Thursday, June 28, 2007

The great white Oprah

So I think the underlying issue is that people too often associate colorblindness with cultural ignorance. Sure this is easy to do, but not necessary. I'd like to reference my feminist thought train and ask a simple question:

Do more physiological differences exist between a white man and black man, or between a man and a woman?

Blacks, whites, yellows, and reds have a much better chance at equality, than women and men ever do. It is understood that the vast majority of black people have relatives that were oppressed in many ways. It is also understood that racism still happens. There are just too many correlations between racism and sexism, and just as I don't like a femi-nazi telling me about all the evil doing y-chromosomers, I don't like it when a black person talks about all the white oppression. My stance is the same... I know it exists, I also know it's getting better and I'd like you to acknowledge that fact rather that just assuming I'm here to hold you back. History has shown that slowly but surely, the bad people die and are replaced by better people, despite a history full of atrocities, humans have progressed, and will continue to do so.

There will come a point (I think we are there already) when glorifying somebody based on race is detrimental to the cause of race equality. Black history month, famous black ______, the first black man/ woman to ______. The label of color only acts as reinforcement to strengthen hue based differences. Sure, everybody should know about these exemplary individuals, but emphasizing the fact that they are black in no way adds or detracts from their accomplishments. Who cares if Harriet Tubman or George Washington Carver were black. We'd still learn about them in history books. I don't want to have white history month, and Asian history month, and indigenous tribe history month... I just want "history month."

So the question: At what point do your cross the line between having pride in people of your color and contributing to racism?
I can't answer the question, except with another question. What's the real point of having pride in your color? Recently Oprah was given an honorary doctorate to Howard University and delivered a speech at graduation. Given the fact that Howard has a predominately black student body and given the context of the speech (4:35-5:30), it made sense for Oprah talk about how she wished her grandmother were still alive so she could boast that she had, "a bunch of white people working for her." Is this helping or contributing to the problem?

Here's the short answer in the way I see it. Black history month is good for many black people for the same reason that Joy Nash's fat rant video is good for fat people. People need to believe they have the power to fix their own problems before they can. Oprah's grandmother didn't didn't believe there was more to life than working for some good white folk. Many fat (and living unhealthy lives) people feel there is no help for them. Oprah's grandmother and many morbidly obese aren't even looking for a solution... it's these people that need to hear... being black is ok, and "Say it Loud, I'm Fat and I'm proud."

I realize as a skinny (and living healthily) white dude, the scope of my view is inherently limited. So, given the circumstance, I don't know if Oprah's comment was hurting anything (I doubt it was), but it'd take a poll of black college graduates to find out if it's helping at all. I have no malice towards black people that are trying to win the game, I just don't see them as any different than the rest of us.

I think racism and feminism in my generation is more about the historically oppressed realizing as a group that they are empowered (as opposed to the 50's and 60's of getting the white male to realize he's not the way the truth and the light).


Blogger Cassy said...

Hmmm... I agree that constantly acknowledging our differences over similarities can lead to constant boundaries between groups.

Why do you say "Blacks, whites, yellows, and reds have a much better chance at equality, than women and men ever do..."?

Why can't we all just acknowledge that we're human. I'm setting my femi-nazi prejudices aside for today. Ha ha.

10:36 AM  

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