I am black/African American/Negro/Negroid/butter pecan brown…you get the point. If you are not any of the above things, it probably baffles you as to why distinctions like these are important. But those of you who are get that each one represents a different aspect of black perception. Confusing isn’t it. You aren’t racist if you think so…just highly aware of a disparity of which you are not allowed to speak. The definition of racism is nothing static, so no person should feel comfortable calling anyone of African ethnicity anything. And emulation of the African American culture? There are lines, though invisible and shifting, and you will become highly aware when you cross them (see Caitlin Cimeno). We as black people are extremely quick to call foul when we feel anyone other than us is devaluing who we think we are. Note the “anyone other than us” part. Because it is perfectly acceptable to be a black racist. Just in case you aren’t sure, let us take a look at the lead actor of the film “12 Years a Slave”, Chiwetel Ejiofor. Ejiofor plays a career defining role of a freed black man who was kidnapped and forced into slavery for 12 years before being rescued by the combined efforts of his wife, activists, state and federal legislators. It can be asserted that most people were not familiar with the story and that it demonstrates the sheer cruelty within the US past. So, what headline sprawled across social media today about our valiant actor? “You Know That Actor That Played The EDUCATED SLAVE . . . In The Movie 12 YEARS A SLAVE . . . Well Have Y’all Seen HIS GIRLFRIEND????“. You see, Ejiofor’s girlfriend does not share the same skin tone as him, which is a thorn in the side of the black community. A racist thorn. The irony, however, is that most people in America label black people as those who have ancestry in the US slave trade system. Black, in the US, is then synonymous with African American. But here’s where education meets racism…Chiwetel Ejiofor is not, by that definition, “black”. He’s not even from this country. He’s British. British by way of Nigeria. And if you ask any “comfortably racist” black person, they will tell you that Africans are a completely different ethnicity than African Americans, and are therefore not expected to follow the cultural rules and regulations of the black community. So why the exception for Ejiofor? I comfortably assert my belief that the individuals angered by his choice in mate have no idea he’s British. Racist fail. To add to the enduring complexities of the black racist psyche are articles like The 30 Most Beautiful Black Women in History. Nearly a third of the women listed are from mixed parentage. So what does that mean? We love the results of mixed parentage but do not like the couples themselves because they aren’t the same race? Don’t think about it too hard- you will certainly end up with a headache.
Which brings me to our phrase for the day- convenient activism. Convenient activism happens when an individual takes a temporary active stance against what they feel is injustice. Note “temporary”. This activism only lasts as long as it is popular to be active. True activism does exist (see Adrienne Alexander, Shaunte Henry, Derick Bowers just to name a few). But the bulk of vocalization comes from bandwagon followers of cultural trends. They aren’t angry so much as they want to be seen as angry. And that type of activism is harmful to the causes themselves. I would not dare to venture to suppress anyone’s First Amendment rights of free speech and freedom of the press. And I will not say you should stand for nothing. I will say that aligning yourself so staunchly with a cause only to abandon it for the latest trend weakens the foundation of your position.
Racism is an addiction in its worst form. Those afflicted with it have no motivations to recover. And it isn’t a mild addiction either. More like the meth of immoral thought processes. Only it’s free. And any addict can tell you that the best kind of drugs are free drugs. So what is the solution? Mental reform, it seems. I suggest the “responding with love” technique, as the “screaming at the racist” technique is generally ineffective. It is quite difficult to respond with love when confronted by racism, but practice will aid in the technique being mastered. I petition us all to respond with love, to ourselves and to others. To embrace the differences. To ALLOW PEOPLE OF OTHER RACES TO ASK YOU QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR RACE. Do not allow them to float on in ignorance. Correct assumptions and perceptions with active dialogue. Remove the fear within race relations. It works- I know this first hand.
Short Story: A group of students in Georgia sat together in a home economics class in 2003. The girls in the group, from various cultural backgrounds, were talking about hair and morning routines. The African American girls mentioned how their routines took longer and how washing their backs was probably the most annoying part of the routine. To which a Caucasian girl in the group replied, “You don’t just let your hair do it?”. The comment sparked a class long discussion in which girls from several ethnic backgrounds weighed in on hair routines, showering, and the misconceptions they had of other races. The open dialogue was filled with “Aha!” moments and laughter. And clarity.
I suppose ranting does nothing more than allow me to blow off a little steam about the things I try hard not to read, but I also hope it causes people to talk to one another. Just talk.