Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Vineyard Vanity

As liberal as it is, the Vineyard is about as racially integrated as a college dining hall—blacks and whites get along fine, but they generally don’t socialize

I'm shaking my head right now.

The above quote comes from this article in New York Magazine. The piece uses the Obama's potential plans to vacation at Martha's Vineyard as a jumping off point to discuss the vacation spots segregation.

And everything goes horribly wrong.

Unfortunately, the article falls victim to all of the traps that present themselves when someone tries to talk about racism and racial dynamics using broad generalizations. It utilizes convoluted logic, (like the example I pulled out up top), it simplifies complex issues and it does just enough editorializing to blur the line between column and news article. Some folks will surely herald it as a masterful, but it just left me cold.

Let's start with the quote I pulled out. I'm wondering how something can be liberal, but still be racially segregated. Wouldn't segregation pretty much eliminate the whole liberal definition? Sure, the folks at the Vineyard may like to drive hybrids and wear hemp, but if they can't stand to be around people of different races, then I'm going to question their liberal bonafides.

There is also the attempt to pretend that segregation in the Vineyard was a byproduct of the standoffish attitude some rich black folks naturally possess (Damn those uppity nigras!). The author points out that even when black people first started coming to the island in 1912 they kept to themselves.

Wait, you mean that in 1912, when lynchings and the like were a normal form of justice, black folks coming to a majority white environment stayed to themselves? Despite all the white folks welcoming them into their homes with open arms. You niggers know you have some nerve!

Then there is the idea that blacks and white people get along fine, but they just don't socialize. Huh? Ok, quick quiz for y'all. If I'm married to a woman and I tell you we get along fine, but don't socialize, what are you going to think? Yeah, you're going to think I'm either a liar or an idiot and avoid me either way.

The article continues its confusing logic by explaining to us that the black folks who visit the Vineyard "aren’t assimilationist; they’re ascensionist." The fact that they rapidly attempt to assimilate various aspects of white culture into themselves isn't a bad thing, it's proof that they are only truly concerned with self-advancement.

I get it. If you only assimilate because you understand that's the best way to succeed, you're ok. It's only when you assimilate because you actually think white folks are better, that there is a problem. Lacking morality is much better than being confused. Much, much better.

I was also treated to an explanation of how hard life is for bourgie black kids. Apparently, other black people don't want to be your friends when you refuse to hang out with them because they are poor, dark-skinned or too religious. These black folks have the nerve to question your "blackness," which is always an affront even if you admit that you are doing your best to distance yourself from the popular stereotypes about what represents blackness. Imagine that, people don't like you because you think they are inferior. That's a novel concept indeed.

The author also manages to add some colorful quotes that affirm that white people don't mind being called honkies (Make sure you write that down) and that black folks can be just as racist as anybody else (This info will come in handy during your next attempt to deflect conversations about race).

The climax of the piece is a story about how black and white residents of the Vineyard banded together to remove "loud niggers" from the island when they became a problem. It's a heartwarming tale of joint discrimination based on class and race that will make everyone feel wonderful. Kinda like Birth of a Nation.

Look, I'm not a big fan of slamming folks for their writing cause Lord knows I make enough mistakes myself. But, this piece does more harm than good when it comes to race relations and informing the public about the black experience. I'm saddened by the way it presents black and white interactions, and I'm angered by the myths it promulgates.

Well, I hope the Obamas enjoy their vacation.

(After I completed this blog it was pointed out to me that this article was written by Toure. It all makes sense now.



Lisa J said...

I agree, the article and some of the quotes are a little lame. Especially the "they are black racist" thing. One it brings up all the arguements about bigotry only really being racism when it is followed up with power, and no matter how rich some of those folks are they aren't hardly making white folks suffer for their inclusiveness. Secondly, why are blacks who spend say 49-50 weeks a year in mostly white offices and white suburuban neighborhoods who want to spend a few weeks with "just us" being called racist. Shoot, I don't know too many white folks who are almost always in all black environments and somehow I think if there were a lot of them and they went to spend some time and mostly hung around their white friends and family anyone would judge them. Third, I am partly fascinated and partly disgusted by those bourgie folk, fascinated b/c you don't really see/hear much about them but disgusted by their hubris. They got nerve. What was it Malcom X said, "what do racists whites call a black Phd? Nigger". They know most white folks don't look at them and say "Oh that is the black equivalent of Blue blood!" I THINK NOT. I doubt Michelle (who is one of the most unghetto black women I've seen) really wants to hang out with them too much, and she has probably been around that sort before. I KNOW she and the Prez wouldn't want their girls growing up to be part of that world, or not to much part of it, and all stuck up and full of themselves. Snooty snoots!

And how nice that they let some "lowly" self-proclaimed "honky" hang out with them, most likely solely b/c of his white skin, but think they are too good for Michelle and the O man. For shame.

Big Man said...


Tell us how you really feel.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing was informative. Other things come to mind but I will leave it at that.

lincolnperry said...

Big Man
I'm shaking my head as well, I read Toures piece in the New York Times, he is misinformed.

That enclave up there in Oak Bluffs, is a interesting community, it actually was the Methodist that went to this area with there summer revivals and brought black congregants as well, and many settled in the community.

Raving Black Lunatic