If identifying biracial people as black "validates the separation of the races" then there is perhaps no one contributing more to the cause of these neo-segregationists than Barack Obama himself. "My view has always been that I'm African-American," Obama told Chicago Tribune reporter Dawn Turner Trice back in 2004. "African Americans by definition, we're a hybrid people." In seeking a validation of her own ideas about race and racial identity, and by casting Obama as the victim of a reductive racial vocabulary, Arenas simply ignores the will of her subject. But racial categories are only unjust insofar as they prevent people from identifying how they wish. Arenas is doing exactly what she is attempting to prevent, forcing Obama into the racial category of her, rather than his own, choosing...
There is a strain of paternalism, manifested in Arenas' op-ed, that seeks to define African-American culture solely within the context of oppression. Viewed in this light, all black cultural idiosyncrasies are the result of persecution, and are therefore cultural pathologies. It's not that black folks really like soul food, it's that we are drawn to it by historical trauma. If we only understood our tragic condition, we would all be eating cucumber sandwiches and Special K, jamming to Coldplay instead of Jay-Z. Likewise, we need to be emancipated from the antiquated definitions of American blackness that include everyone from the blond, blue-eyed Walter White to Jamaican-born Marcus Garvey. Except such analysis ignores the cultural, intellectual, and artistic traditions that evolved from such oppression, and therefore is unable to appraise their value.
That last point can not be banged on hard enough. In the arena of racial progress, I know of only a few more destructive forces, than the black pathology disciples, the coterie of writers, editors, scholars and pundits who see black folks mainly as pure-bred descendants of slaves, and the worse end of a gaggle of socio-economic data. This isn't a left-right deal. The theory of the black automaton programmed simply by oppression, on the left, or dysfunctional culture, on the right, leaves no room for Rakim, for Zora Neal Hurston, for my woman's clear, beautiful skin, for actual humanity.
This is why neither lefties nor righties can get a handle on this blacks and gay marriage thing. Instead of asking how groups who've been oppressed have traditionally behaved toward other groups under duress, they posit a black version of the madonna/whore complex, in which blacks are supposed to be this font of American liberalism, and are ripped when we don't live up to that standard. It's a trip. This country was built by white people fleeing oppression. Yet to hear these fools tell it, you'd think that experience stopped them from slaughtering the Indians and enslaving blacks.
And therein is the ultimate upshot of reducing black humanity--it ultimately reduces white humanity. It pretends that whites are always perfectly rational, and that their interactions with race aren't complicated and contradictory. Dig's Arana implicit proposition, for instance, that there is some pure strain monoracial strain of black--or even white--and how it basically eradicates one of the great unspoken crimes of slavery and Jim Crow--the widespread rape of black women. Once you understand your own fraility, your own contradictory nature, once you understand (to take it back to Baraka) that you yourself are beautiful though you "sometimes fail to walk the air," once you get your own flawed genius, you'll understand ours. Because in the end, there is no fundamental difference.
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