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Racism As A Modern Construct

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I swear that trying to deconstruct this thing called race and its evil offspring, racism, I'm getting a royal headache. You see I'm Black (was born in the West Indies a misnamed and mischristened moniker by a man whose sense of direction left very much to be desired).   More correctly I was born in the Caribbean (I hate the term West Indies) that is located in the East -- not the West. Christopher Columbus sure got his marbles mixed up. And the pot pouri of racial shades and colors always struck me as just part of a beautiful rainbow (I'm borrowing from Nelson Mandela somewhat) or mosaic that demonstrated nature's formative human art. But here in the enlightened United States there is a rejection of this mosaic in favor of simply creating three broad categories of races and people.

There are whites, there are Blacks and there are "others." It's that simple. Whites have all the privileges and many consider themselves superior to Blacks and the "others." The "others" are racial and ethnic "minorities" (a demeaning and dehumanizing characterization) that exist in a state of peoplelessness making it convenient for the dominant (white) race to exploit and treat as less than human. So over the years Blacks who became educated and joined the Middle Class have tended to "don't see color" when it came to coming to terms with their Blackness. In their minds if they did not see color then race did not matter.

The problem with that kind of reasoning is that the rest of society definitely sees Black and race. Pretending that they don't exist is, well, plain stupid. But there is yet another part of this continuum. And it's that in today's Black pants sagging, foul mouthing, weed-smoking culture of   "bitches and hos" success by Black males and females is seen through the jaundiced, high-on-cannabis eyes of "the hood" as selling out (to whom is never articulated). So success in corporate America, becoming educated and striving to climb the ladder of social mobility is equated with not being Black.

Correspondingly, being Black is to behave ghetto, be foul-mouthed, humiliate and insult Black women and being poor and illiterate. By equating Black women (and men) with the female of the canine species (a characterization that even the most hardcore ghetto rappers would never use to describe a white woman) I'm told that is the way to "keep it real."   Underlying all of this is the unfilled need by Blacks in America to stand out, to be identified as a people and ultimately as a race.

Maybe it's time to cut the hyphenated title   (African-American etc.) and just call us Black. I never heard the term "British-American" or some other equally foolish race construct. I mean we're Black people -- period. Our ancestry is African. Do we really need the morph naming because we want to identify ourselves and stand out from other races and peoples? We started out in America being Colored (whatever that is and means) and we became to racist white people "Niggers, Toms, Coons, Tar Babies, Mammies" and a whole set of names designed to demean and strip us of our Blackness.

But as a community of people -- any people -- identity is key. We are identified as members of a community. Here in America I am a member of the Black community and to some extent all our actions help identify who we are good and bad. The fact is that the white community uses that yardstick to identify ALL Black people as inferior, lazy, dishonest and debauched and today, tag the Black community as prone to criminality because of the actions of a few.

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This stereotype ignores some essential facts: the system of justice unfairly and unjustly militates against Black people and favors white people. To behave as though there is no criminal behavior in the white community and that Blacks are somehow genetically predisposed to crime is blatantly racist and condescending. But such is the manifestation of racism in this country. Yes, today racism still exists in all its virulent forms in these United States.

So it does not take a quantum leap to arrive at the conclusion that race and race relations exist. It is the deliberate construct of this brave new world and has its origins in the period of so-called Enlightened Thought that used a variety of engineered reasons to separate, categorize and codify people. With this "new thinking" the old constructs of dividing humans by nationality, language and family went out the door. The end result was a new paradigm invented so that one group of people would have control (power) over others justified on the basis of presumed inferiority and the need of the oppressors to "civilize" the so-called heathen.

  For Black people race is the very first of the lens that they see life. Blackness as essential to our definition of what makes us human as a race is key to our identity formation. That said, the problem today still appears to be a struggle by Black people for an illusive Black identity and a continuing fight to define that identity in this new millennium. We're seeing the worst forms of ignorant dialogue and the struggle by popular Black musical culture to sell its own view of "Blackness." Underlying this phenomenon is the fact that it is buttressed by a serious level of self-hatred. That in and of itself is a deformed piece of racism.

You see, often lost in the issue of race and racism is that racism has many shades and forms. It's not simply to say that racism is about white/Black relations and how that's played out on a day-to-day basis. If it's racist for a white person to call a Black man or woman a "n-word" why is it okay when a Black man calls another Black man that same thing? This negative mimicry is a sad commentary on the loss of Black values and the reclaiming of negative epithets that belong on the garbage heap of history, packaged as some vehicle to Black/race empowerment.

Seriously, I don't see sagging pants, bling-bling jewelry, gold teeth and illiteracy as somehow being related to my cultural improvement and empowerment. I must be either old or missing something.

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MICHAEL D. ROBERTS is a top Political Strategist and Business, Management and Communications Specialist in New York City's Black community. He is an experienced writer whose specialty is socio-political and economic analysis and local (more...)

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My thoughts on racism... by Michael Roberts on Thursday, Dec 22, 2011 at 9:24:09 AM
you're brown. And your hard-earned spunk, beautifu... by molly cruz on Friday, Dec 23, 2011 at 9:26:34 AM
"If you are a black man you are an African". An ad... by bogi666 on Friday, Dec 23, 2011 at 1:32:41 PM