Lets Clear Some Things Up

Discussion is good. Expressing disagreement is healthy. After all - I already know what I know; how can I learn what others know if I do not express what I believe and then (and this is key) listen to what others believe.

I surmise that the set of ideas on which we agree is probably larger than this discussion has made it appear - and it is also larger than some of the other posters who have made an appearance here.

But I would not be me if I did not quibble.

I have no use for "blackness" or "whiteness". To me, they are artificial signifiers that are so diluted in nature as to almost be impossible to define. Literally, people have written books about each of these constructs and they are very elegant and reasoned books at that. And were it possible for everyone in this society to read those books and really develop an understanding of just what is behind these terms, then perhaps they would rise to the level at which they should be kept.

As then they could add value to our communication, as does the word "red". I don't need to do a dissertation on the word "red" to use to communicate an idea: "that flower is red" stands by itself and while it could indeed be expanded upon by a poet or a painter, that exposition is not necessary to communicate a common understanding.

I could do the same with: "that guy is driving angry"; short, sweet and to the point with little room for misunderstanding.

"that boy is acting black" is not such a sentence. Physical fights can erupt over a phrase of such seeming inauspiciousness. At the least, reasonable people could argue over 60% of a five word sentence: "what do you mean "acting black"; "who are you calling "black"; "what do you mean "boy"?

I believe that the original question to this post: "Is Obama Black" was a question posed by someone with a good heart and in an innocent fashion, but because these words - black/white; whiteness/blackness - carry such baggage with them that it is possible for those three little words to spawn heated and extreme rhetoric.

It is impossible to remove these terms from their origins in the African Slave Trade and the resulting power structures that were born from those endeavors. No longer was someone from BassaKongo and someone filled with a rich sense of history, family and culture; no - he/she was now "black" and therefore interchangeable and indistinct from any other tribe and/or kingdom across Afrika. And it was through creating this interchangeable and fungible product called - a black slave - that the agrarian South and the trader North were able to build the ideas of Capitalism from concept to what it is today: the most powerful force on the planet.

Right or Wrong; Love it or Hate it; the implementation of capitalism found itself highly suited to the slave trade. Yes, slavery existed before and in other cultures around the world - in almost every culture around the world - but here, in these 13 original colonies that grew up into 50 states and assorted territories, slavery and capitalism fed on one another until slavery exploded in what is still the deadliest war this nation has ever fought.

That's passion.

And still the ideas live on and in more than just the terms "white" and "black". What were interchangeable and commoditized slaves if not forerunners to the assembly lines implemented by Henry Ford? Just as farming was turned from a craft practiced and developed and handed down from one to another, the art of growing food to support a community was turned into a business that sought to minimize costs and maximize profits.

We used to trade African slaves on the same markets where today we trade corn, wheat and pork bellies; people purchased shares in slaving ships then the way we purchase shares of Microsoft today.

Black/White: these are terms we use and we have but the vaguest understanding of the meanings of them. We know not their history nor their origin and because of that we can callously sweep away the blood that has been shed in their name with nary a thought. Blood that has been shed across a continuous arc for 500-years. And each of us, each successive generation has had the question before us: will we add or signatures to this blood-stained contract, in either ignorance or in full knowledge of all that has been done and will further be done, in our name?

Well . . . yeah . . . I signed my name.

But I don't like it.

And I am looking for a better deal.

I would rather we drop these terms and the insults they contain - for both those who see themselves as "black as well as those who have been taught to believe they are "white". I would rather we allow ourselves to be ourselves as members of the families and cultures into which we were born; for though there was a time when the French and the British were born to fight deadly wars, today they squabble over soccer.

The past need not be prologue.

Family, tribe, culture - these are not our enemies. They are the roots in which we ground ourselves as society, so that we can pass along what we have learned to our children and thereby position them to enter adulthood in good stead.

It is not written in stone that we must pass along hatred from one generation to the next. Hate is not an emotion that adds to our wealth, it only destroys us - even if it takes awhile to catch back up with us.

Sorry to ramble, but no - I have no use for either the term blackness or whiteness or any of their derivatives. I use them at my own peril, in the hope that I can escape their pernicious pull before I become too tainted with blood.

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1 comment:

NumfarVera said...

I saw you're post over at Altercation and thought I would drop by.

I liked what you said about black and white. It's high time we dropped these monikers that separate us. However, I think we probably have another 50 years or so before we don't judge on appearance.

At least my grandkids will be able to live in that world.

ps...I look forward to your future essays.