Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Personal Rant: On Hate

"But I will tell you that, without any question, the most bitter anti-white diatribes that I have ever heard have come from "passing" Negroes, living as whites, among whites, exposed every day to what white people say among themselves regarding Negroes -- things that a recognized Negro never would hear." -Malcolm X

Welcome to my world. My previous two posts are videos highlighting the sick, sad, and residual racism still embedded in this country. Many will dismiss them as non-representative of our country (or white people generally) and that people who think this way live on the margins of society.


Sentiments such as those exposed in the clips are indeed still very much a part of American culture. They are the sort of ideas which lead many blacks in America--not to endorse but-- to sympathize with Rev. Jeremiah Wright when he screams "God Damn America!" The people interviewed are exemplars of why, contrary to widely-held belief, racism continues to be a pervasive societal ill that should be addressed for what it is, instead of treating it as some sort of antiquated idea that has been relegated to the fringe of the collective American mind.

I know it exists, because I've heard it. From fellow classmates back in grade school, to employees and patrons at bars and restaurants I worked at or frequented as an adult--I've heard it all. From innocuous ignorant comments about athletic ability to jokes about hunting black people like animals--I've heard more racist tripe than I care to remember.

I am that "passing Negro."

And I have done my best not to become too bitter over the aggregated dehumanizing jokes, slurs, and insults that I have heard and witnessed over the course of my life. But when I see videos that show a man selling t-shirts with a picture of a monkey on it to represent United States Senator Barack Obama's run at the presidency--and that he sold out of them--I am filled with such contempt that it is all I can muster not to write an "anti-white diatribe."

But I will say this: I HATE.

I hate that man for what he did. I hate all the people who make excuses for him and his putrid ilk. I hate the fact that the free speech that I cherish and literally work to protect is used by backwater trash like him to degrade a black man--and by logical extension, all black people.

And I hate that most of the people who'll read this just won't "get it."

Some will undoubtedly say to me "If you let it get to you, he's won. Don't give him that pleasure." But life is not a game-- and there is no doubt that he and his despicable kind are losers. But more to the point, black people have been taking crap like this for years...and it wears on us.

It wears because, to most people, being seriously considered less-than-human is unimaginable to the point that such a suggestion is laughable--but it isn't for us. There is an entire lexicon of sub-human pejoratives for black people that simply don't exist for other people. (There are racist terms for everyone, sure, but the sheer number of debasing terms is unmatched among the other races in the American context.) Caricatures of asinine minstrels and violent, raping savages permeated the entertainment culture for years (e.g., the film "classic" Birth of a Nation, Hattie McDaniel's disturbing performance in Gone with the Wind, Al Jolson and Bugs Bunny in black face, the Mammy housekeeper on Tom & Jerry, etc.). Even now that our full humanity has been granted by law and in the minds of most Americans, we're still not quite as good as white, now are we?

No, we're physically gifted; we have an animalistic sexual prowess; we're less intelligent; we're violent and very possibly criminal. This was and is our stereotype-- and everybody knows this.

And I HATE that.


Alan Laing said...

Before you tarnish the name of Al Jolson you should maybe read about what he did to fight racism and how he stood up for the rights of blacks in America and was seen as a hero by the black community

JPB said...


I never said anything as to the character of Jolson (or Ms. McDaniel, for that matter). I was pointing out that blackface, as a caricature, is an unfortunate disgrace on the history of American entertainment.

There were black performers who also performed in blackface--and made money by doing minstrel shows that played on demeaning stereotypes. (one could argue that minstrel shows still exist, but that's a post for another time.)

I wrote this post when I was very emotional and I admit that I wasn't as careful as I usually am when I write something on such a sensitive subject. That said, I never wrote anything to impugn him or his work with blacks or his role in the fight for equality.

That he remains so famous for something that causes many of us pain is, I think, regrettable, given his undoubted talent and apparent generosity as a human being. Blackface was my target, not Jolson himself.