Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I'm Not Sure If Empowerment Is the Real Goal For Some Black Bloggers

So if you read a variety of blogs like I do you may start to notice certain trends. Some of the same readers of one blog may also read another with varying levels of interest. Sometimes blog hosts may link to each other or mention something they've read or commented on. Often some will read but not quite comprehend and misinterpret the position of a blogger. I think we have to remember that bottom line we are all human and make mistakes.

Some may use their forum to uplift, challenge or reinforce existing commonalities. Some may inadvertently tear people down while claiming to do the opposite. Some seem to enjoy reveling in the dysfunction of others. Some may have perspectives that are completely different from what would be expected. All of these things can be useful for us if we are interested in renewing our mindsets or are otherwise open to being engaged.

Now I myself have found it necessary to be firm in my positions even as I seek to challenge myself to be a better person. Bottom line though is that I generally like Black people though I may question the motives of some and their impact on the general public. I have never wanted to not be Black, though as an African-American woman living in the US I have often wanted a less arduous journey. I know some of the challenges have been raced-based, but there has also been gender bias at play as well. Class mobility comes into play as well.

I've had quite a few moments of clarity reading the works of some Black female bloggers this past year. I've had things articulated in such a way that a few online conversations have resolved some things that I could never work through to my satisfaction in therapy. Which I recommend as it can have the same positive benefits of going to the gym to work on your body. Sometimes it takes another person who's had a similar experience to fully understand where you're coming from. Other times we need a completely different perspective to gain new ground.

This is where I find myself at a quandary. Some have been dubbed "empowerment" bloggers because they want to elevate the level of discourse. Or have others evaluate their choices. In theory this is great. Some people have a lot of wisdom to share and reintroducing common sense shouldn't seem like a foreign concept! Others seem to offer bold and brash ways of thinking by getting us to ponder several objectives. I'm just not sure if they all really like the others they claim to want to be participating with. It has to be about principles not individuals, right?

I say this because while we are certainly not a monolith, or share the same backgrounds we do have some commonality somewhere down the line. We also have differences that need to acknowledged. Why is it threatening to discuss the intra-ethnic differences amongst Blacks but still want African-Americans to be given their proper respect? Some blog hosts say a lot of things that have me scratching my head at times because I feel as if I’m getting my hand slapped versus a pat on the back of encouragement. If we’re supposed to be coming together to hash out strategies and reevaluate how we think why do I feel the tone is off - harsh or even full of admonishment? Why do I feel condescended to at times? 

Sometimes people assume and attribute things that were never explicitly said, sometimes I think people are responding to dog whistle disdain. If we can talk about class envy then we should also talk about class prejudice. If historically the Black elite did things to set themselves apart from other Blacks to further elevate their status how would that be any different today from the way those few that have access to and have owned media show how little regard they have by their content? Look at what Essence magazine (dubbed “Messence” by another blogger) is doing by suggesting going to a strip club to meet a Black man.

Why can't we discuss opening up our social circles and world outlook to include many people from diverse backgrounds but still remember who we are? This can't be about running away, for wherever we go there we are. We can't look externally or through consuming goods to feel good about ourselves. Yes, we are responsible for our own self-esteem but it gets to be a little bit more challenging when a) white women are still being held as the standard of womanhood b) So many Black people are self-hating c) They have access to the media to promote their self-hate and hate of BW. We're working with certain unmovable factors, but others are entirely our own design!

So I think it’s a valid argument that we should look at those individuals who’ve been elevated to “desirable” status and question why. That some of those happen to be multi-ethnic/have certain features is not an accident. When they claim the full spectrum of their heritage it’s a great thing, but can we not also acknowledge that some are also diminishing certain parts of their heritage for others and the one that they seek to lessen is their Blackness? If we're going to discuss the internal motivations of some who need to step it up then we must also recognize the barriers others would like to see in place.

When do we ever hear of a bi-racial/multi ethnic POC with white ancestry deny or try to diminish it the way they do their Blackness? There may be confusion about race versus ethnicity not because of a lack of understanding it but because so many are trying to deny certain parts of who they are. I don't think every brown-skinned person is Black (or African-American) but I know we all share a common African ancestry via DNA. That also applies to white-skinned people. If Italians were touted over Germans and Poles were stopped for walking down the street and followed through stores it would change the order of how whiteness has been established in this country. If an Estonian and Dutch person married and produced children and that child wanted to acknowledge its combined Du-Esto heritage fine, but if the Dutch side was featured more and thought of as more favorable wouldn’t the Estonians have a right to give pause to it? If all the white people from each ethnic group said “Hey we’re all white why do we need to discuss intra-ethnic matters” wouldn't that seem strange?

I also have concerns about certain discussions being framed using the term "all-Black construct". Certain mindsets are being discussed as the source of those that come from one versus its opposite as one is better than the other. Are we talking about geographical location and residential neighborhood or a state of mind? There needs to be a distinction. We need to continue discussing how culturally adrift many Blacks feel today and why researching one's lineage is so important. We need as many pieces of the puzzle we can put together so people stop clinging to false tokens and throwing away what heritage we do have left. Yes, we need to recognize the unique talents and contributions of those descended from the mostly enslaved populations from the US and how other Blacks get to benefit from those historic struggles. That doesn't diminish any individual any more than someone who wishes to acknowledge their full spectrum non-Black heritage.

I don’t like criminality, I don’t like apathy, I don’t like mediocrity. Having standards is necessary but I know that I tend to be hard on myself and perfection cannot be a goal. There are still real-life structural barriers in place that we have to knock down. For example this recent disclosure about Wells Fargo Bank pushing sub-prime loans onto Blacks. It's either outright racial prejudice, racialized sexism via dismissal of women with more traditional African features or further disdain amongst Blacks. As a woman if our outer presentation doesn’t reflect our truest inner selves do we have to have that held against us until and unless we conform? Would part of the reason for that be a reaction to all of the things I've discussed so far? 

We may not agree on how we want people to get to their own "promised land" but I can say unequivocally for myself that I do want it to happen. I like Black people after all. I can still demand respect be given to me as African-American woman though. I’m not sure I can say the same for everyone who’s claiming to be empowering for all of us, what “all” they’re referring to. 

***Just wanted to add in case it wasn't clear that we have to look to our inner motivations, spiritual beliefs and life plans as we continually evaluate where we are in our lives, where we want to go and how to get there. Sometimes our plans may place limitations on what we can actually accomplish, sometimes we have to re-route our paths. 

There may never be a singular consensus for what path is best. We have to make the choices that will hopefully work for us and our own best interests, not for the comfort and convenience of others. Not even when they claim to know what we "need" to do.
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19 comments:

Enlightened said...

Hello Faith!

This is my first time posting in your comments but I've read and enjoyed your blog before. I've been asking these same questions in my head and you are not the only one who has detected condescension at some of these forums. I don't expect any of the bloggers to do "handholding" or "serve cookies and milk" at their blogs, but I do wonder sometimes. I just wonder...

But in the end, the discussions are still extremely valuable and I've gained a lot personally by reading and participating. I can be very blunt myself so in general, I appreciate how straightforward they tend to be. Whenever I detect hints of arrogance, classism, condescension or whatever, I just bypass it and take what is valuable for me and run. The great thing about the internet is that you can turn it OFF and apply the lessons as YOU see fit.

Take care!

Evia said...

Acts of Faith, I'm taking a break from my formatting, so I'll jump in.

I don't normally read other blogs aside from Khadija's these days, so I don't know much of what's going on unless someone sends me a link.

However, this is how I regard other AAs. If another AA person and I are not like-minded enough, I KNOW we are not going to get along, so when I find out that we're not likeminded enough, I steer clear of them. The same goes for anyone else.

Because of the unique position of AAs, we have tried to force ourselves to get along and work together with other AAs, but this has not been possible and most likely won't be possibe BECAUSE we are not likeminded enough. I KNOW we need to get along, but we don't speak the same language--in a sense. This is why we continue to be confused by each other.

However, so many AAs cannot accept that, so we continue to beat our heads against the wall and just try to ALL get along. LOL! But this is what causes the constant misunderstandings and infighting.

If we could just leave each other alone, and ONLY seek out LIKE-MINDED other AAs and others, we would be so much better off.

Also, IMO, the ONLY reason why SOME (not the self-haters) black folks try to put distance between themselves and their heritage is because so many AAs have sunk to an all time low and seem to be proud of it. I am proud of my heritage, but if I could, I would NEVER come into contact with any of the ABCs or the DBRs--unless they truly wanted to reform themselves. I cannot tolerate that kind of arrogant, argumentative, and backwards AA person who thinks they know everything, but they still have their hand out begging for this or that. If I could, I would get in that "ark" that was mentioned and close the door on them. I'm serious because the ABCs and the DBRs are sinking AAs. And fast!

I realize there are many AAs who'd read that and would disagree with me, but that only means we're not likeminded. It doesn't mean that I'm right or that they are wrong, but it does mean we're not like-minded.

Ananda said...

Great post. I like reading your blog. Thanks for the insights.

Orinthea said...

Thank for sharing this!

g-e-m2001 said...

Of course everyone claiming to be empowering isn't empowering. heck I have to check myself on occasion and ask what the heck am I doing and why am I doing it?

Black women are not immune from the same issues other leaders throughout history have succumbed to . That's why you need to make independent judgments about what you are reading.

Anonymous said...

WOW! Thanks so MUCH for this post. I have been reading a series of black women empowerment blogs for the past six months and I must say they have changed my life for the better. They have forced me to think critically about many issues that affect my life as an African-American woman.

However, in the past few weeks, I have noticed a rather nasty tone. I love your point about tone for comments above. I agree that we often see a trend where people may attempt to attribute certain things to a blogger that they never said directly. This is a problem. But perhaps some of those bloggers need to be more aware of the tone in which they write. This is especially important where a reader is attempting to gain clarification on a blogger's point. Responding with, "Re-read X, Y, Z posts I have already written" is not necessarily helpful, because perhaps the bogger was not clear in X, Y, Z posts. If you are attempting to elevate lives or discourse, smacking down someone who is engaged in a critical process of reflection is not necessarily helpful.

Also, I have been troubled by these debates re: race vs. ethnicity, tribelessness, mono-culture, etc. You are totally correct in saying that some people who are racially linked by their African ancestry to other black people slight this heritage and tout their ethnicity as if it were a race. One of the most classic cases occurs amongst Dominicans. I'm a Ph.D. student that studies blackness in the Dominican Republic and this often comes through. Hence the well known-phrase and notion that Dominicans only have a "little black behind the ears."

Furthermore, I think it is important to acknowledge the New World process in which tribal Africans - Mali, Wolof, Igbo, etc. - became Africans in America and then went from African to black. This process, which began with seasoning when Africans arrived in the Caribbean and on the mainland of North and South America, must be respected. It was a dialectical process involving Europeans and Africans. This process created its own set of black cultures. Black culture is not monolithic, but if you are an anthropologist or historian you know there are critical links that MANY black people in the New World and in Africa share. We can compare worship practices, food ways, family coping structures, etc. Are these things IDENTICAL? No, but they are similar. Wouldn't you say that many members of the Jewish diaspora share certain cultural characteristics which bind them together? What is the difference? That is what part of diaspora is about.

Again, thanks for the post! It's like you have been in my head for the past few weeks!

Khadija said...

Faith,

Please forgive me for the extreme length of this comment. You've raised several complex, overlapping and important issues and I want to be as precise as possible in my response. There are also some historical things that I'll have to mention as to put my response in a clear context. You already know about these history points, but I want the audience to be perfectly clear.

I've been reading various blogs long before I de-lurked and started talking. And long before I started my own blog.

I believe that there have always been many potential points of friction during the various Black activists' blog discussions. Most of these "pressure points" revolve around various points of non-reciprocity. These "pressure points" are the same ones that have been the subtext to AAs' civil rights/Black power organizations.

These pressure points can be summed up as the "3 Ds": disrespect, dismissal, and domination.

In our past mobilizations, AA women have allowed AA men to DISRESPECT us, DISMISS our concerns regarding sexism, and DOMINATE us in these organizations.

AAs have allowed non-Blacks (including the "Don't you dare call me Black" self-proclaimed "biracials") to DISRESPECT our unique ethnic heritage as AAs, DISMISS our concerns about the effects of their hostile behavior toward us, and DOMINATE us in our own social settings.

AAs have allowed foreign-origin Blacks to DISRESPECT our unique ethnic heritage as AAs, DISMISS our concerns about racism and the effects of their hostile behavior toward us, and DOMINATE us in our own civil rights/Black Power organizations.

As AA women gain clarity, self-respect, and start to exercise self-determination, all these others (AA men, non-Blacks, non-AA Blacks) who we previously allowed to engage in the "3Ds" will howl in protest.

Let me mention some of the history behind what I'm saying.

First, it's usually neither mentioned nor acknowledged that AAs' Civil Rights Movement led to, and influenced, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. Prior to AAs' Civil Rights Movement, White Americans were quite clear about keeping non-Europeans (including non-AA Blacks) OUT of this country.

Second, I'm not aware of any nuclear-armed country that gives the codes to its nuclear weapons to any...other...country. No matter how long they've been allies. No matter how close their friendship and alliance is.

AAs have the unfortunate habit of giving other people access to our "nuclear codes"---we allow others to have COMMAND and CONTROL over our organizations. We allowed a handful of West Indians like Stokely Carmichael and others to run and set policy for many of OUR organizations during the 1960s. While we took orders from them, and served as footsoldiers.

The same way AAs let WM such as Kivie Kaplan serve as chairman and run the NAACP until the early 1970s. According to Wikipedia, "He served as president of the NAACP from 1966 to 1975. He was one of the last in a long line of American Jews who held a leadership role in African American civil rights groups."-

And there is NO reciprocity with this situation.

Khadija said...

Part 2

Nobody else allows AAs to control and set policy for THEIR stuff that really matters to them. And I don't blame them. It's the height of stupidity to allow others to exercise control over critical functions. It's foolish to allow OTHERS to dominate you, and set policy for you.

I've been reading various blogs long before I de-lurked and started talking. And long before I started my own blog. In my view, many of these same 3-D "pressure points" have been present from the very beginning.

For me, they've been the subtext of many of my reactions to various ideas. I've tried to uphold the dignity and honor of specifically AA women without being unduly disruptive of various conversations since I de-lurked. I love AA people---I love my OWN people first and foremost. I have an extra warm spot in my heart for those AAs who cling to "old school" values.

To the extent that the ideas being expressed were otherwise helpful to AA women's interests, I've been relatively quiet and cooperative. However, I've always known that there was a high probability that I would have to part company with some discussions later on down the road.

Faith, you asked the questions, "If we’re supposed to be coming together to hash out strategies and reevaluate how we think why do I feel the tone is off - harsh or even full of admonishment? Why do I feel condescended to at times?" This is a good, but incomplete, question.

Some bloggers want to "come together, and hash out strategies" only as long as they are in a dominant position relative to the rest of us. Only as long as we submit to their "bossing" of us. This attempt at dominance can be along various dimensions:

It can be a non-AA Black blogger lecturing/dictating to AAs about AA issues. And doing so WITHOUT the humility of realizing that they are attempting to do cross-cultural activism.

This gets back to the disrespect of AAs' unique history and culture. A lot of foreign-origin Black folks really think that they automatically know all there is to know about us.

They (arrogantly) assume that they know AAs' collective "patient history" to the point that they are qualified to prescribe cultural "medicine" for us. While (quite reasonably) insisting that AAs acknowledge that AAs generally DON'T know the intricacies of their ethnic cultures. This is non-reciprocity.

It can be an AA blogger offering lectures and critiques of the behavior of AAs from other class tiers WITHOUT being willing to entertain a similar critique of their own class tier's behavior. This operates in ALL directions.

From the Black middle class and/or elite bloggers berating the Black poor, without being willing to admit the dysfunctions within their own classes. To the poor Black bloggers spewing hatred of the Black middle class and/or elite, without being willing to admit the dysfunctions among the Black poor. ALL of this is non-reciprocity.

Then there are the BW who have misused the "divestment" and "empowerment for BW" memes as a cover story for their hatred of Blackness in general.

As AA women's consciousness begins to rise, we become less tolerant of non-reciprocal interactions. This inevitably leads to friction with those who have previously been allowed to freely practice the "3 Ds" in reference to us. It will also inevitably lead to friction with those self-hating BW who want to use the empowerment meme as camoflage.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

ActsofFaithBlog said...

Enlightened: Welcome and thank you for delurking. Please feel free to participate again!

Evia: I know how busy you are and focused so thanks for the words of wisdom. You're correct in that trying to fit a square peg in a round hole is a useless activity. I think it's helpful for us to realize that sharing a similar skin shade or phenotype doesn't automatically bind us to any shared point of view, but because so many of us feel adrift it can feel like a loss.

Ananda: Thank you for commenting.

Orinthea: Thank you as well.

GEM2001: Ah Gina you always bring a fresh breath of air to the room. See you next week!

Anonymous: Welcome and thanks for your thoughtful reply. I'm going to look into the trends you mentioned.

Khadija: Please feel free to write as long a message as necessary. Your positions are presented with such clarity they can be of benefit to all who are reading but not commenting. Thanks for taking the time to give feedback.

Halima said...

Hi Actsoffaith

Re Tone, let me first say that very few of us are trained in the work we are all doing be it called empowernment or activism or etc. we are like a rag tag army, just doing what we think is best.

Sometimes and unfortunately, the principles behind good intentions can be wrong or should i say not very progressive.

When I started blogging, I only knew one thing for certain, and that is that 'tone is everything'. Some feel that the message resonated with them because I wrote topical blog entries, well I can tell you now that actually I carefully engineered the tone of my blog to pull in black women.

Tone is a big issue.

However I am not so sure sometimes if a harsh tone is the way AAs know to address each other. I can tell you that I have seen instances that suggest that the 'cracked whip' tone is understood, expected and more positively responded to by bw.

anyway thats just to add my little observation!

Evia said...

Black culture is not monolithic, but if you are an anthropologist or historian you know there are critical links that MANY black people in the New World and in Africa share. We can compare worship practices, food ways, family coping structures, etc. Are these things IDENTICAL? No, but they are similar.

RESPONSE:

Ah, culture. I agree that AAs have some similarities with Africans on the continent and those in the Disapora and there are links, but are we all similar ENOUGH? That's the real issue. Do black worldwide have ENOUGH similarities (common outlook, common values, common worldview, common GOALS, common belief systems, common pillars in our social structures, common reference points, etc.) to actually communicate well enough with each to make those similarities benefit us?

IMO, we do NOT. This is what has mainly caused the stagnation among AAs, and black progress worldwide, and the constant infighting among us. The lack of similarities hinders the cooperation among blacks. Even among AAs, we speak different languages, depending on our experiences. Not only do we not have enough critical similarities with other blacks in the Diaspora,(and they naturally don't have enough with us) but we also don't have enough similarities with EACH OTHER as AAs.

For ex. If we AAs had had enough in common, we would have never allowed Hip Hop to hijack AA culture. People in some camps clearly saw that it was a BIG enemy on the prowl, like C. Dolores Tucker, but I can remember the various discussions and CONFUSION among AAs about whether Hip Hop was good or bad back in the early 90s, and I remember how she was ripped. Can you imagine bm calling bw b$%&hes and h$s and other AAs scratching their heads, trying to figure out whether that was good or bad. LOL!!

Another BIG enemy was and is right now the devaluation of marriage among AAs. Some AAs are actually confused about whether marriage is good or bad for AA people. LAWDY!

Another BIG enemy is the devaluation of education among AAs. Lots of AAs devalue education. They give lipservice to it being good, but where do they put their money, time, and effort?

Another BIG enemy is the confusion around how to parent children effectively. There is just lots of confusion about that among the different camps of AAs.

These are major issues and there is infighting going on right among mainstream AAs. These infights are not going on on the fringes but in center stream among AAs. This means we don't have enough similar goals or views about these issues.

Now if you're saying that virtually ALL black people like music and gaiety, and tend to socialize in a similar way, I would AGREE totally. For ex, at just about any black party, there will be plenty of food and probably some banging music. There's also a greater likelihood that you'd encounter that "y'all come on in and help yourself," attitude MUCH more so with blacks worldwide than with other racial groups.

Also, it seems that blacks worldwide have a tendency to believe in a higher power and they tend to make that a major piece in their lives.

I know that some of us don't like the feeling of being alone in the world, so we tend to want to engage in magical thinking that most black folks are almost the same. This is just NOT true and we're setting ourselves up for a bad fall by continuing to believe something that is not the case.

We can see clearly the dissimilarities among us even on these blogs, and thus the infighting. I think that folks just don't understand each other in many (not all) of these cases. If you're not like-minded enough, you're just not going to get along. This is why I'm always stressing the critical need for AAs to develop a hybrid culture of some sort.

ActsofFaithBlog said...

Halima: Welcome and thanks for your input. I'd have to say for me I don't respond well to be lectured to in that respect, but I'm glad to know it's something that is considered.

Evia: Your response is interesting and honestly disturbs me if what you're suggesting is correct. I suspect that it is of course because I wouldn't feel the kick to my gut as I was reading it. I was having a conversation with someone about Mrs. Tucker a few weeks ago and how I've reevaluated what she was trying to do and how people couldn't see the forest for the trees. With such glaring disparities how are Blacks to even mobilize politically or have a big group consensus (or one that appears to be so)? I'm wondering how Civil Rights even got through - and I know many people weren't supportive and there was a lot of division. There has to be more that binds people together than food and music.

Lauren said...

Evia (From the Anonymous poster) -

Thanks for the response!

Part I:

I guess one thing we might talk about is what is blackness and what is the African diaspora. I have encountered a variety of definitions of blackness, and one that I find useful is blackness as a political identity based on attempts at liberation, however one might define that. Perhaps that is part of the rub, no? How do we define liberation? Reading your blog, Khadijah's, and Rev. Lisa's have really opened my eyes to different definitions of liberation. (Smile!)

The other question is how do we define diaspora? As a diaspora historian this is a HUGE debate. I personally have come to define it in my scholarly work as more than just culture or dispersal from the continent, but sharing in the common experiences of racial slavery, colonialism, state violence, and private acts of racism and prejudice as well as the attempts to transcend these legacies and the resulting identities. The other critical component is the way African descended groups go about maintaining these connections, if they do at all. An interesting article to read about this is Robin D. G. Kelly and Tiffany Ruby Patterson's "Unfinished Migrations." They make the critical point that just as diaspora is made it can be unmade. Perhaps we are currently witnessing the global unmaking of the diaspora!

Thinking about Rev. Lisa's post about the death of black unity - at ONE point black people globally DID share the goal of liberation from white racism and colonialism. With integration, the end of apartheid, and successful nationalist movements in Africa what united us in common purpose has largely disappeared in its most obvious and violent forms.

Evia you said:

"Not only do we not have enough critical similarities with other blacks in the Diaspora,(and they naturally don't have enough with us) but we also don't have enough similarities with EACH OTHER as AAs."

I agree with this in general. However, in thinking about my working definition of diaspora which is based on similairities in culture, experience, and goals I think many (not all) blacks want to be successful and affect the end of white oppression. I think the break down comes in terms of what are the best strategies and whether or not people desire to affect this on an individual or group level. The strategies are often damaging.

Lauren said...

Part II:

Evia, you also said:

"For ex. If we AAs had had enough in common, we would have never allowed Hip Hop to hijack AA culture." I also agree with this in many ways, however, I think it is important to recognize the ways in which hip hop culture has metamorphized since its roots. Earlier hip-hop was not about hoes, b*&%$@, n*&&%%, etc. It was also not exclusively African American. It blended r&b/disco trends and West Indian performance styles. It then became radically political. Then it moved more solidly to violence. You are correct in pointing out the violence and denegration in hip hop in the early 90s, but by then it had already secured a significant market and no label owners were about to let that go. In many ways, I think market forces are what lead to hip hop's identification with African-American culture and African Americans who protested this could not successfully combat the market or the idea amongst a younger generation of African Americans that this was a great way to make it big.

Perhaps what broke down was a common value system with the increasing ghettoization of African Americans and the shift of the U.S.-American economy in the 1970s and 80s. A lot of the other things you mentioned spike following this period in history.

You also said:

"I know that some of us don't like the feeling of being alone in the world, so we tend to want to engage in magical thinking that most black folks are almost the same. This is just NOT true and we're setting ourselves up for a bad fall by continuing to believe something that is not the case."

I definitely don't think black people are the same. There is a huge diversity. But again, there are similarities in culture and more critically, in experience. The black experience has not been idenitical anywhere, but it has been shaped by a similar set of forces. I think that similar set of experiences is what unites us, whether we like it or not. I don't think this has to do with the fear of being alone. I think its just historical. Maybe I think this way because of my training as an African diaspora historian. I have a wide array of friends of African descent - African American, Dominican, Afro-Brazilian, Ghanian, Nigerian, Haitian, Jamaican, Afro-Canadian, Ethiopian, etc. - and we all are aware that our communities have faced similar forces in the last 500 years and that they have produced similar although not identical results. That is why in the 1930s and 40s African Americans staunchly supported nationalist movements throughout Africa and the Carribbean and tied them to their own domestic movement for freedom. They continued to do this through the 1960s.

Perhaps what we might think about is how the globe has changed and remained the same post-1980 and how this has affected people of African descent. That's the critical difference.

Again, I just want to emphasize I do not think black people are the same. I don't engage in magical thinking. (Love that term!) However, I do not think we should ignore the historical record. Black people from Iraq to Guadeloupe, from Mexico to Peru, from Nigeria to the United States have encountered various manifestations of European attempts to establish complete hegemony. This has produced a similar, although not identical, set of experiences. These experiences are what in large part bind. These experiences have produced cultural similarities.

What does it mean for people of African-descent to ignore the historical record? (By the way, I am not trying the say that you, Evia, or anyone else here is.)

Khadija said...

Everyone has raised such interesting points to consider.

I think Evia's correct when she says that the African diaspora (which I'm beginning to believe only exists rhetorically at this point) is NOT "similar enough." I believe that the "official" African diaspora has not been similar enough in any meaningful way since most Black countries gained independence.

First of all, it appears that the different ethnic groups residing within many African countries are not "similar enough" even with their own countrymen. Of course, part of this is the legacy of artificially drawn colonial borders that enclosed different groups within one political unit.

But regardless of colonial borders, I believe that there are fundamental points of fragmentation underlying all of this. Look at Somalia, where they are all of the same ethnic group.

In terms of AAs, I believe that those of us who adhere to "old school" AA values are similar enough (in world views, values, etc.) to be able to work together. The rest of AAs are not.

The only things that "new school" AAs have in common with each other are: (1) soul food cuisine; (2) music; (3) some dance steps; (4) an inclination toward lip-service religiosity; and (5) a desire to see Black-skinned individuals ascend to prominent jobs (a fervent desire for symbolic, token advancement---"Black faces in high places"). Whenever new school AAs try to get together for anything beyond the 5 superficial items listed above, it automatically leads to in-fighting.

The only political mobilization that's possible with such new school folks is:

(1)To get more Black-skinned officials elected. Regardless of the substance of their platforms. Regardless of whether it's good or bad for AAs' collective interests. This is why AAs blindly support various Black-skinned candidates whose platforms are diametrically opposed to each other. OR

(2)To rally around a BM who has gotten into trouble with law enforcement.

And these sorts of superficial mobilizations are only possible because of a vague shared memory of previous political slogans. ["People died so you could vote." "We need to elect the 1st Black ______________." "Buy Black." "Help a brother out." Etc.] The original underlying purpose of the slogans (substantive progress, instead of symbolic progress) and the original shared values have been forgotten.

For one example of symbol vs. the forgotten substance, why should AAs automatically "buy Black" if these businesses don't provide jobs for AAs? Such as a Negro-owned Chicago area barbeque chain that mostly hires Mexicans? The original purpose of "buying Black" was to support Black businesses so these businesses could then provide jobs for Black people.

When I bring this up to "new school" AAs, the response is often that I'm wrong to question the Black bbq chain owner's hiring practices. That I am somehow obligated to "buy Black" just to "buy Black" and to "help a brother out."

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Evia said...

However, I do not think we should ignore the historical record. Black people from Iraq to Guadeloupe, from Mexico to Peru, from Nigeria to the United States have encountered various manifestations of European attempts to establish complete hegemony. This has produced a similar, although not identical, set of experiences. These experiences are what in large part bind.

RESPONSE:


I understand your perspective because I've heard and read it for the last 20 years expressed in all kinds of ways, but I have to say that IMO, this view is very romanticized.

Historical or even present day oppression is obviously not enough to black bind people together or to enable them to communicate and cooperate with each other. Though history has its place, it actually means very little in ***practical*** terms when we talk about some of these issues.History happened yesterday and we're living in real time today.

I'm a pragmatist. If we were to all convene at this moment, I'd only want to be at the table with the pragmatists at our convention; you'd probably want to be at the table with the historians and academicians.

I'm very much drawn to a ***working*** culture because to me, culture is dynamic. It DOES things for people. It addresses many of their problems and needs.

History is very important to inform some aspects of the present. It plays its role in a culture, but we now need to shift the bulk of the focus to pragmatism. We need tons more pragmatism and realism employed if there is to be any hope of AAs survival/thriving at this point for the masses of AAs. That is, if we're even hinting at talking about "saving our people," LOL! or more specifically for me, uplifting those AA women who want to be uplifted. LOL!

However, I'll just assume this is a rhetorical discussion.

We're not able to even begin to become practical about addressing lots of the pieces involved because MOST AAs ***can't communicate well enough with each other.*** We lack enough common points of reference at this point. Therefore, right away, the misunderstandings crop up, and then the infighting starts.

Crudely put, just because 'we's all black and we's all suffered' is not nearly enough.

If suffering from oppression and having a lot of melanin in our skin were enough to bind blacks together and enable us to cooperate with each other in order to organize and build, then we should be on top of the world. We have certainly suffered enough and we certainly have enough melanin in our skin.

ActsofFaithBlog said...

All: I don't have anything to add except that I tend to want to be a "hug it out" type person until I feel a line has been crossed. So again this is a greater issue of what we want, perhaps how we were raised to think of community, remembering what that community used to be like and our efforts at recapturing it (or rescuing it from behind enemy lines).

This is all unchartered territory as far as I'm concerned. I'm still trying to figure out what will work best for me and if I'm able to make any efforts that will assist others. I'm thinking of King's Letters From A Birmingham Jail and about how we are all connected in some way. Boundaries have to be set of course but I'm not ready to be closed off completely either.

Thanks everyone for your words of wisdom and encouragement.

Lauren said...

@ Evia

You said:

"I'm a pragmatist. If we were to all convene at this moment, I'd only want to be at the table with the pragmatists at our convention; you'd probably want to be at the table with the historians and academicians."

I actually am a pragmatist. I think that history plays an important role in that. In fact, the past is actually one of the tools that helps show us the "writing is on the wall." LOL! Smart people will realize that action is necessary. Context is critical for grounding the present and as a point of reflection for planning the future.

As an example, I was posting in another forum about bw/wm relationships. The blogger said she did not think interracial dating was a solution for black women and that we should continue to focus on black men. I told her I no longer did so, and another poster asked her to present other viable solutuons outside interracial dating. She has yet to respond.

I asked a series of questions about this "movement" for black men all grounded in CRM and BPM histories surrounding gender, labor, and leadership, about this "movement" she was planning to "save" black men. (Mostly because I am still interested in black women and girls and helping them see the writing on the wall. I do not even think she should expend labor and emotion such work would take.) I asked about resources, networking, responsibilty, recruiting, etc. Especially relating to black men. Largely because I don't believe it should be up to black women to save them. All of these questions highlighted the importance of reciprocity and strategy. I believe combining knowledge of the past with what is going on in front of you are the critical first stages in enacting change.

Furthermore, history helps us not re-invent the wheel when taking action. Why do something we have learned from the past does not work? For example, black women have been "saving" black men for forever. If they looked critically at forever (history) they'd wake up and know its not working! LOL! Do something different! Like maybe save themseleves! They should critically engaged the past so that they can strategically plan for a better future.

Evia said...

Furthermore, history helps us not re-invent the wheel when taking action. Why do something we have learned from the past does not work? For example, black women have been "saving" black men for forever. If they looked critically at forever (history) they'd wake up and know its not working! LOL! Do something different! Like maybe save themseleves! They should critically engaged the past so that they can strategically plan for a better future.

RESPONSE:

Thanks for your response, but it demonstrates EXACTLY what I'm saying. WHY would you assume that I haven't ***already*** looked at and done the post mortem on history? That shows that you and I have quite different reference points.

My assumption is that those bw who are poised to thrive have ALREADY gone through history and pulled out what's needed in order not to re-invent the wheel.I would definitely not be at the table where bw are discussing whether or not we should "save bm." I would, maybe, have been a little interested in listening to those women, maybe 20 years ago, but definitely not really since that point. There is something VERY abnormal about women trying to shape themselves to "save men!!" Lawdy!

So this is a LONG process for some. Many of us are obviously at different points in the process, but I would only want to be at the table with those folks who are at or near the same point or BEYOND where I am. These are the Likeminded folks I talk about.

I'm definiitely not saying you're wrong. I'm not claiming I'm right, but you and I are not likeminded enough to be at the same table. Just notice how much time we've spent on this one little issue, trying to figure out whether we're likeminded enough. Your thoughts about this topic and mine have already been shaped and hardened by our respective DIFFERENT backgrounds and experiences. This is exactly what prevents or hampers the communication between AAs or between different groups and classes--those very different backgrounds and experiences.

For ex., my ex-husband pointed out to me 20 years ago that in order to get rid of the corruption in Africa, and all the thieves who are selling out Africa to Europeans and Chinese, you'd just have to, without any mercy, kill off roughly 10% of the corrupt politicians and other thieves in Nigeria. I was aghast at the time. I thought he was just barbaric beyond words! He just hurt my po little do-gooder, tender feelings. LOL!

But I now see how right he was--now that the thieves have opened the door for the Chinese to come in and feed off the resources that belong to the Nigerians and send those resources back to China.

I remember when Khadija had mentioned on her site that AAs just need to pull the plug on this OOW children situation in the bc. Lawdy, some folks thought she was a monster, claiming that she was babykiller and worse. LOL! BTW, my ex-husband said the exact same thing over 15 years ago. He said AAs absolutely should NOT let those girls and males live among the other impressionable young women because 'one rotten apple WILL spoil the whole bunch.' But AAs are too tender hearted and are magical thinkers who believe that if we just get upset and angry and vent enough and think good things, they will come to pass.

I'm a pragmatist. I know that bad things stop happening because somebody makes them stop and good things happen mostly because enough people are intolerant of bad things.

When the killing starts--because I agree with Khadija, when she says we're only a half step away from a Rwanda situation here--many of the same folks who couldn't bear to quarantine the babymamas, babydaddies and their children are going to be kiiling them.

The pragmatists and the magical thinkers don't belong at the same table. Nothing but infighting will result.