Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Watching the Byrd-ie!

White Power Salute?The passing of Senator Byrd plunges the Black Blogosphere into a morass of mourning. Well, I exaggerate. Actually, I'm exaggerating a lot.

The senator's passing is, however, being marked by black bloggers, in much the same way that James (Strom) Thurmond's passing was marked, with a looking back over the lives of those who, at some point in their lives, supported a way of life that made life a living hell for many.

The thought comes to mind: The good die young, while evil live long, and from life the last drop is wrung, before we can truly say they're finally gone.

Tupac looked at this phenomenon of the young dying young, as did Billie Joel, Joel's lyrical observations speaking seductively of postponing sexual gratification, and Tupac speaking regrettably about the vicissitudes of life.

I'm reminded, too, about a famous passage from one of Shakespeare's plays, delivered by one Mark Anthony:

Mark Antony:
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him;
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones,
So let it be with Caesar ...


This, too, will probably be true for Senator Robert C. Byrd.

I'm not sure what Byrd's legacy will be--what will stand out, whether it'll be his political legacy, or his racial legacy, or both. Many in the press and the media marked his passing, if not with flourishes of praise, certainly not with damning criticism. Several noted his evolutionary, transformational progress--from that of a former Klansman to one who opposed the war in Iraq, and had several civil rights voting achievements under his belt.

For my part, I'll let Byrd's life speak for itself--those long and short passages with which he elevated his life, and those with which he plumbed the depths of racial animus. At one point in his life, Byrd is quoted as saying:

"I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side…Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds."

I left the following observations at another blog. I debated whether I should include them here, even though it seemed appropriate. I rarely discuss my encounters with racism, and the incidents that follow will be familiar to whites and blacks, alike, but these examples are "tip of the iceberg" instances, and I could have, just as easily, presented more horrific examples. Although, over my life, I've become rather adept at spotting racism, I rarely dwell on the subject.

Here's the black reality as I have lived it, and continue to do so:

In this country, even before we're accused of anything, we're guilty of something: We're guilty of being black.

We're told in our legal system: We're Innocent until proven guilty.

For blacks the reverse is too often true: We're guilty until proven innocent, or until we can prove our innocence.

We were born guilty. We grow to manhood, and womanhood, guilty, and, for many us, we die guilty.

That's why we're followed around in stores by white store clerks. It's because we're guilty.

That's why whites cross the street, rather than come within an unsafe distance of us. It's because we're guilty.

That's why whites yell out the invective, Nigga, when they drive by. It's because we're guilty.

That's why the job we're seeking, and is qualified to do, is given to somebody white, instead, who is not as qualified as we are. It's because we're guilty.

That's why the customer service to which we're entitled, oftentimes comes up grossly lacking. It's because we're guilty.

If, for years, whites treat a people as though they're guilty for existing, they shouldn't expect a "thank you" for it, black cooperation for it, or an adoption of their white value system, or ideals, for it--just because they, and other blacks, say it's good for them.

Living guilty is hard to live down.

####
If you think that the incidents I cited above happened in yesteryears, you'd be wrong. Most of them happen periodically, several within the last year, and a couple within the last month.

No, I don't live in the Deep South. I live within a liberal stronghold, an area in which you'd think racial enlightenment has come. No, not all my encounters are racist. Many whites with whom I have contact, give respect, and show civility. But there is an element that's still waiting for the memo from the front office.

There is a white supremacist gang in my area that's at war with the police department, and have done damage to police property, setting booby traps to inflict bodily harm, but it has been my good fortune not to meet up personally with the group.

Frankly, I'm mostly inured to these behaviors, and actions. And those whose purpose it is to demoralize me, fail miserably.

I'm long past the times, however, when these racial and racist taunts and behavior can disturb my spirit, other than evoke the deepest of pity, and my concern for the future of our country, and the flagging outlook for humankind.

7 comments:

Greg L said...

I'm long past the times, however, when these racial and racist taunts and behavior can disturb my spirit, other than evoke the deepest of pity, and my concern for the future of our country, and the flagging outlook for humankind.

Good post as usual BD.

My encounters with racism have mostly been in the workplace. There was a time when I'd come home stressed out and ready to put my fist through a wall as I'd be so worked up and angry over whatever happened that day. It can take a toll depending on how one responds and manages it.

Basically, I choose to remove myself from those situations and I can say without a doubt that racism was the primary reason why I formed a business. I just couldn't and wouldn't put up with a lot of nonsense. Once I made that move, my stress level about that sort of thing went down considerably, but of course that was replaced by other stresses related to running a small business.

Of course, just going in business doesn't remove the gratuitous sort of stuff like folks clutching their purses and all that, but I don't give a damn about any of that. My main thing is that I couldn't and wouldn't allow what someone thought of me to control my economic circumstances.

The funny thing I found is that being in business can be a situation where you more or less can deal as an equal. I'm not suggesting that I get every "deal" or piece of business out there, but generally if someone needs what I have to offer and I can sell it, we do business. Ironically, some of these same folks might be causing me major headaches if I was in an employee situation with them, but somehow it's different because my stance is different. I'm not suggesting that racism is dead in these instances, but just set aside so we can deal on the matter on which we need to deal. It's a little like going to the a chinese restaurant because you like the food, not necessarily because you like the chinese.

I think black folks need to go for freedom. We're never going to control what someone thinks but we don't need to allow their thinking to impact us or control us. In a way, I think it gets down to a question of power and who's going to exert it....am I going to exert it over me or allow someone else to is the question that's always on the forefront of my mind. For folks like Byrd, it can remove how they "feel" from the power they're allowed to exert. So the issue is not him not wanting to be in the foxhole with me, it's me not wanting to be in the foxhole with him. The issue is not him accepting me, it's whether I accept him.

As I think about it, I definitely have black nationalist tendencies in this regard. I'm not a separatist or wild eyed radical by any means as I believe in trade. But I like to have my own stuff and rely on me to afford a degree of protection against those who might have bad intentions.

Peace
G

Black Diaspora said...

@Greg L. "Basically, I choose to remove myself from those situations and I can say without a doubt that racism was the primary reason why I formed a business."

Thanks for sharing Greg L. I think revenge is the best response, and antidote, to racism: I don't get mad as often now (although I have), I get even--not violently, or by resorting to ill-will--but by pushing back, succeeding where abject failure was to be my lot.

Your going into business for yourself was a way of getting revenge--that is, getting around the barriers that were thrown up to precipitate, and expedite your failure.

"I'm not suggesting that racism is dead in these instances, but just set aside so we can deal on the matter on which we need to deal."

Interesting thought. Interesting observation.

People can think what they choose, as long as it doesn't interfere with my goals, and my objectives.

I'm aware, however, that that is never really the case--a mindset colors interactions, but it doesn't have to impede productive exchanges of whatever kind.

"The issue is not him accepting me, it's whether I accept him."

Great stuff. You're recognizing that you're never helpless, and that, ultimately, it's you that exercises control, or relinquishes it.

"I'm not a separatist or wild eyed radical by any means as I believe in trade. But I like to have my own stuff and rely on me to afford a degree of protection against those who might have bad intentions."

I like that. It's my approach as well. I call it having backup plans--a plan, upon a plan, upon a plan.

My best backup plan is to live life as one who's totally self-sufficient, not needing anyone but myself--although I may request help from others from time to time.

The key is this: I don't ask from a position of "need," but as one who's in possession of an infinite number of possibilities.

It seems disingenuous, but my mental stance is reflected more and more in my daily activities, making such requests for "help" (even at my behest) fewer and fewer.

Ernesto said...

"Those who kill their own children and discriminate daily against them because of the color of their skin; those who let the murderers of blacks remain free, protecting them, and furthermore punishing the black population because they demand their legitimate rights as free men — how can those who do this consider themselves guardians of freedom?"

This quote is from a December, 1964 speech to the United Nations by Ernesto "Che" Guevara, representing Cuba. Pointing out the contradiction of actions and words of the United States in its self-proclaimed role as the "leader of the free world", which could not assure even the very basic freedoms to a large segment of its own population. Sadly, we have not come as far as we would like since then and are still need truth tellers willing to point out the obvious to those blinded by nationalistic, xenophobic and racist impulses.

I would not put Byrd quite in the same class as Strom Thurmond. At least he seems to have recognized the error of his ways, while Ole Strom remained largely unrepetent until his dying day.

Kathy said...

"If, for years, whites treat a people as though they're guilty for existing, they shouldn't expect a "thank you" for it, black cooperation for it, or an adoption of their white value system, or ideals, for it--just because they, and other blacks, say it's good for them."
_____________
The Shakespeare fits so perfectly it is almost as if it was written for today.

Black Diaspora said...

@Ernesto: "[H]ow can those who do this consider themselves guardians of freedom?"

As you point out: The question is as relevant today as when it was first stated.

We can't tell the world: Do as we say, and not as we do.

Our constitution, when first it was penned, mocked the very principle upon which it was founded: freedom.

For all the years it's existed, it still hasn't lived up to its ideal. And for that reason I won't be flying my American flag this 4th of July.

Many of my white neighbors, ironically, are flying theirs, although some fly theirs 365 days, rain or shine.

I guess when the bell of liberty rings for you (albeit with cracks and all), it doesn't matter if others can't hear it.

I don't ask that the Republic be perfect, but that it's as perfect, and as imperfect for you as for me.

Black Diaspora said...

@Kathy: "The Shakespeare fits so perfectly it is almost as if it was written for today."

It was written for today.

Shakespeare understood human nature, perhaps better than most, then or now.

Sadly, that nature hasn't changed all that much, since first his plays were performed at the Globe, which is why, other than the Bible, Shakespeare is so highly quoted, and revered.

You highlighted the most important statement in my whole blog entry. It was the one statement I hoped all would notice.

I believe that it explains much of what we see in terms of interactions between the two races.

For many blacks, I believe it shakes out this way: As long as they feel as though they're outsiders, and not valued by the larger society, they rebel.

That rebellion takes many shapes and many forms.

Others, on the other hand, seek to add value in ways they feel will make them acceptable by the larger society.

And we've seen the pathology of that.

Yet, others blame blacks for behaving in such ways that they bring shame, and degradation upon all blacks.

Hence, for some, the perennial, paramount, struggle is this: to maintain an image that speaks well of blacks to the rest of the world.

That I call, carrying the "black burden of shame."

Those, so laden, feel that they must become a one-person exception, and counterforce to those images, thereby counterbalancing what they see as the inaccurate, and imperfect picture of the whole.

It's one thing to counterbalance, which I feel, too, can lead to a pathology, but it's another when these blacks feel shame because of these images, and accuse others of creating images both embarrassing, and inaccurate for the consumption of the world.

This pathology is the worse of all. It was my belief that it was lessening, but, alas, I think it's growing.

Since this blog was, in part, about racism, I thought I'd share my insights into how devastating it can be for the psyche of some on the receiving end of it.

Kathy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.