This post was inspired by Ann Coulter and the Republican State Representative from Arkansas, Jon Hubbard… both have recently decided that they needed to write books about the African-American experience, although neither is African-American. For me that was not the issue insomuch as the excerpts that I have read along with some of the comments made by Coulter during media interviews have led me to believe that neither has any idea what they are talking about. I admit that have not taken the time to read either of them and have no intentions of doing so but I did want to provide my readers who may not be so familiar with the African-American experience a few items to consider…
- Slavery was not fun. It seems that there is a prevailing theory in some social circles that African-Americans should be thankful for slavery, that it somehow benefited us tremendously and that we should be grateful for the opportunity to come to America. Sigh… how would you like for your family to be bound in chains for hundreds of years, the men forced to endure hard labor, being beaten within an inch of their life if they dared to speak out and then forced to continue working for nothing more than a roof over their head and a few cups of grain to eat for the week while their wife and/or daughter is being sexually abused and sometimes impregnated by your boss and living in constant fear of your children being sold. Sound like fun? If so, you are welcome to sign up for this “Fun Club” because I am sure there are some people who miss the good old days and are in need of free labor today. It is ridiculous for anyone to assert that slavery was an enjoyable experience that African-Americans should be celebrating. Side note for everyone who thinks we should just get over it… Imagine how quickly you would be able to get over it if your family had been enslaved for several generations. Just because the actual institution of slavery no longer exists, does not mean it’s effects are not still felt throughout our communities. As for those who talk about slavery as if it’s something that we bring up to make white people feel guilty, I would honestly not care if you never got over the shame because it was an extremely shameful period in American history and anyone who speaks of it with an ounce of pride has instantly lost my respect but that’s just me, not all African-Americans. We don’t expect your apologies but don’t try to make us think we are wrong for forgiving but not forgetting
- We don’t hate white people. Through everything that I described above, most African-Americans don’t hate white people. We are not jealous of you. We don’t envy your “success”. However, since we were brought here for the good times, we do believe that now that we have attained our freedom,we should be treated equally. I know for some people who sounds crazy and many still (whether they admit it or not) believe that African-Americans only count as three-fifths of a person. Let me assure you, we are whole human beings with the same organs, bones, muscles etc that run through your bodies – some even more so considering our blood line has been intermixed with other cultures. Almost every fight that you see from African-Americans is on the premise of treat us equally – not better, just give us the same chance that you give each other. Those pesky organizations like the NAACP and the Urban League do not exist to torment you. They exist because we realize that collective bargaining is stronger than individual negotiations.
- We are not lazy. The implication that African-Americans are lazy and only want to live in a welfare state is ridiculous. Although the history books often overlook the contributions of our people within this country, if you dig a little deeper, you will find that we did more than pick cotton and plow fields to advance America’s position as a great country. Take for a moment to look at wikipedia’s list of African-American Inventors and Scientists. On the issue of welfare, according to the Agriculture Department in 2010; 22 percent of African-Americans received food stamp benefits compared with 34 percent of whites and 16 percent of Hispanics. I know that most people who talk about “those people on welfare” like to pretend that they are talking about everyone, but most of us are not foolish enough to believe that and wish that you would stop demonizing any person who needs assistance providing for their family. We are a country (all colors) of proud people and most don’t want to admit that they cannot, by their own effort, provide for their family. If you have never been in that situation, thank God. When you make these blanket statements, realize that you are probably talking about some people in your family and some people who you call friend.
- “You’re _______ for a black person” is not a compliment. In my mind this statement says, when I judge you against other black people then you’re all right but against other people, not so much. If you have ever uttered that phrase and wondered why the receiver of your compliment looked at you with a blank stare, it’s because although I may have said thank you, I was not flattered. So, please don’t say that.
- The struggle for civil rights is not over. In fact, I believe that since the election of President Obama; our society has actually begun moving backwards in this arena. A lot of people won’t say this but you know I’m not a lot of people. There is a segment of our population who simply cannot stand that our country is being led by an Ivy League African-American. They support the Herman Cains and Allen Wests because they will say anything to insult and discredit other African-Americans thus justifying the racially charged emotions they already hold. The simple fact that most of us look sideways at Cain and West should tell you that they are not representative of our community rather they represent the ideal that some white Americans wish all African-Americans held. President Obama, on the other hand, represents the best of what our culture has to offer and quite frankly it sickens some people that he is intelligent, well-spoken, well-dressed, even-tempered and provides for his family all while doing everything in his power to improve our economy, end two wars and ensure everyone has access to health care. I have noticed how blatant people are with not only disrespecting our President but also criticizing African-Americans for supporting the President simply because he is one of us. Even if that were true, you are probably the one who is supporting Mitt Romney because he is not one of us. Many of us recognize, through the lens of the African-American experience, what some of you may not. It’s easy for the Wests and the Cains to get up spouting nonsense because that’s what you expect from us. However, it is hard to go out into the world everyday knowing you have to fight for every inch of success that you get. Some people won’t get that but some will.
Growing up I always assumed that everyone was equal no matter their color or gender and never imagined living in a society where I would have to explain racism to my son. I thought, like many of you, that we were moving past that but in recent months it seems that our society is digressing and racial innuendos are becoming more and more acceptable yet if someone points it out then that person is perceived a racist.
Here’s the key to not being thought of as a racist:
- don’t verbally make disparaging remarks about another racial group – publicly or privately
- don’t support agendas that oppose other racial groups
- stop believing that your racial group is superior to other racial groups
You may be shocked to hear this but some people have accused me of being a racist because I speak out when I hear someone, even in their clandestine comments, saying things that have racial undertones. That doesn’t make me a racist, it makes me culturally sensitive If as an African-American woman, I tell you that something you are doing/saying is demeaning to me as a woman or as a minority and your first reaction is that I am wrong, there is a problem. I won’t harp on the issue but it says a lot about your character. A lot of people won’t speak the truth because they like to dance around it and dress it up but I don’t mind because I firmly that when most of us know better, we do better.