March 2012 Archives

March 29, 2012

Today, Black and in America

There’s little that depresses me more than the plight of the black American. Let me tell you why.

First and foremost, I am black. This depresses me in more ways than are worth telling. Mostly because when I say that I am black there are people (who are black) who will say, “yeah… ok,” because they think there’s something about who I am, what I do, and why I do them that is intrinsically not black. Compounding the blow, there are non-black people who will say, “you don’t act black,” confirming the arguments of the former.

This places a tremendous amount of pressure upon me to prove my blackness. But what does it mean to be black? Do I have to be oppressed, disadvantaged, angry or struggling to qualify? And why on earth would someone want to be considered part of a group defined as such? If I have to stomp around, throw dirt on my face and act sad for you to believe that I am and always will be black, fuck you. I hope that moment of “angry black man” satisfies.

It also means that I’ll have to spend additional energy informing your assumptions about me. Ignoring how I make old women nervous and young women avoid eye contact. Having conversations about sports and urban music and stereotypes that aren’t at all who I am. Going above and beyond to keep myself innocent (which should never have to be deliberate).

But I digress. Deeper still, the second reason is the emptiness in being black. No one not black wants to be part of the black community. And if they do, it’s for the wrong reasons. Because you bought into that rap music-as-lifestyle idiocy? Because you want to be “soulful.” Because you’re minority and/or fanatic about sports. Because you hate your parent/local authority and we’re the enemy of that figure so we’re your friend. If you are any of these, refer to paragraph 3, sentence 5.

I want to be black—despite the insistence of others that I don’t. There are others like me. And at one time, we and others all lived together because we weren’t allowed to live anywhere else. The busboy and the schoolteacher and the janitor and the doctor all in the colored section of the city with the black poet and musician and footballer and preacher and criminal. We were a community, unjustly treated, but a cohesive unit nonetheless.

When freed from the confines of “separate but equal,” something strange happened. At some point we stopped living together. The more successful of us could afford to live better so we did. Doctors moved in to doctors’ neighborhoods; businessmen, lawyers and all the rest followed suit. And all that was left in the black neighborhood wasn’t our best.

If you were to think today of a place where the populace was overwhelmingly black, you’d probably not want to live there. Black neighborhoods (or the entirety of Africa for that matter) are more likely to elicit feelings of pity rather than envy. The good that comes from there—geniuses, athletes, entertainers, and so on—is plucked quickly and placed in a more fertile environment. In urban settings, what doesn’t get taken fights to be free or is ostracized for it’s differences.

This process perpetuates our plight. People come to think of black by these polarities—the stars and the slums—and are both attracted and repulsed by both. Little black youths in troubled environments have no nearby bastions of success to model after; instead they have Oprah and Lebron to aspire to—and find the troubling options more attainable. It’s my opinion that black societal development has largely been stagnant since the 70s, with the Cosby Show being perhaps the last consistent intentional advocate for improved black social standing.

With the maturation of the black community in catatonia at best (and possibly in regression), the issues stacked against it persist and grow. Confused public perception. Angst and suspicions. Outright racism. And every single thing I’ve just listed that depressing about being black today. As it stands, it will never go away.

Think about this: whatever was good that once came out of the black community must be drying up. So the “next best thing” becomes the new good thing so that profitability is not lost. The Wire (which I swear I’ve written about before…), Waka-Gucci-Ross… the plight itself is the new hot. The same way that capitalism takes your money, charges merchants to accept it and you to spend it, someone is looking to profit from us until we become dust.

Meanwhile… here in San Francisco:

All of which is tremendously depressing. Some innocent kid got shot. Depressing. Some say it was racially motivated. Depressing. Some say it was because his attire was urban (PC for black) and therefore dangerous. Depressing. Some say the glorification of “black culture” is to blame. Depressing. For many black youth, that glorified stereotype is their best chance at any glory at all. Depressing. Meanwhile, for myself and other more successful black people, those we interact with say things like “I don’t even think of you as black… you’re just you!” Which I guess is well-intentioned but doubly depressing because I AM BLACK and because they’re clearly thinking that not considering me black is a compliment.

So this is why I’m perpetually depressed by the state of black america. And to be honest, I’d prefer it if I could avoid having to think about any of these things ever, which is perhaps the most depressing thing of all.