Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Fear of Black Anger. . .

A funny thing happened on the way to this blog entry.

In fact, two.

In two separate incidents –- one involving my poetry and one involving this blog -– yours truly has been questioned about her (supposed) “anger.”

“You are one angry woman” one person commented after reading entries.

Yet another person commented “Why do you always talk about racial oppression in your poems? People want to be entertained, not beat over the head with that stuff.”

Well, hmmm. . .

No one questions the validity of the anger of an innocent victim whose life has been high-jacked by a crime of violence or a random circumstance (such as having a fatal illness, losing a child, loss of loved ones or material possessions because of a natural disaster, etc.).

Yet just about everyone questions the validity of African American “anger” over generations of victimization.

In our society, anger is invalidated as a negative, unproductive emotion, and Black anger is too often seen as being not only “rebellious” but as inciting insurrection.

Black anger is always connected –- by mainstream society -– to the threat and perception of violence and destruction, divorced from any historical context. The extent to which Black anger is referenced in news reports and the public feeds this perception. It disassociates reactions to injustice and hopelessness and views them from a white, ahistoric lens that perpetuates the stereotypes of randomly lawless Black men and women (although there are some of those. . .as well as lawless white, Latino, Asian American and other men and women, too. But that is another topic. . .).

This same lens ignores and/or supports the refusal of individual cities and overall society in acknowledging or demanding justice for those negatively affected by the same unjust systems that benefit and support white privilege.

Black anger in the face of injustice needs to be validated as being a “just” response, as appropriate –- if not more so -- than immediate forgiveness and understanding of continuing injustice.

We need to assume –- as we did after 9/11, after the Columbine attack, after this newest incident at Virginia Tech, after any incident in which greater society is injured -- that anger in the face of injustice is a positive response for a people who, through that anger, work through grief, fight for justice, and find their way through to forgiveness once justice has been satisfied and reparations made.

Validating Black anger as a “normal” response in the face of historic and sustained injustice – just as we validate the emotion of anger in any other instance of personal or institutional injustice -- can help fuel possibilities, hope, and achievement in the African American community.

Working to understand Black anger –- instead of just dismissing it -- can also help white people, if they open their hearts and minds to really listen past the stereotypical fears that have been drummed into them since birth and understand the depths of generations of hurt and pain that the system of Amerikkkan Apartheid and white supremacist philosophy and structure (and those who practice and/or tacitly support even the most “benign” forms of it) have caused African Americans and other People of Color to endure.

If it is true that “the truth shall set you free”, then it is also true that anger can help heal.

In my opinion, the question should never be “Why are you still angry in the face of continuing oppression?”

To me, the question should be:

• If you get angry about standing in a long line at the store. . .
• If you get angry about being cut off in traffic. . .
• If you get angry when your team loses a game. . .
• If you get angry about any of the little things in daily life that we
allow to irritate and aggravate us. . .

Then how can you NOT be angry in the face of continuing oppression –- whether you are one of the oppressed or a part of the group benefiting from the oppression -- if you believe in the concept of justice?

The “angry” people I know care about righting the wrong of injustice. The “angry” people I know are all using that emotion in ways that motivate and effect change!! The “angry” people I know are not giving up or “going along to get along”; they are working in their communities and helping people that “mainstream” society gave up on long ago.

They are having a sane response in the face of enormous injustice.

Their –- our -– “anger” helps us know that we still feel; that we are not jaded by “the way things are”; that we have not given up on the fight to change things for the better for “the least of us”; that we still have a pulse.

And if you are not “angry” in the face of massive injustice, you might want to check yours (smile).

Let’s chew on that one until next time.

Moving Forward,


Saturday, April 14, 2007

THIS IS HOW WE DO IT: The Don Imus Case -- Just Blame Black Folk. . .

WOW, if I didn’t think I was ill before – for weeks!!! – the Don Imus flap is enough to surely send me back to my bed!

Okay, things that happened correctly: bottom line – the guy was fired.

What Don Imus said was not a “slip of the tongue.” This is the man who called respected journalist Gwen Ifill –- an African American woman –- a “cleaning lady.”

He is the man who has made so many racist, sexist, homophobic comments through the years that his listeners – and indeed, the country – have viewed them as “normal.”

And were it not for bloggers (God Bless ‘Em!) picking up on it, Don Imus might still have a job.

Actually, scratch that.

If it were not for corporate executives seeing a loss of green (money), Don Imus would still have a job.

Make no mistake, it was not the public “outrage” or letters or calls or e-mails from civil rights activists and individuals across the country that did in Don Imus.

Nor was it that CBS or MSNBC all of a sudden grew a backbone and a conscience.

What really did in Don Imus was the loss of revenue in corporate advertising to his program.

Major long-term sponsors pulled out, packed up their suitcases of money and took it to another playing field. Don Imus became a corporate liability and therefore had to go.

In Amerikkka, “justice” is colored green.

So now, not even 24 hours after he has been fired, a curious – and oh so predictable – public re-writing is now taking place, and it goes like this:

“Don Imus wouldn’t have EVEN KNOWN to call those Black women ‘nappy headed hos’ IF IT WERE NOT FOR THE BLACK HIP-HOP COMMUNITY!!!”

Now, people PLEASE!!! AS IF a WHITE MAN in Amerikkkan society has EVER needed permission – AT ANY POINT IN AMERIKKKA’S BROKEN, RACIST HISTORY – OR NEEDED AN AFRICAN AMERICAN MAN TO GIVE HIM THE WORDS – to denigrate Black women!!!

But the media is simultaneously creating and eating up this “new reality” with a silver spoon.

Talk shows, bloggers, and media are asking the question “why is a radio jock held responsible for calling a group of [B]lack women a slang term for prostitutes. . .when scores of rappers have gone multi-platinum using the same word and uglier ones in reference to [B]lack women everywhere?(The Washington Post, Remark renews old hip-hop debate, Friday, 04.13.07)” while ignoring the following:

There is a cultural context of white supremacy that cannot be ignored and that gives different “weight” and power to words spoken depending on whether the speaker is African American or white and to whom the slur is intended. For example: an African American person calling me a “nappy headed ho” – while reprehensible – does not carry the same racial baggage and racial significance of a white person calling me that. In white Amerikkka, the term “nappy headed” has been used for 400 years by white people denigrating African Americans. Black people picked up the term as a pejorative FROM WHITE PEOPLE, not the other way around. Now consider this: if a Black person calls me a “nappy headed ho,” while wrong, their use of it denigrates me AND them. When a white person calls an African American a “nappy headed ho,” it denigrates all African Americans (especially in a white society where the wearing of “natural” hair is STILL an issue in 2007!!!!) and uplifts the notion of white hair texture being “normal” and desirable.

The white music producers and corporate representatives that control the music industry are ultimately responsible for what is produced for public consumption and they are choosing to push down our collective throats music that is denigrating to the Black community. Remember MayMay Ali? Of course you don’t. She is a rapper whose career was truncated by white music producers who told her that her music was “too positive” and not “hardcore” and “street” enough for them, and she is just but one of many examples.

Rap and hip-hop today have increasingly become a 21st Century minstrel show orchestrated by white music producers and corporate heads who want the green for the amusement and consumption of disaffected white (who are the majority of buyers/listeners) and African American youth who uncritically inculcate these toxic images of Black America and act toward our community accordingly.

For both groups, it means acting in a debasing manner toward Black women and mothers.

It means looking at Black culture through a very narrow lens which dismisses our most treasured accomplishments as “acting white” (as if Africans and descendants of Africans in Amerikkka have not always valued, fought, died for, and achieved education and acted out of our inherent intelligence against the most crippling of odds).

It means promoting a view of “manhood” more in line with 17th and 18th century overseers who were broken under the daily indoctrination of the individualistic, “me first” “protecting the interests of white Amerikkka” philosophical thought and actions rather than the collective, “let’s rise as a people” interest that has been a staple of the African American community in Amerikkka.

And again: both groups may listen to the music. Both groups may act out of the messages of the music. BUT ONLY ONE GROUP will be lifted up by either group’s acting out of the negative messages of some rap and hip hop music AND THAT GROUP IS WHITE AMERIKKKA.

Final point: Do I think that misogynistic, homophobic, racist messages in any form are alright?

Emphatically no.

Do I think that the African American community has done enough to “censor” those messages in our own communities and to protect our youth from those messages?

Emphatically no.

BUT I find it so telling that the Amerikkka that is crying about “censorship” of Don Imus is now calling for “censorship” of rap and hip hop music. . .

I find it curiously telling that in their rush to assign blame to the rap and hip hop communities they are ignoring that white music producers control that music scene and the production and distribution of those negative messages. . .

I find it awfully telling that Amerikkka is now trying to blame Don Imus’ racism on the rap and hip hop community – as if this country has not been steeped in racism/white supremacy from its inception and as if now this is a new phenomenon created by the community most victimized by it. . .

And I find it laughable – - and an indication of the racist thought that is so alive and well in Amerikkka – - that when a “white privilege” is taken away, white Amerikkka becomes so panicked that now they are acting as if Don Imus – and their collective selves – are the “victims” because somehow the “normal” climate has “changed” and they cannot now get away with the hate speech that they made a staple of the Amerikkkan palate.

Moving Forward,