Thursday, January 05, 2006

Black Identity and Politics

from this article:

"You have to learn to be an African-American and we don't have time to train you." -Sharpe James, Newark Mayor (since 1970)

Who determines how Black a particlar candidate is? Does being a Republican make them less black? Does being from a third party make Black candidates more out of touch with the predominately Democratic Black America? Do you have to be poor or grow up poor to be really black? If you went to "white" schools, does that mean you lose your ability and perch to talk about the state of black communities?

Black America needs to answer this question. Oh, and anyone over 40, I don't want to hear from you. Mad? Well, good. How do you think that we feel? When previous generations have gone to college and moved forward, they were lauded. When Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. went to Yale from his West Virginia hometown, people were happy for him almost as if themselves or their child made it. However, when we do the same, we are treated as outcasts because we are too "white" or we are "sellouts". Sure, there are some who abandon their moral stances for the dollar but that's not a specifically black phenomenon.

I am tired of people from the Civil Rights generation turning their nose up at black folks now. Once, white America cracked the door, many just ran in and barricaded it in accordance with the "one-nigga rule"--there can only be one nigger here and that's ME. They didn't provide support or mentoring for blacks that didn't have the resources to get to the door. In short, they believed that poorer blacks were incapable and they didn't want to give back. Our generation wants to be different.

This staus quo has bred contempt (listen to hip-hop sometime...especially in the late 80's and early 90's). Young, black, intelligent and savvy (as much as I hate to use this term) Gen-Xers are everywhere. There are hip-hop pediatricians (like my homie, Jarret), hip-hop lawyers (Jaime and Reese) and countless hip-hop teachers, engineers and planners (what up G) that see a world beyond Democrat and Republican, red and blue. Barack Obama and Cory Booker, I hope, are just the beginning.

We grew up exposed to more information and culture than any generation of black folks before. Many of us have lived among people that aren't black and have exchanged cultural information. Our receptivity and understanding of the fact that we are more alike than many are willing to admit. Many people, such as older black leaders, retain their power because of difference. Because young blacks are willing to embrace those that believe in their vision, black or otherwise, older blacks accuse people like Booker as being "not black enough".

But finally, what makes the conflict so potent is that the older generation of black leadership does not want to be displaced, even if the battle has moved on. "They will fight to the end to hold on to it," says Queens minister and former congressman Floyd Flake. "The younger guys are going to have to make their way, because what's really most threatening to them is that here is a generation of kids that are not locked up in the struggles of the civil-rights era. And the older generation is saying, 'They're not ready because they're not black enough'? It's a sad indictment on us as a race."

It's time to stop being nice to people that impede progress. A few years ago, Aaron McGruder, as described in this article called comfortable white liberals not to rest on the laurels of past accomplishments. We can't let older blacks do it either. Props to the Michael Eric Dysons of the world that challenge people like Bill Cosby when they make statements about today's young people.

To Bill Cosby: You aren't squeaky-clean either. Help solve the problems that create the situations or have a nice glass of shut the fuck up with your pudding.

Like I said, time to stop being nice to those that hold you back.


prosine said...

Hey Derek:
Obviously I'm not black but, anyone who knows me well knows that I pass for white.

I like how your mind works and the ease with which you commit your thoughts to paper or in this case, a screen. Without the education you have, the very thing that you are talking about here, how would you be able to express your thoughts so well?

I think there are two kinds of people in this world for the most part. Educated/Strong and Uneducated/Weak, you chose to be a part of the first group and there's NOTHING wrong with that! Keep up the fight! People like you will shape our tomorrow's.

Reese The Law Girl said...

Okay, this is 100% on point. I always wondered in the back of my head why Bill Cosby types are always hating on the young, Black generation. Your post confirms my belief- it's all about jealousy.

How can you say that the Black youth are in a complete state of disarray? There are more of us in college than ever before. There are more of us that have succeeded financially than ever before (I'm talking millionaires). We created a new genre of music that has become the #1 form of music in the US, if not the world (starting in 1997, hip-hop took country music's lock on most popular genre of music in America).

I mean, yeah, I hate 50 Cent. But, damn if the dude isn't brilliant. Who would have figured out that yelling "I got shot!" all the time would make a person a multimillionaire (and people, stop pretending that this is damaging Black youth; Black kids aren't the majority of 50's audience- it's white kids).

Okay, so enough of my tirade, but I'm sooo feeling this post. I wish we could celebrate our accomplishments instead of pulling a Naomi Campbell ("there can only be one black supermodel!") and putting each other down.

derek said...

This is EXACTLY what I mean. This article pissed me off.

Here's another episode of When Old Black Politicians Skim Off The Top