Song of Chloe

For Eric and Erica Garner

12/31/2017


This is what Toni has been telling us all along.

This is the moral of her every story.

This is the grievance of her every pen stroke.

Read it and weep.

Be it eyes 

Or girls

Or songs 

Or sons 

Or loves 

Or jazz 

So-called havens

So-called homes 

Be it memories

Or mercies 

Or children 

So-called choices

Or ever afters

Or even God –

Even God.

EVEN GOD.

There is nothing of ours

Their hate will not

Encase in that

Impossible white casting and

Immobilize.

They will take every fucking

Part of a person

If they want it – 

If they want to.

Toni warns us –

She tells us –

It is history.

They ruin all 

Your best things.

Strip 

You from 

Your own existence.

Carve 

You from 

Your own bones.

They hack you

Down to your love –

Down to your faith – 

Down to your truth – 

Down to your voice –

Down to your breath – and

Then cut that.

Rewrite you from 

An “I am” to 

An “I can’t.”

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Daily Prompt: Relocate

via Daily Prompt: Relocate

“What is supremacism about generally? It’s about a fragile sense of superiority (covering a sense of insecurity) that must be actively promoted to be maintained. It reflects a system that is inflexible, rigid, and socially autistic (awkward social relations). These are signs of a brain misdeveloped, of unresolved early life trauma.”

Darcia Narvaez, Ph.D.

A favorite argument for the legitimacy of American white supremacy – that it tossed around by so-called evangelicals, conservatives, and members of the alt-right as thoughtlessly as their rape apologetics or political endorsements – is that white people are morally superior to the minorities that populate the nation, and so they deserve to dominate the culture.

Of course, we “woke” black people claim to know better than this. We claim to be 100% hip to the myth of white moral superiority. We claim to have outgrown the puerile need for white approval and validation.

Yet, we remain mired in a complex web of respectability politics woven by our subconscious desire to be viewed as “good” by whites. Yes, we do. I don’t care how adamantly we deny it.

The only way to explain the inanity of our puritanical attitudes about homosexuality, transsexuality, female sexuality, mental health, drug use, abortion, feminism, atheism – I can go on – is to admit that the majority of us are still indoctrinated enough by white hegemony to care what white people think of us.

Middle and upper class blacks in particular are the figurative mortified parents in the supermarket, admonishing or even whipping our working and lower class “kids” loudly enough so that everyone that is watching can know that we do not approve of their behavior one bit.

We are continually performing a rigid, impractical sort of “goodness” that keeps us psychologically dependent on validation from whites and stuck on the short end of a stick that is carved out of white hegemony and hypocrisy.

Think about it.

There is a critical mass of black Christians that are adamantly homophobic. They block black members of the LGBTQIA+ community from their institutions and circles of influence, and they stigmatize and ridicule them in public discourse and on public stages. They say this is what Biblical doctrine mandates, but that is not true. The Bible says that Christians should try to be like Jesus, and he loved and accepted everyone.

So what are these Christians doing if they’re not trying to separate themselves from the “freaks” in a demonstration that they are “normal” or “moral”? For whom are they demonstrating this so-called “normality” or “morality” if not whites?

Black atheists and agnostics aren’t impressed. Neither are blacks that embrace the black members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Certainly, the black members of the LGBTQIA+ community do not see the acts of hostility and hatred committed against them by members of the black religious community as proof of anything other than the pervasiveness of negative indoctrination, religious hypocrisy, and assimilationist values in that community. Not to mention a sort of social stupidity when it comes to dealing with White America.

Why do I call it that? Well, let’s see . . .

Historically, black evangelicals have held themselves apart from white evangelicals while simultaneously attempting to “one-up” them in terms of theological acuity. As Mary Beth Mathews explains in her “The History of Black Evangelicals and American Politics,” black evangelicals “held on to that ‘old time religion’ even as their white counterparts had not . . . [they] remained spiritually rooted in the Protestant tradition, and they eschewed modern amusements, like motion pictures and dance halls.” They tried to position themselves, rhetorically and gesturally, at the high end of the moral totem pole, most certainly thinking this would increase their cultural or societal standing.

So many black evangelicals in the twentieth century fought to “prove” to America that they were “good enough” to be considered equal to whites, and the most fundamentalist of today’s black evangelicals seem to be engaging in a similar exercise – trying to “out-moralize” their white counterparts. But for what?

Has ostracizing lesbian blacks or gay blacks or bisexual blacks or trans blacks or queer blacks translated into greater social acceptance for the blacks that publicly and adamantly do this?

What actual material – polemical, economic – gains has the black religious right made by ostracizing black members of the LGBTQIA+ community?

Somebody tell me, please.

As far as I can tell, every black person in America is subject to racist mistreatment, and the only social designations that might protect a black person from certain forms of it are “celebrity,” “millionaire,” or “billionaire.”

However, I can also name a dozen famous and/or rich blacks this second – without even straining myself – that have gotten what we term their “nigger wake-up calls” right as they were arriving at the apex of their accomplishments or achievements. So, again, what actual material gains has any discrete strata or segment of the black community made by ostracizing another or isolating itself from another?

Or, better yet, has ostracizing one group of blacks allowed another group of blacks to “get in” any better with whites?

Have the “respectables” gotten in any better with whites by separating themselves from the “ratchets”?

Have black men gotten in any better with whites by separating themselves from black women?

Have rich blacks gotten in any better with whites by separating themselves from working class and poor blacks?

Have cishetero blacks gotten in any better with whites by separating themselves from LGBTQIA+ blacks?

No? Then why do we keep doing it?

Because we have been indoctrinated.

We have to face it. We locate our ideas about our intrinsic worth as human beings in the minds and imaginations of whites. Whether we want to admit it or not.

And it is time for us to relocate our ideas about our worth in our own minds and imaginations, finally and for the first time in 398 years (that’s how long ago the first Africans – from Angola – arrived in America to settle in Jamestown, Virginia).

Black America has been just as vocal as everyone else in the nation in lamenting the disaster that is the Trump presidency, but, if there is one upside to it, it is this.

Never before has the falseness of the myth of white moral or intellectual superiority been more obvious or apparent than it is right now.

And this is especially true as it pertains the political sphere of our national culture.

I will not waste time listing all of the absurd and amoral things that Trump, his sycophants, the RNC, alt-right movement, Tea Party, or white religious right have said and done over the past nine months to prove that the “morality” that they pawn off in their rhetoric and propaganda is nothing but a discursive machination – a way of talking up anything they want to happen or do – exaggerating its “goodness” – in order to disguise its unsavory motives and objectives or camouflage its true, detrimental intent.

What I will list, though, is all the things that black people should have learned from witnessing all of these absurd and amoral things play out.

Trusting the people in political power in this country – the majority of which are white and male – to tell you what is happening in our community – because you believe that they are smarter than us, more honest than us, less flawed than us, better educated than us, and hence more capable of leading than us – is something we should not do anymore.

Trusting the people in political power in this country – the majority of which are white and male – to interpret for us what they are doing to us – because we believe that they are more decent than us, more honest than us, more compassionate than us, and hence telling us the truth about themselves – is something we should not anymore.

Hating who the people in political power in this country hate – in which we are included – is not going to make these people love us. It will only allow them to use us, as they have used working class and poor whites to gain power by galvanizing their fear of scarcity and directing it at Democrats, liberals, progressives, minorities, immigrants, foreigners, and, yes, women.

Hating who the people in political power in this country hate – in which we are included – does not make us “good.” It makes us gullible and culpable whenever Trump does something to politically victimize another undeserving segment of American society.

There is no material reward for being the sort of black person that a white person like Trump would regard as “decent” or “safe” or “good” or “moral.”

Just look at what’s happening in DC right now.

Trump is trying to pass a tax law that will only benefit the richest citizens of this country.

He is still trying to figure out a way to gut the ACA.

He has not secured DACA.

He has not prevented state and local politicians from passing laws that inhibit women’s reproductive rights or the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community.

He has fought consistently since January to pass laws that are undeniable Islamophobic and propagated Islamophobic ideas about terrorism on his Twitter and in his talking points.

Despite the fact that working class people, poor people, minorities, immigrants, women, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, Muslims – a swath of Americans that cut across just about every demographic – voted for him in last year’s election.

Right now, Trump is urging the people of Alabama to elect Roy Moore to the US Senate – a man that has had dozens of credible accusations of sexual assault made against him in just the last month.

He is hiding behind the inept defense of a passel of high-paid, high-profile lawyers from credible accusations that he worked with Russia to fix the presidential election.

He is the poster child – yes, child – for the sort of meta-ethical moral relativism that truly pervades and sets the “official” tone in American culture and politics.

He stands for what America stands for, whether America wants to admit it or not.

And that is why we – black Americans – cannot let the mainstream beat us up anymore about our alleged “badness.” Because it is definitely not running through the moral high ground, nor has it ever run through the moral high ground.

This is why we have to relocate a sense of ourselves that is self-defined.

We have to relocate the confidence in our collective worth that we have rooted in mainstream acceptance in acceptance of ourselves and each other.

We have to relocate our psychological and spiritual sources. We have to stop using exclusivity and elitism  – tearing ourselves down – to build ourselves up. We have to start being inclusive and egalitarian.

We have to be open with each other. And loving of each other.

And above everything else, we have to stop believing that white people, and particularly those in power, know all the “right” things to do. Because it’s simply not true.

America is a country built by the ideas and ideals of moneyed white men, dominated by the ideas and ideals of moneyed white men, that still can’t get itself straight.

So what in the world can it credibly tell us about ourselves?

 

Connecting Thots: Linking Carolyn Bryant to Kellyanne Conway on that Goddamn Couch to the Need for Black People to Be More Woke in Three Arduous Steps

I’m going to cast my web wide and then pull it in slowly, so bear with me, please.

I want to touch on a lot of things in this post, like Donald Trump in a dressing room full of beauty pageant contestants.

I’ll wend my way to Kellyanne Conway and what my sister would refer to as her “dry-faced ass” eventually.

(Excuse that anti-feminist lapse right there. And the use of the term “thot” in the title. Racist capers make me even more angry when they come from women.)

I.

I grew up with a mother that taught literature. So we had a copy of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology on our bookcase. I never understood why we had it, though, until I went to college and declared my English major. Then, I learned: the classical Greek and Roman mythologies are western literary cornucopias (a symbol derived from Greek and Roman mythology, in fact).

So many of the plotlines and motifs (the hero’s journey, the concept of redemptive suffering, the inescapability of fate, the ideas that human goodness is rewarded and human evil is punished by divine forces) in Western literature derive from classical European mythology that if you played a drinking game in which you took a shot for every modern book you know with a mythological allusion, your ass would go into an alcohol-induced coma inside of fifteen minutes.

So, as a student of Western literature, I am understandably fascinated by the tenacity of classical mythology.

From what I have been taught, ancient Greeks and Romans regarded these stories that read like children’s fiction to most modern people like they were religious doctrine. They believed these stories told the truth about the supernatural beings that created and ruled the Earth and humanity, certain natural phenomena (like comets), the differences in the ancient cultures, and the roots of the alliances and anima between those ancient cultures. In fact, until the rise of philosophy (which encompassed empirical science until the 1800s), historiography, and rationalism in the 5th century, mythology was regarded as fact.

That mythology played this role in ancient Greek or Roman culture isn’t what fascinates me, though (it makes sense that these civilizations would’ve clung to mythology until another way of understanding the universe evolved to a point where they felt they could trust it).

It’s the human attachment to ancient mythology I find so interesting, stretching as it has from antiquity to post-postmodernity.

I tend to think those individuals that continue to study and creatively mine the mythologies of ancient cultures today do so because they recognize and appreciate the way myths reflect certain truths about human nature and interactions in relatively simple stories and not overly technical science and microsociology.

On the other hand, there is a certain type of attachment to a certain type of mythology – a sociological “twin” to this literary tradition – that has the opposite effect on me. It doesn’t fascinate – it infuriates me.

You see it in white supremacists and black-white supremacists that remain invested in certain antebellum myths about black people.

The problem, as I see it, with racists clinging to these myths is that these myths do not contain or signify any actual truth. In fact, these myths displace factual narratives that would reveal, if we looked back at them, the falsity of American racial formations – the fact that they are instruments of social, economic, and political advantageousness, not products of science or authentic American history.

Take the myth that the black man is a born rapist, for example.

The myth that the black man is a born rapist was envisaged by the racist quarter of the white male ruling class during slavery to expunge – at least ideologically – black men’s sexual attractiveness and white women’s sexual attraction to black men.

It is one of a collection of pseudo-scientific fabrications the members of that class mobilized to disguise their own racist phobias and violent behaviors.

The myth allowed antebellum white men to subvert their own proclivities to rape white and black women, pretend all sexual relations between white women and black men were rape, and “punish” any black man that had sex with a white woman by torturing and/or killing him, if they wanted.

To this day, racists continue to propagate this myth to justify certain acts of violence they perpetrate against black men, and adherents of these racists – black and white – excuse away this violence in what is essentially a Pavlovian response – even though the hypotheses that all black men are born with a violent sexual psychopathology – or they all have an uncontrollable uniform sexual response to white women – or they will all enact their vengeful feelings against the white power structure by raping a white women any time they are given the opportunity – are patently untrue.

That’s right. The “math” of this myth has never added up, not back then, and not now. Despite what David Duke has claimed in the media.

The infamous Table 42 from the 2008 National Crime Victimization Survey, compiled and published by the Bureau of Justice Statistic,  and said to “prove” the myth is true, doesn’t validate the claims of white supremacists about black rapists.

Philip Cohen explains in his post, “Here’s How Bad Government Math Spawned a Racist Lie About Sexual Assault,” that

Like many surveys, the NCVS is weighted to produce estimates that are supposed to reflect the general population. In a nutshell, that means, for example, that they treat each of the 158,000 people (over age 12) covered in 2014 as about 1,700 people. So if one person said, “I was raped,” they would say, “1700 people in the US say they were raped.” This is how sampling works. In fact, they tweak it much more than that, to make the numbers add up according to population distributions of variables like age, sex, race, and region – and non-response, so that if a certain group (say Black women) has a low response rate, their responses get goosed even more . . .

According to Cohen

[The] BJS extrapolates an estimate of 117,640 White women who say they were sexually assaulted, or threatened with sexual assault, in 2008 . . . Of those, 16.4% described their assailant as Black . . . That works out to 19,293 White women sexually assaulted or threatened by Black men in one year . . . [however] . . . [i]f each respondent in the survey counts for about 1,700 people, then . . . [the statisticians that compiled the results] . . . in 2008 [actually counted]  . . . 69 White women who were sexually assaulted or threatened, 11 of whom said their assailant was Black [emphasis added].

He even illustrates for his readers how to do the math on the survey’s faulty numbers: (19293/1,700 = 11.34).

Despite the fact that it is a lie, the myth that the black man is a born rapist still exercises a powerful influence over the American imagination (versus its intellect and morality) and thus our social interactions, political discourse, and patterns of interracial violence.

It not only freezes the black man in the deplorable image of the uncontrollable sex offender; it also freezes the white woman in the image of his needful victim.

II.

A few years back, there were this novel and movie adaptation titled No Country for Old Men. This referred, of course, to America.

That title made me think of a line from the Tony Kushner play about the American identity, “Angels in America.”

In the play, the character Roy Kohn, based on the real life Roy Kohn, is dying of AIDS, and reflects that “Americans have no use for sick.”

Kushner/Kohn is right. Americans do have a certain affinity for the useful. Because Americans have an affinity for getting shit done, and you need tools to do the things you want to do more efficiently.

Technological systems are currently our favorite types of tools. We have an affinity for them, too. Computer systems, global positioning systems, telecommunications systems – you name it.

Correlatively, Guardian writer Steven W. Thrasher explains that race “[is] a technology, “utilized for specific reasons.”

That’s probably why we love it so much, too.

Thrash filters down – from the upper reaches of the black artistic community – the concept from writer Ytasha Womack that “[t]he deployment of this technology has created [emphasis added] racism.”

He says that since “[biological] race is a fiction . . . [that] has only existed as we presently conceive it over the past few hundred years,” the technology of race is used to  “peddle” race itself to the masses.

That is – to keep us believing not only that race is real, but that people of different races pose a real threat to us simply because they are a different race.

Womack’s concept of race as technology helps to explain why Americans continue to exploit racist myths even though they have been scientifically debunked.

If we think about racial mythology as a form of technology, we can understand how racists use it – to create a reality in which the “fiction” of biological race has actual effects.

II.

Back in January, upon the release of Timothy Tyson’s The Blood of Emmett Till, the media had the dubious honor of running one of the most tragic if anticlimactic news stories in American history, at least in this black woman’s opinion.

Carolyn Bryant Donham, the white woman that testified in court that 14-year-old Emmett Till grabbed her by her waist and told her, “You needn’t be afraid of me, baby I’ve (done something) with white women before,” confessed that she perjured herself on the stand. She lied outright about her encounter with Till, who she said never spoke directly to her at all.

In fact, Donham reportedly told Tyson that all these years later she can’t remember whether Till even whistled at her that fateful August evening back in Mississippi.

An article in Vanity Fair about Tyson and his dealings with Donham paints a distastefully sympathetic portrait of the elderly woman, even seeming to suggest that her testimony did not play as vital a role in gaining acquittals for Till’s killers as has been historically assumed since their trial in 1955.

(I’m calling subtextual bullshit on that, though, because even though the jury was not present in the courtroom for Donham’s testimony, I have no doubt her allegations crept into the defense of J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, feeding the rabidity of those 12 white men to deliver an exoneration. This was Mississippi in fucking 1955.)

The reason I say this story about Donham’s “confession” is anticlimactic is simple, and I also think it should be obvious.

Dahleen Glanton of The Chicago Tribune spells it out in one elegant sentence, for those that may not get it on their own: “We [Black America] already knew her story was a lie.”

“So did the judge who presided over the murder trial of her husband and another man in 1955,” Glanton insists, “and so did most of the people who lived in the tiny town of Money in the heart of the Mississippi Delta.”

So, too, I say, do most of the white people that live in America today.

Yet, I have never read or heard a recount of Till’s murder – from what one would term a “white” source – whether it was in the news, academic, or entertainment genre – that did not include some intimation that Till “either whistled at, flirted with, or touched the hand” of Carolyn Bryant.

And innocuous as that detail may seem, we know that it’s not. It is a lie spread to diminish the horror of Emmett Till’s murder. To blur the line between his innocence and his murderers’ culpability.

It’s also a signifier that the rapist myth is still alive and seething in the American imagination.

If not in its original form, then in a transposed form – a form that elides the old concept of the black men as an automatic sexual deviant – and carries on with its correlative – the lie that cishetero white women epitomize cishetero feminity and so are sexually irresistible to black men.

Under this guise, which the myth gained post Civil Rights, the myth has regained a modicum of acceptability because it’s less objectionable to believe the widely accepted “truth” that white women are the “most beautiful” than the (also widely accepted) lie that black men are animals.

So, this is what post-Civil Rights white supremacists and eugenicists of the highest order – the Steve Bannons of the world – pretend to do – believe that white women are sexually irresistible to black men – so they aren’t written-off as crackpots or backward, hillbilly “trash” – the common caricature of the American white racist.

In pedestalizing the Tomi Lahrens, Sarah Palins, and Kellyann Conways of this country, they’re not just legitimizing these women’s gimmick(kk)y politics; they’re also valorizing “conservative” white womanhood.

They’re emphasizing to white America that there are still “respectable” (cishetero, non-feminist) women within their ranks that need and deserve “protecting” from predators like Trump’s fictitious Mexican rapists and Dylann Roof’s fictitious black rapists.

These new age supremacists capitalize on the mobility of the “face-lifted” rapist myth to tap into the multifarious race-based fears that motivate whites to uphold structural racism, as they do by executing or going along with things like gerrymandering, gentrification, school choice, standardized testing, mandatory sentencing, opposition to policies like Affirmative Action, opposition to institutions like HBCUs, the propagation of symbolic racism, and the election of a failed real estate mogul and reality game show host to the Oval Office.

(Symbolic racism is an anti-black post-Civil Rights belief system based on the four themes that racial discrimination is no longer a serious obstacle for black people; black people’s failure to progress is due to their own unwillingness to work hard; black people’s insistence that the government should take further measures to equalize our social status has no legitimate basis; and the measures that the government has already taken to equalize our social status, such as Affirmative Action, are unjustified).

Too, like the old slave owners, the Steve Bannons, David Dukes, and Richard Spencers of today – they use the rapist myth to galvanize poor whites into terrorizing blacks (see again: Dylann Roof) so they can keep their proverbial hands “clean,” so that journalists and politicians can still appear to be reliable while deigning to deal with them, and so their “alt-right” rhetoric can gain even more acceptability outside of their insular cultural sphere.

And their female counterparts? The Kellyann Conways? They do what Carolyn Bryant did back in 1955.

They buy willingly into the lie that they are sexually irresistible – and they do not want black male attention but cannot help but garner it – to enhance their self- esteem, which still takes seasonal, politically expedient beatings from the white hetero patriarchy.

This entire dynamic is just what Thrasher described in his article. It is how the use of race technology in America has morphed with the times so it can continue to do its work.

III.

Finally, I have arrived at my thoughts about Kellyanne Conway’s posture on that couch in the Oval Office – and the semiotics of that image are the crux of this text (even though I will not post it here – yuck) – because I believe they convey a really pivotal point about the continued use of racism in this country.

Kellyanne Conway is a 50-year-old, married mother of four and Counselor to Donald Trump, but you know why she propped herself up on the couch in the Oval Office like a college co-ed “studying” in the dorm room of a classmate on which she’s been secretly harboring a crush since Orientation back in August?

Because she has internalized the myth.

Because she is a laissez-faire racist. She believed that those black men – automatically and universally – found her sexually attractive. They were not evolved enough to have any other response to her. They were wolves in men’s clothing.

Look at the photo again. Look at her tossed-back hair. Look at her uncrossed legs and arched back. Shoulders back and breasts lifted. All of these are nonverbal cues that she is keying into the situation sexually. She is offering herself up to be objectified.

Think about her choice to perch on a couch – on her knees – rather than stand up – a much more logical choice of positioning to take a photo of a group that size – her willingness to pose for the room despite the nature of the event and her participation in it – both ostensibly professional. Its illogic tells on her.

I don’t care what she claimed in the press after the pictures were released. I don’t care about any journalists’ attempts to make the controversy about her disrespect of the Oval Office in order to trivialize it. The Office wasn’t the issue. Her posture was.

By climbing her ass up on that couch in that room full of black men – and posing like a buttered-up biscuit on the side of a three piece chicken dinner – Kellyanne Conway created some good old-fashioned phobic imagery for Trump’s America.

She gave all the kinds of racists in our current landscape – overt, ambivalent, aversive – a “reminder” of why they “need” to stick to their “unpopular” beliefs.

She invoked the myth, though I will concede that she might have done it unconsciously.

Still, she invoked the myth.

She came off as a mythical white vixen/victim – an echo of Carolyn Bryant – a “could” whose possibility fit right into the cookie cutter shape of Bigger Thomas that I swear every American has in their mind, even if they’ve never read a page of Native Son.

And that’s what made me so mad about that picture, personally.

Her lack of culpability in the face of dire consequences for Outgroup America.

The way I see it, the white male racists in power are triggered enough.

They don’t need any more encouragement to think of blacks as a danger that needs to be extinguished, infestation that needs to be exterminated, or disease that needs to be cured.

I mean . . . damn.

We don’t need shit like Kellyanne Conway whipping her boss and his boys up into a righteous frenzy by pulling a – I don’t know – it might even have been a “Basic Instinct” power move – to boost her embattled confidence – on some unwitting college presidents just trying to secure their federal funding.

Because that’s how easy it appears to be to get Trump all upset. He has the emotional temperament of a toddler.

Luckily, he didn’t go off about that incident. But what about next time, if there is a next time?

We can’t have Kellyanne out here willy-nilly, blinded by the wealth of her ridiculous white privileges, tapping heedlessly into the deep-seated fears that dwell in the chambers of the heart of the rapist myth.

None of which is the fear of the actual psychopathology of men of color, ironically enough.

No – white male racists in power don’t fear black men or Latinx men’s insatiability or animalism because they know the lengths to which they have historically gone to psychologically neuter men of color in this country.

No – what really has them shook is the very real ability of men of color to culturally overtake them, as demonstrated at least partly by black men’s preeminence in professional athletics. Footnote Latinx men in professional baseball.

Jon Entine in his book, Taboo: Why Black Athlete Dominate Sports and Why We Are Afraid to Talk About It, writes

To the degree that it is a purely scientific debate, the evidence of black superiority in athletics is persuasive and decisively confirmed on the playing field. Elite athletes who trace most or all of their ancestry to Africa are by and large better than the competition. The performance gap is widest when little expensive equipment or facilities are required, such as running, the only true intentional sport, and in widely played team sports such as basketball and football. Blacks not only outnumber their nonwhite competitors but, by and large, are the superstars.

Entine’s quote does read a bit reductively, so let me say: Black men are extraordinarily capable beyond their physicality. Yet, I don’t believe the critical mass of white male racists in power are able to conceive that black men can outthink them. Even in 2017.

What they can imagine, though, and have imagined, since the explosion of the plantation system in the late 1600s, is black men rising up in arms, banding together, and overturning the white power structure in our society.

Concurrently, white male racists in power fear getting pushed from their place at the top of the sexual attractiveness totem pole by an overgrowing white female demand for seemingly superior, “exotic” black and brown male bodies.

And they fear that black-white and Latinx-white sexual relationships – as they exponentially increase – will swallow up whites’ recessive trait genotypes.

At the very beginning of this post, I wrote that myths reflect certain truths about human nature, but then I wrote that racial myths are lies. And they are lies, but their persistence exposes some really important truths about the microsociology of this current version of America.

Blackness still functions largely as the electrical current powering the social machinery of this country, not whiteness. The technology of race has this horrifying way of staying on the cutting edge.

Still, this “newest” iteration of whiteness is a response to blackness. As American whiteness is. By its needful nature.

It wouldn’t exist if blackness didn’t. That symbiosis hasn’t changed since slavery.

So, since black and white are symbiotic, black people can steer the direction in which the white male racists in power take this country, if that is, in fact, what we want to do.

We have money and votes they need to remain in power. And we can use them as the leverage they are. We can be strategic in the way we use them. We can demand political ransom for them.

We can perch our asses on the proverbial couch of the US Capitol and let Trump ‘nem know – a lot of what they think about us is bullshit, but our political power is not mythical. It’s real.

We can deploy the technology of race to achieve our own ends. It is at least half our intellectual property, according to our history. The white male racists in power don’t have exclusive design rights.

We can change the configuration any time and way we want.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Prompt: Cling

via Daily Prompt: Cling

So my favorite Internet provocateur, Jill Is Black, has this really smart video about “the revolution” in which she skewers those black people that imagine themselves in be in the cultural vanguard for using respectability politics–which are really just a set of behavioral expectations black people have compiled based on how they want white people to see us–to determine who can and cannot “fight” alongside the “true” race warriors when the shit goes down

For those of you that may have gotten lost in that last paragraph, let me clarify a few terms and key concepts for you. So we’re all on the same page. (Unlike the critical mass of “woke” black people and all the rest of us, as Jill suggests).

The revolution is the mythical unified effort that black people will exert against the white majority in some perennially futuristic time that will somehow–despite the fact that white people make up over 70% of the population, run the Fed, run the military, run law enforcement, run the infrastructure, and run the gun trade–ultimately free us from institutional racism and historic oppression in America.

Respectability politics are, as I said, the narrow-minded, self-abnegating, largely sexist, and extraordinarily divisive set of concepts of what is “proper” for black people to do in order to be considered a “credit” to the race.

Examples include having married parents; speaking Standard English and having impeccable written grammar; finishing high school with a diploma, not a GED; obtaining a degree, but in something prestigious and lucrative like engineering or medicine; being a Christian or Muslim; never needing an abortion; never needing a psychologist; wearing your pants up on your ass, if you’re a man, with a belt; only wearing silky weaves in “naturally occurring” colors, if you’re a woman, or wearing your natural hair or braids or dreadlocks that are meticulously groomed, preferably by a professional at a salon; refraining from shit like twerking, drinking alcohol, smoking weed, using profanity, and having unmarried sex–all sins–while dismissing, vilifying, hating, ostracizing, harassing, and even abusing “flamboyant” members of the black LGBTQIA+ community, “ratchet” members of the black working and middle class, black feminists, black members of the mentally ill community, and black weirdos (the mass of black people whose habits cannot be easily or comfortably classified) in repeated supposed efforts to “help” or “save” them–somehow not wrong.

(Take it from one of those black feminist mentally ill weirdos. I’m painting in broad strokes, but there is truth in what I’m putting up. Black people know it, even if they don’t want to admit it.)

The subset of “respectable” black people most frequently associated with the idea of the revolution–the “ones” expected to galvanize black people when it somehow finally pops off–are the “woke.”

Their version of respectability politics revolves around this absurd concept of effecting a sort of “purity” or total freedom from European (not really a thing) or white indoctrination and becoming a sort of African (also not really a thing) anew through Afrocentrism (natch), veganism, nationalism, militantism, historicism, anachronism, sexism . . .

Just think of a millennial version of, say, Speech from Arrested Development at the height of that group’s fame or Erykah Badu without the radical sexual freedom, slight thuggish air, gift for self-reflection and disclosure, or complete and utter lack of fucks about what society has to say about her–the Badu we all thought she was back in the day, with the three-foot gele and mudcloth wrap-dress–as frames of aesthetic reference.

The “woke” claim to love all black people and want all of us to unify and fight together as one against white supremacy and hegemony, but only after the “rest of us” get our lives together, whatever the-hell that means in a race like ours and a place like America.

I say that to say this: colorism did not get left back on the proverbial plantation after Emancipation; misogyny is no less destructive to black women when it comes from black men; fear is a hell of a drug; rage is even more powerful than that; poverty is the supreme form of disempowerment in a capitalist society; self-hatred is even more endemic in the black community than poverty; and “crabs in a barrel” is not the name of some cute children’s board game nor is it a mere or meaningless cliche when you use the phrase to describe the black community.

Homophobia is a cultural stumbling block for black people; transphobia is a cultural stumbling block for black people; complacency is a cultural stumbling block for black people; nihilism ain’t a river in Egypt but it does flow through the veins of a lot of black youth; Africa doesn’t have any more answers to our problems than Sway did to Kanye’s (Nigeria, Central African Republic, Sudan, Congo, Mali, Algeria, Libya, Somalia, and South Africa are all plagued by violent conflicts and/or widespread racial tension); and strength comes from more than ideology and rhetoric; people need clean water and adequate food in order to do anything, but especially to grow.

Individual togetherness for black people might be even more elusive than collective togetherness for black people, and collective togetherness for black people is elusive as fuck because we only seem to be able to trust each other when our levels of hope are excessively high (see: 2008).

It’s 2017, and America has just had eight years of a black President. Yet, black people haven’t made much progress in economic or political terms. Integration and assimilation may get us a figurative seat at the table, but we only get to drink water or eat appetizers while we’re sitting there.

The One Percent are still hogging all the main courses and ordering more on our dime. And, if we don’t want to watch them while they feast, too bad, because, even if we take out of cell phones to peruse our social media, every platform is full of distressing news story about their doggish demagogue, both true and false.

The KKK isn’t closeted anymore; Jeff Sessions is drawing comparisons to George Wallace; Meryl Streep sounds more Presidential speaking at the Golden Globes than our President-elect; the inauguration is only eight days away; and the only actual politician that seems excited about it is Vladimir Putin. Vladimir Putin.

Nevertheless, the “woke” contingency of the black community maintains that they are good (and “good”), and all the rest of us need to do is get like them, then we’ll be ready when the revolution comes.

(The battlefield for them is apparently a “Field of Dreams”–“if you build it (the army of pseudo African warriors)–he–or rather it (the revolution)–will come.”)

And while waiting for us to catch up in the spectrum of authentic/transcendent blackness, they bide their time by policing us, despite all of the very real issues and obstacles we all face in eking out our various black existences.

In her video, Jill is speaking to these “woke” black people. “Why do you get off on your revolution being exclusive?” she asks them.

“How am I the right kind of black to be invited to your revolution?” she wants to know.

This is an excellent question whose exploration will get me to my discussion of the daily prompt (I hope): clinging.

If Trump’s election should have taught black people anything it’s this: white people don’t need to be the same kind of white to come together and get done the things they need to get done to secure their position in American society.

Trump won because rich and poor whites, educated and uneducated whites, urban and rural whites, white men and women, conservative and moderate whites, LGBTQIA+ and cis-hetero whites,”elite” and “trashy” whites united with each other on the basis of their whiteness and voted for him–in record numbers.

Blackness is not a monolith; we are not all the same, but we don’t need to be. In times of crisis, all we need to be to and for each other is black and certain of the best course of action for us.

In the same way we banded together to elect Obama twice, we should’ve banded together to keep Trump out of office.

No, Hillary Clinton wasn’t an ideal candidate, but I still think we understood–we could safely say–that she would make a better President for Black America.

As it stands, one of the only major pieces of legislation that President Obama passed that improved black people’s lives on a large scale–the Affordable Care Act–is the first piece of legislation Trump has promised to attack.

If, last November, we had paused in our squabbling back and forth with each other all over the Internet about who is a king and who is a queen and who is a thug and who is a thot, gotten off our collective black ass, and voted for Hillary, we wouldn’t be biting our nails right now, waiting to see whether this asshole Trump will somehow figure out a way to repeal the 13th-15th Amendments as well.

But we didn’t mobilize ourselves because we cling to this childish, clannish notion that we should only vote for other black people. We cling to the notion that putting black people in formal leadership positions is the only way we can gain or harness any real power in this country.

Too, we thought we could make it all right if or when Trump won. We thought we’d survive just fine because we’ve survived ostensible worse. We also thought, secretly, like many poor whites that cast votes for Trump against their own best interests, that we could get him to view us more favorably somehow if we needed to.

Because we cling to this idea that by being the “right” kind of black, in large enough numbers, we can gain white people’s respect and acceptance and secure equality without having to fight for it.

Yes, we do.

We cling to the idea that our freedom from oppression can be “earned” by our compliance with punitive, racist “mainstream” cultural standards.

As the renowned black poet Yusef Komunyakaa says, “Second-class citizens can be awfully puritanical, and this is especially true when they’re striving for acceptance by the dominant culture.”

So we cling to the idea that if we can be morally or ethically superior to each other, and white people, we can “deserve” fair and equal treatment.

We cling to the idea that if we jettison the so-called worst of us, the so-called best of us can do better; we secretly buy into the white binary of the “good” and “bad” sorts of blackness.

Too, we cling to the fear–subconsciously–that we are the inferior beings that white racist stereotypes portray us to be–the constancy and conviction with which we are oppressed impels us to bridge the dissonance between what we see in ourselves and what Others pretend to see in us with the false, compensatory belief that we, not they, are wrong or delusional since we have such a profound distrust of ourselves–seeing as we are descended from the captured and not the captors–and this necessitates that we prove, continually, that we are not the niggers that would perhaps deserve to the sort of oppression we suffer at the hands of White America if they actually existed.

We cling to the idea that Africa was a utopia before slavery, and  we cling to the idea that antiquated, ahistorical traditions and practices from its various clans (tribes)–which many of us adopt really rather haphazardly–that we did not retain in an organic fashion and that have not been allowed to evolve organically along the same timelines as our culture and collective identity–can “fix” us.

We cling to the idea that there is something fundamentally wrong with being the descendants of slaves, even though slaves are largely responsible for making America into a global superpower, and the descendants of slaves have participated in the building and betterment of this country, from its inception, in some of the most innovative and important ways that any one people can be said to have participated.

And because we cling to the idea that we are deficient because of our slave past, we cling to the idea that we need to look outside of ourselves to determine how we should “be.”

We debase, degrade, refute, and exploit black culture, even though it is comprised of a perfectly decent and hugely impressive body of knowledge, beliefs, customs, and habits that are rightfully ours and have sustained us here–in America–for centuries.

We cling to the idea that because we have been victimized by white supremacy, we should pay more attention to stopping and healing that trauma than to stopping and healing the trauma we inflict on each other, which is much more urgent and plausible because we live in families, homes, and neighborhoods with each other, and we are infinitely more invested in each other. Not to mention that if we were more whole individuals, we would be less codependent on white approval, acceptance, and affection and more able and willing to take up for ourselves.

We’re not doing such a good job of that right through here, though. Regardless of the claims we use to admonish each other across intraracial lines. We could be standing shoulder to shoulder, facing down this incoming administration, but we’re not. We’re clinging to select groups of each other and continuing to miss the bigger picture.

We’re clinging to the belief that we need one true heroic male leader to get us up and over the mountain of our history and into our destiny.

It seems to be the only thing we can do in consistently large numbers–cling.

Black men cling to the idea that if they can dominate black women, they can gain “legitimacy” and some semblance of that approval, acceptance, and affection from white men.

Black women–even some feminists, even some lesbians–cling to the idea that if they can placate black men, they can gain “legitimacy” and some semblance of that approval, acceptance, and affection from black men and white people as a whole.

Black people as a whole cling to the idea that the revolution will “come”; it will arrive, like a day on a calendar, and strike an instinct in us like we are human lemmings, and we will suddenly, magically know how and be able to fight off our oppression.

But I think the revolution–if we remain in America–as long as we are a 12% minority–can realistically be nothing more than the collective realization and acceptance that black people will need to remain in a state of perpetual readiness to respond to crises like the Trump election and a state of functional togetherness so our responses are impactful.

The revolution cannot be exclusive. It cannot play out in a militaristic fashion; we’ll be exterminated.

The revolution will issue from us. It will have to be strategic. It will have to be encompassing–take the kings and queens and thugs and thots.

Jill says it in the caption beneath her video:

Too weird. Not weird enough [she writes]. Too intersectional, but[,] look, we really just need to focus on one thing right now, okay? Too capitalist, but we’re looking for donations. I don’t fuck with the government [,] but I just applied for a grant. Hey, how about this: just let me know right from the start that when you say you love blackness, you love YOUR blackness. You love people who agree with you. You love people who meet your requirements for blackness. But know that your exclusivity isn’t a revolution. It’s a club.

Blackness is not a monolith; whiteness is not a monolith. But white people have learned to–on a wide scale–come together to function as a needful unit. Black people need to learn to do that, too.

A club can’t go up against three-quarters of an entire country. We are going to need all hands on deck if we’re going to, say, regain the Democratic majority in Congress in 2018 or elect a more qualified and dignified President in 2020.

“The change that we need is the change that we create,” Jill writes in another post on her Instagram page. “But you knew that already.”

Black people–we have to let go of this stubborn, counterproductive notion that there is a “right kind of black.”

We need to stop clinging to the fairy tale of a revolution that will somehow happen in spite of our backward battling with each other.

You can say what you want in response with as much righteousnesss as you can muster, but you cannot deny; the proof is in the poll tallies.

And they show that the people that vote together, when it’s all said and done, get to gloat together.