Tuesday, July 26, 2011

We Should Know Better

Sometimes, well actually a lot of the time, black people disappoint me.

I know this is dangerous ground. I try to avoid criticizing black folks because Lord knows there are more than enough folks willing to do that every day. Too often blacks folks spread the worst lies about each other, and believe the worst stereotypes. But sometimes, we have to take a good hard look at our habits if we ever want to break them.

Like our habit of thinking black folks who receive government subsidies are "getting over."

Maybe you've run across this mindset, hell, maybe you're guilty of it. Who hasn't been behind a "food stamp" grocery cart filled with food and thought "Well that must great." Some of us hear about Section 8 vouchers and monthly welfare checks and wonder why certain folks get for free what we have to work so hard to obtain. Since black folks are overrepresented in both programs, most of us know somebody who is receiving or has received government aid and it's not uncommon for us to study all of their failings and deduce that they are gaming  the system.

So when your resident bigoted politician attempts to pass a law requiring drug tests for welfare recipients, or calling for them to be mandated to take birth control, it's not unusual to see a very disjointed response in our community. You will see black "leaders" decry the measure as closeted racism, while you will see regular black folks cheering that "they" won't be getting over any more.

Sadly, although we should be able to spot the tricks of racists by now, we can't and we don't. By appealing to our sense of envy and "bootstrap" ideology, racists are able to convince lots of black folks to vocally or silently support actions that are malignant and bigoted. There is a reason these types of laws only get pushed forward by politicians who think the confederate flag is no big deal and the White Citizens Council was a great community organization.

Black people should know better, but we don't mainly because most of us don't like each other. We particularly don't like those of us who are poor and exhibit behaviors that we've been taught represent the worst habits in society. If there is anything black folks hate more than "ghetto" black people, I've yet to find it.

Personally, I think it's an inferiority complex that many of us don't even know exists. We're consumed with not being lumped in with the "Bad Negroes". Many of us think that if we can just get identified as Good Negroes we will be safe from the dangers of the world, and we're silently angry at the Bad Negroes for ruining things for everyone.

But the truth is, nothing is going to save us. There is no protection. You can be labeled a Bad Negro at any moment simply because you're a Negro. You can be subjected to humiliation and pain for the same reason. Those people who receive welfare and the like don't have it easy. There is nothing easy about being poor and getting government help. It's much, MUCH easier to be rich and get government help. Just ask all those investment bank managers.

We should know better than to allow racists to trot out the same basic divide and conquer strategies that they've been using for centuries. At some point we have to stop being our own worst enemies.



Darth Whitey said...

I've actually never seen a black person use food stamps but I've seen whites (there are very few black people where I live.) The cashiers and the patrons behind the user of food stamps (including myself) seem to go out of their way to be smiley and nice and all that, just out of pity I guess.

LisaMJ said...

I agree. Especially since I was at a family reunion recently where an elderly aunt would not stop saying the most horrible things about our people. It was really sickening. If she had been anyone but my aunt I'd have had something to say but she's in her early 80's. It was so f-ed up. I just wanted to shake her and ask if she thought all of that applied to her. She actually said black people are mean and nasty. It was so upsetting.

uglyblackjohn said...

So... Are you saying that those who were bailed out on Wall St. should be tested for drugs as well to make sure that they're not wasting government aid?

Big Man said...

If it's good for the goose, it's good for the gander, right?

Lisa MJ

I have to catch myself when I run across the same mindset. I was teaching VBS at my church last night and my co-teacher said something to the effect that most black people fit the "nigger" stereotype and unfortunately that makes it hard for the good ones. She is a smart, kind and loving woman, but she's been brainwashed. It's sad.


Well, I live in a majority black city so I mainly see black folks with the stamps, and sadly other black folks typically assume black people with stamps are lazy bums.

older_not_wiser said...

Your "bad Negro/good Negro" analysis is spot-on. That dynamic is surely one of the pernicious legacies of slavery, where "blackness" is something intrinsically bad, the emblem of all undesirable and shameful traits, and one's worth is determined by how far away from that debased state one can get.

The Black Power movement in the '60s was an explicit repudiation of this; it's sad that, so many decades later, so little has changed. Maybe America needs its own version of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It certainly needs greater awareness by both black and (especially) non-black people that the poison of slavery and Jim Crow is still pervasive and potent.

lifelearner said...

So, so true. It's internalized racism. How do we fix? Or can it be fixed.

spacemonkey said...


I'm afraid our Truth and Reconciliation commission wasn't all that great. The 'truth' bit was missing from a number of people's testimonies. It let many people who should really have faced serious consequences off the hook (some didn't even appear at the TRC). It only really addressed the worst human rights violations, almost completely ignoring the culture of white supremacy that created and was perpetuated and re-enforced by apartheid.

And, probably worst of all, it fuelled the wrong-headed idea that the onus lies on black South Africans to forgive and reconcile with white South Africans.

In the unlikely event that you guys set one up, I hope you do it right.

older_not_wiser said...

@spacemonkey, @lifelearner

I have heard that tensions are rising in South Africa as people lose faith in the reconciliation process. Unfortunately, laws cannot create justice, they can only facilitate it.

I've read of polls showing that Americans in their 20's and younger seem to hold noticably less racist attitudes than their parents' generation. The hypothesis is that, having grown up in integrated schools, and in a country that is less overwhelmingly white than it used to be, they have managed to accommodate a greater variety of human beings in their sense of "us".

I think there is hope, at least in the long term. Cold comfort, perhaps, but it is something.

Big Man said...

I think that polls about the young are way too optimistic.
Typically, younger people are less likely to express the traditional racist stances to an interviewer or in public because they have learned that those stances are unseemly. But, their private conversations and actions reflect the same mindsets of the past. After all, don't young people dominate the Internet? And isn't the Internet a cesspool of racism?
Something isn't adding up.

Imhotep said...

What up Bigman, I find my circle of friends (Black friends) shrinking because I really don't tolerate that type of gratuitous disparagement of other Black people.

Like this thing about Black folks and food stamps, I would be quick to point out that the food purchased by those stamps actually help to keep white farmers in business, and provide a market for their dairy products, wheat, meats etc.

Of course farm subsidy is a big welfare program and the military contractors are the biggest welfare recipient of them all. It’s ok for the government to keep a farm or contractor in business, but if Black folks are involved, then it’s a hand out.

spacemonkey said...

Farm subsidies are also arguably at least partly to blame for food insecurity in the developing world.

Raving Black Lunatic