Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Why Bother?

Black people can’t talk to white people about race anymore. There’s really nothing left to say. There are libraries full of books, interviews, essays, lectures, and symposia. If people want to learn about their own country and its history, it is not incumbent on black people to talk to them about it. It is not our responsibility to educate them about it. Plus whenever white people want to talk about race, they never want to talk about themselves. There needs to be discussion among people who think of themselves as white. They need to unpack that language, that history, that social position and see what it really offers them, and what it takes away from them. As James Baldwin said, “As long as you think that you are white, there is no hope for you.”

I feel like this many days. Even when I make a little progress in opening people's eyes, I'm always left with the thought that they could have just as easily done that themselves with a little effort.

But they aren't interested.

And it's not just white people, it's black people too. In the rush to assimilate, many black folks these days have decided to abandon in-depth examinations of race mainly because they don't see any benefits.. Others are ignorant of basic historical facts and resent people who present them with information that challenges their deeply held worldviews. So, while I'm calling out the white folks, Negroes are not getting a pass here.

But, y'all white folks are the ones holding all the cards. At least with most black folks, even if they aren't interested in race, they admit to some easily accepted facts. With way too many white folks it's like pulling teeth to get y'all to acknowledge truths that should be part of your basic education on America. Then again, "basic" is an interesting concept.

I was talking to a friend the other day and we agreed that one of the benefits of attending majority black schools is the vantage point from which American history is presented. When your teachers are black and your students are mainly black, certain issues become big deals that otherwise might get glossed over. For example, the 3/5ths compromise was a big deal in every history class I've ever had. And Abe Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was widely derided since it only freed those slaves he had no control over.

But, I would wager that for many white folks, those two factoids weren't considered key issues, nor were they something that stuck in their heads over time. While those things may have reminded black folks of the rampant hypocrisy in America's past and present, for white folks they were just answers on a test that were promptly forgotten. Basically, depending on who teaches you, the definition of "basic" changes drastically.

That can make racial discussions perilous. I often discover I'm operating from a totally different set of facts than a lot of white folks. And since we don't agree on the facts, we can't agree on the nuances.

That's the frustrating position many black folks find themselves in these days. We're asked either to allow racial ridiculousness pass unchallenged, or to engage in pointless debates where the burden of proof is ridiculously high, and the level of discourse is ridiculously low because few people have read the source material. It's a terrible, terrible cycle that often can make it simpler to just keep your mouth shut, mark people down on The List, and keep it moving.

Sometimes I just can't be bothered.




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5 comments:

Angel Blanca (@BecomingAMW) said...

*fist bump*

CNu said...

you can't make racism disappear Big Man...,

Chad Stanton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Big Man said...

CNu

Well that was a downer. I don't think I can make it disappear, but can we at least get to a point that we agree on what it is, and when it's happening? It feels like we're going backwards in that respect.

CNu said...

most white people will never get it, and, that's just the way it is....,

Raving Black Lunatic