Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Keeping It Real

I started this post to briefly comment on the tone of political rhetoric in light of the Arizona shootings, but I was watching The View the other day, and as usual, they were saying things (or omitting things) that got on my nerves, so I'm going to discuss them both.

First, Sherri told Elisabeth that every situation is not all black and white and Whoopi made the joke that it is at their table. Then Barbara said not to her because she doesn't see color; that was the way she was raised. I know she thinks that is good, but to me, it is not. It is, at best, a cop out and at worst, racist. As a cop out, it doesn't require you to make any distinctions among people when people are filled with distinctions and nuance. It's like when schools have zero tolerance policies and they don't have to think through the differences in a student bringing a plastic knife to school and a machete.

It can be racist in that it allows one to assume everyone is like them, that they want to be like them. (Because, if we're honest, we relate to people from our own frame of reference first and foremost.) It denies their culture, their history, and their experience.

I can't speak for every racial and ethnic minority or every black person, for that matter, but I want you to see me as black. I am a black woman and I am proud of it; I love being black. Being a black woman affects the way I experience the world. I don't see anything wrong with it and I don't see anything wrong with people recognizing my race. It becomes problematic when you think (consciously or unconsciously) that being black somehow makes me less than or when you begin to assume certain negative things about me just because of my race (or my gender).

Switching gears:

There's so much discussion now about the tone of political rhetoric and whose to blame for the tragedy in Arizona. It seems the politically correct thing to say is that no one is to blame but the shooter and that there's vitriolic talk on both sides of the political aisle. Maybe, but it seems to me that some people are trying to have their cake and eat it, too. I will use as an example Sarah Palin because the focus has been on her, but she is not the only one who does this. Rappers, actors, etc. do it, too. Whenever something negative happens and fingers are pointed at popular points of influence, everyone is quick to assert their blamelessness. They had no influence over that emotionally or mentally disturbed person. But in times of positivity and financial opportunity, then they are glad to have influence.

Sarah Palin gives speeches, writes books, and garners high ratings on television. She has been called a king maker because of her influence in getting people elected to office. How in the world can she abdicate her influence now? I don't believe she intended for that disturbed man in Arizona to kill people, but she put her words out there and she has to understand that ill people are going to take them how they take them. She cannot claim that her words do not add to the violent tone of political debate now when that's part of how she makes her bread and butter.

Rappers and rockers are similar. They make money influencing people; if their words and music had no power, no one would buy it. So, when that power extends itself in a way that is unfavorable, it is disingenuous for them to say, "I have no power. I have no influence." Because that's not true and they don't really want it to be true or they would be out of business.

Just keep it real, folks.


Good Enough Woman said...

Great post. Nicely said.

Blackwatch said...

Great Post,

Though I think that if most white people saw blackness, then they would have to be confronted with the reality of white privilege, which most willfully ignore. Recognizing race also means recognizing the social implications of racism (and most importantly "Whiteness"), which is too problematic to admit for those in power.