Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Talking Loud

Why Black People Tend To Shout is an amazing book written by Ralph Wiley, one of the greatest and most underrated sportswriters of all-time, in my opinion.

I've read many of Wiley's books, and I was an avid reader of his column over at ESPN before his sudden death in 2004. I always loved reading what he had to say, even when I disagreed with him, because I felt like his thoughts mattered. They made me consider the world a little differently.

In "Why Black People Tend To Shout" Wiley uses humor, personal experiences and raw data to discuss why black folks tend to appear "aggressive." Why we raise our voices in joy, pain and anger. I recommend it those of you looking for a cool read.

I thought about black folks shouting when I read this story recently.

Some of you all may remember this story. I think it might have hit the scene right after either the Oscar Grant killing or the Sean Bell killing. Either way, it was one more example among too many similar incidents of police violence against young black men.

I've written about the relationship between black men and law enforcement many times in this space, and I'm sure I'll write about many times in the future.

Black folks in general are targeted by the police as a threat, but black men have a special bullseye on our backs. Thanks to the twin evils of racism and persistent black crime, many police officers view every black man as a potential suspect and probable threat. This default position inevitably leads to violence, even in situations when it's totally uncalled for by police.

We as black people know this. It's something that's taught to most of us the same way we're taught about tying our shoes and looking both ways before we cross the street. The dangers that the police present are as real as the dangers of drunk driving, and for most of us there are far fewer ways to protect ourselves from the police.

But this is not the reality of all Americans, and thus there is a disconnect when conversations about the police pop up in the public sphere. That disconnect was front and center when Arizona passed its new law encouraging the racial profiling of suspected illegal immigrants, and it always pops up whenever a black man dies at the hands of the police.

You have one group, the group in danger of being maimed and murdered by police, expressing suspicion and anger, while another group, the group that sees the police as protectors or a minor nuisance, brushing off that suspicion and anger.

And so, black folks, (and some brown folks), start talking loud. We tend to shout because sometimes it feels like that's the only way our point of view will be heard.

We tend to shout because sometimes it's the only way we can vent the frustration that could easily turn into violence, or mental health problems. We tend to shout because sometimes, occasionally, shouting works.

It's not because we just like the sounds of our voices or because we just want to make noise, it's because we want to be heard. We shout to say "Look at me! Look at what is happening in my life! Don't turn away."

But, shouting turns some folks off. It gets you labeled aggressive, obnoxious, a whiner, a crybaby, a loser. Shouting encourages shouting by other folks, folks with damaging messages and few scruples. Shouting may bring attention, but it can be attention from those seeking to destroy rather than rebuild.

But, I'm going to keep shouting. In my little corner of the massive Internet, I'll raise my voice whenever I feel like it.

Y'all gonna join me?



Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist! said...

I agree 100% with you

I may not be a black man, but as a woman of colour and feminist, I'll keep shouting too. I'm not gonna sit down and be quiet like a polite lady just because a bunch of pansy white guys expect me to. F--k that.

Anonymous said...

I do wish my little brown girl would turn down the volume a bit, at least until she's actually spouting more material approach philosophical or moral relevance. Because I sure don't need someone with the volume set on 12 when she's three feet away.

But aside from that, it's an interesting line of thought. Might explain a lot of why my wife not only talks loud in general, but has a tendency during marital disagreements to ratchet up the volume and then, when I ask her not to yell at me, she insists that she's not yelling.

Thank God we don't argue much, because that drive me nuts...

Anonymous said...

Ugh! I hate this comment system (you're not the first blogger I've read to use it) always displays me as "holyhell" instead of "Deacon Blue," no matter what I try to do to change that.

Oh, well...

Big Man said...

Yeah, I was wondering what was going on.

And your wife yells because she's a woman, not because she's black. It's the ovaries, not the melanin. Lol.

Anonymous said...

Or maybe it's the estrogen AND the melanin, in which case I'm doomed, because Son of Blue is going off to college soon, which will make me the sole male in the house. And I've always been the only "pink person" (Little Girl Blue's version of "Caucasian"). Totally outgunned, man. ;-)

- Deacon Blue

Joanna said...

"You have one group, the group in danger of being maimed and murdered by police, expressing suspicion and anger, while another group, the group that sees the police as protectors or a minor nuisance, brushing off that suspicion and anger."

I am a member of a message board for cooking. There is a political section on the board, which is filled with mostly conservative, white women. We were discussing the Arizona immigration situation and I mentioned the dangers that people of color ALREADY face from the police, and that they will be exacerbated by the new law. So, I got a bunch of women questioning my motives... almost accusing me of being an illegal immigrant or married to an illegal immigrant. I was told I need to find new friends when I shared the harassment my friends have received from the police. The women on the board wanted to be able to just brush off the idea of police harassment as something MADE UP by people of color. Since they choose to ignore the voices of nonwhite people, they do not have to face the truth. And they expect every other white person to share their same narrow minded focus on their own selves, and will accuse anyone who does not of either lying about the situation OR lying about who they really are.

trufizz said...

And yet, when white people get angry and scream and holler (AND SPIT ON CONGRESSMEN!!), they have the privilege (thanks to the dominant group's control over the media) of having THEIR behavior framed as that of "concerned Americans" simply "expressing their 1st Amendment rights."

The double standard is nauseating...

Raving Black Lunatic