Or has the idea of the politics of black respectability been subsumed by a larger discourse on black pathology and the persistent social "problem" that is the ghetto underclass?
When WARN first began there was some good back and forth on the concept of race pride and black respectability. In fact, working through those questions was the impetus for this project and has, to varying degrees, been the meta-narrative which drives my engagement with questions of race, class, politics, and culture. I fly the flag for black respectability when I take on ign'ts and degenerate street culture. I stand up for negro respectability when I call out the old/new racially driven and infused attacks on President Obama that in many cases are a function of a White imagination in which African Americans are never to be given their due or just acknowledgement for successes outside of either a basketball court or music studio.
Although there are millions of ways to be black, and thus my care to avoid race essentialism, race men and race women still have a role to play as we do the intellectual work of truth tellers and serve as honest critics and referees who are not afraid to call out b.s. whenever, and from wherever, they encounter it.
The NY Times archive is a real gem. Of course, the "giant negroes" stories are great. But, today I have been searching for the phrase "respectable negroes." The results are rich, a real potpourri of (living) social history.
For example, the story with the "Miss Negro Slayer..." in the headline confused me as I thought that said person was a superhero or supervillain who either slays negroes or is a negro who slays the innocent.
These matter of fact stories about ethnic cleansing, wanton violence, and lynchings are unsettling reminders of this country's history and how cheap the lives of black folks were and still are. This piece is especially fascinating both for how it describes the preamble to the violence and the distinction made between "good" blacks and "bad niggers."
And sadly, some of the Times' archived stories are reminders of how far we have yet to go as the conversations about black political economy which took place in the 19th and early 20th centuries are eerily similar to those that are still occurring in through the 21st.
In the midst of stories that are not so uplifting, there are great finds such as this piece on the wealthy negro citizens of New York. The idea of black progress and black success was novel to many white folks in the 19th century...ironically the idea of black accomplishment and wealth remains novel to so many of them--and to no small number of African Americans--in the present.
Here is a choice passage:
You can almost feel this brother smiling across time:
He doesn't need the assistance of white men to run it.
How many black folks can say such a thing today?
More troubling, in the Age of Obama, since the invention of the race card, and the birth of colorblind white racism, such a proud and respectable sentiment would probably be called "racist" by a generation drunk on the lie of false equivalence and Conservative multicultural dreaming.
Sigh and exhale.