Twentieth century poet and writer, Dorothy Parker said, “Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone.” Well, last week during the 2013 Miss Chiquita Delaware beauty and talent show, enough ugly was heavily blooming from the refined soil of provincialism for all to gander. The crowd’s reaction to seven-year-old Jakiyah McKoy being named the winner caused the contest sponsor, Nuestras Raices Delaware, to strip the child of her newly acquired “bling.”
She was described, which is only obvious to a nitwit, as not being “the best representative of Latin beauty.” Simply put, Jakiyah, who has Dominican roots, was too Black for the competition. But do not worry, justice will prevail. All will be put to rest, and the crown will be returned to the rightful owner. That is . . . . once the parents provide proof that their daughter is 25 percent Hispanic.
Too bad that she will have some trouble with this task since her undocumented Dominican grandmother is deceased. Interestingly enough, participants are normally taken at their word relating to their heritage. But why was this same courtesy not afforded to Jakiyah?
Let’s start by being honest with one another.
Beauty has truly and overwhelmingly throughout the history of the world been defined by White. In fact, within disproportionate segments of the world, whiteness is the definition of beauty. This may be why more Latinos than in previous years, self-identified themselves as White within a 2011 Pew National Survey. With the help of commercials coaxing you to purchase over-processed foods, to the high falutin’ and over-priced designs placed upon the emaciated bodies of those walking the runways of New York to Malian, the image is crystallized. No matter the social class or ethnic lineage, we as a society sway back and forth due to the white snake charming effect.
For some, the effects are heartbreaking. The 2013 documentary, Dark Girls, highlights the prejudices experienced by dark-complected women throughout the world.
This is clearly another example that proves the existence of a white racial frame within the 21st century. I am confident the spirit of the Brown Bag test (used by a number of Black sororities and fraternities to stop darker skinned Blacks from admission), segregation within businesses, churches, Black colleges, preparatory schools, or the previous Charles Chestnutt’s Blue Veins Society are still alive today within our society.
In fact, the lyrics of the classic blues singer, Big Bill Broonzy, “They said, if you was white, you’d be alright, If you was brown, stick around, But as you is black, oh brother, Get back, get back, get back” are still prevalent and relevant to the discussion relating to little Jakiyah.
Latinos are not exempt from being poisoned by the prevalence of white racism. Patricia Hill Collins, discusses domains of oppression (e.g., gender, class, race, sexual orientation, religion), and how they are all interconnected.
Even though each domain differs regarding social categorization, they still remain connected through the same confrontation of oppressive challenges. At times, they may even overlap. Importantly, due to a particular social location, one who is oppressed may instead become the oppressor. In the case of the Miss Chiquita Delaware competition, it is clear who is oppressing and who is oppressed.
Surprised? No. Hurt? No. I am neither bamboozled, disillusioned, flimflammed, confused, taken aback, floored, or any other adjective one would possibly use to describe their emotions pertaining to the latest public act of overt racism and idiocy which was illustrated by Spain’s top golfer Sergio Garcia. Media outlets from the Huffington Post to ESPN reported on his comments relating to Tiger Woods. In summary, this past Tuesday evening in London during the European Tour’s Players’ Awards dinner, a reporter asked the golfer if he was planning to invite his nemesis to dinner during the imminent U.S. Open. Garcia responded by saying, “We will have him round every night…”We will serve fried chicken.” After reading the story, I instantly saw my southern elderly grandmother saying, “Oooh Weee!!” But I digress. After you know what hit the you know what, Garcia issued a foreseeable apology.
I apologize for any offense that may have been caused by my comment on stage during the European Tour Players’ Awards dinner. I answered a question that was clearly made towards me as a joke with a silly remark, but in no way was the comment meant in a racist manner.
To me what seemed pure and concentrated racism was in fact a harmless joke? What was I thinking? Seriously, it seems whenever well-known white politicians, sports figures, and movie stars are forced to retract hurtful comments, pertaining to non-whites, which usually only occurs due to the possible threat to their financial “Cheese,” the term “joke” is always utilized to set forth rationalization. Dr. Jane Hill, out of the University of Arizona who studies language ideologies in the reproduction of racism, would deem this behavior as an example of a “gaffe.” The supposed slip of Garcia’s tongue reproduces the white “folk-theory” while advancing the highly constructed virtue of whiteness. For the ultimate purpose of justifying white privilege, the use of gaffes permits whites to stigmatize nonwhites through the process of “reproducing racist stereotypes.” Even though many people do not truly believe all Black people are genetically drawn to eating fried chicken, Hill would argues that Garcia’s gaffe
still becomes easily accessible, become an element of automatic, unreflective action and reaction that is very difficult to notice and contest.
The media serves an excellent instrument for the accessibility of these messages.
It is important to note here the media has historically and currently function as an instrument of the white racial frame. I argue the frame itself acts as a bulwark in its attempts to maintain the deep-rooted system of oppression that ultimate seeks to gain supremacy. What is presented on within the media around the world is an unvarying spin cycle of stereotypes and demonizing imagery that at the end of the day devalues non-whites, in particular blacks. I determine that today’s media reproduces the collective images and messages that were first seen as early as the 1915 movie, “The Birth of a Nation.” The images and sounds that carry messages of the past are facilitated and directed by those in charge—White elite.
As seen in the past, the historical stereotypes associated with non-whites today are simply socially reproduced neutralizing agents utilized to secure the continuation of racial conquests. Unlike in the past, today’s acts do not include the deed of public lynching. Come on, those are socially frowned upon, right? But the utilization of racial stereotypes, such as those performed by Garcia, ultimately affects the psyche of both whites and non-whites. Moreover, they can be used as social control techniques to remind non-whites the stereotypical worthlessness of Blacks. This can be seen within others in the sports world. For example, many do not recall a popular sports commentator named, Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder who worked for CBS. He was fired for his comments relating to the dominance of Blacks in sports. Moreover, in 1988 he stated Black male athletes were
bred to be the better athlete because, this goes all the way to the Civil War when … the slave owner would breed his big woman so that he would have a big black kid [CNN. Sports Illustrated. Video Almanac, 1988].
Dr. Joe Feagin would deem these noted acts as a resource needed by whites to rationalize the treatment of Blacks in order to legitimize U.S. white power and privilege, while at the same time denying the same power and privilege to non-whites.
But then again, Garcia is not an American citizen. How did a Spaniard come to utilize the white racial frame? One would be remiss to believe the legitimization of white dominance is foreign to those overseas. The power of anti-black sentiment and action are publicly demonstrated. For example, it has been documented that during soccer’s World Cup events, non-white players were spat upon, and racially mocked. At the same time spectators and even some players visibly replicated Hitler’s mustache and Nazi salute while yelling, “Heil Hitler.” Another example which gets little attention from the white dominated media can be seen within Greece. Currently due to the economic doom experienced by its people, citizens have taken up arms against non-Greek citizens. I mean literally taken up arms. Specifically, violence and racist sentiments are on the rise. The political party, Golden Dawn, which resembles the Nazi faction of the past, has gained political power and devotion though their rhetoric which expresses violence toward immigrants.
The Racist Violence Recording Network reported 154 cases of racist violence in 2012, including 25 in which the victims said the perpetrators were police. The figures were released a week after more than 30 Bangladeshi workers suffered shotgun wounds on a strawberry farm in southern Greece during a dispute with foremen over back pay.
Some have even pointed to Israel as a place of rising acts of racism which target African immigrants and asylum seekers.
Overall, in relations to the remarks of Garcia, and others who will definitely be heard in the future, are merely methods of social control and oppression. They serve as reminders of the past. Control initiated to remind whites of their power and placement upon the self-constructed hierarchical ladder. Control initiated to remind non-whites, specifically Blacks, of their placement at the bottom. The ramifications of historical enslavement, repetitive social and institutional practices of oppression, and racism itself toward non-whites is normalized through the use of false perceptions, and stereotypes. All of which are steered for all to partake in destructive thoughts and violent actions.
Henry A. Giroux, in a recent post entitled, “Lil Wayne’s Lyrical Fascism,” alleges “We have come a long way from the struggles that launched the civil rights movement over fifty years ago.”
After reading the actual article, due to the esteemed Dr. Giroux’s critique on the rapper Lil Wayne, it would seem “We” definitely have not arrived. Giroux examines not only the deplorable lines within Lil Wayne’s contribution to the remix of “Karate Chop” (Yes, it actually called this), where he declares he will “beat the pussy up like Emmett Till,” but more importantly Giroux lends a spotlight to the underlying condition that allows for racist, sexist, and historical mockery to take place within the 21st century.
Giroux goes on to call into question the economic drive that fosters the media’s atmosphere consisting of poisonous and destructive attributes. These elements thusly seep through the “sleazemonger” which occupies our airwaves, satellites, and print. He also calls our society to the proverbial mat due to our collective lack of resistance to said subject. Importantly, Giroux comments on the existence of “a deeper order of racist ideology and commodification that is pushed to the margins of discourse in the neoliberal age of colorblindness.”
Those who follow his scholarship are aware Giroux has argued over the years that fundamentalist neoliberals who reject democratic idealism while praying to the gods of free market have gained the necessary financial momentum and social vigor to heavily influence the political and economic domains around the world like never before observed in history. In fact, they not only influence policy and political directions of those we elect to represent our interests, but they also seek to weaken those non-commodified areas within our communal space which serve as sources of conflicting critical discourse. Indeed, the mainstream media have become a brilliant source for accomplishing this charge. Due to their unwavering compulsion to gain profit, these free market fundamentalists hold almost no empathy in regard to their actions, which may create inequality, mortal anguish, and subjugation. Overall, the collective soul of a people and their democratic footing in this world is simply collateral damage to those seeking the all might “Dolla Bill Ya!”
I agree with Giroux in terms of the current state of neoliberalism and the erosion of democratic practices that is facilitated by use of the media. Malcolm X was right when he said, “The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”
But at the same time when taking into consideration Giroux’s take on the neoliberal methodology in regard to using the media to gain profits through the use of racist and misogynistic messages (which are easily swallowed by the zombies that surround us), I strongly argue, simply, they are playing an old tune we as a world have been dancing to since the beginning. Remember, Joe Feagin contends racism and oppression are still viewed as normal parts of society due to the enmeshment of the White racial dogma embedded in the foundations of U.S. society. In addition, his concept, the white racial frame, spotlights a created set of organized “racialized” ideas and stereotypes that have the power to induce strong emotions. It is important to know these actions are based off of the U.S. historical enshrinement of a frame of thinking which at the center, is composed of a pro-white sub-frame (which takes notice of the superiority of Whites) and a demonizing anti-black sub-frame. In fact, institutional racism relies on the presence and mechanism of anti-Black attitudes and practices that are displayed overtly and covertly.
Therefore, what we are seeing today with the likes of Lil Wayne is nothing new. In terms of people of color attaching their own psychological chains to their advancement, this is nothing new as well. The power of racism and the allure of the white racial frame have the ability to ensnare those targeted for oppression into unconsciously adhering to their own demise. The historical and powerful speech by Malcolm X, “The House Negro and Field Negro,” although forceful, seems fitting:
There was two kind of slaves. There was the house negro and the field negro. The house negro, they lived in the house, with master. They dressed pretty good. They ate good, cause they ate his food, what he left. They lived in the attic or the basement, but still they lived near their master, and they loved their master, more than their master loved himself…If the master got sick, the house negro would say “What’s the matter, boss, we sick?” We sick! He identified himself with his master, more than the master identified with himself. And if you came to the house negro and said “Let’s run away, Let’s escape, Let’s separate” the house negro would look at you and say “Man, you crazy. What you mean separate? Where is there a better house than this? Where can I wear better clothes than this? Where can I eat better food than this?” There was that house negro. In those days, he was called a house nigger. And that’s what we call him today, because we still got some house niggers runnin around here…
If Malcolm were alive today, would he feel this is applicable to rappers like Jay-Z who has made million along his musical path calling women bitches?
Fascinating, due to having a baby daughter in 2012, he declared to never use the word again. Thank you Jay-Z. How about Lil Wayne and music mogul Russell Simons who hasve defiantly defended the current status and messages of hip/hop? Are they men under the illusion that they are in control and their pursuits? Are they purely focused on money and simply representing a faction of the neoliberal camp? But are they in reality the all encompassing “House Negros” affected blindly by the messages of subjugation.
Therefore. Dr. Giroux, the only difference I see today, beyond the democratic erosion of our society due to neoliberalism, is the advancement and use of technology in facilitating an old message that attempts to keep a white foot on the neck of people of color.
White racism today remains “‘normal’” and deeply imbedded in most historically white institutions. Every such institution is still substantially whitewashed in its important norms, rules, and arrangements…it seems likely that a majority of whites cannot see just how whitewashed their historically white organizations and institutions really are.
The editorial piece discusses a recent submission from guest contributor of The Daily Princetonian and Princeton alumna, Susan Patton, who controversially declared that the women of Princeton should, “Find a husband on campus before you graduate.” She goes on to say:
I am the mother of two sons who are both Princetonians. My older son had the good judgment and great fortune to marry a classmate of his, but he could have married anyone. My younger son is a junior and the universe of women he can marry is limitless… As Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market. Simply put, there is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are. And I say again — you will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of you.
Oh no, she didn’t!! Sorry, I was channeling a number of high school students I work with. But nonetheless, apparently from the slings and arrows she received for publishing her essay, Susan forgot the first two rules of the Ivy League:
1st RULE: You do not talk about the secrets of the Ivy League.
2nd RULE: You DO NOT talk about the secrets of the Ivy League.
Douthat noted many of her ideological opponents deem her as a turncoat to feminism. Her betrayal of acknowledging a truth, which Douthat feels many who attend Ivy League institutions are conscious of, is Patton’s biggest crime. A truth that encompasses the ideas that these places of highly manicured lawns and pristine historically well-kept buildings are focused not only on the pursuit of academic excellence, but also the charge of preserving racial entitlement while safeguarding the advantages accrued over generations in order to be safely transmitted to the next.
Even though these institutions over the decades have visibly discussed racial diversity and applied a dash of the finest cosmetic makeup to cover their blemished pale skin, Ivy League schools continue to be, as Feagin states, “whitewashed.” The quest for meritocracy continues within the 21st century. The current mode of protecting white interests, access to power, and purifying the elite is constant in country that attempts to convince its people that they are living in a post racial society. Albert Memmi understood this mechanism of racial supremacy when he stated,
racists are people who are afraid…generally it is because one wishes to obtain or defend something of value…the necessity to defend an individual identity and a collective identity, against all who come from elsewhere and don’t belong, is in operation.
This is not a declaration that all who attend these settings are racist per se, but the institution itself and those that practice the dark arts of the white racial frame, are definitely protecting historically privileged White placement on a hierarchy while simultaneously dispensing unequal treatment for a marginalized people. Its systems do not freely and equally entitle Blacks and Latinos to the same resources, power, and empathy as predetermined for the privileged placement of Whites. This is definitely illustrated within their modest number of students and faculty of color.
But then again, what do I know. I was poor and attended a state school.
Denial… as Bill Watterson has said, “It’s not denial. I’m just selective about the reality I accept.” Well for some in Delavan-Darien, Wisconsin, the river of denial is running as deep and steady as in Egypt (h/t Mark Twain).
Seriously though, Delavan-Darien High School was recently under fire by parents who reportedly:
…accused a diversity class of promoting a critical race theory, alleging that students are being taught that minorities are disadvantaged by white oppressors.
Fox news gleefully reported that the class “…exposed students to radical leftist thinkers.” Parents of students at the high school described the curriculum was “indoctrination,” due to the exposure of works by University of Texas professor Robert Jensen, author of The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege and social experiments which required students to participate in critically analyzing the racial composition of dolls on the shelves of a local Wal-mart.
One of the complaining parent said that the reading materials and assigned tasks were…“meant to divide and victimize non-whites and condition whites to feel guilty and to be more passive.” Someone reached out to the (conservative) Young America’s Foundation, which dismissed the class as “race-baiting,” “indoctriniation,” and so much “white guilt.”
The Superintendent Robert Crist deflected the controversy by blaming the class on the youth of the teacher within the course. He went on to state the course raised “red flags.” He believes “in helping kids understand the basic objectives of curriculum and not use some radical material to get a student to support some kind of a special theory.” Special he says? Tell that to the people of color who fell prey to the racial predatory loans (1990s-2000s) that fueled the recent housing crisis. Regardless, currently the class is out of commission and under review by the powers that be within the local school district.
Overall, I feel that a large percentage of governmental and institutional policies and programs enacted today are essentially continuing a legacy of control that benefit the majority—Whites. This in fact is a legacy many deny even when confronted with surmounting evidence that affirms otherwise. But then again, why admit transgressions when the strengthen efforts to continue the heritage of oppression endured by people of color subsequently benefits them—the elite proprietors of money, power, and resources within this country. Within this setting they continue to hold the reins of supremacy over the marginalized and less fortunate. Their influence and direction set the rhythm for those on the outside of their inner circle to dance to. They determine who is worthy of their attention and admiration and those who are to be ignored and detested. They determine those who should be considered safe and those who should be seen as dangerous. They have the power to influence the minds of those here and abroad.
In the general public when discussing the pains of racism today, I have heard the uttered words, “Come on, get over it. It is in the past and has no significance in a country where a Black man can be elected President of the United States.” Sociologist Bonilla-Silva describes this attitude as “color blind racism.” He observes that Whites, collectively, have:
“…developed powerful explanations — which have ultimately become justification — for contemporary racial inequality that exculpate them from any responsibility for the status of people of color.”
This subsequently occurs due to the fact that in general, many Whites and Blacks perceive the idea of racism much differently. First, Whites distinguish racism as acts that are founded within the notion of prejudice. Secondly, people of color, such as Blacks observe racism as “systemic or institutionalized.”
I hold fast to the certainty that racism cannot be quantified into simple attitudes or acts of prejudice directed toward a person or group of people, but forever unremitting and replicated within in our society within an array of systems and institutions. Hence, it would not be hard to arrive at the conclusion that racism is an immortal ideological symbiote that has latched upon the psyche of the world’s consciousness. Furthermore, those affected and suffer from colorblind racism bears a lack of comprehension in relation to the continued hold racism and oppression has on all major systems and institutions.
In other words…White Privilege…
Thinking not only of the reaction to President Obama’s recent debate performances, but also of the manner in which he has been graded and depicted by political pundits, so called newscasters, and the general public on idiot blogs over the past four years, reminds me of a conversation my mother and I had when I was in the seventh grade. It occurred after I was publicly humiliated at school once my name and others were called, announcing our honor roll placement for the semester over the school PA system. I told her of my feelings associated with the backhanded compliments from unsupportive white peers and ridicule from a segment of my own racial group. I felt isolated and alone.
This especially held true because I was one of just two Blacks announced. This alone carried many issues and concerns. Nevertheless, my mother simply said, “Sometimes being a person of color is like walking a tight rope above folks waiting to see the blood spew from your fall.” She told me that on one side, non-Blacks will think you are still beneath them and cannot wait for your fall. On the other side were some of my own who hate that I was in a position they are not. For those reasons, they will at times subconsciously wish for your demise. This introduced me to the idea of division among Black America–a subject discussed at great lengths within Cool Pose: The Dilemmas of Black Manhood in America, by Richard Majors and Janet Mancini Billson. Today, we can witness an increasing division among Blacks due to socioeconomic status.
Regardless, to me, the jeering and division seems to become louder and wider as one begins to occupy spaces that have traditionally been denied due to skin tone. When one is seen as a rarity, “the oddity,” the air of subjugation, fear, and at times hatred becomes thicker and forces the lungs to work harder in order to endure. Many times the pressure is so unbearable, that psychological stressors can occur and affect the emotional and physical statuses of individuals. It can create strife within the formation of an identity.
I have witnessed how the president has been depicted. I have seen in print and within the context of news stories within the 24-hour news cycle that have painted him as “too Black.” On the other hand, was it that he has forgotten Blacks and their plight? People who I admire, such as Cornel West and Tavis Smiley, have been seen trailing this particular bandwagon. I have seen others note that the president is not aggressive enough and not acting like a “stereotypical scary black man.” During the second presidential debate, I received an automatic shock to my brain every time someone coined his approach to his political appointment as, “angry.” Whites have often deemed him as an illegal alien, monkey, Hitler, and other derogatory figures.
In the end, I feel we as a nation have for four years viciously watched in excitement a political tragedy. The essence of racism, as seen during Jackie Robinson’s rise, is still prevalent as the president continues to move along the racial tightrope. The effects on race are truly boundless. The Kool-Aid has been drunk by not only by those seen as oppressors, but also by those seen as oppressed. In fact, the thought that race within this presidential election is absent, is credulous at best.
What? Wait, I thought I just saw something. Yes, someone was there! There it goes again…another one just disappeared. Where? No it is not an aberration? Are you kidding me…right there? Did you see it that time? Am I going crazy? No. On the contrary, I am quite sane. Even though my mother continues to follow this conclusion, only after witnessing my attempt as a child to place my tongue into an electrical socket as a child, my faculties have yet to escape into the void of emptiness and paranoia. They truly are disappearing, you know? The problem is not with me, but with your eyes. Or rather what you chose to avoid. At times, many of you do not care to venture into what I see. Many of you find their disappearance irrelevant. You say, “How do I know?” Well, even though whispers are present within small circles, in general I see the absence of it presence within your so-called intellectually constructed confines you call “the academy.” I notice your care for the topic within your incomplete descriptive statistical reports relating to educational attainment. I do not see the subject in print within presentation and roundtable discussions which take place inside your large educational and sociological conferences that cater to the intellectual highbrow. In fact, I do not see largely publicized proactive stances within the confines of the government and or public and post-secondary education. Where is the alarm? Sound the alarm . . . . sound the alarm!
Many Americans, particularly people of color, have joined in the celebration of this momentous occasion and expressed an opinion that Obama’s election ushered in a colorblind era. To them, this occasion symbolized for all that the historic caste system which hindered the progress of Blacks since the beginning of our nation has come to an end. On the day of Mr. Obama’s inauguration, I had the pleasure of walking down the hallways of a few public elementary schools and bore witness to the cheers, smiles, hugs, and celebration of many educators who could have not imagined a couple of years earlier they would have the honor to watch on school televisions and news websites the swearing in of our first Black U.S. president. “If Barrack can do it, you have no excuse not to,” was avowed to little Black faces in creepy harmony across the spectrum of a particular ED classroom that was populated with all Black males, except for one White male. In truth, that celebration across the country and sentiments of a colorblind era are nothing but distractions that serve as a curtain to hide underlying racial realities affecting Blacks, particularly those within the lower SES brackets. Through a critical analysis, gains witnessed by many are in fact gains and breakthroughs that primarily benefit middle and upper class Blacks. The racial caste system rooted in society since the founding of America is still in full operation. As a consequence, those at the bottom of the tiered system have continuously been prone to sophisticated measures of extreme supremacy and chastisement within the U.S. The consequential effects of targeting and all around affront toward Black males can be decisively identified through a multifaceted examination of the current state of Black males within this country.
Why? The 21st century condition of Black males is not comparable to any other group within the United States. Nowhere is this more strongly seen than in their educational experiences.
The state of Black males in education is dismal. The Chronicle of Higher Education stated within their Almanac of Higher Education 2012 issue, out of Bachelor’s (164,844), Master’s (76,458), and doctoral degrees (10,417) awarded to Blacks, Black males respectively earned 34.1%, 28.9%, and 34.8 respectively. Black females respectively earned 65.9%, 71.1%, and 65.2%. Today in terms of population, Black females outnumber their male counterparts as well. This does not improve within the domains of public education.
Public schools throughout Florida, New York, and Georgia, that Black males were twice as likely not to graduate with their 2005 and 2006 class cohorts than their other classmates (pdf here). Did you know that Delaware, Indiana, Michigan, South Carolina, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Georgia graduate fewer Black males than any other states? Distinctively my home state of Illinois can take credit, along with Wisconsin, for having close to a 40% gap between White and Black male graduation rates. Likewise, the bleak states of Nevada, Wyoming, Ohio, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, and Indiana graduate less than 50% of their Black male students from public schools. Sadly, the rare states that graduate Black males at a 70% rate are only Arizona, North Dakota, New Jersey, Vermont, and Maine.
The Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color (COSEBOC) in 2007 stated that Black males suffered from the largest achievement gap in comparison to any other racial/ethnic group in the U.S. The National Center for Education Statistics in 2007 reported that the rate of Black females receiving a college and university degrees was approximately two times that of Black males. Some reports have gone so far as to note the current academic gap between students of color (Black and Hispanic/Latino) and White students is primarily due to “socioeconomic factors.” Simply put, they dispute racial disparities between Blacks and non-Blacks. Neutralizing the discussion of race has seemingly emerged as one approach to address the achievement gap between Black and White students. Nonetheless, studies and findings in the area of mathematics have proven to dispute this claim and yield no better result. As a case in point, in 2009, Black males in large urban settings who were classified eligible for free and reduced lunch due to low SES, academically performed 20 points lower than comparable White males. White males not receiving free and reduced lunches averaged 11 points higher than Black male classmates who were ineligible. The data indicate that regardless of socioeconomics, racial disparity exists within a vast number of academic areas. Further, Blacks from affluent suburban areas have been shown to suffer from the same concerns as poor urban students.
Why? Overall I feel that a large percentage of governmental and institutional policies and programs enacted today are essentially continuing a legacy of control. This in fact is a legacy many deny even when confronted with surmounting evidence that affirms otherwise. But then again, why admit transgressions when the effort to continue the heritage of oppression endured by people of color subsequently benefits them—the elite proprietors of money, power, and resources within this country. Within this setting they continue to hold the reins of supremacy over the marginalized and less fortunate. Their influence and direction set the rhythm for those on the outside of their inner circle to dance to. They determine who is worthy of their attention and admiration and those who are to be ignored and detested. They determine those who should be considered safe and those who should be seen as dangerous. They have the power to influence the minds of those here and abroad. This is simply a dangerous game of thrones people of color have never seemed to master. Within every game there exists a potential wild card that has the capability to alter the dynamics of a game. A wild card is to be watched by the leaders of the game. All their efforts must be focused to discourage this improbable player from moving from behind to overcome and leader and as a result win. Within this country, Black and Latino males are the impeding wild card.
Within this malevolence operation, Black males are particularly at risk of being exposed to noteworthy doses of oppressive measures that are in general experienced by women or other ethnic groups. Oppressive systems and people who operate on the grounds of the systemic social reproduction of racism as Albert Memmi stated, “want distinctions and advantages to be given by birth to those who simply declare themselves by self-decree to be best.” Today as witnessed within the past, the systems within the U.S. were simply created by our country’s forefathers to give advantage to some, but not all. The effects of the seeds and thus vines of oppression that have encased the internal and external surfaces of the U.S. continue to render the minds, hearts, and actions of the world. The world has blindly come to be served the toxic proverbial “Kool-Aid,” and consequently continue the undertaking of condemning, demonizing, and psychologically and physically antagonizing Black males.
The character Captain, in the 1967 movie Cool Hand Luke, famously said, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate. But I feel that the message that is being sent is quite clear and present. The conversation pertaining to the social and academic well-being of Black males is not only missing, but also insignificant.
Have you ever been somewhere or doing something and thought to yourself, “This is strangely familiar. I have been here before, right?” The American comic Steven Wright once said, “Right now I’m having amnesia and déjà vu at the same time.” At this moment in time, this quote holds true for the current process of nominating the Republican Great White Hope nominee. Even though I was not around during the 1940s and 1950s (thank God, I do not know if I would have been tough enough), I am feeling as if our country has been here before, politically and socially.
For me, I have seen this before with the political career of provocative Strom Thurmond. In the beginning, he was known as a progressive legislator with the Democratic Party. Although a racist Dixiecrat, he was once responsible for arresting members of a lynch mob that killed a Black man named Willie Earle in South Carolina. For his pursuit in this matter, he was congratulated by the NAACP.
Later as a presidential candidate in 1948, he began to change his proverbial tune. In order to win, he realized that the nation was negatively reacting to the actions of President Harry Truman and the general Civil Rights movement that was occurring in the U.S. He loudly played to the fear and hatred being felt by Whites. As the presidential candidate, Strom Thurmond won an astounding 39 electoral votes. The formula worked and he continued on this road to later be elected in 1954 to the U.S. Senate. Later in 1964, he even switched parties.
Today, the spirit of Strom Thurmond is present within the current Republican Party nomination process. The likes of Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul have all had their turn publicly battering people of color and the poor to the jeers of misguided conservatives who have felt that their country has been stripped from their White hands by a Black man.
Instead of explicitly spouting racist comments, their approach has been quite clever. Throughout the debates we have seen the emergence of exploiting the same “state rights” (10th Amendment) argument that was used to argue against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Simply, the candidates are utilizing the amendment that reserves rights to the state and its people and not to the federal government in order to rid the federal muscle protecting issues such as health care, abortion, immigration, new ID laws which make it difficult for marginalized populations to vote, and civil rights. This is a coded but clearly understood message that makes a call for times of yesterday.
A more explicit example of social ignorance that has been front and center during this election period can be found with Ron Paul and the evidence that has recently been discovered by the press. Ron Paul’s previous political newsletters have been shown to contain numerous statements marked by bigotry and racism. Even though Ron Paul and his supporters have claimed that many of the articles were written by others using his name, I still find him guilty of supporting the weight of what was said. He was a part of newsletters that called Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, a “Radical black Anglican.” In addition, Ron Paul’s newsletter has been connected with:
• Arguing that whites should arm themselves due to the oncoming race war
• Agreeing with the racist findings and comments of eugenics advocate Jared Taylor
• Asserting young Black males, unlike their counterparts, should be tried in adult courts due to the fact that they are “big, strong, tough, scary, and culpable as any adult, and should be treated as such [http://www.tnr.com/sites/default/files/Sep92PolRepRacist_0.PDF]
• Defending the previous owner of the Cincinnati Reds, Marge Schott, when she referred to her players as “million dollar niggers.”
This is not to mention the fact that the newsletter agreed as well to her statements that held Hitler in high regard.
Moreover, during the greatly expected Republican debate in South Carolina, which happened to fall on the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, racism and social ignorance were on full display. The Black moderator, and socially conservative Juan Williams, asked Newt Gingrich if he felt that his previously public comments relating to the need of Black Americans to demand jobs and not food stamps was insulting to the poor and Blacks. As Newt undauntedly said, “No, I don’t see that,” the crowd of mostly White participants erupted into cheers. As Juan attempted to push the matter further, the crowd booed and actually gave Newt a standing ovation.
What was equally upsetting was the fact that the other nominees said nothing. They stolidly stood silent as the social assault on the poor and people of color went down. They were all complicit in their silence to rhetoric that echoed white supremacy. Due to the lack of a critical examination by Matt Lauer or his other blockheaded news associates, I find them complicit as well. In my mind, they were all guilty of the message that was portrayed to the world. David Axelrod was correct when he said, “campaigns are like MRIs for the soul…” We as a country are truly diseased.
The fix is in, as they say. The announcement has been made. The ideological royal guard of racial stratification is standing at attention. There is a change of the guard in terms of the covenant title, (insert the sound of trumpets please), “Model Minority.” Previously I was swayed by the weight of a 2008 Journal of African American Studies article, “Race, Gender and Progress: Are Black American Women the New Model Minority?” by Amadu Jacky Kaba. This scholar asserts that Black females, despite the effects of slavery, gender discrimination, and racial oppression were slowly becoming the new model minority. Black females were described as replacing Eastern and Southern Asians upon the white pedestal for other minority groups to be in awe of.
Many do not know the term “model minority” was coined by sociologist William Peterson in a 1966 New York Times magazine essay entitled, “Success Story: Japanese American Style.” The piece made the argument that despite their experiences with historical marginalization, Asian Americans have attained “success” (whatever that means in this country), due to strong families, respect for education, and work ethic. In later years the media provided an array of articles and coverage that exhibited this point. In essence they were all nationally and internationally stressing the strength of the poignant question—“Why can’t Blacks get their act together?” The term by many is viewed as both racist and divisive. It was created by the White elite to serve as a way to downplay the effects of racism on Blacks while publicly blaming Blacks, the victim, for their own political, economic, and social status.
In my research, I have seen the trends of Black female graduation (high school, bachelors, and advanced degrees) increase while Black males have dropped. I have noticed the increase of Black females attaining corporate, medical, and legal jobs. I have also noticed the declining number of Black males entering the educational programs needed to attain these positions. I have seen the young Black male faces entering into a prison system that is plastered wall to wall with their image. The health and suicide rates fare no better. When taking this into account, I was not so sure the predicted change of guard would occur.
This was not until I became aware of the emerging research by Dudley Poston at Texas A&M, that points to China, which replaces Mexico (Mexican immigrants) as the new U.S. source for low wage workers coming to the US. He goes on to assert that the sentiment, legal maneuvers, and overall disdain targeting Mexican workers we have witnessed in the past few years will possibly be refocused on the replacing low-wage Asian worker. Due to this I feel that the outlook on Asians as the supposed “model” will cease to exist. They too will be blamed for the same issues Mexican workers are blamed for today. This will give way to a new champ to be elected in order to continue the divide between people of color, and at the same time sustaining the existing racist oppressive conditions that keep Blacks and Latinos down.
Unlike the application of the frame of Asian Americans, I feel that the ramifications of promoting Black females as the new model minority will not only negatively impact race relations, but the social relationship between Black males and females. What can we do? We know the social and psychological damage the previous model has done to world. Therefore there is no excuse. I challenge you as a scholar and/or citizen of social justice to push back. We have to point out what this divisive tactic is to the world—destructive.