Sunday blogging against racism #12a–the noose thing

At an anti-racism caucus a few weeks ago, we were talking about the Jena 6 and the subsequent flurry of noose sightings all over the country, and one participant wondered if there really has been an increase in noose hangings, or if the media is just putting more focus on the sightings these days.

I am pretty sure that there is some increase, given the whole copycat phenomenon, but noose hangings are nothing new. A friend sent me this thoroughly disturbing story that she had heard on NPR the previous weekend . . . you can read the short blurb, but to get the full effect, I would recommend that you listen to the entire podcast (it’s about 30 to 40 minutes long.) I wanted to vomit after listening–and you may feel that way too–but listen anyway.

Many of us have rallied around the battle cry of “Free the Jena Six!”, as well we should. But I didn’t hear anybody crying out to free Charles Hickman, and in the podcast he makes it painfully clear that, no matter how large a settlement he received, he really never will be free of this again. “It’s in my mind now”, he kept saying.

Oh, Mr. Hickman, I am so, so sorry. And it’s in my mind now, too, only I don’t want it out of my mind . . . I don’t want to forget the discomfort I felt as I heard your story, and I don’t want to ever stop wrestling with my own complicity in this.

Continue reading

Sunday blogging against racism #11–rethinking Boondocks

I ran across a mention of Aaron McGruder’s The Boondocks (first a comic strip, now a syndicated television show) in a conversation about South Park (which, as its creators warn at the beginning of each show, “should not be watched by ANYONE”) and was taken aback by the assertion that McGruder’s work is racist. Here is an excerpt of what I wrote in response:

I have to admit that I am a bit shocked to hear the anti-Boondocks/anti-McGruder talk. Granted, I am a white woman, but (not sure how to say this without sounding hokey/ignorant, but here goes) I feel like I have really learned a lot/been made aware of stuff via the Boondocks cartoons. Do I think the TV show is far less funny and pushes things in the wrong direction? Absolutely, but sadly, I still watch it.

As long as Cosby has been  mentioned, I will say that I struggled with the same thing with the whole “Fat Albert” issue. When a professor told my class that Fat Albert was embraced by the black community when it first came out, I was shocked, because in my family, Fat Albert was used to mock black folks and to reinforce the stereotypes. It’s part of how we learned these horrible stereotypes. Even as an adult, I heard her say this and couldn’t get my mind around the fact that anybody would see Fat Albert as a positive thing.

I’ve never (before today) had these questions about Boondocks–okay, scratch that. I HAVE had these questions about the TV show, because as one person mentioned above, it’s going out to a wider audience and is going to be misinterpreted by the folks in Iowa (and yes, in Staten Island, where I grew up) in the same way. But the comic strip is, to me, a totally different animal, and I feel like I was repeatedly given a glimpse into the struggles that the black community faces by reading it. (I still read the comic daily–it’s in “reruns”/syndication–and it’s funny because right now it’s dealing with the 2000 (or maybe 2004?) elections, and it still speaks perfectly well to the current presidential race . . .)

Finally, I think I learn about myself as a “trying to be the cool white woman” person–I see way too much of myself in the eager, trying to be “hip-hop” (to quote Brenda Salter-McNeil’s use of the term) white girl who wants to be “down with the people”. I see myself and wince, and isn’t that what good satire should cause us to do?

At any rate, I read some more, and thought more about the TV show, and how I just never loved the TV show the way that I loved (and still love) the comic strip, and I guess I am ready to concede that the show has taken a wrong turn. Now, though, I find myself questioning my previous analysis of the comic strip . . . and I just don’t know where to go with that. I truly have seen Huey as a prophet, and have prescribed words like, “important” and “profound” to the comic strip, and now I’m not sure where to go with all of this.

any thoughts?

Sunday blogging against racism #10b–“Elbow Room”, my @$$!

Folks, we have been lied to.

You have to understand–I LOVE Schoolhouse Rock. Saw the play on Broadway (and still own the sweatshirt!), bought the CD, etc. And I still am not ready to let go of my love of Grammar Rock classics like “Unpack your Adjectives” and the fabulous Skee-lo re-interpretation of “Mr. Morton“,  or Math Rock favorites like “Figure Eight” and “Three is a Magic Number“.

But this is the most blatant twisting of our nation’s history that I have ever seen, and recent discussions about “reclaiming untold stories” reminded me again of the multitude of ways that I’ve been lied to.

If you need help spotting the lies, I’ll be happy to help you out–just let me know. But here’s your first clue: ask yourself who might have been under those elbows as they happily elbowed their way across the nation, or whether the people we “bought” the land from in the first place had any right to sell it.

anti-racism and the weight of my whiteness

After a six-hour strategy meeting for my office’s anti-racism team (that actually went remarkably well; we got so much accomplished!) and then my church’s New Community Living Conversations tonight, you’d think I would be all racism-ed out.

But I saw this piece and it really brought home once again the concept that it’s all about this false, ridiculous standard of whiteness that this whole house of cards is built upon. And sometimes I just hate my whiteness, even though I know I have to own up to it.


To those who say that Jena isn’t about race

I was struck by how these wise words from W.E.B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk are still so applicable today: (emphasis added)

It was a phase of this problem that caused the Civil War; and however much they who marched South and North in 1861 may have fixed on the technical points, of union and local autonomy as a shibboleth, all nevertheless knew, as we know, that the question of Negro slavery was the real cause of the conflict. Curious it was, too, how this deeper question ever forced itself to the surface despite effort and disclaimer. No sooner had Northern armies touched Southern soil than this old question, newly guised, sprang from the earth,–What shall be done with Negroes?