Why does American still define blackness by coonery?
I do a lot of listening these days because a lot of people do a lot of talking — whether it be repeating themselves or speaking on topics they haven’t done much research on.
What I’m noticing a lot of in the different places I’ve visited and the people I’ve talked to is preponderance of folks telling me how to live my experience, how I should feel and react as a black man in America and who I should or shouldn’t stand for when coming together with my people.
Let’s just start by saying, in the words of famous poet James Baldwin, “I Am Not Your Negro.” To those people living outside my experience who seek to define it: You do not get to dictate how I should react to this experience of living as a black man in America. You do not get to define my experience and then not listen to what I have to say. And I am not here to sugarcoat your bullshit and let you off the hook.
So let me bring up a few examples of the hypocrisy and downright ignorance I’ve encountered when it comes to discussing race — especially around my liberal, “educated” peers — and why it’s dangerous for the black community and will assist in our downfall as a community.
You’re not black if you’re not hood
“Friends” outside of my experience continue to tell me that for one, I’m not living the typical black experience because I come from middle-class America — because my parents decided to place me into a better situation than what they had when they were younger.
Basically, to these people, one can only be a black man if you grew up in the hood, had sex with a lot of women, own 10 pairs of Jordan’s, live with your mom, didn’t go to college, were on welfare, eat shitty food, and grew up in a single family household (and maybe sold drugs).
What’s so frustrating about this train of thought is how many people of color actually believe this about the black experience. No other race is confined to the parameters that being uneducated, poor, violent and without a strong family unit is the only way to claim your heritage. All the attributes that society associates with being black are all negative characteristics that have been exacerbated by the media with shows like “Empire” and through music with artist like Future, Young Thug and similar acts.
This is a tactic by our government and other groups who want to see us fail because the system thrives when blacks remain in the inner cities, hooked on the government tit and in jails while politicians and record labels invest in private prisons, militarized police and big government programs.
This same tactic works in favor of racist police departments who kill unarmed blacks because it creates a perception that the black man is a threat, even when unarmed. It creates the perception that our culture is flawed and we are still not seen as fully-developed humans beings, hence why nobody sheds a tear outside of our community when we die unjustly. Shit, people fight more for animal rights than they do the equal treatment of people of color (ironic because we are all animals).
Who does it benefit when blackness is defined by coonery? Somehow I’m to believe that it benefits me. So now I have to essentially put myself in dangerous and unproductive situations just to feel black? But I’m sure people will try to convince me that this also doesn’t have a psychological impact on the black community.
Similarly, this way of thinking doesn’t benefit black people because it fractures us into believing that those within our community attempting (or having the privilege) to do better are enemies to blackness. And for those who are fortunate to do better, it teaches us that we relate to our white colleagues more so than our black ones.
This is not to say that whites and blacks don’t have things in common, but to be taught that you as a human being have more in common with white people than blacks because you’re doing better for yourself is to associate whiteness with rightness.
Black people must stand up for everyone else’s struggles even though no one has our backs
Another thing that often happens whenever the concept of race is brought up is this a desire by others, for me as a black man, to also take on the struggles of every other race, gender and people that have been (or are being) oppressed.
This is but another trick — to keep black people afraid of coming together and to keep the US afraid of black community. Because throughout history, a strong black community has been one the strongest deterrents against a corrupt and overreaching government.
My friend and I have always wondered about this concept and you have to look no further than the University of Missouri in Columbia where just about every year there is a noose hung on a statute outside of the Black Culture Center, cotton balls thrown around the center or the epithet “nigger” scribbled somewhere nearby.
My main question when it comes to cultures and races who look out for their own, is why is it such a problem when black people do the same? I never came across the Asian, Jewish or women’s center being vandalized or anyone asking why they are allowed to mobilize. It’s almost as if the propaganda runs so deep within the United States that we believe that a group of black people gathered — for whatever the reason — is something to fear. Always.
This is tied to our history though. The infamous Tulsa Race Riots ended up destroying a town known as Black Wall Street. This community was wealthy, architecturally-sound and much-less violent than the surrounding white communities. But it was burned to the ground by a neighboring white community and the National Guard because, you guessed it, a black boy whistled at a white woman from a nearby town
Other examples of the government intervening when black people gathered in large groups to protect themselves from violent cops, feed children or spread knowledge are the Black Panther party — whose influence grew so large it had to be brought down by US intelligence agencies — and Philadelphia’s MOVE — whose homes were air-bombed by local police for their pro-animal, anti-technology and Afro-centric ideology leaving 11 dead including, five children, and displacing a host of others.
There’s also a push by the media to quickly label any black march or protest as violent, comprising thugs, which is a tactic that makes it easier for provocateurs to unravel any civil protest all while making sure the public is complacent in watching black people die and be brutalized at the hand of the police and the state.
How many times have you heard, “Well they’re thugs, so I don’t care if they were killed. They got what they deserved.”? Or “One less thug on the streets is good for me,” which really means that in this country we still believe that the only good black person is a dead one.
It’s a dangerous path when my blackness is being defined by people outside of my experience who have no real desire to even understand my people or our history.
It’s also quite disturbing to see those same groups who care so little about the success of black culture tell blacks that we have to include other people’s struggles into our fight when no other group has to do that.
These are deceptive tactics that nobody in the US is taught outright, but through the media, lack of knowledge of history and pure ignorance, has permeated every institution and way of thinking when it comes to race.
And when someone attempts to belittle my blackness because I don’t fit the media’s image, I can see right through the deception, whether they’re aware of it or not.