Friday, June 15, 2012
Black Youth Mob Violence (continued): Existential Dilemmas of Blackness and "Niggerization"
We are having a spirited conversation about the media's framing of black youth mob violence, and the challenges surrounding the politics of black respectability.Worried at first, I am glad that we broached the subject.
One of our commentors argued that many concerns about black youth mob violence are misplaced, and that to engage in a project of critical self-reflection on these matters is somehow unfair to the African American community, generally, and to young black people, in particular.
In what is a common rhetorical move, it was suggested that a critical discourse about black youth mob violence is 1) somehow elitist and 2) only those black and brown folks who have "street credentials" are legitimate voices on these matters.
My response was a simple one. How is it elitist (or its more common cousin "boogie") to believe that black people have a right, like any other members of American society, to be safe, secure, and free in our homes, communities, and persons? In reflecting on this exchange, I would like to develop my thesis just a bit more.
One of the existential dilemmas faced by black people (and other marginalized communities) in America is that white supremacy as law, social custom, practice, and culture was predicated on denying us safety and security. Man or woman, child or adult, black people have historically been subject to arbitrary, capricious, organized, personal, as well as state sponsored, white violence.
Tragically, some black folks have taken this existential condition of "niggerization" and internalized it. This state of insecurity has been made synonymous with black authenticity. In all, the quite literal material, cultural, and social work done by white supremacy to enforce a racial hierarchy, is now taken by some blacks as being foundational for our culture and humanity.
Niggerization should be transcended. It should not be surrendered to. Niggerization should not be wallowed in. It should avoided. There is nothing authentically black about niggerization.
As Americans we have basic rights that must be protected. As citizens we have basic freedoms and responsibilities. That some have taken these rights and liberties as contingent, and proceed from a negative view where our existence is a condition in which these rights are a priori denied to black Americans, is problematic in more ways than I can illuminate here. Moreover, that the voices demanding accountability, and who dare to call attention to both the responsibilities and burdens of good citizenship are framed as "elitist" speaks to a deadly type of internalized white racism.
Consider an example. What if white people were subject to the same disadvantageous structures of power and resources in America, and some of these citizens dared to call attention to it? Furthermore, what if one of their chief complaints was that a small subset of the white population were operating as brigands, highwaymen, and thugs, and that something must be done about it? Would the rebuttal be that white people should get over such things and just learn to deal with it? That these same white folks should not take it for granted that their personal right to safety and security is non-negotiable?
I think we know the answer.
Why then are there some black and brown folks who are willing to accept just that state of being for their own communities? That African-American citizenship involves a necessary deficit of rights and liberties...and that we should just get used to it?