Thursday, February 21, 2008

Can Your Blackness be Revoked?

The legitimate presidential run of a black man has caused an outpouring of stories about America's newfound ability to "transcend race" when selecting political candidates.

Barack Obama has become a rallying cry for all those individuals who believe this country's transformation into a color blind society is only a few years away.

Don't count me in that number.

Not only am I much more pessismistic about the entrenched nature of racism and white priviledge, I'm leery of any group of people who claim to be color blind. It strikes me as mildly ludicrous that people don't note the color of person's skin when they meet them just for identification purposes.

Then I read this story in The New York Times.

Besides the recap of just how hard black people once had it in the South, the most troubling aspect of the article was the mindset displayed by the townspeople in the beginning. Several of them, I think one was even the mayor, said they didn't happen to notice their new Representative was black or they didn't really think of him as black.

Now, what does that mean?

One of the main things holding Obama back among black voters initially was the feeling among black folks that he seemed to be a little too well-liked by white folks. Along with concerns about his viability as a candidate, many black people seemed to wonder that if white people liked him so much he must not be the type of brother that black people can depend on.

After all, the black people most readily accepted into mainstream society are those who are willing to subordinate their blackness to make white folks feel more comfortable. They are the "safe negroes" the ones who know their place and don't rock the boat. In fact, I would argue that it wasn't until Bill Clinton began his racially based attacks on Barack that most black people began to realize that maybe he wasn't a pawn of white folks.

One of the most common comments about Barack Obama is that he tends to help people forget that he's black. Just like the aformentioned Alabama politician, people have been known to actually say that they don't even notice his skin color anymore. This is said in a kind of superior manner that seems to imply that those who still notice race are somehow less racially evolved.

Uh, I don't think so.

In fact, the very fact that people don't even notice that Obama or other safe negroes are black is proof of a serious racial hangup. That shows a willful blindness to the fact that for many people being black has played an integral part in developing their world view and shaping their philosophies on life.

It shows an unwillingness to deal with the fact that being black is different from being white, and an unwillingness to really try to understand the full range of that difference in this society.

Look, it's cool that some white people and people of color want to do away with racial groups of any kind and bring us all together into some sort of huge multi-colored goulash. But, if this new push for color blindness absolves people of their responsibility to deal with the wounds this country's continual racial abuse inflicts then I'm against it.

I'm against the idea that because I learned how to read, write and speak standard English I get to transcend being black as long as I'm willing to avoid bringing up that prickly "race stuff."

That's not freedom, that's trading shackles for a leash.

My wife made a great point to me the other day that people who claim to be color blind are really claiming to be neutral. But, neutrality in the battle for equality really means supporting the inequality of the status quo.

Choosing to be color blind in a world where color matters is choosing to live in a dream world that makes you feel better about yourself.

I'm going to deal with all the colors of reality.

4 comments:

Lolo said...

"shackles for a leash" is one of those phrases that just stops you in your tracks. Powerful imagery and it thumps you in the back of the head like a donkey punch in a porn clip.

Big Man said...

Thanks, I appreciate at that because I really worked hard at trying to figure out the right phrase to explain that.

T.A.N.Man said...

Good points buddy.

My wife made the same point to me, yesterday: "There is no such thing as neutrality in war. Everyone is on one side or the other." Jinks!!

I think there is another reason for the racial-blindness with respect "safe negroes:" It allows white people to validate their grossly generalized descriptions of black people by cleverly removing those who don't fit from consideration. If educated, and articulate black people are not seen as black, then you who definitely is. As Evan Ross would say, "Exbackly!" And, that's why some of us are always reminded of how "well-spoken" we are. F-You very much!!

Big Man said...

Lol, very true T.A.N. man.

Ain't that how many white folks roll though? Make a grossly untrue statement and then cleverly change the rules to try to create the impression of validity.

Raving Black Lunatic