Archive for October, 2011|Monthly archive page

40 Million Ways

In Uncategorized on October 25, 2011 at 11:23 am

In speaking with J. Freedom du Lac, writer and cultural critic Touré repeats a line from Henry Louis Gates: “if there are 40 million black Americans, then there are 40 million ways to be black.” In his latest book Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness?, Touré’s objective is to “to attack and destroy the idea that there is a correct or legitimate way of doing blackness.” Most recently, Republican Presidential hopeful Herman Cain stated he prefers to be called a Black American rather than an African American. In an interview with Meet the Press, Cain said that “My roots go back through slavery in this country. Yes, they came from Africa, but the roots of my heritage are in the United States of America. So I consider myself a black American.”

In the late 1980s Jesse Jackson’s push to refer to Blacks as African Americans was met with, as noted in a 1989 New York Times article, controversy and celebration. Many opposed, many supported, and yes the debate continues today. The move to connect to Africa was a sign of showing that Blacks were accepting their connections with Africa, no matter how difficult or painful it was to retrace history. As Roger Wilkins stated in 1989, “Whenever I go to Africa, I feel like a person with a legitimate place to stand on this earth. This is the name for all the feelings I’ve had all these years.”

With the election of President Barack Obama, many pointed out that society was now celebrating its great march toward post-racialism. Especially with Herman Cain as a viable Republican candidate, race continues to dominate discussions, and what it means to be black or African American is often evoked in these dialogues—the constant search for identity, an identity, a racial identity, that for Cain is tied to a political one. Cain says that African Americans have been “brainwashed” against the Republican Party.

Perhaps, this “brainwash” that Cain speaks of has less to do with race…For Touré, what does it mean to be Black in America? Actually he says it is important to “Be black however the hell you want!” 40 million Blacks, 40 million ways, and not each way it is exactly the same…


Uncomfortable Yet?

In Uncategorized on October 6, 2011 at 4:55 pm

“Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.”

These words should be vaguely familiar; these were Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s remarks to nonwhite jurists in a speech in the early 2000s. When I heard them, I immediately wondered: whatever happened to the color blind society promised in the 1960s? And if our justices believe this, then what does that say about their impartiality and objectivity? Quite frankly, these remarks make Americans quite uncomfortable. We have yet to resolve the “race issue” or as W.E.B. DuBois would say, “the color line.” We hailed the emergence of the post-racial society with the election of Barack Obama and so…we still are left uncomfortable???

Today is a rather emotional one for me–with the deaths of Apple Co-Founder and CEO Steve Jobs, legal scholar and father of critical race theory Derrick Bell, and civil rights leader Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth–all three visionaries, on varying levels influenced my life’s journey. I find it fitting that on this day I recall Justice Sotomayor’s comments because all three painted the world, their view through their experiences and work. It is difficult to be impartial because we are all biased, but that does not excuse us from seeking the greater truth.

This quest may make individuals uncomfortable, just as Justice Sotomayor, it calls into question our pursuit for justice, equality, and fairness or the American Dream. Do we want a post-racial society? What is it like when we remove our distinct cultural differences and form a rather standard or generic society? Is that American? What about the diversity in ideals and opinions, and dare I say religion? Do we lose character? So many questions, and yet so often we, that is all of us, from time to time, fail each other because we do not take the opportunity to take on these deep questions or challenges. Sometimes we hide behind stereotypes, we look to them to secure our position on how we may feel about women, Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, etc. We use stereotypes to absolve us from deeper exploration.

I make people uncomfortable; in the workplace and in society, I make people uncomfortable. Because of my locs, because of my constant questioning, because I am observant and silent, because?…I champion for justice, truth, and fairness. I make people uncomfortable because I wear my colors well: red, white, and blue. I am a proud American. I know this country is not perfect, my state is not perfect, my city is far from perfect, but that does not hinder my efforts in learning, growing, and exploring. It is the pursuit for better that makes me commit and devote my all to public service.