in that hip-hop way

Seems like there’ve been a few conversations going on [for a while] about being black and what that means.  Or being biracial [specifically black and white, most frequently] and what that means.   Some of the hype might be because Obama’s got the [presumptive] nomination and everyone who’s not black is looking for a crash course.  Or it might be because of that whole 2007 being the year of the noose, thing.  Or maybe it’s cuz the veneer cracked a bit, and somebody was taping it.

I don’t know why black people are on the radar now – shoot – maybe they’re not and I just think they are.

But as a ‘mixed’ girl, living where I live, I mostly identify as black.  And I know what that means to me.  My life has been my life, typical of nothing.  I don’t really know who has the actual ‘typical’ life – I don’t think I’ve ever met them.  I know a few folks who lead a fairly stereotypical life – and that’s their choice.

I’ve had the privilege of being exposed to ignorant as well as enlightened people from multiple ethnic backgrounds, and I’ve gathered that we all are who we are.  Sure that’s general, and it really says nothing to distinguish one from another, but that’s kinda my point.  People choose their words, their clothes, their lifestyles, their careers based on a host of different factors.  I’m not a sociologist or a statistician, so I’ll leave them to their philosophizing and numbers.  What I know is that any one person, from any given group, may be as alike or different from any other person, from any other group.  You can’t really get more specific, because it’s all in the details.

Our brains love to box people up into one category or another – we love to find patterns.  Which is why the imagery we see, and hear about, affects our perceptions.  Beyond that, we have our own lives/experiences to color how we filter the material we’re exposed to.  Maybe I hung out with some ragamuffins and self-proclaimed hoodrats, but then I saw family and friends with a whole ‘nother approach to life.  They’re all black, and I couldn’t say any one wasn’t simply because they listened to baroque music and didn’t say the word “ain’t”.

So, uh, that’s why I’m kinda puzzled about Ms. Evin’s comments.

Didn’t grow up around many African Americans?  Me neither.  Private schools?  Check.  Assumption that I can’t relate to black people because I’ve been exposed to a couple knot-heads from the so-called [in my specific situation: wanna be] hood?  Naw.

Really?  You prefer not to speak “in that hip-hop way”.  Well, I think I discussed how I feel about Mr. Cosby’s diatribes about black folks, so you already know.  Can’t say I’m surprised – first comes the tree, then comes the apple – but when is it gonna stop?

a childhood idol

I was at a prime age to fall in love with the Cosby Show when it came on, and follow it for the duration.  Dr. Huxtable was loving, strict, and hilarious – a lot like my dad.  Even though I only have one sibling [my younger sister], I felt like we were the Huxtables.  Looking back now, I know that I based this on the parts that I could actually relate to: kid/parent dynamics, general awareness of being black, having both parents in the house.  My parents are professionals, but not doctor and lawyer, so our financial outlook was quite different, but the difference wasn’t stark to me.

After the Cosby Show, I’d basically give anything that had Bill’s name on it a chance.  I still think it’s the best show that’s ever been on tv.  So I was taken aback when he started his roaming ‘call out’ sessions a couple years ago.

It’s really hard to describe how I feel about his approach and opinions.  I am not a supporter of teen pregnancy, absentee fathers, high-school dropouts, and saggy pants…I’m actually quite conservative in my personal life.  So you might think that I’d be on board with his messages.  Except that I’m not.  Not all the way.

My dad is convinced that saggy pants are tied to the inevitable demise of America, but I don’t see it.  I can’t see how they’re more of a threat than long hair, bell-bottoms, tie-dye, and leisure suits ever were.

Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote a great article for the Atlantic about Bill’s efforts to save the black community, and carves out some of the words I’d been looking for.

If Cosby’s call-outs simply ended at that—a personal and communal creed—there’d be little to oppose. But Cosby often pits the rhetoric of personal responsibility against the legitimate claims of American citizens for their rights. He chides activists for pushing to reform the criminal-justice system, despite solid evidence that the criminal-justice system needs reform. His historical amnesia—his assertion that many of the problems that pervade black America are of a recent vintage—is simply wrong, as is his contention that today’s young African Americans are somehow weaker, that they’ve dropped the ball.

Cosby suggests that the lack of strong black families, and educated black people is a creation of the current generation.  But that’s not the case.  Sure, there is business that we need to handle.  But uh, the situations that exist right now are complex – and were not solely created by our own community.  That would seem to be my central point of disagreement with Mr. Cosby.

That – and the fact that I really do feel like he’s airing dirty laundry.

I sure do run into a lot of white people who think he’s RIGHT ON.  That should give him pause, too.

a note on racism/racist commentary

I find myself uncomfortable with groups of white people criticizing black people. I’m not saying that black people don’t have faults, or that it’s categorically wrong for a white person to notice and call a black person on their faults. But a group of white people discussing a black person and their negative traits? This gets me all kinds of crazy.

And I can’t really articulate why it’s not kosher. It’s just not. Maybe it’s cuz it feels too much like an attack. And racism is still too real – too fresh.

Consequently, I tend to limit my own comments about negative traits of prominent black people around white people. I’ve gotten the impression that if I make a comment first, this means the person in question is fair game, and the conversation will get away from my original point, or everyone will jump on that one point with a fervor that smacks of covert racism.

So, even though I’m not an Obama supporter, I find myself defending him when too many white folks jump on a bandwagon. It’s a tightrope, and I don’t know any other way of walking it.

This feeling of solidarity [for lack of a better term] is just as much out of self-preservation as anything else. It seems understood that we don’t talk about certain things in front of white people – that we present a united front for the benefit of the group.

And maybe that’s completely old-fashioned and outdated. It’s impossible, anyway, since there are plenty of black people who don’t ascribe to this ‘loyalty’ paradigm. That and, it’s not like we have meetings. Or even all believe the same things.

But I think this is part of the problem I have with Bill Cosby. It comes back to excatly what he started off with: ‘airing our dirty laundry’. There are arguments for and against, but it just makes me uneasy.

I feel like white people don’t need more ammunition against black people – there’s enough. So why encourage the discussion? Is it really helping?

Obviously we’ve not progressed as far as some like to think. In an online conversation in the last day or so, a white person accused of racism because of his comments about Barack Obama [which in this case, I wouldn’t actually classify as racist – except for his incessant proclamation of Obama’s well-spokenness] decided that he needed to list his pedigree to dodge the “you’re racist” bullet. So he lists a bunch of famous black people that he admires, and a couple Middle Eastern folks for good measure. Basically saying – I know who these people are [MLK, Ghandi, Morgan Freeman, Sojourner Truth, the Dalai Lama] and I like/respect them – so I can’t be racist!

We all know that’s ridiculous.

I don’t know what the fix is for this, yet. Liberal white people are determined to not be informed of their racism [no matter how blatant] and will give you every reason under the sun to prove how much they really love people of color. As long as ________. [you fill in the blank]

so. that’s the frustration I’m dealing with right now. carry on.