The cycle of internalized racism continues

Each time I hear someone complain, "Well, black people say the N-word. Why can't I say the N-word too?" It always sounds to me like, "You engage in self-harm. Why can't I cut you too?" Unfortunately not enough of my fellow AAs hear this as well. Instead, too many of us view the N-word as some sort of privileged that we can say simply because we are black. In any case, what caused me to think about this today was a quite shocking episode of America's Supernanny, which you can watch in full here. The subjects of the episode are an family of 10 kids (with two more on the way), the Carzells. Needless to say, they are out of control, which is rather remarkable in itself. However, their behavior does not compare to the racism that quickly spews from the children's mouth toward their 9 year-old sister Nevada. (This conversation starts at 7:30)

"That girl got something going on with her skin," Desja says, "She is dark!" All Nevada's sisters all begin to laugh at her. "You're the darkest person [in the room], so get out!"
Her brother shouts, "She took a shower yesterday, and she's still dark!"
"That's why no one ever knows where you are," Desja continues, "and every time we're at the store, you always get lost, because you're so dark."
"You is burt! You look like a gorilla."

Later Deborah Tillman (the Supernanny) confronts Desja about why she attacks her sister for being dark.
"Nevada was talking about everyone else," she says. "My mom was like, 'Nevada stop talking 'cause you're the darkest in this family."

This attitude is perpetuated throughout our community. Often, I see AAs highlighting racism coming from the outside. However, the outrage that comes when racism comes from someone who is not black is absent when a fellow AA is racist, which is why we have this absurd notion that it is okay for a fellow AA to say the n-word. "Oh, a Caucasian can't cut us, but we can hurt ourselves." As long as this attitude persists, with or without systematic racism, we will always keep ourselves down. It will only be changed when we start holding a AA who is racist accountable, just as we would if a Caucasian were to us. I don't care if you're black, you do not have a pass to be racist.
Why do some African-Americans believe that we have to “take back” the n-word? You can only reclaim what was yours to begin with. The n-word was never ours.  It has only been used to subjugate us and strip us of our humanity. What self-respecting person would want to claim that poison?

Instead of claiming what was intended to demean us, why don’t we take back what was ours, namely our hair? African-Americans have let go of our hair, to the point that most of us don’t even  know what our own natural hair looks like. We, and the rest of America for that matter, think that straight hair is normal for everyone, and view our own natural curls as strange and unusual. More critically, not only have we abandoned our own hair, we readily express contempt for it, calling it dirty and “nappy.” Why don’t African-Americans take back our hair?
Why don’t we reclaim our skin? Instead of using terms like “redbones” and delivering backhanded compliments to each other such as “You’re pretty for a dark skinned girl,” why don’t we celebrate our dark hues?
If we only strived to take these things back, rather than racial slurs, we would make more progress.

Christian bigotry toward Muslims

It always interests me when I hear Christians talk about Muslims and their practices. They can always give detailed explanations of their motives and intentions, which is fascinating considering that most don't know even know any Muslims or have studied Islam themselves.

Jerry Boykin, here, has an idea that Muslims have nefarious objectives behind their actions. This is something that I hear a lot. In fact, his statement that Muslims claim all places of worship as "holy grail for Allah" particularly stuck out to me because last week a heard a Christian teaching that Muslims build mosques, not to worship, but to claim it for the land for themselves. Apparently, it is all part of an elaborate plot to take over America.

It's also amusing how Boykin condemns tolerant Christians because they "know absolutely nothing about Islam" when he further goes on to say that Muslims get kicks out of "cursing Jesus Christ." Indeed, Muslims hate Jesus so much that their Quran derides him by calling him a "servant of God," a "prophet," and "blessed." 19:30-31
I've noticed that many Christians seem to be under the impression that Muslims all hate Jesus, as in this comic by Jack Chick, for example. (Yes, I read chick tracks. They're amusing.)
Page 19Page 20Page 21Of course, there are several things wrong with this comic, but what I'm getting at is how Muslims are portrayed as angry, violent, Jesus-haters.
It worries me when I hear Christians who have a large platform saying things like this, especially in churches, because most Christians have no way of correcting this misinformation. They are mostly surrounded by like minded people, who shape their perspective, and one of their biggest influences on virtually every issue are the self-proclaimed experts who claims to speak on the behalf of God, such as a pastors and people like Chick and Boykin. Because of them, their image of Muslims will remain bigoted and one-sided.

African-American women are invisible

A study from Psychology Today stated that AA women are "invisible." Not only are we not noticed, and people have difficulty remembering our faces; but they also do not pay attention to what we say. They think that we are interchangeable with other AA women. Of course, we already knew that. The television tells us everyday, "We won't acknowledge you unless you look white." While we see male AA characters who actually look as if they are of African descent, virtually all female AA characters are subject to a paper bag test. Women who look Hispanic, mixed, or white with a perm are cast in our roles.
"Black" Daphne from Queer as Folk is a typical example
Television on the other hand typically uses male AA actors who actually appear to be Black, so it is no surprise to me that the study showed that they were listened to and noticed by the participants in the study. The phenomena of AA women being represented on TV by women who do not look like they're of African descent is related to why society does not acknowledge us, and I wish that another study would further explore this topic.

In addition, I can also see that AA women feel ignored as well, which is why many seem rather obsessive on topics concerning Interracial and Black-love relationships and dating. Perceiving that they are regarded as irrelevant, they feel a stronger need to get validation from men. When some women don't love themselves, they try to compensate by relying on men for attention.

A day or two ago, I came across a series of paintings by Margret Bowland that express the invisibility that AA women experience because we do not fit into the white standard. Besides their perceptiveness, what makes her paintings even more remarkable is the fact that she is European-American. She has such keen insight into what it is like to be an "other," to not be respected because you are not someone else.
Flower Girl #2 (2009) AnotherThe Artist, 2010
The following is a portion of a statement by Bowland on this issue. You can read it in its entirety here.

We inhabit a purely relative world, in terms of belief structures, yet each of us knows and in a sense, believes in, the need to be beautiful. My work is about beauty—what it means to be beautiful and what significance the idea has in the twenty-first century in the world of art. We all know that being beautiful is as important as being rich, that being beautiful is itself a form of wealth. One must be tall, thin and white. One’s features must be diminutive and regular. We recognize deviations from this norm, but recognize that these deviations, even if appealing, are far from ideal. The need to be beautiful fuels one of the largest and most ruthless industries in our world. 
Beauty makes sense to me, has weight for me, only when it falls from grace. It starts to matter when it carries damage. Sorrow allows it to cast a shadow. It becomes three-dimensional. It enters our world.
Looking at Manet’s Olympia, I wondered about the two women depicted—the young, naked prostitute and the black maid servant—about the relationship between them and to the man observing them. His implied presence began to unite them to me, not as lovers, but as the prey sharing a foxhole. In my imagination, the women of my paintings entered that room. What my century brings to the ideas of race and beauty and sexual allure began to overlay Manet’s.

The Myth of Traditional Marriage

So, I was reading in my sociology book today, and was struck by a passage that talked about love and marriage. Apparently, the two were, and remain in many areas around the world, separate from each other for most of history. Romance only began to be coupled with marriage in modern times, and the whole experience of falling in love emerged during the Middle Ages with aristocrats' extramarital love affairs. While they had romances with others, the relationships they had with their spouses were cold and distant.

I found this amusing because it reminded me of Conservatives "First comes love, then comes marriage..." idealistic view of relationships. They like to delude themselves into thinking that God has ordained one man and woman to fall in love and marry when really it hasn't been that way for most of our history. They don't realize that our perspectives on marriage are the results of centuries of social evolution, and that our perception of them will keep changing. God has not etched on a stone tablet how relationships are supposed to look, and we have not only recently deviated from some social norm. On the contrary, what Conservatives consider to be God's will for marriage is a recent development that the world hasn't seen before.

On a side note, it amuses me how Christians call one man-one woman "traditional marriage" when one can clearly see that polygamy is more traditional, at least in the Bible in any case.

African-Americans supporting racism and ignorance

I just read this article about Lil Wayne’s hatred of dark skinned women. Now, I don’t care about Lil Wayne nor his statements (as I’ve never listened to his music or that of any other rappers, for that matter), and I won’t discuss the irony of his disgust for dark women, considering that he is dark himself. Also, I’m not surprised by his comments as I’ve heard rappers say similar things. However, I am disappointed that when they make such statements, AAs not only do not bat an eye but continue to lap their music up. If anyone of European descent said that we were ugly or inferior in anyway because of our skin color, AAs would be appalled, yet they throw millions of dollars toward rappers who only demean our worth and refer to us as "bitches" and "hoes". How oblivious are we that we actually pay someone to insult us--especially AA women who idolize singers and other celebrities who have a paper bag test for the women they associate with and allow in their videos? I will not expect the conditions of African-Americans to change in this country while we continue to oppress ourselves. As long as we, and the people that we esteem, associate our worth to the color of our skin and the texture of our hair, the problems that plague our community will continue to persist.

Another reaction to Lil Wayne's statements that I find quite irritating are some people’s dismal of them as just a preference, as if our “preferences” just arise from nowhere and are therefore trivial. We are all aware of the racial hierarchy in this country from when we are just children. These “preferences” of men are merely the racism they learned during childhood manifesting itself when they are adults. We can’t remedy problems when we will not even acknowledge that they exist. The more that we have discussions about colorism, the more likely it is that people will confront the self-hatred and internalized racism that fuels their biases toward skin color. 

They're trying to take "Christ" out of "Christmas." 

It's not even December, but I'm already hearing that familiar cry of victimization. The phrase bothers me, to a lesser extent, because it assumes that just because one is not a Christian that he or she is automatically anti-Christian. To hear many Christians talk, one would presume that it is every non-Christian's aim to stamp out all references of Christ, or that we quail at the mere sight of a cross. But just because we left the religion doesn't mean that we hate everything that is connected with it. Heck, I still listen to Richard Smallwood and Kirk Franklin. So, yeah, I find it rather insulting that the church keeps sending the message that just because I'm an atheist, that I have nothing better to do with my time than to obsess about removing baby Jesus from their nativity scenes.

However, what annoys me the most about this phrase are the privileged connotations that go along with it. I can't tell you how many times I've heard the phrase "Happy Holidays" condemned as an evil plot against Christianity just because it doesn't recognize Christianity as being supreme. Christians have such a sense of entitlement in America that they feel that every thing that does not acknowledge them is a direct attack. Do you celebrate Chanuka or Kwanzaa? Too bad. Jesus is the reason for the season, so your holidays cannot be recognized at all. Tell me, if Christianity is not a religion but instead is a personal relationship, why is it necessary to force it on everyone else? If Christmas is all about Jesus for you, fine, as it is your "personal relationship" after all, but stop trying to make others join it. I mean really, you don't see Jews protesting when business put up signs that say "Merry Christmas," but Christians protest holiday trees because it does not mention them. A lack of privilege over other religions is a sign of a oppression apparently.

This reminds me of how a couple of times I have heard Christians say that they are oppressed because they are not allowed to proselytize in public schools. It is as if they just cannot understand why someone would not want them to teach children about their religion, when they know that they would raise hell if a Muslim, Mormon, JW, etc. came on school grounds and did the exact same thing. However, because they are Christians, they feel as if they should get a pass.

Have you heard of the Christian movie "Christmas with a Capital C." It pretty much sums up the sentiment I described in this post.