You should be made aware of the fact that People-of-Color are more in a position to know white people and understand them than they are with regard to us. We always have had more opportunity to observe them, just by watching old movies and television or going about our everyday lives. In many cases, from slavery times and even since, blacks have lived and worked in white people’s homes, cooked and cleaned for them, even raised their children. The opposite situation is much more rare, although currently with regular interbreeding and more diversity in most social situations, the color lines have been mostly obliterated. But still, blacks have come to know white people pretty well, and we have come to know just what to expect from them.
Unless they have been told otherwise, my younger readers, say, 30-years-old or less, may not know that the racial situation that they have experienced in their brief lifetime is not the way it has always been. Being born in 1947, I have lived through seven decades and part of one more, and I have been witness to the progress and changes that have occurred in the last 71 years. I can recall how things used to be, compared with how they are today. Until recently, black images in the media were quite unrealistic. And that’s because white people wanted to represent us the way they imagined us to be or the way they wanted everybody to regard us, rather than asking us how we really feel about something or just letting us do it ourselves. (Check out my Black History, Part 3: Racism via Show Business blog.) Then there are still your white “bleeding-heart liberals,” who are so in touch with the black experience and think that they know more about being black than we do. They tell me how I am supposed to feel and how I should respond to certain things, what I ought to object to or find offensive regarding racial matters. And if I don’t behave or react the way they think that I am supposed to, then there must be something wrong with me, that I have an identity problem or something.
I had a friend named Guy Giumento, recently deceased, who was of Italian descent. He was one of those ethnically-liberal know-it-alls, who had the audacity to tell me once that I was out-of-touch with my black culture. I am an artist. My so-called “black culture” is whatever I make it to be. So how can I be out-of-touch with the very thing that I create myself? Is it because I am not into rap and hip-hop? Was that his idea of the only black culture? And anyway, as a poet, I have dabbled in the rap genre from time to time. It’s just not my primary mode of expression, as it might be for some. I don’t know enough black people either, according to Guy. Whenever we got together, I wasn’t with another black person, so it follows that I must not know any, right? His being a major “dinge queen,” I could have accused him of not knowing enough white people, since all of his closest friends and regular acquaintances are black. This is someone who had known me, at the time, for only a couple of months but acted like he knew everything about me, including my entire background and life’s history. I also have 15 years of life experience over him. And he hadn’t even read my blogs, I don’t think.
Guy once took issue with me for wanting to watch an old Shirley Temple movie because he didn’t like the way Hattie McDaniel is depicted in it, and I should be greatly offended as well. I happen to like Hattie. So I should miss out on Shirley’s performance, too, because Guy is ashamed of Ms. McDaniel doing what they paid her to do? My not watching her movies is not going to change anything. What’s done is done. Practically every movie has something objectionable in it. I am totally against guns and killing, and I don’t like excessive drinking and smoking, so I should avoid any film that has those elements anywhere in it? That wouldn’t leave me much to choose from to watch, would it? People like Guy go so far out of their way to be empathetic and P.C., so as not to be deemed racists, but end up being the very thing that they are trying to guard against! Even with their good intentions, it’s very difficult to avoid it. Racism pervades our society like a cancer. There is just no getting around it.
And don’t let any of us aspire to any type of personal achievement or advancement! If we tried to apply ourselves assertively to better ourselves and gain some respect and recognition from our white peers on an equal or superior level, we were often accused of trying to be white ourselves and referred to as “Oreos.” You know, like the cookie—black on the outside and white on the inside. Or if we ride a white person’s coattails as their “yes-person” and respectfully kiss up to them or are considered to be a traitor to racial causes, then we are called “Uncle Toms.” It’s sort of damned-if-you-do-and-damned-if-you-don’t. These terms, by the way, which never apply to a white person doing exactly the same thing, are used by whites (and blacks, too) as putdowns and are meant to deter us from further achievement and shame us back into submission—you know, to stay in our place where we belong. So if I don’t want to be deemed an Oreo/Uncle Tom, then I had better stay out of the white man’s world altogether and not draw attention to myself.
Some white people think that they own and control all aspects of art and education, and if any of us attempt to pursue certain fields of self-expression, we are accused of treading on white man’s territory. They said it about ballet and even opera in the past, when certain talented black artists first dared to make their interests known. According to them, black girls didn’t have the right kind of bodies or feet to become ballerinas, for example. A black person who does not speak in Jive and can actually utter a grammatically-correct, coherent sentence, is “trying to talk white” or is said to be “articulate,“ as if whites have a monopoly on the English language, too, and are the only ones who know how to speak it properly (who don’t, by the way). But then, if a black person does not speak proper English, we get criticized for that, too. Again, it seems that we can’t win either way. So why don’t we just keep our mouths shut and don’t say anything?!
From whom did we blacks learn English in the first place, incidentally? Since the American slaves were illiterate, they had to pick up the new language aurally, by hearing the white folks around them speak it. So if they learned it wrong, the whites have themselves to blame, for not being better teachers and elocutionists. And you know that Southerners and Americans in general are not the best conveyors of the King’s English. But let’s consider for the moment the probability that the way black people talked in the past and as some still do even now may be a conscious intention and not because we didn’t or don’t know any better. I believe that, in most instances, we use broken English, fractured grammar, Jive and mispronunciations of words because we want to. That’s why I do it. My friends and I enjoy mispronouncing certain words and phrases. But people who know us know that we know what it should be and will get the joke. When I am running to catch the elevator before it leaves, I will cry out, ‘Ho’ de do’! Ho’ de do’!’ For “here it is,” it’s ‘Viola!’ “Who is there?” ‘Sest moy’ (for c’est moi).
All linguistic dialects develop because of the desire of a smaller group or community to distinguish themselves from the mainstream majority. They are like private lingoes, to be used by those in-the-know. If you don’t understand an expression I use, then that says something about you, not that I am too ignorant to use words that you can comprehend. My grandparents, my mother’s parents whom I lived with as a youth, were born and raised in the South and often used certain words that I have never heard anyone else use since. My brother and I would be in our beds at night talking and laughing, and Papa would chide us with, “Y’all stop all that ‘sneeglin’ in there and go to sleep!“ Did he mean “sniggering,“ which is another word for “snickering”? When I contradicted something that my grandmother said, she’d tell me, “Boy, don’t you ‘sploot’ my word!“ Although I understood her completely, it was years later when I figured out that she must have meant “dispute.“ Her word for excrement was “boochie.“ Yesterday was “yesdiddy.”
Even my brother Earl made up his own phrases for things. A real unattractive female was referred to as a “bobatchee babe,” he called records made by Caucasian artists “paddy jams,“ and a Gatling machine gun was a “huh-huh” gun, because of the sound they make—”huh-huh-huh-huh-huh…” My sister Debbie’s word for grinning is “cheesing,” inspired by the practice of saying “cheese” when posing for a picture. “Wow, she is really cheesin’ in that photo.” When she encounters a person whose shoes are in need of a shine, she will squeak out, “Kiwi! Kiwi!” referring to the brand of shoe polish. For the person with real big lips: “Check out the ‘soup-coolers’ on that guy!” The meanings of these specialized words, when spoken in context, were always apparent.
Yiddish can be described as Hebrew-German, created and spoken by the German Jews, Ladino is Hebrew-Spanish, while many Hispanic-American cultures speak a type of “Spanglish,” which combines Spanish and English words. Patois is sort of a bastardized French, spoken by native Haitians and other French-influenced islanders. Gullah, an African-based dialect, is spoken by the inhabitants of the islands along the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina. Pidgin, a mixed form of simplified English, is acceptable when spoken, and one’s Southern drawl is referred to as an accent. In my experience, I have never heard any of these dialects put down as being wrong or subject to ridicule. So why is Ebonics (the new term for so-called Black English) regarded with such disdain by certain people, even blacks? I think it should be given the same respect and sanction as any of the other world dialects.
Actually, all of the various English-based argots spoken in this country, such as hip-hop, valley girl, surfer dude and the rest, fall under the umbrella language of “American,” which distinguishes itself from British English, which is really a different language altogether. We all use many of the same words, they just have different meanings in each place and with each faction. In this current age of computers and Twitter and the like, the new generations of kids have their own lingo, that at times eludes their uninformed parents. When they speak of hash tags, tweeting, twerking and yolo, what in the hell are they talking about? When I got my very first computer and was reading the manual to learn how to operate the thing, the text appeared to be in English—I mean, they were recognizable English words, but I didn’t have a clue to what anything meant. Bytes, loading, ports, run, save, memory, modems and mouses, oh my! What is all of that?! So, even computer technology has its own American language.
Black people have to over-excel just to get normal recognition from some whites. We can’t just be good at something. We have to be better than everyone else. Realizing that, I would think that they would be more trusting and supportive of blacks in prominent positions. A black brain surgeon in a major hospital, for example, must be a very good one or he wouldn’t be there. But with some white people, nothing we do is ever quite good enough for them. For me sometimes, it feels like an exercise in futility. That’s what racism is, with regard to black people. It’s the gradual, every day, constant wearing down of the human spirit. It’s probably no coincidence that blacks are more prone to develop hypertension than whites are. We seem to control our stress levels better, but the daily restraint manifests itself by eventually giving us high blood pressure.
Racism takes many forms, and sometimes it’s so subtle, it eludes even most nonwhites. But I have become more aware of it since I’ve gotten older. One such form I call “subliminal racism.” I’ll give you a few examples. One day I received in the mail a promotional brochure ad from Reader’s Digest for a Live Longer Cookbook, 500 Delicious Recipes for Healthy Living. Now picture this. The full-color ad had big eye-catching claims like, “Eat well, live longer” and “Eat your way to a longer, healthier life.” But for the nine pictures of people purportedly trying out the recipes in the book, who did the advertising staff use as models? There is a photo of a young, white man eating lasagna, a young, white woman eating chocolate mousse, a young, white boy eating fried chicken, a white woman and her daughter holding a big chiffon cake that they had just made, a young, white man and woman eating breakfast, and an elderly, white man and woman having a candlelight dinner (exclusive heterosexism in evidence, too).
It may look to you all very natural and non-threatening on the surface, but to me, it looks like those ad executives only care that straight, white people eat well and live longer, because that seems to be to whom they are trying to appeal. They apparently don’t give a shit about People-of-Color, let alone gays. Not a dark face or limp wrist in the bunch! I mean, don’t black folks eat fried chicken, too?! How about two Asian men having the candlelight dinner together? Or two Latina sapphists eating breakfast? They might even mix them up racially. They don’t all have to be with their own kind either. You know, they could have as well taken the opposite approach. I expect that more people would be offended by their blatant exclusion from their ad campaign than those that would object to being included. I can’t imagine anyone complaining, “How dare they use human diversity as a selling ploy!” Reader’s Digest certainly did not get my business. I don’t want to order anything from a company that has such an apathetic disregard for my very existence.
Some years ago I received, as a gift, a little book of Angel stickers, put out by Dover Publications of New York. It consisted of 32 depictions of angels in various poses, some bearing fruit and flowers, others were choir angels with hymnals. But every one had a Caucasian face, and except for a few male cherubs, all the rest were female! Maybe it was because they were designed by a white woman, but even so, her designs suggest that, like everything else religious, all angels are white, too.
It was also some years ago, when I renewed my ongoing subscription to TV Guide (it used to be one of my favorite publications), that as a special, complimentary gift, I was given a 2004 calendar of Norman Rockwell reproductions. If you are familiar with his work, you know that it totally reeks of Caucasian, heterosexual Americana. I am dismayed that a magazine of such popular appeal and wide circulation would dare, probably out of sheer thoughtlessness, to promote such white racist propaganda, when we all know that American TV-viewing is far from exclusively a white thing. Rockwell, although a good artist, his works are outdated—antiques, if you will—and not at all a true reflection of modern America. Why not a calendar depicting scenes of cultural and ethnic diversity, something that TV Guide’s large number of nonwhite subscribers can relate to? I actually wrote the company with that very suggestion, and not only did I not get a reply from them, they did not discontinue that little gift item. Maybe they didn’t get my letter or chose to ignore it, because they had the nerve actually to send me another one the following year!
Actor George Clooney apparently has more influence with the publication, when he wrote the magazine to protest the constant omission of Afro-Americans on its covers. While Clooney was starring on “ER,” he and his white costars were frequently featured on the cover, but never Eriq LaSalle or Gloria Reuben, who were part of the ensemble cast as well. His research revealed that TV Guide had featured more cartoon characters on its covers than they had blacks. They finally gave in and did start putting blacks on the cover. So I guess I am not famous enough for them to take my complaint seriously.
White people are quick to say that they are not racist. Most are not aware that they are racist by the mere fact that they are white. Some whites don’t mean to be racist or even want to be, but they can’t avoid it. You see, everyone is regarded by the society in which we live, regardless of what we think about ourselves. What I mean by that is every white person is considered superior by each other and Society in general, so if you are white, you will be treated as such, whether personally you think you are superior or not. By the same token, even if I thought that I am superior to everybody else, Society has decided for all of us that I am not. I am black, so I am regarded as all blacks are. It doesn’t matter what I think of myself. That’s what white racism is, and we are all victims of circumstance; it’s the world in which we live. So then all white people are racist because of the society that their forebears have established for the rest of us. When just about everything is created and geared toward white people, it’s easy for them to take most things for granted. They don’t recognize the fact that racism affects everyone.
Some apparently don’t understand what “institutionalized racism” is, or they would know better than to call People-of-Color racists. I, myself, have been labeled a racist whenever I made an observation that had to do with white folks. When one of my Flirtations colleagues called me a racist on stage one night in front of an all-white audience, for no apparent reason, they seemed as horrified as I was. And that’s a real knee-slapper, coming from the major racist in the group. Maybe he contends that it takes one to know one? But he’s wrong about me anyway. I once casually made the remark that white people, generally speaking, will do anything, and Jimmy called me a racist. I tried to explain to him that I was only making an observation based on my life’s experiences. Since I am almost twice his age, he should at least give me the benefit of my worldliness.
The statement I made is true, as I see it. There are certain things that no black person in their right mind would do, but I don’t think there is anything in the world that some white person somewhere won’t try, especially if there is money involved. The most incredible, ridiculous and stupid stunts found in the Guinness Book of World Records were attempted or accomplished by white people. And they will do anything for money! As it is, they already control most of the money in the world, but will go to any lengths to obtain more. Now, does saying that make me a racist? I don’t think so. I just calls ’em as I sees ’em. People find it easier to disagree with me than to try to prove me wrong. And besides, I also make general comments about my own people as well.
I could never seem to convince Jimmy that it is virtually impossible for me to be a racist. Racism is an institution of power and privilege, and black people (and I certainly) don’t have that power or any granted privileges. Only the group who is in control has them, and right now, it’s still the white, heterosexual males. Now, blacks can be prejudiced, discriminatory, opinionated, they can even hate whites and make bigoted remarks, but that still doesn’t make them racists, because they don’t have the power of their convictions. It’s not the same thing at all. When a white person has a discriminatory notion, they usually have the means and the power to carry it out. Jimmy and others like him don’t seem to understand the distinction, or rather, they don’t want to. They would rather point the finger at someone else than take any personal blame themselves.
I don’t condescend or systematically try to keep white people down and prevent them from bettering themselves. Even if I could, I don’t deny them jobs, positions and housing, and I don’t discriminate just because they are white. I am not afforded the normal privileges that all white people automatically enjoy just for being white. Therefore, how can I be a racist? Why am I even defending myself? White people discriminate merely because they can. It’s not at all personal. They don’t even have to know the person. Black people react to white people not because they are white, per se, but because of their treatment toward us. Whites are reluctant to acknowledge that our feelings toward them are most likely a direct result of their racism. If certain blacks fear and distrust white people, there is probably good cause. Think about that. Who did what to whom first?
And they are so quick to cry “anti-Semite,” too. Whenever somebody makes a negative comment about a person who happens to be Jewish, especially if they are a public figure, the press will immediately label them as anti-Semitic. They may not hate all Jews, they just dislike that particular Jewish person in question. What, do Jews think that they all have “decrier’s immunity,” or something, that no one can say anything bad about any of them? I have Jewish friends who don’t like many of their soul brothers and sisters, so does that make them anti-Semitic as well? In addition to Hebrews, your Semites include Arabs, Assyrians, other peoples of southwestern Asia and northern Africa, many of which exhibit antagonistic feelings toward one another. What about them? Are they all “anti-Semitic,” too? That would make them self-loathing, wouldn’t it? By the same token (pun intended), racial bigots will not allow a fellow white to extend the slightest courtesy to a single Jew or Person-of-Color without calling them to their face a “kike-lover” or “nigger-lover.” So their hatred applies to everyone, regardless of who they are.
While we are on the subject, I am reminded of another case of cluelessness by the character played by Dorothy McGuire in 1947’s Gentlemen’s Agreement (which won Best Picture that year). Gregory Peck plays a journalist who, so that he can write a piece about anti-Semitism, pretends to be Jewish in order to do first-hand research. Word soon got around, I guess, because one day Peck’s young son (the adorable Dean Stockwell) comes in from playing, visibly upset. It seems that some of the neighborhood children called Tommy a “dirty Jew boy“ and “stinking kike.” So Dorothy, Gregory’s girlfriend who knows about his charade, in trying to console the child, tells him, “Don’t fret, honey. It’s not true. You’re no more Jewish than I am.” Oh, well, then. Of course, Gregory and I both clutched our pearls in disbelief. The bitch doesn’t get it, does she? The boy is not upset because he is a “Jew.” It’s because of how his playmates are treating him. She’s excusing his harassers because they don’t know the truth. But whether he and his dad are really Jewish or not is not the point, is it? It’s all about other people’s perceptions. During the course of his experiment, Gregory finds out further that his beloved fiancée isn’t as liberal and unprejudiced as he had believed her to be. But she eventually gets the message and comes around.
Many whites think that if they don’t purposely discriminate against People-of-Color or commit acts of aggression towards us, then they are not racist. But racism isn’t just about willful aggression. I say that even if one just sits by complacently and doesn’t actively do something to change the way things are, then they are part of the problem. There are too many well-meaning white people in denial. They have to acknowledge that there is a racism problem before they can start to do anything about it. Racism is not a completely hopeless situation. The problem can be solved with proper education. Just as racism is taught, it can be untaught. The concept of white supremacy is, of course, a myth. But everybody in the world, People-of-Color as well as Caucasian people, have to stop believing it. As long as anybody thinks that white people are superior to anyone, in terms of their skin color, there is going to be racism.
In order to cure racism, we need to take action. It’s too easy just to sit back and remain apathetic. Protest when someone does a discriminatory act. Call people on it when they make an obviously racist remark or ethnic slur in public. Non-protest or no comment at all can be construed that you must agree with what is being said or done. So then you are no better than the person who made the actual comment or deed. This is when peer pressure really comes into play, like in the Old South when certain attitudes and injustices towards blacks were tolerated by all of the whites in the community. Even those who thought that some of their actions were wrong, went along with the program so as not to be deemed race traitors, sympathizers, “nigger-lovers” and the like. There were those who would never actively participate in the lynching of a black person, for instance, and found the very practice to be abhorrent, but they also did not do anything to stop it. They might even come out to witness the event. So, those co-dependents who aid and abet and allow the situation to continue are just as guilty as the active aggressors. These same charges, attitudes and solutions can also be applied to matters homosexual.
Of course, the whites could help the situation if they really wanted to. But most don’t want to give up what they have in order to favor the rest of us. It’s sort of the attitude of looking out for Number One—you know, I-got-mine-and-I-can’t-be-too-concerned-about-whether-you-have-yours-or-not. And let’s face it, how many white people would honestly prefer our situations to be reversed, if black men were the rulers and controllers of the world and white people were the downtrodden and disrespected? They don’t want to trade places with us, and who can blame them? They already whine and complain as it is, merely because they have to share earthly space with us, these so-called Aryan groups promoting “White Power” as one of their causes. Now how stupid is that? How much more power do they want?! They already control everything and the country at large. Or did, anyway. But why should any one race or subculture be in charge of everything? The way to go is for no racial group to be better than any other, but where everyone is judged as an individual.
I hope that none of you are naïve enough not to be aware that there is also a definite media bias in this country. With white men running all the major newspapers and magazine publications as well as the major television networks, racism and white supremacist attitudes can easily be instigated and perpetuated. The power that they have is telling the public what they want us to know, and it is unfortunate that most of you tend to believe everything they tell us. If it’s in print or on the TV evening news, then it must be true. I hope you have come to know that that certainly is not the case. With the current Administration, the phrase, “fake news” has cropped up on the airwaves, but it’s nothing new. There has always been accounts of fake news, they just never acknowledged it as such.
But even if they don’t outright lie, they can modify the truth or leave out pertinent information. One tactic used is dwelling upon the negative when it comes to People-of-Color. Why do we only hear about the terrible things that black people do? There are always pictures of black men, and women, being arrested and lead away to jail for something. I hardly ever see blacks receiving some kind of special achievement award or for meritorious service. We are always doing good things for humankind, too, but the news media will seldom ever tell you so, unless it‘s Oprah Winfrey or somebody very famous or on some recognition show like the “NAACP Image Awards.”
When they report statistics, they will tell you, for example, that 20% of black students don’t finish high school. But then that would mean that 80% of them do and even go on to college, but they don’t say that. See what I mean? They tend to emphasize the negative minority information rather than the positive majority. That way it helps to discredit whole groups of people, even though it’s only a small number that’s doing anything wrong. So what happens is, we’re left thinking that the reason they don’t report good stories about black people is because there is nothing good to report. I have even had white friends declare to me that most of the crime in this country is committed by black people, their findings being based on media reports. I would ask them, ‘If that is really the case, why do you think that is? Who is behind it?’ Why are there more criminal convictions for poor and uneducated blacks? They can’t be the ones committing all of the crime in this country! They don’t have the means or the know-how for the really big ones, like corporate embezzlement, extortion, insider trading and hired hits. You must consider who is doing the convicting and the reporting. What kind of verdicts, for instance, do you expect from all-white male juries, especially in the South and when People-of-Color are on trial?
And it’s not just men either. The fastest-growing segment of prison admissions is comprised of women, and black and Latina women at that. In fact, women-of-color are six times more likely to go to prison than white women. Immediately after the end of the Civil War, overnight prisons became the new slave quarters and black women were not exempt. Once convicted, they were sent to crumbling, filthy jails and forced to work, just like men. If they were taught anything, it was domesticity so that they could be paroled into jobs as maids, with little hope of advancing or bettering themselves. If a white woman was convicted of a morality-based crime—promiscuity or alcohol abuse, for example—she went to jail to be punished and reformed. Black women were rarely convicted of morality-based crimes because many whites looked upon any immoral behavior as natural to Afro-Americans.
Although many women are incarcerated for killing abusive husbands and boyfriends in self-defense or performing illegal abortions, the vast majority of women in prison are convicted of nonviolent crimes, or “crimes of survival,” such as petty theft and prostitution. Then even when they got there, blacks were treated worse than the whites. While black women were often sent to the fields or chain gangs, where they were subject to floggings and rapes, the white women worked at easier jobs inside the prison, in the warden’s house or kitchen. According to a recent Health and Human Services Household Survey on Drug Abuse, 93% of drug offense convictions in New York State were for blacks and Latinos. Now consider that whites sell and use drugs at the same rate as blacks and Latinos, yet make up only 5% of drug offenders in prison. If this weren’t a racial issue, then why the disparity?
Incidentally, I dislike the word minority, when it refers to a nonwhite social group. The term, for me, carries a certain racist arrogance with it. It is generally regarded by people to be lesser in content and importance. Minority, by definition, means the smaller in number of two groups constituting a whole. The term can be valid when it is actually referring to the smaller amount of something (as I used it a while ago), but it is used nowadays as a general term to refer to anyone who is not white. “There are more minorities in our country’s prisons…” The phrase “more minorities” is an oxymoron in itself. I heard San Francisco schoolteacher cum mayoral candidate Tom Ammiano once actually say, “90% of the kids in our school system are ethnic minorities.” What? I’m sorry, Tom, but more than 50% of anything is not the minority anymore. Then, too, the other 10% must be white kids, which would make them an “ethnic minority” as well, wouldn’t it? If you mean by minorities, nonwhite youngsters, then say that.
Since the white race is in control of everything, they naturally assume that they must be the only majority as well in all situations, as in “majority rule.” Therefore, everybody else is part of a “minority group,” but never they. That’s more racist propaganda. For instance, how could the American slave population be considered a minority race when there were always at least three times as many blacks as there were whites? I have heard white people criticize black people even today for having so many children all the time. Well, if we are procreating all that much, why are we still in the minority? They are the ones with the unusually large families. There are more Irish- and Italian-Catholic and Mormon families in this country alone, who don’t practice any kind of birth control, than there are black Catholics, for instance.
As a matter of fact (and white people are so reluctant to face this), if one considers the population of the entire world, the Caucasian race is, in actuality, the minority. This was confirmed by a recent radio news report which declared, “The country’s ‘minorities’ actually now make up the majority of people.” Even TV anchorwoman Diane Sawyer reported, “It seems that now minority babies being born outnumber white babies.“ Why don’t they listen to what they are saying? That’s a contradiction in terms then, isn’t it? More of one thing than another is not a minority. If there are more People-of-Color and of mixed heritage in the world than there are pure whites, again then just say that. I know that white people don’t like to hear that, but it’s true.
There is also a certain political buzzphrase that I truly detest. I don’t know who first coined it (it had to have been a white person, though; at least I hope it was), but I wish that everyone who uses it would retire it forever. The phrase is “reverse discrimination” (or “reverse racism”). I think I first heard the term used with regard to the practice of Affirmative Action. When a white person is passed over for a job or position in favor of a person-of-color, they are said to be a victim of reverse discrimination. Now, let me see if I have this right. Apparently, white people have the monopoly on bigotry (like they do everything else). They are the ones who invented it and are the only ones in the world who have the power, or right, to discriminate, okay? So if for any reason, they, in turn, are discriminated against, then it’s reverse discrimination? That is so racist! What’s reverse about it? Discrimination is discrimination, whoever is doing it. It certainly doesn’t need a special designation when it’s directed toward a white person. Even using the term for the particular situation that I cited is invalid, but I have heard it used so often in other situations by people, even by blacks (who should know better), I wonder if they ever stop to think about what they are saying.
Racists have even used the concept of Affirmative Action to justify their bigotry. If a black person aspires to and acquires some position of prominence, they must have gotten there through Affirmative Action. They don’t want to acknowledge that this person could have been the best qualified for the position and worked very hard to get there. A person-of-color gets a scholarship at a prestigious school. Never mind that they are a brilliant A student at the top of their class, they’re only there because of Affirmative Action, you see. That’s what I mean about never being good enough for some people. They will always have some excuse and some means to put us down and negate our true abilities.
But even good ideas can be misused, however. Initially Affirmative Action was a good way to level the playing field—that is, to give everyone an equal chance. It was intended to counteract discrimination in hiring practices, for example. If two people apply for the same job and are absolutely equally qualified but one is white and the other isn’t—add to it that they are wanting to diversify the company which is currently all white—it would behoove them to hire the black guy over the white one, since the white guy with his qualifications could more likely get another job anywhere, while the black one wouldn’t have a chance at all with employers who refuse to hire blacks.
Let’s say now that the two applicants are not equally matched. In fact, the white guy is a great deal more qualified. But the job is given to the less-skilled black guy, just because he is black. That’s when it becomes unfair and racist, an incidence of tokenism. If racism was not a social reality, there would be no need for Affirmative Action, as everyone would excel and succeed on their own merit and abilities rather than being rejected or otherwise receiving special concessions for being a certain ethnicity. Don’t hire me just because I am black, but because I am the best one for the job. I, myself, don’t particularly enjoy being a token, as I have been many times.
I once got a call from a local choral director whom I have worked for many times in the past. His amateur chorus had the opportunity of appearing on a Christmas-themed episode of the CBS news program “48 Hours,” and he asked me to be part of the occasion as a ringer. The pay was fair, so I agreed to do the job. When I got to the taping session, I found that Harold’s young choir was all white, except for me and alto Nicola James, who was also called in for this particular job. The music was simple, traditional carols which they could have easily managed by themselves. They certainly didn’t need us. So why were Nicola and I there at all? Well, this is the visual medium of TV, and it has become PC always to feature at least one person-of-color in all group situations.
It was so obvious to the both of us what the deal was. Nicola told me that Harold had not used her in years for anything, so why was she in such demand now all of a sudden? Wasn’t there anybody else in the City available to do this job? I mean, we both appreciate the work when and wherever we can get it, for whatever reason, and of course, they could have hired someone else less worthy in our stead, but it’s still a case of tokenism just the same. I suspect that some choral contractors even maintain a separate “Black List” of singers that they can consult for these special occasions. I feel justified due to the fact that I am good at what I do, so even if I am hired as a token, that’s better than hiring somebody less competent, just because they’re black.
But what most people don’t realize, or don’t want to, is that the group that Affirmative Action has most benefited is white women. It opened the door for many positions in the corporate world, especially, that were previously denied them. Men, in general, even if they are not white, have always had more opportunities and privileges in life than women ever had. So, you see, Affirmative Action is or was not for just us blacks. White people have used it for their own betterment as well. So there!
Up until January 2009 there had always been a white man in the position of Chief Executive of this country. I even thought that we would have a woman for President before we had a person-of-color. They don’t call it the White House for nothing, you know! But in November 2008 the near-unimaginable happened as a historical occurrence when former Senator Barack Obama was elected President of the United States by a landslide margin. What a courageous and progressive coup for our nation! It looks like we are coming around to achieve true equality between the races. Even if Obama is only half-black, he still qualifies as the first Afro-American to acquire that position. His winning the election has certain social and political implications. For me, the realization is that the groups of white supremacists in this country (the Ku Klux Klan, Skinheads, Neo-Nazis, etc.) apparently don’t wield the power and control that they once had. I don’t expect that any of them voted for Obama, so because John McCain got so many fewer votes must mean that these people are no longer the “Immoral” Majority, and maybe they are dying out or have become enlightened with modern thinking and have come to see the error of their ways.
For whatever reason, enough voters looked beyond Obama’s ethnicity and decided that he was the better man for the job. Of course, there were those who still had their misgivings about him, but I think that he at least did better than the Bush Administration. People were ready for a change. At any rate, Obama’s victory was so inspirational and empowering for young black Americans, as it proves that they, too, can aspire to be anything that they want to be. All they need is the ambition, the confidence, the perseverance and to be properly prepared to do the job at hand. They can no longer blame their failures in life on their color or their gender or even their sexual orientation, but must take personal responsibility for their own shortcomings.
With the prior census taken in 2000, it made me aware of another standard convention that is racist by its mere inclusion. I am talking about the census forms that we all were sent to fill out and all the other forms, documents and surveys out there which ask us to reveal our Race. Why is that important to know? Nowadays the term “race” is becoming more and more vague and indefinite. With so much mixed-breeding occurring, most Americans do not fit into any one race classification. Who is pure Caucasoid, Mongoloid or Negroid anymore? And those are not the only three divisions. With whom do your Hispanic/Latino people affiliate themselves? Most of them consider themselves a separate category, as do Pacific Islanders. With so many people now checking the “Other” box and then having to explain their various ethnic make-ups, what’s the point in even asking? What do they plan to do with that information?
I was sent a Juror Qualification Questionnaire a while ago that asked me to designate my race, with this explanation. “Information on race is sought solely to allow the court system to monitor the juror selection process to ensure that no discrimination is occurring in that process and that jurors are being randomly selected from a fair cross-section of the community.” Pardon me, but if they intend to remain fair and random, wouldn’t their knowing what our race is create the very situation that they claim to be guarding against? Random selection means whoever turns up, regardless of who they are. If their picks turn up more of one ethnic group or race, and they pick some from other groups to even things out, then it’s not random anymore.
When there is an issue of race, even on a seemingly-innocent survey or questionnaire, that makes it, by definition, a racial issue. We are all members of the same race, after all, the human race. And that is what I put down now when they ask that question. What else do they need to know? If we all are supposed to be created equal and liberty and justice is purportedly granted for all, then our individual ethnic delineation should not matter for anything. Our human identity distinguishes us from a robot or a dexterous monkey, perhaps. When I first encounter a person, I regard them as a human being, just like myself. So I deal with them on an individual basis. Their skin color, nationality, physical appearance, station in life and other personal factors are only incidental. I initially treat everyone the same way, that is, with courtesy and respect.
Once during a consumer survey conducted over the telephone, I was being asked about what food brands and products I buy. Then for the demographic questions at the end, the guy on the phone asked me what my racial classification is. I, in turn, asked him why he needed to know that? Why was that important? He explained that it would help them to determine what products were used by what percentage of people, ethnically-speaking. I let him know right then that such a statistical finding was totally pointless and unreliable besides. I always have some kind of pasta in the house. So does that mean I must be Italian? I buy Goya beans on a regular basis, so then am I Puerto-Rican? I also buy Kretchmer’s Wheat Germ, so what racial category does that put me in? There is a black-owned and run soul food restaurant in the Village, called The Pink Teacup, that is patronized by as many white people as there are black. How can any valid statistic be based on what certain people eat and buy? Consumerism is in the public domain. I hope that my objection impressed him enough to effect the necessary change in subsequent surveys, but probably not.
On an episode of the TV sitcom “Gimme a Break,” housekeeper/nanny Nell (Carter)’s boss, the Chief of Police, asked her to prepare a great meal for the Mayor, whom he was trying to shmooze to get him to commission a new squad car, or something, for the department. When the Chief asked Nell what she was serving for dinner, she offered things like shrimp cocktails, cavier, paté foie gras, lobster, filet mignon, you know, real highfalutin haute cuisine. He must have expected Nell to prepare a “soul food” menu for the Mayor, his being black and all, you see, because he asked her, “Do you people like that kind of food?” Nell replied, “Honey, when we can get it, we love it!”
I have a few questions about Whitey. Of course, you can’t answer me directly, but it’s something I would like you to think about. Why are white people, by their own admission, mind you, so afraid of us blacks? We are the ones who should fear the whites. In fact, you whites should be afraid of yourselves! While we were minding our own business, which of us were taken by force from our homeland, brought against our will to a strange country to work (for no pay!) for over 400 years as slaves? Which of us were repeatedly raped, beaten, branded (!) and tortured by our masters and overseers, had our families split up by our children being sold away? Which of us have been hunted down and lynched for sport, have had crosses burned on our lawns, our houses and churches torched and bombed, with us in them? Which of us is more likely to be detained, harassed, beaten up, even murdered by white police officers for no reason or when we are caught in neighborhoods that we should not be in? But they are afraid of us! Who denied whom proper education, employment opportunities and residential choices?
Your Klansmen are white. Your Skinheads and Nazis are white. I don’t know of any Black Supremacist organizations or black vigilante groups anywhere who are anti-white. Besides, black people are not that organized. It’s the whites who are always plotting and scheming in secret. Most of your rapists and other sex offenders are white and usually known by their victims. But it’s the black male strangers that white women fear and avoid and cower to when in our presence. Most of your serial killers and other mass murderers are white, and the reason that they are so successful in their crimes is that people trust them just because they are white. It’s not likely that those same murdered victims would have let me into their house while they were there alone or accepted a ride from me on a deserted road. But see there? They would have been safe with me! With all the terrible things that we have seen whites do to everybody and each other, why are they still trusted so implicitly by most people? They must never lie, and everything that comes out of their mouths is the absolute truth, because you all apparently believe everything that they say.
In the 1990 psycho-thriller Pacific Heights, a young couple, played by Melanie Griffith and Matthew Modine, buy a house in San Francisco, fix it up and rent out two of its apartments. When a young, black man (Carl Lumbly) first comes to take one of the apartments, they cautiously but politely dismiss him with a “You must fill out this application, and we need to check out your credit history. We’ll get back to you. We have other people we want to see.” Yeah, right. Someone white, preferably. So then they let psychopathic, nutbutt Michael Keaton just move in without any credentials and no application. He gave them some song-and-dance about his money being tied up in some private trust, and Matthew believes everything he tells him. Even when the bank tells him that they don’t know anything about this guy, he tells them that they are mistaken and incompetent. This charming, white man can’t possibly be a con artist and crook, now can he? It’s that black applicant that they needed to be wary of. They’re the ones who’s always trying to get over on you. Keaton just takes possession of the property and now is protected by tenant’s law. The owners cannot even evict him. Not only do they not receive a single penny from him the whole time he is there, he destroys the property and makes all their lives a living hell besides. When they go to the police to report Keaton’s misconduct, the lieutenant assigned to their case is none other than Lumbly, who they had previously turned down! I love it when he tells them, “I guess now you wish that you had rented to the black guy.” (::Snap!::)
This is a true story. A young, single, black woman moved into an all-white neighborhood of Philadelphia with her two daughters. The very next morning after she had moved into her new house, she found graffiti scrawls of “Get out, Nigger!” and “Go back to where you came from!” on her house and front steps. When she ignored the messages and did not readily comply, a few days later she received a death threat by anonymous letter which warned her to leave or she and her children would suffer the same fate as her black predecessors. The woman did move out then, in fear of her life. Now they didn’t know this woman or anything about her, but when the neighbors were questioned about why they didn’t want this woman in their midst, they replied that they were afraid. Afraid? Afraid of what? That woman had not done anything to any of them. Why aren’t they afraid of their own white neighbors who relinquish hate and make death threats to their other innocent neighbors for no reason? I think that they are directing their fear at the wrong people! They shun the innocent black woman but readily accept the white terrorists who live in their community.
Consider, too, the underlying message of “Go back to where you came from.” Bigoted whites don’t want People-of-Color ever to better themselves or to improve their living conditions, but rather they should all stay in the ghetto slums where they belong. It’s the same objection they have to busing and integrated education. If we are allowed to attend the better schools, we might learn something, and therefore they’ll lose their control over us. Knowledge is power and it fosters pride, self-esteem and confidence.
When Malcolm Little (aka X) was a youngster in elementary school in Lansing, Michigan, he mentioned to his white teacher that he wanted to be a lawyer when he grew up. The teacher told him, “Malcolm, you’re a nigger. That’s an unrealistic goal for you. A nigger could never be a lawyer. Why don’t you think about becoming a carpenter instead? Jesus was a carpenter.” Not that there’s anything wrong with manual labor, but how dare a teacher limit a bright student’s higher aspirations and ambition in life because of their own bigotry. Teachers are supposed to be encouraging and try to instill confidence in their pupils. Fortunately, none of my teachers ever said such discouraging things to me, not that it would have deterred me from my goals. Well, there was that Dr. Winold asshole at I.U. (he wasn‘t even my teacher), who suggested that I should get out of music, but I didn’t pay him any attention either.
And what is this nonsense about blacks lowering property values when they move into predominately-white neighborhoods? Since it is the white landlords and real estate agencies who establish the so-called property values in the first place, they must be the same ones who lower them then. How can we be blamed for that? We don’t make or control the standards and rates. There they go again! The whites move away to avoid the unwanted infiltration, the landlords resell or re-rent the property for a lower amount, I suppose, to make it more affordable for the new tenants. Who told them to lower the price? Then they say that it’s our fault that the property is not worth what it used to be. Why not? It’s the same property. They love to pee on you and try to convince you that it’s water. If a black person can afford to move to an affluent area, then they deserve to live there.
Once upon a time the Manhattan neighborhood of Harlem was all-white. Then the blacks starting moving in and took it over, and most of the whites moved away. Now the whites are rediscovering the area and even admire what many black residents have done with the community. They are moving back there in larger numbers, which, I guess, has caused the so-called property value to go back up again, since a large part of the area is now quite “high-rent.” So you see, it’s the whites who influence an area’s property value, not the blacks. Even Bill Clinton occupies offices there. There was a time when white cab drivers would not take a fare to Harlem, as if it were off-limits or something. When I go there now on occasion, I see as many white people on the street as there are blacks!
Maybe white people’s imagined fear stems from their own guilt about how they have always mistreated us. So now that we know better and tend not to take any more shit from them, maybe they are paranoid that we are all out for revenge against them. Haven’t you noticed that people tend to accuse others of the same things that they are guilty of themselves? In my blog, On the Road with Cliff, I tell about some paranoid Cape Town, South Africa residents who felt the need to have stone walls built around their properties in order to keep out the imaginary, non-existent marauding blacks.
White people are distrustful and suspicious of everybody else because they are a deceitful, vindictive, evil race themselves. Yes, I said evil, and I mean that. Consider the history of the white race—the tyranny, the supremacist attitudes, the persecution, the physical and mental cruelty, the disrespect, the genocide, the greed, the craving for power and complete control at all costs that they have displayed for all time. Among other things, this is a people that would make an enforceable law to deny and forbid certain fellow citizens any formal education, a basic right of every human being. If those are not the manifestations of evil, I don’t know what is. It certainly isn’t godly behavior. I am not saying that every white person is guilty of these qualities and actions, but there still are enough who are to this day functioning practitioners.
So since they are always up to no good, they think that everybody else, especially black people, must be too. There have been times and places in history when black people (American slaves, for example) were not allowed to congregate in groups in public. It was feared by the paranoid whites that they would be plotting rebellion and insurrection against them. They even thought (or think) that our churches are merely a private venue for holding anti-white political rallies, which may be one reason why Southern black churches were (and still are) targeted for torching and bomb demolition. They think this way because their own church services are often, in actuality, Klan meetings. So we must doing the same thing that they are doing, right? You know, get us all before we get them. I often wonder how many whites feel any culpability about the actions of their people and how can they live with themselves?
If a black person does exercise any form of aggression toward a white person, it is most often only a defense tactic. Why is it that the majority of white people can get away with murder, literally, commit every manner of dastardly deed known to Human and still retain their general reputation as fine, upstanding citizens. But let a few People-of-Color do something socially-objectionable, and the entire race gets discredited. A white woman gets mugged by a black youth. Now she regards every young black man that she encounters with suspicion and fear. If that one boy will do that to her, then they all must be like that, right? Most black people, I included, have more reason to distrust most white people, but we don’t.
Some white people think that they can do anything to us that they damned well please, but we had better not dare stand up for ourselves or fight back, because we are always made out to be the aggressors and bad guys. They seem to want to forget that, whatever it is they think we are doing to them, they did it to us first, so whatever we do to them is, therefore, only retaliation. Okay, two wrongs don’t make a right, but are we supposed to keep on letting white people walk all over us and strip us of our dignity and self-respect every chance they get, while we always just turn the other cheek and “stay in our place”?
Now before you get all riled up and bent out of shape, of course I am speaking in gross generalities. I certainly don’t believe that all white people are evil. There are many good ones in the world. Some of my best friends are of the Caucasian persuasion. The point I am trying to make is that by the same token, all black people are not what some think we are either. There is good and bad in everybody, and it is not fair to condemn an entire race for the actions of a few. The claims and assessments that I make about white people are not untrue or inaccurate, however. They just don’t apply to everybody.
I realize that this may be another ethnic generalization, but have you ever noticed that certain Asian cultures, the Japanese, in particular, seem to have a studied fascination with suicide? They just love killing themselves, don’t they?! They can’t stand to be embarrassed or dishonored, or as they put it, “to lose face,” for when that happens, the only self-respecting thing to do then is to off themself. If I had to kill myself for losing face, I would have been dead a long time ago, and many times, besides! I mean, what kind of cultural society would invent ritual methods of suicide, like hara-kiri (or seppuku) and kamikaze missions and consider them to be honorable?
The Japanese troops stationed on Okinawa in 1945 all committed suicide when they were forced to surrender at the end of World War II. Much, if not all, of their kabuki theater ends with somebody killing themself. They use any excuse. In Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Sessue Hayakawa is the commander of a Japanese prison camp, who orders his captives to build a bridge with a certain deadline attached. He tells Alec Guinness in one scene, “If the bridge is not ready on time, I will have to kill myself.“ Hunh?! Why?
In Sayonara (1957) when Red Buttons is forbidden to take his Japanese wife, played by Miyoshi Umeki, back to the States with him, they opt to kill themselves (I’m sure it was her idea) to keep from being separated, just before the edict is changed, in their favor, I might add. If only they had waited just one more day! And then, too, how do they know that they will remain together after death? Maybe we don’t have a choice in the matter. It’s true that in life we always have a choice, but I don’t know if we have the same concession in death. Do we get to decide our fate, where we go or what happens to our consciousness when we die? (Check out my article on Heaven and Hell.) Cho-Cho-San (aka “Madam Butterfly”) does herself in (by hara-kiri, no less!) just because she is jilted by her lover. So just get over the guy and get on with your life! Next! Never mind that she has a young son to raise, she just cannot bear the shame of desertion.
Chinese slave girl Liu kills herself near the end of Turandot to keep from revealing her prince boyfriend’s name before the next dawn. Why would she have to reveal the real name? Stall for time, make up something! “Uh, his name is…Herkimer!” We are supposed to consider her self-sacrifice as an act of love. But what good does that do her dead? Tamate, a female character in Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures, kills herself, as does “Miss Saigon” in her show, too, which is a sort of reworking of Madama Butterfly, but set in Vietnam.
In all these cases, I consider their suicidal actions to be very courageous but their reasons for doing so are quite cowardly, in my opinion. It was explained in Shogun that the Japanese deem death to be merely another phase of life, so when they die it’s not all over for them but just another journey to whatever. So with them, death is not the ultimate end-all as many others consider it to be. I rather agree with that sentiment, although I don’t intend to rush the process along by killing myself.
Have you ever noticed, watching period Japanese films (Sayonara, Shogun, etc.), that all their dwellings were made with sliding doors with no locks on them? They seemed to be more trusting of each other and respected each other’s privacy more than how it is most everywhere else. In addition, the walls and doors of their houses are made of thin paper and held together with glue, no nails at all are used, easily penetrable. They must not be worried about break-ins, burglaries or unwanted intrusions. Of course, there is not much to steal, as I can see. The homes are sparsely furnished. There are no chairs, sofas or tables, as everyone kneels, sits, lies and eats on the floor. Although I have not had the privilege of visiting an actual Japanese home, I would expect their domiciles of the present day to reflect modern times. I did see a Japanese film from 1959, and the houses looked rather similar. They still had the sliding doors and no furniture that I could see. I expect now, however, with the technology of home computers and audio and visual equipment, for example, and the fact that they manufacture a lot of things themselves, they must own and use all those items. But in those period pieces of the past they appeared to live more simply and with a modicum of material possessions. The men, however, kept swords and knives on their person at all times, so I guess they were not so lax and confident about their personal safety.
And there is another mystery about white people that is loaded with more hypocrisy, and that is the contradictory attitude that they display toward people whom they claim not to like. What I mean is that they seem to want to have it both ways, whichever is more convenient for them. They adamantly maintain their racist views and hate feelings toward certain people, while at the same time using these same people for whatever they can get from them. Women, too, are treated much in the same way by misogynistic males.
Fortunately, it’s not as bad now as it once was. Whites didn’t mind a black person serving as their personal maid, cook or chauffeur, but they didn’t want this person’s family to occupy a house in the very neighborhood that they were employed. A white couple would let a black woman care for and raise their children, but this woman’s own children were not allowed to play with or attend the same school as the children she was caring for!
Similarly, restaurants in the South (and other regions, too, I would assume) would hire blacks to work in the kitchen, washing dishes, sweeping the floors and such, but they couldn’t be servers and they wouldn’t let them eat there as customers. But conversely, they would let blacks shop at their stores, and while they don’t mind taking their money, they wouldn’t think of hiring them to work there. Blacks shopping in clothing stores also were not allowed to try on merchandise. If they did not purchase the item after trying it on, it was assumed that no white person would buy it either. But how would they even know, unless they were told? Would the shop owners and clerks deliberately jeopardize a potential sale? But maybe so. “Uh, you don’t want to buy those shoes, ma’am. A nigger tried them on last week.“ At some exclusive country clubs they would not hire blacks at all, for even the most menial of jobs. See how unreasonably fickle and confused white people are? There is no rhyme or reason to their duplicity.
“Please ride the city buses, y’all. We need your patronage. But, I’m sorry, you must sit in the back.” But not only that. The lawful procedure for a black person was to board at the front of the bus, pay their fare, then get off again and re-board through the rear door! Now, how stupid is that? They’re already on the bus, what’s wrong with proceeding to the back from there? Not being able to sit where they want to on the bus was not degrading enough in itself. They had to impose the other inconvenience and indignity for added control and humiliation. There were occasions when bus drivers would drive away before the riders could re-board.
Ironically, it was the southern blacks themselves who turned things around with their year-long Montgomery bus boycott in 1955. Apparently, the larger percentage of people who rode the bus were blacks, and as a result of the boycott, the bus companies practically went bankrupt. In practically any and every situation, it is always about money in some way. If you want action taken, go for their wallet or pocketbook. It was only then that the Supreme Court declared that public transit segregation was unconstitutional. Oh, really? They only just then decided that.
“Sure, blacks are allowed in my movie theater, but you realize, don’t you, that they have to sit in the ‘peanut gallery’?” That’s the balcony—so named because it is reserved for “monkeys.” Another name for the uppermost rear balcony of theaters was “nigger heaven.” (This phrase also became a metaphorical epithet for Harlem in the ‘20s.) Yes, we surely can’t have “them” mingling with your good white folks. It’s evident exploitation and dignity degradation. “Whatever you can do for me to make my life a little easier, I’m all for it, but I still think that you are a subhuman, insignificant being who deserves no respect or compassion. Always remember that I am your superior. Just do what I tell you to, keep your mouth shut and stay in your place.” “Yassah, Boss!”
Another prime example of white racist restrictive control was the separate waiting rooms, restrooms and drinking fountains for blacks and whites in the South. Now I ask you, what in the hell was that all about?! Does that make any kind of rational sense to you? “Of course, you can have some water, uncle. You just cannot get it from the same spigot that I get mine from.” There is a scene in the TV-movie The Rosa Parks Story (2002) in which Rosa (as a little girl) and some of her young friends were in a park where there were two drinking fountains, one for Whites and the other for Coloreds. One of the little black boys was wondering if the water from the white fountain was any different from the colored one. So he switched the “Whites Only-Colored Only” signs then proceeded to drink from the other fountain. He couldn’t discern any difference. Just then an old white man happens along with his German shepherd, stops and takes a drink from the fountain he thinks is the “White” one, then lets his dog take a drink from the “Colored” one, which we know is really the “White” one! He apparently couldn’t tell any difference either. The kids stood there appalled, amused and confused.
In her autobiography Dionne Warwick tells about when she was traveling in South Carolina somewhere in 1963 and encountered a two-sided drinking fountain which displayed “white” and “colored” signs on it. As Dionne bent to take a drink from the “colored” side, a white woman was bending to take a drink from her side, and their heads bumped. Dionne laughed, but the other woman just glared and harrumphed. Dionne then told the woman, “I see that there is one pipe bringing the water to both sides of this fountain, so I hope you realize that we are drinking the same water.” The woman turned red and almost choked. I guess that fact hadn’t occurred to her after all. It did strike Dionne, however, of how stupid the whole thing was. “I realize, too, that you people have to relieve yourselves occasionally. But please do your business in a facility other than the ones that we have to use ourselves.”
Black performers who toured in the South during the ‘50s and ‘60s have reported about the trouble they had finding permitted lodging when they were on the road. They would sometimes have to travel as much as 200 miles out of their way to find a place that would accept Colored. And then it was usually very substandard. Thirties blues singer Bessie Smith was in a car crash in Memphis, Tennessee and died on the way to a second hospital miles away because the first, closer one she was taken to would not admit her. It was a “White” hospital, you see. Moms Mabley used to tell a joke about when she was driving her car in the South, and a cop pulls her over and cites her for going through a red light. In her defense she tells the cop, “Well, I saw all those white folks going on the green light, so I thought that the red light was for us!”
Singer Nina Simone tells that she was turned down when she auditioned for the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. She was good enough for Julliard but not for Curtis, apparently. Nina suspected that it was simply a matter of racial discrimination. Well, somebody years later had a change of heart. Just days before Nina died in 2003, she learned that she would be receiving an honorary degree from Curtis. Oh, now she’s worthy! What is she supposed to do with it now? She’s dead!
When composer/educator William Dawson graduated from the Horner Institute of Fine Arts in Kansas City in 1926, he was not allowed to sit with his fellow graduates or receive his diploma in person. He and the other blacks in attendance were relegated to a little cramped balcony for the graduation exercises. He was presented his diploma the next day, in private. Dawson was not even allowed to attend the regular classes at Horner with the white students, so instead the faculty agreed to tutor him privately and after regular school hours, a situation that, ironically, permitted him a one-on-one educational experience, probably better than what the white students got. So, sometimes when they think they are punishing or disrespecting us, they are actually inadvertently doing us a favor!
Their senseless bigotry extends even unto death. “I’m sorry, but you can’t bury that boy here in the White cemetery!” What, segregated graveyards, too? Is there no end to the inanity? I guess they think that black bodies, even when dead, will somehow contaminate or taint in some way the dead, rotting corpses of the good, white folks buried in the same immediate acreage of ground. Can they stop?! There is no sensible reason for any of that. What difference does it make where anybody sits or shits or which water they drink or what plot of dirt they are buried in? It’s all the same. But by enforcing a restriction on certain people and situations, they just want to give a constant reminder that they are “The Boss” and always have to be in complete control of everything. White people can go anywhere they want, sit where they please, do whatever is their option, but the rest of us didn’t, and in some instances still don’t, have the same privilege. They want to decide what is, and we all have to abide by their wishes.
The Afro-Americans of this generation and the last take so much for granted. They don’t realize that the rights and freedoms that they normally enjoy on a regular basis, it never occurs to them that things weren’t always that way. I could not imagine not being allowed to use a certain restroom, sit where I want to or take a drink from any water fountain. Well-meaning whites are always trying to convince us blacks to accept the abuses and disrespect afforded us with the hope that things will be better for us someday. But I am pretty sure that they wouldn’t be so patient and lenient if it were they receiving the same kind of mistreatment. Talk is cheap when it does not affect one personally.
Now while it’s always been okay for white men to pursue, flirt with, have sex with, even rape, women-of-color without any admonition from their peers, a black man had better not try anything with any of their women! Harry Belafonte (of course it was he who got blamed) created an outrageous scandal in the South when he allowed Petula Clark to put her hand on his arm while they were singing a duet on TV in the ‘50s. But never mind the casual touching or, God forbid, actual intercourse, there have been black men who were lynched for merely glancing in a white woman’s direction! You see, their concern is that lust is all a black man ever has on his mind, and his constant preoccupation is to make it with a white woman. The reason that they believe this is because that is what is on their own minds!
Except for your extreme separatists, I don’t think that they hate us as much as they think they do. People you hate, you avoid, don’t you? You don’t want to have anything to do with them. You especially don’t put your very life into the hands of people that you claim you don’t like. Would a white woman, in this day and age, dare call her black cook a dumb, nigger bitch and say that she hates her fucking guts, then in the same breath, ask her to prepare a meal especially for her and her guests? That would take some nerve.
(# …If you don’t like my peaches, then why do you shake my tree? Get out of my orchard and let my fruit trees be!… #) I think that it’s something else. It’s the blue-eyed, or rather, green-eyed monster at work. Come on, are they jealous of us, or what?! In addition to trying to look like us and obtain our skin coloring, white folks are always trying to adopt or imitate our fashion trends, our hairstyles, our facial features, our music and dance, even our manner of speech. I have seen more white people wearing dashikis than black Africans. No respectable white woman would have been caught dead with her hair in cornrows until Ms. white child Bo Derek sported the ‘do in the movie “10” (1979). Then everybody (exaggeration) started doing it.
They have always criticized our thick lips. Now it’s all the rage for white women to pump their lips up with chemicals, to make them fuller. Isn’t that right, Angelina Jolie? It seems that “Soup-Coolers R Us” is the cosmetic procedure du jour for a lot of these women. They are now even making their flat asses bigger. They want to be “bootylicious” like their full-figured black girlfriends. They try to talk like us, sing like us (Michael Bolton, for one example, and all these white rappers around today), and they steal all our dances, our music and mock our mannerisms and gestures. Remember Jim Crow?
There is a film called Swing Kids (1993) which depicts World War II-time German teenagers getting down with the Jitterbug and Lindy Hop. Now, who did they learn that from? Even before then, we most likely taught white people the Charleston, too, a very spirited jazz dance. The docudrama film, Black and White (1999) is about well-to-do, white suburban youngsters who are obsessed with hip-hop. They have adopted the dress, the speech and all that is connected with the movement. I mean, I don’t mind. I guess I should be flattered that they like our styles. So then, they should just admit that they like it, and stop trying to undermine us, and allow us to be ourselves, without their constant criticizing and stereotyping.
But what I am about to say now is more than a white stereotype. It is based on years and years of observation and experience. I won’t go so far as to say that white people don’t have any rhythm and that all black folks do, but the two races do seem to feel it differently. Unless they are really good musicians (like the big bands and the Bee Gees, for example), most whites don’t execute syncopated and tricky rhythms as well as blacks do naturally. To me, they always sound stilted and inaccurate or forced—in other words, “white.” When people try to keep “the beat” in common meter by clapping their hands, black people instinctively clap and snap their fingers on beats 2 and 4, while white folks invariably do it on 1 and 3. Are you aware of that? Now, I don’t mean to imply that the 2 and 4 clap is exclusively ours. Good white musicians seem to be able to grasp the concept without much trouble, and even commoners can do it with our prompting, but the 1 and 3 number is strictly a common white thing, and if they are left to their own devices, that is what they will tend to do naturally. I don’t understand why it is, but it’s a human phenomenon that always amazes and amuses me when it happens.
Who is responsible for all the modern weaponry in the world? White men invented firearms and other weapons of war. They created the atomic bomb and the other forms of nuclear and chemical warfare, for what purpose? To use against each other, apparently. In my article, Black History, Part I: Did You Know?, there is a list of inventions by blacks, and you will notice that all the items are useful gadgets and appliances for the good of humankind. There is nary a lethal weapon in the bunch. Black people, in general, are not preoccupied with violence, murder, mayhem and destruction, as whites seem to be. We use them only as defense measures or when we just get desperate and frustrated.
I realize that some will argue that blacks use guns to kill each other, too, but where do they get those guns? Inner city blacks are into drugs, but who do they get the drugs from? It’s not they who control all the drugs and the weapons cartels. In Straight Outta Compton (2015) Ice Cube and his fellow rappers are being interviewed by a panel of press reporters, who are criticizing the guys about the negative messages displayed in their songs. Cube explains that they did not create the urban situation but are only commenting on it, telling it like it is. “You got weapons that come from Russia and cocaine from Colombia. How do they get here? It’s not us. We don’t even have passports.” The racists want to pit us against each other so that we’ll kill ourselves off and save them the trouble. “Get them involved with dangerous drugs and give them weapons, and they will do our job for us.” Then they can just sit back, using their usual passive-aggressive approach, as if they have nothing to do with it and say, “Just look at ’em! See how they are?” What have I said before? The whites create the situation, and the blacks get blamed for the result.
Of course, I still contend that we should all be held responsible for our own actions, but the suppression of proper education is another tactic employed by whites to influence and control the behavior of misinformed, underprivileged blacks. If you are poor and ignorant, you’re going to believe whatever and do what you’re told, because you don’t know any better. They realize that education carries with it a sense of power, morality and self-worth. An educated person cannot so easily be manipulated. So you see, just as I said from the very beginning, no matter what the situation is, everything comes right back to white racism as the crux of all our social problems.
[Related articles: Age Is Just a Number; Black History, Pts. 1-5; Color Issues; Stereotyping and Profiling, Racial and Otherwise; Walt Disney, a Racist?…]