DD0
part 4:: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4xb_bQaTo0&feature=related
Of course, the discussion gets quite heated at times. I will not waste my time and yours recapping an hour long show, but instead offer my opinion. I do not think it is ever appropriate for a white person to say the N word, in public or in private. I think it is less inappropriate if in an academic setting, however, such as our class or a history class. Because in an academic setting the word is most likely not being used to purposefully offend or categorize black people but rather to give a historical reference or quote something, it is less in appropriate if even a white professor says it--I am still somewhat uncomfortable with it, though. I do not feel it is my place to say whether or not it is appropriate for African-Americans to say the N word, but ideally, I would like to see no one say the word.
Some time within the past two years, I became aware of a movement to stop the use of the N word. It was started by two African-American college students. This is their website: http://www.nwordisout.com/. From the site: "Our mission is to promote ForwardProgress™ within the African American community and to oppose the usage of racial epithets by ALL." The capital "ALL" is very important, and something I agree with. I understand that the reclaiming of the word by African-Americans was very important after it was used with such hatred and discrimination before, but now I think it is time to lay it to rest. The word started of negatively, moved to "positive," then to neutral. . .let it be extinct now. The Why? and About Us sections on the home page of the website are awesome, and the goals are inspiring.
I am not quite sure how to conclude this post. The use of the N word for comical purposes, for every-day use, as a racist and degrading term, etc. with or with out hatred should be stopped in my opinion. Of course, everyone has the freedom of speech as pointed out in the Dr. Phil show though. Some people do not like being told not to do or say something when they have the right to, but out of respect for a people, for the past, everyone should have the decency not to use it.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
For example, Barry Bonds made a comment that all hall of fame players from a pre-Jackie Robinson era, in other words all white players prior to 1947, should be stripped of their honors because they were not forced to play against Blacks. I understand that Bonds may be a poor example because many people already find him intolerable, but this is still his view and it is one that certainly perpetuates racism. By making this comment he is directly implying that Black players are simply better than White players. And this qualification of “better” does not come from hours of practice or steroid use in Bonds’ case. Instead, it comes from an inherent talent associated with being Black. Whether this is true or false is not important. What is important is that this comment perpetuates the idea that Blacks have an inherent athletic talent and this discredits any hard work that is actually put in by these players.
Another example comes from Bryant Gumble, a Black commentator who regularly appears on HBO. When speaking about the Winter Olympic athletes from Turin he stated, "Try not to laugh when someone says these are the world's greatest athletes, despite a paucity of blacks that makes the Winter Games look like a GOP convention." This remark conveys the idea that with a lack of Black athletes at the games the level of competition has gone down. In other words, Black athletes are better than White athletes. Again, whether or not this is true is irrelevant because many will take it as truth and it will be further supported by the success of Blacks in professional sports.
It is an unfortunate double-edged sword. Blacks have success on the court or on the football field and become remarkable role models for youths looking for a way out of poverty or problems. But with this success comes the notion that it is easier for Black athletes to succeed because of inherent physical capabilities. This discredits their success and perpetuates racist ideals that made it hard for them to succeed in the first place. This thought is constantly nagging me because, in all honesty, I still am not sure of the truth. I believe that we are all on equal ground and that I have the potential to run, jump, or throw as far as a Black person equivalent to me. I believe that Blacks dominate the NBA because it is ingrained in inner-city culture as “a way out.” But am I right? I have searched but have found no credible evidence to support either claim and still wonder if some of the racist sports philosophy is based on some truth.
While there has been much discussion regarding Appiah's dismissal of DuBois's concept of sociohistorical race, it seemed prudent to analyze whether the concept of sociohistorical race is somehow achievable in a manner that truly detaches it from biology. DuBois offered that a people are not coupled as a race as a result of color, hair type, or other physiological similarities, but rather as a group who shares a common history, who have experienced the same strife and goals and who have, as a group, moved forward. He also offers that this sociohistorical concept helps to establish the function of race, namely that G-d intended for each of the eight races to contribute something unique to all of mankind, and that together, these contributions would advance each and every race. The question though, is whether there is any context in which one can divorce social history from biology.
In order to find such a context, one must take a rather unorthodox view of social history. Instances such as World War II, which brought many minorities together in a common fight against extinction as the result of Nazi aggression could feasibly have created entirely new sociohistorical races with regard to a common history, strife, and goal. While this would require an entirely new formation of the various “races” that DuBois identifies, it seems as though a dynamic system that allows for the introduction of new “races”, might be able to legitimize a sociohistorical approach to a race.
One primary problem with this redefinition is that many groups would lack the depth of history that it seems that DuBois requires, but this too is easily solved by a simple redefinition. What seems more troubling is whether the spirit of the social history discussed by DuBois is lost by such a definition. While there is some negative value in allowing for the dynamic introduction of races as the result of current events, there is quite a lot of positive value to be gained as well. Under the system of eight races proposed by DuBois, each race is assumed to have made its contribution with the exception of blacks. Under this system, each group could be expected to make a true contribution and given that it does not seem that the world could be made complete with only one additional racial contribution, a system in which races are able to emerge and make their own contribution seems more consistent with the imperfect world we live in.
This topic is incredibly liberal in terms of taking DuBois’s arguments and warping them to fit a context that does not require a biological history, so I’m interested to see the comments.
Cat’s blog reference to Obama peeked my interest and inspired me to watch President Barack Obama’s Philadelphia Speech “A More Perfect Union.” In this speech by our first African American President, President Obama talks about our need for union during our current struggle with war, the economy, etc. He recognizes the fact that there is still a division between people and while he does not limit this divide to race, he does stress race as one of Americas major causes of division. In the speech, Obama emphasizes that it does not matter our skin color, our economic backgrounds, our political stance, where we grew up, etc. We are all Americans and all share similar issues that have no tie to race. This brought me back to the ideas of Montagu, who wanted to take the term “race” out of our vocabulary entirely. While it would be nice to have a world that judged people solely by their personalities and not by their skin color, it is an idea that realistically is impossible. People will always make distinctions by race whether appropriate or not. Now, what made me think of Montagu during the Obama speech was that Obama suggests that he knows that each American comes from a different background and different race. However, he believes that this should not deter us from accepting our similarities and in that acceptance, we should be able to get past our racial differences and unite together.
This speech made me think not only do we need to unite together over our similarities, but also accept eachother’s differences as well. Many believe that in order to rid ourselves of racism, we need to become a colorblind society. I say, this colorblind society should not and will not ever exist. To say that when you see someone you don’t see them as Black, Asian, White, etc. is just false. It is not shameful to see one’s color. It is part of one’s identity. However, we need to create a society that does not define people by their race. Instead we need to create a society that accepts people for their differences, one in which we can coexist, but also relate to eachother. I am not saying this will be an easy trek, it has yet to be, but unless society actually begins to accept people for who they are rather than what stereotypes their race plays out for them, there will not be any sort of progression towards the movement to end racism.
It seems that with a gradual understanding of race through time we have progressively narrowed the privilege gap between whites and other races in our country. Today, we know that there is no reasonable purpose for discriminating or oppressing anyone, but it still seems to happen everywhere. There are accidental and purposeful institutionalized race privileges that exist and flourish in our society. This is what makes me wonder about how our ancestor’s concept of race has impacted the racial structure of society today. Does race privilege exist because many whites still have the idea that they are the superior race? Does it take time for race privilege gap narrowing to catch up to a better understanding of race and equality? Is race privilege unavoidable in a world that has a history of discrimination against other groups of people?
I have no idea how I would even begin to answer these question, but I think to some extent the answer for all is yes. Also, I believe the survival of race privilege is a more complex issue than the few questions I posed in the previous paragraph. I think the collective cognitive evolution of mankind has lead us to a point in time where race equality is considered ideal but does not fully exist. It seems that there are too many whites, and some non-whites, that have beliefs that parallel the misguided concepts of racial superiority and eugenics. Also, it seems that white people who believe in racial equality fail to understand that they are privileged by their race. Furthermore, the few whites that understand that race privilege exists everywhere seem to be confused about how to fight race privilege or lack the ability to make a difference.
These assumptions lead me to a depressing conclusion that race privilege gaps are the final and most difficult obstacle we have to overcome to achieve a fair and equal society. I should also say that it may be impossible to create a completely fair and equal society and all we can do is narrow the infinite gaps in race equality as best we can. The people who structured our society, its laws, its institutions and its culture were people who openly oppressed non-whites. Therefore, we are still affected by our ancestor’s ideas about race through the oppressive society they created. Whites open oppressiveness in institutions seems to have disappeared, for the most part, since the Civil Rights movement, but underlying, institutionalized race privilege has taken its place. It seems to me that mankind’s collective understanding of race and oppression is directly tied to the amount of oppression and inequality that exists at any given time in history. But, it also seems that the amount of oppression and inequality in society is far greater than what it should be for what we know and believe about race.
I don’t think all of my claims and arguments in this blog are entirely accurate, but I was just trying to hypothesize about the connection between forms of oppression and the common beliefs about race in a society. Does anyone agree or disagree with some of the things I said on this topic?
The negativism of double consciousness centers on racism and power. As stated in my previous blog racism centers on the issue of people judging people by the color of their skin. Over the past three hundred (+) years in the United States the white race has had the power and set the rules. As Du Bois correctly observed the clever or astute black person was forced to judge his actions by two sets of motives: his own as a black person and by what the white person was thinking or expecting. Often this was a matter of survival. The black person had to make a decision that was within the framework of the white race’s power game. Those rules have changed enormously, simply by the election of a black president. While this election was of incredible importance in the power struggle, it did not immediately level the playing field. However, it should help the black person to make decisions based on issues other than the color of one’s skin.
There is a positive side of the double consciousness issue and one that Du Bois does not adequately address. Double consciousness states that one strives to understand or think of the motives/desires of the person with whom he/she is engaging. When taken outside the context of race people who succeed at this are called intuitive. It is very advantageous to develop the intuitive ability to understand one’s opponent, whether it is in the classroom debating, in a boardroom negotiation, at the Cabinet level in White House discussions, or as one approaches a battlefield foe. In today’s world we may call this “getting inside an opponent’s head.” It seems many people have lost the ability to approach a debate or discussion and think about where the other person is coming from. If we understand the other person’s point of view or thought process, we can much more successfully put forth our own perspective.
One can easily project that the black person who has long been forced (because of racism) to approach discussions, debates, and decision making by understanding his opponent may ultimately have an advantage once the power struggle of racism diminishes. The centuries of double consciousness that were necessary for survival would leave the black person in an advantageous position…if racism can be removed or greatly diminished from the equation.
In this construct the double consciousness concept of Du Bois is incomplete. Du Bois states the black man is conflicted because he has to frame all questions of being black versus American (white) in the power struggle framework. As the power of race diminishes, freedom returns to making decisions not based on this framework. However, I would contend that the black race would gain an advantage by maintaining the double consciousness concept of thought: being intuitive or insightful in approaching life’s problems. We are not there yet, and it is possible that Du Bois could not envision the day when the black man would be free to think without race forefront in his mind. However, I doubt he could have foreseen a black president elected in the United States. Things do change.
Monday, March 2, 2009
As human beings, we naturally tend to organize and assemble ourselves in groups. We use these groups to identify ourselves, not all of ourselves, but a part of ourselves. As a member of a group one would feel the need to give the group a good image, or however you want to put it. When a member of a group does something that brings attention, positive or negative, it is seen as making a step, backwards or forwards, for the group.
A good example of this would be Catholics. I can write on this topic, because I am Catholic. When a priest is accused of pedophilia or of stealing money from the church all Catholics worry that this is giving people only negative appearances, and they aren’t going to see the good of the group. Muslims are internationally accused of being radical and causing conflict, because of suicide bombers and extremists. Most people who are Muslim, their core belief is of peace. Republicans and Democrats feel they are represented by the people who say or do things that the whole party does may not agree with. Members of law enforcement go through this battle when one of their men (women) abuse their power or hide behind the badge. Individuals go through this with their families as well. When a member of your family is arrested or expelled from school, or something to that effect, you will feel like people will now associate you with that, and not for who you are. You feel they are representing your family.
I do not want to take away from African Americans’ struggle for being recognized for negative actions of certain people, but I do want to bring attention to the fact that people feel this way about any group they are apart of. Everyone feels that there are preconceived notions formed about us, from the general public, by the groups we choose to associate ourselves with. I hope that this was not offensive to anyone, but I feel strongly that is something to think about, and that every group of people go through this.
I tried to make it an easy link to click on by I am not that technologically advanced apparently.
You can imagine that this startled most of our classmates and professor, putting them on edge, waiting for an explanation of our bold statement. So as not to be lynched as self-proclaimed potential lynchers, we imparted the wisdom of Frantz Fanon to our class, who uncomfortably acknowledged it and quickly moved on to less stigmatic topics of conversation.
To even consider myself a racist seems to contradict my lifestyle and my mannerisms. I started school as a minority and was fully inoculated against racial bigotry and white supremacy since I learned to write my name. And yet at the same time, I do hear what Fanon is talking about. I am aware of my position in society and my privileges. I am aware of other races’ lack of position and privilege. And I’m sure that awareness affects my judgments and actions in ever so subtle ways. I know that it is not unconscious, but present and accessible in my thoughts. However, I also think that my own education and rearing has limited its influence to only an awareness of difference. Yet, is that awareness enough to call myself a racist?
Then I realize that my definition of racism has relativity to the heinous acts committed before, during, and even still after the Civil Rights Movement. Similar to Alain Locke’s realization of the evolutionary formula, in which he realized that cultures were evaluated based on the white, Western standard rather than on their own individual benefits apart from any comparison to other cultures. My understood definition of racism was based on a standard that involved atrocities committed against other races, active and conscious demeaning of other people – things like lynching, the holocaust, segregation, unfair hiring, malicious police harassment, verbal assault, etc. When I think of racists, I think about the bathroom walls where kids slander other kids because of their race. I think about Gobineau’s “law of repulsion” when kids separate into racial groupings at lunch. I think about racism when people are unwilling to be open to other races and cultures – unwilling to make friends. But what I didn’t think about was that racism could be as small as just being aware of someone else’s race.
But that’s an important thing to include because my awareness certainly helps to sustain the racial barriers and delineate the divide between the races. Sure, I easily step over the lines and will make friends with anyone, but I am aware of the lines and that helps emphasize them. I am aware of my race and of others’ races, which adds to the divide and in turn supports the actions of more extremists. I think about Martin Luther King, Jr. and his struggle to impassion the “white moderate” – those neutral people who don’t actively harm, but in their lack of action, indirectly harm the cause. And I wonder are we not all somehow in that category? In our stigmatism of racism, have we just become racial moderates, not hurting each other but indirectly helping the status quo?
I strive to integrate and to improve society, but someone could just write that off as exoticism or blind naivety. You could ascribe any sort of motivations to my thoughts and actions, and the only defense I have is only I know why I do what I do. Yet, we all know one thing about each other that permeates all of us within this society. I am a racist.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
I as well do not believe "that every action within a racist society is further perpetuating racism." High five, Kara. However, I do firmly believe that everyone is a racist and that anyone that denies that is either naive or incredibly sheltered (or has transcended humanity, in which case I give you props). I will freely admit that I am a racist, even sans asterisk, because quite frankly (as I believe racism is at least partially a product of fear) that makes me human.
Fear, both rational and irrational, is a human thing. I see a black man in an alley; my hand instinctively goes to whatever bladed or blunt instrument I have on me. I see a white man in a suit with a wry smile; I'm already protecting my wallet and putting my earphones on in case he tries to sweet talk me out of my money. I see another Asian dressed similar to me; clearly I have found the newest member of my break dance crew.
But I know the feeling of being that which is feared. Certainly you have your own stereotypes against any minority class I belong to. Maybe I'm threatening because clearly every Asian does Kung Fu and works for some mafia. Maybe you're a feminist and because I was born with certain body parts that give me more convenient access to larger amounts of testosterone you assume I'm a macho misogynist. Maybe my sexual orientation makes you think I'm weak or that I have to be a flamboyant tease. They way I dress has gotten me in trouble before too -- seriously, Campus Safety, do I look like a homeless gun-wielding thug to you? And the worst thing, as some of you may know, is that if you do just one stereotypical thing of whatever it is you are, you ARE the stereotype. And that happens even if you aren't whatever it is you are perceived to be.
Any one of those is just as major of a sticking point as race; at least it is to me. I for one do not think eliminating race or racism is necessary or even possible. Our society thrives on the disparities between races, classes, genders, etc. IT SUCKS, and that I should be able to say without any argument. But on an individual level I would like to think it builds character. We as individuals get to choose how to present ourselves and how to react to the disparities.
Now I am definitely not endorsing the "frothing-at-the-mouth" sort of crap that we've all seen, heard, and talked about in class. There are many unnecessary and cruel situations created on account of some sort of bias that should be acknowledged and prevent from ever happening again. What I do endorse is --if anything like race, sexual orientation, physical characteristics, etc. has ever been a source of disparity or degradation for you -- that you find your own way to be accepted.
Maybe you want to go all "pride" like Du Bois or play the system like Washington. It is your responsibility to make it happen. So don't bitch about your acceptance problems and insecurities (unless it somehow happens to be productive). Learn to live with the fear that you have of others and the fear that they have of you. Then do what you need to if you really feel "acceptance" is all that important in whatever microcosm (or macrocosm) you fit into.
Sorry for the rant.