loaded terms (the n-word for [some] white people)

As the presidential race nears its end, and tensions rise, it has become abundantly clear to most that race is playing a huge role in this…race.

Exhibit A:

A coworker speaks:

America’s not ready for a black president.

and

I just can’t get past his name.

and

He [Obama] is best friends with a terrorist [Ayers] – they’re next-door neighbors!  He [Ayers] helped him buy his house!  And I know he hates America because of his pastor.  His pastor hates America!

and

The reason the stock market keeps fluctuating is that people are afraid Obama’s going to win.  And he’s gonna raise taxes, and all the companies will go out of business.

and

If black people hadn’t gotten all these houses that they couldn’t afford, we wouldn’t be in this mess.

–Just typing this stuff, I could feel my blood pressure rising.  This guy (the same guy I was talking about before) pisses me off so much.  I haven’t been a die-hard Obama fan, but I will say, that given a choice between McCain and Obama for president, I’d choose Obama every time.  Every time.

The thing that gets me, is that this dude wants to say all this crap and then say-

Oh, I don’t have a problem with black people.

If you mention that some of the things he says are racist, he’ll go crazy trying to defend himself.  Making up all kinds of fanciful, far-fetched reasons he believes anything bad he hears about Obama, and discounts everything bad he hears about McCain/Palin.

Exhibit B:

My dad has a friend – they’ve been friends for years – but he’s more like an adviser/sounding board to her than someone to actually hang out with, or whatever.  A long time ago I realized she had some race issues, and it would be better for me to not get close.  Dad can take care of himself.  I, on the other hand, might say something untoward.

So every once in a while, Daddy tells me whats going on with her.  They keep up mostly through email these days, and send jokes to each other.  [My dad loves to send jokes.  And those powerpoint presentations of pictures of some famous person’s house, or a hotel in Dubai, or nature, etc.]  Recently, she told my dad that she felt like things in the country weren’t going that bad.  She’s doing better now than she was eight years ago, so [fill your own expletive in here] everyone else.  At least that’s the message I get when someone says they’re doing ok, so they don’t see why other people think things are so bad.

Anyway, she sent Daddy a couple emails about McCain and how wonderful he is.  So, Daddy sent her this:

How Racism Works Continue reading

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?

BiA, BiA

I think that our stories are just as universal as anybody else’s. It’s been a struggle to prove that true.  That the stories of African Americans are universal, and therefore should not be ghetto-ized. [Spike Lee, CNN’s BiA celeb interviews]

I thought I was done.  But I just had to include this quote from Spike Lee.  Funny that his clip directly follows Soledad’s own, in which she says

I think we’re going to answer a lot of questions.  But also, by answering some, raise a lot of hard questions. It’s not the definitive answer.  It’s to really look at issues, and explore why things have turned out the way they’ve turned out for African Americans.  And I hope some people feel a little uncomfortable about things that they see.

And I think people will recognize themselves in a lot of the stories we’ll tell.  And I think people will see the joy of being in a big, connected family that’s struggled through a lot.  And I think people will be taken through the sorrows of people who’ve lost young people to violence.

It’s gonna make people think.  African Americans will get to see sort of where they’ve come from and also the opportunities that lie ahead.  And that many people have achieved. I think all of America will get a good picture of what it’s like to be black in this country.  For good and for bad. [Soledad O’brien]

Yep – that’s what she said.  “Why things have turned out the way they’ve turned out for African Americans” [emphasis mine].  Why is that?  I didn’t catch that part.  Although I was uncomfortable with some of what I saw…I’m not sure that kind of uncomfortable is what she was going for.

Maybe my biggest issue is that I didn’t see myself in the stories she told.  Perhaps the heart of it all is my own narcissism in wanting to be a part of the ‘Black in America’ story.

Maybe it’s the memory of wanting to be ‘black enough’ that got to me.  The stereotype that I was fed that told me that if I didn’t speak with a vocabulary full of slang, if I didn’t wear certain clothes, if I didn’t listen to certain music – I wasn’t black.  And now, this “good picture of what it’s like to be black in this country” has excluded my picture.  I’d say it struck a nerve.

Most of all, I though the piece missed the mark in regards to Spike Lee’s comment in the beginning.  The stories told were not necessarily universal stories [though there are indeed people of every race who can relate to being poor, or affected by violence, etc], but more like stereotypical stories.  ‘Ghetto-ized’.

the racism cliche

I’ve received word-of-mouth reminders and advertisements for CNN’s “Black in America” ‘Special Report’ [billed as the culmination of a year’s worth of research] for the last two months, at least.  Emails from black friends, family, and coworkers were filled with save-the-date type notices telling me to set my dvr for the special.  No one had seen it, but sadly, the intimation that it would be respectful got a whole lotta black people happy: (“We’re gonna be on tv! In a good way!”)  And then of course, the incessant commercials and teaser pieces that landed on CNN itself [which is mercilessly piped into my work cafeteria 24hrs a day].  So I set my dvr.

Then I didn’t watch it.

I guess I started out behind the 8-ball, in terms of being objective, because I tend to not be into email spam.  The host of email I received on the “Special Report” was just enough to belong in that category.  Then there were the commercials on CNN, which seemed to paint the piece as some kind of anthropological expose on an impossible to infiltrate tribe – a white people’s guide to ‘the black experience’, if you will.

Stephen Colbert's fave journalist

Stephen Colbert's fave journalist

A coworker watched a lead-in piece on education last wknd, and shared with me that for some reason, he was almost insulted that Soledad O’Brien was hosting the series.  I’ve never had strong feelings about her either way, and looked up her background to see for myself – and perhaps come to her defense.  Indeed, she is quite multicultural, but she is part black.  She’s even a member of the National Assn. for Black Journalists.  I told my coworker, but it seemed to make no real difference to him.  And yes – I did think about the fact that – other than her, and the Larry Smith guy who covers sports – I couldn’t think of any other black people on CNN.  I don’t watch it except when I’m on break/lunch at work – so I could be missing someone.  [Robin Meade looks sufficiently ambiguous, though.]

While avoiding work, I pulled up a lovely lil article on CNN.com ~ the link cleverly titled to get almost everyone to click on the link [especially my demographic]: The article wasn’t quite what I expected.  It turned out to be another piece on how there are so many single black women in America.  That I could’ve done without.  But I continued, forward – giving CNN the benefit of the doubt. Continue reading