This comes with the territory. It’s one of the consequences of living with black skin. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one holding to the contention that I’m limited due to the realities of our nation’s historical bearing. I’m proud to be an American, and have witnessed many pull themselves up by their dang bootstraps. I’m all for celebrating hard work and holding people accountable. I’m fed up with the language of victimization and the exploitation of past racial division as fuel for a present-day discussion on the state of American affairs.
The requisite for lifting that proviso as part of this dialogue speaks to the enormous dilemma one faces when addressing the matter of race. For many, the argument is invalidated based on the race of the person delivering the message. For some, this means it’s too radically black. For others, it’s simply not black enough. The discussion of race is often relegated to a critique of the person bringing the message, rather than an examination of the merits of the claims made.
This is evident in responses to many of my columns and blog postings. The analysis is more a repudiation of the reliability of the messenger than an examination of the opinions expressed. One of the challenges facing those who give voice in public space is the need to demonstrate to critics ones right to speak. Fundamental to this assault is the notion that black folks don’t know as much as those holding the power. This is one of the implications of operating from a position of privilege. Those who have traditionally maintained the power move back and forth between the culture of advantage and the impression of empathy with ease.
With all of that being said, it’s critical that we examine what is happening within the larger American landscape. There is a brewing sentiment that feels like what I call, for a lack of a better label, a “blacklash”. Barack Obama’s rise to the Presidency has white supremacist crying the blues. “Those coloreds done gone too far,” I can hear them saying. “We need to stop em before it’s too late.”
This sentiment is manifest in the rise of hate crimes. Countless are the stories I’ve heard from African Americans across the country about confrontations with people angry that a black man is leading our country. The “blacklash” shows up best among those who have long allowed their thoughts to be heard. What is harder to unwrap is how the “blacklash” shows up among many white, privileged, liberal, Obama supporting, Democratic party card carrying folks across the country.
It shows up when the rules of the game are controlled by those hiding behind the cover of liberalism. Questioned are the credentials of those ALLOWED to sit at the table. Lost in the conversation are the assumptions made about those ALLOWED to share in the process of change. Who gets hired to work? What are the credentials of those who get hired? Who is making that decision, and why are they given that power?
This depressing truth shows its ugly head among organizations that claim to be about inclusiveness and the promotion of justice. Many organizations are established to impact the lives of people of color, but a quick check into those staffed will reveal a sad reality-the people who work there don’t look like the people they are organized to serve. My white critics will argue the white folks hired to work have better credentials. I challenge them to consider the assumptions made by those who make those decisions.
What are some of those assumptions? He or she is too vocal. They can’t be managed. We take a risk because of their involvement in outside ventures. The laundry list of issues that keep people locked out is a mechanism used by those in power to keep those who have the ability to share in that power away from the source of that power. In other words, those who possess the ability to make a difference are denied that place due to the power of those who control who is allowed in and who is kept out.
Again, it is critical that I make it clear that I hate using that race card. More and more it feels like a major “blacklash” coming from those who have been advocates for social justice. More and more the credentials of black people are being questioned. More and more it feels like there is no space for a discussion surrounding how a person’s position of privilege limits the sharing of power. The manipulation of the position of power has not changed. People are conducting business as usual. What has changed is the perception that the old system is justifiable due to the election of Barack Obama. Those who have maintained control are now freed, it seems, to operate void of guilt.
Sadly, those who hold the power are clueless that their actions negate the sharing of power. They operate with good intentions. They function out of a sincere desire to make a difference. Missing is an understanding regarding how their actions hinder the movement toward change. What appears to be an effort to include others is more of a design to control the outcomes by managing who is allowed in and who is kept out.
It feels like a “blacklash” to me.