Before I begin, I need to impart some important information: 55 whole grain Goldfish crackers only have 150 calories.
Secondly, I love my cat. Even if he only loves me because I feed him, I feel as though the feeling is mutual. We’ve become fast friends. He’s having a biting issue at the moment though. When we snuggle, which he seems to enjoy, he likes to playfully bite me. The problem is that being bitten isn’t quite so fun as you might think.
I had this whole post typed out at the library yesterday morning and then I logged into Gmail to check an email and the entry got deleted. This is round two. Not pleased, I’m not pleased. But nonetheless:
This is the post I’ve meaning to get around to since February, if not before.
At last, we’ve arrived at the intersection of race and gender in class and I find that it’s pertinent now more than ever to discuss the issues that rise out of our cultural consciousness to permeate through our sense of being and direct each and every one of us in our outward behavior.
It’s something that I’ve noticed lately, being as inundated with theory as I am. Women’s struggles are often related to the struggle of the Black American. True, there are struggles there, but I’m always fundamentally annoyed by the comparison.
Anyway. Yesterday we watched a film about the portrayal of black men in hip hop. The portrayal of masculinity seen through the music videos shows that power comes through money, intimidation, violence and women.
The artists themselves agree that it’s all a front, that the posturing that they’re doing has more to do with their image and sales than it does with their actual experiences.
At a hip hop convention in Florida, young women walk around in short shorts and bikini tops, upset that the young men are aggressively harassing them; touching them and grabbing at them. The police do very little. Talking about the lyrics that refer to women as “bitches” or “hos,” one woman says that she knows those lyrics aren’t about her.
So who are they about?
White suburban kids who listen to rap music are interviewed. One of them says “colored people.” The interviewer, shocked, asks him, “Did you seriously just say ‘colored people’?”
Another group of white students say that rap music gives them a chance to get into another culture, to understand the ways that other people live. They also say that rap music upholds stereotypes.
Wait. That doesn’t even make sense. Those two statements don’t belong together.
This is where the racism begins to filter in. Race consciousness is all too obvious in our society, especially in Chicago.
But let’s start with an example.
On the train one day, a group of young black teenagers are causing a disturbance. Generally being loud and obnoxious. Passengers glare at them. I’m glaring at them. They assume that it’s because they’re black and say so. I disagree. It’s not because you’re black; it’s because you’re annoying. I would have been equally annoyed by any group of people, age, race, gender, whatever being obnoxious on the train.
I understand that certain groups of people have disadvantages, but I think it has more to do with access to education and socio-economic status than it does skin color.
I hate Black History month. By continuing to highlight difference, we are making it impossible to live as people of all colors. Instead, we are segregating subtly as we attempt to counteract years of racism in the country. I understand why things such as that were a good idea at one time. But they are no longer relevant in our society.
To move forward, we must embrace each other as people not as skin colors. Instead, we’re in a holding pattern. We’ve got segregation in the schools (Chicago is one of the worst cities for diversity among schools) that leads to the inability of groups of people to interact with each other. We’ve got segregation in our cities. We’ve got misinformation being spread around. We’ve got stereotypes. We’ve got a whole mess on our hands and the only way to fix it is to move past it.
Quite right, but it might not be.
I’m sick of race being used as a crutch. I wasn’t born white on purpose. I just was. You weren’t born Asian on purpose. You just were. It’s not your fault. It’s not my fault. Don’t hate people for being a skin color or a race that they had no part in choosing. I’m sick of hearing that your skin color prevents you from doing something. You’re letting yourself be put into a box.
True, as white woman I cannot claim to fully understand certain aspects of the race issues in our country since I am part of the hegemonic description. But I have been a victim of both sexism and ageism, as well as countless other isms. So when I speak of the problems, I’m speaking of moving toward acceptance of all people. Don’t blame your actions on your race.
Grandpa Joe always says that you are who you associate with. You absolutely are. Chances are, people aren’t afraid of you based on your skin color, they’re afraid of you based on the way you look. Trust me, I know this. Now that I’m no longer black haired and outwardly angst-ridden, I get treated much differently than I did before.
It might be because you’re sketchy in your baggy jeans and hooded sweatshirt. It might be because you won’t make eye contact. It might be because you’re lurking in an alley at night. It’s probably not your skin. It’s probably your generally creepy self.
Ghetto is not the only option of outward appearance, just as rap music does not define an entire culture.
This month’s Esquire magazine had comments from a story that appeared last month. “Blagojevich thinks because he grew up poor, cleaning shoes, he is blacker than Obama, and then Taddeo describes Jay-Z as ‘black black’? Statements like these do nothing but perpetuate stereotypes. Let’s not forget that black people have varying interests, personalities, cultures, and yes, socioeconomic classes.” -Mel McKenzie.
Also, “I’m black, and I grew up in an inner city in the Midwest. I never sold drugs, didn’t curse, and I never followed urban fashion. I listen to alternative, grunge, rock, reggae and R&B. I eat quinoa more frequently than fried chicken. But I guess that means I’m not ‘black black.’ Jay-Z’s story is interesting enough without stereotyping an entire diverse community.” -B. Doutherd.
Anyway, it’s not just a black-white thing. It’s an everything thing.
We can never ignore our races. They’re what make us unique. They’re what define us as human beings. But let’s stop letting race get in the way of progress as people. Let’s be black. And white. And all the colors in between.
But realistically, that can’t happen unless we start to change the way we think.
I hope I got it all. Probably not.