Monday, April 4, 2011

Of Black Pride and White Prejudice Part One: The Implicit Association Test



Language wars...

The classroom ought not to be disconnected from the real world. For those of us who study American politics the election of President Barack Obama has provided a neat laboratory for proving much of our theorizing both correct (the institutional constraints on the office; Obama's continuation of the Imperial Presidency) and wrong or outmoded (say bye bye to the Bradley Effect). If you teach courses on racial politics, President Obama has made for boom times. His inauguration unleashed all of the worst elements of the white racial id and reminded us once more that for all of the heady glow of "post racial this" and "post racial that," race (to borrow a phrase from Cornel West) does indeed still matter.

Ultimately, race, and its associated language of "oppression," has and continues to be an American obsession. The language through which race is made real also continues to be abused and misapplied. As we have seen in our recent discussions of black zip coon conservatives, in the Age of Obama there is a notion that they too are oppressed as black folks--however little their sense of linked fate is with their kin. In the era of the Great Recession, Fox News and the bloviators on the Right-wing paint a world in which white folks are oppressed, experiencing a suffering equal to or greater than the darkest moments of Jane and Jim Crow. And perhaps most absurdly, bankers and corporatists were somehow imagined as suffering under power when the tax cuts for the richest 5 percent of Americans were on the proverbial chopping block...before Obama and the Democrats caved as is their habit and gave the plutocrats their way.

To point, one of my favorite exercises in my classes on race and ethnicity involves asking folks to define terms. When we talk about "race" what do we mean? How is "ethnicity" different from or complementary to race? What is nationality? How is personal agency important, but also contextualized by social norms, values, institutions, and structures?

The responses always vary. They are colored by one's own investment in theses categories, allegiance to flat narratives of "colorblind politics," and exposure to the literature on the subject. Because for many students these are normative and personal constructs, they are often loathe to acknowledge that 1) there are actual definitions for these terms; 2) said definitions may upset their deeply held priors about the nature of the world; and 3) that privilege and power are real. Thus, some have an unfair advantage by mere luck of birth and not because of innate talent or ability.

In one of my favorite potentially productive pedagogical moments, I invite my students to take the Implicit Association Test. We then discuss their results and watch the Dateline NBC special on the psychological origins of racial attitudes. Inevitably, when we get to the section on Black Pride (at having a positive self-image in the face of, and despite living in a society where whiteness is normalized) and White Shame (in having a strong affinity for other white people) the class splits. Many white students want to construct a parallel narrative where these results are envisioned as morally, ethically, and politically equivalent. Black students stumble in explaining that pride does not necessarily equal dislike or prejudice for those not of the tribe.

My answer is simple. It is also one that I repeat often: These discussions of race and racial inequality are about power and not about color. That is the central paradox. In this country, at this time, and as a function of its history, it is Whiteness and white folks with the unique institutional, social, economic, and historical power to be racists. Black and brown folks can be prejudiced jerks. But they cannot be racists.

As I am quick to offer, "Sorry Suzy Snowflake, racism is your unique cross to bear and the historical burden of your people to negotiate and make right."

I am curious as to your thoughts on the IAT test, as well as the bigger question of what distinguishes black pride from white prejudice? Are they the same? Are they different? Do they both spring from the same tainted origins? Do both black pride and white prejudice result in the same socially deleterious outcomes?

This should be a fun conversation. And if I play my cards right, each example will further muddy the waters just a little bit.

46 comments:

Cobb said...

I think that talking about power to peasants is a useless exercise, because for all the white bigotry and black bigotry that goes on, the only thing that merits serious scrutiny is institutional racism.

I understand how it is that it has become almost impossible to recognize the black power arrogance of black American conservatives, but that is part and parcel of an atttitude that rejects 'black' as completely as Black rejected Negro. So I chuckle as the blacks squirm like Negroes at post-black critiques. Then again, that's all just interpersonal.

Anyway, my whole take on the IAT is that it too is interpersonal and that's just more pico-economics. I'm not the sort who considers that it is so significant to aggregate all of the slings and arrows suffered by somebody named 'Rufus' into some socio-economic indicator, and the same thing goes with other similar Freakonomic curiosities like resume shopping.

Rather I would prefer to talk about such macroeconomic matters as class. More particularly as I have mentioned before, my concept of Effective Resonance. I find it odd that the direction of racial complaint tends to draw focus on 5 or 7 or 12% difference between two supposedly equal black & white people, instead of looking at the 30, 50 or 125% difference between two random black people.

Effective Resonance says that you need to adjust your sights to consider, in your Affirmative Actions, the overall ability of the protected class to absorb what is dealt to it. 60 years ago, you required Federal troops to get 12 black kids into a white highschool. You needed 12,000 blacks to boycott a department store to get 3 of them jobs as cashiers. You needed to make a Federal Case to allow people to buy houses in certain neighborhoods. Today we are measuring racism's damages and remedies in tiny fractions of those efforts. Racist offenses simply doesn't resonate on a global, national or regional scale as they used to.

The most important implication of this is the thing that seems to bother some people the most - which is that more and more black Americans simply don't care or need to care about studying race under a microscope.

Cobb said...

Sorry, so what I mean to say in conclusion about race and *power* is that I think you will find that all that "power" is basically money. So I'd be interested to hear what the average African American would consider their own sell-out point. Phrase it this way:

Imagine that the 'White Racist Conspiracy' was selling lifetime immunity pins. If you wore this pin, it would be immediately recognizable to every true white supremacist (and they're everywhere!) and if they see it, they know that you will be immune and they will focus their oppressive efforts on some other hapless mudblood. How much would you pay?

Or conversely, knowing all of the racist crap you deal with in your life, how much of an increase in your annual salary would it take for you to slough it all off? How large do you have to live so that all that oppression doesn't bother you?

I put these questions in economic terms because that's really what goes on. People make economic decisions about the significance of race every day. Identifying whether or not individuals or society is racist is a moot point, the important point is how do people cope with the racism they do encounter, and how much of a burden is it on them? What would they pay for relief? That is the only margin that matters - because beyond that it's all academic.

Silky Soul Singer said...

Wait... what? All academic?

Awww sheeeit! Once again we have a white person telling us in no uncertain terms that the dehumanizing slings and arrows we deal with on an endlessly quotidian basis are meaningless... so why don't we stop complaining. Yeesh.

Thank you, oh Grand High Poobah, for reminding us that "more and more black Americans simply don't care or need to care about studying race".

I'll be sure to call up all my friends post-haste to let them know that from now on the only discussions I will countenance from them will involve the capacity of white folks to show us the love that our parents didn't.

Seriously though, this is the most fascinating thing about white people today. Despite not personally knowing any people of color (and on the rare occasion that they do, they can't see past the miasma of racism that blinds them), they feel quite comfortable in prescribing solutions to our "problems".

Or was that always the case, and I just never noticed?

Vesuvian Woman said...

Do you strive to end this pride/racism OR do you enjoy the chaos at it's core?

Oh Crap said...

Despite not personally knowing any people of color (and on the rare occasion that they do, they can't see past the miasma of racism that blinds them), they feel quite comfortable in prescribing solutions to our "problems".

Well Cobb is Black, but uses the same reductionist, money-hungry, vocabulary to lecture everyone else that white conservative amoral bigots might.

Thrasher said...

I am staying on the sidelines for this chatter..I have always hated these excercises created by white academia..

I am so tired of these types psychological architecture which requires our roles WTF ..

I do support the notion of Black folks deprogramming and cleansing ourselves from the pathogen of white racism but I want to be the designer of the antidote...

Silky Soul Singer said...

@Oh Crap.

He's Black? Huh... Now ain't that a mother!

Well then, let me submit a more thoughtful rejoinder.

If, as Cobb states — "more and more black Americans simply don't care or need to care about studying race" — it's because (as most Black people already know) racism is hard.

Smashing your head against the almost impenetrable barrier of fear and loathing that generally bars the way of those seeking to navigate their way to some semblance of equanimity in this life can (if you let it) wear you down.

It's no wonder then that many Blacks simply try to pretend that it doesn't exist.

Whether that takes the form of the Black conservative, declaring race to no longer be a significant issue in this country or the young black man who never attempts to challenge the (low) expectations set forth for him (choosing instead to squirm blindly in the toxic ghetto ooze), it's all the same.

Sherry said...

The teabagger movement and that of the religious right suggests to me that racism is alive and well in America and we need to keep naming it as such. The uber right now calls with regularity Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and others of their ilk, "racists" and players of the race card. The NAACP is regarded as racist as well. They bastardize MLK into someone who "wanted equality based on content of character, not color" and therefore he becomes a "good" guy, not one of "them." I agree wholeheartedly that by definition, African-Americans cannot be racist..its a contradiction in terms. White America will continue to get worse not better as their relative strength in the body politic dwindles. Thus their attacks on brown skins, and their outright hatred of Arabs regardless frankly of their faith.

chaunceydevega said...

@Vesuvian. Can you please clarify? I am all for turning on the lights and watching the roaches scatter so that I can kill them...but never stepping on them as you just spread the eggs all over the house.

@Silky Soul. Love the comparison. On point.

@Sherry. You didn't know that the NAACP and the SPLC were racist organizations? That to call out racism and inequality is itself racist? Where have you been these last few decades? Geez....

Cobb said...

William Julius Wilson, 1978

Thrasher said...

WJW is no CWest he writes now like his pen bends with the wind..

In DSR he negated the role of race Yet in his latest tome he now sings it's siren..

He is all over the map.. An old public intellectual stagent while the world and events pass him by and constructs surface while Wilson is nappin....

Plantsmantx said...

Do you strive to end this pride/racism OR do you enjoy the chaos at it's core

Yes, Silky Soul Singer, do you enjoy it? Don't you know that racism won't end unless and until black people stop complaining about it?

;)

Anonymous said...

I'm a white guy who may be wading into deeper waters than I should be, but: I was raised by a mother who spent years festering over a bitter divorce, in a house with 6 older sisters. The pervasive environment was anti-male. My mom still makes derogatory 'Well, you know men blah blah' statements all the time. At some point, looking in the mirror, I saw that I wasn't a little boy anymore, but becoming one of the 'enemies.' I either had to buy into the narrative and accept my innate lack of worth as a young man, or reject the narrative and find my self worth.

I believe that perhaps as a whole, this is part of what the 1960s were about for black Americans. No one had to make buttons saying "White is Wonderful" because that had been the message for centuries. "Black is Beautiful," on the other hand, needed to be said to counter centuries 'Well, you know black people blah blah'

To me, white prejudice stems from refusing to accept that you got a free ride by winning the birth lottery. My Asian-immigrant wife teaches at a 98% white small university in the Mid-West with almost no tenured women or minorities. I literally had her watch some "Leave it to Beaver" episodes to show her the fantasy world her colleagues want to live in, and why she needs to allow the precious little snowflakes get out of class to attend basketball pep rallies if she wants to get tenure.

There's an SUV on campus with a sticker, "Don't Spread my Wealth, Spread my Work Ethic" on it. White prejudice helps the driver believe in that message. The driver really thinks that he or she reached upper middle class through hard work on an even playing field. And that poor (read: minority) people just aren't working hard enough.

Akka said...

1, As a teacher and thus a professional who deals with my own racism, sexism, classism etc I must add that my job description states: treat all students as equals. It does NOT tell me, and this has been stressed over and over again, that I ought to view everyone as equal. That's a totally unrealistic objective (for the moment being at least) and on top of that impossible to evaluate.

Taking those tests was actually part of my studies. I came off as racist, sexist and heterophobic (and yes, I took pride in my third bias:)). Having come to terms with these things it is now very easy for me to evaluate my work. IAT tests are, in my experience, extremely useful for explaining oppression (even to white republicans) and taking concrete action against institutional racism.

2, Can black people be racist? Well, not in the same way as white people I'd say (if at all). There just simply isn't the same cultural backing for your beliefs/bias. To find racist black people we would probably have to look in a different context. What are, for example, the views of Ethiopian Jews in Israel on Palestinians?

People could probably also come across as less racist when meeting peoples they haven't even heard the name of. If a white American met the Sami here in Sweden he would probably consider us white, until a (Swedish) white guy starts explaining that we have "unfair" privileges and that our reservations are built on "stolen" land...

ps. English is not my native language so sorry if you do not get the points I'm making

Great blog by the way

Cobb said...

The very idea that people take their own race into account in relaying their definition of racism is complete proof of the failure of anti-racism.

Silky Soul Singer said...

@Cobb

Oh c'mon!! You can do better than that!

"The very idea that people take their own race into account in relaying their definition of racism is complete proof of the failure of anti-racism." sounds like the pedantic utterances of a 12 year old ("I know you are, but what am I?").

You may not agree with us, but at least show us the respect of making a cogent argument.

Here's one for you. James Baldwin wrote (addressing whites in "The Fire Next Time"): "When you stop thinking of me as Black, I'll stop thinking of you as White".

We may want to judged by the "content of our character", and seek to do the same for others. But for the long and tortured history of this country, that has been well nigh impossible. We are always seen as "the other" (along with the perceived negatives associated with that label) before any other judgement is made.

See, race in this country is the ultimate signifier, and whites (as well as some blacks) are loathe to give it up. All sorts of subtle and (not so subtle) messages are conveyed by referring to someone by their racial classification first and foremost.

We do it, because we have internalized that idea of "otherness" that has been thrust upon us. Blackness (or Black pride if you will) is the shield which protects us from the deleterious effects of living in a society that neither wants nor values us.

Only when our relationship with the larger society changes, will we find the wherewithal to shed that label and comfortably use the only one that should have any meaning for us as fully invested citizens of this country.

American.

Cobb said...

SSS. I promise that I will give you, this evening, a detailed response that I hope will leave your head spinning. But for the time being I want you to check out the site I built back in the days when I was a race man, and then consider what it might be that makes me not care any longer.

The Race Man's Home Companion
http://www.mdcbowen.org/p2/rm/

CNu said...

Dang....,

I hastened to the spot this morning to absorb the promised fiery wisdom of the Cobbian oeuvre, only to find....,

Thrasher said...

SSS,

Great Post..I often use Baldwin's edict when I confront whites and Black apologists like Cobb..

How can a Black person especially with Cobb's hue not be a 'race man'..WTF

Cobb said...

Oh c'mon!! You can do better than that!


SSS.
The problem is that I have done better than that, and I know that people still don't want to take my example. I don't think it's something that the average American is going to understand unless and until they have started talking with people from other countries.

"The very idea that people take their own race into account in relaying their definition of racism is complete proof of the failure of anti-racism." sounds like the pedantic utterances of a 12 year old ("I know you are, but what am I?").

No, it's actually the heart of the matter. It is the core meaning of self-determination. I want you to imagine that you yourself live by a standard under which other people's racial perception of you means nothing. Let me say that to you again. You live by a standard under which other people's racial perception of you means nothing. That's where I live. And I have been living there quite a while. I'm convinced that I'm pretty objective on the matter, because I've worked to be. That is the essence of self-determination.

So here's my challenge to you and to everyone when I talk about anti-racism. Can you imagine talking to people and holding everyone to the same standard? A standard with no creditor and no debtor race? If you can't, then I would say that you lack faith in the matter of self-determination. You give a fine example below.

You may not agree with us, but at least show us the respect of making a cogent argument.

Here's one for you. James Baldwin wrote (addressing whites in "The Fire Next Time"): "When you stop thinking of me as Black, I'll stop thinking of you as White".


That's Baldwin's mistake, and he's done better elsewhere. Do you see how that statement puts you at the mercy of how other people think of you? It is racial tit for tat.

Cobb said...

Part 2

We may want to judged by the "content of our character", and seek to do the same for others. But for the long and tortured history of this country, that has been well nigh impossible. We are always seen as "the other" (along with the perceived negatives associated with that label) before any other judgement is made.

Now that's an even worse dependency. In this example of failed self-determination, you blame history and then say 'we' are 'always' seen as this fixed 'other' thing.

See, race in this country is the ultimate signifier, and whites (as well as some blacks) are loathe to give it up. All sorts of subtle and (not so subtle) messages are conveyed by referring to someone by their racial classification first and foremost.

I am not loathe to give it up. In fact I have given it up. That's why people call me names. What black means to me was always cultural, because it was a set of ideas I had to grasp. And for about 12 years in my adult life, I kept coming to the end of various commmonalities with myself and the way 'people' define 'Black'. So I wrote a series of essays all entitled 'The End of My Blackness'. Just to give you an example. Some people consider it 'black' to have fear and distrust of police officers. That ended for me around 1993. There are several reasons that are boring and personal. The bottom line is that all I can say is that I grew up in a particular black neighborhood in a particular point in American history where most people I knew agreed that x,y and z were black. I had the good fortune to be exposed to some of the people who were responsible for that kind of black consciousness which gave me the understanding that it was a creation.

We do it, because we have internalized that idea of "otherness" that has been thrust upon us. Blackness (or Black pride if you will) is the shield which protects us from the deleterious effects of living in a society that neither wants nor values us.

Exactly correct. So how long do you live behind a reactive shield? How long do you bear the burden of experiencing life behind the mask? (Yeah that's a Lauren Hill reference). How long do you hide the nakedness of the self? (And that's a James Baldwin reference).

Only when our relationship with the larger society changes, will we find the wherewithal to shed that label and comfortably use the only one that should have any meaning for us as fully invested citizens of this country.

That is the perfect ironclad permanent denial of self, because it allows you to go hide behind black collective identity any time you decide to feel threatened. It's a permanent, cowardly excuse. I leave you with Nikki Giovanni from 1970. But before I do, understand the following: Free men are not white nor black. Your willingness to call people white for your 'self-defense' locks you into co-dependency. This is the bottom line weakness of blackness.

Revolutionary Dreams

i used to dream militant
dreams of taking
over america to show
these white folks how it should be
done
i used to dream radical dreams
of blowing everyone away with my perceptive powers
of correct analysis
i even used to think i'd be the one
to stop the riot and negotiate the peace
then i awoke and dug
that if i dreamed natural
dreams of being a natural
woman doing what a woman
does when she's natural
i would have a revolution

chaunceydevega said...

Cobb,

I appreciate your generosity in responding to everyone...which is why I have sort of watched this unfold. But, I have to ask. You wrote:

"You live by a standard under which other people's racial perception of you means nothing. That's where I live. And I have been living there quite a while. I'm convinced that I'm pretty objective on the matter, because I've worked to be. That is the essence of self-determination."

Do you really believe such nonsense? That sounds like something a snowflakey freshman would say, i.e. structures, attitudes, and how I am embedded in society relative to others has nothing to do with my life chances or direction or opportunity. So, next time a loan officer charges you higher interest because you not white you can recite that mantra, or a cop stops you because he/she has made a judgement that you, because of your color don't belong in this neighborhood, or a judge hands you a harsher sentence because of your race, or your kids who society sees as black despite whatever utopian dreams pops has filled their heads with are marked down by a teacher or targeted as being "disruptive," you can fall back on your vision.

You are smarter than that Cobb. Right? Or maybe you have amassed so much material capital that you have deluded yourself into believing the world sees you as green and not black, or they know of your conservative bonafides so you get goodies the rest of us can't imagine. Is so, where do I sign up?

Cobb said...

I really believe such nonsense in the same way you ignore a minister who asks you to thank Jesus for waking you up this morning. After several thousand mornings, you figure that you woke your own damned self up.

You gave some pretty class-bound examples. I, for example, have not been pulled over by a cop in about 7 years. When I was, it was because I was a 'bank robbery suspect', and in fact I was unemployed at the time. I wrote about it, and my thoughts

http://cobb.typepad.com/cobb/2009/07/he-looked-just-like-you-redux.html

And if you asked me about my reactions to the events that precipitated Obama's 'Beer Summit' with the Cambridge cop and Skip Gates, they're pretty much consistent. I'm closer to Skip than I am to the average Joe with no connections and I don't pretend otherwise. I'm not going to 'get black' like OJ.

So much of the race-talk (which is one reason I gave it up) presumes so much about the powerlessness of black Americans to maintain middle class status, it just skews too many perspectives. Race carries too many burdens and it oversimplifies African American diversity. It's always, always, always reductionist and reactionary.

And here's the thing. The fake race man, always abhors solutions. And what I never quite understood, but learned the hard way, is that if I present myself as a black man for whom all these racial problems have been solved (as I have for myself), then the fake race man scrambles to find another reason why I am a race traitor. Which is what you're taunting me with, snowflake.

But sometimes, it IS so simple that a freshman can solve it.

So the sad part is that race is still talked about in a socio-economic way instead of in a philosophical or psychological way. This is because of politics. We could talk about that...

chaunceydevega said...

I meant snowflake as in the variety of college student who thinks they are an island onto themselves and so unique and special that anything they read which they disagree with can be discarded. In this context, that label may be more biting than calling you an uncle tom or racial apologist for white people...which i did not.

Denial of reality is not reality Cobb. Moreover, all those examples are common and well documented to the point of being exhausted facts regarding how race in subtle and gross ways impacts life chances. So either 1) you deny the facts and pretend the reality based community is just not that, i.e. grounded in the real world and you float ephemerally above it or 2) you concede those truths, but qualify and explain how those data points impact the life chances for those other black and brown people, but not for Cobb because he has a special pass. Which again, would prove many of my hypotheses about the lack of linked fate to the black community felt by black conservatives and why I say they should be thrown onto the dust pile of history as the race traitors they are.

Cobb said...

Let be a little more direct and clear with an example outside of the box.

If you are Muslim, then your interpretation of the Koran leads you to great wisdom and insight and changes the way you decide to deal with human beings.

Malcolm X was two kinds of Muslim, one of whom saw all white people as devils, one of whom refused to see them as white. 'White' people didn't change, Malcolm changed. He finally understood that the way he was to think about other people should be inspired by a singular principle, not in reaction to how he knew or imagined they thought about him.

It's a very simple concept.

Cobb said...

Let's ignore the material world for a moment. What does the very presence of white people in America do to me when I am in Africa?

SSS nailed it by describing the internalization of a white normalized something. I call it 'a little white man in your head'. If you get rid of the little white man in your head, then you're better off, whether or not you are rich, poor, sick, healthy, in a jacuzzi or in jail. The point of 'black' mental liberation is to be free of dual consciousness. But it's not liberation if you trade a little white man for a little black man.

If being called a race traitor could ever hurt me, then I wouldn't be free of the reductions of race. That was Ellison's lesson. I learned it.

chaunceydevega said...

So again, you disregard the facts to live in your fantasy. That is the rub here, and your last comment fleshes it out even more. You think the rest of us--those crazy black and brown people who acknowledge and understand the realities of white supremacy are somehow damaged or crippled. I would propose that those folks who see the world for what it is are free and liberated. I would rather know and understand the terrain on which I am positioned so I can navigate it successfully.

Black conservatives imagine that they in turn are somehow free because they choose to deny reality and "transcend it." Or alternatively that they are "special" or "enlightened."

I think the irony here is that you conflate being crippled by white supremacy, i.e. the straw man that you create to embody the rest of folks who don't have "Cobb Vision" with seeing the world and living happily with eyes open.

Moreover, and this is really rich, it is black folks in denial of reality who are actually seeing themselves through the White gaze. Whiteness wants you to internalize some colorblind fiction as it serves the interests of power and the status quo.

Cobb said...

I say nothing of the sort, but your need to indict me along with some dysfunctional cohort of 'black conservatives' is bringing on a host of associations you make in error.

I would guess, and I can only guess, that you object along the lines of SSS that greater fractions of black Americans find race matters largely immaterial to their lives. And I suspect that you find some haughtiness in my assertions, rhetorically made, about hiding behind a shield of blackness. But the basic fact is that you dislike the idea that some fraction of African Americans, call them 'black conservatives' if you will, are divorced from race man's work.

I certainly don't begrudge that you dislike the idea. Divorce is painful, and the black cultural nationalist mental liberation family is never going to be what it once was. But it is what it is. We are different folks, and in here might be a good joke on the analogy of piston dimensions of bore and stroke.

I'm writing on my blog of dissonance at the moment but would be interested to see if this conversation goes somewhere besides to my personality which I worry gets in the way, since I am such a stereotypically convenient target, given my history.

I, at least, started talking about the links between implicit associations and institutional racism, and last week I was trying to establish some connections between tribalism and representative government. I think Nulan's premise is interesting with regards to his theories about social collapse in America leading to race war, among other things. Do you think that if American central authority, such as it is, breaks down that today's race men could become effective leaders of the 'tribe' of black Americans?

I think that the answer is categorically not, that the fiction of race is far too tenuous to organize black Americans in any significant way, and that if Rand Paul became the American Kadafi that the French wouldn't know which black person in America to establish talks with as the country teeters on the brink of civil war.

So try this one for size. What is the capitol of black America and in what city would 'we' all go, if the National Guard turned against us? Selma? Birmingham? Baton Rouge? Compton? DC?

The answer, my friends...

chaunceydevega said...

As always I appreciate your earnestness.

But Cobb, this is all about psychology. When someone announces that the social forces which order our world, and the institutions which govern it--what some would call power--do not impact them, they are sorry to be blunt, delusional. There is no other word for it.

Now, you can qualify it as offer how you transcend, counter, fight back negotiate or the like. But, when a person suggests that the social order has nothing to do with them--even when they are marked, categorized, and coloured by it--they are displaying a pathological level of individualism run amok.

I am not expecting anyone to be a race man. All I expect is that people confront the basic facts of the world.

Cobb said...

Well, my basic facts are that I have family in Italy. If needs be, I can move. I have family with ties in West Africa. I have family in Rio. I have family in NY, FL, MD, SD, DC, RI, WI and LA. I get job offers every week in the open market - to the point at which they are annoying. Psychologically, I am like X in Mecca, like Baldwin in France, like Nikki Giovanni after her Revolutionary Dreams, like Muhammad Ali standing over Sonny Liston.

The social forces that order our world are going to have to speak French and Italian and English and chase me all around. Today I'm living at the beach. Oh snap. Plus my daughter and I study Chinese too. Damn.

Is it only ok if I call it Black Pride when I give the finger to the 'social forces that order our world'? Because I don't. All that belongs to my family.

chaunceydevega said...

And God forbid someone doesn't acknowledge your privilege and treats you like a plain old negro who isn't part of his own imagined Afrotocracy. That moment will really hurt.

Or as my uncle said about our resident family exceptional negro--every kin group has at least one--he will find out how special his black behind is when the cops have him face down on the sidewalk.

Cobb said...

But it won't. You just don't understand that I am ready to die. I'm living my life right and I've already done what I was put on earth to do, and I'm completely happy with that.

Race chasers have been inventing apocalypses for me all my life. You simply cannot stand the fact that I stand. You cannot wait to see me put in my place because you cannot respect my independence. You have a pathological need to see me humiliated and for my entire world to come crashing down to the terms and conditions of your racial interpretation of the the way the world works.

That's exactly why you have a hard time convincing people that YOU are not racist. I have just tasted your death curse, wizard, and I fart in your general direction.

Silky Soul Singer said...

@ Thrasher.

Thanks. Glad you knew of the Baldwin quote. I wish more people did. And re: Cobb... We are all race men (and women), whether he acknowledges it or not.

@ Chauncey.

Thank you for taking up the discussion. Not that Cobb can hear you, but your arguments (as usual) are well thought out and persuasive (Actually, you've stolen my thunder! What else is there for me to say? This is what I get for hanging around intelligent black folk.).

@ Cobb

First off, thank you brother for taking the time to respond and for referring me to your old site. After perusing it, I do have an idea about why you no longer purport to care about race issues. But its not what you suggest. However, if this thread continues, I'll address it later.

As I wrote above, Chauncey's really covered all the bases, and I don't wish to be redundant. However, I did find this interesting...

"And here's the thing. The fake race man, always abhors solutions."

But... what you claim to be a solution isn't one at all.

Bizarrely, you started out by proving my point. I wrote: "Smashing your head against the almost impenetrable barrier of fear and loathing that generally bars the way of those seeking to navigate their way to some semblance of equanimity in this life can (if you let it) wear you down.

It's no wonder then that many Blacks simply try to pretend that it doesn't exist.

Whether that takes the form of the Black conservative, declaring race to no longer be a significant issue in this country or the young black man who never attempts to challenge the (low) expectations set forth for him (choosing instead to squirm blindly in the toxic ghetto ooze), it's all the same."

You responded with: "I want you to imagine that you yourself live by a standard under which other people's racial perception of you means nothing. Let me say that to you again. You live by a standard under which other people's racial perception of you means nothing. That's where I live. And I have been living there quite a while. I'm convinced that I'm pretty objective on the matter, because I've worked to be."

See, that sounds good in theory ("I am above race, therefore race can no longer define or be used to harm me"), but fails miserably when applied to virtually any real world situation.

Let me offer an example...

In 2003, after first calling to confirm, I walked into a real estate brokers office (populated only by whites) with a classified ad in hand, seeking to view a condo that they had listed for sale (please note that I had just left work and so was attired in suit and tie - not that my choice of clothing should have mattered, but we are talking about how people are perceived externally) on the upper west side of Manhattan. When I inquired about said condo, I was told (with a straight face), that they were not representing any sellers and hadn't listed any condos.

Incredulous, I stated that we'd just spoken on the phone not an hour before and they'd asked me to come in for a viewing. I was told once again that they had no condos for sale, and that if I had no other business I should take my leave of the premises.

The next day, I had an Asian friend go to the office and ask to be shown the condo. Of course, he was taken to see it.

My material worth had no effect on how I was perceived by that group of people. The expensive suit, watch and shoes I was wearing... utterly meaningless. The only thing that mattered was the sense of "otherness" that they gleaned solely from the color of my skin.

Now, please explain to me how adopting the "colorblind" mindset you suggest would have altered anything about that situation. Or how my discernment of it as a potentially harmful (to both my mental and emotional health) experience should change.

Cobb said...

SSS. There's a subtle but critical difference between saying you are 'above' or 'transcendent' of race and saying that you don't allow other peoples' racial thinking affect how you deal with them or how you deal with yourself. I think if you recognize that difference, you can see where I'm coming from.

If you're a cop, you walk the street without fear. It's not because you don't think there is violent crime out there, but that you don't let the existence of violent crime color your judgment. That takes training and confidence. But you banish the fear from your head. Does a cop say 'I have transcended crime?'. Does a Christian say 'I have transcended sin'? No they say that they have a solution. And so it is the difference between a snowflake civilian getting out of their car in a dangerous neighborhood, locking their doors, rolling up their windows, putting on their alarms, and tiptoeing around, and a cop in the same situation. The cop is tougher.

The fake race man says that the black masses cannot get tougher without united racial leadership and acceptance of a set of unquestionable 'realities'. That's BS. And I hear that BS all of the time.
--
Your 2003 real estate example is of a class I call 'peasant problems'. With no disrespect, I would seek to get some economic quantification of that.. which is the sort of work I thought that Roland Fryer was doing, except he went downscale and started talking about highschool kids.

I acknowledge the thing you're saying here with the caveat that it is, under any sort of circumstance, a petit bourgeios inconvenience. It doesn't rise to the level of something of any political significance. You could just as easily befriended a 'black conservative', got the property and then given us a hard currency figure of the benefit of that kind of racial sellout. Or you could have put your Asian friend's name on the deed and worked out a legal arrangement to put the property in trust.. blah blah. Bottom line is you can express that kind of thing in dollars and cents, provided that they psychological damage of not having a condo on the upper west side of Manhattan is not devastating to your ability to function.

BTW. This is exactly where I expect that Black Pride is supposed to insulate you. But you give it as the example of a problematic cost. It's one of the same reasons I'm a pain in the ass to activists for the cause of Gay Marriage. If being Gay is so great, why do you care about integration? If being Black is so great, why do you care about integration? The bottom line in both cases is that it isn't so great and you are psychologically motivated to make mutually beneficial inroads - to get in where you fit in. And the cost for that is different for all kinds of different people with different skills and abilities.

Be all that as it may, again I say that it doesn't aggregate to a national problem that can be adjudicated. The price of racism is ever changing in the open market of how people deal with each other, and the solution is as it always was and the hallmark quote of my life at this point.

"There are two ways to have freedom. You can be rich, or you can reduce your needs to zero. "

The smart man tries both at the same time. I want to be strong enough to handle any price that racism exacts upon me, and I want to have zero investment in whatever race offers so that I need don't care one way or another.

The peasant problem is that they always look to being rich. And the problem with the arguments against my strategy assumes that I am a peasant / 'black conservatives' are amassing racial capital. I am not amassing racial capital. I have reduced my needs to zero. So the Race Man's Home Companion was my capital investment, and I built up a race-neutral approach to anti-racism. I saw the light at the top of the mountain and waited around for company. Got bored, climbed down the other side and said 'whatever'.

Silky Soul Singer said...

Cobb.

"If you're a cop, you walk the street without fear. It's not because you don't think there is violent crime out there, but that you don't let the existence of violent crime color your judgment."

Alright, now you're just having some fun. You can't possibly believe that.

To wit: Your example of the policeman is absolutely the wrong one (you really should have gone in another direction). If a police officer walks the street with no fear, then why do we have a long and well documented history of questionable shooting incidents (by the police) in this country.

Since you're no longer interested in this sort of thing, you probably are not aware that in testimony to investigators police officers routinely cite fear (of being harmed) as the primary reason for the discharge of their weapons. And this fear generally only manifests itself in communities of color.

In fact, there is a saying that they still use at the police academy in NYC. "Better to be judged by twelve than to be carried by six." In other words, shoot first and worry about the consequences later (or more literally, better to be judged by a jury than to be carried in a casket).

If by saying that the cop on the beat feels no fear because he has a "solution", you must obviously mean the reckless disregard for the lives of the minority citizenry in the community in which he works.

Now... on to my "peasant problem".

"I acknowledge the thing you're saying here with the caveat that it is, under any sort of circumstance, a petit bourgeios inconvenience. It doesn't rise to the level of something of any political significance."

You're right, there are any number of solutions I could have come up with to circumvent the naked prejudice I was confronted with. But the real question is: Why should I have to?

Again, I am a fully vested citizen of this country. The right to be treated as such, which you would so easily have me surrender, were won only after a hard-fought, century long battle of which you are well aware. I won't insult you by rehashing it here.

However, the idea of my being treated differently than any other American because of the color of my skin having no political significance is patently absurd ("Sauce for the goose" is the saying that applies here. Although you're trying to deny it, you are as much an adherent to reciprocity as we all are.).

Is your argument really that, when my inalienable rights are denied me, I should blind myself to that reality and proceed with a somnambulant mindset designed only to protect my ego?

How is that more honest than the identity politics (which you deride as a false choice), that we are forced to engage in?

BTW, "Black Pride" doesn't protect me from racism. It does (for many), however, mitigate it's harmful consequences.

Silky Soul Singer said...

Chauncey,

This is just bookkeeping, but why can Cobb see my previous comment yet I am unable to?

Glitch with the comment system?

Gremlins perhaps!

Cobb said...

No my analogy about cops is perfectly appropriate. Then again, I'm one of those rare people related to a cop who has the privilege of getting to know what it's like firsthand.
I know what it's like to be a 'righteous black man' who fights crime in the 'hood on a daily basis. I get to talk to the man who does it. It just happens to be another one of those 'impossibilities' racial reasoning cannot accept: a black LAPD officer.

chaunceydevega said...

@Cobb. I do love you. So entertaining. For the record I am more Ghost Dog meets a Jedi consular but that is another matter, thus your death curse--nice Dresden reference--doesn't work in my part of town. Feel the force choke son.

You wrote, "You have a pathological need to see me humiliated and for my entire world to come crashing down to the terms and conditions of your racial interpretation of the the way the world works.

That's exactly why you have a hard time convincing people that YOU are not racist. I have just tasted your death curse, wizard, and I fart in your general direction."

Cobb are you that self-important and narcissistic. Please I hope not. But again, that gets to the I am special negro condition that is a common affliction with black conservatives.

On the cop deal. You wrote: Then again, I'm one of those rare people related to a cop who has the privilege of getting to know what it's like firsthand.
I know what it's like to be a 'righteous black man' who fights crime in the 'hood on a daily basis. I get to talk to the man who does it. It just happens to be another one of those 'impossibilities' racial reasoning cannot accept: a black LAPD officer.

I am laughing right now. Are you that deep in your racial Stockholm syndrome. Or is it a family trait given your brother's profession?

Henry Gates would have a field day with your genealogy, and then he could do a psychohistory that would uncover so much.

There were black overseers and drivers Cobb. There were Jews who profited from the death camps. My point, one can be of the tribe and yet be part of institutional forces that are racist.

You need to take the shoot/no shoot test online, and do some actually reading beyond the data set of 1 being your brother, about just how racially colored law enforcement is in this country. Please do us all that favor. Or at least do it for your kids and particularly your sons for as young black men they need to have some extra armor on and life skills to deal with the b.s. we get from the cops if we want to come out alive.

You know I am hard on criminals and ignt's whatever their color, but one can be law and order and still acknowledge the racist origins of law enforcement policies towards black people--how slave patrols became police forces; work gangs in the south; disparate sentencing (and shootings) in the present. etc. etc. etc. etc.

chaunceydevega said...

@Silky. I don't know. Be nice to Cobb. He is fragile and please don't expect him to reconcile the facts with his version of reality as you know this racism stuff is all your fault. If you didn't complain none of this would matter. Be a good negress and be happy that you have the opportunities you do in America. We are an exceptional nation after all.

Cobb said...

my argument SSS is that at some point you have to secure and defend your own damn inalienable rights as a Free man and do what you must to forge a sacred trust with others to do the same. the peasant problem is that that become abstracted and people take symbols for the real thing.

Cobb said...

cd you never followed up on my Dresden piece. that hurts more than a chokehold. and I would say that the Lapd history of racism has to be shorter than that associated with any institution in Chicago. and don't forget Shockly's racist semiconductors in the computer you are using. Absurdum bro, absurdum. more later when I'm not mobile .

Cobb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chaunceydevega said...

You are right. I was traveling and forget the Dresden piece. I just got the new book and will report.

best.

see ghetto nerdness transcends political differences.

CNu said...

The fake race man says that the black masses cannot get tougher without united racial leadership and acceptance of a set of unquestionable 'realities'. That's BS. And I hear that BS all of the time.

my argument SSS is that at some point you have to secure and defend your own damn inalienable rights as a Free man and do what you must to forge a sacred trust with others to do the same.


The reality-based Black partisan says; "fuck all-a-dat "united racial leadership" and "unquestionable realities" malarky" (cept of course for the realities of peak natural resources and energy and killer-ape ethology - them jawns is absolutely unquestionable)

and gets on with the concrete and solutions oriented activity of working with other Black partisan folk on specific discrete projects aimed at securing and defending our self-determined inalienables against any and all competing killer-ape collectives.

Simple.

(p.s., though he started on CP time, Cobb brought the fiery and held his own quite admirably against the afrodemic crew arrayed against his Roarkian oeuvre)

though it must be noted that Oh Crap hasn't climbed down from Wu Dan mountain yet to display her singular stylings, so it may be premature to declare undisputed victory...,

Cobb said...

SSS I 'dont care' about race issues because I've exhausted the scope of the dialog. I don't hear anything new that's not babble, but most importantly I don't see any political movement towards a reasonable anti-racist consensus. And quite frankly I'm tired of the BS. There are, as Nulan says, much larger forces out there.

Nobody in America is dying because of race. And when I mean nobody, I mean if I burn a Koran in Alabama you can pretty much guarantee that somebody is going to die over in Aghanistan. I don't give Terry Jones (who really needs a good insulting sobriquet from me) any credit for being prescient; it's obvious that this matters. But if I burn a cross in Alabama nobody is going to die. American race relations is at the 3:00 news level. Hell, watching an episode of Campus PD is more interesting.

What you will not find on the internet is any comprehensive black watchdog group that counts the number of black Americans shot by white cops. Hell, I bet dollars to donuts that the almighty CD himself couldn't write a grant proposal for that and get funded. Nobody cares even *that* much. So why should I? Why should you?

When MLK walked the earth, there were only 22 million Negroes and the majority of them were poor. Now that Obama is president, there are 40 million African Americans and the majority of them are middle class. All of their problems are beneath my radar. Race is not a compelling subject, but do let me know when people die. I still have some morbid curiosity.

Thrasher said...

Cobb is an intellectual coward who censors and bans posts and comments that defeat his backward themes and constructs..

I have dominated Cobbon his won site for the past year in part becuase I can and in part because I had not experienced this level of Black self hate and low self esteem from a brillant Black person..

Of course at the end of the day even one's genius cannot repair the wounds of self hate and low self esteem Cobb hides it well but not from OG's like me..

I will miss observing him lost it when I am on his site..Observing him come unglued was I will admit amusing and giddy...Just sayin