Tuesday, April 23, 2024


Things Black Folk Have to Let Go of to Move Forward

August 18, 2007 by  
Filed under News, Weekly Columns

(Akiit.com) *White people aren’t scared of black people anymore.

That’s the stark conclusion a black friend and I came to the other day. He and his girlfriend were in a restaurant when they got into a confrontation over a table that required an Angry Black Man stance: Some stoic glaring; a bit of aggressive physical posturing.

Only this time, my friend got a surprise: the white man postured right back.

I could understand it if he had a plaid shirt and a red neck,” my friend said, only half joking in his analysis. “Or if he were Italian. They don’t take no shit. The new Russian immigrants don’t know they’re supposed to be scared of black people. But this cat was about 40. A nerd! And he looked at me, like, ‘BRANG it, motherfucka!’ This been happening to me more and more, man. I thought, ‘Oh shit, white folks ain’t scared of us no more.”

We laughed, conceded the absurdity of it all–and then acknowledged a strange twinge of regret that if some things have to change, then EVERYTHING has to change. Fact is, the Angry Black Man (ABM) routine comes in handy, on, say, a freeway, or at the return counter of a department store. It works.

Powered by white America’s guilt and collective notion that blacks generally are confrontational and violent people, ABM, like the warning scent of a skunk or sight of a porcupine’s quills, often serves as a deterrent to assorted racist bullshit. Puts a certain white person in check. However, increasingly, ABM’s bark is falling on a deaf conscience.

We’ve become too familiar to white folks. Now officially “free,” we’re preoccupied with the same things as everyone else in America. In the process, the Angry Black Man has been all but demystified. What with Oprah and the invention of upper and middle class blacks, increasingly, whites are convinced we have very little to be angry about.

Whether or not that is true, one of the tradeoffs of our hard-fought progress is that blacks don’t get to manipulate the very stereotypes we fight to abolish.

For example, while the black man can’t control what anyone chooses to think about him, he can’t be offended by his objectification if he continues to hold on (literally) to the notion that he is the penis king. What seems like a legend that serves us was created by racism and fear. Let us leave the debate of who has the biggest dick to fearful, sexist racists.

Likewise, blacks have never understood the long held white belief that the black woman is this sex-driven freak. Yet, when you look at rap videos, you see black men and women–us–perpetuating those very sexual stereotypes. We can’t have it both ways.

To move forward, we have to discard some stuff. Such as the idea that all whites are inherently racist–and the hypothesis that blacks CAN’T be racists; that by sheer nature of the wrongs committed against us, we are entitled to stew in our own prejudice and intolerance.

We have been in America for a long time. We are products of an environment in which we have been both victims and culprits. If today we can be CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, if we can be President of the United States–and we can–then we have to admit that we can be serial killers, too.

Granted, some things are more difficult to let go of than others. However, once we come to grips with the fact that doo-doo, bronzed and praised, is still doo-doo; once we acknowledge that we cannot pick and choose the turds to suit our fractured whim, then we can get on with celebrating that which truly makes us unique.

Such as our dynamic resilience, and our magnificent sense of spirit, unique to any other human beings in the modern world. We possess a remarkable capacity for forgiveness. And we own a history of fortitude and integrity that we seem hell bent on obliterating.

I can get angry, and with good reason. However, I was not, as some would have me believe, born mad. I wake up every morning as a human being–who is only reminded of his hue when he steps out into the world.

However, for me there is no value in having the person in the car next to me, who happens to be white, be afraid of the Angry Black Man. I can no longer believe that his fear of my posturing serves me. In order to move forward, this is the kind of thinking I have to give up.

By Steven Ivory


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