21 February 2009

African Americanness Becoming Unbound

How do you know when the narrative on race is expanding? When Campbell Brown and Lou Dobbs start to look indignant because the black, brown or yellow person they are talking to steps outside of the boundaries commentators like them have come to see as "acceptable" when talking about intraracial issues.

I was just finishing my dinner last night when I heard the guest on Campbell Brown’s No Bull, No Bias show, a white male historian, sputter on about the "incendiary" nature of the word "coward" that Eric Holder used the other day during a Black History Month speech to describe Americans who shy away from talking about racial differences.

What made my head snap around was this sentence:

"Holder - he's a nice enough guy. He has an unusual background. I would have confirmed him right away."

delivered by the historian with the kind of exasperated petulance, the sort of irritated and annoyed scowl that says "my people really make the rules around here."

How do you do that?

How do you appropriate the power to choose the Attorney General of the United States, even in a hyped for TV conversation, so easily?

The back and forth between the historian and Roland Martin, who was doing a live remote from a black journalists convention, was predictable, as was Campbell’s eye rolling when she felt that Roland was "getting out of hand". As I turned off the TV, I wondered - "how long is it going to take before Campbell Brown and the historian on her show and the rest of the inhabitants of Pale Nation, that stubborn subset of white Americans who still feel like they are doing all of us minorities a favor by letting us breathe the same air they do, realize that the feeling of discomboulation they have is going to be permanent?"

I don't know about anybody else, but these days, I feel like my peripheral view is wider than the thing I'm looking at, as if the object's image has shrunk a little, enough for me to see what there is behind it. Influence shapers like Mrs. Brown and Mr. Dobbs, who look as though the boundaries of our political narrative has gotten away from them, are more transparent. It doesn't matter what euphemism you want to use - the cat is out of the bag, the toothpaste is out of the tube, the bird has flown the coop - African Americanness is in the process of becoming unbounded, a phenomenon that will demand some sort of transformation from all of us.


  1. Seemingly, the ones who cannot embrace Eric Holder's seeped-in-truth statement are the same ones guilty of self-segregation. Many in Pale America preach diversity publicly but don't practice it privately. This whole notion of a post-racial society as evidenced by Barack Obama's election illustrates how deep in denial some of the colorless truly are.

  2. Their disorientation doesn't have to be permeant, but that would mean they have to recognize that we're playing a game with the rules and the game constructed against us (especially black men) and we're still prevailing. They aint never gonna acknowledge that, because that would speak to the perseverance and resilience of our people - despite the odds. That doesn't fit well with the whole foolish, lazy, welfare stereotypes they have of us. as the song says, "can't nobody hold me down, oh no I got to keep on movin'" Peace. Jason.


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