Breaking Brown

May 31, 2011

what will white people think? how our fixation with white opinion has debilitated the african-american community

Step and FetchFor as long as there have been black people, there have been white people who don’t like black people. There have always been white people who’ve built their life atop the pain, frustration, and devout ignorance of black people. For this reason, I’m not angry at white people or the prevailing power structure. I know it’s only there because we allow it to be and that the blame extends to whites and blacks alike. It is just as much our failure and burden as it is that of Bull Connor,  Jesse Helm’s and every other knuckle dragging bigot who’s ever walked the planet.

I accept humanity’s failures, but I also seek to rectify them. For me, course correction is key. To keep my little corner of the planet clean and clear of historical trash, reframed narratives, and broad-brush misapprehensions is solely my responsibility. To that point, it is imperative to note that although white hordes have always demonstrated sociopathic inclinations (probably resulting from competitive conditions which were the natural outgrowth of a harsh climate in Europe), most of the issues we’ve historically faced as black and brown people were exacerbated by our own weak psychological reaction to oppression.

Review any photos from the Civil Rights movement, and you’ll see well-dressed black men of all ages wearing signs proclaiming, “I am a man”.  Although I understand the guttural reaction to announce yourself a man when you’re treated as a stray mutt, in hindsight, I question the legacy of such pronouncements.

You see, what black men were communicating with such signs was, “you think me and treat me as an animal but look closer, I’m a man, just like you.” It was an effort to get the attention and sympathy of white folks. It was an effort to teach white folks who we were, to win favor, to convince them that we were their equals. We were good little Negroes.  And such high minded activism assumed, wrongly in my view, that white people didn’t already know who and what we were.

Ever since the good lil Negro era, African-Americans have accepted the dubious role of tutor and squire to white America. In large part, we’ve encouraged our fellow kinsmen and women to “do good” in the world not because it betters our lot, but because white people are watching.

In the recent MSNBC dust up between Cornel West and Al “Pimped Out and Permed Up” Sharpton, I was floored by the number of African Americans who berated both West and Sharpton for airing their  “dirty laundry” in front of white people. But who cares about white people, really? They’re just people; skin, bone and flesh like you and me. And they don’t, or shouldn’t, define our interactions with each other or the broader diaspora.

Looking to others for approval is the domain of children. And maybe, just maybe, black people are continually victimized because we allow other races to play daddy to our inner psychological child, robbing us of any authentic action which begins and ends with us. If we ever desire to move forward and be taken seriously by the global community, it is time we grow up.

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “what will white people think? how our fixation with white opinion has debilitated the african-american community

  1. Bernie says:

    Regarding ‘You see, what black men were communicating with such signs was, “you think me and treat me as an animal but look closer, I’m a man, just like you.” It was an effort to get the attention and sympathy of white folks. ‘, you may be correct. But couldn’t it also be seen as a reframing of the perspective of all people? My understanding is that each shift in label or identify is partially a reframing of the perspective, just like going from “negro” to “black” to “African-American” is pushing people (mostly white people) to see things differently, and to not see African-Americans the way they did.

  2. Yvette says:

    You are right in that it was, in part at least, an attempt at reframing the perspective of people (mostly white since it was a given that brown people viewed other brown people as men and women). And black people are STILL attempting to reframe the perspective of people. Our efforts are largely aesthetic, and centered around how others view our actions, behavior etc. In my mind, that little show of ours is inauthentic.

  3. Bernie says:

    Thanks for the response. Good post and response! Good blog too. I hope you continue.

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