Friday, July 10, 2009

Why You Care?

Unlike many Americans, I wasn't glued to my tube watching the Michael Jackson memorial.

Sure, I caught snippets, but it was mainly background noise in my day. It's not that I didn't appreciate Jackson's impact, I did. But, I've moved on, and given my mixed feelings about the singer, it's hard to generate the true sadness I would feel if a loved one died.

Yet, Jackson's death has provided me with another opportunity to examine the curious way many conservative white folks approach racial issues.

I've noticed that throughout the conservative underworld and overworld, several commentators have taken it upon themselves to question Jackson's "blackness." The most recent being Bill O'Reilly who made a point of blasting black folks for celebrating Jackson as a black icon despite all the signs that he was engulfed by a form of self hate. He actually said that Jackson couldn't really be black because of his skin changes and the fact that he had a bunch of white kids. (Real quick, when was the last time y'all heard of a white person losing their "whiteness" for adopting children of another race? I'll be waiting.)

These commentators reminded me of stuff I heard during President Obama's campaign when black folks were chastised for considering the president "black" despite the fact that he had a white momma. They also echoed some of the discussions about Tiger Woods and his ethnicity. It all leads me to one question.

Why do they care so much?

I could see if all these cats were trying to pass as white and these conservative white folks were in the vanguard of those looking to protect the sanctity of whiteness. That would align with past history. But, it's a little confusing that these white folks would be fighting so hard to tell black people NOT to claim these folks as their own. It's almost like these cats are saying "We don't want y'all to have nothing!"

Granted, the "blackness" of people like Tiger Woods and Michael Jackson is difficult to discuss. Tiger has made it clear that he doesn't consider himself "black." He even took it upon himself to create his own race, and honestly, while I used to have a problem with that, I'm over it. He's entitled to live his own life.

While Jackson never publicly disavowed his blackness, and in fact repeatedly made comments that aligned himself with black folks, it also appears that he had some problems with being black. From the myriad of surgeries, to the hair pieces and the children who aren't black at all, well a reasonable person might infer that MJ wasn't a fan of the Negro aesthetic.

But, Jackson, Woods and Obama have fanatical followings among black people. I'll admit that I was surprised at how beloved Jackson was by black people. The outpouring of support and praise for him shocked me because I didn't see much of that when he was alive. It was almost as if his death allowed people to sweep aside all the ugly issues of his life and focus on what they considered truly important.

Basically, he was black and special.

I guess that must be what grates on certain white folks. Maybe it bothers them that black folks seem willing to forgive and forget all manner of transgressions depending on a person's level of fame. Maybe they are upset because they believe that since so many white folks turned their backs on Jackson, black people should have just fallen in line as well. Or maybe they just can't stand to see a black person held in such high esteem. I really don't know for sure.

All I know is that I find it strange that so many white folks who really don't care about black people, who don't associate with many black people and who haven't bothered to learn much about black people think that they have the authority to tell black people who they should celebrate. It's more than a little arrogant, and it's completely asinine.

White folks have dictated for years who was and was not "white." They've denied entry to certain groups as a means to justify unfair laws and consolidate power. They assume this power is part of their birthright, and it says something about them that they deny this same birthright to other groups.

It says something profound.



MacDaddy said...

The God complex that many white people carry around in them is hard to shake. Some whites, especially liberals, will be quick to talk about how racism has damaged blacks but say nothing about how it has damaged them, which has cursed them forever to see them only from a superior, euro-centric point of view-- a view which allows them to designate non-Europeans into certain slots: criminal, non-criminal; thug; exception to his race; white; black.

And the fact that they continue to do this only says that they have yet to transcend their "whiteness," that is, their God complex.

Anonymous said...

True dat, True dat...Big Man, white folks are being white folks, this is what happens when you are absent from GOD, and totally embrace science and materialism, black folks believe in GOD, and understand forgiveness...white folks dont, thats why they are so fixated on his money!

lincolnperry said...

What White Folks dont realize is that you can be a birkenstock wearing racist!

Deacon Blue said...


My wife likes to remind me, often, that she tends to find the "well-meaning" but totally ignorant and insulting liberal folks to be much, MUCH more annoying to her than a redneck who makes it clear that he/she doesn't much like black people overall.

But honestly, if I didn't have a black wife, would I realize how easy it is to be both liberal and racist? Probably not. Such is the power of white privilege to blind folks.

Lisa J said...

I feel ya, Big Man. I often get mad at "white people" as a group for the way they try to divide us. It also kills me when they run around talking about us "playing the race card" when they invented it, have always used it and continue to use it, and very rarely, if ever, does a black person trying to use their race to their benefit ever work out. As Tim Wise pointed out, usually when black folks point out some racial aspect of something they are laughed at, dismissed, told they are paranoid, or are trying to stir up trouble. It is also funny that whites made LAWS that said anyone with any black blood (and how you can truly quantify that past a certain point boggles the mind) are now so adamant about Obama not being black b/c of his mind but at the time he was born, they wouldn't hardly say that. I also bet that most men with black dads and white mom's are not considered not black, unless they happen to be super light, and the prisons are full of half white half black people who were coded black and when Obama stands on a street corner trying to hail a cab, he is considered just as black as a brother from Africa who has no white ancestry at all. The smug level of hypocracy amongst so many whites in their attitudes towards us is truly maddening. It can make you crazy if you let it.

Lisa J said...

Meant to say "so adamant about Obama not being black b/c of his mama" No idea why I typed mind.

Big Man said...

I see I touched a nerve with some of y'all.

Gye Greene said...

Interesting insight re: MJ.

I wonder if white folk also question Oprah's blackness (isn't she the world's wealthiest businesswoman?).


Raving Black Lunatic