Friday, July 24, 2009

On self-worth, fake racism, and the black V.I.P.

Last year, on a radio talk show, New York City's former Mayor Ed Koch voiced a cliche that's near and dear to the hearts of many blacks. I was reminded of this cliche while hearing a version of it from a young white man interviewed in Craig Bodeker's documentary, "A Conversation About Race." The man in Bodeker's film remarked that he had seen his black friends "struggle" with racism. He had no details to offer about the nature of said "racism," but he expressed dismay over something either perceived, or told to him. [See my review of the Bodeker film here.]

Similarly, Ed Koch had claimed that in this terrible society of America, "all blacks" face racism "every day." According to Koch, from the minute a black leaves his home in the morning to go to work, he encounters ugly, persistent racism, which goes on throughout the day. My ears perked up, because I wanted to know in just which city or state or region were blacks being tormented openly and on a daily basis. Mind you, he was talking about the year 2008. Of course, he, like the young man in the Bodeker film, did not offer any examples of this horrendous treatment.

My instinct was to get in touch with Koch and challenge him to pick any black man, and go off to work with him, spending the entire day on his job, as well as remaining with him in the evening. I would have liked for Koch to come back on radio and report on the terrible, racist encounters suffered that day by that black man.

Of course, we know that no such encounters are occurring on a daily basis. The use of the term "racism" does not mean today what it meant to a 1930s black sharecropper, whose choices were circumscribed by realities that were out of his hands. These blacks cannot pin down specific instances of meaningful, substantive bias, that is, bias that negatively affects their daily livelihood.

The black who whines about facing a "struggle" is not prevented from going about his business, or living his daily life as he chooses. The society he now lives in places no life-threatening obstacles in his path. The degree to which he can prosper is determined by the limitations of his own natural abilities, and vicissitudes of his family, social circle, and upbringing – as is true for everyone else. The very real racism that prevented that 1930s sharecropper from expanding his choices in life is the only type of racism that matters.

However, there are clever blacks who insist on invoking the spirit of that earlier scenario and hyping the "pain of racism," a disposition that a great many whites eagerly buy into. The goal of such blacks is to keep whites preoccupied forever with the Black Cause, while expanding the scope of just what constitutes "racism." That scope, of course, must encompass the very thoughts in the heads of others.

Whenever I insist to some complainer that specific instances of racism be cited, he usually stammers and talks in generalities. "Well, you know what I mean," he will intone, as if I'm supposed to fill in the blanks. What he means is that he takes offense at any form of rejection. Although all human beings face personal rejection at the hands of others, these blacks want exemption from such uncertainties in life. They want no leeway for personal discrimination against themselves.

Recently, a commenter on a popular blog expressed that lame black mantra, "until-you-have-walked-in-my-shoes," by claiming that the white commenters in the forum, being people "who have never experienced racism on a daily basis since the time you were a child," could not understand his anguish. Racism, every day, from childhood right into adulthood? Are we really supposed to buy that? And then he really poured it on, by claiming that this racism "makes your heart start to race, your blood start to boil, and tears start to form in your eyes."

I suspect that if we were to probe deeper into this man's grievances, we would discover some sticky stuff going on here. Does he cry whenever he finds himself rejected socially by a party or parties with whom he wished to engage? Does social rejection send him into mourning? Or, as in the case cited below, from a black blog, might he harbor a host of insecurities that only competent practitioners in the psychological counseling field could deal with adequately?

On the blog, Within the Black Community, black blogger "Constructive Feedback" writes about the black actor Boris Kodjoe, who complained about a delivery man, who made him feel "dirty and black," at the door of Kodjoe's mansion in Atlanta. Because it appeared from the delivery man's attitude that he did not believe Kodjoe to be the owner of such a grand house, this apparently irked Kodjoe, so much so that he talked about it in public. Is this millionaire actor admitting that his own self-worth rests on the basis of what he thinks others are thinking about him – even a minimum wage delivery man? Constructive Feedback observes:

This wealthy Black man's self-worth is still subject to confiscation by the lowliest of service men who ring his door bell ... The only thing at play is the pathology that is resident in the minds of Mr. Kodjoe and other African-Americans who hand over their own self-worth for someone else's blessing. We have people who wear their self-worth on their shirt collar, expecting everyone to validate them about their insecurities. They project these insecurities as "racial assaults" upon our entire race.

It was never put better. This is a subject that blacks discuss all the time, but most whites are fearful of contemplating. When the approval craved is not forthcoming, the cry of "racism" against the entire race goes out. And when a degree of deference cannot be extracted from a white especially, as in Professor Henry Louis Gates's interaction with Officer James Crowley, this is another "assault" on the black community. Constructive Feedback continues:

It is clear that the expectation was for the police to show due deference to this accomplished BLACK professor of great stature at this elite White school. The fact that his outbursts were responded to by the group of police men, just as they would have done to those of a less established person, the peanut gallery feels that this Black man was not treated fairly, per his position.

The blogger then facetiously asks, about this prestigious Very Important Person,

Why didn't they know who Dr. Gates was when they confronted him? Didn't they see him on television with Oprah and Chris Rock, as they connected with their ancestry in Africa from so long ago?

And, for those who understand the reference to the haughty, 19th century Harvard-educated W.E.B. Du Bois, he adds, "I detect some W.E.B. DuBois-esque 'Talented Tenth' elitism among the commentators. Prof. Gates, director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, appears to have taken on some of the airs of his mentor."

What a mockery Gates's behavior turns out to be, when we look at the pressure put upon black athletes and entertainers to behave respectfully, so they might be role models to the young. Yet here is this highly touted, prestigious Harvard Professor, who expels coarse vulgarities to a police officer, even spewing out the "Yo' Mama" insult, like a common street thug, carrying on like the proverbial "Crazy Nigger." Are we to believe that such behavior is not characteristic of this black V.I.P., this Distinguished Scholar?

Constructive Feedback asks just when will blacks feel they have enough societal control that they can move on and finally deal with the pressing realities that "are actually killing African-Americans." The answer to his question was given long ago.

Black elites, those who have always had the power and the resources to ameliorate much of the suffering within the black community, made it clear from as early as the 19th century that their interests will always rest outside the group, even as they exploit the theme of "race" to personally elevate themselves. You need look no further than Henry Louis Gates and the entire entourage of professionals and academics, who covet white society's credentials in their striving to be socially acceptable. Some of the earliest observations and commentaries by both blacks and whites about the American Negro personality still hold up (see especially Harold Cruse).

Yet, even in these venues among whites that they have chosen, these elites remain in a combative stance, always pushing the envelope in a need to prove who they are. They have no more concern today about the genuine needs of the black masses than did their fathers and grandfathers. And, if given the chance, these elites would just as eagerly oppose Booker T. Washington for his temerity in insisting on putting the welfare of the masses first. So, the answer to the rhetorical question as to when blacks will move on and deal with the real stuff is, Never.
• • •

Related links:

The Proper Means of Elevating Ourselves (Martin Delany, 1852)
Booker T. Washington: Legacy Lost
Charles Smiley: Going Against the Grain
S. B. Fuller: Master of Enterprise


Val Proto said...

The most tragic thing in this whole business is that blacks like Gates and other wealthy, educated and "upper class" types have chosen to put forth the worst possible examples of their own race as their defining culture. "Da hood" or "ghetto" culture with its obscenities, profanities, criminal behavior and barbaric symbols, music etc. is presented as worthy of acceptance and even emulation - and many young whites do just that to their detriment.

In the end, this kind of behavior at all levels of black society tends to validate rather than repudiate the claims made about their race by so-called "white supremacists". It's hard to deny that blacks are more violent and less honest than whites when they make up a percentage of the prison population all out of proportion to their percentage within the society at large.

Furthermore, while black separatism and supremacist groups are accepted without question, the white community is denied both as being not only "racist" but criminal in nature.

Sooner or later, this egregious double standard is going to redound to the detriment of blacks who, because they are so "over-represented" in high-visibility fields like entertainment and sports tend to forget that their numbers will not assure them victory if white Americans should wake up and decide to take back American culture.

Elizabeth Wright said...

There is no doubt that a concerted effort has been underway to malign any and all demonstrations of a white consciousness. Whites are not allowed to publicly talk to other whites about their common heritage or common future goals. He who does will have the dogs of the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ADL, along with other "anti-racist" hounds, set upon him.

Duane Gettis said...

I watched Blacks in an ever important struggle for equality during the 60's and early 70's. As a Black man, I participated. Equality of all people is a worthy goal. However, in subsequent years I have come to realize that equality was not the goal of the Black elites, but a perceived atmosphere of superiority that they sensed, believed or imagined Whites bestowed upon other Whites.

This has become more and more evident in recent years, with the incident of professor Gates being only the latest. I have witnessed Black men and women whipping out credit cards to impress, buying cars to impress, buying homes in particular neighborhoods and at over-inflated prices to impress. Those who can do so have gotten degrees they didn't need from colleges they didn't like , at tuition costs they couldn't afford, all in an effort to impress the very people they have vilified all along as racists all in an effort to lay claim to the ridiculous notion that they should be treated as superior beings - somehow in the same category with the whites they imagined receiving such treatment.

Not being a psychologist nor having attended an Ivy League school, I, using only a little common sense and healthy skepticism to keep me from "believing the hype," see two things:
1) The privileged status they seek to claim for themselves practiced its "superiority" over Black Folk.

2) They seek this status from White Folk - and usually from the very ones they previously labeled "racists."

As I previously admitted to not being a psychologist or psychiatrist, I still feel the word "pathology" belongs in here somewhere...

Elizabeth Wright said...

Yes, everything you say is true, about these elites desire to lord it over other blacks. But along with that goal is the desire, via all these credentials, to make themselves worthy of intimate acceptance by whites. It's not just about their interaction with blacks, it's also about the interaction they desire with whites. (See my May 10 post, "Outfoxing forced inclusion.")

Quartermain said...

Thank you Ms. Wright for your bravery and insight. I admire your work and like to share it with others.

I think alot of the black "elites" are aided and abbetted by corrupt white "elites."

Craig Bodeker said...

Thank you, again, Elizabeth Wright, for having the courage to apply critical-thinking to an area where it has been banned for decades..
I can't think of a better description of Professor Gates than that of a supremacist! I'll even go so far as to say the whole notion of encouraging "Black Studies," while discouraging ANY white racial-awareness, is a primary cause of said supremacism.
We've created monsters, like Professor Gates, who are rich, arrogant celebrities, not because of their merit or achievements, but strictly because of their race! (Sharpton-Jackson etc.)
Want to level the playing field? Let's abandon the race-based double-standards. Let's re-dedicate our society to our Constitution, and not to what 20th century media companies, and racial manipulators, say it should be dedicated to...

Also, thanks Elizabeth, for the mention of, and link to my film; A Conversation About Race. It's getting a lot of buzz because of this, the latest, media-generated episode of.....racism!