Originally posted 12 February 2016 on http://mystorybotb.blogspot.com
If you’re new to the BOTB and the sensitive type, you probably shouldn’t start with this post. Also I don’t really give warnings, so that’s pretty much the most you’ll ever get out of me going forward.
It’s February, and things are getting pretty black around here.
There are moments in life when you find yourself measuring time in increments of ‘before’ and ‘after’. February 2016 is already shaping up to be one of those moments for me. First, America renewed my faith in democracy by saying NO to Trump. Then, Ta-Nehisi Coates criticized Bernie in such a way that over thirty new articles on reparations were written in under 15 days. Meanwhile, Cam Newton was busy being mistaken for Huey P. Newton because he had the audacity to enjoy being damn good at his job.
But the kicker, the moment that made it ‘before 2.16’ and ‘after 2.16’ in my mind was Beyonce’s live transition from consciousness in art to conscious artist as seen at super bowl fifty.
In case you have been living under a rock somewhere, here’s a quick 3SB on the whole SB50/HovNBey drama
3SB (Three Second Background)
- On Friday the 5th, Jay Z donated $1.5 million to Black Lives Matter
- On Saturday the 6th, Beyonce surprised the internet by dropping this lovely Ode to Blackness:
3. On Sunday the 6th, Beyonce performed at the Super bowl, and her dancers wore this:
Courtesy of Twitter
Yeah, so like I said, it’s getting pretty black around here; and some white people are not taking it very well. Like, boycott Beyonce not well. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani said he thought it was rude of Beyonce to use the super bowl to “attack the police.”
Now, this is where things get interesting. Why is it that when we are discussing the words or actions of a person of color, ‘criticize’ and ‘attack’ suddenly become synonymous? Coates took heavy criticism from his peers for his ‘attack’ of Bernie Sanders, even though every one of his articles specifically stated that he agreed with Senator Sanders on several issues. Beyonce, by speaking out about the unchecked slaughter of black and brown bodies, is perceived as ‘attacking’ the police.
An old adage comes to mind: don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
White supremacy thrives on an illusion of equality maintained through a system of black exceptionalism. By this I mean if there is no hope that one can become rich enough to ‘transcend race’, no Oprahs, Obamas, and Kanyes, the natives become restless.
It’s a delicate balancing act. Statistically speaking, whites are only comfortable with 8–10% nonwhite people in a given sphere. (So basically, Booker T. was right all along.) The unwritten rule of black exceptionalism is conformity to white normative ideas of blackness. Most importantly, blacks in the public sphere must strive to never remind people that they are in fact, black.
If they are rich and still black, then integration has failed. If they do choose to remind people that they are black, they must do it in such a way that makes blacks the butt of the joke (i.e. Kanye West, Flava Flav, Dennis Rodman). This rule has held true for so long we as blacks no longer even question it.
When discussing the Coates/Johnson argument with someone way smarter than me who’s been at this way longer than I have, they remarked: “Even (Barack) Obama can’t afford to be openly pro-black in this political climate.”
The weight of this bitter truth hit me like a paintball to the boob. We have a black president, yet at his final State of the Union address, he tap danced around the slaughter of the people who elected him and said something that basically equated to ‘all lives matter’.
I understood the choice. The president has an aggressive climate agenda, and he decided to prioritize the continued existence of the planet over the concerns of one subset of his constituency.
Before February, I had come to terms with a black President that couldn’t openly advocate for black Americans. I was alright with a Presidential hopeful that sidestepped race in favor of political expediency. I was okay with waiting. But that was before I realized that I too, like my negro nose with Jackson five nostrils.
Before I started asking unthinkable questions, like:
- If the richest 62 people could pay the deficit twice over and still have money left for an island or ten, why can’t we afford reparations?
- Why is what Beyonce did an ‘attack’, and what Ammon Bundy did a ‘protest’? Neither took hostages.
- Why are we only indicting Asian male police officers? Are Asians considered less white than I thought? Is this part of a larger agenda to divide and conquer minorities?
- Are blacks really better off than we were before Civil Rights? Economically? Socially?
- Why is George Washington a hero and Malcolm X a radical?
- Why is it okay for a man to become a woman who loves women, but not for a black person to speak openly about black issues?
- Why is it okay to be proud of being country, but ‘ghetto’ to be proud of being from the hood?
- Why are black features adored on everything but black women (and men)?
- Why do white journalists get to be individuals and black journalists have to be intellectuals/activists?
- If we’re all Africans like Meryl Streep said (which we are), why isn’t African history studied worldwide?
… and while we’re at it
- If we really care about drug epidemics, why aren’t we drone striking fields of poppies?
- Why do grocery stores throw away food when 1 in 4 American children are starving? Other countries have laws against things like that.
I don’t have all the answers. But as black and white consciousness rises, I realize with pride that I am living in times where it’s (sorta) okay to ask the questions. 2.16 isn’t even halfway over, and already America has started a real conversation about race that is 400 years past due.
Perhaps the limits of our collective conscription have finally been reached. Perhaps, after the initial shock wears off, openly black Americans will find the type of reluctant acceptance that openly gay Americans now enjoy(?).
Or maybe Beyonce will get assassinated by a rabid ‘patriot’. It really could go either way.
One things is abundantly clear though: before 2.16, race was America’s worst kept dirty little secret. Now, by strokes subtle and bold, blacks of all flavors are finally starting to come out of the closet.