Inclusiveness Be Damned, I’m No Politician
Why whites hate when we talk Black
Creating a content strategy without a clear understanding of your audience is a bit like setting a boat adrift without navigational tools. You’re out there and you’re taking action, but you’re not working toward a specific goal. Jayson DeMers, Forbes Magazine
The above quote, of course, is dealing with the importance of finding your Target Audience. As a response to another comment, we wrote, “By Black People for Black People,” yet, interestingly enough, the topic continues to come up.
My brother Isma’il Latif has a unique way of cutting to the heart of an issue. When I present the harbingers of race to him, without hesitation, he replies:
Go say that to Chinese, Japanese, and Indians who fiercely defend their cultural heritage and others not only take and make it as their own but show respect and pay homage to those cultures that it came from. (The)Real question is what gives you the audacity to say that to or about Black folk? Everyone wants to own us even in the name of freedom. Cultural protection & Heritage make up identity. Don’t you think slavery already took enough of that from Blacks? Lol
Which is an excellent point — why is there such an uproar when Black people take ownership of themselves?
The answer for that lies in (surprise) slavery, assimilation, and what Eurocentricity deems to be normal. And since I’m not trying to win any votes or praying I don’t piss off my imaginary publisher/editor, I’m gonna talk Black to you and you can talk right Black if you so desire.
If you’re feeling preened, ask yourself why you feel threatened — because I can’t answer that for you.
Social norms or mores are the rules of behavior that are considered acceptable in a group or society. People who do not follow these norms may be shunned or suffer some kind of consequence. Norms change according to the environment or situation and may change or be modified over time. YourDictionary
My family is from the South. Not the city South that Northerners think to move to upon retirement. Nope. We’re from the South South. Back roads named by the route, neighborhoods named by the schools, dirt roads, double-wides, “going to town” South.
I still recall many of the rules my family taught me as a young boy: don’t look at white folks, don’t separate at rest stops, always get receipts, don’t look back at cops, being a few.
Of course these Social Norms were behaviors carried over from the days of Jim Crow, and before that, slavery. We learned early on that we were less than white folk.
But it’s not just the South. There’s not an articulate Black person around that has not been told “you speak so well,” as if they were an infant or a foreigner. Black people get used to being seen as “the help” or the subordinate or the thief or the trouble-maker.
All of these.
We have to be conscious of how close we walk to white people or how loud we talk or how emotional we become…a constant self-monitoring for the feelings of white folk. Far be it for us to feel threatening.
Here’s the kicker. White people have always wanted their nigger cake, and to eat it as well. Ask Thomas Jefferson biographers, they’ll tell you that was his literal reality. And he wasn’t alone.
Slavemaker’s raped their enslaved African women almost as much (if not more) than they copulated with their own wives…all the while beating, breaking, and often times forcing the Black man to watch. This act nullified whatever sexual threat the enslaver felt in regards to his enslaved African male.
Despite whatever threat they felt, once subdued and forced into being subordinates, whites couldn’t help but to admire the resilience of the enslaved African. So much so that whites wanted to imitate what they viewed of the African culture. And the Minstrel Show was born.
In what would become America’s first form of entertainment, the Minstrel Show was whites performing Black songs, in their best rendition of Black vernacular, and later, in blackface.
One of the Minstrels’ first stars, Thomas ‘Daddy Rice’ Rice, a New Yorker, introduced the song and character Jim Crow to the world in 1828. The song became so popular that not only was it mistaken for the National Anthem, Jim Crow was so popular that white people began calling all Black men by that name. And of course, as you know, they even named the racist separate but equal code after the song/character.
Minstrels became the way to present Black culture in a non-threatening manner all the while making a mockery of them.
Performers defended slavery by presenting denigrating stereotypes of Blacks who supposedly needed the civilizing influence of slavery to keep them in check. Black slaves were portrayed as happy and content with their lot in life and fearful of life outside of the plantation.
This behavior persists through the Civil War, transferred into Vaudeville, Moving Pictures, and Modern Music…which is what we’ve mostly dealt with in these writings.
From Bill Haley, Jerry Lee Lewis (who married a 13yr old…), Elvis P, all the way up to the Beasties, Em, and everyone’s favorite Adele, white people have made large fortunes doing what their Black counterparts have done, oft times, with far greater success.
Watch any college sports event, the director will cut away to white students doing their best rendition of Black dances. Never is this behavior looked down upon. It’s considered good, wholesome fun.
And we’re supposed to sit idly by and accept it?
Black politicians use the word ‘inclusive’ often — don’t use it, you’ll lose white voters. Rarely do I hear whites, Asians, or any other ethnic group tout that word as one of their core philosophies. And it’s not expected. Certainly no one ever expects it from the extremely exclusive Hasidic Jewish community.
Living in insular communities, often time policed by their own, women and children walk the streets late at night, business signs are in Hebrew and close for Jewish Holidays, no one feels threatened by their exclusivity.
Even when that exclusivity has a negative affect on surrounding communities, they are still allowed the agency of defining themselves.
In a recent This American Life podcast entitled “A Not-So-Simple Majority,” an Hasidic community in E. Ramapo, NY took over the school board, closed a local school, and when confronted by the non-Jewish, Black and Latino community members most affected by this decision, the lawyers representing the Hasidic community had this to say:
Suggesting that Orthodox Jews who do not send their children to the public school lack the moral authority to hold this office hearkens back to the admonishments of Saint Augustine, who famously stated that the Jews should be allowed to live but never be allowed to prosper. And that paved the road to Auschwitz and the crematory at Treblinka.
Claims of anti-semitism are never shot down, in fact, being accused of such is a life-long scarlet letter. Inclusivity be damned.
No one owns them.
Although it’s unsaid, white people still feel that they have ownership over us. A Black man speaking up about and for Black people gives them the same uncomfortable feeling that slavemakers once felt hearing the drums of the enslaved.
The unwritten rules are…Black people can say anything they want so long as they throw the clean-up lines in: “not all white people,” “I love everyone,” or if they mention Black Lives Matter one must say, “not that Slavic lives don’t matter” or some variation — we’re supposed to be inclusive.
We are expected to accept others telling our stories; just “happy” that someone is telling them. We are expected to accept with open arms all people into Jazz, Blues, Hip-Hop…whatever…without ever calling these things what they are — Black.*
All people are free to find and speak to their target audience. No one ever steps into LBGT conversations and insists that they include the voices of straight people. No one ever feels insulted by a person with a physical handicap speaking of their day to day challenges
The Social Norms expected of Black people is for us to always lighten the blow, always play down our emotions, always make everyone else comfortable for fear of them being…scared.
Well…if that’s what you’re expecting here…that’s not going to happen. As I’ve stated, my Target Audience is Black people. I’m speaking to us and about us in a language that we understand. In the same fashion that Junot Diaz boldly dropped the italics on Spanish words, we’re taking the veritable italics off of everything we write.
After this, I’m going to start responding in the truest of Black expressions:
That’s it and that’s that. Talk Black to me.
*note: although there’s often a divide spoken of between Black and Latinos, this author recognizes the African connection between us all…with the only thing separating Blacks from Latinos being the destination of our slave ships and the Europeans that enslaved us.