Tuesday, August 05, 2008

revisiting cynicism

You know, you grow up black in this country, and you think you have it all figured out: black people will never be "mainstream," black people will always be "other," and racial tension will never go away. No matter how good things are getting with black billionaires, black Secretaries of State, black Oscar winners, and the ability of sisters to wear their hair without relaxers in the workplace - one should never, ever get too comfortable. One should never, ever be fooled into thinking that we are accepted for who we really are - fellow citizens, brothers and sisters in humanity. So goes conventional black wisdom.

And then every once in a while... stuff happens. Bernie Mac's sitcom would get an Emmy nomination, for example. Or here and there, DNA evidence helps a falsely accused black man to go home from prison to his family. Or Barack Obama wins the Democratic primary in Iowa. And some of us wonder, should we toss the conventional black wisdom out the window? Maybe classism and LGBT issues are the only remaining frontiers of acceptance, tolerance, and compassion.

Then you look around and realize that, "Naaaah, it's still the same old mess."

My un-scientific review of commentary on "the Internets" has convinced me that the absence of honest and progressive dialogue about race relations is still stark, and it is still having disastrous effects on public discourse. A simple visit to a major city's newspaper's website will reveal all of the racist trolls who pop out of the woodwork to comment on articles to blame government for spoiling Negroes, or blame Negroes for every urban social ill in existence. But perhaps more obviously during this election season, the obvious place to go see how dysfunctional Americans are about race is any discussion of Barack Obama's campaign, since race almost always comes up, and when it does, ridiculousness inevitably ensues. And it's not just white folks, either - it's some of us, too. Spewing poorly-reasoned ridiculousness from every direction to everyone who's willing to listen.

I shouldn't be as surprised as I am by the amount and intensity of these rampant displays of ignorance, intolerance, and hatred, but I am. I think it may have something to do with living on the East Coast in or near major cities, full of highly educated people who are more used to diversity and who are less tolerant of political incorrectness in "mixed company." It could be that I haven't been paying much attention - in fact, that must be it. I've been so busy living the American Dream that I've forgotten that there are people who don't believe that the American Dream is possible for blacks, or that blacks are American enough to live the American Dream, or that blacks who are living it didn't/couldn't earn it like everybody else did. Let me tell you, many of you Americans are starting to get on my nerves.