Friday, May 13, 2011

Role Playing for Coloreds

“White people have this instinct that is really important: to give off the impression that they’re only going to do the really important work. You’re a quarterback."

Sometimes when people say stuff all you can do is give a single head nod. A succinct affirmation of the undeniable realness of the words they just uttered.

I gave that nod as I perused many of the high points in this story linked to over at Racialicious. The above quote perfectly captures a feeling that many, many minorities, even the model ones, seem to share. On the football team of life, it's quite obvious who the Golden Boy is, and who is the role player.

We all use stereotypes. We all love to lump people into easily identifiable groups that make it easier for our minds to process their existence. Stereotyping is human. But, and this is important, that doesn't make it an optimum behavior. See, the group with a hand in creating many of the dominant stereotypes in this country also is the group hell bent on maintaining its favored position in this country and the world.
And, thus, our stereotypes serve a deeper and darker purpose than just making the world easy to understand. They affirm and reinforce the power of white folks, even when they appear complimentary or inconsequential.

The linked article is about growing up Asian in America, but it speaks to the lives of most non-whites. Few of use ever transcend our non-white status and the stereotypes that accompany it. In small and large ways we deal with the consequences of not making the cut. For Asians, they may reap the benefits of being a "model minority" but they must steal deal with being labeled as largely asexual, or subservient, which diminishes their ability to succeed in America's vaunted and mythical meritocracy.

As the article notes, if academic achievement is supposed to be valued, why do so many Asians see themselves shunted into subordinate positions despite their academic achievements? Why does their success lead to the latest form of white flight, where white people are not fleeing the real and imagined pathologies of the black and brown, but the increased competition of the yellow?

Many of us know the answer. The game is rigged. There is no path designed by white folks that leads to non-white folks usurping their favored position. The path to that goal is something non-white people must find for themselves, or face a life filled with small and large frustrations.

We know the roles that have been set aside for us and we know the casting director. The choice should be simple.


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