This blog will be one of the most difficult ones that I have written. One of the things I am most embarrassed by in my life is my difficulty to make connections to other black people. Even though this will be difficult and many people will be offended, I think it is necessary to have these discussions to move our people forward.
So growing up I was always labeled as the black kid that wants to be white. Now I never saw myself that way. I was trying to be well behaved and productive in society. Even though I could not articulate what I felt at a young age, I saw many examples of general dysfunction in the community. I did not want to perpetuate behaviors that would be detrimental in my life as I had seen it be harmful in the lives of others.
One thing that is unique to black Americans is that our identity is so wrapped up in our oppression and the damage resulting from it. If you are Mexican and educated, you can copy or act like a Mexican professor. If you are a rich Italian, you can pretend to be a De Medici. That is not to say that there aren’t smart or rich black people. It is just in America smart or rich makes you more a part of mainstream society. America views people like Magic Johnson and Reginald Lewis as more than black or part of American society in general.
Blackness is traditionally defined as outside of American culture. Historically, legal protection did not include black people, so we understood ourselves as outsiders in our land. Many black people were trying to come up or improve their standing in life had to separate from their community. Often they would aid in oppression for their own benefit. So historically black people have every reason to question overly ambitious black people or black people that appear to want to assimilate with the greater society.
If I had one wish, it would be that our community spends time learning how to work with all the identities we can now access. We were a people defined by having no or very little agency. We were thrust into a society without really having time to redefine ourselves outside of oppression. We never established what a culturally aware black academic looks like or a culturally aware black businessman. I think the young generation has to deal with these issues less. However, there are many people in my age that feel ostracized by their people for trying to be productive.
I feel an immense amount of guilt about resenting other black people. I have spoken to a few people about my resentment. Usually, I am told I am trivial, and I should grow up. These issues you had with black people only happen when you were a child. In reality, adults also have a problem with how other black people perceive them. I am not the only person to feel this way.
After I started my blog, someone posted an article on my associated Facebook page about a white comedian using nigga in a joke. The comedian is known to be liberal, one member, let’s call her Sue, said that we should forgive him. My reply was that black people shouldn’t protest or anything. Just stop watching his comedy show or going on as a guest. Our replies were getting long, so we continued them over e-mail.
So once the e-mail conversation kept going over for a while. Finally, I said this to end the debate. I told Sue we were talking about to different things. She wanted to facilitate racial reconciliation through forgiving the comedian. I tried to protect black people by just not interacting with the comedian again. Both of us wish the best for black people. We have different ways of getting there. She told me she started crying. It was the first time she disagreed with another black person on a racial issue, and the conversation ended without her being called a “coon” or “aunt sally.”
I have many stories like this from my Facebook and WordPress site. Black people are coming forward that never felt comfortable expressing their feelings on race to other black people. I think proper and constructive political dialogue is necessary if we want to move up as a community. We will need conservative, liberal, and radical plans to move forward. Also, attempts to shame people out of their beliefs makes them double down. It creates two opposing camps in the black community. A divided house is that much easier to control.
Unless black people can unite and build their community, the greater society will stigmatize us. Even groups committed to inclusion see inclusion as a way whites can help blacks. Once black people have a more stable community, diversity will be seen as something that will be beneficial to all people.
Also, black people will have a difficult time finding intimacy with people outside their ethnicity. Whether a person likes it or not your ethnicity is a huge part of your lived experience. Even if you don’t realize it, the lived experience of your community now and in the past shapes the world around you more than your actions or ability. How many black women are single even though they are attractive and educated? Many, because so many black men are systematically put in jail. How many black children go to college and feel alone? Many, because the educational system was set up against us a long time ago. A person really can’t understand their situation without understanding ethnicity. You also can’t understand someone without understanding their ethnicity. We are not independent actors acting in a rational world.
The study of Ethnic Identity Development will facilitate black people working with all their identities and dealing with the personalities of other black people. There is no one correct way to be black anymore. We must allow people to express themselves authentically. We also must let people to have room to change. In the end, black people only have each other, and there will not be many alliances until blacks work together.