So it seems Don Imus is at it again. He's in hot water for some comments he made about the Dallas Cowboy's recently signed defensive back Adam "Pacman" Jones. In a conversation about Jones' extensive criminal record, Imus says, "What color is he?" When given the answer, which is African American, He then said, "Well, there you go. Now we know."
That got me to thinking about the whole issue of race and being Black in America. I can already see a lot of my friends rolling their eyes at this blog. There goes muMs race baiting again. I can understand their annoyance with the issue of race in this country. I'm annoyed by it. Shit, the John Singleton directed Rosewood where Ving Rhames plays basically a black slave super-hero, came out the same day as Booty Call in 1997. Take a wild guess which movie made more money that weekend.
Race, and slavery aren't the issues that people want to talk about at all, Black or White.
For as long as I can remember, growing up in New York City, there hasn't been a summer where there wasn't some issue about race in the news from Eleanor Bumpurs to Amadou Dialllo to Michael Stewart, Yusef Hawkins, Abner Louima, Larry Davis, Bernard Goetz and Rodney King.
Oh and who can forget O.J. Simpson. I can remember wondering what would be the new controversy as the summer rolled around. Last year it was nappy-headed hoes and this year, well, it's Barack Obama.
Though the possibility of Barack Obama becoming the President of the United States is a great thing, the fact that the color of his skin is an issue at all is a distraction.
I guess- and this is from pure speculation, not any researched factual journalist whatchumacallit- humans are tribal. We are comfortable around our own kind. But the like kind is really based on social commonalities like what songs you listen to, what foods you eat, what you do for a living, etc... The color of the skin is an easy way to infer things about people. The mind searches for the simplest ways to make it's judgments. Unt viola, Stereotypes! That is why a woman walking down the street at night might hold her purse a little tighter as she is passed but some young African American men. She has learned, particularly from the news, that Black and Hispanic men make up a very high percentage of the petty crimes in the city. Do I blame her? No. She's just being cautious. I don't view that a racism.
And neither does John McWhorter, the Manhattan Institue academic who thinks Hip-Hop (all forms) is bad for the brain. His latest book "All about the Beat: Why Hip Hop Can't Save Black America" explains that even conscious Hip Hop is all part of the misconception that Hip Hop will save Black people and pull poor Black people out of the Ghetto. And Damn this guy hated 8 Mile. Do I agree with him? Hmmmm... I don't know. I do have my problems with Hip Hop. But there is still so much potential to the music form of Hip Hop all over the world that I just can't throw the baby out with the bath water. But I'll give his book a good perusal. It should be good for a few talking points.
Check out John McWhorter and Glenn Loury of Brown University debate the worth of Hip Hop and Barack Obama's Father's Day speech on Bloggingheads.TV called Higher Moral Sound. Interesting.
Anyway back to Don Imus...
The main problem is in the broad sweeping blame that happens when a woman does get punched in the face by some young shameless thug. The idea that if one Black man commits a crime, then all Black people are prone to criminal activity.
I was talking with a friend the other day about whether or not I was going to go see Neil LaBute's play Reasons to Be Pretty. I was debating going because though Mr. LaBute is a wonderful, albeit controversial, playwright, an article he penned last year in the L.A. Times called "Casting for the stage should be color-blind" made me question his sanity. In it he speaks about how today Laurence Olivier wouldn't be able to play Othello in blackface because of unfair casting making it unable for White's to play Black roles. He goes on to say, "Now this probably won't stop somebody from having the bright idea of casting Beyoncé in the role, but Liev Schreiber — as fine a Shakespearean actor as this country has at the moment — will never have a shot at the part (of Othello. he was making a joke suggesting Beyonce play Othello, I guess). For most white actors today, roles of color — from the classics to some of the sensational writing that is currently being done for the theater — are not even an option for them, and I'm not sure why."
I laughed my ass off. As if there aren't enough roles written for white men. Wow.
I spoke with another actor friend who knows LaBute personally and after reading the article she just chalked it up to his need to push societal buttons, which is his m.o.. His plays are all about making you feel very uncomfortable. So I wasn't really offended by the article until I got to this part, "I understand about slavery and all that, but that was a generally unpleasant time in our national history and it's firmly in the past. No one but a few folks who own "The Dukes of Hazzard: The Complete First Season" continue to think that slavery brought this country anything but shame and heartache. So we should all get over it, say we're sorry — I'm happy to do that to anybody who stops me at the Grove — and move on."
I f'n hate that. We should all get over it, huh? I don't go around blaming racism for every injustice done to a person of color or myself for that matter. Not even jokingly. But when people say that preachers like Rev. Wright- even though he was dead wrong- need to get over slavery because it happened a long time ago, my come back isn't in comparing slavery to the holocaust because I don't want to get into that battle of human tragedies and which were worse. I compare the African American holocaust to the homeless Vietnam Veteran who still wakes shaking from the nightmares in a cardboard box on the streets of the country he gave his life for. Now spread that across generations. Less than 50 years ago I still would have had to drink from a separate water fountain from a lot of my friends and just because some 25 year olds nowadays can't understand how that happened, don't tell me to get over it.
If triangular trade, slavery, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights era was war than the Post-traumatic Stress disorder is Nihilism. And Nihilism is the cause of all the ills that make up some of the worst stereotypes of African Americans, crime, drugs, broken families, etc...
And being called 'Black' fuels that Nihilism. To most people, regardless of their heritage or color, the terms White and Black are synonymous with Good and Bad no matter how much black pride we try to instill. It works on a subconscious level. So like my friend Julian's father who is Puerto Rican said, "there is no place called Hispania, therefore how can I be Hispanic. I am Puerto Rican." For me there is no place called Black that I am from and I realized from my recent trip to Ghana in February that the only thing African Americans have in common now with Africans is the color of skin. So therefore I'm not even African American. I am an American period. a Bronxonian, New Yorker if you need specifics. And I'm not mad at Don Imus. He's an idiot and it's not his fault. I don't think he should be fired. I believe he should be able to exercise his first amendment rights. I have faith in people. Eventually only the ignorant will listen to Imus and that will be very few. Plus he's really old, he's going to die soon anyway.
But all of this is, like I say, a distraction. the real news is they discovered water on Mars, nice.