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.