Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cool Blog Alert: We Are Respectable Negroes

Second alert; first review, actually. This is a wonderfully erudite and important blog that concerns itself mostly with race relations in America. Sometimes the focus is historical; other posts discuss the current situation, the facts-on-the-ground as we speak. I would say that it is critical reading for Americans in general, and I can tell you that it is very entertaining if, like me, you find the inter-racial aspect of our culture fascinating.

Regular readers know where I stand on Black/White relations, and I won’t go back over that here.

The blog writer is a professor (Sociology?) at an American university, East Coast I think. He teaches classes that feature a large measure of race relations (probably in addition to the usual survey courses). From the writing, it is clear that he is highly intelligent at least, there’s a good chance that he skirts the line of brilliance. He maintains a down-to-earth character in his writing for the site, and he is never preachy. His point of view regarding race relations in America is clear, but it is always tempered by a measure of academic detachment and he never stoops to ad hominum attacks. He sounds like a nice guy; I address him in my comments as Professor.

You can really learn things from the Professor. In a post about “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell,” he made a great point about the historical experience of other excluded groups with military service, including but not limited to Black Americans. Military service, don’t you see, is an accepted pathway to a group being fully accepted as citizens. Denying homosexuals the right to serve was (is?) a way to keep them marginalized. Never thought of it that way, Professor, thanks for that.

Any inter-racial discussion, and especially one that concern the racial issue itself, can be problematic. We on the different sides of it see the issue through different filters. Some of them innocently, because of our differing racial identities and experiences; some culpably, either by choice, accident, or default. This can severely complicate communication, even between individuals who agree on the general outlines of a thing.

The comments on the site are very lively. One thing that becomes obvious is that you can find a racial component in any controversy at all, it’s easy in fact. Whether they are real or imagined is another story. I’ll try to keep my personal experience out of it, that’s a whole other post, but indulge me in one personal example. When I was young and beautiful, I belonged to a big gym in Los Angeles. I enjoyed swimming in the pool. One day a group of youngish Black guys were at the pool. They were very loud, boisterous even, and they casually violated the “no diving” policy, organizing races among themselves. They were disruptive. I admit that my first reaction was: they can hardly fucking swim, they need to have races? My first reaction was: this is a Black thing. I quickly realized, however, that they were athletes of some kind. These guys were in great shape, nothing that can be casually achieved, they were on some kind of team together. So it was an Athlete thing, really, a similarly acquainted White crew would have behaved the same. The racial component was illusory. This happens a lot, to people on either side of the issue.

That communications thing can be tough. As a younger man I was very free in my expression, and I got into trouble all the time talking to my Black friends and acquaintances, and yes I had both. Too often the races approach each other with apparent friendliness but with a threshold issue foremost in mind. This can variously be, “is this a ‘safe’ Black man?” or “is this a White Devil?” There were times when I was cast too quickly onto the White Devil pile. I never felt like I belonged there, but it’s never my call, is it? Leave the balls and strikes to the umpire, I always say.

The Professor takes a very generous view of these things, he seems to be a most forgiving man. A man with a mission, it seems. Not a mission to find fault, or to vent anger, but to provide a forum for discussion of an issue of major importance to us all, Black/White relations in America. It’s a lot of work, and he does it very well. I have a lot of respect for the man, and I appreciate his efforts.

I believe that it is a family issue in America, unlike similar issues anywhere else. Black Americans are not an immigrant group, not some well-focused tribe of recent arrivals. They alone do not know their own history, beyond “African” and “American.” They did not become Americans by choice, but they are the most American element in our racial-cultural tapestry. Germany, England and Ireland are full of people almost exactly like me, but American Blacks are unique in all the world. They are unique, and wonderful, and they are ours. There are people who need to better understand this fact, and I would hope that the Professor's blog is helping them.

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