A friend wrote me this morning to say I was unduly harsh in my reply to KCN. This is likely true. One problem with highlighting your commenters is you have to respect the basic asymmetry--you have the megaphone, not them. Smugness and sarcasm doen't really exhibit that sort of respect.
Having said that, I wanted folks to understand why this line of cultural argument rankles so much. For those who know this, I'm sorry to repeat. But it's indispensable to what I'm about to say.
You guys know me--I came up in Baltimore, during the crack era, across the street from Mondawmin Mall (before they added that Target). I was born out of wedlock (my parents married when I was four) to a father with kids strewn across the city. I went to public school all my life. I spent much of childhood underachieving in school--until high school when I summarily failed out of school. Twice. I went to college, but dropped-out. I've got an eight-year old son out of wedlock. I've been living in sin with his mother for years now. For the vast majority of those years, her income has dwarfed mine--some years even tripled it.
From a socio-economic perspective, that's my biography. Rightly or wrongly, I identify with people who come up in a similar fashion, while at the same time recognizing the great diversity amongst them.
This isn't about hood credentialism. I ran from more fights than I stood for. I think Dungeons & Dragons changed my life. I never lived in the projects. I never worried once about what would be for dinner. I rocked my share of off-brands, but all I ever really wanted for, as a child, were a pair of Lottoes, a Le Coq Sportif sweat-suit, and cable television. When I talk, my diction bears all of those experiences, and one of the reasons I chose not to change it, is because I want you to know who I am and where I've been, because that's exactly what I'd want out of you.
What I know about "inner city blacks," of those who "act ghetto," is
the same as what I lately came to know about about suburban whites,
about Puerto-Rican New Yorkers, about Ivy Leauge graduates, about gay
conservatives, and Israeli-Americans. That they are all different from
us all and from each other, that they deserve to be treated with the
same nuance, with the same soft touch, with the same eye for complexity
and dimension that you'd want for your own family in friends.
partner Kenyatta says that one of the things that convinced her to go
to Howard was a habit she observed among some of her white friends. She
was a smart girl, well-spoken and kind. Sometimes when she'd gotten
close to a white girl at her school, the girl would make some casually
prejudice remark about black people and then say, "But you're not
black." The point being that, despite Kenyatta darkness, what they saw
as "black" was everything that she was not. She talks about jhow she
initially took this as a compliment, and then she realized the true
insidiousness within it--that had they exchanged no words, said white
friend would have drawn the same conclusions about her.
same spirit, I think people who meet and talk to me, who read this blog
of me as "ghetto." But I'm not sure they'd think the same if they saw
me at 8 A.M. on Lenox Ave, rocking the black hoodie and grey New
Balance, on my way
to the Associated. Ghetto, in its most unironic usage, is a word for
people you don't know. It's word that allows you to erase individuals
and create boxes. It's true that I was different than most of my
friends--but most of my friends were different from my friends.
All people, at their core, ultimately are. A man has to stand for those
who intimately loved him and intimately hated him, for those whose
stench he was raised amongst. They get to be human to.
this is a long way of explaining why I get ticked by this line of
thinking. I probably should have offered this instead of sarcasm--but
this is my stench. And I get to be human to.