It’s Much Deeper Than Blackface

blackface…*sigh*In the recent week there have been a number of articles touching on the wearing of blackface for Halloween and its appropriateness, or rather inappropriateness. And in reading the comments posted by many it dawned on me not how many Caucasian Americans are still covert racists (I don’t need to read an article to know that) but, rather, how many not only have no knowledge of American history but understanding of Sociology 101. If it weren’t so lamentable it would actually be comical how uneducated the bulk of Americans, especially younger, are. And by uneducated I’m not referring to formal education but rather the absence of knowledge as one does not need to obtain knowledge solely in the context of brick and mortar institutions. My grandfather, God rest his soul, was a prime example of this as were many Blacks of African descent prior to our emancipation.

Any time one engages in dialogue about a particular subject it is crucial that first, all parties involved actually understand what it is they are speaking about. One of the unfortunate byproducts of the internet, blogging and social media sites is it has made way for the misperception by many that they are somehow knowledgeable or enlightened about a topic when in fact they clearly are not. If we are going to have a discussion about racism let’s first understand what racism is. Perhaps that will prevent unintended rants of ignorance and ridiculous rhetorical questions such as “well what about when the s brothers made the movie “White Chicks”?  Was that reverse racism?” Seriously? We can discuss all you want whether or not “White Chicks” was bigoted, mean-spirited, in bad taste, socially unacceptable, and quite frankly, in my opinion, a horrible expression of art and even worse comedy however, what it was not, was racist. Why? Because a movie mocking privileged White women does not negatively impact their daily realities. It does not prevent them from marrying who they choose. It does not prevent them from living in the neighborhood of their choice. It does not prevent them from getting that ‘dream job’.  And it does not prevent them from walking into Bank of America, Chase Manhattan, et al and getting that loan they request. Racism is by definition the power to be able to enact your prejudices upon a group of disenfranchised people or member of that group in a manner that is effectual. I can jump up and down all I want and scream “cracka, cracka, cracka….I hate crackas….crackas are this, that”…you get the point, however as hurtful, vile and mean-spirited as those words may be they have absolutely no socio-political bearing on the day-to-day realities of White Americans.

For those who argue “Why should I have to pay for something my ancestors did 100 years ago?  I don’t nor have  I ever owned a slave.”  True, there are no chattel slave owners alive today and African-Americans have indeed been emancipated for more than a century. But that does not change the inconvenient reality that White Americans are the beneficiaries of a 400 year-old system whereby creating a framework that individuals who only look like you would control and benefit from a financial system wherein despite Black Americans having a purchasing power of almost $1 trillion annually the median wealth of whites is still 20 times that of blacks. It’s not coincidental.

This is not about White guilt, a Black president or Affirmative-Action. This is about real, earnest dialogue and acknowledgement of where we are as a society and how we came to be here. To dismiss the actions of certain individuals of a group as heretical is premature and impetuous. We as members of a society do get our cues from the whole as to what is deemed acceptable as well as unacceptable.  Just as the police officer who abuses or shoots a suspect or the soldier who misuses his authority against “the enemy”.  We all openly engage in behavior which either spoken or unspoken has been given the premise of acceptable.  It is far past time Americans stop pretending just because a Black man is president or that Oprah Winfrey is a billionaire this some how means racism is somehow ancient history. That it negates stop and frisk, the ‘New Jim Crow’, or any of the other social plights of the African-American community. That the murder and subsequent acquittal of George Zimmerman was the exception and not the norm. That the other 40,808,823 Blacks in America are ‘and blinging’, driving their Mercedes CLS 500 into their garages in lower Manhattan. It is disingenuous at best.

Those who defend the wearing of blackface by touting some ridiculous freedom of speech or artistic expression argument or making some lame analogy of a skit or joke made by Dave Chappelle or Chris Rock are nothing more than closet racists who do not have the gall to admit what it is they’re really feeling. This is not about blackface but something much more sinister. This is about the oppression and marginalization of a group of people who don’t look like me.

Bill Maher said he believed the new racism was denying racism.  I believe he was on to something.